More than anything, I find the idea that God being subjected to "Divine Justice" which requires that he must inflict "punishment" on his subjects to be terrifying. The idea of purification of the soul by fire via "God's love" is an Orthodox teaching completely in line with this pericope. This is not punishment, rather it is the result of drawing near to the Source of love itself.
I understand the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory is a lot more complex than just a purgation, of which I find is present in Greek fathers, but I also have to wonder that some of us Orthodox seem to lack humility in the word "punishment." Whether you like it or not, His loving presence is also a punishing presence, and Our Lord allows it to be so. We who sin now, why are we not being purgated now? Because He has not allowed His presence to be revealed fully. But when that day comes, to the righteous, eternal joy, but to the wicked, eternal punishment. Human words are weak, and I think it's not fair to call something a "Western captivation" when I find that the Eastern fathers were not afraid of using the word "punishment" to use as a way for their flock to deter them from evil things.
I understand that many Orthodox are trying to protect the immutability of God, but not at the expense of your own humility. You should tell yourself that you do deserve punishment, and with compunction of heart you draw yourself to the mercy of God. I think we Orthodox suffer too much from pride, and I think we need to remind ourselves that we deserve punishment. God's love is not something we pontificate on and insult others' faith with. God's love is something we take seriously in our own personal lives, and to insult any idea that there is no "punishment" for ourselves is an abuse of God's love. God does not anger and does not punish in human ways, and I know with all fairness that even Western Christians, whether they be Catholics or some Protestants believe that. Let's not be foolish to think they believe in a bloodthirsty or punishing God, because I know for a fact they don't. But they're humble enough to at least feel some guilt for their own sins and strive to be better Christians, something we should admire from their side and should adopt every once in a while, if not all the time.
Debates about "Western captivity" and connecting it with Roman Catholic beliefs sicken me. Is there not any Orthodox objective enough to see that there really is no difference in beliefs on regard of purification alone?
But, “They are men,” some one will say, “who do these things; as for God, He is loving unto men.” Now, first of all, not even men do these things in cruelty, but in humanity. And God Himself, as “He is loving unto men,” in the same character doth He punish sins. (Sirac. xvi. 12.) “For as His mercy is great, so also is His reproof.” When therefore thou sayest unto me, “God is loving unto men,” then thou tellest me of so much the greater reason for punishing: namely, our sinning against such a Being. Hence also Paul said, (Heb. x. 31.) “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Endure I beseech you, the fiery force of the words, for perhaps—perhaps you will have some consolation from hence! Who among men can punish as God has punished? when He caused a deluge and entire destruction of a race so numerous; and again, when, a little while after, He rained fire from above, and utterly destroyed them all? What punishment from men can be like that? Seest thou not that the punishment even in this world is almost eternal? Four thousand years have passed away, and the punishment of the Sodomites abideth at its height. For as His mercy is great, so also is His punishment.
There are many men, who form good hopes not by abstaining from their sins, but by thinking that hell is not so terrible as it is said to be, but milder than what is threatened, and temporary, not eternal; and about this they philosophize much. But I could show from many reasons, and conclude from the very expressions concerning hell, that it is not only not milder, but much more terrible than is threatened. But I do not now intend to discourse concerning these things. For the fear even from bare words is sufficient, though we do not fully unfold their meaning. But that it is not temporary, hear Paul now saying, concerning those who know not God, and who do not believe in the Gospel, that “they shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction.” How then is that temporary which is everlasting? “From the face of the Lord,” he says. What is this? He here wishes to say how easily it might be. For since they were then much puffed up, there is no need, he says, of much trouble; it is enough that God comes and is seen, and all are involved in punishment and vengeance. His coming only to some indeed will be Light, but to others vengeance.
I think the big mistake we do is try to find out what the afterlife will be like. St. Paul gave us the ultimate and clearest belief in the afterlife: "Neither eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor heart can contemplate." Everything else is directed at the soul of the person, and where his spirituality lies, and is theoretical, not completely in truth to what the experience may seem. Christ did not ask you to contemplate on the afterlife, but contemplate on how you should be righteous and grow spiritually. To those who are at a much spiritual high plane, God may have revealed to them things what we cannot fathom to understand, and to those who suffer from disbelief, to them, they need to understand faith in a manner as not to scandalize them, but as they grow in maturity, they also know they must grow wary of themselves and the veracity of what sin does in their lives and how they should be fight even unto bloodshed, as St. Paul teaches. Therefore, believe that God's loving presence is also present in Hell, but also believe that His loving presence is a fearful presence and not to be taken lightly with the fullest responsibility. Since some of us are still immature in the faith and in our lives, the word "punishment" is a necessary word, not a word God or the Church fathers shy away from.