Predestination, St. Augustine, and Fr. Panteleimon by Vladimir Moss

[Original Article can be found here: http://www.orthodoxchristianbooks.com/articles/414/predestination,-st.-augustine-fr.-panteleimon/ ]

There is, as everyone knows, an heretical, Calvinist doctrine of predestination. Less well known is the fact that there is also an Orthodox doctrine. It is contained in two verses from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and in the patristic commentaries on it. Almost the same as the Orthodox doctrine is the teaching of St. Augustine, who, however, made some unguarded comments (what writer does not make unguarded comments occasionally?) that have been interpreted as supporting Calvinism and have caused his name to be vituperated almost ad infinitum by today’s “new soteriologists”. Finally, there is the teaching of Fr. Panteleimon of Boston, followed by that of Metropolitan Ephraim of Boston, who appear not to know the Orthodox doctrine of predestination, who revile St. Augustine even more than other “new soteriologists”, and who have a teaching that in effect denies true predestination, substituting the vain and feeble surmises of human justice for a God-fearing prostration before the abyss of God’s judgements.

 

Let us look at each of these doctrines in turn.

 

  1. Calvinism. The first, Calvinism, can be disposed of quickly because all Orthodox agree that it is false. Calvin believed that all human beings are assigned by God in a completely arbitrary manner to two categories: the saved and the damned, and that there is nothing that any man can do to take himself out of one category and into the other. “Predestination” for him meant “predetermination” and fatalism; and it involved the denial of the place of freewill in our salvation.

 

  1. The Orthodox Teaching. St. Paul writes: We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, Who are the called according to His purpose. Those whom He foreknew (προεγνω) He also predestined (προώρισεν) to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8.28-29).

 

Commenting on this passage, St. Theophan the Recluse writes: “God knows everything – both the past, and the present, and the future, – the beginning and the end of every man, and in accordance with this knowledge He makes His decisions: in knowing beforehand, He foresees; in deciding how things must be beforehand, He predestines. He sees beforehand all the free actions of men and, in accordance with them, He predestines concerning them. So here the Lord foresaw who will truly believe in Jesus Christ and follow Him through an exact fulfilment of His commandments and, having been sanctified by grace, will become a saint. Therefore He also predestined that these should be saints, ‘in conformity with the image of His Son’, that is, that in the sacrament of Baptism, with the help of the gifts of grace, they should be clothed in the image of Jesus Christ and become like Him, which they will attain in full measure in the future life: so that the Incarnate Son of God should be ‘the first-born’ – the first to re-establish in Himself a pure human nature, and the first among His followers – His brethren. That is God’s predestination concerning those who are being saved. How does He bring it to fulfilment?

 

Moreover, those whom He predestined, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified; and those whom He justified, He also glorified (v. 30). This predestination of men to salvation God accomplishes and brings to fulfilment by drawing them to Christ (John 6.44), by disposing their spirit to realize the necessity of salvation in Christ; then by justification – by liberating them from sins and regenerating the spirit of those who believed in Him by the grace of the Holy Spirit; and, finally, he finishes by glorifying them also in the body in the life to come.

 

“If such is the love of God for those who are marked for salvation, then no obstacles, external or internal, should frighten Christians on their path.” [1]

 

Bishop Elias Miniatos summed up the matter well: “God desires, and if man desires also, then he or she is already predestined.”[2]

 

We can draw two preliminary conclusions from this commentary:

 

  1. Predestination is by no means incompatible with man’s free will. In fact, predestination is the working of God’s Providence together with, in harmony with man’s free will. Man shows a will to be saved, and God predestines him to be saved, that is, runs to meet that good will by arranging all things in such a way that he will in fact be saved. For example, he leads him to meet the True Church, gives him the desire to be baptized, sends him good teachers, sends him temptations that he can overcome and which thereby, through his overcoming them, bring him closer to God, but removes temptations that he would not be able to overcome, which would lead him to falling away from God…

 

Many stumble at the Orthodox doctrine of predestination because they assume that God’s foreknowledge of the events of a person’s life “predestines” in the sense of “predetermines” them – wholly, and without room for the exercise of freewill. But this, as we have seen, is not the meaning of “predestination”. In any case, as St. Justin the Martyr writes: “The cause of future events is not foreknowledge, but foreknowledge is the result of future events. The future does not flow from foreknowledge, but foreknowledge from the future. It is not Christ Who is the cause of the betrayal of Judas. But the betrayal is the cause of the Lord’s foreknowledge.”[3]

 

Again, Diodore writes: “This text does not take away our free will. It uses the word foreknew before predestined. Now it is clear that foreknowledge does not by itself impose any particular kind of behaviour. What is said here would be clearer if we started from the end and worked backwards. Whom did God glorify? Those whom He justified. Whom did He predestine? Those whom He foreknew, who were called according to His plan, i.e., who demonstrated that they were worthy to be called by His plan and made conformable to Christ.”[4]

 

  1. Predestination is only for those who are show a will to be saved (cf. also Ephesians 1.5), not for those who show no such good will. That is, as St. Paul says, it is for them that love God, Who are the called according to His purpose – by which is meant, according to the Holy Fathers, those who are both called and respond to the call. Again, Origen says: “In Scripture, words like foreknew and predestined do not apply equally to both good and evil. For the careful student of the Bible will realize that these words are used only of the good…”[5] Again, St. Theodoret of says: “This [predestination] is not true of everyone but only of believers. Nor do things simply work together – they work together for good. If someone asks for something which will not contribute to his good, he will not get it, because it is not good for him to get it.”[6]

 

  1. St. Augustine’s Teaching. Without entering into a detailed discussion of St. Augustine’s teaching, a few relevant points will be made here.

 

First, it is often claimed that St. Augustine rejected the place of man’s free-will in his salvation. This is simply not true. It is true that, meditating on St. Paul’s words in Romans 9.14-21, where the apostle places great emphasis on God’s election rather than on man’s making himself worthy of election (for example: “It depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy” (v.10)), Augustine does say some things that have been interpreted in a Calvinist sense. But he vehemently rejected the charge that he denied free will. “Thus, when it was objected to him that ‘it is by his own fault that anyone deserts the faith, when he yields and consents to the temptation which is the cause of his desertion of the faith’ (as against the teaching that God determines a man to desert the faith), Augustine found it necessary to make no reply except: ‘Who denies it?’ (On the Gift of Perseverance, ch. 46).”[7] Again, he writes: “It is our part to believe and to will and His part to give to those who believe and will the ability to do good works through the Holy Spirit”.[8] A perfect statement of the Orthodox doctrine of synergy!

 

However, Augustine is more culpable in his teaching that some are “predestined to eternal death”. For, as we have seen, there is no such thing in the Orthodox teaching, but only predestination to salvation. Moreover, there are some grounds for believing that he did not accept the apostle’s words that “God wills that all men should be saved” in their literal sense.[9] But here, too, we must be careful not to ascribe to him a Calvinist kind of fatalism. In the passage where Augustine speaks of “predestination to eternal death”, he immediately adds: “not only because of the sins which they add of their own willingness, but also because of original sin”.[10] In other words, “predestination to eternal death” is not the result of some kind of completely inscrutable and arbitrary choice on the part of God, but of the sins of man. This does not remove the error of Augustine’s phrase, but it does make us think that he did not mean “predestination” in the Calvinist sense here, but rather something closer to “condemnation”.

 

  1. The Teaching of Fr. Panteleimon. This is preceded by a ritual condemnation of St. Augustine of the kind that we have become so accustomed to in the writings of the “new soteriologists” such as Romanides and Kalomiros. Only in the mouth of Fr. Panteleimon it is more extreme than anything I have read elsewhere: “Both Origen and Augustine were so enamored by pagan philosophy, that they fell into great errors and heresies. I maintain that what Origen was in the East, Augustine was in the West – the originator of all heresies that followed in their time. There is no heresy in the East which does not have its seeds in Origen, and no heresy in the West that does not have its seeds in Augustine.

 

“Because of this novel teaching of predestination, Augustine not only did not have any problem with consigning most of mankind to eternal damnation. But there could be no other way about it. He had no qualms about this. In his pagan legalistic mind, this is what God’s justice demanded, and consequently God was bound. He would not, or to put it more plainly, could not overrule His own Divine justice and predestination.” (p. 5).

 

It is not our intention to provide a detailed defence of St. Augustine here – that is being done by other better qualified writers.[11] However, we cannot pass this shameless onslaught in silence. First, to suppose that Augustine “had no problem with consigning most of mankind to eternal damnation” is to imply that he was a completely heartless monster – for which there is absolutely no evidence. C.S. Lewis once said of a similar attack on Augustine: “They speak as if he wanted unbaptized babies to go to hell…” On the contrary, it is quite clear that Augustine grieved over the massa damnata, and would have liked to what the conclusion he drew from Holy Scripture – the conclusion that cannot be avoided by anyone who studies the Scriptures objectively – the conclusion, namely, that “many are called but few are chosen”, and that there are many more who travel the broad way to perdition than enter the strait gate that leads to salvation…

 

Again, while we might agree that Augustine’s thought is legalistic at times, we cannot in any way agree that it was pagan. His bowing down before the abyss of God’s judgements, and His God-fearing refusal to question them, far from showing that He believed that God was bound by some pagan goddess of chance or necessity, shows his profoundly Orthodox refusal to twist the evidence in favour of a more palatable theodicy. There is nothing pagan in the assertion that “God’s justice requires expiation for sin”, any more than it is pagan to say that “God’s love required that He die as a sacrifice for the sin”. In both statements we are simply making assertions about the nature of God as He reveals Himself in His actions towards us. We are saying that God always acts in accordance with justice as well as love in order to abolish sin and reconcile men to Himself.

 

Irrational nature is bound by necessity, the laws of nature that God has decreed. Rational beings are free, in that they can act in accordance with their nature or against it. But the absolute freedom that belongs to God alone is far above the freedom of rational creatures. As St. Maximus the Confessor explained, God does not have freewill in the sense that He makes choices between good and evil – which always presupposes the possibility of committing evil. Rather He is like the Child in Isaiah Who, “before he knows either to prefer evil or choose the good, [or] before He shall know good or evil, refuses the evil, to choose the good” (7.15-16). That is, good is so intrinsic to His nature that He chooses it without any possibility of choosing the opposite. Thus God is just, not because He makes a choice between acting justly and acting unjustly (which is the case with all those who have not reached perfection and deification), still less because He is compelled to by some external force or principle, but because justice flows from his nature like light from the sun or water from a source. That is why God does not simply act justly: as St. John of the Ladder says, He is justice – no less than He is love.[12]

 

Having clarified this point, let us pass on to Fr. Panteleimon’s main thesis, which is that it is unjust that men who have never had the opportunity to become Orthodox in this life should not have a second chance after death. This is related to his further thesis that Christ’s Descent into Hell is repeated continuously in order to give this chance to those who have died before having Orthodoxy taught to them. Which is related (although the connection is not immediately obvious) to his further thesis that the idea propagated by St. Augustine and several Orthodox Popes that in His Descent into Hell Christ did not save all those who listened to Him is false.

 

Let us begin with this third thesis. We know concerning Christ’s Descent into Hell that “He went and preached unto the spirits in prison, who were at one time disobedient when the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared” (I Peter 3.19-20). But do we know whether all these accepted His preaching and were saved?

 

Fr. Panteleimon cites the story of a monk to whom the philosopher Plato appeared, saying that He had believed in Christ’s preaching when He descended into Hell, and so was saved. Fair enough; so we know that Plato was saved, and we may hope that other worthies among the ancients, such as Socrates, were also saved. But does that entitle us to say that all were saved?

 

St. Cyril of Alexandria makes it clear that not all were saved: “while Christ was able to preach to all those who were alive at the time of His appearing and those who believed in Him were blessed, so too He was able to liberate those in Hades who believed and acknowledged Him, by His descent there.  However, the souls of those who practiced idolatry and outrageous ungodliness, as well as those who were blinded by fleshly lusts, did not have the power to see him, and they were not delivered.”[13]

 

The Old Testament provides us with several examples of men of evil life who serve for the New Testament Church as exemplars of vice, and even, in some cases, as forerunners of the Antichrist. We think of Cain and Lamech; of Esau of whom it is written that God “hated” him; of Ham and Canaan; of Nimrod; of the Pharaoh that pursued Moses; of Core, Dathan and Abiram; of the Amalekites and the Philistines and the Assyrians, such as Sennacherib; of Jeroboam and Ahab and Jezabel; of Haman; and of Herod the Great. Although we cannot be sure that all these were damned, it seems extremely unlikely that they were all saved…

 

And what about Judas, whom Christ called “the son of perdition” and a “devil”, who would have done better never to have been born? He died before Christ, and presumably witnessed His preaching in Hell. And yet the tradition of the Church is that he remains in Hell and is destined for the eternal fire of gehenna…

 

But Fr. Panteleimon says: “If Hades were not annihilated by our Saviour in His descent but only a ‘bite’ (morsus in Latin), in the words of Saint Gregory the Great, was taken out, then what is there to be so jubilant about and celebrate?” (p. 6).

 

Are we to assume, then, that since Fr. Panteleimon is celebrating, he believes that everyone is saved by the “continuous” descent of Christ into Hades? Surely not, for this is the heretical Origenist theory of the salvation of all!

 

Fr. Panteleimon goes on to criticize Fr. Panagiotes Carras for writing: “The effect of the unique Descent into Hades is eternal, not the process. Christ is not continuously descending and teaching in Hades.” And yet Fr. Panagiotes is surely correct. The Descent into Hades took place at one time, and one time only, just as the Crucifixion of Christ took place at one time, and one time only…

 

Against this, however, Fr. Panteleimon cites the fact in the feasts of the Church we are transported out of space and time, so that we chant: “Today the Virgin giveth birth…”, “Today there is born of the Virgin…” Today there hangeth upon a tree…” (p. 8).

 

But the fact that we, through the mystery of the liturgy and “Church time”, are enabled to take part in these past events now by no means entails that these events are repeated every time we participate in them. The celebrations are repeated, but the event itself remains unique and unrepeatable.

 

We can understand this most clearly with regard to the Crucifixion. This took place at one single point in space-time, and the fixedness of the event is emphasized in the Creed, where we declare that He “was crucified under Pontius Pilate” – that is, under this procurator of Judaea, and not an earlier or later one. True, in a mystical sense the Lamb of God was sacrificed before the beginning of time, and His Sacrifice avails throughout time to reconcile sinners with God, being continually offered at the Divine Liturgy. But this continual offering is of one and the same Sacrifice; for, unlike the sacrifices of the Old Testament, the Sacrifice of Christ on the altar of the Cross was “once for all (έφάπάξ)” (Hebrews 10.10). “After He had offered one Sacrifice for sins for ever, He sat down on the right hand of God… For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10.12, 14).

