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Suicide, heaven and hell


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#101 Anna Stickles

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 01:17 AM

Thank you Andreas, I was thinking that I was probably leaving things open for misinterpretation but what you said is what I had in mind. 

 

We hate and condemn our impotent and sin-stained soul but we love the image in which we are created and pray for our salvation.  We love our neighbour as our self inasmuch as we pray for his salvation likewise.


#102 Owen Jones

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 01:42 AM

This issue of how the Church should treat suicides is not some discreet, unique issue.  It's the same issue as the typical response to the God of the Old Testament as being an angry, wrathful, punishing vengeful God.  This is the conclusion of people who try to read Scripture objectively instead of from the spiritual angle, that is, how is it speaking directly to their souls.  This of course was Jesus' argument with the Pharisees.  They objectified it and accepted it literally.  Liberals these days, for example, objectify it and reject it.  But when God is saying, "vengeance is mine," what he is saying to us directly is that we do not need to seek vengeance against those who have harmed us in order to set things right.  That's God's job and we are not God.  They are actually the words of a very kind, forgiving, loving, caring God who says to us, vengeance is mine and you do not have to worry about that. I will take care of that.  You just try your best to live according to my precepts. 



#103 Yolanda

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 09:10 AM

Maccabees II 14: 37 Now was there accused unto Nicanor one Razis, one of the elders of Jerusalem, a lover of his countrymen, and a man of very good report, who for his kindness was called a father of the Jews. 38 For in the former times, when they mingled not themselves with the Gentiles, he had been accused of Judaism, and did boldly jeopard his body and life with all vehemency for the religion of the Jews. 39 So Nicanor, willing to declare the hate that he bare unto the Jews, sent above five hundred men of war to take him: 40 For he thought by taking him to do the Jews much hurt. 41 Now when the multitude would have taken the tower, and violently broken into the outer door, and bade that fire should be brought to burn it, he being ready to be taken on every side fell upon his sword; 42 Choosing rather to die manfully, than to come into the hands of the wicked, to be abused otherwise than beseemed his noble birth: 43 But missing his stroke through haste, the multitude also rushing within the doors, he ran boldly up to the wall, and cast himself down manfully among the thickest of them. 44 But they quickly giving back, and a space being made, he fell down into the midst of the void place. 45 Nevertheless, while there was yet breath within him, being inflamed with anger, he rose up; and though his blood gushed out like spouts of water, and his wounds were grievous, yet he ran through the midst of the throng; and standing upon a steep rock, 46 When as his blood was now quite gone, he plucked out his bowels, and taking them in both his hands, he cast them upon the throng, and calling upon the Lord of life and spirit to restore him those again, he thus died.

#104 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 10:13 AM

I don't think is anywhere any approval of this and St Augustine condemns it.



#105 Anna Stickles

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 02:02 PM

Owen, I think you are right in saying that the same underlying issues of a wrong idea of God's judgement are present. But I don't see much in the ascetical literature about "objectifying" rather what I see is that we are called to observe without judgment - neither condemning nor excusing others but rather keeping our mind on our own sin.  Its a matter of recognizing that we have to train ourselves to see things and respond mentally and emotionally to things differently. 

 

I have been reading Dostoyevsky lately. The internal state leading to murder, or suicide, or other sin(sensuality and greed also)  is one of the themes he explores.  He has a wonderful way of portraying the damage that sinners are doing to themselves in terms of how buying into damaging thoughts and yielding to various passions has such serious consequences in terms of the captivity it creates and the damage it does to the ability of the person to live a stable, rational, and happy life.     .... And yet he does this with such sympathy for the sinner. None of his characters is completely lacking in some place where a little virtue can be seen in the midst of the general smog. There is always someone who is loving this sinner, and usually suffering because of their love.  

