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#21 Guest_Boulos

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Posted 08 October 2005 - 03:43 PM

In Psalm 35 for example is one of many references which also reflects about toll gates. (p35:11)

In Christ.


#22 Guest_S. John

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 05:39 PM

Greetings!

I have a question concerning the toll houses and what happens to those debts owed when one becomes Baptised and Chrismated. As I am studying up for my Baptism I am reading that when this act happens that "the old man" (who would have been the one who committed the sins?) is put to death and I put on the New Man (complete with a new name).

In this context, if I was able to have fully repented of any old sins, would not the act of Baptism, Chrismation, true repentance and asking of forgiveness of sins I might commit as a Christiam, and the regular participation in the Mysteries have an effect on my passage through the toll houses? I recently purchased Fr. Seraphim's book on the topic but have only read one chapter so far.

Thanks for any comments on the above.

God Bless,
Stephen

#23 Guest_Hieromonk Ambrose

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 12:40 AM

I'd like to post, with permission, Juretta Heckscher's message on the toll-houses.

Click here for Original web page...

Thu May 1, 2003 7:08 am

Toll Houses: dogma, a logic of damnation, and taking the implications seriously

To judge by this and other discussions on other Orthodox lists I'vebeen involved in, the topic of the toll-houses is a perennial source of agitation.

In fairness, I must say frankly that I remain deeply sceptical of the toll-house belief, at least as I understand to be its fully developed form: (a) that after death each person enters into a series of terrifying accusatory encounters with demons, who in each of many successive "toll houses" or trials (b) test him to find whether he has been guilty of a specific type of sin, and ( c ) if they find him guilty (i.e., not having repented and been absolved) of any one of those sins, take him to Hell to await the Last Judgment; in addition, I understand that (d) the demons also try to tempt him to surrender to sin even in death so that they may take him to Hell even if his earthly life alone has not altogether warranted it. (My comments below however pertain to the belief whether or not part (d) is considered to be part of it.) Nevertheless, despite my scepticism, I really do remain open to persuasion on the subject, and am posting this message in that spirit.

Fr. Ambrose and Steve Marin have strikingly raised the possibility that the toll-house belief, though acknowledgedly not dogma or doctrine, seems to be developing into such in some parts of the Orthodox Church. With that insight in mind, I pose the following interrelated questions to Father John and others who accept the belief in the toll houses. I do so respectfully and in a sincere spirit of inquiry, not wishing to score "points" but truly to understand the beliefs of others, and their full implications, as I struggle with this concept myself. My basic contention--of which I am happy to be disabused--is that the toll-house belief cannot be optional, cannot be theologoumenon: if it has any validity, it must be recognized as dogma, because it presents a logic that significantly modifies certain essential elements of Orthodox understanding.

1. The question of dogma, or doctrine. If the toll-houses are real, how can they not be dogma? For any one of us as individuals, the difference between (1) knowing that we will live and die as sinners but must nevertheless struggle in all our imperfection to repent and trust joyfully in God's mercy, looking forward eagerly to meeting Him "face to face" after death, and (2), alternatively, knowing that despite God's will for us, any sin that remains on our souls at death is sufficient to doom us to Hell in the company of our demonic adjudicators, is more than a matter of life and death; it is a matter of eternal life and eternal death. It is the difference between dying in realistic sorrow for one's sins yet realistic joyful trust in God and dying in realistic terror of the decisive demonic trials that are to come. It is the difference, in other words, between having ultimate hope in spite of all that we have done and having ultimate terror in spite of all that Christ has done. So I ask: how can a belief with such all-important consequences not be regarded as dogma? Why has there not been more of an effort to have this belief recognized as such? (By contrast, one must at least do the Roman Church the justice to acknowledge that once Catholics came to believe in Purgatory, they were right to recognize its momentous importance and enshrine it as dogma.) Perhaps the "development of dogma/doctrine" problem that Fr. Ambrose and Steve Marin identify in relation to the toll houses is in fact not a problem but a welcome step necessary to complete the Orthodox understanding of salvation and damnation, much as St. Gregory Palamas's defense of Hesychasm completed the Orthodox understanding of the nature of theosis.

