Here is a very informative correspondence between Mina and myself concerning this issue. He said that he did not mind if I shared what he said to me privately.
Do you know the official stance on our communion regarding the repentance of the soul after death? I read the words of an Indian Orthodox Metropolitan that said souls can repent after death, but I was always taught the opposite growing up?
From what I understand, officially, there is no repentance after death, but that doesn't mean our prayers do not help. But at the same time, does it matter? To me, no. I don't think it should. Because the after life is such a great mystery to me, as it is not yet known, "neither eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor heart can contemplate."
You will read various opinions in history. The Church fathers were not unanimous in this point. St. Gregory of Nyssa seems to suggest that one can repent in the afterlife, but St. John Chrysostom and St. Severus believed one cannot. But nevertheless, they might have agreed that our prayers do matter, and even if one feels that a soul is in Hades, one still can pray for the salvation of that soul. I understand HH Pope Shenouda and HE Metropolitan Bishoy do not believe so, but the Coptic prayers that existed beforehand suggest otherwise.
Whatever the situation, in my opinion, our degree of repentance and preaching should be so grave as if hellfire is forever, our degree of hope should be so great as if hellfire will be extinguished, and our degree of love to God and others should be so great as if neither the fear of hell nor the desire of heaven should matter. Because the greatest of faith, hope, and love is love, then my desire of growth is neither to find out whether one can repent in the afterlife or not, whether apocatastasis is true or not, but that I should grow in all righteousness for the sole sake of loving God with all my heart, strength, soul, mind.
Any idea as to why HE and HH rejected this? Both Sts. Makarius and Athanasius taught that prayer for those in Hades provides some relief to those suffering therein. I also am disturbed that our Synod has deleted these prayers.
It is probably due to the sense that both HH and HE could not differentiate between afterlife repentance and the efficacy of prayers for the departed. They thought that both meant the same thing. To them, prayers for the departed is under the assumption that the departed when alive repented their sins and we didn't know of it. But to pray for their forgiveness in the afterlife, to them, they believed it mean that somehow in the afterlife, it implied that souls can repent in the afterlife. They do have a point, and they have Patristic support that souls cannot repent without united to the flesh. The problem is is that they couldn't understand that prayers to the departed and repentance in the afterlife are two different things.
Sorry if this question sounds ridiculous...
But do you think that if I espoused the teachings of Sts. Makarius and Athanasius son this issue in front of a Coptic Priest or Bishop, I would be objected to or accused of error?
Also do you mind participating on my "Are the Fires of Hell Literal Flames in the OO View" thread? I feel as if we could all benefit from what you have to say.
I don't know Severian. I wouldn't do so as to offend their position in front of others. Perhaps, I would bring up the quote to them privately, or even anonymously. I would perhaps say, "[Your Grace/Your Eminence/Your Reverence], I read these quotes from these saints. I was wondering, what do you think about them?"
As for the thread, well, I've participated in threads with questions like this before. Personally, for questions like this, I ask "What does it matter if souls can repent or not, or if Hell is everlasting or not? What benefit do I receive? Should I not live a righteous life anyway regardless of the answer to these questions for my sake as well as for truly and sacrificially loving God just as He loves me? And if for love, no matter what, should I not pray for the departed simply out of love, even if the end of my prayers end with 'not my will, but Thine'?" If anyone can ask themselves these questions, then, at this point, it doesn't matter to me what HH or HE did, or what other people believe. Sure, I am bothered by the removal of prayers without proper investigation. But this particular issue is the last thing on my mind before all other dogmatic issues. It is at this point in my life, a non-issue to me.
I don't mind however if you share publicly what I shared with you privately.
Thank you. And I meant what you said in your first paragraph. I would not do it in front of others. I always ask questions like this privately and not in front of laypeople, to avoid scandalizing/confusing them. After all, they probably do not understand the issues at hand.
Thanks again for your time.