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Author Topic: Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue on Conversion After Death  (Read 4502 times) Average Rating: 0
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akimel
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« on: March 28, 2010, 10:34:27 AM »

CONTEXT NOTE:  The following discussion started here:  Conversion after death?  -PtA


This is a very interesting subject and clearly is a subject on which Orthodox disagree.  Consider, e.g., the views of Elder Cleopa in this book The Truth of Our Faith:

Quote
We know well from solid testimonies of Holy Scripture that for evildoers the torments of hell will be eternal. ... Truly, God is forgiving and long-suffering towards those who fall into sin in this life, for the time of our correction is now, in this life, and the acquisition of His forgiveness depends on our own repentance. In the life on the other side of the grave, however, we no longer are able to repent, to change our minds, given that there God does not judge us according to His omnipotence and goodness, but in accord with His impartiality and righteousness, rewarding each according to his deeds. If God were to forgive all the sins of men without justice or fairness, what would be the point of continually alarming us with the terror of the eternal torments if, in fact, they didn't exist? How is it possible for God to tell us lies instead of the truth? ... God offers eternal joy to the righteous, who struggled for a time to carry out good works here on earth, but as a just and righteous God, He also chastises eternally the ungodly that transgressed in this temporal life. Why is it so? Because the wounds incurred from sin that are not healed in this life through the appropriate repentance will remain infected eternally in the presence of God. ... It must be clear that he who dies in grave and disastrous sins is separated from God forever and in particular will not be able, in the next life, to be amended. In the life beyond the grave his sins will remain with him eternally and thus the torments will also continue to exist forever. (pp. 213-217)

On the other hand, Elder Cleopa recognizes that prayer for the dead is efficacious for their removal from Hades to Heaven, but with one qualification:

Quote
It is indeed possible for someone to be redeemed from perdition, but not through the purgatorial fire as the Roman Catholics content (their offering of expiation presented for the living and the dead notwithstanding. The Lord, as ruler of the heavens, the earth and the infernal regions has the power to remove a soul from Hades, as Scripture testifies: 'The Lord killeth and maketh alive; He bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up.'

The power and sacrifice of Christ, which is offered to whosoever seeks it, is unlimited and His goodness so great that only He is able to rescind the eternal anguish of man. We know that God asks that we love our fellow man and looks on this love with joy. We we are truly praying for others, there is nothing greater than love. God hears the prayer of the Church very clearly, especially when the prayers of Christians are united with the suppliant voices of angels in the heavens, and that of the Lady Theotokos. ...

Between Hades and Paradise there does exist a great chasm indeed, as our Lord has told us. Yet, this chasm does not have the power to impede the mercy of our great God, Who hears our prayers for the reposed. We do not suppose, as do the Roman Catholics that there exists a purgatorial fire, but we say that only for those who since very severely (or mortally) and did not confess their sin is the passage form Hades to Paradise impossible. For those who sinned more lightly this pathway is not definitely closed, given that in the future judgment each one's pace, either in heaven or in hell, will be decided definitively, inasmuch as after this judgment someone whose orientation was Hades can no longer pass over into Paradise. For those who sinned unto death, our prayers are completely futile. ... We do not pray for those who have committed sins against the Holy Spirit, for such sins will not be forgiven, neither in this life, nor in the one to come. Rather, we pray for those who committed lighter sins for which forgiveness--when we pray--is also possible in the other world, inasmuch as we love them to inherit eternal life. (pp. 127-129)

Elder Cleopa's presentation seems close to the position of St Mark of Ephesus as stated in his first homily on purgatory (included in Seraphim Rose, The Soul After Death):

Quote
But we have received that even the souls which are held in hell and are already given over to eternal torments, whether in actual fact and experience or in hopeless expectation of such, can be aided and given a certain small help, although not in the sense of completely loosing them from torment or giving hope for a final deliverance.

St Mark then goes on to say that those who have "departed this life in faith and love, while nevertheless carrying away with themselves certain faults, whether small ones over which they have not repented at all, or great ones for which--even though they have repented over them--they did not undertake to show fruits of repentance" must first be cleansed before they are admitted into heaven.

I would suggest that this understanding is very similar to the Catholic understanding of purgatory, as it has been re-formulated by John Paul II and Benedict XVI (and before them, by the Anglican C. S. Lewis) and popularized by Peter Kreeft.  What is absent in the Elder's presentation is an understanding of why the prayers of the Church are of benefit to those who have committed "lighter sins." Clearly it's not because God has to be persuaded to let these folks off the hook.  Rather, these individuals die in a state of imperfect openness to God. Because of their continuing attachment to creaturely goods and desires, they need sanctifying cleansing.  The notion of purification from self-will, assisted by the prayers of the Church, fills in what is missing.  Those, however, who die in fundamental rejection of God are beyond repentance, not because God has ceased to be merciful but because the damned have definitively and irrevocably rejected God's mercy.    

Given that we do not know whether any one has definitively rejected God, we must pray for the salvation of all the departed.  May Hell ultimately prove to be empty.

« Last Edit: March 29, 2010, 12:34:10 AM by PeterTheAleut » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2010, 11:00:15 AM »


Those, however, who die in fundamental rejection of God are beyond repentance, not because God has ceased to be merciful but because the damned have definitively and irrevocably rejected God's mercy.    


Dear Father Kimel,

Is this a defined article of the Roman Catholic faith, that those in hell are there irrevocably and are beyond repentance?    Could you reference that with a definitive statement.  After all, the Catholic Encyclopedia says that there may be occasions when God liberates a soul form hell.

The Orthodox are not so sure that there is no redemption after death for sinners...

"Forgive, O Lord, those who have died without repentance.  Save those who
have committed suicide in the darkness of their mind, that the flame of
their sinfulness may be extinguished in the ocean of Thy grace.

            O Lord of unutterable Love, remember Thy servants who have
                        fallen asleep."

Ikos 5

http://users.sisqtel.net/williams/akathist-repose.html

And in earlier centuries Rome also was not so sure:

"Libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de poenis inferni et de profundo lacu."
« Last Edit: March 28, 2010, 11:06:06 AM by Irish Hermit » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2010, 04:21:24 PM »

Fr Ambrose, liturgical texts, just like all texts, need to be interpreted.  Consider the Requiem offertory prayer you have cited:

Domine Jesu Christe, Rex gloriae, libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de poenis inferni et de profundo lacu. Libera eas de ore leonis, ne absorbeat eas tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum.

