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David ben Yessai


« on: April 05, 2010, 02:24:13 PM »

What does the Orthodox Church teach about life after death? And what is the Church's stance on the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul?

Do believers in Christ all go straight to Heaven after they die or do they "fall asleep" in the grave and only "wake up" at the Resurrection on the Last Day?

And concerning the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul in particular, what does the Church teach about the soul? How does the Church describe what it is? Something that a person has (Greek philosophy) or what a person is (Biblical Hebrew)?

Looking forward to your responses.
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« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2010, 03:02:50 PM »

What does the Orthodox Church teach about life after death? And what is the Church's stance on the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul?

Do believers in Christ all go straight to Heaven after they die or do they "fall asleep" in the grave and only "wake up" at the Resurrection on the Last Day?

And concerning the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul in particular, what does the Church teach about the soul? How does the Church describe what it is? Something that a person has (Greek philosophy) or what a person is (Biblical Hebrew)?

Looking forward to your responses.




This is a huge topic, but I will try to break it down with some admittedly over-simplified answers:

What does the Orthodox Church teach about life after death?

First, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed declares that all Orthodox believe in the Resurrection of the Dead, as borne witness to in the Prophets.  At death, the body and soul/spirit are separated for a time, yet the body is still the body of the person and the soul is still the soul of the person and the spirit is still the spirit of the person.  They continue to exist, though separated for a time until the return of the Christ and the Last Judgment.

And what is the Church's stance on the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul?

The soul is not meant to die, so it is without 'end,' but this does not mean that it has always existed.  It was created with the rest of the entire person at conception.  Being in the image and likeness of God, we are not created to die, therefore the 'death' we experience is not a loss of existence, but a loss of integrity until we are renewed at the General Resurrection.

Do believers in Christ all go straight to Heaven after they die or do they "fall asleep" in the grave and only "wake up" at the Resurrection on the Last Day?

No and no.  The Church teaches that the soul embarks on a 'journey' of sort to enter either into rest with God or torment with the demons based on one's conscience.  There was a particular 'soul sleep' school of thought amongst the Syrians, but the Church ultimately rejected this.  The process of entering into rest has been variously described, mostly because each person's conscience convicts him in different ways.  However, based on Jesus Christ's own teaching (c.f. the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus), the soul and spirit remain aware after earthly death.

And concerning the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul in particular, what does the Church teach about the soul? How does the Church describe what it is?

See above.  The Church rejects the teaching of the 'preexistence of souls.' 

The soul it the force that aminates the body and provides the connection between the spirit and body.  It forms thoughts based on physical senses and spiritual discernment.

Something that a person has (Greek philosophy) or what a person is (Biblical Hebrew)?

I would say that the Orthodox Church's teachings are Biblical in nature, but have used Greek terms when necessary to communicate the truth.

Hope this helps.


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« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2010, 03:34:54 PM »

What does the Orthodox Church teach about life after death? And what is the Church's stance on the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul?

Do believers in Christ all go straight to Heaven after they die or do they "fall asleep" in the grave and only "wake up" at the Resurrection on the Last Day?

And concerning the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul in particular, what does the Church teach about the soul? How does the Church describe what it is? Something that a person has (Greek philosophy) or what a person is (Biblical Hebrew)?

Looking forward to your responses.

What Father Giryus said above, plus this:

1. Each person is subject to what is called "private judgment" and to what is called "general judgment." The private judgment is what an individual receives immediately after death. The souls of the righteous, who have received a "positive" private judgment have a certain "foretaste" of Heaven, and the souls of unrepentant sinners who received a "negative" private judgment have a "foretaste" of hell. However, neither Paradise nor the Inferno even exist yet, because the final division of all humans into those who are saints and those who are damned will occur only after the Second Coming of Christ and the general resurrection of the dead (Matthew 25: 31-46). Even though a person whose soul is separated from his/her body is not able to repent anymore, and thus cannot change the private judgment by him- or herself, the prayers of others, the prayers of the Church, and especially the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos still CAN change the destiny of those who received a negative private judgment.

2. It's difficult to say whether soul is something that the person has or something that the person is, because body without its soul is not really a person, and, importantly, the soul without its body is not a person either. The current situation where we die, i.e. our bodies become separated from our souls, is tragically abnormal; it should not be this way, it was not designed by our Creator to be that way. It's a result of the ancestral sin. In the future Kingdom of God souls will be reunited with their bodies forever. There will be no antagonism between body and soul, flesh and spirit. Humans will finally be "whole."
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« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2010, 04:00:39 PM »

Thank you for your replies so far.
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« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2010, 04:16:41 PM »

Do believers in Christ all go straight to Heaven after they die or do they "fall asleep" in the grave and only "wake up" at the Resurrection on the Last Day?

No and no.  The Church teaches that the soul embarks on a 'journey' of sort to enter either into rest with God or torment with the demons based on one's conscience.  There was a particular 'soul sleep' school of thought amongst the Syrians, but the Church ultimately rejected this.  The process of entering into rest has been variously described, mostly because each person's conscience convicts him in different ways.  However, based on Jesus Christ's own teaching (c.f. the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus), the soul and spirit remain aware after earthly death.

So on what basis did the Church reject the "soul sleep" theory? There are ample Scripture verses which argue for "soul sleep" but just as many verses which counter it, so in this case Scripture can't be used as the final deciding factor. What problems did the Church have with the "soul sleep" school of thought?
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« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2010, 04:52:58 PM »

Do believers in Christ all go straight to Heaven after they die or do they "fall asleep" in the grave and only "wake up" at the Resurrection on the Last Day?

No and no.  The Church teaches that the soul embarks on a 'journey' of sort to enter either into rest with God or torment with the demons based on one's conscience.  There was a particular 'soul sleep' school of thought amongst the Syrians, but the Church ultimately rejected this.  The process of entering into rest has been variously described, mostly because each person's conscience convicts him in different ways.  However, based on Jesus Christ's own teaching (c.f. the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus), the soul and spirit remain aware after earthly death.

So on what basis did the Church reject the "soul sleep" theory? There are ample Scripture verses which argue for "soul sleep" but just as many verses which counter it, so in this case Scripture can't be used as the final deciding factor. What problems did the Church have with the "soul sleep" school of thought?


The primary rejection of 'soul sleep' comes from Jesus Christ's own words.  The term 'sleep' in the OT tends more towards the description of physical death in the body as opposed to utter lack of awareness.  Many of the 'poetic' representations of death as 'sleep' are such.

Then you factor in the appearance of Samuel to Saul, which is one of the more graphic representations, then you can see there is more of a Scriptural basis to awareness after dead, which is what 'soul sleep' in the Syriac sense (I'm not speaking of modern Syriacs, but of the school of thought at the time) rejected.

Another problem with 'soul sleep' or inactivity of the dead has to do with the intercessions of the triumphant Saints.  If they are asleep, then they cannot intercede for us.  The Church has had too many experiences of help from the dead to reject the idea that the dead are in fact 'alive' and awake.'  If we are alive, then we are aware.  One who sleeps can be roused, and so souls can be at rest without being in a permanent state of 'inactivity.'  The Church rejects the permanent inactivity of the dead since we know them to intercede for us.

What exaactly the condition of the dead are prior to the Resurrection is par tof the Mystery of Death.  But, we can reject some ideas, such as total 'inactivity' or total lack of awareness, as being too far from the truth of the Church's experience.

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« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2010, 05:37:13 PM »

The primary rejection of 'soul sleep' comes from Jesus Christ's own words.  The term 'sleep' in the OT tends more towards the description of physical death in the body as opposed to utter lack of awareness.  Many of the 'poetic' representations of death as 'sleep' are such.

Which words specifically? Can you quote me a verse or two?

Then you factor in the appearance of Samuel to Saul, which is one of the more graphic representations, then you can see there is more of a Scriptural basis to awareness after dead, which is what 'soul sleep' in the Syriac sense (I'm not speaking of modern Syriacs, but of the school of thought at the time) rejected.

It can be argued that Samuel was actually in an unconscious state and that God brought him back to consciousness, which is perhaps how the Syrians at the time viewed it.

