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Purgatory


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#1 Reinhard Schreiber

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 01:54 PM

Is there any Orthodox teaching on purgatory? What exactly is believed, happens to the soul after he/she passed away?

#2 Father David Moser

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 02:13 PM

You might want to look through the following for answers to your questions:
Is The River of Fire Orthodox doctrine
Toll houses
Is death the end
Remembering the departed, prayers of the dead
Reasons for purgatory
The soul for 40 days
Purification in life or after death

#3 Dennis Justison

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 08:58 PM

Thanks for the list Father. I have been studying the differences between Catholocism and Orthodoxy for a couple years now. I have been more than a devout and loyal son of the Catholic Church for 17 years. I have begun to think and believe differently of late. I will be eagerly reading these posts. Pray for me as my heart continues its healing journey towards Orthodoxy. Peace be with you.

#4 Reinhard Schreiber

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 07:06 AM

So father, its not in the orthodox doctrine, am I correct? Also that the orthodox church see this as a mistake of the catholic church?

#5 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 10:16 PM

The Orthodox Church rejects the doctrine of Purgatory.

#6 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 02:24 PM

The Orthodox Church rejects the doctrine of Purgatory.


It is probably best to define precisely the doctrine of purgatory that you believe the Orthodox Church to reject. I think we may find that while the Orthodox Church rejects specific formulations of purgatory, there are also other formulations of the doctrine that she does not reject.

#7 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 04:11 PM

You can find one relatively cogent summation here: The Orthodox Response to the Latin Doctrine of Purgatory


And this from Fr. Michael Azkoul:

Purgatory

Purgatory is a condition of the departed before the final judgment. According to Roman Catholic theology, those souls destined for heaven (with a few exceptions) must endure a state of purgation, or purification. They must be cleansed of the sins committed on earth. The rest go to hell for eternal punishment.

Moreover, from a "treasury" of merits or extra grace accumulated by the virtue of Christ, the Virgin Mary and the saints, "indulgences" may be granted. The grace is applied to those in purgatory in order to shorten their time there.

Orthodoxy teaches that, after the soul leaves the body, it journeys to the abode of the dead (Hades). There are exceptions, such as the Theotokos, who was borne by the angels directly into heaven. As for the rest, we must remain in this condition of waiting. Because some have a prevision of the glory to come and others foretaste their suffering, the state of waiting is called "Particular Judgment."

When Christ returns, the soul rejoins its risen body to be judged by Him. The "good and faithful servant" will inherit eternal life, the unfaithful with the unbeliever will spend eternity in hell. Their sins and their unbelief will torture them as fire.


Doesn't sound like the same thing to me, but what do I know? I am but a bear of little brain.

Herman the purgated Pooh

#8 Reinhard Schreiber

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Posted 08 October 2011 - 07:21 AM

So does the orthodox church believe the soul directly goes to heaven or hell? Isn't it true that they don't go the heaven until the final judgement?

#9 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 08 October 2011 - 02:55 PM

As a general rule, I think it is best to cite Roman Catholic authors when one is presenting Roman Catholic doctrine; but I think that Fr Azkhoul's summary is a fair statement of mainstream Catholic teaching: "Purgatory is a condition of the departed before the final judgment. According to Roman Catholic theology, those souls destined for heaven (with a few exceptions) must endure a state of purgation, or purification. They must be cleansed of the sins committed on earth. The rest go to hell for eternal punishment." This statement avoids the language of retributive punishment (typically inflicted by some form of spiritual-physical fire) which was often employed by Catholics in the past (and by some in the present) and against which Orthodox theologians have rightly protested. But the essential concern of the Catholic doctrine, at least as it is taught today, is the need for ongoing sanctification and purification in order to enable the perfect enjoyment of God. In the words of Pope John Paul II:

In following the Gospel exhortation to be perfect like the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5: 48) during our earthly life, we are called to grow in love, to be sound and flawless before God the Father "at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints" (1 Thes 3: 12f.). Moreover, we are invited to "cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit" (2 Cor 7: 1; cf. 1 Jn 3: 3), because the encounter with God requires absolute purity. Every trace of attachment to evil must be eliminated, every imperfection of the soul corrected. Purification must be complete, and indeed this is precisely what is meant by the Church's teaching on purgatory. The term does not indicate a place, but a condition of existence. Those who, after death, exist in a state of purification, are already in the love of Christ who removes from them the remnants of imperfection



So then the question becomes: Does the Orthodox Church reject the need for or possibility of the healing of the soul after death from all disordered attachments to creaturely goods? Is there no possibility for post-mortem sanctification and transformation? Referencing his book Eustratios Argenti, Met Kallistos writes: "It is true that Orthodox theologians usually express reservations about the doctrine of purgatory as developed by medieval and post-medieval Roman Catholic teaching; but at the same time most of them allow some sort of purging or purification after death."