I do not read Latin and am unable to offer a translation, but here is one translation I found on the net:

"Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, liberate the souls of the faithful departed from the pains of hell and from the bottomless pit. Deliver them from the lion's mouth, lest hell swallow them up, lest they fall into darkness."

Unfortunately, my acquaintance with the traditional Latin rite is exceptionally limited.  This prayer is not discussed by Jungmann in his two volume book on the Mass of the Roman Rite, and I have no other resources in my library to which to turn.  One or two very tentative thoughts:

I note that this is a prayer specifically for the "faithful departed."  So we need to ask who specifically is included in this class of people.  I presume that it excludes the nonbaptized, apostates and heretics.  Does that sound reasonable?  So who are the "faithful departed"?  All the baptized?   

As you are no doubt aware, there is a long-standing debate among Catholics about the meaning of this offertory prayer.  This debate is briefly mentioned in the Catholic Encyclopedia article on the Requiem Mass.  Through internet search I discovered an article in the September 1890 issue of the American Ecclesiastical Review discussing this prayer.  The article begins on p. 185.  The author proposes the following translation of the Latin:

"Lord Jesus Christ, king of glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful, when they have departed, from the pains of hell and the deep abyss."

If this translation stands up, then the prayer becomes a prayer for all the faithful, both those who have yet to face death and those who now stand before the judgment seat of God.  It would therefore be dangerous to draw any dogmatic conclusions from it regarding the question before us.

You ask, Father Ambrose, "Is this a defined article of the Roman Catholic faith, that those in hell are there irrevocably and are beyond repentance?"

I do not know what level of dogmatic authority one would ascribe to this teaching, but it is most certainly the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church.  Thus the Catholic Catechism:

Quote
Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul--a destiny which can be different for some and for others.

Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven--through a purification or immediately,-- or immediate and everlasting damnation. (1021-1022)

By definition, the damned have irrevocably chosen their eternal damnation.  They are beyond forgiveness because they have decisively closed their hearts to the divine mercy.  The damned are like the group of dwarfs depicted in C. S. Lewis's tale The Last Battle.  Perhaps you recall the horrifying scene.  A group of nasty dwarfs have rendered themselves incapable of seeing Aslan, incapable of hearing his roar.  As Aslan explains to Lucy:  "'You see,' said Aslan. 'They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being takers in that they cannot be taken out.'"

To understand the Catholic position here, you need to remember that the Catholic Church teaches that when each person dies, he comes before God to experience initial, particular judgment, distinct from the general judgment at the resurrection of the dead.  Thus Pope Benedict XII in his 1336 papal bull Benedictus Deus:

Quote
Moreover we define that according to the general disposition of God, the souls of those who die in actual mortal sin go down into hell immediately (mox) after death and there suffer the pain of hell. Nevertheless, on the day of judgment all men will appear with their bodies "before the judgment seat of Christ" to give an account of their personal deeds, "so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body" (2 Cor. 5.10).

The particular judgment of God is not a provisional judgment that can be undone by repentance.  The damned have rejected the possibility of repentance; they have no desire to repent.  They have their heart's desire, and it is Hell.  Likewise, the saved have their heart's desire, and it is Heaven. 

This is, I know, different from the traditional Eastern understanding.  Catholics believe that Heaven is created by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  When Jesus rises to the right hand of the Father, he does not ascend into a pre-existing Heaven; he creates Heaven.  Now that Christ has died for the sins of all, now that he has harrowed Hades, now that he has destroyed death and ascended into glory, there is no "waiting" to know the future judgment of God.  All who die in Christ (however that is understood) are truly in Christ and with Christ and therefore in and with God--and therefore "in" Heaven.  There may still yet be purification from self-will and there may still be a "waiting" for the embodiment of the general resurrection, but the particular judgment has been spoken.  Life-after-death is not a second chance.  As the Letter to the Hebrews states, "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (9:27).  Death is entrance into eternity, and eternity is not "more time"; eternity is the achievement and fulfillment of time.  We cannot understand what this means, of course; but I do think it is fair to say that life in the present, this mortal life, is the time given to us to embrace God or to reject him.  By our choices we determine who we will be eternally. 

The content of the particular judgment and the general judgment is therefore identical, with one difference:

Quote
"The Body of Christ" means that all human beings are one organism, the destiny of the whole the proper destiny of each.  True enough, the decisive outcome of each person's life is settled in death, at the close of their earthly activity.  Thus everyone is judged and reaches his definitive destiny after death.  But his final place in the whole can be determined only when the total organism is complete, when the passio and the actio of history have come to their end.  And so the gathering together of the whole will be an act that leaves no person unaffected.  Only at that juncture can the definitive judgment take place, judging each man in terms of the whole and give him that place which he can receive only in conjunction with all the rest. (Joseph Ratzinger, Eschatology, p. 190)
   
This understanding might seem to preclude prayer for the salvation of all, yet this is not the case.  We do not know if anyone is damned, nor do we know what God can do in the heart of every person at the moment of death.  The love that the Holy Spirit has placed in our hearts impels us to pray for all and to hope for all.  Here I must refer you to Hans Urs on Balthasar's book Dare We Hope "That All Men be Saved"?.   

Fr Ambrose, I have cited two Orthodox sources--Elder Cleopa and St Mark of Ephesus.  The latter holds particular authority within Orthodoxy, especially since he was the Orthodox theologian who defended at the Council of Florence the Orthodox understanding of life-after-death against the Latin doctrine of Purgatory.  Certainly by the time of the council, Latin theologians were teaching the particular judgment and the impossibility of repentance for the damned, yet I am unaware of any Eastern theologians objecting to this view during the council or afterwards.  Am I wrong about that?  You have proclaimed your interpretation of the Eastern liturgical texts as the Orthodox view.  I know that Archbishop Hilarion agrees with you; but only 300 years ago the Orthodox patriarchs apparently did not entertain the possibility of the repentance of the damned:

Quote
We believe that the souls of those that have fallen asleep are either at rest or in torment, according to what each has done; — for when they are separated from their bodies, they depart immediately either to joy, or to sorrow and lamentation; though confessedly neither their enjoyment nor condemnation are complete. For after the common resurrection, when the soul shall be united with the body, with which it had behaved itself well or ill, each shall receive the completion of either enjoyment or of condemnation.

