Follows a passage from http://www.pelagia.org/htm/b24.en.life_after_death.05.htm
"...Orthodox teaching speaks of the remission of sins and the value of memorial services. The Latins are not really able to grasp these two happenings. In what follows we shall refer briefly to the relevant teaching of the Church.
The remission of sins in the Orthodox Tradition is release from hell and punishment. And this remission takes place in three ways and at three different times. The first is at the time of Baptism, the second is after Baptism through conversion and mourning during the present life, and the third after death, through prayers and beneficences and whatever the Church of Christ performs.
Remission through Baptism is effortless and equal in value in all people. It is a work of grace and no work is required on the part of the person, but only faith. Remission after Baptism is arduous and requires repentance and contrition on the person's part. Remission after death too is arduous, because it is closely connected with repentance "and a conscience that is contrite and suffers from insufficiency of good", but it is free of punishment, since it is not possible for remission and punishment to exist at the same time.
In the first and third remission the grace of God prevails, and prayers contribute, but very little is brought in by us". The intermediate remission is by the grace of God, but more of it is from our own action: "the middle, on the contrary, has little from grace, while the greater part is owing to our labour". Likewise, the first remission, through Holy Baptism, differs from the last, after death, because the first remission is forgiveness of all sins, but the last is remission only of those that are not mortal, and certainly of those over which the person has repented in life.
This is the teaching of the Orthodox Church, as St. Mark says, and therefore it prays for forgiveness for those who have fallen asleep. It asks God to forgive the sins of the penitent Christians who died in the faith, without appointing any punishment because it is aware that in such sins the divine goodness "far outweighs the word of justice". Thus in the Orthodox Church we speak of the goodness of God and not of the satisfaction of divine justice62.
Also connected with the remission of sins is the subject of memorial services. The Orthodox Church has memorial services for Christians who have fallen asleep, and prays to God for them, but in a different way and for a different reason from the Latins. In other words, it is not possible for the purifying fire of the Latins to be linked with the memorial service in the Orthodox Church. The former presupposes purification by punishment, the latter presupposes a completion for the person's unfinished journey towards theosis. St. Mark gives interesting information on this subject.
The memorial services in the Orthodox Church are for all the people who have died in the hope of resurrection and with faith in Jesus Christ. And therefore the memorial services and prayers of the Church benefit all those who have died, righteous and unrighteous, saints and sinners. Of course the prayers said are different for each Christian. Even for the saints we have memorial services and offer wheat in their memory, but because we have signs of their holiness and since they have been counted in the list and company of the saints, the prayers differ. We do not ask God to have mercy on them, but we pray "in order to honour and commemorate them"and we ask them to pray for us.
Concerning the benefit of the prayers and memorial services St. Mark writes: "Likewise we pray for all those who have fallen asleep in the faith and we say that these prayers achieve something for all and the power and benefit pass over to all from them"63. So the prayers are made for all those who have died in the orthodox faith.
The Church prays at first for the sinners, who have been imprisoned in hades, "that they may gain some small comfort, even if not complete release". Prayers are said mainly for those who have died in faith "even if they are very sinful". Indeed there are also cases of saints who have even prayed for the ungodly, but "the church of God by no means prays for such"64. The sinners and those imprisoned after death in hades benefit from these prayers on the one hand because they have not been definitively condemned and do not yet have the final decision of the tribunal, on the other hand because they have not yet fallen into hell, which will happen after the Second Coming of Christ. If this is effective for sinners, much more do the memorial services and prayers benefit those who have repented but did not have time to be purified completely and for their nous to be illuminated. If these have very small or light sins, they are restored to the inheritance of the righteous or remain where they are, that is to say in hades, and "their troubles are lightened and they return towards more honourable hopes"65.
But the memorial services and prayers of the Church also benefit the righteous and those who have lived a saintly life. This is a central teaching of our Church. St. Mark affirms that the prayers of the Divine Liturgy show that "the power of these prayers and especially of the mystical sacrifice goes through to those enjoying blessedness from God". This appears in the prayer in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom: "Also we offer to thee this reasonable worship on behalf of those forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs confessors, ascetics and every righteous spirit who has died in faith". Even if, having prayed for the saints, we do not seek blessings for them, we give thanks for them and "do this for their glory, nevertheless in some way the sacrifice is on their behalf and passes over to them"66.
In another passage St. Mark analyses more thoroughly what is the benefit of saints being subjected to the fire which is everywhere with God and is His uncreated energy. He writes: "For such a fire shows the saints brighter, like gold tried in the furnace, since they bring no evil deed and mark..."67. It is plain in this passage, as also in other connections in the holy Fathers, that the saints are illumined more and have a greater capacity for participating in the glory of God.
St. Mark also takes a passage from St. Dionysius the Areopagite, in which it seems that the bishop prays even for those being perfected in the divine life. By citing this passage the saint says that the power of the prayers, and particularly of the mystical sacrifice, also goes "to those who have lived a righteous and holy life". And this is explained because as far as perfection is concerned, even the saints are imperfect and so their capacity for divine glory can increase. He writes: The power of prayers and of the Divine Liturgy also reaches those who have lived a righteous and holy life "since they too are imperfect and always receptive to what contributes towards the good, as they do not yet enjoy perfect blessedness"68.
So the prayers of the Church reach all, both sinners and righteous, but they work differently, according to the spiritual condition which each has reached in this life. The saint ends by saying: Since the prayers of the Church reach all, we do not need to receive the purifying fire. Purification and salvation are brought about by the goodness and philanthropy of God69.
This teaching of St. Mark is orthodox and is found in many patristic texts. We will not go into this in detail here. What must be underlined is that, according to orthodox teaching, there are three stages of spiritual perfection: purification of the heart, illumination of the nous, and theosis. A man's perfecting is incomplete. Man is always susceptible of improvement in his spiritual condition. This movement will continue even in the age to come. Therefore when through repentance a person enters the stage of purification but because of death cannot complete the purification and reach illumination, this can be done through the prayers and memorial services of the Church. That is, there will be an endless increase of participation in the purifying, illuminating and divinising energy of God. This is how we are to understand many occurrences in the lives of saints in which their prayer justified their spiritual children. If we think that justification is illumination of the nous - and of course it is primarily the remission of sins - then we can explain these occurrences. ..."