 

The fruit of the Cross is the Descent into Hades and its destruction. But just as Christ’s Blood was shed “for many” (Matthew 26.28), not for all, – because not all believe in Him, – so the Descent into Hades was for the liberation of many, not of all, because not all believed in His preaching. Similarly, we read that when Christ appeared to His disciples after the resurrection, they worshipped Him, “but some doubted” (Matthew 28.17)…  So at every stage of the economy of our salvation there is division, choice, “election”. Some through their ready faith are predestined (we are not ashamed of that word in its Pauline, non-Calvinist meaning!) to salvation, while others reject that opportunity.

 

But what of the patristic sayings that speak of Christ conquering death in all? Here we must make a distinction between salvation and liberation from physical death. As regards salvation, as we have said, there is always division, separation, election. But as regards deliverance from death, this is a universal gift to all mankind. For at the General Resurrection, as a direct result of Christ’s conquest of death in His own Body, all without exception will be raised from the dead and restored to their bodies. That is why death is no longer death in the proper sense, but falling asleep. And so: “Sleepers, awake!” is a truly universal call and gift…[14]

 

“Finally,” writes Fr. Panteleimon, “we come to the issue of pagans who never heard of or were given an opportunity in this life to accept or deny our Saviour, as evidently those pagans that lived before the appearance in the flesh of the Redeemer, and those millions upon millions that came after Christ until our times…

 

“It is a given for us Orthodox Christians that when our Saviour descended into Hades, He redeemed as many as accepted Him as the Christ, both from among the righteous of the Old Testament, and the pagans. For the Roman Catholics, following Augustine and his teaching concerning predestination, no pagan was saved – all were predestined to be damned.” (p. 12)

 

Actually, Augustine’s teaching on predestination has nothing directly to do with the issue whether any pagans were saved at the Descent into Hades. Nor does Fr. Panteleimon produce any direct quotation from St. Augustine to prove that he believed that all pagans, both before and after Christ, are damned forever. This lack of direct quotations from St. Augustine is something we find in all the “new soteriologists”, and especially in their father, Romanides; for their purpose is not to establish exactly what the great African Father really said and meant, but rather to create a “straw man”, a scapegoat – or, more precisely, a diversion, behind which to introduce their own innovatory teachings.

 

Fr. Panteleimon continues: “If the pagans before Christ were given this opportunity [to have the Gospel preached to them at the Descent into Hades], why should it be denied to the pagans that come after? Why this discrimination between the pagans before Christ and those after Christ? Both lived and died without ever having been given an opportunity to accept or deny the Saviour. Is this the God of love and mercy that we know and worship, to give one group this opportunity and yet deny it all that come after because He so wills it according to His ‘predestination’?” (pp. 12-13). Having already cited some examples of pagans and heretics being saved from Hades through the prayers of the Church, Fr. Panteleimon evidently thinks that the answers to these questions are self-evident, even if, just a little later, he admits that he and Metropolitan Ephraim consider the idea of a “second chance” for pagans to be no more than “a possibility”.

 

However, Fr. Panteleimon’s questions are strictly unanswerable, because they are posed from the standpoint of human justice, which is completely powerless to plumb the depths of Divine Justice. Fr. Panteleimon has invented the idea of “continual” Descents into Hades, because that is what his very human and very personal sense of justice requires. But then, knowing that there is no evidence whatever for such an idea, he tries to protect himself by saying that he put it forward only as “a possibility”.

 

A much more reliable approach is to begin from what we know about Divine Justice, Divine Omniscience and Divine Omnipotence.

 

God knows the hearts of men even before they are born, when they are still in the womb. He does not need to see their actions in order to know who they are. So if He takes a man away from this world before he has encountered the Orthodox Gospel, we cannot accuse him of injustice – perish the thought!

 

If we question God’s judgements, then we are implicitly placing ourselves in judgement over Him, as if we could be more just than He. What folly could be greater than this? “Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his Maker? Behold, He put no trust in His servants; and His angels He charged with folly. How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust? (Job 4.17-19). “For who shall say, What hast Thou done? Or who shall withstand His judgement? Or who shall accuse Thee for the nations that perish, whom Thou hast made?” (Wisdom of Solomon 12.12).

 

And yet this, implicitly, appears to be what Fr. Panteleimon and Metropolitan Ephraim are doing. Those who have never heard the Orthodox Gospel, they are implying, do not deserve to go to Hades. Or at any rate they deserve “a second chance” – as if God has “made a mistake” and confined to Hades someone who should be in Paradise, and to “correct the mistake”, the man should be given another chance!

 

But suppose that God in His omniscience knows that if the man heard the Orthodox Gospel he would reject it? Or that, having accepted it, he would fall away later? Perhaps God in His mercy does not send him an Orthodox preacher in order that he should not become guilty of rejecting it, or falling away from it?

 

Of course, these are merely human speculations to explain God’s judgements. But as such they are no less valid than Fr. Panteleimon’s about a “second chance”… Better than either course is humbly to accept God’s judgements as just even if we do not understand why or how they can be just.

 

Fr. Panteleimon says that those who have never heard the Orthodox Gospel are, or should be, judged by whether they have kept the natural law, not whether they have kept the Christian law which they never heard. This seems reasonable enough – according to human justice. But the question then arises: why did the man not hear the Orthodox Gospel? It is no use saying: because he lived in a pagan country where there were no Christian preachers. Such an obstacle is easily overcome by God…

 

*

 

Let us begin again, from the certainty of Holy Scripture…

 

There is a light that “enlightens every man who comes into the world” (John 1.9). And if there are some who reject that light, abusing their freewill, this is entirely their fault. As St. John Chrysostom says, “If there are some who choose to close the eyes of their mind and do not want to receive the rays of that light, their darkness comes not from the nature of the light, but from their own darkness in voluntarily depriving themselves of that gift.”[15]

 

No one is completely deprived of the knowledge of God. Thus St. Jerome writes: “Ours and every other race of men knows God naturally. There are no peoples who do not recognise their Creator naturally.”[16] And St. John Chrysostom writes: “From the beginning God placed the knowledge of Himself in men, but the pagans awarded this knowledge to sticks and stones, doing wrong to the truth to the extent that they were able.”[17] Again, Chrysostom writes: “One way of coming to the knowledge of God is that which is provided by the whole of creation; and another, no less significant, is that which is offered by conscience, the whole of which we have expounded upon at greater length, showing how you have a self-taught knowledge of what is good and what is not so good, and how conscience urges all this upon you from within. Two teachers, then, are given you from the beginning: creation and conscience. Neither of them has a voice to speak out; yet they teach men in silence.”[18]

 

Now before the Coming of Christ God “suffered all nations to walk in their own ways” (Acts 14.16). However, since His Coming He permits this no longer, but insists that men, using the witness of creation and conscience, and helped by the Providence (Predestination) of God, should come to the full truth in the new and still greater witness that He has provided, the Church. For if a man follows the teachers given to everyone, creation and conscience, then the Providence of God, with Whom “all things are possible” (Matthew 19.26), will lead him to the teacher that provides all the knowledge any man could need – “the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the Truth” (I Timothy 3.15). For “it is not possible,” writes St. John Chrysostom, “that one who is living rightly and freed from the passions should ever be overlooked. But even if he happens to be in error, God will quickly draw him over to the truth.”[19] Again, as Chrysostom’s disciple, St. John Cassian, says: “When God sees in us some beginnings of good will, He at once enlightens it, urging it on towards salvation.”[20]

 

This point was developed in an illuminating manner by Cassian’s French contemporary (and disciple of St. Augustine), Prosper of Aquitaine: “The very armies that exhaust the world help on the work of Christian grace. How many indeed who in the quiet of peacetime delayed to receive the sacrament of baptism, were compelled by fear of close danger to hasten to the water of regeneration, and were suddenly forced by threatening terror to fulfil a duty which a peaceful exhortation failed to bring home to their slow and tepid souls? Some sons of the Church, made prisoners by the enemy, changed their masters into servants of the Gospel, and by teaching them the faith they became the superiors of their own wartime lords. Again, some foreign pagans, whilst serving in the Roman armies, were able to learn the faith in our country, when in their own lands they could not have known it; they returned to their homes instructed in the Christian religion. Thus nothing can prevent God’s grace from accomplishing His will… For all who at any time will be called and will enter into the Kingdom of God, have been marked out in the adoption which preceded all times. And just as none of the infidels is counted among the elect, so none of the God-fearing is excluded from the blessed. For in fact God’s prescience, which is infallible, cannot lose any of the members that make up the fullness of the Body of Christ.”[21]

 

Another striking example of how God can bring anyone to the truth, however apparently hopeless his situation, is provided by the story of God’s favour to the Aleuts of Alaska, to whom He sent angels to teach them the Orthodox Faith in the absence of any human instructor. Fr. John Veniaminov (later St. Innocent, metropolitan of Moscow (+1879)) relates how, on his first missionary journey to Akun island, he found all the islanders lined up on the shore waiting for him. It turned out that they had been warned by their former shaman, John Smirennikov, who in turn had been warned by two “white men”, who looked like the angels on icons. Smirennikov told his story to Fr. John, who wrote: “Soon after he was baptised by Hieromonk Macarius, first one and later two spirits appeared to him but were visible to no one else… They told him that they were sent by God to edify, teach and guard him. For the next thirty years they appeared to him almost every day, either during daylight hours or early in the evening – but never at night. On these occasions: (1) They taught him in its totality Christian theology and the mysteries of the faith… (2) In time of sickness and famine they brought help to him and – though more rarely – to others at his request. (When agreeing to his requests that they help others, they always responded by saying that they would first have to ask God, and if it was His will, then they would do it.) (3) Occasionally they told him of thing occurring in another place or (very rarely) at some time in the future – but then only if God willed such a revelation; in such cases they would persuade him that they did so not by their own power, but by the power of Almighty God.

 

“Their doctrine is that of the Orthodox Church. I, however, knowing that even demons believe – and tremble with fear [James 3.19], wondered whether or not this might be the crafty and subtle snare of him who from time immemorial has been Evil. ‘How do they teach you to pray, to themselves or to God? And how do they teach you to live with others?’ He answered that they taught him to pray not to them but to the Creator of all, and to pray in spirit, with the heart; occasionally they would even pray along with him for long periods of time.

 

“They taught him to exercise all pure Christian virtues (which he related to me in detail), and recommended, furthermore, that he remain faithful and pure, both within and outside of marriage (this perhaps because the locals are quite given to such impurity). Furthermore, they taught him all the outward virtues…”[22]

 

Very apt was the comment of one of the first who read this story: “It is comforting to read about such miraculous Divine Providence towards savages, sons of Adam who, though forgotten by the world, were not forgotten by Providence.[23]

 

These cases lead us to draw the following conclusions: (1) Divine Providence is able to save anyone in any situation, providing he loves the truth. Therefore (2), although we cannot declare with categorical certainty that those who die in unbelief or heresy will be damned forever, neither can we declare that they will be saved because of their ignorance; for they may be alienated from God ”through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4.18), and not simply through the ignorance that is caused by external circumstances. Therefore (3) there is no need to posit any “second chance”, still less a “continual Descent into Hades”. And so (4) if we, who know the truth, say that people who died in ignorance of the Gospel did not need to become Christians in order to be saved, then we shall be guilty of indifference to the truth; for which we shall certainly merit damnation.

 

For while we cannot presume to know the eternal destinies of individual men, we do know this, that the Word of God is true that declares: “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16.16). And again: “Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God” (John 3.5).[24] And again: “He who does not believe will be damned” (Mark 16.16).

 

Vladimir Moss.

March 23 / April 5, 2011; revised September 16/29, 2011.

[1] St. Theophan, Tolkovanie Poslanij Sv. Apostola Pavla, Moscow, 2002, p. 369.

[2] Miniatos, “On Predestination”, Orthodox Life, November-December, 1990. p. 28.

[3] St. Justin, in Miniatos, op. cit., p. 84.

[4] Diodore, in Gerald Bray (ed.), Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. VI. Romans, Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1998, p. 235.

[5] Origen, Commentary on Romans, in Bray, op. cit., p. 234.

[6] St. Theodoret, Interpretation of the Epistle to the Romans, in Bray (ed.), p. 234.

[7] Fr. Seraphim Rose, The Place of Blessed Augustine in the Orthodox Church, Platina, Ca.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1983, p. 18.

[8] St. Augustine, Commentary on Romans 9.15, in Bray (ed.), op. cit., p. 255.

[9] Rose, op. cit., p. 17.

[10] St. Augustine, The Soul and Its Origin, in William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1979. p. 139.

[11] Notably Romaric d’Amico, a True Orthodox Christian from Paris who is writing a thesis on St. Augustine defending him against the misrepresentations of the new soteriologists.

[12] St. John of the Ladder, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 24.23.

[13] St. Cyril, in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vol. 11, InterVarsity Press, 2000, p. 107-108.

 

[14] See Fr. Georges Florovsky, “Redemption”, in Creation and Redemption, Belmont, Mass.: Nordland, 1976, pp. 143-149.

[15] St. Chrysostom, Homily 8 on John.

[16] St. Jerome, Treatise on Psalm 95.

[17] St. Chrysostom, Homily 3 on Romans, 2.

[18] St. Chrysostom, First Homily on Hannah, 3.

[19] St. Chrysostom, Homily 24 on Matthew, 1.

[20] St. Cassian, Conferences, XIII, 8.

[21] Prosper, The Call of the Nations, II, 33.

[22] Paul Garrett, St. Innocent, Apostle to America, Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1979, pp. 80-81.

[23] Garrett, op. cit., p. 85, footnote.

[24] “Weep for the unbelievers! Weep for those who differ not a whit from them, those who go hence without illumination [Baptism], without the seal [Chrismation]! These truly deserve our lamentation, our tears. They are outside the royal city with those who have been found guilty, with the condemned. “Verily, verily, I say unto you: except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven’.” (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 3 on Philippians, 4).

  • bas-f

    Without willing to take sides on the contents of the above article, I would like to kindly ask Vladimir Moss to give us the correct reference for note 13. St Cyril’s text in the note (that *not all* in Hades were delivered by Christ) is NOT found in the reference given (ACCOS 11, 107-108). Actually, as far as I can tell, this quote doesn’t seem to belong to St Cyril at all. As a matter of fact, St Cyril expresses the opposite view in his writings. Here are just a few examples, ‘clear to everyone’:

    “For He has emptied Hell as God, and loosed from their bonds those who were in it” (Migne PG 76, 236).

