Saint George Orthodox Christian Church
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese
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Death and the Judgment of Man
By Monk Benedict (Armitage)

Death is the great Inevitability. Every person shall experience it firsthand. No achievement in life, nor any amount of wealth or power or fame will alter this inexorable fact. It is also a great mystery. What happens at the moment of death and after is for most unknown, a source only for conjecture, and for fear. Ever since man’s first encounter with the frightful reality of death, he has perenially asked: What is it? What befalls us at the time of this exodus? What fate awaits us beyond the grave?   
   It is the intention of this brief paper to give an answer to this question, an answer based upon the teaching of the Orthodox Church. We have not been left without any idea as to what to expect at this time of transition and after. The Church has considerable knowledge about this crossing over and what follows, drawn from the Scriptures, from the teaching of her great theologians, and from the experience of those especially close to God, who learned much about the spiritual realm while yet still in the flesh.

We will begin by clarifying what is meant by the word death. As the universe is twofold, made up of the physical world and the spiritual world, and as man also is twofold, being made up of both body and soul, so too death is twofold. There is physical death and there is spiritual death. The former we can define simply as the separation of the soul from the body. This physical death though, is but the consequence of spiritual death, which we define as the separation of the soul from God.
   When the body is separated from its source of life, namely the soul, it becomes a corpse and decays, passing away into dust. But the soul, though dead, does not cease to exist, since it is by nature eternal and indestructible.(1) Rather, it exists in a state of instability, pain and sorrow, bereft as it is of the true life for which it was made. Spiritual death is the result of sin, for sin alone separates the soul from the source of the its true life, which is God.(2)
   Our condition of spiritual death began with the first sin, and has continued as a kind of hereditary condition ever since. Man had separated himself from God and come under His curse, and having been expelled from Paradise, had fallen prey to the devil’s tyranny. As a result, before the coming of Jesus Christ, all men died in a state of separation from God; even the righteous of the Old Covenant, who had striven to draw close to God and to do His will, were not able to come to God after death. Rather, the souls of all men were detained in Hades, which is, simply defined, the place of the dead. In Hebrew, it is called Sheol.(3) It is often described as a prison, or a place of gloom and confinement, over which the devil holds sway.(4)

Baptismal Rebirth
With the incarnation of Jesus Christ however, this situation changed. When Christ died, He too went to Hades, as had all men before Him. But He could not be held by death, being both sinless and divine; rather, by His power He overthrew the tyranny of the devil and brought the Gospel to the dead, even as He had to the living.(5) Having reconciled man with God by the Cross, He led forth the righteous dead from Hades and brought them with Himself into Paradise.(6)
   Man continues however, to be born into a state of death, both spiritual and physical. He remains dead in sin and at enmity with God.(7) In the sacrament of Baptism though, he is able to abandon this state of spiritual death, what St. Paul calls the ‘old man’, and to become a ‘new man’.(8) His sins being forgiven, he is reconciled with God, adopted as His child, and initiated into the Kingdom. In this sacrament, man’s relationship with God is changed and his spiritual life begins in earnest. And naturally, this change affects not only this life, but also that which is to come, as the baptized Christian becomes the inheritor of God’s kingdom and of the promise of eternal life.

Even after baptism however, it is possible for us to live in such a way that we alienate ourselves from God. St. James remarks that “friendship with the world is enmity with God”.(9) If we do not live according to the commandments of Christ, then we will invariably adopt a lifestyle that is in opposition to God’s will. And if we sin grievously, and become guilty of “sin unto death,” then we once again make ourselves enemies of God, and are cut off from Him, becoming once more, spiritually dead.(10) We cannot be baptized a second time; nevertheless, it is not impossible for us to be reconciled with God after such a sin. Through repentance, confession of our sin, and the fulfillment of the penance given us, we may be restored to fellowship with God, who is ever ready to forgive us and to restore us as His children. 
   But we must seek this forgiveness in this life. The opportunity to repent and seek forgiveness, and the ability to turn our will away from sin and back to God, we have only in this life. We decide now in what direction we are turned – towards God or away from Him. And in whatever direction we are turned when we depart this life, is the direction we will continue in for the rest of eternity. The teaching of the Fathers is clear: now is the time for repentance; then is the time for judgment. There is no reorientation possible after death.

