Paradise and Hell According to Orthodox Tradition - Fr. George Metallinos

On the Last Sunday of Lent we commemorate the Second and Incorruptible Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ . The expression in the Synaxarion, we commemorate confirms that our Church, as the Body of Christ, re-enacts in its worship the Second Coming of Christ as an event and not just something that is historically expected. The reason is that, through the Holy Eucharist, we are transported to the celestial kingdom, to meta-history. It is in this orthodox perspective, that the subject of paradise and hell is approached.
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  Paradise and Hell According to OrthodoxTradition Fr. George Metallinos On the Last Sunday of Lent we commemorate the Second and Incorruptible Coming of our Lord JesusChrist . The expression in the Synaxarion we commemorate confirms that our Church as the !odyof Christ reenacts in its worship the Second Coming of Christ as an e#ent and not $ust somethingthat is historically expected. The reason is that through the %oly &ucharist we are transported to thecelestial 'ingdom to metahistory. It is in this orthodox perspecti#e that the sub$ect of paradise andhell is approached.In the (ospels )*atthew ch.+, mention is made of 'ingdom and eternal fire . In this excerpt whichis cited during the Liturgy of this Sunday the 'ingdom is the di#ine destination of man'ind. The fire is prepared for the de#il and his angels )demons, not because (od desires it but because theyare without repentance -i.e. unwilling to turn to rethin' and participate in redemption. The 'ingdom is prepared for those who remain faithful to the will of (od. The uncreated glory is/aradise )the 0ingdom ,. &ternal fire is hell )#.12,. 3t the beginning of history (od in#ites maninto paradise into a communion with %is uncreated (race. 3t the end of history man has to face bothparadise and hell. 4e shall see further down what this means. 4e do howe#er stress that it is one of thecentral sub$ects of our faith 5 it is Orthodox Christianity6s philosopher6s stone.  5 7 5 *ention of paradise and hell in the 8ew Testament is fre9uent. In Lu'e :; 1; Christ says to therobber on the cross< Today you will be with me in paradise . %owe#er the robber also refers toparadise when he says< =emember me Lord>in your 'ingdom . 3ccording to Theofyla'tos of!ulgaria )/( 7:; 77?2, for the robber was in paradise in other words the 'ingdom . The 3postle/aul ):Cor.7:<;1, confesses that while still in this lifetime he was swept up to paradise and heardunspo'en words which are impossible for man to repeat. In =e#elations we read< To the #ictor Ishall gi#e him to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of my (od ):<@,. 3nd 3rethas ofCaesaria interprets< paradise is understood to be the blessed and eternal life )/( 7?2 +:A,. /aradiseeternal life 'ingdom of (od are all related.=eferences on hell< *atthew :+<12 ) to e#erlasting torment , :+<17 ) e#erlasting fire , :+<;? ) theoutermost dar'ness , +<:: ) the place of fire ,. 7John1<7B ) >for fear contains toment ,. These areways that express what we mean by hell . 5 : 5 /aradise and hell are not two different places. Such an idea is an idolatrous concept. =ather they signify  two different conditions -ways or states of being which srcinate from the same uncreated source andare percei#ed by man as two differing experiences. *ore precisely they are the same experienceexcept that they are percei#ed differently by man depending on his internal state.This experience is the sight of Christ in the uncreated light of %is di#inity of %is glory . rom themoment of %is Second Coming through to all eternity all people will be seeing Christ in %is uncreatedlight. That is when those who wor'ed good deeds in their lifetime will go towards the resurrection oflife while those who wor'ed e#il in their lifetime will go towards the resurrection of $udgment )Jn.+<:A,. In the presence of Christ man'ind will be separated )li'e sheep and 'idgoats  to %isright and %is left,. In other words they will be discerning in two separate groups< those who will bebehold Christ as paradise )the exceeding good the radiant , and those who will be loo'ing uponChrist as hell ) the allconsuming fire of %ebrews 7:<:A,./aradise and hell are the same reality. This is what is depicted in the portrayal of the Second Coming.rom Christ a ri#er of fire flows forth. It is radiant li'e a golden light at the upper end of it where thesaints are. 3t its lower end the same ri#er is fiery and it is in that part of the ri#er that the demons andthe unrepentant ) the ne#er repentant according to a hymn, are depicted. This is why in Lu'e :<;1 weread that Christ stands as the fall and the resurrection of many . Christ becomes the resurrection intoeternal life for those who accepted %im and who followed the means gi#en for the healing the heart. Tothose who re$ected %im howe#er %e becomes their separation and their hell.3mong the patristic testimonies Saint John of Sinai )of the Ladder, says that the uncreated light ofChrist is an allconsuming fire and an illuminating light . Saint (regory /alamas )&./.