    “But the divine and heavenly light shone also upon the Gentiles; and He went and preached to the spirits in Hades, and showed Himself to those who were shut up in the guard-house, and freed all from their bonds and violence” (On St Luke, 1983, 93).

    “Now, the fact that Christ at his death emptied Hades and opened the gates of the lower world for the spirits in prison is clear to everyone” (FC 124, 192-193).

    “For he despoiled all of hell at once, opened the inescapable gates to the spirits of those asleep, left the devil there solitary and alone” (Migne PG 77,552).

    (William Shakespeare says the same, with an addition: “Hell is empty and all the devils are here”!)

    • Diakrisis Dogmaton

      Thank you very much for the quotations from Saint Cyril of Alexandria. If you have more, please post them all. The important point is that there is no ultimate contradiction between patristic statements that say “all” and patristic statements that say “some.” God destroys the power of Hades for “all,” but He does not destroy free will, and only “some” souls choose the gospel. That is why the quotation from Saint Cyril is so important. The pagans who accepted Christ’s enlightenment in Hades did so because they had not blinded themselves with outrageous idolatry, outrageous lust, and other such grievous sins during their earthy lives, as Saint Cyril says clearly. The soul’s capacity in Hades to perceive and accept Christ’s enlightenment is still based on one’s earthly life, as Saint Cyril indicates. That is why it must be repeated that it is inaccurate to mischaracterize this patristic doctrine as “repentance in Hades.” It is enlightenment by Christ’s truth and acceptance of, and conversion to, that truth. It is not “repentance” in the sense of a fundamental change in a soul’s character, from fundamentally evil to fundamentally good. It is also misleading to call this traditional patristic doctrine “a second chance.” The acceptance (or nonacceptance) of Christ’s enlightenment in Hades is tied to the one “chance” a soul had in his earthly life to avoid unrepentant practice of the most grievous sins on earth, as Saint Cyril also makes clear. What Christ adds in Hades is a preaching of the truth, the truth which the soul may never have heard on earth: souls are give one chance to accept the gospel, whether on earth or in Hades. Many passages from the Holy Fathers teach the Orthodox doctrine of posthumous enlightenment of some formerly-heterodox souls. Saint Anastasius of Sinai was of the opinion that those who were enlightened posthumously included the philosopher Plato. This view on Plato is not a dogma of the Church, but it is present in Orthodox tradition. All Orthodox agree that those who claimed to be Orthodox but who taught Platonic-inspired heresies in place of Orthodoxy have been anathematized (Origen, Didymus, Evagrius, etc.). The idea of universal salvation is also anathematized by all Orthodox Christians. Nevertheless, the fact that Saint Anastasius and others believed that Plato came to faith in Christ (and obtained mercy, to some degree) is one more piece among countless pieces of patristic evidence that show that many Holy Fathers teach that some pagans receive enlightenment directly from Christ in Hades. To refer to a supposed “heresy of posthumous enlightenment” (as a few individuals did in 2011) is to attack a teaching that is stated by several Holy Fathers. Posthumous enlightenment of some souls in Hades is a patristic teaching.

      Saint Cyril of Alexandria referred to this teaching in many of his writings, including treatises and letters, including works that reached us whole and works that reached us in fragments in catenae/florilegia/anthologies of patristic quotations. The quotation in question is a comment on 1 Peter 3:18–20; 4:6. It is authentic. See below for English, ancient Greek, and modern Greek, plus full citations. If there are any errors in the citations please alert me.

      1 PETER 3:18–20; 4:6: ENGLISH
      Christ … died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and preached to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark …. … the gospel has … been preached even to those who are dead, so that though they are judged in the flesh as men,they may live in the spirit according to God.

      SAINT CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA: ENGLISH
      Here Peter answers the question that some objectors have raised, namely, if the incarnation was so beneficial, why was Christ not incarnated for such a long time, given that He went to the spirits that were in prison and preached to them also? In order to deliver all those who would believe, Christ taught those who were alive on earth at the time of his Incarnation, and these others [in prison] acknowledged Him when he appeared to them in the lower regions, and thus they too benefited from His coming. Going in His soul, He preached to those who were in Hades, appearing to them as one soul to other souls. When the gatekeepers of Hades saw Him, they fled; the bronze gates were broken open, and the iron chains were undone. And the Only-Begotten Son shouted with authority to the suffering souls, according to the word of the New Covenant, saying, to those in chains: “Come forth” and to those in darkness: “Be enlightened.” In other words, He preached to those who were in Hades also, so that He might save all those who would believe in Him. For both those who were alive on earth during the time of His Incarnation and those who were in Hades had a chance to acknowledge Him. The greater part of the New Covenant is beyond nature and tradition, so that while Christ was able to preach to all those who were alive at the time of His appearing and those who believed in Him were blessed, so too He was able to liberate those in Hades who believed and acknowledged Him, by His descent there. However, the souls of those who practiced idolatry and outrageous ungodliness, as well as those who were blinded by fleshly lusts, did not have the power to see him, and they were not delivered.
      —Saint Cyril of Alexandria, fragment, Greek original in J. A. Cramer, ed., Catenae graecorum patrum in Novum Testamentum (Oxford, 1844), vol. 8, pp. 66–67; cf. English translation in Thomas C. Oden, gen. ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, vol. 11: James, 1–2 Peter, 1–3 John, Jude (Downers Grove, Ill., 2000), pp. 107–108.

      In addition, one can find more such Orthodox texts, in the following:

      Texts in English: “Passages from the Church Fathers and Other Orthodox Christian Sources Concerning Our Saviour’s Descent into Hades,” https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzJKrDVZPwcvWlRBRl9IcnJSdVRYOFhzZnN5UTlRYzRNRWln/view; compare Saint Philaret of New York, “Will the Heterodox Be Saved?,” http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/metphil_heterodox.aspx.

      Texts in ancient and Byzantine Greek: Ioannes N. Karmires, Ἡ εἰς ᾍδου κάθοδος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐξ ἐπόψεως Ὀρθοδόξου (Athens, 1939).

      Texts in Russian: Hilarion Alfeyev, Христос — Победитель ада: Тема сошествия во ад в восточно-христианской традиции ([2001]; 2d ed.; Saint Petersburg: Алетейя, 2005).

      SAINT CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA: ANCIENT GREEK
      Ἅγιος Κύριλλος Ἀλεξανδρείας, Πρωτότυπο κείμενο
      Λύει ἐνταῦθα τὴν ἀντίθεσιν ἐκείνην ἥν τινες ἀντιτίθεντες λέγουσιν· εἰ ἐπωφελὴς ᾖ ἡ ἐνανθρώπησις, τί δήποτε μὴ πρὸ πολλῶν ἐνηνθρώπησε χρόνων· ἰδοὺ γὰρ «καὶ τοῖς ἐν φυλακῇ πνεύμασι πορευθεὶς ἐκήρυξεν» ἵνα λύσῃ τούτους, ὅσοι πιστεύειν ἔμελλον· εἰ κατ’ ἐκεῖνο καιροῦ σαρκωθεὶς τοῖς ἐπὶ γῆς ἐπεφοίτησεν· οὗτοι γὰρ αὐτὸν καὶ ἐν τοῖς καταχθονίοις ἐπιφανέντα πάντως ἐπέγνωσαν, καὶ τῆς ἐπιφανείας ἀπέλαυσαν. Τῇ ψυχῇ πορευθεὶς ἐκήρυξε τοῖς ἐν ᾅδου, ὡς ψυχὴ μετὰ ψυχῶν ὀφθεὶς, ὃν οἱ πυλωποὶ τοῦ ᾅδου ἰδόντες ἔπτηξαν, καὶ πύλαι χαλκαῖ συνετρίβησαν, καὶ μοχλοὶ σιδηροῖ συνεθλάσθησαν· καὶ ὁ μονογενὴς ἐφώνει μετ’ ἐξουσίας ταῖς ὁμοιοπαθέσι ψυχαῖς, κατὰ τὸν τῆς οἰκονομίας λόγον, λέγων τοῖς ἐν δεσμοῖς, ἐξέλθετε, καὶ τοῖς ἐν τῷ σκότει ἀνακαλύφθητε. Τουτέστι, καὶ τοῖς ἐν ᾅδου ἐκήρυξεν· ἵνα λύσῃ τούτους ὅσοι πιστεύειν ἔμελλον, εἰ κατὰ τὸν τῆς ἐκείνων ζωῆς καιρὸν σαρκωθεὶς ἐπεδήμησεν· οὗτοι γὰρ καὶ εἰς ᾅδου πάντως ἐπέγνωσαν· ἔστι γὰρ τὰ πλείω τῆς καθ’ ἡμᾶς οἰκονομίας ὑπὲρ φύσιν καὶ παράδοσιν· καθάπερ οὖν ὁμοτίμως πᾶσι τοῖς ἐπὶ γῆς διὰ τῆς ἐνσάρκου παρουσίας ἐπεφώνει Χριστὸς, καὶ οἱ πιστεύσαντες ὠφελήθησαν, οὗτω καὶ διὰ τῆς εἰς ᾅδου καταβάσεως, τοὺς πιστεύοντας καὶ ἐπεγνωκότας αὐτὸν ἠλευθέρωσε τῶν τοῦ θανάτου δεσμῶν· αἱ γὰρ τῶν ἐν εἰδωλολατρίαις καὶ ἀθεμίτοις ἀσελγείαις βιωσάντων ψυχαί, ταῖς σαρκικαῖς προσπαθείαις οἱονεὶ ἀποτυφλωθεῖσαι, πρὸς τῆς θεοφανείας αὐγὰς βλέπειν οὐκ ἴσχυον·
      — Greek original in J. A. Cramer, ed., Catenae graecorum patrum in Novum Testamentum (Oxford, 1844), vol. 8, pp. 66–67.

      SAINT CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA: MODERN GREEK
      Ἅγιος Κύριλλος Ἀλεξανδρείας
      Ἀπαντᾶ ἐδῶ [ὁ Ἀπόστολος Πέτρος] στὴν ἀντίρρησηποὺ ὁρισμένοι εἶχαν προβάλει λέγοντας· ἄν ἡ ἐνανθρώπηση ἦταν εὐεργετική, γιατί δὲν πραγματοποιήθηκε πρὶν πολλοὺς χρόνους; Νά, λοιπόν, “καὶ στὰ πνεύματα ποὺ βρισκόταν στὴ φυλακὴ ἐκήρυξε”, γιὰ νὰ ἐλευθερώσει ὅσους ἐπρόκειτο νὰ πιστέψουν ἄνσαρκωνόταν στὴ δικὴ τους ἐποχή. Οἱ ἴδιοι βέβαια καὶ στὰ καταχθόνια ὅταν ἐμφανίστηκε τὸν γνώρισαν, καὶ ἀπόλαυσαν τὴν παρουσία του. Μὲ τὴν ψυχὴ του πῆγε καὶ κήρυξε σ’ αὐτοὺς ποὺ βρίσκονταν στὸν ἅδη, ἐμφανιζόμενος μὲ τὴν ψυχὴ του πρός ψυχές, τὸν ὁποῖο οἱ πορτάρηδες τοῦ ἅδη σὰν τὸν εἶδαν κατατρόμαξαν, κι οἱ χάλκινες πύλες συντρίφτηκαν, καὶ οἱ σιδερένιες ἀμπάρες ἔγιναν κομμάτια· καὶ ὁ Μονογενὴς ἐφώναζε, τρόπος τοῦ λέγειν, πρὸς τὶς ὁμοιοπαθεῖς ψυχὲς μὲ ἐξουσία, λέγοντας στοὺς δέσμιους· Βγῆτε· καὶ σ’ αὐτοὺς ποὺ ἦταν στὰ σκοτάδια· Φανερωθεῖτε. Ἐκήρυξε δηλαδὴ καὶ στὸν ἅδη, γιὰ νὰ ἐλευθερώσει αὐτοὺς ποὺ ἐπρόκειτο νὰ πιστέψουν, ἄν εἶχε ἔρθει μὲ τὴ σάρκα τὸν καιρὸ τῆς ἐπίγειας ζωῆς τους· αὐτοὶ ὁπωσδήποτε καὶ στὸν ἅδη τὸν ἀναγνώρισαν. Τὰ πιὸ πολλὰ τῆς ἐνσάρκου οἰκονομίας εἶναι πάνω ἀπὸ τὴ φύση μας καὶ πάνω ἀπὸ αὐτὰ ποὺ ἔχουμε διδαχθεῖ. Ὅπως λοιπὸν ἰσότιμα πρὸς ὅλους τοὺς κατοικοῦντες στὴ γῆ μὲ τὴν ἔνσαρκο παρουσία του κήρυττε ὁ Χριστός καὶ ὅσοι πίστεψαν ὠφελήθηκαν· ἔτσι καὶ μὲ τὴν κάθοδὸ του στὸν ἅδη, αὐτοὺς ποὺ πίστεψαν καὶ τὸν ἀναγνώρισαν τοὺς ἐλευθέρωσε ἀπὸ τὰ δεσμὰ τοῦ θανάτου. Ἐνῶ οἱ ψυχὲς αὐτῶν ποὺ πέρασαν τὴ ζωὴ τους μὲ εἰδωλολατρίες καὶ ἀπρεπεῖς ἀσέλγειες, καὶ τυφλώθηκαν σὰ νὰ λέμε ἀπὸ τὴ προσκόλλησή τους στὰ σαρκικά, αὐτοὶ δὲν εἶχαν τὴ δύναμη νὰ ἀντικρύσουν τὸ φῶς τῆς θεοφανείας του.
      — Translated into modern Greek from the original Greek in J. A. Cramer, ed., Catenae graecorum patrum in Novum Testamentum (Oxford, 1844), vol. 8, pp. 66–67.

      • bas-f

        Thanks, Διάκρισις Δογμάτων, for pointing out to me the reference. As you may know, ACCOS have the same numbering for their separate OLD and NEW Testament series. For some reason I looked only in the O.T., while the quote indeed is found in one of the volumes of the N.T. series. In any case, the correct reference should be more specific and contain the following detail: “Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture, NEW TESTAMENT, Vol. XI”. (In fact, the portion of Catena, as I checked later, exists in the writings of the Saint in Migne: PG 74, 1013-16.)

        Here some more quotes from St Cyril, pertaining to the emptying Hades, which you asked about. You are correct in saying that there is no contradiction with regards completely or partially emptying. Our nature, captivated by Satan, was liberated from the bonds, but liberation does not mean salvation to all but only to ‘His own’. So, it is correct to say “all liberated” but not to say “all were saved”.