Death and the Particular Judgment
When death does finally come, and the soul is parted from the body, we are given to understand that it does not always go easily or willingly. The process can be one of pain, fear and mental agony. It is an uncertain and fearful time for the soul, as it leaves one mode of existence and enters into another, one which is wholly different. The soul will not be able to remain with or near the body; rather, it will have to go to its appointed place, either one of rest and peace, or one of darkness and anguish.
   The place for which it will be destined is determined, as we said above, by the soul’s relationship to God and by the way it has spent its earthly life. This does not mean merely what we say that relationship to be, for that means really very little; but rather, what that relationship truly is, as it is found to be in the very depths of our hearts - depths often wholly unknown to us – as well as in our actions throughout our life. The soul is judged based upon these things, and this we call the Particular Judgment, to distinguish it from the Final Judgment, which is given on the Last Day, when all men are summoned before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
   The soul soon finds that it is not alone however, for the inhabitants of this other world become perceptible to it. Both angels and demons come to the soul in order to bring it to its appointed place. For the soul of one unbaptized, who lived his life solely for the sake of earthly pleasures and gain, there is little hope. Such a soul has been a slave of the devil during its earthly life, and it will continue to be so after death. It will be claimed by the demons, and taken away.
   But for the soul of a baptized Christian, one who is a member of the Church, the angels will come to comfort and escort it. But even such a soul will not be free from demonic encounter. According to the teachers of the Church, the demons will search the soul and attempt to claim it by bringing before it its many sins. And if they can, they will prevent it from continuing with the angels. This encounter is often referred to in a metaphor, as the taxing of the soul, or the passage of the toll-houses.(11) And the soul that has turned away from the Lord through sin, or has chosen to love the world above Christ, will find in itself a startling kinship with the demons, and will consequently fall prey to them. But the soul that has not separated itself from God through grievous or unrepentant sin, and has placed its hope in the Lord, will find help from Him and His holy angels, and will, by His grace, pass through such a demonic encounter unharmed.
   It may be asked what will become of those who never had an opportunity of accepting the Gospel but who lived virtuously as well as they could nonetheless; or perhaps who loved Christ, but never knew His holy Church, and so were never united to her. But such questions cannot be answered. God, who is both just and merciful, and who knows the secrets of men’s hearts, will determine their fate.(12) It falls to us simply to pray for God’s mercy on their behalf.

The Intermediate State
When the soul departs from here, it will pass to one of two places.(13) The souls that have been seized by the demons will be taken to Hades, which remains a place of gloom and suffering. There they abide bereft of hope. They are cut off completely from the living, and are in pain and misery, being in the power of the demons, whose lot they have chosen to join.
   Those who have found favour with God however, will be escorted by His angels to that place wherein the righteous dwell. This place is called by many names: Heaven, Paradise, the tabernacles of the righteous, the Bosom of Abraham, the Land of the Living, etc.(14) But whatever the name used, they all describe the same place – one of peace, rest, and joy, where all sickness, sorrow, and pain have ceased, and where the righteous enjoy a more perfect vision of Christ. In both instances, the degree of bliss or misery is not the same for all, but is dependent upon the relative purity or guilt of the soul.(15)
   But for both the righteous and the wicked, these are only intermediate states. They are only a foretaste of what is to come for them. The righteous do not yet enjoy their full reward, nor the wicked their full punishment. In both instances, they look toward the Day of the Lord, the Great Judgment. For the righteous, this is looked for with eager anticipation, as in the vision of the Apostle John; but for the wicked, it is accompanied by trepidation and uncertainty.(16) For it is then only that the eternal state of the soul will be made manifest.

