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stanley123
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« Reply #45 on: July 23, 2011, 09:41:10 PM »

Quote
Who believes that at the death the will ceases to be able to act?   Repentence is required.  Willingly undergoing treatment for the illness of sin is required in Hades for the prayers to have any effect.  But this is obvious, as pardonable sins are those which have been repented of. 


My main question about human will after death (remember, I have a Catholic Confirmation to my name) is a matter of playing devil's advocate: if humans can will their repentence in Hell, then can they do the reverse, and sin in heaven?
There are a lot of questions that come up in this area. For example, if you can will your repentance in Hell, or be prayed out of Hell, then why try to live a saintly life here on earth? In the end, is everyone going to be saved regardless of what kind of life he led on earth? And besides, this apparently goes against what Our Divine Lord has said on this subject as revealed in the gospel of Matthew 25:41.
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« Reply #46 on: July 23, 2011, 09:41:34 PM »

It may be helpful to keep in mind that when we are talking about 'hell' or 'gehenna' that the spiritual world itself is not like the physical one in terms of geographical locations.  It is perhaps better to think of these mysteries in terms of 'condition' of the spirits rather than locations.

Therefore, Christ's 'descent into Hades' which led all the 'captives' free was not a literal prison break, but a change in their condition whereby the souls of all men were liberated from the absolute bonds of death.  This did not end the torment of those who reject God, but simply means that their choice to suffer is theirs alone, and that even death does not hold them.  They could repent and turn to God, and thus be free.  Nothing holds them captive but their own will, and so when God judges they will have no excuse.


I am pleased to see, Father, that you have not been taken captive by the Western belief that at death the will ceases to be able to act in a human soul.

Who believes that at the death the will ceases to be able to act?   Repentence is required.  Willingly undergoing treatment for the illness of sin is required in Hades for the prayers to have any effect.  But this is obvious, as pardonable sins are those which have been repented of. 

I've heard various definitions of the pardonable/mortal distinction: St Nicodemus' Exomologetarion has a rather long discussion of the different ways of distinguishing them, citing various Orthodox authorities. He even tries to illustrate the gradation from pardonable through "non-mortal" to mortal with respect to sins of violence (e.g. thinking a violent thought is pardonable, striking without causing injury is non-mortal, and murder is mortal), but even so I didn't come away with a clear idea of how to distinguish them. One could say that your conscience should tell you whether the sin you committed was serious or not, but then those with more sensitive consciences might then commit more mortal sins than those with weak consciences, even if the sins are objectively less grave. But then maybe that's the point: the more you advance in holiness, the higher your spiritual goals become. My conclusion is that there is a distinction, but it seems to be too subtle to define in any formal way, and perhaps really should be left to conscience. At least this is the impression I get talking to those who grew up in Orthodoxy, since they all make a distinction between serious and trivial sins, though they consider them all sins, and this seems to be good enough for them.

But I wonder about the idea that the souls in Hades will their deliverance in any way, whenever God chooses to deliver one. I thought repentance was impossible after the soul is separated from the body, which happens to be another important distinction between the Orthodox and the Catholic understanding, since Catholic Purgatory implies the soul is being purified through suffering, but the only purification of this kind can come in this life, we are taught. The sufferings in Hades do not constitute works of repentance, so the only help can come from outside, from the prayers of the Church. The soul has no choice but to accept God's will in this matter. Personally, I don't see how this implies Calvinistic predestination, since while the will of the soul itself may not be able to play a role, the wills of those in the Church praying for the dead do.

I might be wrong about this, but in that case, I'd like to see something from the Fathers showing an example of a soul in Hades willingly accepting God's deliverance, or willingly rejecting it. I know there's the example of Christ preaching in Hades, but wasn't that a one-time event? I don't know of any teaching grounded in the Fathers that this preaching is ongoing, and that souls in Hades are continuing to hear Christ's Gospel and choosing to accept or reject it. But again, I might be wrong.