        Comm. on Isaiah, I, 2008, 94: “he came to life again after emptying Hades” // 2008, 189-190: “canceled death… and restored everything to its original state” // 2008, 265: “plundering Hades and showing in actual fact that he is superior to death” // Comm. on Isaiah, III, 2008, 46-47: “liberated everyone” // FC 115, 249: “…death will in due course give way, and the goad of Hades will be no more” // ACT II, 2015, 260: “despoiled Hades and thrown open the gates of darkness for those who were there”.

        A few remarks here about translation from one language to another (and how a wrong translation can lead to alienated doctrines!)

        ● ACCOS English translation is not quite accurate. They say, “those who were in Hades had a chance to acknowledge Him”. The text does not mention any ‘chance’. Rather it should be read: “those who were in Hades would certainly recognized him” (“οὗτοι γὰρ καὶ εἰς ᾅδου πάντως ἐπέγνωσαν”).

        ● Also ACCOS translation of «ἀνακαλύφθητε» (“Be enlightened’) is not correct either; the verb (ἀνακαλύπτομαι) means appear, shew, be revealed, come out in the light, come forth, uncover – but in no way enlighten. The translation in modern Greek you provide has it correct: ‘φανερωθεῖτε’ (v. ‘φανερώνομαι’). Be enlightened means another thing (actually a new doctrine!), it is a serious distortion. God enlightens the heart of man before he dies, not afterwards. He doesn’t enlighten or talk to corpses decayed in the tombs or to souls deprived from their bodies. “God will not allow him to die in ignorance, but will lead him to the truth, and will enlighten him with the light of knowledge” (St Neilos the Ascetic, Letter 154, bk a’). Bishop Ignaty Brianchianinov says, “throughout the whole of his earthly life, the grace of God does not cease to assist man till the very moment of his departure” (Arena, p. 187). No posthumous enlightenment or conversion, or anything of this sort, in inferno, but during ‘earthly life’. There are no left-overs of humanity for later – no matter if they are pagans or whatever. The King and Prophet is not lying: “The Lord looks out of heaven; he beholds all the sons of men. He looks from his prepared habitation on all the dwellers on the earth” (Psalm. 32:13-14). According to St Ambrose, “He walks in the hearts and minds of each and every one of us” (FC 42, 347). He walks in the hearts of the living men, not of the dead. “The Holy Spirit is not absent from any created being… Thus we find many barbarians and nomadic peoples turning to a civilized way of life” (St Maximus the Confessor, Philokalia, First century of various texts, 72). With such clear a teaching of the Church, that the barbarians during their life are converted, who can blaspheme the Providence of God that is not present in every single human being? Who can deny the omnipotence and care of our loving Saviour for all men! Does our God not care for the remote people? Do the ‘distances’ hinder Him to reach and save people?

        ● In another place ACCOS translation says that He preached in Hades in order “to deliver all those who would believe”. However, the text doesn’t say that they believed in Hades. It actually says that He preached to those that would believe in Him if He was incarnate, i.e. if He had become man during their lifetimes. The translation in modern Greek puts it very nicely, although the English one seems to ignore it («γιά νά ἐλευθερώσει ὅσους ἐπρόκειτο νά πιστέψουν ἄν σαρκωνόταν στή δική τους ἐποχή»). Thanks for providing the Greek translation so that at least we can compare!
        **
        Thanks, Diakrisis Dogmaton, for the sources (links) that you suggested for further reading. I confess that I usually avoid myself to introduce third-hand sources to others. Especially regarding serious matters of the faith. The Patrologists, the Canonists, the Biblical scholars and the rest of the various branches of theology often fight with each other. Instead of taking one side or the other, wouldn’t it be better to spend our time in reading the plain teaching of the Church – the authoritative and genuine works of the Holy Fathers? Instead of tasting ready, fast–food prepared and served by other ‘cooks,’ would it not be better to labor ourselves -especially by joining reading with prayer? Wouldn’t that be a better ‘recipe’?

        In any case, since you offer them to me for ‘review’ I would like to comment briefly to one of the papers you suggested, the one with the title PASSAGES FROM THE CHURCH FATHERS And Other Orthodox Christian Sources Concerning Our Saviour’s Descent into Hades (which looks like an official, synodical document perhaps?) (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzJKrDVZPwcvWlRBRl9IcnJSdVRYOFhzZnN5UTlRYzRNRWln/view;). Unfortunately, there are some misunderstandings or distortions in it and I’m afraid that the paper hardly could withstand a serious critic. Please, endure me for a while.

        A.
        About the Rich man and Lazarus (pp. 20-22).

        The paper ends up with wrong conclusions. No patristic testimony whatsoever is mentioned and naturally, since the Fathers of the Church unanimously condemn the view accepted there, that the Rich man “repented for his sinful life” in Hades! Surprisingly, and opposing the Fathers, the authors of the paper consider this view “a good point”! Is that out of ignorance, a mistake, or on purpose?… In fact, the Fathers express without any exception and clearly in their writings the correct view about the fate of the rich man. I could site here their very wording, but they are so numerous to mention and I have to spare the space here:

        Athanasius the Great / Maximus the Confessor / Cyril of Alexandria / Romanos Melodist / Theophylactos / Isidore of Pelusium / Ephraim the Syrian / Gregory the Great / Gregory Palamas / Gregory of Nyssa / Gregory the Theologian / Basil the Great / Ambrose of Milan / Epiphanius of Cyprus / Anastasios of Sinai, and par excellence, Saint John Chrysostom.

        To support their view, the authors of the paper do not undertake the labor to quote not even a single Father (if there exist any!)… To whom are they talking, to ‘catechumens’? Where are the “many passages from the Holy Fathers [that] teach the Orthodox [sic] doctrine of posthumous enlightment” that you mention in your note above? Where have the “Passages from the Church Fathers” mentioned in the title gone? The reader is supposed to accept their opinion blind, as a ‘patristic position’!

        B.
        St Maximos the Confessor quote.

        In another part of this paper (pp. 23-24) something even worse is done: one of the Fathers is scissored! St Maximus answers the question about preaching to the dead in Hades (I Peter 4:6). In the first half of his answer he mentions the opinion that circulated among the people at his time, how others responded to the question (“some say…”). This is not what the saint believes, but what others say. Then, the saint goes forth to express his full response. But what if, perhaps, ‘some’ do not want to listen to what the Gospel and the Churches position is? What if they prefer to keep for themselves just what the others say? Very easy! A scissor does the work perfectly. You cut that portion and, lo the miracle, the view of ‘some’ becomes the view of the Church and of the Fathers! The ‘letter’ kills, so let us kill the letter! You shut the mouth of the saint and all is accomplished!… To anyone concerned: St Maximus says in his cut piece something interesting: “The dead are judged in this world”. No ‘chance’ after departure! They are judged IN THIS WORLD. I don’t see why we have to play with the divine words? Why we cut & paste and tailor the divine saying to fit our measurements? St Isaac the Syrian is very serious when he forewarns us: “Let no one take hold of, and bring forth out of context, a statement from our words and leave the rest, senselessly clutching that alone in his hands” (Homily 76). Have we lost our senses to arm against the Fathers whom we claim we follow?

        C.

        Another (in)famous example is the story about Trajan the Emperor (p.8), the persecutor of Christians. Supposedly by the prayers of St Gregory the Great he was relieved from Hell. In this apocryphal story God is asking St Gregory never to pray again on behalf of impious non-Christians.

        It is true, that Christians do not pray for the impious dead non-Christians. Not because we want them to be kept in torments but because it is their free choice and after all, as a result of their previous life, they are not receptive of any sort of help. How it is possible, asks Cabasilas, for somebody “to look at the light whose eyes have been gouged out” (Life in Christ, 4).

        However, according to the story, it is in the hands of God to free them, but He, nevertheless, wants them to be kept in their sad state. Here the saint appears more compassionate than God! Is it the God of Orthodoxy Who is portrayed in this scenario? Does God want people to be punished in Hell? Is it not their passions that torment them?

        To understand the hoax of this story we simply can check with the works of the ‘real’ St Gregory. First, this story is not found there. Second, in his writings St Gregory easily persuades us to the truth of the matter. He clearly states – in opposition to this story – that we do not pray for those condemned to eternal fire. (Dialogues 4:44: “holy men do not now pray for them that die in their infidelity and known wicked life: for seeing certain it is that they be condemned to endless pains, to what purpose should they pray for them, when they know that no petition will be admitted of God”). Also in his work The Parables of the Gospel, St Gregory says that there is no time of repentance in the other life, all the opportunities are finishing here: “Once the door of the kingdom is closed they can no longer approach him, who was formerly so approachable… he who wasted the time of fruitful penance pleads in vain before the gate of the kingdom”). Again, in another work he says: “The Saints do not pray for the unbelieving and impious that are dead” (Moralia, 34:19). This is the genuine teaching of St Gregory the Great; his counterpart’s sayings exist only in apocryphal and dubious sources. Again in another place: “In such state as a man departeth out of this life, in the same he is presented in judgment before God” (Dialogues 1,41,3).

        Repentance, conversion, change of one’s mind, or no matter what one calls it, does not exist after the departure of the soul from the body. Besides that, the condemned ones are tormented by their own passions and not by God, as false anti-christian stories teach.

        “We know, that God does not punish anyone in the future, but everyone makes themselves receptive to share in God. And so to share in God is a delight, while not sharing in Him is hell” (St John of Damascus, Contra Manichaeos 44). To be deprived from those unspeakable goods – that is hell. The Rich man was not tortured by God but “because it is a punishment for the voluptuous to lack delights” (St Ambrose). Unsatisfied passions are the “chasm” that Abraham couldn’t help to overcome and reach the unfortunate man: he was tormented from inside.

        After all, if indeed it was possible for one to move from Hell to Paradise, that would be the real torment!… Adam was in Paradise and was tormented; he was expelled and was relieved. “To be saved, we must humble ourselves, for the proud man even were he to be set down in paradise would not find peace there but would be discontent, and say, ‘Why am I not up in the front rank?’ But the humble soul is filled with love and does not seek to be in the foreground. The humble soul wishes good to all men, and in all things, is content” (Starets Silouan, 1991, 304). “But he who loves not his enemies will never find peace, even though he were to be set down in paradise” (422).

        D.
        About Plato.
        This story, included into St Anastasius Q & A, does not belong to the genuine writings of St Anastasius of Sinai. The work Question-Answers that bears the name “Anastasius of Sinai” is in fact a compilation of 3 authors with this name: Anastasius the 3rd, bishop of Nicaea, Anastasius the 2nd, bishop of Antioch and Anastasius the Presbyter the Sinaite. The compiler thought that they were one and the same person and collected them in one. The above Q&A belong to the latter one, the Sinaite Presbyter, whose writings, as an editor of his works noted, “are not worthy of mentioning since they do not contain genuine Christian teaching”.

        The problem with the # 61 Q&A is not simply because it refers to an apocryphal story (of course not all the apocryphal are to be rejected) but because it is in direct opposition with the teaching of the Church and the consensus patrum. The Fathers characterize with strong and harsh expressions (actually they ‘anathematize’) Plato and his strange and heretical and demonic philosophical ideas. “An evil spirit, and some cruel demon at war with our race, a foe to modesty, and an enemy to good order, oversetting all things, hath made his voice be heard in [his] soul,” says St John Chrysostom (On Gospel of St Matthew, 1:10, 11).

        Of course we know that idolaters that had a virtuous life will be comforted in the other life as St John Chrysostom says (NF 10, 241 “But in proof that they who, not having known Christ before His coming in the flesh, yet refrained from idolatry and worshipped God only, and showed forth an excellent life, shall enjoy all the blessings”). However, Plato, from the point of a good life doesn’t pass the test either. He taught that women are created to be common to all, no one should have his own wife but all women should be available to everyone. There were “demons that preached these things”, St Chrysostom says, and adds some more epithets, about their “uncleanness” of his ways of life, homosexuality and “pederasty” besides adultery and other “inventions of devils, and contrary to nature”. They consider pederasty “re¬spectable and a part of philosophy,” he says (On Babylas, 49, FC 73, 103). St John of Damascus, in the Heresy of Platonists, mentions their belief about “uncreated soul” and “transmigration of souls into bodies, even into those of reptiles” (Heresies, 6).

        The story, after the appearance of Plato (or perhaps the demon that appeared in the form of Plato!) concludes: “When you hear about this do not think that conversion is always possible in Hades. This is something that happened on one unique occasion, when Christ descended into the underworld”. Good to know. Conversion happened only once, and it happens no more! You should correct your paper then, which in the very beginning says that there is conversion in Hades – or erase that story about Plato. One of the two, please.

        In his writings, the real Saint Anastasius says that the Christian should anathematize “those that do teach alienated doctrines and do not follow the saints and teachers of the Church, and consider them condemned and estranged from Christ” (Odegos, 3.2). Which “saint Anastasius” we should prefer, the above paper’s or the real one?

        After all, in the service of the Sunday of Orthodoxy we anathematize (thrice) all the heresies and among them the pagan ancient philosophers and their teaching, and namely Plato. According to St Gregory Palamas, “we place the opinions of the Fathers above the babbles of Aristotle and Plato” (Letter to Barlaam, 1,33). Otherwise, if we give credibility in such stories as the ones about Plato, Trajan etc. we rather may think seriously about changing the Synodicon of Orthodoxy!

        Your synod (?) anathematized the council of 1912, something that nobody in the whole world (no local church or synod of bishops) dared ever to do; still, you withhold anathematizing those that the whole Church anathematized! Based on a false story!

        Sorry, but I don’t really intend to intervene in your position or beliefs. You have all the rights to believe and write whatever you want. Just a few thoughts because you answered to me and that’s all. I wish we don’t start unending public dialogues.

      • bas-f

        Thanks, Διάκρισις Δογμάτων, for pointing out to me the reference. As you may know, ACCOS have the same numbering for their separate OLD and NEW Testament series. For some reason I looked only in the O.T., while the quote indeed is found in one of the volumes of the N.T. series. In any case, the correct reference should be more specific and contain the following detail: “Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture, NEW TESTAMENT, Vol. XI”. (In fact, the portion of Catena, as I checked later, exists in the writings of the Saint in Migne: PG 74, 1013-16.)

        Here some more quotes from St Cyril, pertaining to the emptying Hades, which you asked about. You are correct in saying that there is no contradiction with regards completely or partially emptying. Our nature, captivated by Satan, was liberated from the bonds, but liberation does not mean salvation to all but only to ‘His own’. So, it is correct to say “all liberated” but not to say “all were saved”.

        Comm. on Isaiah, I, 2008, 94: “he came to life again after emptying Hades” // 2008, 189-190: “canceled death… and restored everything to its original state” // 2008, 265: “plundering Hades and showing in actual fact that he is superior to death” // Comm. on Isaiah, III, 2008, 46-47: “liberated everyone” // FC 115, 249: “…death will in due course give way, and the goad of Hades will be no more” // ACT II, 2015, 260: “despoiled Hades and thrown open the gates of darkness for those who were there”.