The Cleansing of the Soul
Before that, it is possible that there are some who are not yet in Paradise, but who may find release from their punishment and ultimately be translated there. Moreover, it is possible that there are those among the faithful departed who may be further cleansed and enjoy a more perfect vision of Christ. For this reason, the Church offers up prayers for the dead. While it is not certain by what means these prayers avail the dead, it is known that they do, and so the Church has always, from her earliest days, prayed for the well-being of the soul after death, even as the Jews did before her.(17)
   According to St. Mark of Ephesus,(18) there are some souls that depart this life in faith and the love of God, but which nonetheless, have carried away certain faults. These faults may be either small sins for which the soul has not repented, or grievous faults over which the soul has indeed repented, but has failed to bring forth sufficient fruits of repentance. Such souls must be cleansed before being admitted to the lot of the righteous. He goes on to mention the various ways in which this can be accomplished.
   Some may be cleansed simply by the fear associated with the departure of the body, others by remaining in some earthly place for a period of time before coming to heaven, and still others by a sojourn in Hades for a time, as if in prison.(19) In such cases, it may be the experience of fear, or the painful reproach of their conscience, or even the terror of the divine Glory and the uncertainty of their future judgment that will cleanse them of their faults.
   It is here however, that our prayers and works of mercy can be of great avail. If God hears our prayer, He may in some cases remit immediately the sins committed out of human weakness, or in others, He may wait a time before granting forgiveness, or may at least lighten the responsibility for certain sins until the Judgment, at which time He may grant them the reward of the blessed. So it is not impossible that among those who are bound in Hades by their sins, some will find release through our intercession, either before the Judgment, or at it.

Prayer for the Dead
There are several ways in which the Church and the faithful can intercede for the departed. Most importantly, she may offer the holy Sacrifice of the Liturgy on their behalf. Christ’s self-offering on the Cross is the greatest act of intercession that can be made to God, and in the Liturgy this sacrifice is made present, and so our sacrifice and act of intercession is united with His. And there is no greater prayer that one can offer on behalf of their departed friends and relatives than the Liturgy.(20) For this reason it is a custom to send the name of a newly-departed loved one,  along with an offering, to a place where the Liturgy is celebrated daily, usually a monastery, and to ask that for forty days the soul be remembered before God in the Liturgy.(21)
   Aside from this, the Church offers prayers in the form of memorial services, served customarily on the third, ninth, and fortieth days after death, and again after six months and on the anniversary.(22) During these services, kollyva, or boiled wheat, may be offered, and given in charity to those attending the memorial. In addition, it is proper that the friends and relatives remember the departed in their private prayers daily.
   Besides prayer, it is customary also to give alms and do good works in the name of the departed, in order that God would receive these from us on their behalf, and show mercy to them. Indeed, for those for whom the Liturgy cannot be offered, such as catechumens, those outside the Church, and those who died in unrepentant and mortal sin, this is, in addition perhaps to our private prayers, the only help that we can give them.(23) 
   Yet these helps which the living provide will not necessary avail everyone. For those whom these things can help, namely, those who have died in faith and repentance, we believe that they may bring forgiveness of sins, and an increase in bliss and peace. But those whom they cannot help, namely those who have died bereft of faith and unrepentant before God, are without hope. It is possible that the prayers of the Church will bring some respite or comfort to the latter in their suffering, but it is not to be expected that they be delivered from condemnation.(24) But for the saints, of whom the Church is assured that they are in heaven, we do not pray; rather, we give thanks for them and ask for their intercessions.(25)

The Day of the Lord
This intermediate state – the time of expectation wherein prayers avail for the departed – will come to an end with the world, when Jesus Christ returns in glory to judge all mankind. This second advent will be a cataclysmic event: Christ will appear to all in the heavens, which “shall pass away with great violence, and the elements shall be melted with heat, and the earth and the works which are in it, shall be burnt up.”(26) All the dead will be raised up and reclothed in flesh, and soul and body will once again be reunited, nevermore to be separated. This will be the time of the great and final Judgment, a judgment definitive and irrevocable.
   All men, both the just and the wicked, shall appear before Christ, who will separate the sheep from the goats, saying to the one: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, and inherit the Kingdom which hath been prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” and to the other “Depart from me, ye cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”(27) And while those in Paradise will go from joy to joy and glory to glory, certain of finding mercy at the Judgment, it is perhaps not impossible, as we observed above, that some in Hades will also find mercy from Christ and be brought into everlasting bliss at the end.   
   It is at the Last Day that all shall be consummated; all the time before will have been merely a waiting. For only here will the damned inherit their full punishment, and experience everlasting destruction, having been cast into outer darkness with the demons, from which fate may God preserve us all. And only here will the righteous be admitted to the fullness of their reward, and enter into the marriage feast of the Lamb, being ineffably united with Christ forever, and taking boundless delight in His Presence, in the new heaven and the new earth, where God shall be all in all.