And the souls of those involved in mortal sins, who have not departed in despair but while still living in the body, though without bringing forth any fruits of repentance, have repented — by pouring forth tears, by kneeling while watching in prayers, by afflicting themselves, by relieving the poor, and finally by showing forth by their works their love towards God and their neighbor, and which the Catholic Church has from the beginning rightly called satisfaction — [their souls] depart into Hades, and there endure the punishment due to the sins they have committed. But they are aware of their future release from there, and are delivered by the Supreme Goodness, through the prayers of the Priests, and the good works which the relatives of each do for their Departed; especially the unbloody Sacrifice benefiting the most; which each offers particularly for his relatives that have fallen asleep, and which the Catholic and Apostolic Church offers daily for all alike. Of course, it is understood that we do not know the time of their release. We know and believe that there is deliverance for such from their direful condition, and that before the common resurrection and judgment, but when we know not. (The Confession of Dositheus)

I am happy to be convinced, Fr Ambrose, that your interpretation of the Eastern liturgical texts (as compelling as they are) represents the unbroken understanding of the Eastern Church for the past 2,000 years, but I need more evidence that your view has been and is the view of the Orthodox Church. 

And let me ask one question of you:  If God, with or without the prayers of the saints, can save even one of the damned, then why doesn't he save them all?               
         
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« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2010, 10:13:58 PM »

Dear Father Kimel,

I believe we have discussed this in other threads.  The prayer "libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de poenis inferni et de profundo lacu" is known by Catholic theologians to have been a prayer for deliverance from Hell, but the same theoogians point out that over the centuries such an understanding came to be seen as erroneous and was given a modified interpretation.  Your example above is a good example of such a reinterpretation.

As regards the Orthodox belief, it has a firm basis in holy Scripture (2 Maccabees 39-46) and moreover it is Scripture which is clear and transparent and does not need any artful interpretation.     For the life of my soul I will not teach contrary to Scripture but will uphold it and preach it.


Today (28 March) is the commemoration of St. Tuathal of Saint-Gall
See http://groups.yahoo.com/group/celt-saints



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« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2010, 10:31:04 PM »


And let me ask one question of you:  If God, with or without the prayers of the saints, can save even one of the damned, then why doesn't he save them all?               
         

Dear Father, one year ago I asked a question of the Catholics here and there was no answer.  Please allow me to repeat the question.  I think that one year ago you were not on the Forum.

-oOo-

If you had a way and you could rehabilitate all the prisoners in jail and release them into society, wouldn't you be a total misanthrope if you did not do it?   Well, the Pope has the power to release every Soul from Purgatory but what he is doing?  He is sitting on the treasury of Christ's merits and doling them out in tiny quantities when there's nothing to prevent him bestowing these merits on every Soul in Purgatory.

It's mean-spirited and the whole present system is capricious.   

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13820.msg307310.html#msg307310

-oOo-

What I am saying is that the system of indulgences and the Pope's power to deliver from people from Purgatory is so erratic that it borders on gross injustice.

Example:

Billy Jones is a mass murderer and goes to the electric chair, and Glory to God, he repented.  His dear old mother is a wonderful and devout old soul and the day after his death she obtains a plenary indulgence for him.   He is sprung from Purgatory at once and enters Heaven.

The next day Johnny Malloy goes to the chair but he has no devout old mother and no friends interested in obtaining an indulgence and applying it to his soul.... so he has to spend two million years of torment in Purgatory.

You see what I mean, the Pope has set up an iniquitous and rather unjust system.     Worse than that - it makes God Himself appear capricious.

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13820.msg307475.html#msg307475
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« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2010, 12:54:05 AM »

Fr Ambrose, I ask you to present testimony and scholarship to support your claims and instead you simply reiterate them.  I provide you two examples of Orthodox theologians who appear to disagree with your presentation, including St Mark of Ephesus, and you simply ignore them.  I ask you a simple question and instead of answering it you come back at me with a counter-question.  Hmmm, I think they call this EVASIVENESS. 

May i suggest that instead of claiming that your opinion represents the teaching of the Orthodox Church, you simply admit that it represents a teaching of the Orthodox Church.  I think you would find this a more defensible and honest posture.       

And if you are going to claim that Scripture transparently teaches the possibility of post-mortem conversion, then you are going to have to do a heck of lot better than 2 Maccabees 39-46, which doesn't even talk about the repentance of the dead.  So I call your deutero-canonical text and raise you the testimony of the Son of God (Luke 16:19-31):  "And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us."   

As far as your question about indulgences, IF purgatory is what you say it is and IF indulgences are what you say they are, then I agree with you.  But if you want to know what I believe about the Last Things, then read my reflections on Purgatory and come back with your questions and criticisms.  Here is my challenge to you:  give my reflections on purgatory a fair hearing and then come back here and confront me with your Orthodox objections to my presentation.     
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« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2010, 02:24:51 AM »

Fr Ambrose, I ask you to present testimony and scholarship to support your claims and instead you simply reiterate them.  I provide you two examples of Orthodox theologians who appear to disagree with your presentation, including St Mark of Ephesus, and you simply ignore them.  I ask you a simple question and instead of answering it you come back at me with a counter-question.  Hmmm, I think they call this EVASIVENESS. 

Father,  I do not think you get the point --- Scriptura locuta est, causa finita est.

If there is any EVASIVENESS, it would seem to be on the part of the Roman clergy who refuse to comprehend and wish to evade the clear teaching of the Bible.

39 Et sequenti die venerunt, qui cum Iuda erant, eo tempore, quo necessarium factum erat,
ut corpora prostratorum tollerent et cum parentibus reponerent in sepulcris paternis.
40 Invenerunt autem sub tunicis uniuscuiusque interfectorum donaria idolorum, quae apud
Iamniam fuerunt, a quibus lex prohibet Iudaeos. Omnibus ergo manifestum factum est
ob hanc causam eos corruisse.
41 Omnes itaque, cum benedixissent, quae sunt iusti iudicis, Domini, qui occulta manifesta facit,
42 ad obsecrationem conversi sunt, rogantes, ut id, quod factum erat, delictum oblivioni
ex integro traderetur. At vero fortissimus Iudas hortatus est populum conservare se sine peccato,
cum sub oculis vidissent, quae facta sunt propter peccatum eorum, qui prostrati sunt.
43 Et, facta viritim collatione ad duo milia drachmas argenti, misit Hierosolymam offerri
pro peccatis sacrificium, valde bene et honeste de resurrectione cogitans.
44 Nisi enim eos, qui ceciderant, resurrecturos speraret, superfluum et vanum esset orare pro mortuis.
45 Deinde considerans quod hi, qui cum pietate dormitionem acceperant, optimum haberent
repositum gratiae donum:
46 sancta et pia cogitatio. Unde pro defunctis expiationem fecit, ut a peccato solverentur.