Maybe this will help.   When a drunk dies, his soul will still want to drink, but will not have a body with which to accomplish it.  The soul without the body can do nothing as a whole person, a point made by St. Athanasius.   But this has several effects.   For example, to the soul that died with sin yet was still inclined toward God, it will have good effect.   An example is this:  
Neither the God-hater nor the God-loving sinner in Hades will be able to eat to satisfy their gluttony, nor drink to satisfy their drunkenness, etc.  The former will curse God for this and be filled with hate.  The latter will be grateful for this and the suffering will remit the sinful desire.  
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stanley123
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« Reply #47 on: July 23, 2011, 10:43:00 PM »

....the suffering will remit the sinful desire.  
When I think about temporary suffering after death which suffering will purify and remit sinful desire, I think of Purgatory.
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« Reply #48 on: July 23, 2011, 10:46:15 PM »

It may be helpful to keep in mind that when we are talking about 'hell' or 'gehenna' that the spiritual world itself is not like the physical one in terms of geographical locations.  It is perhaps better to think of these mysteries in terms of 'condition' of the spirits rather than locations.

Therefore, Christ's 'descent into Hades' which led all the 'captives' free was not a literal prison break, but a change in their condition whereby the souls of all men were liberated from the absolute bonds of death.  This did not end the torment of those who reject God, but simply means that their choice to suffer is theirs alone, and that even death does not hold them.  They could repent and turn to God, and thus be free.  Nothing holds them captive but their own will, and so when God judges they will have no excuse.


I am pleased to see, Father, that you have not been taken captive by the Western belief that at death the will ceases to be able to act in a human soul.

Who believes that at the death the will ceases to be able to act?   Repentence is required.  Willingly undergoing treatment for the illness of sin is required in Hades for the prayers to have any effect.  But this is obvious, as pardonable sins are those which have been repented of. 

I've heard various definitions of the pardonable/mortal distinction: St Nicodemus' Exomologetarion has a rather long discussion of the different ways of distinguishing them, citing various Orthodox authorities. He even tries to illustrate the gradation from pardonable through "non-mortal" to mortal with respect to sins of violence (e.g. thinking a violent thought is pardonable, striking without causing injury is non-mortal, and murder is mortal), but even so I didn't come away with a clear idea of how to distinguish them. One could say that your conscience should tell you whether the sin you committed was serious or not, but then those with more sensitive consciences might then commit more mortal sins than those with weak consciences, even if the sins are objectively less grave. But then maybe that's the point: the more you advance in holiness, the higher your spiritual goals become. My conclusion is that there is a distinction, but it seems to be too subtle to define in any formal way, and perhaps really should be left to conscience. At least this is the impression I get talking to those who grew up in Orthodoxy, since they all make a distinction between serious and trivial sins, though they consider them all sins, and this seems to be good enough for them.

But I wonder about the idea that the souls in Hades will their deliverance in any way, whenever God chooses to deliver one. I thought repentance was impossible after the soul is separated from the body, which happens to be another important distinction between the Orthodox and the Catholic understanding, since Catholic Purgatory implies the soul is being purified through suffering, but the only purification of this kind can come in this life, we are taught. The sufferings in Hades do not constitute works of repentance, so the only help can come from outside, from the prayers of the Church. The soul has no choice but to accept God's will in this matter. Personally, I don't see how this implies Calvinistic predestination, since while the will of the soul itself may not be able to play a role, the wills of those in the Church praying for the dead do.

I might be wrong about this, but in that case, I'd like to see something from the Fathers showing an example of a soul in Hades willingly accepting God's deliverance, or willingly rejecting it. I know there's the example of Christ preaching in Hades, but wasn't that a one-time event? I don't know of any teaching grounded in the Fathers that this preaching is ongoing, and that souls in Hades are continuing to hear Christ's Gospel and choosing to accept or reject it. But again, I might be wrong.