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Appendix I – The Latin Doctrine of Purgatory

When examining the Orthodox understanding of the experiences of the soul after its departure from the body, and especially of the nature of the cleansing to which it may be subject, we may ask whether the Orthodox teaching on this matter differs in any way from the Roman Catholic teaching.
    In fact, it does differ, and in important ways. Obviously, there is much in common, as both the Orthodox and Roman Catholics hold that the souls of the departed can be aided by the prayers of the Church, and that their sins may be forgiven, even after death. But as is generally known, the Roman Catholic teaching speaks of a place called Purgatory, a word not used by the Orthodox. And while some correspondence can be found between the Orthodox teaching on the soul after death and the Roman Catholic teaching regarding Purgatory, there are substantial points of disagreement. In particular, there are three characteristics of the traditional Roman Catholic teaching on Purgatory to which the Orthodox object.
    Firstly, the Orthodox do not acknowledge the existence of some third place, which is different from Heaven and from Hades (Hell). As we have seen, it is possible for souls to remain on earth for a time after death before being brought before God, or even to abide in Hades for a duration, until they find release through the mercy of God. But there is no third place to which are sent those presently unfit for Heaven, yet not wholly unrepentant and so destined for eternal punishment. Roman Catholic teaching, which has at times tended to think of Heaven and Hell as finished and completed states, expressly asserts a belief in such a place.(1)
    Secondly, according to the same teaching, this third place is characterized by a temporal and material fire in which the souls of the departed suffer expiatory punishment. The Orthodox know of no such fire. Any reference to a fire in which souls are tormented is a reference to the everlasting fire of Gehenna, into which the damned will depart at the Last Judgment (v. Matt. xxv 41).
    And thirdly, the Orthodox object to the traditional Roman Catholic understanding of the division between guilt and temporal punishment. According to their teaching, the forgiveness of a sin entails the removal of the guilt for the sin (reatus culpae), but not the removal of the punishment for the sin (reatus poenae). With the sin forgiven, the sinner may be freed from eternal punishment, but he must still suffer a temporal retribution. Hence arose the doctrine and system of indulgences in the Roman Catholic church; indulgences remit temporal punishment. But if the sinner did not suffer in this life by means of penance, or did not acquire a sufficient indulgence, then he would have to suffer in Purgatory, so that God’s justice might be satisfied. The Orthodox however, reject the division between guilt and temporal punishment. If a sin is forgiven by God, and so the guilt removed, then any liability to punishment, whether temporal or eternal, is likewise removed.(2)

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Appendix II – The Baptism of Fire