Liber secundus Maccabaeorum 12:39-46
http://www.vatican.va/archive/bible/nova_vulgata/documents/nova-vulgata_vt_ii-maccabaeorum_lt.html#12
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« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2010, 02:45:04 AM »


Those, however, who die in fundamental rejection of God are beyond repentance, not because God has ceased to be merciful but because the damned have definitively and irrevocably rejected God's mercy.    


Dear Father Kimel,

Is this a defined article of the Roman Catholic faith, that those in hell are there irrevocably and are beyond repentance?    Could you reference that with a definitive statement.  After all, the Catholic Encyclopedia says that there may be occasions when God liberates a soul form hell.

The Orthodox are not so sure that there is no redemption after death for sinners...

"Forgive, O Lord, those who have died without repentance.  Save those who
have committed suicide in the darkness of their mind, that the flame of
their sinfulness may be extinguished in the ocean of Thy grace.

            O Lord of unutterable Love, remember Thy servants who have
                        fallen asleep."

Ikos 5

http://users.sisqtel.net/williams/akathist-repose.html

And in earlier centuries Rome also was not so sure:

"Libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de poenis inferni et de profundo lacu."
My understanding is this:
Hell is eternal
Purgatory is temporal.
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« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2010, 09:36:54 PM »


And let me ask one question of you:  If God, with or without the prayers of the saints, can save even one of the damned, then why doesn't he save them all?               
         

Dear Father, one year ago I asked a question of the Catholics here and there was no answer.  Please allow me to repeat the question.  I think that one year ago you were not on the Forum.

-oOo-

If you had a way and you could rehabilitate all the prisoners in jail and release them into society, wouldn't you be a total misanthrope if you did not do it?   Well, the Pope has the power to release every Soul from Purgatory but what he is doing?  He is sitting on the treasury of Christ's merits and doling them out in tiny quantities when there's nothing to prevent him bestowing these merits on every Soul in Purgatory.

It's mean-spirited and the whole present system is capricious.   

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13820.msg307310.html#msg307310

-oOo-

What I am saying is that the system of indulgences and the Pope's power to deliver from people from Purgatory is so erratic that it borders on gross injustice.

Example:

Billy Jones is a mass murderer and goes to the electric chair, and Glory to God, he repented.  His dear old mother is a wonderful and devout old soul and the day after his death she obtains a plenary indulgence for him.   He is sprung from Purgatory at once and enters Heaven.

The next day Johnny Malloy goes to the chair but he has no devout old mother and no friends interested in obtaining an indulgence and applying it to his soul.... so he has to spend two million years of torment in Purgatory.

You see what I mean, the Pope has set up an iniquitous and rather unjust system.     Worse than that - it makes God Himself appear capricious.

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13820.msg307475.html#msg307475

Interesting point you raise, Father. I never thought of it that way. That does not seem to jive with my understanding of a loving God. Where is this belief pre-schism? Could it be that I may have skipped over reading a Church Father or two that said something about the Pope of Rome having the ability to pass out a "get-out of-hell free card"?

In Christ,
Andrew
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« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2010, 02:28:50 AM »


If I may weigh in a bit late in all of this, but the topic has been something I've been studying and have learned how much I don't know.

There is a very good presentation on the history of the theological statement regarding the 'afterlife' from the 'Eastern' side by Prof. Nicholas Constas at Dunbarton Oaks (D.O. Papers, No. 55).

In regards to the Orthodox-Roman conflict, I think the main issues were:

1. the nature of purgational fire
2. the temporal nature of the punishment
3. divine punishment versus self-assignment

Clearly there is common ground in that both sides agree that only those persons who truly hate God are destined for eternal damnation (witnessed by their total disregard for others), whereas both sides also leave quite a bit of latitude for understanding that those who struggle with their consciences over their sins may experience 'temporary' suffering that helps the soul complete his repentance that lacked in his earthly life.

The idea of doing good works for the dead is common for both sides as well, but I think there is a different understanding on either side as to how it works.

If I may dare to speak for the Orthodox, I think the primary objection to the Roman understanding is that it appears to us to be rather depersonalized when we start speaking of ____ years in purgatory removed by _____ indulgence without regard for the actual conscience of the person involved.  Same with merits.  The intercessions of a saint have differing effect based not on an assigned effect, but rather on the willingness of the repentent soul to abandon his mourning and enter into rest.

There is also the issue as to whether God demands punishment for sins despite His Son's sacrifice.

This is going to sound corny, but I have used the movie 'The Mission' to explain how this works:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-c2Ppcrs6Os

I couldn't find the scene before, where Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons discuss De Niro's penance.  Neeson tells Irons that the brothers had decided that De Niro had done enough of a penance, but Irons says De Niro still wasn't ready because he himself had not accepted the penance as sufficient.  It was only when he confronted the Indians he had slaughtered that he was able to be freed from his guilt.  Beautiful story.

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« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2010, 07:11:29 AM »



If I may dare to speak for the Orthodox, I think the primary objection to the Roman understanding is that it appears to us to be rather depersonalized when we start speaking of ____ years in purgatory removed by _____ indulgence without regard for the actual conscience of the person involved.  Same with merits.  The intercessions of a saint have differing effect based not on an assigned effect, but rather on the willingness of the repentent soul to abandon his mourning and enter into rest.

Father, I think that most contemporary Catholic theologians, including the two most recent Popes, would agree with you.  Important changes have occurred in both Catholic theology and praxis in this area over the past sixty years.  You might find my own personal reflections on purgatory of interest.
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« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2010, 09:13:47 AM »

Father,  I do not think you get the point --- Scriptura locuta est, causa finita est.

If there is any EVASIVENESS, it would seem to be on the part of the Roman clergy who refuse to comprehend and wish to evade the clear teaching of the Bible.

