Adapted from After Life:
They say that Christmas is the time of year when most souls are released from purgatory. At least, that was the revelation in the famous books, An Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory, as well as at a major apparition site. As the soul ascends through Purgatory, as it enters the upper reaches after so much suffering, it reaches places that, while lacking God's Presence, take on some characteristics of Heaven.
This is the Purgatory of desire. This is the Threshold. This is where many who have been holy, loving, and diligent on earth -- but who have unpurged faults -- are sent. It is also where souls from the lower reaches eventually ascend. Here one can only imagine the colors that begin to take shape above the gray areas and the more frequent visits from the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Michael.
It's a place where there is more happiness than sadness. It's a place of anticipation. It's a place where the spiritual body has been beautified.
In all our life we have never encountered the kind of beauty we will be given as we approach paradise.
It's not Heaven and there is still purification but it's beautiful because souls see the spiritual world. They see angels. They occasionally hear from Christ. They are given knowledge about matters elsewhere in the afterlife or even events on earth when so permitted as the veil scrolls like a curtain between two worlds and God gives the grace to see beyond time and space.
In a book called Treatise on the Purgatory of St. Patrick, an English Cistercian monk named H. of Sawtry related the vision of a knight named Owen who was shown a place of flowers, fruit, and grass with an aroma "on whose fragrance he felt he could subsist forever."
It was upper Purgatory. There was no night, no heat, no cold.
Here the final lessons are learned, the final impatience is purged, the last of anger is erased, the tiniest residues of lust and dislike and resentment replaced with total love.
The more a soul loves God, the more a soul loves others, the more beautiful, purified, and radiant it becomes. The Threshold is a place that puts a soft glow on death. "Seen in the light of God, death becomes a sweet encounter," wrote Father Alessio Parente. "It becomes not the sunset but a beautiful dawn, the forerunner to eternal life with God. When the heart is filled with God, death no longer frightens, but it becomes a sweet caress -- the caresses of God as He welcomes His creature."
At the upper reaches of Purgatory, at the highest stage, the immediate environment is said to resemble Heaven. There is still pain but there is also a certain peace, comfort, and beauty. No doubt many holy people who had some minor need of purification do their entire purgatories here. Love is pure and for Heaven there must be pure love.
At the high levels souls can probably communicate more readily and pray with less effort than in the oppressive lower levels. I imagine there are many souls at that stage who would have gone directly to Heaven but for a bit too much pride and self-love.
We're told there are souls who would have made the grand entry but didn't have a strong enough desire, while on earth, to see God.