Then an angel said to me: “Let me explain this vision for you. The palace you saw is an image of Heaven. The great crowd of those who were seated and dressed in white and shining clothes are the angels and the souls of the saints. The Sun signifies Christ in His divine nature; the woman stands for the Virgin who gave birth to God; the Ethiopian accusing the soul is the devil; the knight reporting the good works of the soul is an angel. The furnace denotes hell. Hell is so hot inside that if the whole world and everything in it were on fire, it could not compare to that vast furnace. The various voices heard in the furnace all speak against God. They begin and end their speech with laments. The souls look like people whose limbs are forever being stretched without relief or pause.
“Know, too, that the fire that you saw in the furnace burns in eternal darkness, and the souls burning in it do not all have the same punishment. The darkness that appeared around the furnace is called limbo. It comes from the darkness that is in the furnace. Yet both make up one place and one hell. Anyone entering it will never dwell with God.
“Above the darkness is found the greatest punishment of Purgatory sustainable by souls. Beyond this lies another place of lesser punishment, where there is only a weakened condition as to fortitude, beauty, and the like. It is like when people have been sick, and once the sickness and pain are gone, they have nothing left of their strength until they gradually recover it.
“Beyond that is a third place where there is only the punishment of the longing for God. To help your mind understand it better, I will offer you a comparison. It is as when copper is mixed with gold, and the two are melted together in a very hot fire so long as necessary to purge it until the copper is consumed and only pure gold is left. The stronger and thicker the copper is, the hotter the fire must be, until the gold flows like water and is all on fire. The master then takes the gold to another place where it obtains its true form to be seen and touched. Afterward he puts it in a third place where it is stored to be presented to the owner.
“This is also the case in spiritual matters. The greatest punishment of Purgatory is in the first level above the darkness where you saw the aforesaid soul being purged. The demons can touch it there; poisonous vermin and wild beasts are symbolically present there. There is heat and cold, darkness and confusion, all coming from the punishment of hell. Some souls are punished less there, some more, according as sins were atoned for or not while the soul remained in the body.
“The Master, that is, God’s Justice, then carries the gold, that is, the souls, to other places where they only suffer from a lack of strength. There they dwell as long as necessary until they attain relief either from their own special friends or from the continuous works of the Holy Church. The more help a soul gets from her friends, the quicker she convalesces and is released from that place. After this a soul is brought to the third place where there is no other punishment but the longing to enter God’s presence and behold Him in blessedness. Many souls dwell there for a very long time, except for those who had a perfect longing to enter God’s presence and behold Him while they still lived in the world.
“Know, too, that many people die in the world who are so just and innocent that they enter right away into the presence and vision of God. There are also those who have made so much atonement for their sins with their good works that their souls shall know no punishment. However, there are few who do not come to the place of longing for God. Hence all the souls dwelling in these three places participate in the prayers of the Holy Church and in the good works done in the world, especially in those that they did in their lifetimes and in those that are done by their friends after their death.
“Know also that, just as sins are of many different kinds and forms, so too the punishments are of many and different kinds. Hence, just as a hungry man rejoices over a morsel of food that reaches his mouth, a thirsty man over a drink, a sad man is gladdened by joy, a naked one by clothing, a sick one on coming into bed, so souls rejoice and participate in those goods that are done for them in the world.”
The angel added: “Blessed be the person in the world who helps souls with prayers and good deeds and physical labor. God’s justice, which cannot lie, declares that souls must either be purged after death through the punishment of Purgatory or released ahead of time through the good works of friends.”
After this many voices were heard from Purgatory, saying: “O, Lord Jesus Christ, just Judge, send Your love to those who have spiritual power in the world, and then we will be able to participate more than now in their chants, readings, and offerings.”
Above the space from which their cries were heard there seemed to appear a house in which many voices were heard, saying: “May God reward those who send us help in our weakness!”
It seemed that the rays of dawn appeared in this house, and beneath the rays a cloud appeared that had nothing of the light of dawn, and from it came a great voice saying: “O Lord God, through Your unfathomable power grant hundredfold wages to each of those in the world who with their good works raise us up to the light of Your divinity and the vision of Your face!”