At its particular judgement the soul sees the unveiled splendour of the Godhead. In that instant the soul also realizes how unfit it is for heaven, and so it longs for its purging to begin.
Metaphors can play some part in helping us to understand our faith. Some people imagine sinking down into purgatory, as though into a lake. Others prefer Dante’s picture and think of it as rising up into purgatory, the towering mountain at the top of which the next and only further stop is paradise.
In purgatory the soul finds itself bereft of the body’s physical senses. Instead of seeing the material world, the soul apprehends as never before the unmitigated reality of the spiritual and moral universe, the unceasing interactions and transactions within the economy of grace.
The soul understands more accurately than ever before the effects of its sins. It knows now that most of the things it had pursued on earth were by and large just so much tinsel and sham in comparison with the beauty and majesty that it glimpsed briefly in the moment of its particular judgement.
The pains of its longing are intensified further by the certitude of its salvation. On earth we must never assume for certain that we shall in fact be saved. This side of the grave we live in hope of salvation. Our salvation is assured only once we have entered purgatory. Once there, the soul knows without a shadow of doubt that it will one day be with the Lord for ever, in heaven. Once in purgatory, damnation is no longer possible.
The Holy Souls in purgatory know that they can never again offend God because by then all possible moral choices are over. It is only on earth that we are able to opt for or reject the Good. On earth, compliance with God’s will was something we often shied away from. In the quiet and sombre wards of purgatory’s General Hospital (another metaphor) our compliance will be absolute and we shall welcome ‘the full treatment’ as being necessary and indeed desirable.
We shall accept the length and intensity of our purging as being precisely correct. It will take just as long as is necessary to heal our bruised and battered spirit. When we are finally detoxed and all nicely spruced up (another metaphor), then we shall at last be ready to be introduced ad sanctos, and so take our place at the celestial banquet.