Another problem with 'soul sleep' or inactivity of the dead has to do with the intercessions of the triumphant Saints.  If they are asleep, then they cannot intercede for us.  The Church has had too many experiences of help from the dead to reject the idea that the dead are in fact 'alive' and awake.'  If we are alive, then we are aware.  One who sleeps can be roused, and so souls can be at rest without being in a permanent state of 'inactivity.'  The Church rejects the permanent inactivity of the dead since we know them to intercede for us.

This is a valid point, and I don't deny that triumphant Saints can intercede for us, and of course this would require them to be in a state of awareness. However I've currently of the opinion that might only be the case for martyrs, though I'm undecided. When looking at all the Scripture verses concerning life after death, I so far can't come to any definite conclusion on what happens to all believers. Perhaps it's because not everyone is destined for the same thing immediately following death?

What exaactly the condition of the dead are prior to the Resurrection is par tof the Mystery of Death.  But, we can reject some ideas, such as total 'inactivity' or total lack of awareness, as being too far from the truth of the Church's experience.

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Would that be total inactivity/total lack of awareness for every believer in Christ or just those who have managed to achieve Theosis?
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« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2010, 05:39:34 PM »

I realize you asked for personal replies, but as I do every time the topic comes up, there are two helpful books on the subject:

The Mystery of Death by Vassiliades

Life After Death by Metropolitan Hierotheos. Excerpts: http://www.pelagia.org/htm/b24.en.life_after_death.00.htm
Caveat: Life After Death summarizes the Latin doctrine of purgatory in a way that is somewhat innaccurate. The book is not intended as an exhaustive scholarly treatment of the topic but as with all of his books, is a pastoral book that was bred from his lecturing.  Still, the book is excellent and avoids the two extremes found in The Soul After Death by Fr Seraphim Rose and The Soul, the Body, and Death  by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo. In fact, Life After Death interacts with both of these works.
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« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2010, 05:40:10 PM »

Vassiliades's book can be obtained by interlibrary loan and has perhaps hundreds of citations. It's a treasure trove of info.
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« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2010, 05:54:18 PM »

What Father Giryus said above, plus this:

1. Each person is subject to what is called "private judgment" and to what is called "general judgment." The private judgment is what an individual receives immediately after death. The souls of the righteous, who have received a "positive" private judgment have a certain "foretaste" of Heaven, and the souls of unrepentant sinners who received a "negative" private judgment have a "foretaste" of hell. However, neither Paradise nor the Inferno even exist yet, because the final division of all humans into those who are saints and those who are damned will occur only after the Second Coming of Christ and the general resurrection of the dead (Matthew 25: 31-46). Even though a person whose soul is separated from his/her body is not able to repent anymore, and thus cannot change the private judgment by him- or herself, the prayers of others, the prayers of the Church, and especially the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos still CAN change the destiny of those who received a negative private judgment.

OK, can you give me some references for this, from Scripture and the Fathers?

2. It's difficult to say whether soul is something that the person has or something that the person is, because body without its soul is not really a person, and, importantly, the soul without its body is not a person either. The current situation where we die, i.e. our bodies become separated from our souls, is tragically abnormal; it should not be this way, it was not designed by our Creator to be that way. It's a result of the ancestral sin. In the future Kingdom of God souls will be reunited with their bodies forever. There will be no antagonism between body and soul, flesh and spirit. Humans will finally be "whole."

I think I may have used the wrong choice of wording when I said that in Biblical Hebrew a soul is what we are not what we have, I was referring to this:

YHWH God formed a man from the dust of the earth. He blew into his nostrils the breath of life (neshama), and the man became a living soul (nefesh). (Genesis 2:7)

Neshama is one of those mystically complex terms which I won't get into now, but nefesh essentially means "animated creature", something that breathes, which is what we are. Nefesh is also used for animals (Gen. 1:20-21) and even for a corpse (Haggai 2:13 among others). While a corpse is not living it's still called a nefesh because it gets its life source from breathing. While Nefesh is often translated as "soul" it doesn't actually mean "soul" the way we understand it or how Socrates & Plato understood psyche.

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« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2010, 05:56:10 PM »

Vassiliades's book can be obtained by interlibrary loan and has perhaps hundreds of citations. It's a treasure trove of info.

Toddah Rabba I've been looking for a good Orthodox book on this topic.
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« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2010, 06:09:55 PM »

From Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by
Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky

http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0824/__P2G.HTM

Quote
The fate of man after death.

Death is the common lot of men. But for man it is not an annihilation, but only the separation of the soul from the body. The truth of the immortality of the human soul is one of the fundamental truths of Christianity. “God is not a God of the dead but of the living; for all live unto  Him” (Matt. 22:32; Luke 20:38). In the New Testament Sacred Scripture death is called “the decrease (departure) of the soul” (“I will endeavor that ye may be able after my decrease to have these things always in remembrance,” 2 Peter 1: 15). It is called the deliverance of the soul from prison (2 Cor. 5:1-4); the putting off of the body, (“knowing that short1y I must put off this my tabernacle,” 2 Peter 1: 14); a dissolving (“having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better,” Phil. 1:2-3); a departure (“the time of my departure is at hand,” 2 Tim. 4:6); a sleep, (David “fell asleep,” Acts 13:36).

The state of the soul after death, according to the clear testimony of the word of God, is not unconscious but conscious (for example, according to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31). After death man is subjected to a judgment which is called “particular” to distinguish it from the general last judgment. It is easy in the sight of the Lord to reward a man “on the day of death according to his conduct,” says the most wise son of Sirach (11: 26). The same thought is expressed by the Apostle Paul: “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). The Apostle presents the judgment as something which follows immediately after the death of a man, and evidently he understands this not as the general judgment, but as the particular judgment, as the Holy Fathers of the Church have interpreted this passage. “Today shall thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43), the Lord uttered to the repentant thief.

In Sacred Scripture it is not given us to know how the particular judgment occurs after a man’s death. We can judge of this only in part from separate expressions which are found in the word of God. Thus, it is natural to think that in the particular judgment also a large part in the fate of a man after death is taken both by good and by evil angels: the former are implements of God’s mercy, and the latter — by God’s allowance — are implements of God’s justice. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, it is said that “Lazarus was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom” (Luke 16:22). In the parable of the foolish rich man he is told: “Thou fool, thisnight thy soul shall be required of thee” (lit: “they shall take,” Luke 12:20); evidently it is evil powers who will “take it” (St. John Chrysostom.). For, on the one hand, the angels of these “little ones,” in the Lord's own words, always behold the face of the Heavenly Father (Matt. 18: 10), and likewise at the end of the world the Lord will send His angels, who will “sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire” (Matt. 13:49); and on the other hand, “our adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:Cool, and the air, as it were, is filled with the spirits of evil under the heavens, and their prince is called the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 6:12, 2:2).

Based on these indications of Sacred Scripture, from antiquity the Holy Fathers of the Church have depicted the path of the soul after its separation from the body as a path through such spiritual expanses, where the dark powers seek to devour those who are weak spiritually, and where therefore one is in special need of being defended by the heavenly angels and supported by prayer on the part of the living members of the Church. Among the ancient Fathers the following speak of this — Sts. Ephraim the Syrian, Athanasius the Great, Macarius the Great, Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, and others.

The most detailed development of these ideas is made by St Cyril of Alexandria in his “Homily on the Departure of the Soul,” which is usually printed in the Sequential Psalter (the Psalter with additions from the Divine services). A pictorial depiction of this path is presented in the life of St Basil the New (March 26), where the departed blessed Theodora, in a vision during sleep communicated to the disciple of Basil, tells what she has seen and experienced after the separation of her soul from the body and during the ascent of the soul into the heavenly mansions. The path of the soul after its departure from the body is customarily called the “toll houses.” With regard to the images in the accounts of the toll houses, Metropolitan Macarius in his Orthodox Dogmatic Theology remarks: “One must firmly remember the instruction which the angel made to St Macarius of Alexandria when he had just begun telling him of the toll-houses: 'Accept earthly things here as the weakest kind of depiction of heavenly things.' One must picture the toll-houses as far as possible in a spiritual sense, which is hidden under the more or less sensuous and anthropomorphic features.” (For a more detailed account of the Orthodox understanding of the tollhouses, see The Soul After Death, St. Herman Brotherhood, Platina, CA, 1980, pp. 73-96.)