&. II 1AB,obser#es< Thus it is said %e will baptiDe you by the %oly Spirit and by fire< in other words byillumination and $udgment depending on each person6s predisposition which will in itself bring uponhim that which he deser#es. &lsewhere )&ssays /. Christou /ublications #ol.: page 71+,< The lightof Christ albeit one and accessible to all is not parta'en of uniformly but differently .Conse9uently paradise and hell are not a reward or a punishment )condemnation, but the way that weindi#idually experience the sight of Christ depending on the condition of our heart. (od doesn6t punishin essence although for educati#e purposes the Scripture does mention punishment. The morespiritual that one becomes the better he can comprehend the language of the Scripture and SacredTradition. *an6s condition )cleanunclean repentantunrepentant, is the factor that determines theacceptance of the Light as paradise or hell . 5 ; 5 The anthropological issue in Orthodoxy is -to pro#ide that man will eternally loo' upon Christ asparadise and not as hellE that man will parta'e of %is hea#enly and eternal 'ingdom . This is where wesee the difference between Christianity as Orthodoxy and the #arious other religions. The otherreligions promise a certain blissful state e#en after death. Orthodoxy howe#er is not a 9uest for blissbut a cure from the illness of religion as the late father John =omanides so patristically teaches.Orthodoxy is an open hospital within history )a spiritual infirmary according to Saint John theChrysostom, which offers the healing )catharsis, of the heart in order to finally attain theosis 5 the  only desired destination of man. This is the course that has been so comprehensi#ely described byfather John =omanides and the =e#. *etropolitan of 8afpa'tos %ierotheos )Flachos,E it is the healingof man'ind as experienced by all of our Saints.This is the meaning of life in the body of Christ )the Church,. This is the Church6s reason for existence.This is what Christ6s whole redemptory wor' aspired to. Saint (regory /alamas )1th %omily on theSecond Coming, says that the preeternal will of (od for man is to find a place in the ma$esty of thedi#ine 'ingdom 5 to reach theosis. That is the purpose of creation. 3nd he continues< !ut e#en %isdi#ine and secret 'enosis %is Theanthropic conduct %is redemptory passions and e#ery singlemystery )in other words all of Christ6s wor' on earth, were all pro#identially and omnisciently predetermined for this #ery end -purpose. 5 1 5 The important reality howe#er is that not all people respond to this in#itation of Christ and that is whynot e#eryone parta'es in the same way of %is uncreated glory. This is taught by Christ in the parable ofthe rich man and LaDarus )Lu'e ch.72,. *an refuses Christ6s offer he becomes (od6s enemy andre$ects the redemption offered by Christ )which is a blasphemy against the %oly Spirit because it iswithin the %oly Spirit that we accept the calling of Christ,. This is the ne#er repentant person referredto in the hymn. (od ne#er bears enmity  the blessed Chrysostom obser#esE it is we who become %isenemiesE we are the ones who re$ect %im. The unrepentant man becomes demoniDed because he haschosen to. (od does not desire this. Saint (regory /alamas says< >for this was not *y preexistingwillE I did not create you for this purposeE I did not prepare the pyre for you. This undying pyre wasprefired for the demons who bear the unchanging trait of e#il to whom your own unrepentant opinionattracted you. The cohabitation with mischie#ous angels is #oluntary )1th %omily on the SecondComing., In other words it is something that is freely chosen by man.!oth the rich man and LaDarus were loo'ing upon the same reality i.e. (od in %is uncreated light. Therich man reached the Truth the sight of Christ but could not parta'e of it as LaDarus did. The poorLaDarus recei#ed consolation  whereas the rich man recei#ed anguish . Christ6s words for those stillin this world that they ha#e *oses and the prophets signifies that we are all without excuse. or weha#e the Saints who ha#e experienced theosis and who call upon us to accede to their way of life sothat we too might reach theosis as they