 

And yet sympathy never turns into sentimental excuses that ignore sin's evilness. The sinner is being punished by the dissolute and weakened state his yielding to sin has led him to - and yet it is precisely then -  when people are actively sinning, often knowing exactly what they are doing, even willingly doing wrong, and yet at the same time unable to stop themselves and often tormented by their own conscience and a warped sense of their own unworthiness, and the knowledge of their own weakened condition of mind and will, that we find Dostoyevsky's heroes having the most sympathy.

 

In this Dostoyevsky never makes the sinner a victim of sin, but rather portrays the personal responsibility each person has for the state they are in. It is a different kind of sympathy then the "poor so and so" sympathy that wants to take away all suffering or make excuses that the person isn't really guilty. It entirely lacks the mindset of wanting the sinner to get off scott free as what it means for God to forgive. Rather it recognizes that "without punishment forgiveness maybe be impossible."  

 

The quote above is from "Everyday Saints" by Arch Tikhon from a story that Fr John Krestiankin shared from his childhood. Fr John was about 12 and his archbishop, who was a kind and loving man and was eventually martyred for his faith once, on Forgiveness Sun drove out of his monastery two of its inhabitants. "He did this publicly and with great authority, firmly keeping all others from any temptations of even associating with them. Immediately afterwards he pronounced the words of forgiveness for the Sun of Forgiveness and asked forgiveness from all and for all....My still youthful conscience was totally shocked by what I had just seen, because of the utter contrast; on the one hand, and act of driving out from the monastery, in other words the absence of any forgiveness, and yet on the other hand, his meek plea for forgiveness for himself and others from all and to all. At the time I only understood one thing; that sometimes punishment can be the beginning of forgiveness, and that without punishment forgiveness may be impossible. ..."  

 

Fr John Krestiankin grew up to become a well known elder in Russia, the image of Elder Paisios in Greece. And as I read this story I reflected on how rather then allowing his shocked conscience to lead him into condemning his archbishop for hypocrisy, he kept faith in the grace of the priesthood, and the man he knew, and therefore he was open to learn this lesson.

 

But I also think that what sometimes happens is we impute to God our own mean spirit and see his punishments as harsh rather then as appropriate to our person. Society teaches us that punishment is meeted out according to the deed, while God meets out punishment according to His perfect knowledge of one's soul.

 



 


Edited by Anna Stickles, 31 May 2013 - 02:04 PM.


#106 Owen Jones

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 05:11 PM

The Fathers don't point to a problem of objectifying Scripture in quite the same terms, because that's a problem that develops over time in "Western" philosophical history.  But I think they say the same thing only in different terminology.  With respect to the problem of treating Scriptural teachings and concepts in a way that objectifies them, by that I mean that they are not objects of cognition from a detached objective observer who sees himself as extrinsic to the reality that he aprehends.  In simpler terms, ideas have no separate existence of their own, least of all Biblical ideas.  And yet that has been the conclusion of "Western" theology and philosophy since probably before the Great Schism.  So ideas are treated as objects which permits the thinker to treat them "objectively."  That's what I meant by the term.

 

And so, as a result, when we hear things like, vengeance is mine saith the Lord, or passages that focus on harsh Divine judgment, and treat them as objectively so apart from the human and spiritual contexts, and treat them as "objectively" true apart from that context and experience, we do violence to the text, and to the spiritual message it conveys.  I think that resistence to the Church's canons on things like suicide, for example, looking at it in this "objective" manner, makes the Church out, and God Himself, to be angry, judgmental, mean spirited, lacking in compassion, etc. etc.  And so one who looks at it in this manner has some tough choices to make --- he rejects God and Christianity, or at least the Christian God and tries to be "spiritual" through some kind of amorphous process of self realization.  Or he tries to continue to embrace Christianity while asserting that a lot of the teachings are culturally influenced by a more barbaric and primitive culture and so those things we don't like according to modern culture we can just throw out.  Instead of trying to struggle with it spiritually, with an obedient frame of mind. 



