Sunday, October 08, 2006
The inhabitants of Limbo...
"How low can you go?" - Remember that song and dance from Chubby Checker - it was called the "Limbo" since you had to dance forward under a stick, bending back until you were as if suspended in air. Limbo is like being suspended - as everyone knows.
Many blogs are covering the topic - the
definition of Limbo - well there won't be a definition as such, just a statement from the Commission's findings. It is so not going to be abolished, one can be sure of that.
Yet I thought it interesting that for centuries, millenia, the inhabitants of Limbo have been represented in art. They are called 'putti', which translates 'little boy', in Italian. The ancient Romans frequently painted them in frescoes and sculpted them on facades or objects. Since the Renaissance they are often seen in Roman Catholic religious art, frequently in the clouds surrounding the Madonna, along with little Cherubim. In his secular work, Michelangelo used them, as did most of the great painters of mythology.
It demonstrates how deeply embedded in the unconscious is man's concern for the innocent dead. It suggests the belief in Limbo is a major dimension of man's spirituality. Though it has never been formally defined by the Church, it is a comforting belief for those who have lost children. On the other hand, to say the departed are in a suburb of hell is not at all comforting. It reminds me of something St. Therese said to a sister in her monastery whose spirituality was focused upon the justice of God. Therese said something like this, "Well, if that is what you expect of God, then may you have it. We receive according to our hope. As for me I will continue in my confidence and hope in His merciful love." (A very free-base quote from memory.)
In art, the putti are usually shown joyfully playing, often exhibiting gifts of the fine arts, suggesting a superior talent and knowledge. Their Limbo is one of natural happiness and contentment. If the souls of the innocent, as it has long been believed, are deprived of the beatific vision, surely they may keep company with the saints and the Madonna - even Christ in His humanity, I suppose. How could that be? Well, the Blessed Virgin and the saints could visit them. If they are depicted in art as surrounding these personages, then one can hope it could be a reality. (Not that art is dogma, although some Orthodox iconographers would have you believe that.)
Ah! There is the key...hope. Limbo, while not a defined article of faith, is a place one may hope exists; furthermore, one may hope, that in God's merciful love, the unbaptized may be saved. I'll bet the conclusion by the Commission will be on those lines. No big deal, unless the SSPX's make it into one. OH! MY! GO.....! What if there are Jews there! :)
I missed my chance for Limbo - I always imagined it would be like being on Valium, running around naked in the sun, painting when I felt like it, bathing in the ocean - oh I'm sorry, that was one of my vacations.