ha#e done. 4e therefore conclude that those who ha#e chosene#il ways )li'e the rich man, are without an excuse.Our orientation toward our fellow man is indicati#e of our inner state and that is why this will be thecriterion of Judgment Gay during Christ6s Second Coming )*atthew ch.:+,. This does not imply thatfaith or man6s faithfulness to Christ is disregardedE faith is naturally a prere9uisite because our stancetoward each other will show whether or not we ha#e (od within us. The first Sundays of the Triodionpreceding Lent re#ol#e around relationships with our fellow man. On the first of these Sundays theoutwardly pious /harisee $ustifies himself and denigrates the Taxcollector. On the second Sunday theolder brother )a repetition of the seemingly pious /harisee, is sorrowed by the sal#ation of his brother.Li'ewise seemingly pious he too had false piety which did not produce lo#e. On the third Sunday thisconditions reaches Christ6s seat of $udgment and is e#idenced as the criterion for our eternal life.   5 + 5 The experience of paradise or hell is beyond words or the senses. It is an uncreated reality and not acreated one. The Latins in#ented the myth that paradise and hell are both created realities. It is a myththat the damned will not be able to loo' upon (odE $ust as the absence of (od is e9ually a myth. TheLatins had also percei#ed the fires of hell as something created. Orthodox Tradition has remainedfaithful to the Scriptural claim that the damned shall see (od )li'e the rich man of the parable, but willpercei#e %im only as an allconsuming fire . The Latin scholastics accepted hell as punishment andthe depri#ation of a tangible #ision of the di#ine essence. !iblically and patristically howe#er hell isunderstood as man6s failure to cooperate )synergy, with Gi#ine (race in order to reach the illuminating#ision of (od )which is paradise, and unselfish lo#e )following 7Cor.7;<B,< lo#e>.. does not demandany reciprocation ,. Conse9uently there is no such thing as (od6s absence only %is presence. That iswhy %is Second Coming is dire ) O what an hour it will be then  we chant in the /raises of *atins,.It is an irrefutable reality toward which Orthodoxy is permanently oriented ) I anticipate theresurrection of the dead> ,The damned 5 those who are hardened at heart li'e the /harisees )*ar' ;<+< in the callousness oftheir hearts , 5 eternally percei#e the pyre of hell as their sal#ationH It is because their condition is notsusceptible to any other form of sal#ation. They too are finaliDed  they reach the end of their road 5 but only the righteous -sincerely pious reach the end as redeemed persons. The others finish in a stateof condemnation. Sal#ation to them is hell since in their lifetime they pursued only pleasure. Therich man of the parable had en$oyed all of his riches . The poor LaDarus uncomplainingly endured e#ery suffering . 3postle /aul expresses this )7Cor.;<7;7+,< &ach person6s wor' whate#er it is willbe tested by fire. If their wor' sur#i#es the test then whate#er they built will be rewarded accordingly.If one6s wor' is burnt by the fire then he will suffer lossesE he shall be sa#ed thus as though by fire. The righteous and the unrepentant shall both pass through the uncreated fire of di#ine presencehowe#er the one shall pass through unscathed while the other shall be burnt. %e too is sa#ed  butonly in the way that one passes through a fire. &fthimios iga#inos )7:th century, obser#es in thisrespect< (od as fire that illuminates and brightens the pure and burns and obscures the unclean. 3ndTheodoritos 0yrou regarding this sa#ing writes< One is also sa#ed by fire being tested by it $ust aswhen one passes through fire. If he has an appropriate protecti#e co#er he will not be burnt otherwisehe may be Ksa#ed6 but he will be charredH  5 2 5 Conse9uently the fire of hell has nothing in common with the Latin purgatory  nor is it created nor isit punishment or an intermediate stage. 3 #iewpoint such as this is #irtually a transferal of one6saccountability to (od. !ut the accountability is entirely our own whether we choose to accept or re$ectthe sal#ation the healing that is offered by (od. Spiritual death is the #iewing of the uncreated lightof di#ine glory as a pyre as fire. Saint John Chrysostom in his Ath homily on irst Corinthians notes< %ell is ne#erending>...sinners shall be brought into a ne#erending suffering. 3s for the Kbeing burntaltogether6 it means this< that he does not withstand the strength of the fire. 3nd he continues < 3ndhe )/aul, says it means this< that he shall not be burnt li'e his wor's into nothingness but he shall
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