Hence my concern that we be quite specific about which formulation of purgatory we are addressing.

#10 Paul Cowan

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Posted 08 October 2011 - 05:54 PM

So does the orthodox church believe the soul directly goes to heaven or hell? Isn't it true that they don't go the heaven until the final judgement?


The OC believe the soul of the departed goes to Paradise or Hades as it's "holding" place after the general judgement at death. Upon death, there is no more "work" the person can do to change the outcome of his/her destination point. The prayers for the departed are then a huge benefit for the soul to attempt to sway God's decision at the final judgement. There are numerous threads on this topic using the search feature.

#11 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 02:15 PM

Fr Alvin Kimel wrote:

So then the question becomes: Does the Orthodox Church reject the need for or possibility of the healing of the soul after death from all disordered attachments to creaturely goods? Is there no possibility for post-mortem sanctification and transformation? Referencing his book Eustratios Argenti, Met Kallistos writes: "It is true that Orthodox theologians usually express reservations about the doctrine of purgatory as developed by medieval and post-medieval Roman Catholic teaching; but at the same time most of them allow some sort of purging or purification after death."

Hence my concern that we be quite specific about which formulation of purgatory we are addressing.


I think that Metropolitan Kallistos' assessment is basically correct. We do after all pray that the sins of the departed be forgiven. Also a number of Fathers refer to purification or increasing glory after death.

Where the controversy arises however is in a specific western understanding of this purification, of the process they refer to (or used to refer to?) as purgatory. Here those like St Mark of Ephesus stated that God forgives the sins of the repentant, but His fire is unto the torment of unrepentant sinners- not for their purification. In other words the idea of a purgatorial fire is a contradiction in terms.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#12 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 03:25 PM

Where the controversy arises however is in a specific western understanding of this purification, of the process they refer to (or used to refer to?) as purgatory. Here those like St Mark of Ephesus stated that God forgives the sins of the repentant, but His fire is unto the torment of unrepentant sinners- not for their purification. In other words the idea of a purgatorial fire is a contradiction in terms.


I agree. In the 14th century, the major point of contention was about the purgatorial fire. Though never dogmatized, the long-standing opinion in the West was that purification was achieved through the sufferings inflicted by a physical-spiritual fire. This belief has virtually disappeared in Latin theology. It has been replaced by the teaching that purification is achieved through transformative encounter with the risen Lord. Thus Pope Benedict in his encyclical Spe Salvi:

Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ's Passion. At the moment of judgement we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy. It is clear that we cannot calculate the “duration” of this transforming burning in terms of the chronological measurements of this world. The transforming “moment” of this encounter eludes earthly time-reckoning—it is the heart's time, it is the time of “passage” to communion with God in the Body of Christ. The judgement of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace. If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—the crucial question that we ask of history and of God. If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all. The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgement and grace—that justice is firmly established: we all work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our “advocate”, or parakletos (cf. 1 Jn 2:1).


It seems to me that the East has won. Retributive punishment inflicted by physical fire has been replaced by transformative encounter with the merciful God of the gospel. Orthodoxy just needs to find a way to graciously acknowledge the victory.

#13 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 04:18 PM

Likely the purgatorial fire has a theological basis in the west. Perhaps it is the wrath of God which all sinners are worthy of? If so then the idea of purgatory would be a development of this understanding of how God's wrath is poured out on all sinners. But in Christ within this fire they are purified of their sins rather than being destroyed by it.

This would dove tail nicely with what Eamon Duffy writes about pre Reformation Catholicism in England, that purgatory was only effective for repentant sinners within the Body of the Church.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#14 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 04:24 PM

Purgatory (post-mortem "purification" through "fire" of some sort) appears to have originated with the heretics Origen and Turtullian.