If indeed the Orthodox do not accept the Latin doctrine of Purgatory, then how are we to understand the statements of some of the the Greek fathers – the Cappadocians(1) in particular – which the Latins have used to support their teaching on Purgatory?
   In their writings, both Gregory the Theologian and Gregory of Nyssa do in fact seem to make reference to a ‘purifying fire’, in distinction to the punitive fire of Gehenna.(2) St. Basil too seems to allude to it, when he speaks of our sins being burned away “by the cleansing fire.”(3) What then do we make of these statements? Are we to understand a cleansing fire in the same sense as the Latins?
   It may be that here, the Cappadocian Fathers are influenced by the teachings of Origen, whom they admired, though not uncritically. It is well known that Origen taught an end to the ‘everlasting’ fire of Gehenna, and the eventual and inevitable salvation of all rational beings. This teaching is called the Apokatastasis(4) and, at least in the form given it by Origen, it has been condemned by the Church.(5) Certainly, in some places, this does seem to be what Gregory of Nyssa is speaking of.(6) But that may not be the case in all places in his writings, and it is even more likely that it is not what the other two Cappadocians are alluding to. They may instead be referring to a passage in I Corinthians, and to an eschatological event that is sometimes called the baptism of fire.
  In his vision of the Last Judgment, Daniel beheld the Ancient of Days seated on a throne as judge, and he saw that “a stream of fire issued and came forth from before him.”(7) On that day, according to St. Peter, the whole of the material world will be washed in fire, in which the elements will melt in fervent heat. This is comparable to the deluge of water in the days of Noah, only it is of fire and will affect the whole cosmos – the heavens and the earth.(8) Our Lord himself has said that “everyone will be salted with fire,”(9) and the Apostle Paul taught that on that Day, the works of all men will be tested and revealed by fire.(10)
   These each refer to the Last Day, the Day of the Lord, and it is likely that they all refer in similar manner to the same fire. According to the Apostle, in the third chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians, all men will pass through this fire; if their works are of virtue, then like gold, silver, and precious stones they will pass through it unharmed. If however, their works are of sin, then like wood, hay, and straw, their works will be burned up, though the sinners themselves will survive. This then is a proving fire, as St. Mark of Ephesus has pointed out.(11)
   But according to St. John Chrysostom, when the Apostle says that sinners will survive, he is not saying that they will be delivered from suffering and so, enter the Kingdom, but rather something different: that they will be preserved from annihilation, but only to suffer eternal punishment in this fire.(12) Here it seems, St. John is taking pains to show that this passage does not support the Origenist teaching of an end to Gehenna.
   It may be asked though, what becomes of those who have built on the foundation not only with gold, silver, and precious stones, but also with some wood, straw, or hay as well? Surely some of their work will be burned up, but some will also survive. In fact, St. Basil, in what seems to be a reference to this passage, says that by revealing our sin in confession, “we make it like dry grass fit to be burnt away by the cleansing fire.”(13) If this is so, then it may be that this proving fire can also be a purifying fire, and that some will be cleansed of sin on the Last Day by this universal baptism of fire.
   This should not however, be taken to negate the eternal reality of Gehenna. Some, on account of their sinfulness and lack of repentance will abide forever in this fire of torment, whereas others who have only lesser sins to be cleansed of will be purified and made fit for the Kingdom. This at least, is a possible reading of the passage in First Corinthians, and may explain some of the aforementioned words of the Cappadocian Fathers, which are often taken to refer either to Purgatory in the Latin sense, or to an end to Gehenna.
   But it may be asked how such an interpretation differs from the Latin doctrine of Purgatory. While it does allow for a purging fire, still it refers neither to a third place nor to a different, intermediate fire, but only to that fire of Judgment manifested on the Last Day. For the Latins, it seems, the fire of purgatory exists only up until the Last Day (and not on it), and so is a different fire than that of the Judgment. In this, as on some other points of contention between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, there seems, at least superficially, to be little substantial disagreement. Where the Roman Catholics seem often to err however, is by attempting to be too precise on the one hand, and by making distinctions where none exist, on the other.

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Death and the Judgment of Man