#107 Lakis Papas

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 11:18 PM

I recall that when Christianity appeared on earth there were dozens of religions with vengeful gods full of "barbaric and primitive culture". Christ revealed a religion that is personal. Personal in the sense that religious rules find meaning only to the extent that persons are revealed authentically. For example the thief on the cross was saved, but this salvation is meaningful only when the authentic character of the saved one is revealed. The vengeful God who set various rules against theft, then forgives a thief simply because of his  simple request: "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom"!
 
So, what is important is the authenticity! There is no other human condition that brings a man in a more authentic situation than being at step of death. Like the thief on the cross, every man who is about to die and maintains his sanity is a genuine (non-pretending) person. Then, for this person the rules of God are finding their true personal meaning. Not as legislation, but as invitation addressed to authentic person to accept Christ's kingdom. 
 
A person who is going to commit suicide goes through this condition of authenticity. I think that for this person the rules of God have a genuine personal meaning. I think it is so personal, that this meaning can not be classified and explained with words. I think it is an analogous situation to that of a martyr who accepts death in Christ (the analogy refers to the authenticity of the act). We accept martyrdom as evidence of holiness because the authenticity of the martyr (an authenticity derived from the oncoming death) attests that he understands in a personal way the meaning of the "law of God" and accepts it. So, a martyr accepts to die "in Christ" as an authentic person.
 
Likewise, a person committing suicide has no reason to play a role at that moment (providing that he maintains his sanity). Thus, it is also an authentic person. I dare to say that the whole orthodox ascetic practice has that goal: to realize who is our authentic self, so that we may understand the true personal meaning of the "commandments of God" and accept them. A person that commits suicide has just succeeded the first part of ascetic life: being authentic and understanding the personal meaning of the "commandments of God". Then, why does he complete his attempt? I think, because for those who commit suicide, while maintaining their sanity, the true personal meaning of God's commandments is not convincing enough. This is a satanic condition, just like Satan is an authentic person that understands the personal meaning of the "commandments of God" and rejects them.
 
I think that suicide is the most evil action when perfomed by a person that maintains his sanity. I also think most people do not maintain their sanity while coming to suicide. An example of a man who committed suicide having a sane mind was http://en.wikipedia....itris_Liantinis

Edited by Lakis Papas, 31 May 2013 - 11:22 PM.


#108 Deborah Valentine

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 06:50 PM

My understanding is that you can not be outside the love of God.  A person can chose to have their eyes closed and not see and the flame of God's love burns instead of enlightens.  Our understanding of hell is different than it is in the West.

 

I would hope that anyone who carries enough pain to take their own lives could be counselled and comforted before they do. It is extremely painful for those who are left.

 

It is clear that the Orthodox Church is standing in judgment because suicide is clearly against the canons of the Church.  She should never condone or celebrate suicide just treat it with compassion.



#109 Father David Moser

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 09:21 PM

My understanding is that you can not be outside the love of God.  A person can chose to have their eyes closed and not see and the flame of God's love burns instead of enlightens.

 

While there is nothing "false" about this idea, there has been some significant misapplication of it in recent years.  The popular essay "Rivier of Fire" is a good example of this misapplication.  Hell is not just a different experience of God as an all consuming fire (although there is an element of that) it is in fact a different "place" or condition as well.  When we take this idea that hell is just a different way of experienceing God's love, we also have to be very cautious about how that idea is applied and interpreted.

 

 


It is clear that the Orthodox Church is standing in judgment because suicide is clearly against the canons of the Church.  She should never condone or celebrate suicide just treat it with compassion

.

Suicide is not just "against the canons of the Church" it is in fact a recapitulation of the original sin - of trying to take the place of God.  A person who ends their own life has become so wrapped up in themselves that they have given up any hope or reliance upon God's love.  They take their lives into their own hands and by killing themselves, they separate themselves from any possiblity of God's providence.  They have chosen to take from God the right to give and take away life and have appropriated that divine privilege for themselves.  The element of suicide that places it outside the realm of other sin is that it is not possible to repent for in the very act of suicide a person has removed from themselves the ability to repent (for repentance must be an act of the whole person - body and soul).