        A few remarks here about translation from one language to another (and how a wrong translation can lead to alienated doctrines!)

        ● ACCOS English translation is not quite accurate. They say, “those who were in Hades had a chance to acknowledge Him”. The text does not mention any ‘chance’. Rather it should be read: “those who were in Hades would certainly recognized him” (“οὗτοι γὰρ καὶ εἰς ᾅδου πάντως ἐπέγνωσαν”).

        ● Also ACCOS translation of «ἀνακαλύφθητε» (“Be enlightened’) is not correct either; the verb (ἀνακαλύπτομαι) means appear, shew, be revealed, come out in the light, come forth, uncover – but in no way enlighten. The translation in modern Greek you provide has it correct: ‘φανερωθεῖτε’ (v. ‘φανερώνομαι’). Be enlightened means another thing (actually a new doctrine!), it is a serious distortion. God enlightens the heart of man before he dies, not afterwards. He doesn’t enlighten or talk to corpses decayed in the tombs or to souls deprived from their bodies. “God will not allow him to die in ignorance, but will lead him to the truth, and will enlighten him with the light of knowledge” (St Neilos the Ascetic, Letter 154, bk a’). Bishop Ignaty Brianchianinov says, “throughout the whole of his earthly life, the grace of God does not cease to assist man till the very moment of his departure” (Arena, p. 187). No posthumous enlightenment or conversion, or anything of this sort, in inferno, but during ‘earthly life’. There are no left-overs of humanity for later – no matter if they are pagans or whatever. The King and Prophet is not lying: “The Lord looks out of heaven; he beholds all the sons of men. He looks from his prepared habitation on all the dwellers on the earth” (Psalm. 32:13-14). According to St Ambrose, “He walks in the hearts and minds of each and every one of us” (FC 42, 347). He walks in the hearts of the living men, not of the dead. “The Holy Spirit is not absent from any created being… Thus we find many barbarians and nomadic peoples turning to a civilized way of life” (St Maximus the Confessor, Philokalia, First century of various texts, 72). With such clear a teaching of the Church, that the barbarians during their life are converted, who can blaspheme the Providence of God that is not present in every single human being? Who can deny the omnipotence and care of our loving Saviour for all men! Does our God not care for the remote people? Do the ‘distances’ hinder Him to reach and save people?

        ● In another place ACCOS translation says that He preached in Hades in order “to deliver all those who would believe”. However, the text doesn’t say that they believed in Hades. It actually says that He preached to those that would believe in Him if He was incarnate, i.e. if He had become man during their lifetimes. The translation in modern Greek puts it very nicely, although the English one seems to ignore it («γιά νά ἐλευθερώσει ὅσους ἐπρόκειτο νά πιστέψουν ἄν σαρκωνόταν στή δική τους ἐποχή»). Thanks for providing the Greek translation so that at least we can compare!

        **
        Thanks, Diakrisis Dogmaton, for the sources (links) that you suggested for further reading. I confess that I usually avoid myself to introduce third-hand sources to others. Especially regarding serious matters of the faith. The Patrologists, the Canonists, the Biblical scholars and the rest of the various branches of theology often fight with each other. Instead of taking one side or the other, wouldn’t it be better to spend our time in reading the plain teaching of the Church – the authoritative and genuine works of the Holy Fathers? Instead of tasting ready, fast–food prepared and served by other ‘cooks,’ would it not be better to labor ourselves -especially by joining reading with prayer? Wouldn’t that be a better ‘recipe’?

        In any case, since you offer them to me for ‘review’ I would like to comment briefly to one of the papers you suggested, the one with the title PASSAGES FROM THE CHURCH FATHERS And Other Orthodox Christian Sources Concerning Our Saviour’s Descent into Hades (which looks like an official, synodical document perhaps?) (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzJKrDVZPwcvWlRBRl9IcnJSdVRYOFhzZnN5UTlRYzRNRWln/view;). Unfortunately, there are some misunderstandings or distortions in it and I’m afraid that the paper hardly could withstand a serious critic. Please, endure me for a while.

        A.
        About the Rich man and Lazarus (pp. 20-22).
        The paper ends up with wrong conclusions. No patristic testimony whatsoever is mentioned and naturally, since the Fathers of the Church unanimously condemn the view accepted there, that the Rich man “repented for his sinful life” in Hades! Surprisingly, and opposing the Fathers, the authors of the paper consider this view “a good point”! Is that out of ignorance, a mistake, or on purpose?… In fact, the Fathers express without any exception and clearly in their writings the correct view about the fate of the rich man. I could site here their very wording, but they are so numerous to mention and I have to spare the space here:

        Athanasius the Great / Maximus the Confessor / Cyril of Alexandria / Romanos Melodist / Theophylactos / Isidore of Pelusium / Ephraim the Syrian / Gregory the Great / Gregory Palamas / Gregory of Nyssa / Gregory the Theologian / Basil the Great / Ambrose of Milan / Epiphanius of Cyprus / Anastasios of Sinai, and par excellence, Saint John Chrysostom.

        To support their view, the authors of the paper do not undertake the labor to quote not even a single Father (if there exist any!)… To whom are they talking, to ‘catechumens’? Where are the “many passages from the Holy Fathers [that] teach the Orthodox [sic] doctrine of posthumous enlightment” that you mention in your note above? Where have the “Passages from the Church Fathers” mentioned in the title gone? The reader is supposed to accept their opinion blind, as a ‘patristic position’!
        B.
        St Maximos the Confessor quote.

        In another part of this paper (pp. 23-24) something even worse is done: one of the Fathers is scissored! St Maximus answers the question about preaching to the dead in Hades (I Peter 4:6). In the first half of his answer he mentions the opinion that circulated among the people at his time, how others responded to the question (“some say…”). This is not what the saint believes, but what others say. Then, the saint goes forth to express his full response. But what if, perhaps, ‘some’ do not want to listen to what the Gospel and the Churches position is? What if they prefer to keep for themselves just what the others say? Very easy! A scissor does the work perfectly. You cut that portion and, lo the miracle, the view of ‘some’ becomes the view of the Church and of the Fathers! The ‘letter’ kills, so let us kill the letter! You shut the mouth of the saint and all is accomplished!… To anyone concerned: St Maximus says in his cut piece something interesting: “The dead are judged in this world”. No ‘chance’ after departure! They are judged IN THIS WORLD. I don’t see why we have to play with the divine words? Why we cut & paste and tailor the divine saying to fit our measurements? St Isaac the Syrian is very serious when he forewarns us: “Let no one take hold of, and bring forth out of context, a statement from our words and leave the rest, senselessly clutching that alone in his hands” (Homily 76). Have we lost our senses to arm against the Fathers whom we claim we follow?

        C.

        Another (in)famous example is the story about Trajan the Emperor (p.8), the persecutor of Christians. Supposedly by the prayers of St Gregory the Great he was relieved from Hell. In this apocryphal story God is asking St Gregory never to pray again on behalf of impious non-Christians.

        It is true, that Christians do not pray for the impious dead non-Christians. Not because we want them to be kept in torments but because it is their free choice and after all, as a result of their previous life, they are not receptive of any sort of help. How it is possible, asks Cabasilas, for somebody “to look at the light whose eyes have been gouged out” (Life in Christ, 4).

        However, according to the story, it is in the hands of God to free them, but He, nevertheless, wants them to be kept in their sad state. Here the saint appears more compassionate than God! Is it the God of Orthodoxy Who is portrayed in this scenario? Does God want people to be punished in Hell? Is it not their passions that torment them?

        To understand the hoax of this story we simply can check with the works of the ‘real’ St Gregory. First, this story is not found there. Second, in his writings St Gregory easily persuades us to the truth of the matter. He clearly states – in opposition to this story – that we do not pray for those condemned to eternal fire. (Dialogues 4:44: “holy men do not now pray for them that die in their infidelity and known wicked life: for seeing certain it is that they be condemned to endless pains, to what purpose should they pray for them, when they know that no petition will be admitted of God”). Also in his work The Parables of the Gospel, St Gregory says that there is no time of repentance in the other life, all the opportunities are finishing here: “Once the door of the kingdom is closed they can no longer approach him, who was formerly so approachable… he who wasted the time of fruitful penance pleads in vain before the gate of the kingdom”). Again, in another work he says: “The Saints do not pray for the unbelieving and impious that are dead” (Moralia, 34:19). This is the genuine teaching of St Gregory the Great; his counterpart’s sayings exist only in apocryphal and dubious sources. Again in another place: “In such state as a man departeth out of this life, in the same he is presented in judgment before God” (Dialogues 1,41,3).

        Repentance, conversion, change of one’s mind, or no matter what one calls it, does not exist after the departure of the soul from the body. Besides that, the condemned ones are tormented by their own passions and not by God, as false anti-christian stories teach.

        “We know, that God does not punish anyone in the future, but everyone makes themselves receptive to share in God. And so to share in God is a delight, while not sharing in Him is hell” (St John of Damascus, Contra Manichaeos 44). To be deprived from those unspeakable goods – that is hell. The Rich man was not tortured by God but “because it is a punishment for the voluptuous to lack delights” (St Ambrose). Unsatisfied passions are the “chasm” that Abraham couldn’t help to overcome and reach the unfortunate man: he was tormented from inside.

        After all, if indeed it was possible for one to move from Hell to Paradise, that would be the real torment!… Adam was in Paradise and was tormented; he was expelled and was relieved. “To be saved, we must humble ourselves, for the proud man even were he to be set down in paradise would not find peace there but would be discontent, and say, ‘Why am I not up in the front rank?’ But the humble soul is filled with love and does not seek to be in the foreground. The humble soul wishes good to all men, and in all things, is content” (Starets Silouan, 1991, 304). “But he who loves not his enemies will never find peace, even though he were to be set down in paradise” (422).

        D.

        About Plato.

        This story, included into St Anastasius Q & A, does not belong to the genuine writings of St Anastasius of Sinai. The work Question-Answers that bears the name “Anastasius of Sinai” is in fact a compilation of 3 authors with this name: Anastasius the 3rd, bishop of Nicaea, Anastasius the 2nd, bishop of Antioch and Anastasius the Presbyter the Sinaite. The compiler thought that they were one and the same person and collected them in one. The above Q&A belong to the latter one, the Sinaite Presbyter, whose writings, as an editor of his works noted, “are not worthy of mentioning since they do not contain genuine Christian teaching”.

        The problem with the # 61 Q&A is not simply because it refers to an apocryphal story (of course not all the apocryphal are to be rejected) but because it is in direct opposition with the teaching of the Church and the consensus patrum. The Fathers characterize with strong and harsh expressions (actually they ‘anathematize’) Plato and his strange and heretical and demonic philosophical ideas. “An evil spirit, and some cruel demon at war with our race, a foe to modesty, and an enemy to good order, oversetting all things, hath made his voice be heard in [his] soul,” says St John Chrysostom (On Gospel of St Matthew, 1:10, 11).

        Of course we know that idolaters that had a virtuous life will be comforted in the other life as St John Chrysostom says (NF 10, 241 “But in proof that they who, not having known Christ before His coming in the flesh, yet refrained from idolatry and worshipped God only, and showed forth an excellent life, shall enjoy all the blessings”). However, Plato, from the point of a good life doesn’t pass the test either. He taught that women are created to be common to all, no one should have his own wife but all women should be available to everyone. There were “demons that preached these things”, St Chrysostom says, and adds some more epithets, about their “uncleanness” of his ways of life, homosexuality and “pederasty” besides adultery and other “inventions of devils, and contrary to nature”. They consider pederasty “re¬spectable and a part of philosophy,” he says (On Babylas, 49, FC 73, 103). St John of Damascus, in the Heresy of Platonists, mentions their belief about “uncreated soul” and “transmigration of souls into bodies, even into those of reptiles” (Heresies, 6).

        The story, after the appearance of Plato (or perhaps the demon that appeared in the form of Plato!) concludes: “When you hear about this do not think that conversion is always possible in Hades. This is something that happened on one unique occasion, when Christ descended into the underworld”. Good to know. Conversion happened only once, and it happens no more! You should correct your paper then, which in the very beginning says that there is conversion in Hades – or erase that story about Plato. One of the two, please.

        In his writings, the real Saint Anastasius says that the Christian should anathematize “those that do teach alienated doctrines and do not follow the saints and teachers of the Church, and consider them condemned and estranged from Christ” (Odegos, 3.2). Which “saint Anastasius” we should prefer, the above paper’s or the real one?

        After all, in the service of the Sunday of Orthodoxy we anathematize (thrice) all the heresies and among them the pagan ancient philosophers and their teaching, and namely Plato. According to St Gregory Palamas, “we place the opinions of the Fathers above the babbles of Aristotle and Plato” (Letter to Barlaam, 1,33). Otherwise, if we give credibility in such stories as the ones about Plato, Trajan etc. we rather may think seriously about changing the Synodicon of Orthodoxy!

        Your synod (?) anathematized the council of 1912, something that nobody in the whole world (no local church or synod of bishops) dared ever to do; still, you withhold anathematizing those that the whole Church anathematized! Based on a false story!

        Sorry, but I don’t really intend to intervene in your position or beliefs. You have all the rights to believe and write whatever you want. Just a few thoughts because you answered to me and that’s all. I wish we don’t start unending public dialogues.

      • bas-f

        Thanks, Διάκρισις Δογμάτων, for pointing out to me the reference. As you may know, ACCOS have the same numbering for their separate OLD and NEW Testament series. For some reason I looked only in the O.T., while the quote indeed is found in one of the volumes of the N.T. series. In any case, the correct reference should be more specific and contain the following detail: “Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture, NEW TESTAMENT, Vol. XI”. (In fact, the portion of Catena, as I checked later, exists in the writings of the Saint in Migne: PG 74, 1013-16.)

        Here some more quotes from St Cyril, pertaining to the emptying Hades, which you asked about. You are correct in saying that there is no contradiction with regards completely or partially emptying. Our nature, captivated by Satan, was liberated from the bonds, but liberation does not mean salvation to all but only to ‘His own’. So, it is correct to say “all liberated” but not to say “all were saved”.

        Comm. on Isaiah, I, 2008, 94: “he came to life again after emptying Hades” // 2008, 189-190: “canceled death… and restored everything to its original state” // 2008, 265: “plundering Hades and showing in actual fact that he is superior to death” // Comm. on Isaiah, III, 2008, 46-47: “liberated everyone” // FC 115, 249: “…death will in due course give way, and the goad of Hades will be no more” // ACT II, 2015, 260: “despoiled Hades and thrown open the gates of darkness for those who were there”.