Maybe this will help.   When a drunk dies, his soul will still want to drink, but will not have a body with which to accomplish it.  The soul without the body can do nothing as a whole person, a point made by St. Athanasius.   But this has several effects.   For example, to the soul that died with sin yet was still inclined toward God, it will have good effect.   An example is this:  
Neither the God-hater nor the God-loving sinner in Hades will be able to eat to satisfy their gluttony, nor drink to satisfy their drunkenness, etc.  The former will curse God for this and be filled with hate.  The latter will be grateful for this and the suffering will remit the sinful desire.  
So who among the God-lover's spends time in Hell and who goes directly to Heaven?
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« Reply #49 on: July 24, 2011, 12:31:42 AM »

Is there nothing but centuries and millennia of suffering after death?

The talk on these threads on the afterdeath state is only about suffering.  There is never the slightest hint of the joy of having run the race and being embraced by Jesus Christ..

Is this the genuine Christian attitude in the face of death?   Did the Christians of the Apostolic era and thereafter know that after death they could expect only millennia (in earth terms) of severe pain and suffering?

Did all those Christians under Communism, persecuted but not killed, believe that it was centuries of suffering which awaited them and there would be no relief until the Second Coming of the Lord?

Does the average Orthodox Joe-Blogs Christian today on his deathbed in the hospice know that in a few moments suffering such as he never knew in this life is going to hit him and go until hitting him until creation ends?

Is there only suffering and pain after death?  Is the Christian hope deferred indefinitely until the Second Coming and the Day of Judgement?

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« Reply #50 on: July 24, 2011, 01:05:10 AM »

Is there nothing but centuries and millennia of suffering after death?

The talk on these threads on the afterdeath state is only about suffering.  There is never the slightest hint of the joy of having run the race and being embraced by Jesus Christ..

Is this the genuine Christian attitude in the face of death?   Did the Christians of the Apostolic era and thereafter know that after death they could expect only millennia (in earth terms) of severe pain and suffering?

Did all those Christians under Communism, persecuted but not killed, believe that it was centuries of suffering which awaited them and there would be no relief until the Second Coming of the Lord?

Does the average Orthodox Joe-Blogs Christian today on his deathbed in the hospice know that in a few moments suffering such as he never knew in this life is going to hit him and go until hitting him until creation ends?

Is there only suffering and pain after death?  Is the Christian hope deferred indefinitely until the Second Coming and the Day of Judgement?

If there is any purification after death before I'm worthy of God, certainly I will have to endure it.
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« Reply #51 on: July 24, 2011, 01:30:03 AM »

It may be helpful to keep in mind that when we are talking about 'hell' or 'gehenna' that the spiritual world itself is not like the physical one in terms of geographical locations.  It is perhaps better to think of these mysteries in terms of 'condition' of the spirits rather than locations.

Therefore, Christ's 'descent into Hades' which led all the 'captives' free was not a literal prison break, but a change in their condition whereby the souls of all men were liberated from the absolute bonds of death.  This did not end the torment of those who reject God, but simply means that their choice to suffer is theirs alone, and that even death does not hold them.  They could repent and turn to God, and thus be free.  Nothing holds them captive but their own will, and so when God judges they will have no excuse.


I am pleased to see, Father, that you have not been taken captive by the Western belief that at death the will ceases to be able to act in a human soul.

Who believes that at the death the will ceases to be able to act?   Repentence is required.  Willingly undergoing treatment for the illness of sin is required in Hades for the prayers to have any effect.  But this is obvious, as pardonable sins are those which have been repented of. 

