The Soul of the Pilgrim in the Flames of Purgatory
Miniature from Guillaume de Digulleville Pèlerinage de l'âme
Bibl. Sainte-Geneviève - ms. 1130, f. 110
Le Pèlerinage de l'Âme is a fourteenth-century poem written in Old French by Guillaume de Deguileville (1295 - before 1358)
Guillaume de Deguileville was a French Cistercian
He entered the Cistercian abbey of Chaalis in 1316, at the age of twenty-one.
He was over 60 years old when writing the Âme. The cloistered monk had not left the monastery grounds for 40 years or more
Le Pèlerinage de l'Âme was one of three long poems which he wrote on the theme of man as a traveller, a pilgrim on the road to the Spiritual Jerusalem: Le Pèlerinage de la vie humaine (1330-31); Le Pèlerinage de l'Âme (1355-58); and Le Pèlerinage de Jésus Christ (1358)
All come to the same conclusion: to reach the Celestial Jerusalem, one must experience Death
The setting is a dream but the theme is the same: How does mortal Man save his Immortal Soul
Deguileville was followed by Chemin de vaillance by Jean de Courcy and Chemin de paradis by Jean Germain,
In these works the interest lies not not only in the destination itself but the voyage, the means of getting there
The interior journey
Of Purgatory Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Spe Salvi:
"For the great majority of people—we may suppose—there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God.
In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil—much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul.
What happens to such individuals when they appear before the Judge?
Will all the impurity they have amassed through life suddenly cease to matter? What else might occur?
Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, gives us an idea of the differing impact of God's judgement according to each person's particular circumstances. He does this using images which in some way try to express the invisible, without it being possible for us to conceptualize these images—simply because we can neither see into the world beyond death nor do we have any experience of it.
Paul begins by saying that Christian life is built upon a common foundation: Jesus Christ. This foundation endures. If we have stood firm on this foundation and built our life upon it, we know that it cannot be taken away from us even in death.
Then Paul continues:
“Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:12-15).In this text, it is in any case evident that our salvation can take different forms, that some of what is built may be burned down, that in order to be saved we personally have to pass through “fire” so as to become fully open to receiving God and able to take our place at the table of the eternal marriage-feast."