2. The question of our sinful nature. As Orthodox, we know--intellectually at first, perhaps, but also eventually in our hearts, as we continue to struggle spiritually--that our sinfulness is more than a matter of specific sins; it is a matter of a condition of sinfulness, a constant state of blindness and self-centeredness that keeps us from loving God and others as we are called to do, and that guarantees that even a few seconds after receiving absolution, we will almost certainly have sinned again, if only by not being fully aware of the beauty and lovableness of the first person we meet as we walk out of church after confession. We sin, yes, but in some ways the deeper problem is that we sin because we are sinful. (Those better than I at memorizing Scripture can here supply the appropriate Pauline texts.) How does the belief in the toll houses, with its affirmation of specific trials for specific areas of sin, address this understanding that the real problem is in some sense not "sins" but sinfulness; not so much (except in obvious dire cases, such as murder) any particular act committed or omitted, but our very condition; not the parts, but the whole that is more--or, perhaps, less--than the sum of the parts?

3. The question of the nature of God's justice in contrast with human and demonic justice (and here I do not mean primarily the very problematic "fact" that in the toll houses it is the demons who judge us, the demons who execute Divine justice). God's justice, as St. Isaac the Syrian says, has almost nothing to do with human justice; what is "just" about His sacrificial love for us? What is "just" about the halting and reluctant steps of the Prodigal being met by the outpouring of forgiveness and generosity from his father? (One thinks also of the profound Russian folktale Dostoevsky recounts in The Brothers Karamazov, about the woman in Hell who was almost released from it because she had once shared an onion with a beggar--but at the last minute she claimed the onion as hers exclusively, and so slipped back into Hell.) Such an understanding turns the toll-house belief on its head: the toll houses tell us that one unrepented sin is enough to damn us; the Gospels, St. Isaac (among many others), and the theological wisdom of traditional Russian culture tell us that God seeks endlessly to find some way to save us, and suggest that one spontaneous act of love or repentance can give Him the lever He longs to find to release us into His mercy. How can these two beliefs be reconciled?

4. The question of the nature of Hell. In accordance with our bedrock belief in God's absolute love, at the heart of Orthodox Tradition concerning Hell is the radical insight of St. Isaac and others (including St. Paul, as in the great passage in Romans 8 about how nothing can separate us from the love of Christ) that Hell is the condition of being so opposed to God in one's inward being that the fire of His love is experienced as torment. (See the justly famous article by Dr. Alexandre Kalomiros, "The River of Fire," for a modern exposition of this understanding.) This belief does indeed seem to recognize that the problem is not so much any individual sin, determinative though such can be, as the sum of sinfulness or unsinfulness that shapes the ultimate condition of the person for eternity: in the end, in my inmost heart, am I fundamentally turned toward God, however incompletely and despite my sinfulness and failings, or am I fundamentally opposed to Him, despite whatever superficial gestures I may have made in the direction of righteousness? That is the difference between salvation and damnation, between knowing Love as torment and knowing Love as joy. As an Orthodox, I have always found this belief stunningly clear and compelling. But how then can one reconcile such a belief with the toll-house belief and its teaching that whatever the fundamental orientation of the person, he (or she) may indeed be sentenced to Hell if the demons find him guilty in any specific area of sin?

5. The question of the nature of sin. By the same token, doesn't the toll-house belief teach us to see sin not as "missing the mark" (the literal translation of the Greek hamartia)--that is, as a misdirection of energies against Love, as the Fathers taught--but as a series of legal infractions for which we will be legally accountable? (See Christos Yannaras's brilliant work The Freedom of Morality for an exposition of the Orthodoxy of the former understanding and the heterodoxy of the latter.) And is it not just such juridical legalism for which Orthodox take Roman Catholics so heavily to task? Yet the whole problematic realm of Catholic teaching on this subject--merits, indulgences, expiatory suffering in Purgatory, and so forth--at least expounds a logic of salvation, however imperfectly conceived; the toll houses, by contrast, expound a logic of damnation.

