The Pains of Sense
The sinner commits two evils when
he sins: a) he leaves God, and b) he turns towards creatures. When a
sinner turns to love of creatures, he develops an aversion of God.
And so, his first punishment in
hell is that he will be tormented by those very creatures, by fire
and by the devils. And this is the pain of sense.
But what makes an act a sin is its
aversion towards God. And so the principal torment in hell and which
is the essence of hell is the pain of loss. . .that is, the pain of
having lost God.
Hell is a place of torment where
all the senses and the powers of the damned shall have their
appropriate torment. The sense that had offended God the most, so
much the more shall it be tormented.
Their sight shall be tormented with
darkness: "He shall never see light" (Psalm 48:20). So,
the fires of hell is dark, performing the office of burning but not
of giving light. St. Thomas says there will be sufficient light,
however, for the soul to see the hideous faces of the damned and the
devils who will assume horrible forms to terrify them the more.
The sense of smell will be
tormented in that you will be surrounded by the reprobates who are
alive but have the stench of carcasses. St. Bonaventure says that if
the stench of one damned soul is sent to earth, it can destroy all
men. Then there is the punishment of immobility, i.e. when the
damned go to hell on the last days, they will never be able to
change their position, unable to move hand or foot.
The sense of hearing shall be
tormented in that they will hear for all eternity the despairing
howls of the damned. They will suffer from ravenous hunger and have
no fill; thirst, but never obtain a drop.
Then there is the fires of hell:
"Depart from me. . .into everlasting fire." St Augustine
describes this, not as going to the fire but as going into
the fire. So, the damned will have fire outside and inside; so, he
literally breathes fire. Fire shall burn his lungs, brain, heart,
stomach, bowels, blood and bones. And all of these are merely a
shadow of what is truly hell. For even the memory, understanding and
mind shall burn.
But the greatest punishment of hell
is the essence of hell which consists in the loss of God. St.
Augustine declares that if the damned could see God, all the pains
would disappear. The damned have lost someone of infinite value so
the pain is infinite.
The fear of losing God is the
greatest fear of those who love, not for those who despise, states
St. Augustine. Thus, St. Ignatius says: "Lord, I can endure
every pain but not to be deprived of You." But this pain is no
way feared by sinners. When sinners die, for a few moments, they
will see the Infinite Good. . .and that they they have lost it
for all eternity.
Hell consists in Christ's words,
"Depart from Me," for the soul to know that God is the
Infinite Good and hate Him. "I am he who is deprived of the
love of God," the devil describes himself to St. Catherine of
Genoa. Thus, they will hate creation, redemption , the Sacraments,
the angels and the saints, the Blessed Virgin Mother.
St. Alphonsus Liguori