I've heard various definitions of the pardonable/mortal distinction: St Nicodemus' Exomologetarion has a rather long discussion of the different ways of distinguishing them, citing various Orthodox authorities. He even tries to illustrate the gradation from pardonable through "non-mortal" to mortal with respect to sins of violence (e.g. thinking a violent thought is pardonable, striking without causing injury is non-mortal, and murder is mortal), but even so I didn't come away with a clear idea of how to distinguish them. One could say that your conscience should tell you whether the sin you committed was serious or not, but then those with more sensitive consciences might then commit more mortal sins than those with weak consciences, even if the sins are objectively less grave. But then maybe that's the point: the more you advance in holiness, the higher your spiritual goals become. My conclusion is that there is a distinction, but it seems to be too subtle to define in any formal way, and perhaps really should be left to conscience. At least this is the impression I get talking to those who grew up in Orthodoxy, since they all make a distinction between serious and trivial sins, though they consider them all sins, and this seems to be good enough for them.

But I wonder about the idea that the souls in Hades will their deliverance in any way, whenever God chooses to deliver one. I thought repentance was impossible after the soul is separated from the body, which happens to be another important distinction between the Orthodox and the Catholic understanding, since Catholic Purgatory implies the soul is being purified through suffering, but the only purification of this kind can come in this life, we are taught. The sufferings in Hades do not constitute works of repentance, so the only help can come from outside, from the prayers of the Church. The soul has no choice but to accept God's will in this matter. Personally, I don't see how this implies Calvinistic predestination, since while the will of the soul itself may not be able to play a role, the wills of those in the Church praying for the dead do.

I might be wrong about this, but in that case, I'd like to see something from the Fathers showing an example of a soul in Hades willingly accepting God's deliverance, or willingly rejecting it. I know there's the example of Christ preaching in Hades, but wasn't that a one-time event? I don't know of any teaching grounded in the Fathers that this preaching is ongoing, and that souls in Hades are continuing to hear Christ's Gospel and choosing to accept or reject it. But again, I might be wrong.

Maybe this will help.   When a drunk dies, his soul will still want to drink, but will not have a body with which to accomplish it.  The soul without the body can do nothing as a whole person, a point made by St. Athanasius.   But this has several effects.   For example, to the soul that died with sin yet was still inclined toward God, it will have good effect.   An example is this:  
Neither the God-hater nor the God-loving sinner in Hades will be able to eat to satisfy their gluttony, nor drink to satisfy their drunkenness, etc.  The former will curse God for this and be filled with hate.  The latter will be grateful for this and the suffering will remit the sinful desire.  

That sounds like part of the plot of the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  These cursed pirates could not experience any temporal pleasure because of what was inflicted on them.

I hope the afterlife ends up being a little more pleasant then some of the descriptions of it on this forum.
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« Reply #52 on: July 24, 2011, 02:18:16 AM »

Is there nothing but centuries and millennia of suffering after death?

The talk on these threads on the afterdeath state is only about suffering.  There is never the slightest hint of the joy of having run the race and being embraced by Jesus Christ..

Is this the genuine Christian attitude in the face of death?   Did the Christians of the Apostolic era and thereafter know that after death they could expect only millennia (in earth terms) of severe pain and suffering?

Did all those Christians under Communism, persecuted but not killed, believe that it was centuries of suffering which awaited them and there would be no relief until the Second Coming of the Lord?

Does the average Orthodox Joe-Blogs Christian today on his deathbed in the hospice know that in a few moments suffering such as he never knew in this life is going to hit him and go until hitting him until creation ends?

Is there only suffering and pain after death?  Is the Christian hope deferred indefinitely until the Second Coming and the Day of Judgement?

If there is any purification after death before I'm worthy of God, certainly I will have to endure it.

The Orthodox belief in the state of the soul after death is vague and less developed than the Catholic teaching.  But it is certainly not the untold millennia of pain and suffering which has seized the minds of so many on this forum and elsewhere.

Listen to the balanced teaching of the Church, with these three quotes from widely differing centuries (5th, 17th and 20th) which show the same unanimous teaching on life after death...  The simplicity is breathtaking.

It speaks not only of affliction and suffering for the wicked, but it also speaks of rest, blessedness, bliss, and joy.
 
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).


The 1980 Resolution of the ROCA Synod of bishops on the toll house belief...

"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..."


Interestingly enough, this is almost a word for word repetition of what Saint Augustine said 1500 years earlier!