6. The question of the meaning of the Resurrection. In the shadow of the toll houses, what is the meaning of the Resurrection for any one of us? The demons of the toll houses will try us for sin after sin, and if we are found guilty in any one of the "houses" of trial, we are damned. I would venture to say that this makes it very likely that most of us will be damned, and almost certain if we die in any state other than that of immediate and complete repentance, confession, and absolution. (We might wish to argue that prayers for the dead can release them from Hell up until the Last Judgement, but to make that the usual means of salvation would be to replace Christ's saving sacrifice with the Church's saving prayer as the decisive soteriological element in the destiny of most human beings.) Most of humanity, even most Orthodox, will therefore go to the demons; Hell will be teeming, and Heaven the abode of the rare few, the righteous remnant. (Even should I have any reason to suppose that I myself may be able to elude the demons, I can at death look with sober confidence on all whom I love in this world in the safe assumption that I am parting from them forever, that nearly all human love will founder in oblivion on the rock of Divine and demonic justice as the vast sinning majority of mankind is consigned to eternal fire: such is the logic of the toll houses.) Of course, it is not necessary to believe in the toll houses to believe that most people will be damned--most American Protestants, for example, have historically believed this--but the toll-house belief does seem to present the problem to Orthodox Christians in the starkest terms.

What then is the nature of our confidence in Christ's Resurrection? Is it not simply the affirmation of a metaphysical possibility that we know full well is unlikely to be realized in our own lives or those of nearly all others? Perhaps so; perhaps that is the final meaning of Christ's pronouncement that "many are called, but few are chosen."

But if this be true, what in the world do we do with our Paschal proclamations, with St. Paul's confident joy, with the joyful assurance of salvation that permeated the early Church, with the historical fact that it was belief in the momentous significance of the Resurrection that ignited the spread of Christianity from its earliest days? Why did St. Serafim of Sarov typically greet visitors with the words "my joy, Christ is Risen!," if the unspoken corollary was, "--but in truth, you are probably damned anyway"? Why did St. Silouan of Mt. Athos declare that "Love could not bear" to see anyone in Hell? As Fr. Ambrose reminded us, St. John Chrysostom's Paschal Homily proclaims, "let none fear death, for the death of the Savior has set us free"--but, however much we may struggle with our weakness, if we do so honestly we will know our perennial failure to avoid sin, and if we believe in the toll houses we must therefore face death, if it is not simultaneous with complete confession and absolution, in a state of abject terror. ( Let us hope therefore to die in an Orthodox home or an Orthodox hospital so that our appropriate terror may not discourage unbelievers from joining the Church.)

So I ask again: Why does the Resurrection seem to mean so much to us Orthodox if its effect on the eternal state of any one of us is likely to be nil?

Of course I am fully aware of the teachings throughout our Tradition, but particularly in Christ's parables and in the writings of ascetics throughout the ages, that counsel us to be mindful always of the nearness of death and therefore of the very real possibility that any of our acts or thoughts may turn us decisively from God and onto the path toward Hell. But it has always seemed to me that this is a matter of taking our eternal course seriously and recognizing the eternal implications of all our acts, whether loving or evil, trivial or momentous: it is not that we are to be terrified of being caught breaking the rules even at the last moment, as the toll-house belief would teach us, but that we are to recognize that our lives unceasingly weave a pattern which points us toward eternal life or eternal death, and that death itself is the symbol and gateway of our passage into eternity.

Yet Orthodoxy surely also teaches that such constant repentant awareness of death can only be understood and lived aright if it is paradoxically infused and balanced with an absolute, unreasonable, unjust, unshakable, and entire trust and confidence in Christ's love, in His mercy, and in the truth that His Death and Resurrection have indeed opened for us the gates of the Kingdom in spite of all that we have done and will forever do to hang Him upon the Cross. My human logic cannot resolve that paradox, but I have always believed that as an Orthodox Christian I must hold to it with my last breath and therefore refuse to despair even as I acknowledge my endless sins. The teaching about the toll houses, however, seems to me to tilt the balance-beam of anguish and trust decisively in the direction of anguish; it seems to me to replace the realism of Paschal joy with a realism of terror; it seems to me to make the demons, rather than Christ Himself, the mediator(s) between God and man after death; and it seems to me to make the decisive encounter after death not that between the person and God but that between the person and demons. And it seems to me to make participation in Christ's Resurrection a faint hope; a gallant belief to be maintained for strategic purposes against all odds, perhaps, but one that is very, very unlikely to be realized.