#15 Rob Bergen

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 05:15 PM

It was Blessed Augustine that posed the most clear thoughts for the need of a "purgatory," and Gregory Dialogus who actually formed the basis of the doctrine based on loose interpretation of Augustine's stipulations about the need for some way to purify the soul before God. At least, that is what some modern Western Scholars would claim.

#16 Timothy Mulligan

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 06:34 PM

I have several questions:

1. How does the Orthodox Church interpret 1 Corinthians 3:10-15?

2. I have heard different things about Orthodox teaching on hades. The first is Fr. Michael's brief explanation above, that almost all souls go to hades and that, before the Last Judgment, some anticipate hell and others heaven. The second is one that I heard on CD's of talks by Priestmonk Kosmas of the Orthodox Monastery of the Archangel Michael in Australia. Priestmonk Kosmas equates going to hades will damnation and stresses the need to free souls from hades with prayer, good works and alms on behalf of the dead, and commemorations during the Divine Liturgy. As a recent convert, I am confused.

#17 Paul Cowan

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 05:14 AM

We can't purify our souls after we die. We have THIS life to confess and give alms and attend services. We have THIS life to get our affairs in order before we go to the judgement. Our family and friends and priests can pray for mercy on our souls to God on our behalf after we are gone, they can give alms in our name, they can show mercy to others in our name; but OUR purification comes now. We will all stand naked before God and will have to answer the question, "How did you show love?". It's kinda hard to show love after you're 6 feet under. We are already told the angels and God will not be moved by tears there. He is greatly moved by them HERE and NOW.

Paul

#18 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 02:02 PM

"The moral progress of the soul, either for better or for worse, ends at the very moment of the separation of the body and soul; at that very moment the definite destiny of the soul in the everlasting life is decided. (see AndroutsosDogmatics p. 409). It will be judged not according to its deeds one by one, but according to the entire total results of its deeds and thoughts. The Orthodox Church believes that at this moment the soul of the dead person begins to enjoy the consequences of its deeds and thoughts on earth - that is, to enjoy the life in Paradise or to undergo the life in Hell. There.is no way of repentance, no way of escape, no reincarnation and no help from the outside world. Its place is decided forever by its Creator and judge.The Orthodox Church does not believe in purgatory (a place of purging), that is, the inter-mediate state after death in which the souls of the saved (those who have not received temporal punishment for their sins) are purified of all taint preparatory to entering into Heaven, where every soul is perfect and fit to see God." (from http://www.goarch.or...th/ourfaith7076)

#19 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 03:55 PM

Let me throw into the mix the following passage from Met. Hilarion:

Is it possible that the fate of a person can be changed after his death? Is death that border beyond which some unchangeable static existence comes? Does the development of the human person not stop after death? It is impossible for one to actively repent in hell; it is impossible to rectify evil deeds one committed by appropriate good works. It may, however, be possible for one to repent through a "change of heart," a review of one's values. One of the testimonies to this is the rich man of the Gospel. He realized the gravity of his situation as soon as found himself in hell. Indeed, in his lifetime he was focused on earthly pursuits and forgot God, but once in hell is realized that God was his only hope for salvation. Besides, according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, the fate of a person after death can be changed through the prayer of the church. Thus existence after death has its own dynamics. On the basis of what has been said above, it may be said that after death the development of the human person does not cease, for existence after death is not a transfer from a dynamic into a static being, but rather a continuation on a new level of that road which a person followed in his or her lifetime. (Christ the Conqueror of Hell, pp. 216-217)


Fr Ambrose, currently residing in New Zealand, has shared on the internet many stories of the saints praying people out of hell. One wonders how this is possible if our fundamental orientation after death is frozen and static. Surely God does not save us against our will.

Fr Aidan

#20 Anna Stickles

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 05:46 PM

One wonders how this is possible if our fundamental orientation after death is frozen and static.


Here I think is the fundamental misunderstanding that has to be addressed. The fundamental orientation of a person does not change after death. This is what it means that there is no repentance (ie change of heart) after death. It is set at the moment of separation of the soul from the body.

However, there is moral progress, there is purification, there is movement toward God and a development of the human person after death.

The problem that can be seen above is that there seems to be a confusion of these two very different things into one by various Orthodox writers. So I think that to start clearing up this issue we have to first differentiate between repentance (ie a change in our fundamental orientation toward or away from God) which does not happen after death, and this process of purification and development that does.




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