 
 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 #53 on: July 24, 2011, 07:12:17 AM »

It's good to remember that both joy and suffering are promised to us after death, depending on our behavior in this life. Really the issue now is whether the suffering after death can in any way constitute the kind of therapeutic suffering that we are taught to expect and endure in this life, the kind that aids us in our repentance. I think that this concept of after-death suffering is a RC concept, and not consistent with Orthodox teaching, which holds that after death, only the prayers of those still on earth can help the soul. Whatever the soul endures after death will not help it in one direction or the other. If I'm wrong on this, it would be nice to be directed to some Orthodox authorities that can clarify what the true teaching is.
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« Reply #54 on: July 24, 2011, 07:30:55 AM »

It's good to remember that both joy and suffering are promised to us after death, depending on our behavior in this life. Really the issue now is whether the suffering after death can in any way constitute the kind of therapeutic suffering that we are taught to expect and endure in this life, the kind that aids us in our repentance. I think that this concept of after-death suffering is a RC concept, and not consistent with Orthodox teaching, which holds that after death, only the prayers of those still on earth can help the soul. Whatever the soul endures after death will not help it in one direction or the other. If I'm wrong on this, it would be nice to be directed to some Orthodox authorities that can clarify what the true teaching is.

You and I may be on the same track!

Suffering is of far less therapeutic effect than love and joy.   And If we know this,  God must surely be aware if it;  after all He created the human psyche.

Decades of suffering in a prison cell or isolated on a prison island may change nothing in a man, but the love and joy of a woman can turn his life around very quickly.

1.  If we believe with the Catholics that there is a whole lot of punishment due to sins which must be expiated after death, then yes,  suffering and torment will accomplish that.  By all means burn a man's hands in hell fire to punish him and rip out his toenails twenty times a day.

2.  If we believe that there has to be healing and re-orientation, then love and gentleness is the way to approach it.  Burning his hands simply won't bring about his healing.

Sometimes we are guilty of sloppy thinking and confusing (1) and (2).

Therapy and healing of the soul is not accomplished by incessant pain and torment.  Love is the best and most effective therapy and healing.  And God is the supreme lover and healer.

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« Reply #55 on: July 24, 2011, 08:35:26 AM »

It's good to remember that both joy and suffering are promised to us after death, depending on our behavior in this life. Really the issue now is whether the suffering after death can in any way constitute the kind of therapeutic suffering that we are taught to expect and endure in this life, the kind that aids us in our repentance. I think that this concept of after-death suffering is a RC concept, and not consistent with Orthodox teaching, which holds that after death, only the prayers of those still on earth can help the soul. Whatever the soul endures after death will not help it in one direction or the other. If I'm wrong on this, it would be nice to be directed to some Orthodox authorities that can clarify what the true teaching is.

You and I may be on the same track!

Suffering is of far less therapeutic effect than love and joy.   And If we know this,  God must surely be aware if it;  after all He created the human psyche.

Decades of suffering in a prison cell or isolated on a prison island may change nothing in a man, but the love and joy of a woman can turn his life around very quickly.

1.  If we believe with the Catholics that there is a whole lot of punishment due to sins which must be expiated after death, then yes,  suffering and torment will accomplish that.  By all means burn a man's hands in hell fire to punish him and rip out his toenails twenty times a day.

2.  If we believe that there has to be healing and re-orientation, then love and gentleness is the way to approach it.  Burning his hands simply won't bring about his healing.

Sometimes we are guilty of sloppy thinking and confusing (1) and (2).

Therapy and healing of the soul is not accomplished by incessant pain and torment.  Love is the best and most effective therapy and healing.  And God is the supreme lover and healer.



I remember St John of the Ladder talking about joy-making mourning. Certainly, suffering was an important part of repentance in much of the Ladder, but it was the kind that was joined with a firm hope in God's forgiveness. There is a good suffering that leads to repentance, and bad suffering that leads to despair. In either case, it's not really about the suffering itself, but the disposition with which we endure it. I suppose when the martyrs endured their torments as if they felt no pain, this is a concrete image of what this kind of joyful suffering should be.

