Tuesday, 30 July 2013

White bits burn

What is Hell, what are the fires of which Jesus speaks? The Church teaches that it is a created place. But even if so, creation is underpinned by its Creator and expresses, no matter how diffusely, something of His nature. So what of Him, we might ask, does Hell express?

Well: fire and searing light. But this is surely rather ambiguous. We associate just these qualities with God the Holy Spirit, and tend to see them as positive things.

Maybe Hell is a matter of perspective. We have the chance now, in the this world, to look upon the light of God shining in Christ, albeit through a glass darkly, as though we are wearing sunglasses to shield us from the full, searing light of the sun. We have the chance to enjoy His heat, so that it becomes something that warms us and kindles our spiritual energy.

But, there are parts of ourselves that we try to hide from its glare. Shrivelled, white, grub-like parts which we fondly imagine we can keep secret from God. Shameful bits of ourselves which we do not let be crucified and so which will not be resurrected. When we see God face-to-face and the parts of us that we have acclimatised to the flames are exposed to the full glare of God's fiery gaze, they will know it as eternal life-giving warmth and a source of joy. But when those grub-like, grubby bits are finally exposed to the full flames, they will be seared, purged out, in something which we can only imagine now as pain.

Sadly, for some of us, the white and grubby parts will far outweigh the healthy tanned ones, and in some cases, almost the entire delusional, contrived, false self that has accrued over a lifetime will need to be purged. But I do say, "almost:" because no matter how congealed and how broken it may be, the image of God is still somewhere deep even in the most hardened heart.

So what is Hell? Is there an eternal torment? I would not presume to answer the question for fear of contradicting the words of Our Lord, but it does, I think, prompt further questions. Can it be that even one lost sheep will remain forever outside the fold when such a Good Shepherd walks among us? Can it be that the sacrifice made on the Cross for the salvation of all humanity, the sacrifice of a God who forgave even the people who nailed Him there, will be in vain? Can it be that God's plan, for all things to be all in Christ, will ultimately fail?

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