[1] That is not to say the soul is uncreated, but is so created by God to for ever remain in existence, and never to pass away into nothingness.
[2]For a further discussion of this twofold definition of death, see Homily 31 of St. Gregory Palamas, where he treats at length the cause and nature of death.
[3] St. Gregory of Nyssa says that Hades is not so much a place as an “invisible and incorporeal condition of life, in which the soul lives” (On the Soul & the Resurrection, 5)
[4] “Even after death our souls … fell to [the Devil’s] lot and he dragged them down into Hades, and shut them up in seemingly inescapable prisons,” St. Gregory Palamas, Homily xvi 25. It should not be supposed that this means however, that the righteous of the Old Covenant were given into the hand of the Evil One, or that they were in torment. They dwelt in Hades, but we must suppose that they enjoyed some measure of comfort and peace, for they were said to live in the Bosom of Abraham (v. Luke xvi 19-31; cf. Alfeyev, Christ the Conqueror of Hell, pp. 29, 50, 83, 87-8). This denotes a place different from that of the wicked, and shows that they received some kind of consolation from God. Nevertheless, they were still captives who lived in eager expectation of the coming of the Messiah, whose advent would herald a new age not for the living only, but also for the dead. After Christ’s coming, the Bosom of Abraham often came to be used for the dwelling of the righteous with God, and so became synonymous with Paradise and Heaven. See below, fn. 13.
[5] Cf. Ps. lxxxvii 6; 1 Peter iii 19 & iv 6. 
[6] Cf. Luke xxiii 43.
[7] Cf. Rom. iii 9-18; 23; v 6, 8, 10; Eph. ii 1-5.
[8] Cf. Rom. vi 6; 2 Cor. v 17; Eph. iv 22, 24; Col. iii 9-10.
[9] James iv 4.
[10] v. 1 John v 16-17. Also called mortal sin, this refers to sin of such severity that in committing it, we abandon God, and our relationship with Him is broken. Adultery, murder, and apostasy are the extreme, though certainly not the only, examples. cf. the twentieth chapter of the book of Leviticus, which details what is often referred to as the ‘Holiness Code’, and also St. Nikodemus’ discussion of mortal sin in his Exomologetarion, ch. 3.
[11] This particular facet of the Church’s teaching has provoked a measure of controversy in recent years. But whatever may be said, it is a universally-established teaching in both patristic literature and in the hymns of the Church. See the discussions in the following books: The Mystery of Death, pp. 381-92; The Soul After Death pp. 64-84; Life After Death, pp. 62-80. There the reader will find a presentation of the patristic testimony on this subject. cf. also The Life of St. Anthony 65 & 66; Bede's The Lives of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow, ch. 14; and the Prayer of St. Mardarius, found in the service of the Midnight Office, and appointed to be recited on Saturday, the day specially dedicated to the dead.
[12] v. the words of St. Peter, in Acts x 34: “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Yet to die outside of the Church remains a frightening prospect nonetheless. It is to die in a state contrary to God’s will (who desires that all men be joined to the Church, the body of His beloved Son), as part only of the ‘Old Man’ destined for condemnation, and so bereft of the aid the Church can afford the faithful.
[13] Though we refer to them as places, it is helpful to understand them also as states of being, or spiritual states (without denying however, the spatial connotation); v. fn. 3 above.
[14] Cf. Nicholas Cabasilas’ Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, chapter 43, and the Third of the Kneeling Prayers from the Vespers on the day of Pentecost. Paradise is the place of spiritual delight provided by God as man’s home when he was first created, and which was reopened to man after the sacrifice of Christ. We can also say the righteous abide in Heaven, because this is the dwelling place of God and of His holy angels, with whom the righteous live. Regarding the Bosom of Abraham, see footnote 4 above.
[15] cf. the vision of Drycthelm, found in the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History Book 5, Chapter 12.
[16] v. Rev. vi 9-11. cf. also II Esdras vii 70-140; though not a canonical book, it is an early source for the teaching about the intermediate state of both the righteous and wicked, and of their anticipation of the Day of the Lord.
[17] e.g., v. II Maccabees vii 42-46.
[18] For the views of St, Mark, see his two homilies Against the Purgatorial Fire, delivered during the debates at the Council of Ferrara-Florence. They were written in answer to the Latin doctrine of purgatory, and provide a balanced and concise summary of the Orthodox teaching regarding the intermediate state and the benefit of prayer for the dead. They are the source for much of the present section. A partial translation of them can be found in Fr. Seraphim Rose’s book, The Soul After Death, pp. 199-213.
[19] For an instance of the soul remaining in an earthly place for an appointed time (mentioned by St. Mark in his First Homily Against Purgatorial Fire, 1), see St. Gregory the Dialogist, Pope of Rome, in his Dialogues 4: 42 & 57. It should be noted that this does not imply that there can be any contact between the living and those souls of the departed which remain on earth, unless God Himself allows it for a specific purpose, as is the case in the Dialogues.
[20] According to St. John Chrysostom, it was not in vain that the Apostles decreed “that in the awesome Mysteries remembrance should be made of the departed. They knew that here there was much gain, much benefit. For when the entire people stands with hands uplifted, a priestly assembly, and that awesome sacrificial Victim is laid out, how, when we are calling upon God, should we not succeed in their defense” Homilies on Philippians 3, 4; cf. also Tertullian On Monogamy 10, 1; St. Cyril of Jerusalem Mystagogic Catechesis 5, 9 & 10; St. Augustine Sermon 172, 2; Enchiridion 29.
[21] This is known in Greek as the Serandaleitourgia, or “Forty Liturgies”.
[22] According to some, after three and nine months as well.
[23] v. St. John Chrysostom, Homily 31, On Death. For those of our friends and relatives that fall into this category, we may, among other things, read the prayer known as the Akathist for the Departed.
[24] This is not to say that there is no hope for such a thing, but that the Church can give no official sanction to such a hope. There are a few instances in the lives of certain saints where their prayers did avail to free some pagans from their condemnation in Hades, e.g., the lives of the Protomartyr Thekla, the martyr Varus, and the Pope of Rome, Gregory the Dialogist. It should be noted that the Church prays publicly for those in Hades every Pentecost. The petition is found in the Third of the Kneeling Prayers recited during Vespers on the day of the Feast, and it reads: “Lord, … who also, on this all-perfect and saving feast, dost deign to receive oblations and supplications for those bound in hades, and grantest unto us the great hope that respite and comfort will be sent down from thee to the departed from the grief that doth bind them…” And though this comfort in suffering which our prayers can bring to the damned seems to us a small and transitory thing, it may seem a great thing to them.
[25] v. Sts. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures 23.5.9) and Nicholas Cabasilas (Commentary on the Divine Liturgy 49).
[26] II Peter iii 10.
[27] Matt. xxv 31-46.

