C.S. Lewis on Purgatory

I have enjoyed the works of C.S. Lewis for a long time.  Though often too deep for quick reading, he still often spoke to the inner depths of my self and made difficult subjects more easily understood.  So it is no wonder that the concept of Purgatory was easier to accept when I discovered he not only believed in it, but also gave a short explanation.


cslewisOf course I pray for the dead. The action is so spontaneous, so all but inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter me. And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were forbidden. At our age the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best were unmentionable to Him?


….The right view returns magnificently in Newman’s Dream. There, if I remember it rightly, the saved soul, at the very foot of the throne, begs to be taken away and cleansed. It cannot bear for a moment longer “With its darkness to affront that light.” Religion has reclaimed Purgatory.

Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, “It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy”? Should we not reply, “With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.” “It may hurt, you know” — “Even so, sir.”

I assume the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life has involved it. But I don’t think suffering is the purpose of the purgation. I can well believe that people neither much worse nor much better than I will suffer less than I or more. “No nonsense about merit.” The treatment given will be the one required, whether it hurts little or much.

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, chapter xx


5 thoughts on “C.S. Lewis on Purgatory

  1. I appreciate you sharing this. The more I’ve pondered the possibility of purgatory in light of Scripture, the more sense it makes, even though there isn’t a verse that says “by the way… purgatory”. Of course there are many misunderstandings about what purgatory could be, but it helps to understand that if you find yourself in purgatory, rejoice, because you’re on your way to heaven!
    This quote from Lewis is great because it demonstrates that rather than purgatory being an obstacle to becoming Catholic, it’s simply what any thoughtful Christian can conclude even without being Catholic.

    • “…it helps to understand that if you find yourself in purgatory, rejoice, because you’re on your way to heaven!”

      That is an excellent point! And it’s another one that helped me be more receptive to it. Some people make it out to be a “second chance” but that is not the Catholic doctrine at all. Purgatory is only for those going to heaven. So like you said, if we get there we should be glad because now there are no more trials and tests.

      I wonder too if it has something to do with the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. In a wedding, the bride especially will go through great lengths to prepare and beautify herself. No amount of discomfort is too much if, upon entrance, the people will lose their breath and the groom becomes intoxicated. How much more should the Bride of Christ fuss, hassle, and purify herself before entering into His joy?

      Just a thought as I sit in a coffee shop in a melancholy mood. 🙂

  2. “if you find yourself in purgatory, rejoice, because you’re on your way to heaven!”

    Or your already there and it’s really uncomfortable because of your imperfections. Imagine being at a black tie dinner and being covered with mud.

    Really the Church is fairly vague about the specifics of what it is or how it works. Most of the misunderstandings are based on the centuries of speculative and imaginative ideas about it.

  3. Pingback: Creation of the earth and man #9 Formation of man #1 Cure of souls – Messiah For All

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