So, is it the Orthodox position that Hell does not exist and God doesn't send people there anymore? That God is not now, nor ever was angry with anyone? ... That's just what I'm picking up from the discussion about Edwards. While I appreciate personal opinions, I am also looking for official Church teaching.
This is a very complex subject. First, you have to understand that until the final judgment, no one is sent eternally to heaven or hell. In Orthodox teaching, the righteous spirits go to a paradise which is a foretaste of their eternal abode. Likewise, the unrighteous go to a place of temporary punishment until the final judgment. It is only after the final judgment that they will be consigned to hell.
There is a very good book which was recently written by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who is probably one of the most erudite scholars in the Orthodox Church today. He serves as director of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church and is frequently going to Rome and London to speak with the Roman Catholics and Anglicans about faith issues. Recently he was in America and spoke at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, a prominent private Catholic university in the Philadelphia area. Unfortunately I didn't get to attend his talk. His book that I reference is called "Christ the Conqueror of Hell" and is a very good systematic study of the doctrine of hell -- and what Christ did with respect to it -- starting with Scripture, looking at the writings of the Fathers, references to it in the early prayers of the Church, etc.
My recollection from this book, and my gleanings elsewhere, is as follows:
There is absolutely a place to which the dead went (and go), a place of prison for spirits, as Peter says. They went there, and we go there, because of our sin. My understanding is that it is our teaching that, before Christ went to the cross, everyone went to this place, because there was no salvation for them. But, after His death, Christ went to this place and brought out the spirits who were then in prison. You can read about this in 1 Peter 3:19. You can also read about this in Matthew 12:29, when Christ spoke of binding the strong man and plundering his house. From the earliest teachings of the Church and the ancient prayers in the earliest liturgies, we know that the first Christians believed that the dead Christ went to this place of the dead, and the gates of hell received Him, not recognizing Him. But when He entered, they realized who had come, and were powerless to stop Him from leading the righteous dead out from hell.
Now, of that much we have some confidence. But there are several things that we don't know, and are content to leave as mysteries:
1. How is it that Christ was in this place, and yet, He was never separated from the Father (another core Orthodox teaching)? This is a mystery, although one explanation of what hell is (see below) might help clarify this.
2. When Christ performed this "harrowing of hell," as it is often called, did EVERYONE who had died up to that time exit? Sometimes this is asked, was anyone besides the devil and his angels left in Hades, this place of temporal punishment)? There is no clear answer on this. Some Fathers depicted it as such; a second group depicted it as only the Old Testament righteous (named in the Old Testament) were taken with Christ; and a third group depicted it as many righteous, known and unknown to us, exited with Christ at that time. The third position is the most popular among the Fathers, as I recall, but we cannot be 100% sure of what happened in this respect.
3. For those who subscribe to the perspective that Christ completely emptied Hades, and knowing that Christ is outside of time, the next question is, Did he also lead out those souls who came into Hades after His death and resurrection? Try to get your mind around that. The answer on this is extremely unclear, although that seems doubtful to many.
Now, there are a separate set of questions that have been considered by the Church. When people go to this realm of temporal punishment, can their fate be changed? One thing that we do know, from the Bible and the teachings of the Fathers, is that prayer for the dead is beneficial for them. In the Second Book of Maccabees, which is part of our Bible, prayers and sacrifices were offered for the sins of dead Jewish soldiers. And in the New Testament, Paul clearly offers up a prayer for his dead friend Onesiphorous in 2 Tim. 1:16-18 and 2 Tim. 4:19, that "he might find mercy in the Lord in that day," presumably, the day of judgment. We also have the teaching of a very early Father, St. Macarius of Egypt (300-391), that a skull spoke to him and thanked him for offering up prayers for its soul, by which it received some relief from the fires consuming it. But we do not, we cannot, define it precisely like the Catholic Church does, with their treasury of merit and the purchasing of indulgences to knock time off of purgatory. We only know that prayer for the departed is helpful to them. Here is what St. Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome (540-604), had to say:
"The Holy Sacrifice of Christ, our saving Victim, brings great benefits to souls even after death, provided their sins (are such as) can be pardoned in the life to come. For this reason the souls of the dead sometimes beg to have Liturgies offered for them ... The safer course, naturally, is to do for ourselves during life what we hope others will do for us after death. It is better to make one's exit a free man than to seek liberty after one is in chains. We should, therefore, despise this world with all our hearts as though its glory were already spent, and offer our sacrifice of tears to God each day as we immolate His sacred Flesh and Blood. This Sacrifice alone has the power of saving the soul from eternal death, for it presents to us mystically the death of the Only-begotten Son."
Within the Orthodox Church, although this is a realm far beyond our certain knowledge, there is much thought that what hell really is, is standing in the presence of God in an unprepared state (without our wedding garment). We are free to choose in this life; if we choose Christ and are made holy through Him, through the gifts He has given us, then we will be ready to meet Him and enter a stated of blessedness. If we choose to reject Christ, He will respect our choice. And the beauty of Heaven will seem as a violent torment for those who, with all of their being, have rejected Christ and want nothing to do with Him or His glory. (A non-Orthodox writer, C. S. Lewis, even wrote about this kind of an analogy in his book, "The Great Divorce," where people from Hell were given a day trip to Heaven and couldn't stand it.)
One final point. The Orthodox Church teaches that the doctrine of Universalism, that all souls will of necessity be saved, is heresy. The belief that all souls might be saved, however, is not heretical, in that we don't know the state of anyone's salvation. There was even one Father, whose name escapes me, who prayed for the conversion of the devil. We know what awaits those who reject God. And we know that God will allow them to reject Him if they so choose. What we don't know is what choice all of these people will ultimately make.
Here is an article which explains all of this much more succinctly and clearly than I have.http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles-2009/Mettalinos-Paradise-And-Hell-According-To-Orthodox-Tradition.php
How would the story of St. Xenia of St. Petersburg fit in with the Orthodox beliefs on Hell?
St. Xenia prayed for many years, and in a vision, she saw her husband's soul being released from Hell and then enter Heaven.
Thus, this vision would reinforce the Orthodox beliefs that prayer benefits those who have died.