This week I am preparing to start a summer study session on the Divine Liturgy. During my research on the Liturgy of St. James, I came across a scary, albeit apocryphal, writing entitled, “The Vision of St. Paul.”
This account of hell was likely composed in Egypt around the year 250. Why mention it? Because the author has a very special place in hell for liturgical abuse:
I further observed the fiery river and saw there a man being tortured by Tartaruchian angels having in their hands an iron with three hooks with which they pierced the bowels of that old man: and I asked the angel, and said: Sir, who is that old man on whom such torments are imposed? And the angel answered and said to me: He whom you see was a presbyter who did not perform well his ministry: when he had been eating and drinking and committing fornication he offered the host to the Lord at his holy altar. (par. 34)
Additionally, he also wrote about those who refuse to believe in the true presence saying,
And he carried me south and placed me above a well, and I found it sealed with seven seals: and answering, the angel who was with me said to the angel of that place: Open the mouth of the well that Paul, the well-beloved of God, may see, for authority is given him that he may see all the pains of hell. And the angel said to me: Stand afar off that thou mayest be able to bear the stench of this place. When therefore the well was opened, immediately there arose from it a certain hard and malign stench, which surpasses all punishments: and I looked into the well and I saw fiery masses glowing in every. part, and narrow places, and the mouth of the well was narrow so as to admit one man only. And the angel answered and said unto me: If any man shall have been put into this well of the abyss and it shall have been sealed over him, no remembrance of him shall ever be made in the sight of the Father and His Son and the holy angels. And I said: Who are these, Sir, who are put into this well? And he said to me: They are whoever shall not confess that Christ has come in the flesh and that the Virgin Mary brought him forth, and whoever says that the bread and cup of the Eucharist of blessing are not this body and blood of Christ. (par. 41)
Lesson: Celebrate well, receive worthily and believe.
There are other harsh words for – including a section on deacons, but that is another post. And, just in case the vision has some truth to it, I think I will heed the prophetic warning.