2 Maccabees 12 is of course a favorite Catholic proof-text for the practice of praying for the dead, so I do not see how Catholic priests can be accused of evading it. 

You apparently believe that this text demonstrates that we can pray out of Hell those who have died in a state of mortal sin.  Is that your point? 

But does the text in fact prove what you want it to prove?  It says that Judas took up a collection from his soldiers to finance the offering of expiatory sacrifices in Jerusalem for the sin of idolatry committed by his fallen comrades.  "Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin."   

Are we to infer from this that all the men who wore these amulets were in fact guilty of mortal sin and therefore damned?  No Catholic, of course, would say that.  Why?  Because, as you well know, specific subjective conditions must be met for an immoral act , no matter how grave, to qualify as a mortal sin. 

Are we to infer from this that all the soldiers for whom the sacrifices were made were absolved and forgiven, that they will all be judged righteous when they are raised to life at the final resurrection?  The text does not say this.

Are we to infer from this text that after death every person is given fresh opportunities to repent of their sins?  The text does not in fact say this either.  It says that expiatory sacrifices were offered to God, presumably in the hope that such atonement would effect divine pardon.  The text appears to assume that without the offering of atonement, God would not forgive the sins of these soldiers.  But a Christian cannot think of forgiveness and atonement in these terms.       

You assert, Fr Ambrose, that 2 Macc 39-46 is transparent and its theological meaning plain.  But you have failed to interpret the text in light of the gospel-fact that the Son of God has offered a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the world.  In the most profound sense, in Christ and through God has forgiven all sins and absolved every human being.  The problem of forgiveness is not on God's side; the problem is on ours.  I think all Orthodox would agree on this.  So it is wrong to posit a huge disagreement between Catholics and Orthodox on the question whether God, impelled by the prayers of the Church, will forgive people in Hades.  God has already spoken his word of forgiveness on the cross.  The real question is whether "time" in Hades is a "time" in which people may alter their fundamental orientation to God.  Catholics tend to think that in the final encounter with Christ in death the fundamental orientation of the individual to God, whether one of openness or closure, is forever determined.  Apparently, some Orthodox also agree on this point.  I refer to the GOA article "Death, the Threshold to Eternal Life":

Quote
The moral progress of the soul, either for better or for worse, ends at the very moment of the separation of the body and soul; at that very moment the definite destiny of the soul in the everlasting life is decided. (see Androutsos Dogmatics p. 409). It will be judged not according to its deeds one by one, but according to the entire total results of its deeds and thoughts. The Orthodox Church believes that at this moment the soul of the dead person begins to enjoy the consequences of its deeds and thoughts on earth - that is, to enjoy the life in Paradise or to undergo the life in Hell. There.is no way of repentance, no way of escape, no reincarnation and no help from the outside world. Its place is decided forever by its Creator and judge.

Once again I refer to the parable of Lazarus and the rich man and the terrifying words of Father Abraham:  "And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us" (Luke 16:26).  Hence the seriousness of the biblical exhortation to repent now, not tomorrow, not next week, not in eternity--but now!
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« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2010, 03:12:06 PM »

Father, I think that most contemporary Catholic theologians, including the two most recent Popes, would agree with you.  Important changes have occurred in both Catholic theology and praxis in this area over the past sixty years.  You might find my own personal reflections on purgatory of interest.

Dear Fr. Alvin,

Thanks for the link, and I will try to read it after Pascha.

While I cannot help but think it is a good sign that the RCC is reconsidering some of the earlier positions it took on the matter, it is my sincere hope that the College of Cardinals and the Pope will reconsider their present position regarding the making of theological decisions on their own.  I think that they might not have gone so far away from where they are now had they, let's say, consulted with the other Ancient Sees.  At the same time, I think they would have been saved from the pernicious influences of the Novo Ordo mess (I'm sure you saw the latest lamentable exhibition out of Anaheim so I won't comment further).

Due to my recent studies, I have become a big fan of Frs. Amorth and Fortea.  Frankly, due to the nature of their work, I have way more respect for them than I do any academic theologians.  I think it is ministering to people who are fighting the real battles that will put an end to the Schism.

In that the devil hates us both, we must have something in common!  Wink

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« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2010, 01:48:24 PM »

Today I came across this quote from St John of Damascus:

"Note, further, that what in the case of man is death is a fall in the case of angels. For after the fall there is no possibility of repentance for them, just as after death there is for men no repentance" (Orthodox Faith II.4). 
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« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2010, 02:39:26 PM »

Hell is real, God's love is also real.   We have much to learn from an early Syrian monk named Isaac and from a Polish nun.

Here is Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev's address on the afterlife and the Divine Mercy

http://thedivinemercy.org/news/story.php?NID=3132
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« Reply #15 on: October 14, 2010, 03:45:21 PM »

Hell is real, God's love is also real.   We have much to learn from an early Syrian monk named Isaac and from a Polish nun.

Here is Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev's address on the afterlife and the Divine Mercy

http://thedivinemercy.org/news/story.php?NID=3132


Hey! Isn't that the Origenist apokatastasis doctrine?
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« Reply #16 on: October 14, 2010, 04:04:21 PM »

Hell is real, God's love is also real.   We have much to learn from an early Syrian monk named Isaac and from a Polish nun.

Here is Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev's address on the afterlife and the Divine Mercy

http://thedivinemercy.org/news/story.php?NID=3132


Hey! Isn't that the Origenist apokatastasis doctrine?

It's best not to delve too deeply into that which has not been revealed. While the Church condemned the Apokatastasis of Origen, it did not condemn Gregory of Nyssa. The former asserted that God must save all in order to fulfill the divine economy; the latter said that God could do this, and, considering that He desires all men to be saved, would find a way to do so without violating human free will.

Saint Maximus the Confessor expressed it well:  "One should pray that Apokatastasis is true, but one would be foolish to teach it as doctrine."

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« Reply #17 on: October 14, 2010, 04:04:57 PM »

Hell is real, God's love is also real.   We have much to learn from an early Syrian monk named Isaac and from a Polish nun.

Here is Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev's address on the afterlife and the Divine Mercy

http://thedivinemercy.org/news/story.php?NID=3132


Hey! Isn't that the Origenist apokatastasis doctrine?