Concerning the state of the soul after the Particular Judgment, the Orthodox Church teaches thus: “We believe that the souls of the dead are in a state of blessedness or torment according to their deeds. After being separated from the body, they immediately pass over either to joy or into sorrow and grief, however, they do not feel either complete blessedness or complete torment. For complete blessedness or complete torment each one receives after the General Resurrection, when the soul is reunited with the body in which it lived in virtue or in vice (The Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs on the Orthodox Faith, paragraph 18). Thus the Orthodox Church distinguishes two different conditions after the Particular Judgment: one for the righteous, another for sinners; in other words, paradise and hell. The Church does not recognize the Roman Catholic teaching of three conditions: 1) blessedness, 2) purgatory, and 3) gehenna (hell). The very name “gehenna” the Fathers of the Church usually refer to the condition after the Last judgment, when both death and hell will be cast into the “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15). The Fathers of the Church, basing themselves on the word of God, suppose that the torments of sinners before the Last Judgment have a preparatory character. These torments can be eased and even taken away by the prayers of the Church (Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs, para. 18). Likewise, the fallen spirits are“reserved in everlasting chains under darkness” (in hell) “until the judgment of the great day” (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6).

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« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2010, 09:01:48 PM »

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Three quotes from widely differing centuries (5th, 17th and 20th) which show the same unanimous teaching on life after death and prior to the Last Judgement.

Orthodox teaching on this point (pax to Fr Seraphim Rose) is characterised by a sober reticence to go beyond the little which the Saviour has been pleased to reveal to us.

But the human mind which always hates to admit its limitations is very ingenious in creating afterlife scenarios, and in this respect our Roman Catholic brothers are the most ingenious of all.   Smiley
 
Quote 1:   The teaching of Saint Augustine of Hippo:
 
 
"During the time, moreover, which intervenes between a man's death
 and the final resurrection, the soul dwells in a hidden retreat, where it enjoys rest
or suffers affliction just in proportion to the merit it has earned by the life which it led on earth."

Augustine, Enchiridion, 1099 (A.D. 421).

 
Quote 2:  The 1980 Resolution of the ROCA Synod of bishops on the toll house belief... which is virtually word for word what Augustine wrote 1,500 years earlier!

"Taking all of the foregoing into consideration, the Synod of Bishops resolve:

In the deliberations on life after death one must in general keep in mind
that it has not pleased the Lord to reveal to us very much aside from the
fact that the degree of a soul's blessedness depends on how much a man's life
on the earth has been truly Christian, and the degree of a man's posthumous
suffering depends upon the degree of sinfulness. To add conjectures to the little
that the Lord has been pleased to reveal to us is not beneficial to our salvation..."
 

 
 
Quote 3:    The Synod of Constantinople of 1672:
 
"We believe that the souls of the departed are in either
repose or torment as each one has wrought, for immediately after the
separation from the body they are pronounced either in bliss or in suffering
and sorrows, yet we confess that neither their joy nor their condemnation
are yet complete. After the general resurrection, when the soul is reunited
with the body, each one will receive the full measure of joy or condemnation
due to him for the way in which he conducted himself, whether well or ill."

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« Reply #13 on: April 14, 2010, 02:03:42 PM »

I realize you asked for personal replies, but as I do every time the topic comes up, there are two helpful books on the subject:

The Mystery of Death by Vassiliades

Life After Death by Metropolitan Hierotheos. Excerpts: http://www.pelagia.org/htm/b24.en.life_after_death.00.htm

Vassiliades's book is available from the Eastern Christian Supply Company, as is the title by Met Hierotheos.
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« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2010, 06:46:24 PM »

From Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by
Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky

http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0824/__P2G.HTM

Quote
The fate of man after death.


Concerning the state of the soul after the Particular Judgment, the Orthodox Church teaches thus: “We believe that the souls of the dead are in a state of blessedness or torment according to their deeds. After being separated from the body, they immediately pass over either to joy or into sorrow and grief, however, they do not feel either complete blessedness or complete torment. For complete blessedness or complete torment each one receives after the General Resurrection, when the soul is reunited with the body in which it lived in virtue or in vice (The Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs on the Orthodox Faith, paragraph 18). Thus the Orthodox Church distinguishes two different conditions after the Particular Judgment: one for the righteous, another for sinners; in other words, paradise and hell. The Church does not recognize the Roman Catholic teaching of three conditions: 1) blessedness, 2) purgatory, and 3) gehenna (hell). The very name “gehenna” the Fathers of the Church usually refer to the condition after the Last judgment, when both death and hell will be cast into the “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15). The Fathers of the Church, basing themselves on the word of God, suppose that the torments of sinners before the Last Judgment have a preparatory character. These torments can be eased and even taken away by the prayers of the Church (Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs, para. 18). Likewise, the fallen spirits are“reserved in everlasting chains under darkness” (in hell) “until the judgment of the great day” (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6).

In functional terms, with respect to the interim easement or removal of torments, I can see no real difference, except a nominal one, between this teaching on the particular judgment and the Catholic teaching.

EM
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« Reply #15 on: April 19, 2010, 10:01:01 PM »

From Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by
Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky

http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0824/__P2G.HTM

Quote
The fate of man after death.


Concerning the state of the soul after the Particular Judgment, the Orthodox Church teaches thus: “We believe that the souls of the dead are in a state of blessedness or torment according to their deeds. After being separated from the body, they [size=14]immediately[/size] pass over either to joy or into sorrow and grief, however, they do not feel either complete blessedness or complete torment. For complete blessedness or complete torment each one receives after the General Resurrection, when the soul is reunited with the body in which it lived in virtue or in vice (The Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs on the Orthodox Faith, paragraph 18). Thus the Orthodox Church distinguishes two different conditions after the Particular Judgment: one for the righteous, another for sinners; in other words, paradise and hell. The Church does not recognize the Roman Catholic teaching of three conditions: 1) blessedness, 2) purgatory, and 3) gehenna (hell). The very name “gehenna” the Fathers of the Church usually refer to the condition after the Last judgment, when both death and hell will be cast into the “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15). The Fathers of the Church, basing themselves on the word of God, suppose that the torments of sinners before the Last Judgment have a preparatory character. These torments can be eased and even taken away by the prayers of the Church (Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs, para. 18). Likewise, the fallen spirits are“reserved in everlasting chains under darkness” (in hell) “until the judgment of the great day” (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6).

In functional terms, with respect to the interim easement or removal of torments, I can see no real difference, except a nominal one, between this teaching on the particular judgment and the Catholic teaching.
Christ is Risen, Alleluia

Dear ElijahMaria

There is a major difference!

Just for a start, in what you have quoted from Fr Michael Pomazansky there is NO Purgatory and no purgatorial torments for those who are heading to heaven.

Fr Michael states

1.  The souls of the blessed pass IMMEDIATELY into a state of joy

2.  The souls of those bound for hell pass into a state of sorrow.

This teaching is 100% consistent with the teaching of the Saints and the Church from the earlier centuries, but modern Roman Catholic teaching since the 11th century has diverged from it.

See Message 12 Above.
 
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« Reply #16 on: April 19, 2010, 10:52:04 PM »

From Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by
Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky

http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0824/__P2G.HTM

Quote
The fate of man after death.
The Fathers of the Church, basing themselves on the word of God, suppose that the torments of sinners before the Last Judgment have a preparatory character. These torments can be eased and even taken away by the prayers of the Church (Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs, para. 18). Likewise, the fallen spirits are“reserved in everlasting chains under darkness” (in hell) “until the judgment of the great day” (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6).

In functional terms, with respect to the interim easement or removal of torments, I can see no real difference, except a nominal one, between this teaching on the particular judgment and the Catholic teaching.
Christ is Risen, Alleluia

Dear ElijahMaria

There is a major difference!
 

No Father there isn't anything more than a nominal difference.

Purgatory is Hell where the torments can be "eased and even taken away by the prayers of the Church"...

Conceptually the process is the same...The just go to heaven, the rest go to hell where some have a chance for relief or even to leave based on the prayers of the Church....