Please understand, again, that I am not raising these questions facetiously; I am truly struggling to understand how a belief that seems to me redolent of the imagination (though not of course of the specific tenets) of Calvinism, and more portentous in its exacting legalism than the most legalistic elements of the Latin heritage, can be believed by so many to be central to Orthodoxy--and whether it is therefore indeed incumbent on me as an Orthodox Christian to accept it. Note that I am not arguing the origins, geographic breadth, or historical depth of the belief; those are separate and obviously intensely contentious questions, but I'm willing to accept for the sake of argument that the toll-house belief is both ancient and widespread within Orthodoxy (though I can't resist paraphrasing St. Cyprian of Carthage to the effect that the ancientness of a belief may simply be an indication of the persistence of error). My concern is rather with the implications of the toll-house belief, because it seems to me that these are so important that they must be explored and acknowledged in the light of Tradition and the belief itself accordingly either rejected as a misguided overinterpretation of some of the metaphorical glimpses the Lord has offered to certain pious people concerning a subject He wishes us to entrust almost entirely to Him--or accepted as far more important to Orthodoxy than even most of its ardent proponents have hitherto been willing to recognize.

Am I wrong?

Yours in Christ,

--Jurretta Heckscher

#24 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 04:59 PM

Greetings Hieromonk Ambrose!

If I remember correctly this discussion was ongoing between you & Fr John Shaw at one time on the rocor (and other) lists. At the time I only 'lurked' because you all knew much better than I about these things and anyway...it was a great education just to watch.

My feeling then as now is that this issue - and this also goes for the replies on the Orthodox Forum list to this question- needs to be understood in a balanced way. The evidence for the toll houses to my way of thinking is far too overwhelming and from far too many saints to be dismissed as paganism. I think it is from this important witness that we need to work out a theology which would avoid the two extremes of thinking there can be no testing at all from evil spirits at the time of our death or that this testing negates the ultimate mercy of God.

I have hopefully learned a bit from Monachos (especially from Matthew our faithful moderator) and one point he continually stresses is the tendency we have to think of God's mercy in a very restrictive and human way. So, related to the toll houses there is no need to pit testing and God's mercy so diametrically against each other. After all certainly the experience of testing is implicit in dying itself. And for that matter it is also implicit in the life we have been allowed by God with all of its trials, sicknesses and so on. The thing of it is though that this is not a negation of God's mercy but rather the very way in which God's mercy works.

Of course as others have also pointed out we do not want to make these accounts too absolute. In the lives of saints we see many different accounts of the toll houses which often differ in character and point. For example I think in the life of St Niphon the angels come to the rescue of the saint who is being tried and chase the demons away. Also we read in some lives of how the demons in their testing are actually lying about the dying person's sins and the dying person eventually tells the lying demons to leave. The point here I think is that testing is not about evil having the upper hand. Rather it seems to involve the person employing the discernment to cast themselves upon the mercy of God rather than on the judgement of the demons- which means in some way a reliance on one's self. And maybe if such testing does occur this is what it ultimately means- that before the threat of evil we would learn to cast ourselves before the mercy of God rather than our own limited human resources. If this is so then it is only natural that this test of discernment be given us especially as we begin the ultimate test of faith- which is the endurance of death.


In Christ- Fr Raphael


#25 Guest_Boulos

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 07:46 PM

In the toll houses issue, demons do not judge someone but they do underline and accuse. Thus some about real unrepented sins which were being recorded while in life, also, they falsy accuse for sins which could be also never commited in true life.

The judgement is done by our Lord, in the last day afterwards, not by those so called " powers of the air".

#26 Vasilis Kirikos

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Posted 23 February 2006 - 05:02 AM

Re: "In the toll houses issue" I have or had a copy of that book concerning "toll houses". After reading the first few chapters it got me very upset. I asked a cousin about it and he told me that most Christian theologians disregard such theories as so much conjecture without any real theological basis. I don't know if he actually knew what he was talking about or not; but I was relieved and so I put the book away, I know not where. Anyway, perhaps I was too hasty to believe my cousin who is also NOT a theologian, as I am not. Anyone have something to add? Was I too hasty in disregarding such theology? I hope I was not. Vasilis

#27 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 23 February 2006 - 11:38 AM

Dear Fr Raphael, Hieromonk Ambrose, all.