        A few remarks here about translation from one language to another (and how a wrong translation can lead to alienated doctrines!)

        ● ACCOS English translation is not quite accurate. They say, “those who were in Hades had a chance to acknowledge Him”. The text does not mention any ‘chance’. Rather it should be read: “those who were in Hades would certainly recognized him” (“οὗτοι γὰρ καὶ εἰς ᾅδου πάντως ἐπέγνωσαν”).

        ● Also ACCOS translation of «ἀνακαλύφθητε» (“Be enlightened’) is not correct either; the verb (ἀνακαλύπτομαι) means appear, shew, be revealed, come out in the light, come forth, uncover – but in no way enlighten. The translation in modern Greek you provide has it correct: ‘φανερωθεῖτε’ (v. ‘φανερώνομαι’). Be enlightened means another thing (actually a new doctrine!), it is a serious distortion. God enlightens the heart of man before he dies, not afterwards. He doesn’t enlighten or talk to corpses decayed in the tombs or to souls deprived from their bodies. “God will not allow him to die in ignorance, but will lead him to the truth, and will enlighten him with the light of knowledge” (St Neilos the Ascetic, Letter 154, bk a’). Bishop Ignaty Brianchianinov says, “throughout the whole of his earthly life, the grace of God does not cease to assist man till the very moment of his departure” (Arena, p. 187). No posthumous enlightenment or conversion, or anything of this sort, in inferno, but during ‘earthly life’. There are no left-overs of humanity for later – no matter if they are pagans or whatever. The King and Prophet is not lying: “The Lord looks out of heaven; he beholds all the sons of men. He looks from his prepared habitation on all the dwellers on the earth” (Psalm. 32:13-14). According to St Ambrose, “He walks in the hearts and minds of each and every one of us” (FC 42, 347). He walks in the hearts of the living men, not of the dead. “The Holy Spirit is not absent from any created being… Thus we find many barbarians and nomadic peoples turning to a civilized way of life” (St Maximus the Confessor, Philokalia, First century of various texts, 72). With such clear a teaching of the Church, that the barbarians during their life are converted, who can blaspheme the Providence of God that is not present in every single human being? Who can deny the omnipotence and care of our loving Saviour for all men! Does our God not care for the remote people? Do the ‘distances’ hinder Him to reach and save people?

        ● In another place ACCOS translation says that He preached in Hades in order “to deliver all those who would believe”. However, the text doesn’t say that they believed in Hades. It actually says that He preached to those that would believe in Him if He was incarnate, i.e. if He had become man during their lifetimes. The translation in modern Greek puts it very nicely, although the English one seems to ignore it («γιά νά ἐλευθερώσει ὅσους ἐπρόκειτο νά πιστέψουν ἄν σαρκωνόταν στή δική τους ἐποχή»). Thanks for providing the Greek translation so that at least we can compare!

        **

        Thanks, Diakrisis Dogmaton, for the sources (links) that you suggested for further reading. I confess that I usually avoid myself to introduce third-hand sources to others. Especially regarding serious matters of the faith. The Patrologists, the Canonists, the Biblical scholars and the rest of the various branches of theology often fight with each other. Instead of taking one side or the other, wouldn’t it be better to spend our time in reading the plain teaching of the Church – the authoritative and genuine works of the Holy Fathers? Instead of tasting ready, fast–food prepared and served by other ‘cooks,’ would it not be better to labor ourselves -especially by joining reading with prayer? Wouldn’t that be a better ‘recipe’?

        In any case, since you offer them to me for ‘review’ I would like to comment briefly to one of the papers you suggested, the one with the title PASSAGES FROM THE CHURCH FATHERS And Other Orthodox Christian Sources Concerning Our Saviour’s Descent into Hades (which looks like an official, synodical document perhaps?) (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzJKrDVZPwcvWlRBRl9IcnJSdVRYOFhzZnN5UTlRYzRNRWln/view;). Unfortunately, there are some misunderstandings or distortions in it and I’m afraid that the paper hardly could withstand a serious critic. Please, endure me for a while.

        A.

        About the Rich man and Lazarus (pp. 20-22).
        The paper ends up with wrong conclusions. No patristic testimony whatsoever is mentioned and naturally, since the Fathers of the Church unanimously condemn the view accepted there, that the Rich man “repented for his sinful life” in Hades! Surprisingly, and opposing the Fathers, the authors of the paper consider this view “a good point”! Is that out of ignorance, a mistake, or on purpose?… In fact, the Fathers express without any exception and clearly in their writings the correct view about the fate of the rich man. I could site here their very wording, but they are so numerous to mention and I have to spare the space here:

        Athanasius the Great / Maximus the Confessor / Cyril of Alexandria / Romanos Melodist / Theophylactos / Isidore of Pelusium / Ephraim the Syrian / Gregory the Great / Gregory Palamas / Gregory of Nyssa / Gregory the Theologian / Basil the Great / Ambrose of Milan / Epiphanius of Cyprus / Anastasios of Sinai, and par excellence, Saint John Chrysostom.

        To support their view, the authors of the paper do not undertake the labor to quote not even a single Father (if there exist any!)… To whom are they talking, to ‘catechumens’? Where are the “many passages from the Holy Fathers [that] teach the Orthodox [sic] doctrine of posthumous enlightment” that you mention in your note above? Where have the “Passages from the Church Fathers” mentioned in the title gone? The reader is supposed to accept their opinion blind, as a ‘patristic position’!

        B.

        St Maximos the Confessor quote.
        In another part of this paper (pp. 23-24) something even worse is done: one of the Fathers is scissored! St Maximus answers the question about preaching to the dead in Hades (I Peter 4:6). In the first half of his answer he mentions the opinion that circulated among the people at his time, how others responded to the question (“some say…”). This is not what the saint believes, but what others say. Then, the saint goes forth to express his full response. But what if, perhaps, ‘some’ do not want to listen to what the Gospel and the Churches position is? What if they prefer to keep for themselves just what the others say? Very easy! A scissor does the work perfectly. You cut that portion and, lo the miracle, the view of ‘some’ becomes the view of the Church and of the Fathers! The ‘letter’ kills, so let us kill the letter! You shut the mouth of the saint and all is accomplished!… To anyone concerned: St Maximus says in his cut piece something interesting: “The dead are judged in this world”. No ‘chance’ after departure! They are judged IN THIS WORLD. I don’t see why we have to play with the divine words? Why we cut & paste and tailor the divine saying to fit our measurements? St Isaac the Syrian is very serious when he forewarns us: “Let no one take hold of, and bring forth out of context, a statement from our words and leave the rest, senselessly clutching that alone in his hands” (Homily 76). Have we lost our senses to arm against the Fathers whom we claim we follow?

        C.

        Another (in)famous example is the story about Trajan the Emperor (p.8), the persecutor of Christians. Supposedly by the prayers of St Gregory the Great he was relieved from Hell. In this apocryphal story God is asking St Gregory never to pray again on behalf of impious non-Christians.

        It is true, that Christians do not pray for the impious dead non-Christians. Not because we want them to be kept in torments but because it is their free choice and after all, as a result of their previous life, they are not receptive of any sort of help. How it is possible, asks Cabasilas, for somebody “to look at the light whose eyes have been gouged out” (Life in Christ, 4).

        However, according to the story, it is in the hands of God to free them, but He, nevertheless, wants them to be kept in their sad state. Here the saint appears more compassionate than God! Is it the God of Orthodoxy Who is portrayed in this scenario? Does God want people to be punished in Hell? Is it not their passions that torment them?

        To understand the hoax of this story we simply can check with the works of the ‘real’ St Gregory. First, this story is not found there. Second, in his writings St Gregory easily persuades us to the truth of the matter. He clearly states – in opposition to this story – that we do not pray for those condemned to eternal fire. (Dialogues 4:44: “holy men do not now pray for them that die in their infidelity and known wicked life: for seeing certain it is that they be condemned to endless pains, to what purpose should they pray for them, when they know that no petition will be admitted of God”). Also in his work The Parables of the Gospel, St Gregory says that there is no time of repentance in the other life, all the opportunities are finishing here: “Once the door of the kingdom is closed they can no longer approach him, who was formerly so approachable… he who wasted the time of fruitful penance pleads in vain before the gate of the kingdom”). Again, in another work he says: “The Saints do not pray for the unbelieving and impious that are dead” (Moralia, 34:19). This is the genuine teaching of St Gregory the Great; his counterpart’s sayings exist only in apocryphal and dubious sources. Again in another place: “In such state as a man departeth out of this life, in the same he is presented in judgment before God” (Dialogues 1,41,3).

        Repentance, conversion, change of one’s mind, or no matter what one calls it, does not exist after the departure of the soul from the body. Besides that, the condemned ones are tormented by their own passions and not by God, as false anti-christian stories teach.

        “We know, that God does not punish anyone in the future, but everyone makes themselves receptive to share in God. And so to share in God is a delight, while not sharing in Him is hell” (St John of Damascus, Contra Manichaeos 44). To be deprived from those unspeakable goods – that is hell. The Rich man was not tortured by God but “because it is a punishment for the voluptuous to lack delights” (St Ambrose). Unsatisfied passions are the “chasm” that Abraham couldn’t help to overcome and reach the unfortunate man: he was tormented from inside.

        After all, if indeed it was possible for one to move from Hell to Paradise, that would be the real torment!… Adam was in Paradise and was tormented; he was expelled and was relieved. “To be saved, we must humble ourselves, for the proud man even were he to be set down in paradise would not find peace there but would be discontent, and say, ‘Why am I not up in the front rank?’ But the humble soul is filled with love and does not seek to be in the foreground. The humble soul wishes good to all men, and in all things, is content” (Starets Silouan, 1991, 304). “But he who loves not his enemies will never find peace, even though he were to be set down in paradise” (422).

        D.

        About Plato.
        This story, included into St Anastasius Q & A, does not belong to the genuine writings of St Anastasius of Sinai. The work Question-Answers that bears the name “Anastasius of Sinai” is in fact a compilation of 3 authors with this name: Anastasius the 3rd, bishop of Nicaea, Anastasius the 2nd, bishop of Antioch and Anastasius the Presbyter the Sinaite. The compiler thought that they were one and the same person and collected them in one. The above Q&A belong to the latter one, the Sinaite Presbyter, whose writings, as an editor of his works noted, “are not worthy of mentioning since they do not contain genuine Christian teaching”.

        The problem with the # 61 Q&A is not simply because it refers to an apocryphal story (of course not all the apocryphal are to be rejected) but because it is in direct opposition with the teaching of the Church and the consensus patrum. The Fathers characterize with strong and harsh expressions (actually they ‘anathematize’) Plato and his strange and heretical and demonic philosophical ideas. “An evil spirit, and some cruel demon at war with our race, a foe to modesty, and an enemy to good order, oversetting all things, hath made his voice be heard in [his] soul,” says St John Chrysostom (On Gospel of St Matthew, 1:10, 11).

        Of course we know that idolaters that had a virtuous life will be comforted in the other life as St John Chrysostom says (NF 10, 241 “But in proof that they who, not having known Christ before His coming in the flesh, yet refrained from idolatry and worshipped God only, and showed forth an excellent life, shall enjoy all the blessings”). However, Plato, from the point of a good life doesn’t pass the test either. He taught that women are created to be common to all, no one should have his own wife but all women should be available to everyone. There were “demons that preached these things”, St Chrysostom says, and adds some more epithets, about their “uncleanness” of his ways of life, homosexuality and “pederasty” besides adultery and other “inventions of devils, and contrary to nature”. They consider pederasty “respectable and a part of philosophy,” he says (On Babylas, 49, FC 73, 103). St John of Damascus, in the Heresy of Platonists, mentions their belief about “uncreated soul” and “transmigration of souls into bodies, even into those of reptiles” (Heresies, 6).

        The story, after the appearance of Plato (or perhaps the demon that appeared in the form of Plato!) concludes: “When you hear about this do not think that conversion is always possible in Hades. This is something that happened on one unique occasion, when Christ descended into the underworld”. Good to know. Conversion happened only once, and it happens no more! You should correct your paper then, which in the very beginning says that there is conversion in Hades – or erase that story about Plato. One of the two, please.

        In his writings, the real Saint Anastasius says that the Christian should anathematize “those that do teach alienated doctrines and do not follow the saints and teachers of the Church, and consider them condemned and estranged from Christ” (Odegos, 3.2). Which “saint Anastasius” we should prefer, the above paper’s or the real one?

        After all, in the service of the Sunday of Orthodoxy we anathematize (thrice) all the heresies and among them the pagan ancient philosophers and their teaching, and namely Plato. According to St Gregory Palamas, “we place the opinions of the Fathers above the babbles of Aristotle and Plato” (Letter to Barlaam, 1,33). Otherwise, if we give credibility in such stories as the ones about Plato, Trajan etc. we rather may think seriously about changing the Synodicon of Orthodoxy!

        Your synod (?) anathematized the council of 1912, something that nobody in the whole world (no local church or synod of bishops) dared ever to do; still, you withhold anathematizing those that the whole Church anathematized! Based on a false story!

        Sorry, but I don’t really intend to intervene in your position or beliefs. You have all the rights to believe and write whatever you want. Just a few thoughts because you answered to me and that’s all. I wish we don’t start unending public dialogues.

      • bas-f

        Dear coordinator, hieromonk Fr Enoch,

        I sent a couple of days ago my second response to the above article (especially addressed to Diakrisis Dogmaton) and indeed it was uploaded normally. However, after perhaps some hours it …disappeared. Fortunately I anticipated and kept a print screen of the page (my second message included), also it exists in my DISQAS account. I believe some technical problems may have created this situation. I pray you fix the issue and the page soon be reloaded…

        Actually, I sent my response for a …third time, today, and happened the same (for three times), my message disappeared after a few hours (or removed perhaps?)

        Thanks for your concern and help on that.

        • bas-f

          Thanks, Διάκρισις Δογμάτων, for pointing out to me the reference. As you may know, ACCOS have the same numbering for their separate OLD and NEW Testament series. For some reason I looked only in the O.T., while the quote indeed is found in one of the volumes of the N.T. series. In any case, the correct reference should be more specific and contain the following detail: “Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture, NEW TESTAMENT, Vol. XI”. (In fact, the portion of Catena, as I checked later, exists in the writings of the Saint in Migne: PG 74, 1013-16.)

          Here some more quotes from St Cyril, pertaining to the emptying Hades, which you asked about. You are correct in saying that there is no contradiction with regards completely or partially emptying. Our nature, captivated by Satan, was liberated from the bonds, but liberation does not mean salvation to all but only to ‘His own’. So, it is correct to say “all liberated” but not to say “all were saved”.