M.

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« Reply #17 on: April 20, 2010, 12:32:29 AM »

From Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by
Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky

http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0824/__P2G.HTM

Quote
The fate of man after death.
The Fathers of the Church, basing themselves on the word of God, suppose that the torments of sinners before the Last Judgment have a preparatory character. These torments can be eased and even taken away by the prayers of the Church (Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs, para. 18). Likewise, the fallen spirits are“reserved in everlasting chains under darkness” (in hell) “until the judgment of the great day” (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6).

In functional terms, with respect to the interim easement or removal of torments, I can see no real difference, except a nominal one, between this teaching on the particular judgment and the Catholic teaching.
Christ is Risen, Alleluia

Dear ElijahMaria

There is a major difference!
 

No Father there isn't anything more than a nominal difference.

Purgatory is Hell where the torments can be "eased and even taken away by the prayers of the Church"...

Conceptually the process is the same...The just go to heaven, the rest go to hell where some have a chance for relief or even to leave based on the prayers of the Church....

M.

Well, you are a breath of fresh air.  What you have just said has been strenuously denied by other Catholics, including a priest, who are writing in another thread on the Forum.  Is deliverance from hell a part of the teaching of your Eastern Catholic Church?  Most of them have preserved an orthodox theology wherever they can.
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« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2010, 12:40:06 AM »

From Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by
Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky

http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0824/__P2G.HTM

Quote
The fate of man after death.
The Fathers of the Church, basing themselves on the word of God, suppose that the torments of sinners before the Last Judgment have a preparatory character. These torments can be eased and even taken away by the prayers of the Church (Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs, para. 18). Likewise, the fallen spirits are“reserved in everlasting chains under darkness” (in hell) “until the judgment of the great day” (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6).

In functional terms, with respect to the interim easement or removal of torments, I can see no real difference, except a nominal one, between this teaching on the particular judgment and the Catholic teaching.
Christ is Risen, Alleluia

Dear ElijahMaria

There is a major difference!
 

No Father there isn't anything more than a nominal difference.

Purgatory is Hell where the torments can be "eased and even taken away by the prayers of the Church"...

Conceptually the process is the same...The just go to heaven, the rest go to hell where some have a chance for relief or even to leave based on the prayers of the Church....

M.


Well, you are a breath of fresh air.  What you have just said has been strenuously denied by other Catholics, including a priest, who are writing in another thread on the Forum.  Is deliverance from hell a part of the teaching of your Eastern Catholic Church?  Most of them have preserved an orthodox theology wherever they can.

As long as the truth that says there is no irresistible grace is preserved, and we can be agreed that heaven and hell are not places as we know "place" to be then yes.  But when you say to someone whose metaphorical understanding of the teaching separates heaven, hell and purgatory into discreet packages and you ask them if you can pray someone out of hell, then of course they are going to say NO...

A soul hell bent is a soul hell bent.  You can TRY to change their hearts and minds but you cannot force them, nor will God.  So the hardened reprobate is not going to have the same experience of purification that contrite soul will have.

I'll say more later once I see how this digests.

M.
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« Reply #19 on: April 20, 2010, 12:48:39 AM »

From Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by
Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky

http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0824/__P2G.HTM

Quote
The fate of man after death.
The Fathers of the Church, basing themselves on the word of God, suppose that the torments of sinners before the Last Judgment have a preparatory character. These torments can be eased and even taken away by the prayers of the Church (Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs, para. 18). Likewise, the fallen spirits are“reserved in everlasting chains under darkness” (in hell) “until the judgment of the great day” (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6).

In functional terms, with respect to the interim easement or removal of torments, I can see no real difference, except a nominal one, between this teaching on the particular judgment and the Catholic teaching.
Christ is Risen, Alleluia

Dear ElijahMaria

There is a major difference!
 

No Father there isn't anything more than a nominal difference.

Purgatory is Hell where the torments can be "eased and even taken away by the prayers of the Church"...

Conceptually the process is the same...The just go to heaven, the rest go to hell where some have a chance for relief or even to leave based on the prayers of the Church....

M.


Well, you are a breath of fresh air.  What you have just said has been strenuously denied by other Catholics, including a priest, who are writing in another thread on the Forum.  Is deliverance from hell a part of the teaching of your Eastern Catholic Church?  Most of them have preserved an orthodox theology wherever they can.

As long as the truth that says there is no irresistible grace is preserved, and we can be agreed that heaven and hell are not places as we know "place" to be then yes.  But when you say to someone whose metaphorical understanding of the teaching separates heaven, hell and purgatory into discreet packages and you ask them if you can pray someone out of hell, then of course they are going to say NO...

A soul hell bent is a soul hell bent.  You can TRY to change their hearts and minds but you cannot force them, nor will God.  So the hardened reprobate is not going to have the same experience of purification that contrite soul will have.

It is probably Fr Kimel with whom you should be discussing this.  He has been more than clear on the impossibility of a soul moving out of hell.   Perhaps he will explain?
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« Reply #20 on: April 20, 2010, 01:01:53 AM »


It is probably Fr Kimel with whom you should be discussing this.  He has been more than clear on the impossibility of a soul moving out of hell.   Perhaps he will explain?

Well till Father realizes he's been summoned to help out here  Smiley...

I want to ask you how Orthodoxy explains a God who hardens Pharo's heart...multiple times...just in case we miss it the first time, I suppose.

Does God withhold his grace from men?

M.
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« Reply #21 on: April 20, 2010, 01:44:44 AM »


It is probably Fr Kimel with whom you should be discussing this.  He has been more than clear on the impossibility of a soul moving out of hell.   Perhaps he will explain?

Well till Father realizes he's been summoned to help out here  Smiley...

I want to ask you how Orthodoxy explains a God who hardens Pharo's heart...multiple times...just in case we miss it the first time, I suppose.

Does God withhold his grace from men?

God is like the rain which falls on the just and the unjust.  The rain of His grace falls on all, but many men put up unbrellas.
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« Reply #22 on: April 20, 2010, 10:16:53 AM »


It is probably Fr Kimel with whom you should be discussing this.  He has been more than clear on the impossibility of a soul moving out of hell.   Perhaps he will explain?

Well till Father realizes he's been summoned to help out here  Smiley...

I want to ask you how Orthodoxy explains a God who hardens Pharo's heart...multiple times...just in case we miss it the first time, I suppose.

Does God withhold his grace from men?

God is like the rain which falls on the just and the unjust.  The rain of His grace falls on all, but many men put up unbrellas.

But Exodus tells us quite clearly that Pharo begins to yield to Moses...BUT GOD HARDENS HIS HEART.

And that sequence is repeated in a very similar way to kind of repetition found in the Creation chronicle on Genesis.

How is this?  How does Orthodoxy exegete these passages?

Mary
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« Reply #23 on: April 20, 2010, 10:25:04 AM »


God is like the rain which falls on the just and the unjust.  The rain of His grace falls on all, but many men put up unbrellas.

I like that comparison!
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« Reply #24 on: April 20, 2010, 10:48:24 AM »

 

It is probably Fr Kimel with whom you should be discussing this.  He has been more than clear on the impossibility of a soul moving out of hell.   Perhaps he will explain?

Well till Father realizes he's been summoned to help out here  Smiley...

I want to ask you how Orthodoxy explains a God who hardens Pharo's heart...multiple times...just in case we miss it the first time, I suppose.

Does God withhold his grace from men?

God is like the rain which falls on the just and the unjust.  The rain of His grace falls on all, but many men put up unbrellas.

But Exodus tells us quite clearly that Pharo begins to yield to Moses...BUT GOD HARDENS HIS HEART.

And that sequence is repeated in a very similar way to kind of repetition found in the Creation chronicle on Genesis.

How is this?  How does Orthodoxy exegete these passages?

Mary


As in the case where the Scriptures record that God gave people over to their sin, what it means is not that God approves of sin, but that He gives way to the free will and hardness of the human heart.

Scripture itself, in the person of Samuel, gives an exegesis of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart:

"Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When He had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed."