Fr Raphael writes:

And maybe if such testing does occur this is what it ultimately means- that before the threat of evil we would learn to cast ourselves before the mercy of God rather than our own limited human resources. If this is so then it is only natural that this test of discernment be given us especially as we begin the ultimate test of faith- which is the endurance of death.


This seems to me a brilliant way of reconciling the very real issues Juretta Heckscher raises so ably and eloquently in her text. Ever since I read about the toll-houses in Fr Seraphim Rose's book, I've felt what can only be described as terror at the thought. I know for certain I won't be able to offer up enough excuses to justify my many sins. The balance of the scales is tipped heavily against me. If Fr Raphael is correct that this is a moment of ultimate testing which requires not our excuses but our courageous trust in Divine Mercy despite everything, then there is reason to go on praying. The Mother of God will chase away the demons far from our soul, and accompany us to the bosom of Abraham, but we have to trust her and her Divine Son.

Is it possible that the Orthodox understanding of sin is that sin is both a misdirection of energies against Love, and a disease of the soul, which unfortunately together result in a transgression of Divine Law? Are our sins on the one hand indeed counted up, enumerated in the book of our lives as infractions against God's Will, Rule and Law,yet on the other hand rubbed out by the same hand that wrote them in in an act of miraculous mercy, provided we trust? I don't want to suggest that we are saved by faith alone, but by both faith and works, although our works will never be sufficient in themselves.

I guess there is something both loving and frightening (awesome) about God. What do others think?

In Christ
Byron

#28 Guest_Hieromonk Ambrose

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Posted 23 February 2006 - 01:35 PM

The great theological problem witrh the toll house theory is that it is impossible to tack down the features of this amorphous "doctrine." No contemporary toll house proponent will ever make the attempt to say precisely what they believe and how it relates to traditional Orthodox soteriology. While they can and do appeal to the teaching of some of the Saints, both St Theodora and St Ignaty Brianchaninov, they also reject some of the most important points of the teachings of these same Saints. They advocate an attenuated teaching of the toll houses which would be rejected by the "toll house Saints" themselves (if I may call them that simply for convenience.)

So, it is a bit messy and smorgasbordy. "I'll take this bit from St Basil the New, but no, I don't think I want this other bit from St Ignaty." This is not the usual way of Orthodox theological certainty which seeks for a consensus among the Fathers and among the holy Churches of God.

The bottom line is that while the toll house belief remains in this very nebulous state it is impossible to say whether it is heretical or not. I think that this is one point of Jurretta Hecksher's excellent message.


#29 Guest_Hieromonk Ambrose

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Posted 23 February 2006 - 01:42 PM

The great theological problem with the toll house theory is that it is impossible to tack down the features of this amorphous "doctrine." No contemporary toll house proponent will ever make the attempt to say precisely what they believe and how it relates to traditional Orthodox soteriology. While they can and do appeal to the teaching of some of the Saints, both St Theodora and St Ignaty Brianchaninov, they also reject some of the most important points of the teachings of these same Saints. They advocate an attenuated teaching of the toll houses which would be rejected by the "toll house Saints" themselves (if I may call them that simply for convenience.)

So, it is a bit messy and smorgasbordy. "I'll take this bit from St Basil the New, but no, I don't think I want this other bit from St Ignaty." This is not the usual way of Orthodox theological certainty which seeks for a consensus among the Fathers and among the holy Churches of God.

The bottom line is that while the toll house belief remains in this very nebulous state it is impossible to say whether it is heretical or not. I think that this is one point of Jurretta Hecksher's excellent message.


#30 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 23 February 2006 - 03:48 PM

Dear Fr Ambrose,

Maybe part of the problem is with trying to clear up too many of the ambiguities. Heresy itself often results from trying to clear up too many of the ambiguities. Doctrine also- even the most central doctrine such as the Incarnation- has something ambiguous to it but yet also is a life-saving truth.

In Christ- Fr Raphael


#31 Guest_Hieromonk Ambrose

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Posted 23 February 2006 - 09:37 PM

You may be right, Father. The angels who supposedly taught Saint Theodora about the toll houses informed her that the non-Orthodox don't even make it to the toll houses. Being non-Orthodox they are doomed anyway and are taken straight to hell. The angels also taught her a system of utilising the merits of others which can be applied to the soul going through the toll houses where it is short of enough merits of its own. It is redolent of Roman Catholicism's "merits of the Saints" and of indulgences.

