Those familiar with Vespers of the Dead (Old Rite) and the old propers for the Departed, and with one of the old Masses for a Confessor Bishop, may have shared puzzlements of my own with regard to what some people call The Afterlife. Here are two.
(1) I refer firstly to all those old texts which ask that the departed be delivered from Hell. Such texts do not, I think survive into the postconciliar texts, presumably because of the assumption that, immediately after death, the eternal destiny of the defunctus is definitively and tidily settled. Either he is in Hell or he will eventually be in Heaven. Do the ancient texts suggest rather that in the journey his soul is undergoing it might yet fall eternally? Or even that in the mysterious working of divine mercy Hell might not, for everybody there, be the last word? Or that the same Place might prove to have been Hell to those who never emerge from it but Purgatory to those who get out!?! This is the view explicitly taken by C S Lewis in The Great Divorce. Is it capable of being squeeezed under a Catholic umbrella? I simply love his picture of the Liberal, Apostate bishop, who persists in refusing Joy and Mercy.
(2) Secondly: the Common Sacerdotes tui in the Old Missal. The second set of texts, in the Secreta, asks God that our oblations might 'be profitable unto [the holy bishop] for the reward of blessedness'. How does this fit in with the idea that there is a tidy distinction between those who need our prayers and those who are fully in blessedness and pray for us? Could it be that even the Saints have yet progress to make in God's grace?
Perhaps the relationship between God and Time ... Perhaps ... ... Perhaps ...
Are such Perhapses contrary to the Magisterium? Of course, I have no desire to be anything but an obedient servant of what has been defined. But there is, surely, something amusing about the fact that such speculations can be suggested by the Old Rite but not the New; as if the great prayer-bag of Tradition is an older, freer, more thought-provoking, less narrow and prescriptive world than Bugnini-style scholasticism and its passion for being Safe and Tidy.
I'm glad one can still buy unpasteurised cheese, even though, given my age, I steer clear of it.