1 Samuel 6:6
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« Reply #25 on: April 20, 2010, 11:07:21 AM »

From Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by
Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky

http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0824/__P2G.HTM

Quote
The fate of man after death.
The Fathers of the Church, basing themselves on the word of God, suppose that the torments of sinners before the Last Judgment have a preparatory character. These torments can be eased and even taken away by the prayers of the Church (Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs, para. 18). Likewise, the fallen spirits are“reserved in everlasting chains under darkness” (in hell) “until the judgment of the great day” (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6).

In functional terms, with respect to the interim easement or removal of torments, I can see no real difference, except a nominal one, between this teaching on the particular judgment and the Catholic teaching.
Christ is Risen, Alleluia

Dear ElijahMaria

There is a major difference!
 

No Father there isn't anything more than a nominal difference.

Purgatory is Hell where the torments can be "eased and even taken away by the prayers of the Church"...

Conceptually the process is the same...The just go to heaven, the rest go to hell where some have a chance for relief or even to leave based on the prayers of the Church....

M.

Well, you are a breath of fresh air.  What you have just said has been strenuously denied by other Catholics, including a priest, who are writing in another thread on the Forum.  Is deliverance from hell a part of the teaching of your Eastern Catholic Church?  Most of them have preserved an orthodox theology wherever they can.

Well, to be honest, I haven't found any teaching of Catholic Purgatory besides the fact that it's a "state of purification."  Whether it's hell or hades or a different place is a matter of theologomenoun among Catholics, at least that's the sense I got from their teachings.  So if anything, many might say that the idea of Purgatory might be compatible with the "purging in hell" beliefs.

In addition, the idea of "indulgences" which is so heavily connected to the idea of Purgatory, while debatable, the way it was described to me by some Catholics is that it's just a way of saying that the prayers of the saints and the Church, and the incense burning during the liturgy in the remembrance of those who departed is in a day an "indulgence" for the departed.  If that's it, then the Catholic Church is quite open in making itself compatible with Orthodox teaching on this one.  Other added ideas about indulgences seem also to be added personal opinions of church members.

On the other hand, personally I find it sufficient to leave most of the after-life as a mystery.  "Neither eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor heart contemplated" what will happen after we die.  What is more important is the way we live with others and with God regardless of belief of anything in the afterlife.  All I know is that there is a constant communion with the "Church triumphant" that we as a Church maintain.
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« Reply #26 on: April 20, 2010, 11:12:00 AM »

I see that my name has been invoked on the question of "praying someone out of Hell."  I have presented my understanding of Catholic teaching on this question in several comments.  Here are four I could find on short notice:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13820.msg424364.html#msg424364

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13820.msg424675.html#msg424675

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13820.msg424723.html#msg424723

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13820.msg425068.html#msg425068

In these posts I have claimed that a person who dies in a state or condition of mortal sin has, by definition, damned himself eternally.  Such a person is beyond repentance in the next life, not because God has ceased to love him, but because he has become a kind of person who eternally rejects divine forgiveness.  I believe that this is fair and accurate interpretation of Pope Benedict's presentation of Purgatory in Spe Salvi:

Quote
[45]With death, our life-choice becomes definitive—our life stands before the judge. Our choice, which in the course of an entire life takes on a certain shape, can have a variety of forms. There can be people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves. This is a terrifying thought, but alarming profiles of this type can be seen in certain figures of our own history. In such people all would be beyond remedy and the destruction of good would be irrevocable: this is what we mean by the word Hell[37]. On the other hand there can be people who are utterly pure, completely permeated by God, and thus fully open to their neighbours—people for whom communion with God even now gives direction to their entire being and whose journey towards God only brings to fulfilment what they already are[38].

46. Yet we know from experience that neither case is normal in human life. For the great majority of people—we may suppose—there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God. In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil—much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul. What happens to such individuals when they appear before the Judge? Will all the impurity they have amassed through life suddenly cease to matter? What else might occur? Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, gives us an idea of the differing impact of God's judgement according to each person's particular circumstances. He does this using images which in some way try to express the invisible, without it being possible for us to conceptualize these images—simply because we can neither see into the world beyond death nor do we have any experience of it. Paul begins by saying that Christian life is built upon a common foundation: Jesus Christ. This foundation endures. If we have stood firm on this foundation and built our life upon it, we know that it cannot be taken away from us even in death. Then Paul continues: “Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:12-15). In this text, it is in any case evident that our salvation can take different forms, that some of what is built may be burned down, that in order to be saved we personally have to pass through “fire” so as to become fully open to receiving God and able to take our place at the table of the eternal marriage-feast.

47. Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ's Passion. At the moment of judgement we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy. It is clear that we cannot calculate the “duration” of this transforming burning in terms of the chronological measurements of this world. The transforming “moment” of this encounter eludes earthly time-reckoning—it is the heart's time, it is the time of “passage” to communion with God in the Body of Christ[39]. The judgement of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace. If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—the crucial question that we ask of history and of God. If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all. The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgement and grace—that justice is firmly established: we all work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our “advocate”, or parakletos (cf. 1 Jn 2:1).

Fr Ambrose has assured us that Pope Benedict's construal of post-mortem purification is unacceptable to Orthodoxy.  Fr Giryus appears to agree.  But I remain unconvinced.  I believe that the disagreement between the contemporary Catholic Church and the contemporary Orthodox Church is more apparent than real.  I have found Orthodox voices, both modern and ancient, that seem very close to Pope Benedict's position.  From the article "Death, the Threshold to Eternal Life" on the GOA website:

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.

A similar position is advanced in Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis's book The Mystery of Death (this book is hailed by some as being the single best contemporary work on Orthodox eschatology):

Quote
After death indeed there is no way to repent.  With our removal to the other life, the door for confession and repentance, that is, for personal decision and action worthy to move the compassion of the impartial Judge, is definitely closed.  It would, therefore, be more correct to say that in Hades repentance is impossible. (p. 430)

Needless to say, if the dead are incapable of repentance, then they cannot be forgiven--not of course because God has stopped being merciful but because there can be no forgiveness of the sinner who stubbornly and definitively rejects repentance.  Vassiliadis cites Sts. John Chrysostom and John of Damascus in support of his position.  Yet Vassiliadis also affirms the propriety of praying for the salvation of all who have died, no matter how sinful they may have been.  The prayers of the Church are a blessing to all the dead.  And there is still hope.  "After all," he writes, "who really knows the depths of the soul of another person?  Who knows what happened in the inner life of his soul at the last moments of his life?  Who knows how sinful our beloved was when he gave up the spirit, and exactly how the loving Lord 'who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth' worked on his heart" (p. 431).  Quite right.  As I have repeatedly stated, the Catholic Church does not know if anyone has died or will die in a state of mortal sin, i.e., a state of incorrigible hatred of God.  Thus we must pray and hope for the salvation of everyone. 

Another Orthodox voice who seems to understand matters along these lines is the revered Elder Cleopa of Romania:

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. (The Truth of Our Faith, pp. 213-217)

Prayer for the dead is indeed efficacious and of benefit for the departed, but the Elder does not appear to hold out hope for the eternal salvation of those who "sinned unto death":

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)

It seems to me that the Catholic position, as articulated by Popes JPII and Benedict XVI, is very close to the Orthodox position articulated by Elder Cleopa and Nikolaos Vassiliadis. 

Let me simply reiterate what I wrote on another thread:

The Orthodox concern, so it seems to me, is to insist that we may and should pray for the dead, for every single person who has lived and died, without exception, and that this prayer is a blessing to them.  The Catholic agrees wholeheartedly with this concern.  If one wishes to picture this as a "praying people out of Hell," I do not see any substantive Catholic objection.  If the prayers of Pope Gregory the Great contributed to the eternal salvation of the Emperor Trajan, all we can do is but rejoice and follow the Pope's example in remembering the departed in our own prayers, no matter how wicked they may have been.  The Catholic theologian might want to add the qualifier that if Trajan has indeed embraced the forgiveness of Christ, then by definition he did not die in a state of mortal sin--but this is a qualification that only theologians care about.  The Catholic hopes and prays for the salvation of all.  May every human being ultimately accept the forgiveness and mercy of Christ and be raised into his Kingdom.  Kyrie eleison.