Fr Seraphim Rose teaches that a man who is spiritually developed may see the toll houses operating in the air above his head.

It is these concrete teachings and others which make us non tollers recoil in horror and reject the whole theory.

If people were content to leave it as Fr Michael Pomazansky describes it, simply as movements in the soul by which the Partial Judgement takes place at death, then it may be more acceptable. But I suppose that if we reduce it to Fr Michael's perception there is really nothing left of the toll houses and we may as well discard the term.

PS: apologies for the double posting. I have not yet learnt how to work this Forum. Please delete one if you wish.


#32 Father David Moser

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Posted 24 February 2006 - 07:08 PM

Fr Ambrose stated:

The great theological problem witrh the toll house theory is that it is impossible to tack down the features of this amorphous "doctrine." No contemporary toll house proponent will ever make the attempt to say precisely what they believe and how it relates to traditional Orthodox soteriology.


A couple of thoughts

First is that not only is the "toll house doctrine" difficult to define, but any alternative is equally as "amorphous" The simple fact is that we are all dealing in "images" (or "icons") which reveal a little bit of an incomprehensible reality. We cannot fully and concretely describe the life after death and the nature of the spiritual world because it is beyond our experience in this life (much like the flight of a butterfly would be completely beyond the ability of a caterpillar to comprehend).

Secondly, I think that there is no "toll house doctrine" as such - In my experience those who insist on it being a "doctrine" are those who wish to pin it down so they can refute it. At bit like a "straw man". We do know that the life we live in this world affects the life in the next. We also know that we are in some way accountable for our sins. This is the only "doctrine". How we conceptualize this doctrine is not the doctrine itself, but simply one or another ways of explaining the doctrine. Different explanations or "icons" work for different people.

There is room in the Church for many different descriptions of life after death, it is important to always remember that none of them are "literal" or a true expression of the reality they seek to express.

Fr David Moser

#33 Guest_Hieromonk Ambrose

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Posted 25 February 2006 - 02:30 AM

There is room in the Church for many different descriptions of life after death, it is important to always remember that none of them are "literal" or a true expression of the reality they seek to express.


I am not sure if there is room for many different descriptions. The Synod of Bishops of ROCA issued a Resolution in December 1980 that speculations about life after death beyond the very little which Christ has revealed to us is not spiritually beneficial to our salvation. That would seem to include descriptions and conceptualisations about an incomprehensible reality when such theories take us much further than Christ's revelation about what occurs after death.

One of the bishops is recorded in the Minutes: "I propose that we ought to follow the advice of Bishop Theophan," to terminate our speculation as regards the accounts of what takes place in the spiritual world."

#34 Guest_Gideon

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Posted 10 March 2003 - 12:35 PM

Can anyone explain this teaching to me pls, and perhaps why it may be considered neo-gnostic?




#35 Fr Averky

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Posted 11 March 2003 - 03:47 AM

Gideon,

There are many Fathers of the Church who actually accept this concept. Since it is the First Week of Great Lent, and we have almost 11 hours of services a day, I can't send you quotes right away, but I will. Fr.Seraphim Rose's book the "Soul After Death" was written as an explanation of this idea, and to counter Rev.Lev Puhalo's idea that the soul goes into some sort of suspended state or sleep after death and that when a saint appears to a person, it is not really the saint himself, but an angel sent in his place. Fr. Michael Azkoul wrote a volume in which he states that Fr. Seraphim Rose is a neo-gnostic, but that simply is not he case. Alas, you will find that there are those whose scholarly labours merit little attention, for they are merely polemical in nature and of no great use for the soul. I knew Fr. Seraphim Rose from the time he was a layman, and I have known Fr. Azkoul for nearly thirty years, and am well aware of his views, so I do have an idea of what I am speaking. Fr. Michael Pomozansky's book "Dogmatic Theology," also has good information found in a chapter which speaks specifically about the toll houses. The Russian Church seems to accept this concept more readily than others.