          Comm. on Isaiah, I, 2008, 94: “he came to life again after emptying Hades” // 2008, 189-190: “canceled death… and restored everything to its original state” // 2008, 265: “plundering Hades and showing in actual fact that he is superior to death” // Comm. on Isaiah, III, 2008, 46-47: “liberated everyone” // FC 115, 249: “…death will in due course give way, and the goad of Hades will be no more” // ACT II, 2015, 260: “despoiled Hades and thrown open the gates of darkness for those who were there”.

          A few remarks here about translation from one language to another (and how a wrong translation can lead to alienated doctrines!)

          ● ACCOS English translation is not quite accurate. They say, “those who were in Hades had a chance to acknowledge Him”. The text does not mention any ‘chance’. Rather it should be read: “those who were in Hades would certainly recognized him” (“οὗτοι γὰρ καὶ εἰς ᾅδου πάντως ἐπέγνωσαν”).

          ● Also ACCOS translation of «ἀνακαλύφθητε» (“Be enlightened’) is not correct either; the verb (ἀνακαλύπτομαι) means appear, shew, be revealed, come out in the light, come forth, uncover – but in no way enlighten. The translation in modern Greek you provide has it correct: ‘φανερωθεῖτε’ (v. ‘φανερώνομαι’). Be enlightened means another thing (actually a new doctrine!), it is a serious distortion. God enlightens the heart of man before he dies, not afterwards. He doesn’t enlighten or talk to corpses decayed in the tombs or to souls deprived from their bodies. “God will not allow him to die in ignorance, but will lead him to the truth, and will enlighten him with the light of knowledge” (St Neilos the Ascetic, Letter 154, bk a’). Bishop Ignaty Brianchianinov says, “throughout the whole of his earthly life, the grace of God does not cease to assist man till the very moment of his departure” (Arena, p. 187). No posthumous enlightenment or conversion, or anything of this sort, in inferno, but during ‘earthly life’. There are no left-overs of humanity for later – no matter if they are pagans or whatever. The King and Prophet is not lying: “The Lord looks out of heaven; he beholds all the sons of men. He looks from his prepared habitation on all the dwellers on the earth” (Psalm. 32:13-14). According to St Ambrose, “He walks in the hearts and minds of each and every one of us” (FC 42, 347). He walks in the hearts of the living men, not of the dead. “The Holy Spirit is not absent from any created being… Thus we find many barbarians and nomadic peoples turning to a civilized way of life” (St Maximus the Confessor, Philokalia, First century of various texts, 72). With such clear a teaching of the Church, that the barbarians during their life are converted, who can blaspheme the Providence of God that is not present in every single human being? Who can deny the omnipotence and care of our loving Saviour for all men! Does our God not care for the remote people? Do the ‘distances’ hinder Him to reach and save people?

          ● In another place ACCOS translation says that He preached in Hades in order “to deliver all those who would believe”. However, the text doesn’t say that they believed in Hades. It actually says that He preached to those that would believe in Him if He was incarnate, i.e. if He had become man during their lifetimes. The translation in modern Greek puts it very nicely, although the English one seems to ignore it («γιά νά ἐλευθερώσει ὅσους ἐπρόκειτο νά πιστέψουν ἄν σαρκωνόταν στή δική τους ἐποχή»). Thanks for providing the Greek translation so that at least we can compare!

          **

          Thanks, Diakrisis Dogmaton, for the sources (links) that you suggested for further reading. I confess that I usually avoid myself to introduce third-hand sources to others. Especially regarding serious matters of the faith. The Patrologists, the Canonists, the Biblical scholars and the rest of the various branches of theology often fight with each other. Instead of taking one side or the other, wouldn’t it be better to spend our time in reading the plain teaching of the Church – the authoritative and genuine works of the Holy Fathers? Instead of tasting ready, fast–food prepared and served by other ‘cooks,’ would it not be better to labor ourselves -especially by joining reading with prayer? Wouldn’t that be a better ‘recipe’?

          In any case, since you offer them to me for ‘review’ I would like to comment briefly to one of the papers you suggested, the one with the title PASSAGES FROM THE CHURCH FATHERS And Other Orthodox Christian Sources Concerning Our Saviour’s Descent into Hades (which looks like an official, synodical document perhaps?) (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzJKrDVZPwcvWlRBRl9IcnJSdVRYOFhzZnN5UTlRYzRNRWln/view;). Unfortunately, there are some misunderstandings or distortions in it and I’m afraid that the paper hardly could withstand a serious critic. Please, endure me for a while.

          A.

          About the Rich man and Lazarus (pp. 20-22).

          The paper ends up with wrong conclusions. No patristic testimony whatsoever is mentioned and naturally, since the Fathers of the Church unanimously condemn the view accepted there, that the Rich man “repented for his sinful life” in Hades! Surprisingly, and opposing the Fathers, the authors of the paper consider this view “a good point”! Is that out of ignorance, a mistake, or on purpose?… In fact, the Fathers express without any exception and clearly in their writings the correct view about the fate of the rich man. I could site here their very wording, but they are so numerous to mention and I have to spare the space here:

          Athanasius the Great / Maximus the Confessor / Cyril of Alexandria / Romanos Melodist / Theophylactos / Isidore of Pelusium / Ephraim the Syrian / Gregory the Great / Gregory Palamas / Gregory of Nyssa / Gregory the Theologian / Basil the Great / Ambrose of Milan / Epiphanius of Cyprus / Anastasios of Sinai, and par excellence, Saint John Chrysostom.

          To support their view, the authors of the paper do not undertake the labor to quote not even a single Father (if there exist any!)… To whom are they talking, to ‘catechumens’? Where are the “many passages from the Holy Fathers [that] teach the Orthodox [sic] doctrine of posthumous enlightenment” that you mention in your note above? Where have the “Passages from the Church Fathers” mentioned in the title gone? The reader is supposed to accept their opinion blind, as a ‘patristic position’!

          B.

          St Maximos the Confessor quote.

          In another part of this paper (pp. 23-24) something even worse is done: one of the Fathers is scissored! St Maximus answers the question about preaching to the dead in Hades (I Peter 4:6). In the first half of his answer he mentions the opinion that circulated among the people at his time, how others responded to the question (“some say…”). This is not what the saint believes, but what others say. Then, the saint goes forth to express his full response. But what if, perhaps, ‘some’ do not want to listen to what the Gospel and the Churches position is? What if they prefer to keep for themselves just what the others say? Very easy! A scissor does the work perfectly. You cut that portion and, lo the miracle, the view of ‘some’ becomes the view of the Church and of the Fathers! The ‘letter’ kills, so let us kill the letter! You shut the mouth of the saint and all is accomplished!… To anyone concerned: St Maximus says in his cut piece something interesting: “The dead are judged in this world”. No ‘chance’ after departure! They are judged IN THIS WORLD. I don’t see why we have to play with the divine words? Why we cut & paste and tailor the divine saying to fit our measurements? St Isaac the Syrian is very serious when he forewarns us: “Let no one take hold of, and bring forth out of context, a statement from our words and leave the rest, senselessly clutching that alone in his hands” (Homily 76). Have we lost our senses to arm against the Fathers whom we claim we follow?

          C.

          Another (in)famous example is the story about Trajan the Emperor (p.8), the persecutor of Christians. Supposedly by the prayers of St Gregory the Great he was relieved from Hell. In this apocryphal story God is asking St Gregory never to pray again on behalf of impious non-Christians.

          It is true, that Christians do not pray for the impious dead non-Christians. Not because we want them to be kept in torments but because it is their free choice and after all, as a result of their previous life, they are not receptive of any sort of help. How it is possible, asks Cabasilas, for somebody “to look at the light whose eyes have been gouged out” (Life in Christ, 4).

          However, according to the story, it is in the hands of God to free them, but He, nevertheless, wants them to be kept in their sad state. Here the saint appears more compassionate than God! Is it the God of Orthodoxy Who is portrayed in this scenario? Does God want people to be punished in Hell? Is it not their passions that torment them?

          To understand the hoax of this story we simply can check with the works of the ‘real’ St Gregory. First, this story is not found there. Second, in his writings St Gregory easily persuades us to the truth of the matter. He clearly states – in opposition to this story – that we do not pray for those condemned to eternal fire. (Dialogues 4:44: “holy men do not now pray for them that die in their infidelity and known wicked life: for seeing certain it is that they be condemned to endless pains, to what purpose should they pray for them, when they know that no petition will be admitted of God”). Also in his work The Parables of the Gospel, St Gregory says that there is no time of repentance in the other life, all the opportunities are finishing here: “Once the door of the kingdom is closed they can no longer approach him, who was formerly so approachable… he who wasted the time of fruitful penance pleads in vain before the gate of the kingdom”). Again, in another work he says: “The Saints do not pray for the unbelieving and impious that are dead” (Moralia, 34:19). This is the genuine teaching of St Gregory the Great; his counterpart’s sayings exist only in apocryphal and dubious sources. Again in another place: “In such state as a man departeth out of this life, in the same he is presented in judgment before God” (Dialogues 1,41,3).

          Repentance, conversion, change of one’s mind, or no matter what one calls it, does not exist after the departure of the soul from the body. Besides that, the condemned ones are tormented by their own passions and not by God, as false anti-christian stories teach.

          “We know, that God does not punish anyone in the future, but everyone makes themselves receptive to share in God. And so to share in God is a delight, while not sharing in Him is hell” (St John of Damascus, Contra Manichaeos 44). To be deprived from those unspeakable goods – that is hell. The Rich man was not tortured by God but “because it is a punishment for the voluptuous to lack delights” (St Ambrose). Unsatisfied passions are the “chasm” that Abraham couldn’t help to overcome and reach the unfortunate man: he was tormented from inside.

          After all, if indeed it was possible for one to move from Hell to Paradise, that would be the real torment!… Adam was in Paradise and was tormented; he was expelled and was relieved. “To be saved, we must humble ourselves, for the proud man even were he to be set down in paradise would not find peace there but would be discontent, and say, ‘Why am I not up in the front rank?’ But the humble soul is filled with love and does not seek to be in the foreground. The humble soul wishes good to all men, and in all things, is content” (Starets Silouan, 1991, 304). “But he who loves not his enemies will never find peace, even though he were to be set down in paradise” (422).

          D.

          About Plato.

          This story, included into St Anastasius Q & A, does not belong to the genuine writings of St Anastasius of Sinai. The work Question-Answers that bears the name “Anastasius of Sinai” is in fact a compilation of 3 authors with this name: Anastasius the 3rd, bishop of Nicaea, Anastasius the 2nd, bishop of Antioch and Anastasius the Presbyter the Sinaite. The compiler thought that they were one and the same person and collected them in one. The above Q&A belong to the latter one, the Sinaite Presbyter, whose writings, as an editor of his works noted, “are not worthy of mentioning since they do not contain genuine Christian teaching”.

          The problem with the # 61 Q&A is not simply because it refers to an apocryphal story (of course not all the apocryphal are to be rejected) but because it is in direct opposition with the teaching of the Church and the consensus patrum. The Fathers characterize with strong and harsh expressions (actually they ‘anathematize’) Plato and his strange and heretical and demonic philosophical ideas. “An evil spirit, and some cruel demon at war with our race, a foe to modesty, and an enemy to good order, oversetting all things, hath made his voice be heard in [his] soul,” says St John Chrysostom (On Gospel of St Matthew, 1:10, 11).

          Of course we know that idolaters that had a virtuous life will be comforted in the other life as St John Chrysostom says (NF 10, 241 “But in proof that they who, not having known Christ before His coming in the flesh, yet refrained from idolatry and worshipped God only, and showed forth an excellent life, shall enjoy all the blessings”). However, Plato, from the point of a good life doesn’t pass the test either. He taught that women are created to be common to all, no one should have his own wife but all women should be available to everyone. There were “demons that preached these things”, St Chrysostom says, and adds some more epithets, about their “uncleanness” of his ways of life, homosexuality and “pederasty” besides adultery and other “inventions of devils, and contrary to nature”. They consider pederasty “re¬spectable and a part of philosophy,” he says (On Babylas, 49, FC 73, 103). St John of Damascus, in the Heresy of Platonists, mentions their belief about “uncreated soul” and “transmigration of souls into bodies, even into those of reptiles” (Heresies, 6).

          The story, after the appearance of Plato (or perhaps the demon that appeared in the form of Plato!) concludes: “When you hear about this do not think that conversion is always possible in Hades. This is something that happened on one unique occasion, when Christ descended into the underworld”. Good to know. Conversion happened only once, and it happens no more! You should correct your paper then, which in the very beginning says that there is conversion in Hades – or erase that story about Plato. One of the two, please.

          In his writings, the real Saint Anastasius says that the Christian should anathematize “those that do teach alienated doctrines and do not follow the saints and teachers of the Church, and consider them condemned and estranged from Christ” (Odegos, 3.2). Which “saint Anastasius” we should prefer, the above paper’s or the real one?

          After all, in the service of the Sunday of Orthodoxy we anathematize (thrice) all the heresies and among them the pagan ancient philosophers and their teaching, and namely Plato. According to St Gregory Palamas, “we place the opinions of the Fathers above the babbles of Aristotle and Plato” (Letter to Barlaam, 1,33). Otherwise, if we give credibility in such stories as the ones about Plato, Trajan etc. we rather may think seriously about changing the Synodicon of Orthodoxy!

          Your synod (?) anathematized the council of 1912, something that nobody in the whole world (no local church or synod of bishops) dared ever to do; still, you withhold anathematizing those that the whole Church anathematized! Based on a false story!

          Sorry, but I don’t really intend to intervene in your position or beliefs. You have all the rights to believe and write whatever you want. Just a few thoughts because you answered to me and that’s all. I wish we don’t start unending public dialogues.

      • bas-f

        Thanks, Διάκρισις Δογμάτων, for pointing out to me the reference. As you may know, ACCOS have the same numbering for their separate OLD and NEW Testament series. For some reason I looked only in the O.T., while the quote indeed is found in one of the volumes of the N.T. series. In any case, the correct reference should be more specific and contain the following detail: “Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture, NEW TESTAMENT, Vol. XI”. (In fact, the portion of Catena, as I checked later, exists in the writings of the Saint in Migne: PG 74, 1013-16.)

        Here some more quotes from St Cyril, pertaining to the emptying Hades, which you asked about. You are correct in saying that there is no contradiction with regards completely or partially emptying. Our nature, captivated by Satan, was liberated from the bonds, but liberation does not mean salvation to all but only to ‘His own’. So, it is correct to say “all liberated” but not to say “all were saved”.