 



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« Reply #27 on: April 20, 2010, 11:35:21 AM »

/\  Father, we have summoned you from the far reaches of the Forum to assist ElijahMaria, a Catholic of the Eastern Church (Russian Greek Catholic, I think) who holds to what seems to be a belief that souls may be delivered from hell.

I find this quite significant difference in teaching quite interesting and it adds to the hope for union in that the Popes see the Eastern Catholic Churches as an important means to bring about unity between our Churches.  If the Eastern Catholics can move Roman Catholics closer to orthodox teaching, this will be one way to advance unity.

Thank you for your very worthwhile message.  It contains such a lot of information.  It may help us appreciate the Roman Catholic perspective, even though we are banking on the Eastern Catholic perspective eventually winning the field.  It would seem that Rome may be alone among all the ancient apostolic Churches to have adopted the position of no salvation from hell.  In earlier centuries, as the Encyclopedia tells us, it was in synch with the rest of the apostolic Churches but now it is out on a limb of its own.
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« Reply #28 on: April 20, 2010, 12:30:49 PM »

Dear Fr. Alvin,

Having both the Orthodox books you cited, I will lead off by saying that, while edifying, you cannot use them as representing 'official Orthodox statements' regarding the afterlife.  Please remember the previous problems you have had with 'proof texting.'  They are opinions, one from a saint and the other a scholar.

On the balance, Elder Cleopa's position at first glance is in the minority in regards to Orthodox teaching, though I would say it is not a small one.  However, the problem becomes all the more difficult when faced with the imprecise language of 'hades' and 'beyond the grave' as to whether he is speaking of the Particular Judgment or the Last Judgment.  This gets confusing even in regular discourse.

After the Last Judgment, it is certain that there is no repentance.  It is over with.  As we have also discussed previously, one could make an argument that the 'final results' of the Particular Judgment could be just as final, depending on how you look at it.  After all, those involved in deep, wretched sin are generally so 'gone' that no amount of punishment (temporary or permanent) will derail them.  For them, the Particular Judgment is the 'last stop' on the 'Repentance Train.'

The question is one of conscience, which neither passage you quote really addresses.  For the Orthodox, the torment of the afterlife prior to the Last Judgment is one of conscience, not purification or punishment.  Vassiliades' book, while exceedingly long and detailed in some respects, is pathetically short on the topic we are now discussing.  He also avoids discussing the Council of Jerusalem in 1672 (not an 'Ecumenical Council,' but nonetheless widely recognized) which specified that souls could be 'liberated' from torment through the prayers of the Church (see "The Memorial Services and Their Benefits" by Hieromonk Benedict).

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« Reply #29 on: April 22, 2010, 12:46:39 AM »

Dear Fr. Alvin,

Having both the Orthodox books you cited, I will lead off by saying that, while edifying, you cannot use them as representing 'official Orthodox statements' regarding the afterlife.  Please remember the previous problems you have had with 'proof texting.'  They are opinions, one from a saint and the other a scholar.

Thank you, Fr Giryus, for your comment.  I certainly do not want to slip into the kind of proof-texting of which I disapprove.  But over the last year I have been reading as much Orthodox material as I can get my hands on on this topic.  I am trying to understand and to discern that which is "doctrine" and that which is "opinion."  This is no easy matter, which is why I keep contributing to this and related threads. 

For example, this afternoon I had a lengthy telephone conversation with an old acquaintance of mine who is an Antiochian priest and distinguished theologian and biblical scholar.  He was raised within the Catholic Church and knows Catholic theology (especially pre-Vatican II theology) very well.   As you might guess, our discussion focused on purgatory.  I asked him, if purgatory is formulated along the lines of Pope Benedict and C. S. Lewis (i.e., as a process of sanctification), is it compatible with Orthodoxy?  "Absolutely," he replied.  "That's exactly what I believe Orthodoxy essentially teaches on the matter, absent Western terminology" (my paraphrase of his more extended answer).   

I then asked my friend about Archbishop Hilarion's view that even the most incorrigible sinner can repent in Hell/Hades.  His answer:  "It's unbiblical."  He believes the the Church Fathers support his judgment on this.  He certainly does not believe that he represents a minority opinion within Orthodoxy. 

I do not raise this to challenge you directly--only to point out (1) how difficult it is, with regard to this specific topic, to pin down THE Orthodox position.  In fact, I suspect, there are several legitimate views on eschatology within Orthodoxy.

I re-read today St Mark Eugenicus's homily on Purgatory (included in Seraphim Rose's book The Soul After Death), as well as Metropolitan Hierotheos's discussion of Purgatory.  Unfortunately, the version of St Mark's homily is a translation of a translation, and it is abbreviated.  St Mark's homilies on Purgatory desperately need to be freshly translated into English!  In any case, I note the following:

1) St Mark emphatically affirms that the prayers of the Church are of great benefit to those who are imprisoned in Hades but with a limitation:

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 looking them from torment or given hope for a final deliverance. (p. 200)

St Mark is certainly aware of the prayer for the departed included in the Pentecost kneeling prayers, but apparently he doesn't interpret this prayer as supporting the belief that the prayers of the Church can effect a change of status of the truly wicked.  The prayers can bring comfort to the damned but not salvation.  He elaborates:

Quote
But if souls 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:  such souls, we believe, must be cleansed from this kind of sins, but not by means of some purgatorial fire or a definite punishment in some place (for this, as we have said, has not at all been handed down to us).  But some must be cleansed in the very departure from the body, thanks only to fear, as St. Gregory the Dialogist literally shows; while others must be cleansed after the departure from the body, either while remaining in the same earthly place, before they come to worship  God and are honored with the lot of the blessed, or--if their sins were more serious and bind them for a longer duration--they are kept in hell, but not in order to remain forever in fire and torment, but as it were in prison and confinement under guard. (p. 201)

St Mark certainly believes that some souls in Hell may be delivered from imprisonment through the prayers of the faithful, but note the kinds of people for whom such prayers are efficacious--those who have committed small sins of which they have not repented and those who committed and repented of serious sins but who had not demonstrated sufficient change in their moral lives.  He apparently does not believe that the truly wicked can be delivered from Hell. 

2)  We must pray for all the departed, including the wicked and impious.  Christ has taught us to pray for our enemies and he himself prayed for those who crucified him.  St Mark observes that some of the saints have prayed for departed pagans and their prayers were heard and answered:  St Thecla prayed for Falconila, and St Gregory the Dialogist prayed for the Emperor Trajan (p. 203).  Trajan, it is said, was baptized in the tears of Gregory.  The salvation of Christ can be extended, through the prayers of the Church, even to the unbaptized.

3)  St Mark distinguishes three moments or actualizations of the remission of sin:

Quote
Remission is given in three forms and at different times: (1) during Baptism; (2) after Baptism, through conversion and sorrow and making up (for sins) by good works in the present life; and (3) after death, through prayers and good deeds and thanks to whatever else the Church does for the dead. (p. 210)

Mark notes that in Baptism all sins are forgiven equally, but that the eschatological forgiveness "is a remission only of those sins which are not mortal and over which a person has repented in life" (p. 110). 

My reading of St Mark appears to be supported by Met. Hierotheos's summary of Mark's views on the intermediate condition in his book Life After Death.  Apparently Mark criticized the Latin view on purgatory for promoting indolence.  Just as Origen's teaching about the apocatastasis made people lazy because they began to count on their future deliverance from torments, so the Latin doctrine of purgatory discourages people from struggling to purify themselves in the present, because they expect a future purification.   If Mark believed and taught that the wicked could be "prayed out of Hell," would have not have been vulnerable to the same criticism?

Hierotheos mentions an argument advanced by St Mark that is not present in the abbreviated version of the homily:

Quote
The second argument is that it is not possible for the will of man to be changed by any purifying fire after his departure from this life. "The movement of the will and that of deeds is necessarily limited to the present life". The will can be changed as long as a man is in this life, whereas after death it remains immovable. "And he receives the prize or the punishment for these things and not for going through purgatory". So long, then, as uprightness of the will is needed for beatitude and so long as purgatory cannot change the will from bad to good, since this is in accordance with the way the person lived in his biological life, therefore "purgatory contributes nothing" towards beatitude. This too means that men cannot be purified by any purgatory.