And just my two bits... Very few people die in "black or white", that is, in a state of holiness or of outright hatred toward God. Most of us will die in a grey area that will point more to one side thant to the other. We can even think of people with a high degree of "white" but whose tendencies lead to darkness, and some people in great "blackness" may have fought their way out of even darker shadows and die "pointing" to the light.

I do believe that when we die we are *entering* eternity. The saints and the damned enter already fully into it, because they lived eternal bliss or torment even while here. And just like we can have a bit of eternity down here in time, probably you can have a bit of time up there in eternity, and that could be the case of the "greys"; they are still attached to "worldly" things, time being one of them. So this "time-in-eternity" will not change their ultimate choices, but will make the soul "flow" from the chaotic state it died in into the "resultant" of the many variables.

If this is true, whether people can be taken out of hell or not will depend on what we call "being in hell". We have the concept of "energies" which may help us here.

We talk a lot about the energies of God, but it seems to me that it follows that if God has energies, so does everything else in Creation, in a infinitely smaller degree (yes, even us, and that's probably why we can "feel" the energy of a situation, of a place, of a person). In that case, just like a person can be a member of the Church and yet be a dead member that will be spit out, I suppose that a person can be in "the energy of hell" and, in a similar fashion be "unfaithful" to the essence of this energy, thus not having an ultimate bond to it. To better understand what I am saying, we can invert the Parable of the Sower, picturing the devil as the sower of evil seeds in the hearts of people.  In some hearts, the seeds don't grow at all. In some they grow but are chocked by the rocks (in this case, these would be the teachings of the Church), in others, the birds come and take them (the angels). And just in some the seed grow and multiply.  Keeping with the farming parables, the Lord talks of the wheat and tare. If we think that each soul is a farmland, we will see that some farms have almost just wheat, and others have almost just tare. Most, though, are in that state of confusion which the Lord promises to clean, and truly, only God could unravel the complexities and ambiguities of the human heart with perfect justice and mercy.
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« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2010, 04:05:19 PM »

Hell is real, God's love is also real.   We have much to learn from an early Syrian monk named Isaac and from a Polish nun.

Here is Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev's address on the afterlife and the Divine Mercy

http://thedivinemercy.org/news/story.php?NID=3132


Hey! Isn't that the Origenist apokatastasis doctrine?
No, that's a non-Origenist non-apokatastasis doctrine, which is completely acceptable.

Apokatastasis, if we strictly define it according to a literal Greek meaning, refers to the return to one's prior state. Origen held (or so it is claimed) to apokatastasis: he believed that the original state of humanity was spiritual, and that we would all return to that same spiritual state.

Apokatastasis, then, must be distinguished from a general belief in the possibility of universal salvation (or POUS). POUS would not mean apokatastasis; it would not mean a return to one's prior state, because salvation, as the Church understands it, is the entrance into the eternal process of theosis. And the eternal process of theosis was not our prior state.

It was the Origenist apokatastasis that was rejected in Council.

POUS, however, was not rejected.
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« Reply #19 on: October 14, 2010, 04:10:50 PM »

Just as a note, when I talk about "eternity-in-time" and "time-in-eternity", I have in mind Prof. Bradshaws engaging study

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"A Christian Approach to the Philosophy of Time."  Describes the thought of the Greek Fathers on time & eternity, with a brief suggestion for how it can be applied to the problem of human freedom & divine foreknowledge.  Presented at a conference on Christian approaches to metaphysics, June 2006

which can be read here: http://www.uky.edu/~dbradsh/papers/Christian%20Approach%20to%20Phil%20of%20Time.pdf
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« Reply #20 on: October 14, 2010, 07:53:22 PM »

Apokatastasis, then, must be distinguished from a general belief in the possibility of universal salvation (or POUS). POUS would not mean apokatastasis; it would not mean a return to one's prior state, because salvation, as the Church understands it, is the entrance into the eternal process of theosis. And the eternal process of theosis was not our prior state. It was the Origenist apokatastasis that was rejected in Council.  POUS, however, was not rejected.

This may be strictly true; however, it is certainly not the case that POUS has been accepted at all times in all places within the Eastern Church as a legitimate position.  Consider that at the Council of Florence, St Mark of Ephesus, speaking on behalf of the Eastern representatives, rejected the universalism of St Gregory Nyssen.  I have to believe that he would have found the universalism of St Isaac the Syrian equally unacceptable. 

I suspect that it has only been during the last century that St Isaac's universalism has gained more widespread approval.  At best I think it may be said to be a theologoumenon within Orthodoxy.   

I welcome correction.
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« Reply #21 on: October 14, 2010, 07:55:31 PM »

Saint Maximus the Confessor expressed it well:  "One should pray that Apokatastasis is true, but one would be foolish to teach it as doctrine."

I have seen this quote cited across the internet, but no one has ever provided a source.  It's a great quote; but did Maximus actually say or write this? 
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« Reply #22 on: October 14, 2010, 08:24:03 PM »

I see so many problems with universal salvation. Foremost, it makes free-will just a fake. You *think* you can deny God or disobey Him, but in fact you can't.

Second, it does not solve the problem it's brought up to solve, i.e., of why a good and loving God would create people He knows would be eternally damned. The problem behind this question is, again, that of why God allows evil to exist and allows it to make His creatures suffer. A good God, this line of reasoning would say, would not punish anyone eternally.

The problem there is: if God is All-Knowing and All-Powerful and *will* save everybody, why wouldn't He create a way of educating His children without suffering? Certainly a Father Who has infinite resources at hand can think and produce one or two ways of teaching humility to someone that do not include the death of his family and destruction of everything this person praises. Also, for the departed, for an infinitely good Being, there sure is some other pedagogical resource than fire burning from within and imortal flesh eating worms.

It *does* strike me like one of those cartoons where everything always turns well and fine in the end, no mistake has any lasting consequence ever, no body is definetely hurt. Also, it's particularly sadistic that a teacher that could do otherwise would teach by torture. It seems one of those sick relationships where the aggressor repeats to the victim "I beat you because I love you." That's not the kind of relationship I would like to have with God.

And yet, the crucification wounds of Christ remained even on His glorified body. Eternally. It tells me that what we do here, *does* have eternal, non-changing consequences. That is one of the big reasons we should not hurt people in any way. It's true, also, that like we see in Christ, the wounds the saints receive turn into part of their glory, symbols of their crown.