 

Because a person who has suicided has alienated themselves from the Church, they can no longer be given the sacraments until they repent (which possibility they have removed from themselves) and so they cannot be given a "Church funeral" or be buried in sanctified ground ( a privilege given only to those who are within the Church).  Until they have stood before the throne of God and received their paricular judgement, we are not permitted to pray for them (but after the 40 days, generally it is permitted to serve the memorial (pannykhida) service and to remember that person in the proskomedia.

 

It is no different (other than perhaps the suddenness of the act) for the loved ones than the situation that those who are related to/friends with someone who has renounced their faith or aposticized and has chosen to separate themselves from the Church in this life.  We who know them and love them grieve for them, we are tormented by their situation, but until and unless they repent, we cannot "force" them back into the Church - we cannot force the Mysteries down their throat (even though we think it might do them good - or even if it might make us feel comforted that they at least received communion).  We have to have compassion on our brethren who are caught in this difficult situation and pray for the "lost" person that God will have mercy on them, just as we would for those who grieve the loss of a suicide and remember the "lost" person in our private prayers. 

 

Fr David Moser



#110 Nina

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Posted 08 July 2013 - 02:18 AM

 

 


So according to you there are two possibilities: I'm wrong about God, or I'm wrong about the story. Which do you think it is? Because my view of God is that He is merciful and judges according to the heart, and that such a God would not condemn a miserable, tormented servant to hell because of one desperate decision he made, that he thought would end his suffering. And my understanding of the story is that this is what precisely happened, according to St. Nephon -- who by the way lived in the 15th century, not the 4th.

 

The book starts thus: "During the time of Constantine the Great, a nobleman of the royal palace, named Savatios, was living in Constantinople..."  And goes on to say how Savatios helped child Nephon to go to Constantinople and receive education. There are different Saint Nephons. This particular one lived in the 4th century.

 

Saint Nephon's vision does not contain God's judgment about the soul of the servant. We just learn of what happens if we commit suicide. Saint Nephon probably also prayed and fasted for that soul after the vision because of love and compassion for that soul, and if His Saint is capable of that love, God loves His children even more. 


Edited by Nina, 08 July 2013 - 02:22 AM.


#111 Alice

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Posted 08 July 2013 - 05:33 PM

Not to take this very important thread off track, but it is good to see Nina here again, as she is very knowledgeable about Orthodoxy, and especially Orthodox saints.... and she always edifies with her knowledge and sweet nature.

 

May God bless you dearest Nina,and please continue to find time to share your light with us on this forum. :-)

 

Your sister in Christ,

Alice


Edited by Alice, 08 July 2013 - 05:34 PM.


#112 Paul Cowan

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 01:05 AM

Agreed. Have missed you greatly Nina

 

Paul



#113 Kosta

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 02:23 AM

I haven't seen anyone bring up the effect suicide has on the living family and friends. A mature Orthodox Christian will not fret whether the suicide victim has an Orthodox funeral or not, sometimes it is a reminder that we failed our brother or sister. It is not our phronema to pout about that which our forefathers and mothers deemed proper.

One of my closest friends killed himself about three years ago. He was not mentally ill, wasn't ever known to have suffered from depression. Had always put on the facade that life was great, never lacked company, was known as a lady's man, never seemed like he had money troubles. But at the end of the day we all turned a blind eye. We didn't want to ask why he needed so many guns 'for protection', when the warning signs came, we refused to intervene because we were cowards and didn't want to get caught up in whatever he was doing. So he slid from a former altar boy into the belly of the beast right before our very eyes. The GOARCH did allow a funeral for him with instruction from the priest that it is now up to us to pray for him because he no longer can.

Edited by Kosta, 09 July 2013 - 02:25 AM.





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