If St Mark believed that the will remains immovable after death, how is it possible for anyone to repent in Hell? 

From what I can tell, St Mark's presentation seems to be very close to Elder Cleopa's.  St Mark of Ephesus is an important authority within the Orthodox Church, especially on purgatory and the after-life.  He presents a view that is very similar to contemporary Catholic and Anglican construals of purgatory, such as we find in Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict, C. S. Lewis, and Peter Kreeft.  He certainly seems closer to them than to, say, St Isaac the Syrian or Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev. 

Fr Giryus, I'm not trying to put you on the spot or to trap you on this.  I'm certainly not trying to win any polemical points--quite the contrary.  But may we not reasonably state that a diversity of views exist within Orthodoxy on the particular judgment and the intermediate condition and that, at least in some quarters in Orthodoxy, Pope Benedict's construal of purgatory as transforming encounter with the risen Christ would, or might be, be warmly welcomed?  I do not want to paper over real and significant differences, but I also do not want us to overlook substantive convergence and unity.   

Quote
On the balance, Elder Cleopa's position at first glance is in the minority in regards to Orthodox teaching, though I would say it is not a small one.  However, the problem becomes all the more difficult when faced with the imprecise language of 'hades' and 'beyond the grave' as to whether he is speaking of the Particular Judgment or the Last Judgment.  This gets confusing even in regular discourse.

If I have mis-read Elder Cleopa, I welcome correction, but I think that the passages I cited earlier all speak to the interim period between the particular judgment and the final judgment.

Quote
After the Last Judgment, it is certain that there is no repentance.  It is over with.  As we have also discussed previously, one could make an argument that the 'final results' of the Particular Judgment could be just as final, depending on how you look at it.  After all, those involved in deep, wretched sin are generally so 'gone' that no amount of punishment (temporary or permanent) will derail them.  For them, the Particular Judgment is the 'last stop' on the 'Repentance Train.'

Quite right.  I think you and I are very close here.

Quote
The question is one of conscience, which neither passage you quote really addresses.  For the Orthodox, the torment of the afterlife prior to the Last Judgment is one of conscience, not purification or punishment. 

May I ask you to elaborate on this.  St Mark Eugenicus touches on this in his homily, too, but I'd like to hear more about this in your own words.  If we define "purification" to refer to the sufferings caused by a physical purgatorial fire, and if we define "punishment" as the divine infliction of retributive vengeance, then many Catholics would agree with you, including, I think, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, Karl Rahner, and Hans Urs von Balthasar.  I have yet to read a Catholic theologian of the last fifty years who believed in a material purgatorial fire, and many (not all but many) Catholic theologians, including Pope John Paul II, interpret the "punishment" of purgatory as precisely the painful process of liberation from sinful attachments. 
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« Reply #30 on: April 22, 2010, 01:21:18 AM »


....at least in some quarters in Orthodoxy, Pope Benedict's construal of purgatory as transforming encounter with the risen Christ would, or might be, be warmly welcomed?
Christ is Risen!

Absolutely in agreement with you (sans the Purgatory element.)   It may be this transforming encounter with the risen Christ at the time of death which moves a reprobate soul heading for Hell to repent and seek forgiveness.  This would presumably take place at the moment of death or immediately thereafter.  We have to remember that God's ways are far more generous that ours.  He will seek ever possible way to effect His sovereign Will that all men might be saved.  We must not fall into the trap of boxing Him in with our limited minds and circumscribed human reason.

The writings of Saint Isaac the Syrian are an illuminating way of breaking through the strictures which we humans impose on the Uncreated.

"Just as a grain of sand will not balance in the scales against a
great weight of gold, such too is the case with God's justice when
it is weighed against His compassion. When compared with God's mind,
the sins of all flesh are like a grain of sand thrown in the sea.
Just as an abundantly flowing fountain is not blocked by a handful
of dust, so the Maker's mercy is not overcome by the wickedness of
those whom He has created."
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« Reply #31 on: April 22, 2010, 01:47:38 AM »

Christ is Risen!


"Can  you offer up enough sins that, by them, you can tilt the balance of justice
against the precious blood which I shed on the Cross for this man?   Behold  My murder and death,
which I endured for the forgiveness of his sins."


The  Lord Jesus Christ to Satan, Evergetinos, Book I, Hypothesis I, E.
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« Reply #32 on: April 22, 2010, 03:03:32 AM »

I then asked my friend about Archbishop Hilarion's view that even the most incorrigible sinner can repent in Hell/Hades.  His answer:  "It's unbiblical."  He believes the the Church Fathers support his judgment on this.  He certainly does not believe that he represents a minority opinion within Orthodoxy. 

I would like to see a member of the clergy expand on this. It seems to me that with Christ having shattered the power of Hades, and having preached there, that anyone who is in Hades would have the chance to repent even then. At the same time, I know Vladika Hilarion has said that for those in Hell, their experience of torment begins in this life and not the next. I have also heard it said for those in such torment, that they are so far gone that even Paradise would be torment for them. I know overall we can't say for sure, but if there could be some clarification on this that would be great.

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« Reply #33 on: April 22, 2010, 06:51:54 AM »

Christ is Risen!

I think that one of the 'marks' of an Orthodox Christian psyche is an attraction to the temptation to believe in universal salvation (apokatastasis.)  While the West tends towards restrictive salvation which reaches its culmination in the horrific teaching of Calvin's double predestination,  the East has been tempted in the other direction - towards universal salvation.

The Orthodox have always been attracted to the idea of "universal salvation", that all will finally be recapitulated in Christ, both the earth-born and (possibly) the demons.  You will find this in the Early Church.  We know from Saint Augustine that it was a widely held teaching of what he calls the "fathers of the Church." **  As you may imagine Saint Augustine was inclined to the opposite belief.   It resurfaces in the writings of the Parisian school of Russian theology.  Russia's young theologian-bishop Hilarion is sympathetic to the teaching and has delivered lectures on it, drawing on Saint Isaac the Syrian.

** "Some, nay, very many" (nonnulli, quam plurimi), pity with human feeling,
the everlasting punishment of the damned, and do not believe that it is so."
~St Augustine. Enchiridion, chapter 112.



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« Reply #34 on: April 22, 2010, 12:58:09 PM »

Dear Fr. Alvin,

I really hate to do this to you, my friend, but I spent a lot of time on this topic last night and this morning with Mary:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13820.msg426923/topicseen.html#msg426923

I do agree with Abp. Hilarion's statement regarding it being unbiblical, because the most hardened sinner is by definition not interested in forgiveness or God for that matter.

As for Pope Benedict's statement, I don't know how it will be received and I won't hazard to guess because, as you mentioned, we don't have a clear notion ourselves as a group, though there are certain things that are 'off limits,' such as punishment or 'purgatory' as perceived by some.

In my responses to Mary, I think you will see where I think the Orthodox position lies in terms of torment as the conscience exposed.  In very brief, what I would say is that the torment we experience at death is the exposure of the passions and suffering we bear now.  It is not a new condition, but rather one we are able to hide from in the flesh which death exposes.  As it comes lose from us, because it is unnatural and cannot remain with us as we enter into God's rest, then we experience the true peace of Christ.  If we reject God and His forgiveness, then the passions remain with us and become the source of our torment until the Last Judgment.

Obviously, this is a very short answer, so you might want to pop over to the other thread just to see what it looks like in detail (as best I can imagine).

However, I warn you that it is only my opinion based on what I know the Orthodox Church to teach, and I do not present it as an offical teaching.
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« Reply #35 on: April 22, 2010, 01:48:08 PM »

Dear Fr. Alvin,

I really hate to do this to you, my friend, but I spent a lot of time on this topic last night and this morning with Mary:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13820.msg426923/topicseen.html#msg426923

I saw your posting late last night after I posted my own here.  Thanks!  Smiley
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« Reply #36 on: April 22, 2010, 01:53:23 PM »

Dear Fr. Alvin,

I really hate to do this to you, my friend, but I spent a lot of time on this topic last night and this morning with Mary:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13820.msg426923/topicseen.html#msg426923

I saw your posting late last night after I posted my own here.  Thanks!  Smiley

Then I hope you'll understand that I feel stretched a bit thin by having to juggle three threads at the same time, when I am used to doing one or two at the most.   Shocked
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« Reply #37 on: April 22, 2010, 06:37:03 PM »


I do agree with Abp. Hilarion's statement regarding it being unbiblical, because the most hardened sinner is by definition not interested in forgiveness or God for that matter.
Christ is Risen!