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Appendix I - The Latin Doctrine of Purgatory

[1] v. p. 6 above.
[2] At least, it has informally, if not strictly dogmatically. While the new Catechism of the Catholic Church (¶ 1030-1032) does not define Purgatory as a ‘place’, and so shows a reticence in describing the nature of Purgatory, the Roman Catholics seem to have been emphatic about the nature of Purgatory as a separate place in past discussions with the Orthodox, such as at Florence, where St. Mark of Ephesus refuted the Roman Catholic doctrine. Of course, if there is a cleansing fire (and the Catechism is specific about this), then there must be some ‘place’ in which that fire exists – a place separate from both Heaven and Hades. It is worth noting however, that in the Roman church’s most ancient prayers, deliverance is sought from Hades only, with no mention being made of any third place. For instance, see the following prayer, from the offertory from the Mass for the Dead:

Domine Jesu Christe, Rex gloriae, libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de poenis inferni, et de profundo    lacu: libera eas de ore leonis, ne absorbeat eas tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum: sed signifer sanctus Michael repraesentet eas in lucem sanctam: Quam olim Abrahae promisisti, et semini ejus.

(O Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell, and from the deep pit: deliver them from the mouth of the lion, lest tartarus shut them up, lest they fall into darkness: but let thy standard-bearer, St. Michael lead them into the holy light: which thou didst once promise to Abraham and to his seed.)

[3] Of course, the Orthodox do admit that souls may undergo a process of purification, intended to cleanse them of the inclination to sin, and the longing for and attachment to passionate pleasure. But this is not to be thought of in the same way as the Roman Catholic understanding of temporal punishment. As one author remarks: “Someone who dies in a state of genuine repentance, but who is in other aspects ill-prepared to come face to face with God, may well require to undergo purification after his death, and this purification may cause him suffering; but it makes no sense to say that he is undergoing punishment for the sins that God in his mercy has already forgiven.” (Ware, Kallistos. “One Body in Christ: Death and the Communion of Saints”, author’s emphasis).

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Appendix II - The Baptism of Fire

[1] The ‘Cappadocians’ are Sts. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian (Nazianzus), and Gregory of Nyssa.
[2] See for instance, St. Gregory the Theologian, Or. 39: 19; 40: 9, 36. And St Gregory of Nyssa, On the Soul and Resurrection, pp. 83-6; 115-16; 119-21 (page numbers refer to edition publ. by St. Valdimir’s Press); but cf. his Catechetical Oration, 35.
[3] If indeed the citation is to be trusted. Cited in The Orthodox Eastern Church, by Adrian Fortescue, p. 106.
[4] This words means simply “Restoration” and can refer simply to the restoration of creation on the Last Day. Often however, it is used in a technical way to refer to the notion of universal salvation. This latter sense emphasized the reformative nature of punishment as opposed to the retributive. According to Archbishop Hilarion (Alfeyev), this was developed by St. Isaac the Syrian in the East, whereas in the West, it helped inspire the development of the doctrine of Purgatory (v. his Christ the Conqueror of Hell, p. 48, fn. 30).
[5] At the 5th Ecumenical Council, II Constantinople (551).
[6] v. for instance, Cat. Or. 26.
[7] Dan. vii 10. cf. also Ps. 49:4 & 96:3.
[8] cf. II Pet. iii 7, 10, 12.
[9] Mark ix 49.
[10] I Cor. iii 10-15.
[11] v. his 1st Homily Against Purgatorial Fire, 5.
[12] v. his Homily 9 on 1st Corinthians. The word usually translated “saved” in English Bibles, can also mean “preserved” in Greek. It is in this latter sense that Chrysostom understands this word.
[13] See note 3 above.