Now, if carnal wounds remain even in the Body of Christ, why would not the self-inflicted wounds some people cause on their own souls? Why not the wounds *we* inflict on other people souls? God can heal them all, but only if that will contribute for their salvation.

I use to think there will be far less people in Hell than moralists think and far more than "no-eternal-punishment" advocates expect. Life is for real, our decisions and attitudes have eternal consequences. We are here to define how we will relate to the Love of God: accepting it and being in Heaven, or rejecting it and this unchanging rejection in face of an unstopable love being hell itself.
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« Reply #23 on: October 14, 2010, 08:43:26 PM »

In my opinion, God allows evil to exist *precisely* because this permission is what makes our choices real and concrete. Nay, our very existence is more solid than a dream precisely because some of our acts have unchanging consequences, whereas in dreamland you can jump from a building and fly, or fall and simply wake.

It's because we can choose eternally the love of God or the love of other things that we exist in a concrete way. Else, we would be shadows, mists, but not embodied souls, we would not be Human.

If this choice was not something good, God wouldn't have put the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in His Paradise. A Garden without an exit door is not a Paradise, it's a Prison, no matter how good and pleasant the things inside are.

Movies like "The Trumman Show" and "Matrix" hit the nail on this issue. I, particularly, think "The Trumman Show" is an even better parable of that than "Matrix".

So, concerning the issue at hand, if there was not a door that *really* led out of Heaven, it would not be Heaven, but a golden hell.
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« Reply #24 on: October 14, 2010, 08:57:37 PM »

Just to conclude....

So many people simply choose to live in their little dreamy fictional world instead of reality. And I am not talking "perfect worlds" only. Look at some perversions, some sociopathic conducts, and what you will see is a fictional world, with fictional personalities, where nothing is of consequence ever. For some it's the virtual world, for others it's more subtle and it's inside their minds: conspiracies, self-identity delusions, sick relationships, manias, obsessions, paranoias, heresies, schisms... all witht the same underlying assumption that cannot be expressed consciously: in the end all will be well, nothing will have a definitive consequence in my/our acts.

I would like to share an article I translated into English some years ago by a Brazilian philosopher whom I respect. In this article he talks about the ideal of "living free of the feeling of guilt", which, in my understanding, is related to that desire that there will be no *real* punishment for our acts that can come precisely from a deep unconfessable feeling of guilt, or for what I take to be a well-meant but erronoeous understanding of the Goodness of God.

Living Free of Guilt

Olavo de Carvalho
Jornal da Tarde, May 13th, 1999


“That’s what I searched for my whole life: someone who would tell me that it is possible to live free of guilt.” (Marilena Chauí, Dialogue with Bento Prado Jr., Folha de São Paulo, March 13th, 1999.)

“Living free of guilt” is an objective that all progressive culture offers to humanity. The feeling of guilt is condemned as the residue of old repressive traditions, which must be abandoned at the gates of a new era of happiness and self-realization. This is a point of agreement among the adepts of the most opposite trends. Crystallized by consensus, the condemnation of guilt has so many varied justifications that, actually, none of them is necessary anymore and people live perfectly well with something self-evident that needs no argumentation.

But, what is, precisely, living free of guilt? Above all, which is the precise tone intended by those who suggest such an objective?

There are only three senses in which a human being can be said to be free of guilt. The first hypothesis is that of innocence, the effective innocence of Adam in Paradise, of the Good Savage or of childhood in a Disney movie. Both the Bible and Rousseau, being very careful, put that hypothesis in a mythic past. Saint Augustine confessed to have been perverse since the cradle and what little credibility could be given to the image of childlike innocence was mercilessly demoralized by Dr. Freud.

The desire to “live free of guilt” would not be the least bit attractive to the soul if it appealed to a discredited idea. It is not possible, therefore, that it is primordial innocence that modern progressism has in mind when it invites us to “live free of guilt”. Complete and absolute innocence is a myth, a divine quality no one can achieve in this world.

A second sense in which is possible to “live without guilt” is that of the relative innocence, arduous and unstable, which man manages to maintain when he consciously abstains from doing evil and, if he does, tries to remediate it with devoted goodwill. It is a norm of reasonable perfection at the reach of many human beings.

But that cannot be the meaning of “living free of guilt”, for the possibility of a person rectifying any harm done is entirely based on the feeling of guilt that comes over him when he sins; and to prevent his doing new harm, he must conceive in imagination the guilt he would feel if he actually did it.

In that sense, relative innocence is in no way living free of guilt; it is precisely, giving value to the feeling of guilt as a compass that guides us away from evil.

But “living free of guilt” can mean still a third thing: it can mean the pure and simple abolition of the concept of guilt. In that case, whatever the individual does, his acts will not be examined under the category of guilt, repentance, of penalties and reparation. Since the nature of such acts and their consequences to others do not matter, they will always be approached in a way that strives to avoid the embarrassing constraint of a moral remediation. They can then be explained sociologically, psychologically, pragmatically, they can be evaluated in terms of advantage or disadvantage, described in terms of wish, gratification and frustration. They just cannot be judged.

This last meaning is, with all the evidence, the only one in which it is possible, in practice, to “live free of guilt”. It is this meaning, clearly, that the modern ideologists have in mind when they offer to humanity this ideal for the future.

But, in the present, we already have people who live without guilt, who do not submit to the examination of moral consciousness, who are not constrained by what harm their actions might cause to others. They are called sociopaths. They are not mentally ill or retarded. They are intelligent individuals, not rarely gifted with a certain geniality and impressive social ability, who merely lack the moral sensibility to feel guilty for their actions. Among them are muggers, drug dealers, gang leaders – and all the leaders of totalitarian movements, without exception. Anyone who wishes to be like them feels his heart beat faster, full of hope, when he hears someone announce that it is possible to live free of guilt.

Our civilization started when Christ said to the apostle: “Take up thy cross and follow me”. Two millennia after, the ideal that is announced is to throw the cross away, not being important who it may fall on, for we should rush to jump on the bandwagon of History, not being important who it will crush on the way.

Translation: Fábio Lins - Proof Reading: Jacqueline Baca
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« Reply #25 on: October 14, 2010, 09:29:38 PM »

Fabio, fantastic posts.
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« Reply #26 on: October 14, 2010, 10:12:12 PM »

I see so many problems with universal salvation. Foremost, it makes free-will just a fake. You *think* you can deny God or disobey Him, but in fact you can't.