In that case you bump into a serious creedal-liturgical problem since the liturgical prayers of the Church intercede with God for the deliverance of souls from hell, including unrepentant souls.

As we know, the Coptic Orthodox Church has just recently removed these prayers from its liturgy, after the Coptic Synod decided that prayers for those in Hell have no possibility of efficacy.  The mind boggles at the thought that any Church would dare alter and delete prayers from its liturgy which, in this case (the Pentecost prayers) go back to the 4th or 5th century and are used still by both Oriental and Eastern Orthodox,.  How is that alteration of our liturgical deposit even possible?  

One thing in which the faithful may have absolute confidence are the teachings embedded in the liturgical deposit.  Orthodoxy is, par excellence, the Church of lex orandi lex credendi.   It shocks me in quite a visceral region  that this is coming under attack.  The Church does not pray uselessly for those in Hell.  If She prays it is because it is possible.
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« Reply #38 on: April 26, 2010, 02:51:54 PM »

Father, just to be fair, as much as I personally do not like the decision by the Coptic synod, it is also necessary to understand that the Coptic Church is going through its many historical transcripts and documents of what belongs to the liturgical prayers and what doesn't.  What one may think was there for 1500 years can very well be just a recent addition under Coptic standards.

I do not know the Coptic decision in full.  Clearly, they don't like what it teaches, but I wonder if they also did a study on whether it was a legitimate part of the prayers or whether it was a recent addition.  This has not been made clear, and until it is clear, I think I personally would withhold judgment, opposed to the past when I have been quick to judge and condemn.

In addition, the Coptic Church as I understand her, takes her position from St. John Chrysostom and from the OO Church father, St. Severus.
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« Reply #39 on: April 26, 2010, 09:31:12 PM »


I do agree with Abp. Hilarion's statement regarding it being unbiblical, because the most hardened sinner is by definition not interested in forgiveness or God for that matter.
Christ is Risen!

In that case you bump into a serious creedal-liturgical problem since the liturgical prayers of the Church intercede with God for the deliverance of souls from hell, including unrepentant souls.

As we know, the Coptic Orthodox Church has just recently removed these prayers from its liturgy, after the Coptic Synod decided that prayers for those in Hell have no possibility of efficacy.  The mind boggles at the thought that any Church would dare alter and delete prayers from its liturgy which, in this case (the Pentecost prayers) go back to the 4th or 5th century and are used still by both Oriental and Eastern Orthodox,.  How is that alteration of our liturgical deposit even possible?  

One thing in which the faithful may have absolute confidence are the teachings embedded in the liturgical deposit.  Orthodoxy is, par excellence, the Church of lex orandi lex credendi.   It shocks me in quite a visceral region  that this is coming under attack.  The Church does not pray uselessly for those in Hell.  If She prays it is because it is possible.



Sorry, father, I got lost in 'another thread.'  Wink

I really  hate sounding like a Pharisee, but the problem lies with the definition of 'unrepentant sinner.'  If you are talking about an unrepentant sinner in the sense of someone who was not repentant in this life, then I do believe the Church teaches in post-mortem repentance.

If you are talking about someone who refuses to repent in this world AND the next, where no amount of revelation or prayer is capable of changing his or her mind, then I think that there is no possibility for that person to be saved against his own will, thus by the fullest definition, a downright unrepentant sinner!

I do believe that the Scriptures bear witness that some people will not be saved no matter how hard we try to convince them to accept it, no matter how poorly that process is endured.

I have set thee for a tower and a fortress among my people, that thou mayest know and try their way.  They are all grievous revolters, walking with slanders: they are brass and iron; they are all corrupters.  The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away.  Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the LORD hath rejected them.  (Jer 6:29-30)

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« Reply #40 on: April 26, 2010, 10:34:17 PM »

I really  hate sounding like a Pharisee, but the problem lies with the definition of 'unrepentant sinner.'  If you are talking about an unrepentant sinner in the sense of someone who was not repentant in this life, then I do believe the Church teaches in post-mortem repentance.

If you are talking about someone who refuses to repent in this world AND the next, where no amount of revelation or prayer is capable of changing his or her mind, then I think that there is no possibility for that person to be saved against his own will, thus by the fullest definition, a downright unrepentant sinner!

I do believe that the Scriptures bear witness that some people will not be saved no matter how hard we try to convince them to accept it, no matter how poorly that process is endured.
Christ is Risen!

Father,

There is no disagreement between us.  I could easily have written your words above.

One aspect which you did not touch on is the possibility of repentance of an unrepentant sinner.  I believe that such major events as the encounter with Christ, the reality of the afterlife especially the horrors of an eternity in the fires of Hell, could move an unrepentant sinner to repentance.

This depends of course as to whether we believe that the human will is eternally paralysed at death and can make no more choices (as our Catholic brethren believe) or whether we believe the human will remains active after death.
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« Reply #41 on: April 26, 2010, 11:18:39 PM »

Christ is Risen!

Father,

There is no disagreement between us.  I could easily have written your words above.

One aspect which you did not touch on is the possibility of repentance of an unrepentant sinner.  I believe that such major events as the encounter with Christ, the reality of the afterlife especially the horrors of an eternity in the fires of Hell, could move an unrepentant sinner to repentance.

This depends of course as to whether we believe that the human will is eternally paralysed at death and can make no more choices (as our Catholic brethren believe) or whether we believe the human will remains active after death.

I'm not as confident to say that after the Last Judgment there will be a possible change-in-sentence for one or more of the denizens, simply because of the nature of God's justice: would He pass eternal judgment on a soul He knows will eventually repent.

This I will say: if a man can be tortured to the point he will testify to a lie, how much less suffering will he endure to tell the truth?

I believe that the suffering of the process of death (which is the suffering of guilt and catharsis of the passions rather than temporal punishment, just for clarification) can be so intense that no person would be able to endure for too long without confessing, surely in plenty of time to make the line-up for the Last Judgment.
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Irish Hermit
Kibernetski Kaludjer
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Merarches
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Holy Father Patrick, pray for us


« Reply #42 on: May 23, 2010, 09:54:42 AM »

I was asked to translate this prayer.  It is on the little mausoleum where the bones of Fr Patrick O'Leary (died 1916) rest in Ireland awaiting the resurrection.

The Irish text is
a dhia tabhair d’anamnaibh na marbh maitheamhnas in a bpeacaidhibh tre Iosa criost ar dtighearna. amen

And the translation 

God, forgive the souls of the dead their sins, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

There you have it, brothers and sisters.  Despite centuries of the Roman Catholic Church drumming it into Irish skulls that there is no forgiveness of sins after death, the ancient and orthodox memories linger on and surface in a prayer such as this.  What a glorious truth!

 
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shailyhutson
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« Reply #43 on: June 28, 2010, 02:57:14 AM »

As far as I know the orthodox church people don't believe in angel and or sitting on the clouds . Just as there is no limit to God, there is no limit to theosis and they believe that theosis continues after death, forever.
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Papist
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Praying for the Christians in Iraq


« Reply #44 on: June 28, 2010, 11:10:44 AM »

I was asked to translate this prayer.  It is on the little mausoleum where the bones of Fr Patrick O'Leary (died 1916) rest in Ireland awaiting the resurrection.

The Irish text is
a dhia tabhair d’anamnaibh na marbh maitheamhnas in a bpeacaidhibh tre Iosa criost ar dtighearna. amen

And the translation 

God, forgive the souls of the dead their sins, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

There you have it, brothers and sisters.  Despite centuries of the Roman Catholic Church drumming it into Irish skulls that there is no forgiveness of sins after death, the ancient and orthodox memories linger on and surface in a prayer such as this.  What a glorious truth!

 

Fr. Ambrose, you know very well that the Catholic Church has always believed in the possibility of the forgiveness of venial sins after death.
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Note Papist's influence from the tyrannical monarchism of traditional papism .
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