Nevertheless, I'm still somewhat uncertain about whether we project this concept of suffering onto the afterlife. We know that souls undergoing trial after death, and even those already in prison in Hades, are not beyond help, since the Church helps them through various prayers. But I am not sure I am also supposed to believe that souls after death can voluntarily accept their suffering as part of their repentance. It seems rather the emphasis is on patiently enduring suffering in this life, in order not to be condemned to it in the next. Otherwise, we could all be tempted to put off such patience now, in the expectation that we'll be able to make up for it later.
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« Reply #56 on: July 24, 2011, 11:00:39 AM »

We ultimately make our own Hell though, don't we? God keeps working on us with His love but we keep refusing His medicine like foolish children and at the same time we hurt ourselves all the more. We all do this after death to the extent we didn't surrender the will to Christ here.

For some, the afterlife will be awesome with just a few bumps here and there. For a dilettante like me, it'll be rather painful and awkward-like trying to sing in the choir after I've partied away all my music lesson time. My voice is horse, I'm hungover, I don't know the timing, etc. It's not the Director's fault, He wants me to enjoy things but I didn't do much in the way of necessary preparation. This is what I get out of the "in proportion" thing, anyway.

Then, after the Second Coming maybe, we'll all be caught up. The bad singers will have sobered up and found their voice and no one saved will suffer anymore.
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« Reply #57 on: July 29, 2011, 09:30:51 AM »

A good book to read on this subject is Brian E. Daley's survey, The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology.  In this volume we learn that many Church Fathers, including St John Chrysostom and St John of Damascus, believed that the ultimate fate of individuals was definitively established at death.  Others were more hopeful. 

I'm not sure how one resolves this debate.  Clearly the Orthodox Church has not issued a dogmatic definition of the matter.  Hopeful universalism, for example, appears to be legitimate position within the Orthodox Church.  Neither Met Kallisos nor Met Hilarion have been excommunicated, nor even strongly denounced, for their views.  Sts Gregory Nyssen and Isaac of Ninevah continue to be highly regarded. 

Personally, I do not think the question can be resolved by appeal to texts, whether theological, ecclesiastical, or liturgical.  Ultimately it's a question of who we believe God to be.  I strongly affirm the hope of universal salvation because I believe God to be a God of infinite mercy and unconditional love.  Is it possible for a human being to hold out eternally against such love?  I hope not. 
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« Reply #58 on: July 29, 2011, 11:51:03 AM »

A good book to read on this subject is Brian E. Daley's survey, The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology.  In this volume we learn that many Church Fathers, including St John Chrysostom and St John of Damascus, believed that the ultimate fate of individuals was definitively established at death.  Others were more hopeful. 

I'm not sure how one resolves this debate.  Clearly the Orthodox Church has not issued a dogmatic definition of the matter.  Hopeful universalism, for example, appears to be legitimate position within the Orthodox Church.  Neither Met Kallisos nor Met Hilarion have been excommunicated, nor even strongly denounced, for their views.  Sts Gregory Nyssen and Isaac of Ninevah continue to be highly regarded. 

Personally, I do not think the question can be resolved by appeal to texts, whether theological, ecclesiastical, or liturgical.  Ultimately it's a question of who we believe God to be.  I strongly affirm the hope of universal salvation because I believe God to be a God of infinite mercy and unconditional love.  Is it possible for a human being to hold out eternally against such love?  I hope not. 

Thank you for the book recommendation, I'll certainly look at it.

It does seem there tends to be a bit more disagreement, but grace that goes along with that disagreement.
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“Wherefore, then, death approaches, gulps down the bait of the body, and is pierced by the hook of the divinity. Then, having tasted of the sinless and life-giving body, it is destroyed and gives up all those whom it had swallowed down of old." - St. John of Damascus
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