Universal salvation in no way violates free will. It does not say that God will force Himself on anyone but rather eventually all of creation may come to accept Him. In fact it is an affirmation of free will because it maintains our free will for all eternity. Since God is all loving, and since an all loving God would never punish us eternally with no chance of correction; then maybe, perhaps after many many eons, all of mankind will use it's free will to finally accept God.

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« Reply #27 on: October 14, 2010, 10:13:34 PM »

Fabio, have you written any books? If not, would you? I'd definitely buy it!! Cheesy
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« Reply #28 on: October 15, 2010, 12:09:38 AM »

Here is what St. Maximos said about the doctrine of apokatastasis:  

"The Church knows three apokatastaseis. One is the [apokatastasis] of everything according to the principle (logos) of virtue; in this apokatastasis one is restored who fulfills the principle of virtue in himself. The second is that of the whole [human nature] in the Resurrection. This is the apokatastasis to incorruption and immortality. The third, in the oft-cited words of Gregory of Nyssa, is the apokatastasis of the powers of the soul which, having lapsed into sin, are again restored to that condition in which they were created. For it is necessary that just as the entire nature of the flesh hopes in time to be taken up again into incorruption in the apokatastasis, so also the powers of the soul, having become distorted during the course of the ages had instilled in it a memory of evil, so that at the end of ages, not finding any rest, will come to God Who has no limit. And thus the distorted powers of the soul will be taken up into the primeval apokatastasis, into a merely discursive knowledge of, but not into the participation in, the good things [of God], where the Creator is known yet without being the cause of [their] sin." [St. Maximos, Questiones et Dubia PG 90:796BC; for a different translation of the above text see Despina Prassas' dissertation entitled:  St. Maximos the Confessor's Questions and Doubts:  Translation and Commentary, CUA 2003]

I think that the thrust of St. Maximos' teaching is simply this: that the end of every man (whether he is a saint or whether he is damned) is God.  After all, God will be all in all.
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« Reply #29 on: October 15, 2010, 12:17:11 AM »

Saint Maximus the Confessor expressed it well:  "One should pray that Apokatastasis is true, but one would be foolish to teach it as doctrine."

I have seen this quote cited across the internet, but no one has ever provided a source.  It's a great quote; but did Maximus actually say or write this?  
I have also seen this quotation on various fora, but it seems to be at odds with what St. Maximos says in his treatise entitled Questiones et Dubia 19.
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St. Gregory Nazianzen

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« Reply #30 on: October 15, 2010, 01:01:52 AM »

Fabio, your argument is logical and compelling, and it is certainly supported by the majority of Christian theologians down through the ages.  Yet my heart refuses to accede to your logic.  There is a deeper logic, a deeper magic, if you will--so I believe and so I have preached.  All that you have written is true, yet it is not the whole truth.  The resurrection of Christ invites us to hope beyond hope, to hope for the salvation of all, to hope even for my own salvation.  This hope is beyond reason, yet not beyond reason; for it is firmly grounded in the infinite, unconquerable, triumphant love of the Holy Trinity.

I do not minimize evil nor the terrible suffering caused by evil.  I do not minimize the evil I have committed nor the suffering I have caused, and will cause, others.  All I can do is call upon God's mercy and hope.  Without this hope, there is only despair and darkness.
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« Reply #31 on: October 15, 2010, 11:23:54 AM »


And let me ask one question of you:  If God, with or without the prayers of the saints, can save even one of the damned, then why doesn't he save them all?               
         

Dear Father, one year ago I asked a question of the Catholics here and there was no answer.  Please allow me to repeat the question.  I think that one year ago you were not on the Forum.

-oOo-

If you had a way and you could rehabilitate all the prisoners in jail and release them into society, wouldn't you be a total misanthrope if you did not do it?   Well, the Pope has the power to release every Soul from Purgatory but what he is doing?  He is sitting on the treasury of Christ's merits and doling them out in tiny quantities when there's nothing to prevent him bestowing these merits on every Soul in Purgatory.

It's mean-spirited and the whole present system is capricious.   

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13820.msg307310.html#msg307310

-oOo-

What I am saying is that the system of indulgences and the Pope's power to deliver from people from Purgatory is so erratic that it borders on gross injustice.

Example:

Billy Jones is a mass murderer and goes to the electric chair, and Glory to God, he repented.  His dear old mother is a wonderful and devout old soul and the day after his death she obtains a plenary indulgence for him.   He is sprung from Purgatory at once and enters Heaven.

The next day Johnny Malloy goes to the chair but he has no devout old mother and no friends interested in obtaining an indulgence and applying it to his soul.... so he has to spend two million years of torment in Purgatory.

You see what I mean, the Pope has set up an iniquitous and rather unjust system.     Worse than that - it makes God Himself appear capricious.

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13820.msg307475.html#msg307475

Interesting point you raise, Father. I never thought of it that way. That does not seem to jive with my understanding of a loving God. Where is this belief pre-schism? Could it be that I may have skipped over reading a Church Father or two that said something about the Pope of Rome having the ability to pass out a "get-out of-hell free card"?

In Christ,
Andrew

When I was a child, we did not make funny and mean jokes about the Church but we did have the same question:  What about the person that has no one to pray for them, and the answer came back quite clearly:  The Church prays for ALL those souls who have no one; the Church in the form of liturgical prayer, alms giving and sacrifice; all the priests and monastics in their prayer discipline and all those laity who also have no one to pray for, offer their hope to God for all souls, and seek indulgence for their sins.

So...we never knew that there were Orthodox out in the world making cartoons of our faith, but we did ask that question, and we were answered.  The answer made such an impression on me that I finally returned to the Church after being away pursuing my favorite sins, and I pray now for all souls who are alone and have no one to pray for their souls, and I beg indulgence for their sins, and try very hard to live my life in such a way that my prayers have particular efficacy, God allowing.

We were also taught that we know nothing of the particular judgment or final judgment at all.  We have no concept of time except that for which we have a record and that which we experience moment to moment.

We were also taught that a truly reprobate soul had to know God, believe in God, and forcefully and repeatedly reject God, and we were taught that very very few of us had that kind of hardness of heart.  And we were taught that even those souls could be softened...in time to keep them from eternal damnation...by our striving for holiness and prayer.

These are the very practical lessons that still guide my thoughts and prayers.

Pray for me.

In Christ,

Mary

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