#36 Guest_Gideon

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Posted 11 March 2003 - 12:34 PM

I have seen Ikons of Fr. Seraphim Rose is this acceptable? Would you Rev. Hieromonk, consider him a Saint?

Gideon


#37 Guest_Hermit

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 03:43 AM

I've come across some writings about Fr. Seraphim Rose on the internet, which intrigued me since he lived as a hermit for a while very near to where I live, in an area I've considered doing the hermit thing (wilderness near Platina, CA ... many think of California as mostly pavement and cities, but the northern part is mostly unspoiled wilderness). His particular ideas don't interest me nearly as much as his life.

Some seem to consider him a saint, apparently he appeared in resplendant, shining garb to a woman as he lay dying, and there are some stories of healings and miracles after he died. Others look down on him as a neo-gnostic heretic. I don't really care much about theology, I'm sure he believed false things and the church believes false things and I believe false things (but of course this is the doctrine and theology section, forgive my off-track thoughts.)

As Rev. Hieromonk A. mentioned, Fr Azkoul has written extensively against the "toll house" idea, and many of those arguments can be found online with a search.

Here's an interesting secular article written about him from Pomona College where he once studied, very good and balanced overview: http://www.pomona.ed...P01/saint.shtml


#38 Fr Averky

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Posted 18 March 2003 - 02:56 AM

Dear Hermit,

Fr. Seraphim was not a hermit, per se. He had a small one room cabin some distance and up the hill from the monastery, and would now and again retreat there for a few days. Most of the time. however, he was active serving, working in the print shop, dealing with pilgrims and so on. What he did have, was an inward sense of spiritually being "alone." Fr. Herman was always running around frantically, being theatrical and melodramtic, while Fr. Seraphim was always wonderfully quiet and composed. A person always came from from having had a spiritual talk with him feeling peaceful and comforted. Fr. Herman had his gifts too, for he gave very inspiring talks, making one feel so blessed to be Orthodox, and to sincerely want to live an Orthodox Christian life. There was a great contrast between the two men, but it worked. Sadly, after Fr. Seraphim reposed. Fr. Herman went off the deep end. I have no use for Fr. Michael Azkoul's opinions about anything. The Russians and Greeks have always had divergent views on the approach to the Spiritual life. One small example: In Greek monasteries, such as those under Fr. Ephraim, a blessing is needed for just about anything, not only for monks, but for his lay spiritual children as well. I had one pious Greek lady ask me if I would give her my blessing to ask me a question!. In Russsian monasticism, one is under the guidance of his spiritual father, but is also considered to be a "rational sheep" of Christ, so it is hope that he can make it through the every day matters of life.

#39 Guest_Hermit

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Posted 20 March 2003 - 05:16 PM

Thank you for the information, Rev. Hieromonk A., I always appreciate details. I'd thought that Fr. Seraphim had spent some extensive time with only one companion as the article implied, but even then he must have been connected with the skete:

"At Platina, Rose lived for years in an uninsulated shack without running water or electricity, with a tiny wood-burning stove for warmth. He built the cabin himself of salvaged lumber on land his parents helped him and Podmoshensky buy. In winter, the silent pine forest that pressed in on their outpost was often deep in snow. In summer, the heat could be stifling.
The cabin, called a cell in the monastic tradition, was about 8 feet by 10 feet. A tiny room attached to the main structure contained a small shelf of books that served as Rose's library. Rose slept in a corner on a bed made of two boards."

Do you still live here in northern California, Rev. Hieromonk A.? I'm in one of the villages at the foot of Mt. Shasta.


#40 Fr Averky

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 12:53 AM

Dear Hrmit,

Thank you for the clarification. The author is speaking, I am rather sure, about the very early days of the monastery. I remember how joyful the co-strugglers were when they moved from a very busy San Francisco street to the utter stillness of the forest.

However, as in all of monastic history, people heard that they were there, and started to pour into the monastery. At one point, they had 14-15 monks. I don't really know how many they have at the present time.

I am familiar with Mt. Shasta. I lived in Oregon during my young life, and I remeber going into our back yard and painting water colors sketches and paintings of Mt. St. Helen. I now live in up state New york. I was received into Holy Baptism in San Franciso, and Frs. Herman and Seraphim sang at my baptism. They were still layman




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