Sayers’ Notes on Purgatorio

Pin on Images of Dante

The goal of the journey is to free our judgment.  In hell we flee to the “iron-bound prison of the self” (Sayers 16).

Purgatory’s atmosphere might surprise the reader at first glance.  As Sayers notes, we are hit with “its freshness, sparkle, and gaiety” (19).

Unlike Hell, Purgatory has community.  There is an ontological exchange of love and prayer.


Imagine a conical mountain.  At the very bottom are two terraces, Ante-Purgatory.  These are the “death-bed” confession types.  From here they enter “Peter’s Gate, “which is approached by the Three Steps of Penitence: Confession, Contrition, and Satisfaction” (64).

On Purgatory Proper there are seven cornices, which purge the stains of sin.

Lower Purgatory: Love Perverted.  Love of injury to one’s neighbor.

  • Pride: Superbia. Love of self perverted to hatred of one’s neighbor.
  • Envy.  Invidia. Love of one’s own good perverted to wish harm to neighbor’s good.
  • Wrath.  Ira. Love of justice perverted to revenge.

Mid Purgatory: Love Defective. 

  • Sloth. Acedia.  Failure to love a thing in its proper proportion.  Namely, we fail to love God with all our heart.

Upper Purgatory.  Love Excessive. Only one object is to be loved with all our heart. This means there is a hierarchy of goods.

  • Cornice Five: Avarice.  Excessive love of money.
  • Cornice Six.  Gluttony.  Excessive love of pleasure.
  • Cornice Seven.  Lust.  Excessive love of persons.

Letters to Malcolm (Lewis)

Lewis, C. S. Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer.

This book serves several functions. In it Lewis goes a bit deeper in theology than what you find in Mere Christianity and he also touches on explosive issues in mid-century Anglican theology.

He covers basic issues as man-made prayers, bodily posture, distractions and the problem of having non-images in the head while praying. He notes the dangers and possible value in some of these.

Some of the real theological gems are at the end. Should we pray to God for the saints? Like a good Anglican, Lewis doesn’t tell you what you *should* do. But he has some interesting points: most of the people I love are already dead? Am I forbidden to mention them to God because they are dead? And while it is true that we can’t pray others into heaven from hell, because it is already fixed, Lewis points out that if we apply that same reason to prayer because of predestination, we are in the same bind. Why pray, since it is already fixed in eternity?

Lewis rejects the crude literal version of purgatory and where earlier Romish divines like More went astray. While I agree with Lewis that there are post-death moments which aren’t quite heaven or hell, I don’t think his reasons for Purgatory–however he defines it–are compelling.

He ends on an outstanding discussion of the Resurrection of the body and the nature of matter and sensory experience.