        Comm. on Isaiah, I, 2008, 94: “he came to life again after emptying Hades” // 2008, 189-190: “canceled death… and restored everything to its original state” // 2008, 265: “plundering Hades and showing in actual fact that he is superior to death” // Comm. on Isaiah, III, 2008, 46-47: “liberated everyone” // FC 115, 249: “…death will in due course give way, and the goad of Hades will be no more” // ACT II, 2015, 260: “despoiled Hades and thrown open the gates of darkness for those who were there”.

        A few remarks here about translation from one language to another (and how a wrong translation can lead to alienated doctrines!)

        ● ACCOS English translation is not quite accurate. They say, “those who were in Hades had a chance to acknowledge Him”. The text does not mention any ‘chance’. Rather it should be read: “those who were in Hades would certainly recognized him” (“οὗτοι γὰρ καὶ εἰς ᾅδου πάντως ἐπέγνωσαν”).

        ● Also ACCOS translation of «ἀνακαλύφθητε» (“Be enlightened’) is not correct either; the verb (ἀνακαλύπτομαι) means appear, shew, be revealed, come out in the light, come forth, uncover – but in no way enlighten. The translation in modern Greek you provide has it correct: ‘φανερωθεῖτε’ (v. ‘φανερώνομαι’). Be enlightened means another thing (actually a new doctrine!), it is a serious distortion. God enlightens the heart of man before he dies, not afterwards. He doesn’t enlighten or talk to corpses decayed in the tombs or to souls deprived from their bodies. “God will not allow him to die in ignorance, but will lead him to the truth, and will enlighten him with the light of knowledge” (St Neilos the Ascetic, Letter 154, bk a’). Bishop Ignaty Brianchianinov says, “throughout the whole of his earthly life, the grace of God does not cease to assist man till the very moment of his departure” (Arena, p. 187). No posthumous enlightenment or conversion, or anything of this sort, in inferno, but during ‘earthly life’. There are no left-overs of humanity for later – no matter if they are pagans or whatever. The King and Prophet is not lying: “The Lord looks out of heaven; he beholds all the sons of men. He looks from his prepared habitation on all the dwellers on the earth” (Psalm. 32:13-14). According to St Ambrose, “He walks in the hearts and minds of each and every one of us” (FC 42, 347). He walks in the hearts of the living men, not of the dead. “The Holy Spirit is not absent from any created being… Thus we find many barbarians and nomadic peoples turning to a civilized way of life” (St Maximus the Confessor, Philokalia, First century of various texts, 72). With such clear a teaching of the Church, that the barbarians during their life are converted, who can blaspheme the Providence of God that is not present in every single human being? Who can deny the omnipotence and care of our loving Saviour for all men! Does our God not care for the remote people? Do the ‘distances’ hinder Him to reach and save people?

        ● In another place ACCOS translation says that He preached in Hades in order “to deliver all those who would believe”. However, the text doesn’t say that they believed in Hades. It actually says that He preached to those that would believe in Him if He was incarnate, i.e. if He had become man during their lifetimes. The translation in modern Greek puts it very nicely, although the English one seems to ignore it («γιά νά ἐλευθερώσει ὅσους ἐπρόκειτο νά πιστέψουν ἄν σαρκωνόταν στή δική τους ἐποχή»). Thanks for providing the Greek translation so that at least we can compare!

        **
        Thanks, Diakrisis Dogmaton, for the sources (links) that you suggested for further reading. I confess that I usually avoid myself to introduce third-hand sources to others. Especially regarding serious matters of the faith. The Patrologists, the Canonists, the Biblical scholars and the rest of the various branches of theology often fight with each other. Instead of taking one side or the other, wouldn’t it be better to spend our time in reading the plain teaching of the Church – the authoritative and genuine works of the Holy Fathers? Instead of tasting ready, fast–food prepared and served by other ‘cooks,’ would it not be better to labor ourselves -especially by joining reading with prayer? Wouldn’t that be a better ‘recipe’?

        In any case, since you offer them to me for ‘review’ I would like to comment briefly to one of the papers you suggested, the one with the title PASSAGES FROM THE CHURCH FATHERS And Other Orthodox Christian Sources Concerning Our Saviour’s Descent into Hades (which looks like an official, synodical document perhaps?) (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzJKrDVZPwcvWlRBRl9IcnJSdVRYOFhzZnN5UTlRYzRNRWln/view;). Unfortunately, there are some misunderstandings or distortions in it and I’m afraid that the paper hardly could withstand a serious critic. Please, endure me for a while.

        A.

        About the Rich man and Lazarus (pp. 20-22).

        The paper ends up with wrong conclusions. No patristic testimony whatsoever is mentioned and naturally, since the Fathers of the Church unanimously condemn the view accepted there, that the Rich man “repented for his sinful life” in Hades! Surprisingly, and opposing the Fathers, the authors of the paper consider this view “a good point”! Is that out of ignorance, a mistake, or on purpose?… In fact, the Fathers express without any exception and clearly in their writings the correct view about the fate of the rich man. I could site here their very wording, but they are so numerous to mention and I have to spare the space here:

        Athanasius the Great / Maximus the Confessor / Cyril of Alexandria / Romanos Melodist / Theophylactos / Isidore of Pelusium / Ephraim the Syrian / Gregory the Great / Gregory Palamas / Gregory of Nyssa / Gregory the Theologian / Basil the Great / Ambrose of Milan / Epiphanius of Cyprus / Anastasios of Sinai, and par excellence, Saint John Chrysostom.

        To support their view, the authors of the paper do not undertake the labor to quote not even a single Father (if there exist any!)… To whom are they talking, to ‘catechumens’? Where are the “many passages from the Holy Fathers [that] teach the Orthodox [sic] doctrine of posthumous enlightment” that you mention in your note above? Where have the “Passages from the Church Fathers” mentioned in the title gone? The reader is supposed to accept their opinion blind, as a ‘patristic position’!

        B.

        St Maximos the Confessor quote.

        In another part of this paper (pp. 23-24) something even worse is done: one of the Fathers is scissored! St Maximus answers the question about preaching to the dead in Hades (I Peter 4:6). In the first half of his answer he mentions the opinion that circulated among the people at his time, how others responded to the question (“some say…”). This is not what the saint believes, but what others say. Then, the saint goes forth to express his full response. But what if, perhaps, ‘some’ do not want to listen to what the Gospel and the Churches position is? What if they prefer to keep for themselves just what the others say? Very easy! A scissor does the work perfectly. You cut that portion and, lo the miracle, the view of ‘some’ becomes the view of the Church and of the Fathers! The ‘letter’ kills, so let us kill the letter! You shut the mouth of the saint and all is accomplished!… To anyone concerned: St Maximus says in his cut piece something interesting: “The dead are judged in this world”. No ‘chance’ after departure! They are judged IN THIS WORLD. I don’t see why we have to play with the divine words? Why we cut & paste and tailor the divine saying to fit our measurements? St Isaac the Syrian is very serious when he forewarns us: “Let no one take hold of, and bring forth out of context, a statement from our words and leave the rest, senselessly clutching that alone in his hands” (Homily 76). Have we lost our senses to arm against the Fathers whom we claim we follow?

        C.

        Another (in)famous example is the story about Trajan the Emperor (p.8), the persecutor of Christians. Supposedly by the prayers of St Gregory the Great he was relieved from Hell. In this apocryphal story God is asking St Gregory never to pray again on behalf of impious non-Christians.

        It is true, that Christians do not pray for the impious dead non-Christians. Not because we want them to be kept in torments but because it is their free choice and after all, as a result of their previous life, they are not receptive of any sort of help. How it is possible, asks Cabasilas, for somebody “to look at the light whose eyes have been gouged out” (Life in Christ, 4).

        However, according to the story, it is in the hands of God to free them, but He, nevertheless, wants them to be kept in their sad state. Here the saint appears more compassionate than God! Is it the God of Orthodoxy Who is portrayed in this scenario? Does God want people to be punished in Hell? Is it not their passions that torment them?

        To understand the hoax of this story we simply can check with the works of the ‘real’ St Gregory. First, this story is not found there. Second, in his writings St Gregory easily persuades us to the truth of the matter. He clearly states – in opposition to this story – that we do not pray for those condemned to eternal fire. (Dialogues 4:44: “holy men do not now pray for them that die in their infidelity and known wicked life: for seeing certain it is that they be condemned to endless pains, to what purpose should they pray for them, when they know that no petition will be admitted of God”). Also in his work The Parables of the Gospel, St Gregory says that there is no time of repentance in the other life, all the opportunities are finishing here: “Once the door of the kingdom is closed they can no longer approach him, who was formerly so approachable… he who wasted the time of fruitful penance pleads in vain before the gate of the kingdom”). Again, in another work he says: “The Saints do not pray for the unbelieving and impious that are dead” (Moralia, 34:19). This is the genuine teaching of St Gregory the Great; his counterpart’s sayings exist only in apocryphal and dubious sources. Again in another place: “In such state as a man departeth out of this life, in the same he is presented in judgment before God” (Dialogues 1,41,3).

        Repentance, conversion, change of one’s mind, or no matter what one calls it, does not exist after the departure of the soul from the body. Besides that, the condemned ones are tormented by their own passions and not by God, as false anti-christian stories teach.

        “We know, that God does not punish anyone in the future, but everyone makes themselves receptive to share in God. And so to share in God is a delight, while not sharing in Him is hell” (St John of Damascus, Contra Manichaeos 44). To be deprived from those unspeakable goods – that is hell. The Rich man was not tortured by God but “because it is a punishment for the voluptuous to lack delights” (St Ambrose). Unsatisfied passions are the “chasm” that Abraham couldn’t help to overcome and reach the unfortunate man: he was tormented from inside.

        After all, if indeed it was possible for one to move from Hell to Paradise, that would be the real torment!… Adam was in Paradise and was tormented; he was expelled and was relieved. “To be saved, we must humble ourselves, for the proud man even were he to be set down in paradise would not find peace there but would be discontent, and say, ‘Why am I not up in the front rank?’ But the humble soul is filled with love and does not seek to be in the foreground. The humble soul wishes good to all men, and in all things, is content” (Starets Silouan, 1991, 304). “But he who loves not his enemies will never find peace, even though he were to be set down in paradise” (422).

        D.

        About Plato.

        This story, included into St Anastasius Q & A, does not belong to the genuine writings of St Anastasius of Sinai. The work Question-Answers that bears the name “Anastasius of Sinai” is in fact a compilation of 3 authors with this name: Anastasius the 3rd, bishop of Nicaea, Anastasius the 2nd, bishop of Antioch and Anastasius the Presbyter the Sinaite. The compiler thought that they were one and the same person and collected them in one. The above Q&A belong to the latter one, the Sinaite Presbyter, whose writings, as an editor of his works noted, “are not worthy of mentioning since they do not contain genuine Christian teaching”.

        The problem with the # 61 Q&A is not simply because it refers to an apocryphal story (of course not all the apocryphal are to be rejected) but because it is in direct opposition with the teaching of the Church and the consensus patrum. The Fathers characterize with strong and harsh expressions (actually they ‘anathematize’) Plato and his strange and heretical and demonic philosophical ideas. “An evil spirit, and some cruel demon at war with our race, a foe to modesty, and an enemy to good order, oversetting all things, hath made his voice be heard in [his] soul,” says St John Chrysostom (On Gospel of St Matthew, 1:10, 11).

        Of course we know that idolaters that had a virtuous life will be comforted in the other life as St John Chrysostom says (NF 10, 241 “But in proof that they who, not having known Christ before His coming in the flesh, yet refrained from idolatry and worshipped God only, and showed forth an excellent life, shall enjoy all the blessings”). However, Plato, from the point of a good life doesn’t pass the test either. He taught that women are created to be common to all, no one should have his own wife but all women should be available to everyone. There were “demons that preached these things”, St Chrysostom says, and adds some more epithets, about their “uncleanness” of his ways of life, homosexuality and “pederasty” besides adultery and other “inventions of devils, and contrary to nature”. They consider pederasty “re¬spectable and a part of philosophy,” he says (On Babylas, 49, FC 73, 103). St John of Damascus, in the Heresy of Platonists, mentions their belief about “uncreated soul” and “transmigration of souls into bodies, even into those of reptiles” (Heresies, 6).

        The story, after the appearance of Plato (or perhaps the demon that appeared in the form of Plato!) concludes: “When you hear about this do not think that conversion is always possible in Hades. This is something that happened on one unique occasion, when Christ descended into the underworld”. Good to know. Conversion happened only once, and it happens no more! You should correct your paper then, which in the very beginning says that there is conversion in Hades – or erase that story about Plato. One of the two, please.

        In his writings, the real Saint Anastasius says that the Christian should anathematize “those that do teach alienated doctrines and do not follow the saints and teachers of the Church, and consider them condemned and estranged from Christ” (Odegos, 3.2). Which “saint Anastasius” we should prefer, the above paper’s or the real one?

        After all, in the service of the Sunday of Orthodoxy we anathematize (thrice) all the heresies and among them the pagan ancient philosophers and their teaching, and namely Plato. According to St Gregory Palamas, “we place the opinions of the Fathers above the babbles of Aristotle and Plato” (Letter to Barlaam, 1,33). Otherwise, if we give credibility in such stories as the ones about Plato, Trajan etc. we rather may think seriously about changing the Synodicon of Orthodoxy!

        Your synod (?) anathematized the council of 1912, something that nobody in the whole world (no local church or synod of bishops) dared ever to do; still, you withhold anathematizing those that the whole Church anathematized! Based on a false story!

        Sorry, but I don’t really intend to intervene in your position or beliefs. You have all the rights to believe and write whatever you want. Just a few thoughts because you answered to me and that’s all. I wish we don’t start unending public dialogues.

      • bas-f

        Please see my response in Forum, under topic St Augustine & Fr Panteleimon.

  • bas-f

    Dear, DIAKRISIS DOGMATON, thanks for pointing out to me the reference. As you may know, ACCOS have the same numbering for their separate OLD and NEW Testament series. For some reason I looked only in the O.T., while the quote indeed is found in one of the volumes of the N.T. series. In any case, the correct reference should be more specific and contain the following detail: “Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture, NEW TESTAMENT, Vol. XI”. (In fact, the portion of Catena, as I checked later, exists in the writings of the Saint in Migne: PG 74, 1013-16.)

    Here some more quotes from St Cyril, pertaining to the emptying Hades, which you asked about. You are correct in saying that there is no contradiction with regards completely or partially emptying. Our nature, captivated by Satan, was liberated from the bonds, but liberation does not mean salvation to all but only to ‘His own’. So, it is correct to say “all liberated” but not to say “all were saved”.

    Comm. on Isaiah, I, 2008, 94: “he came to life again after emptying Hades” // 2008, 189-190: “canceled death… and restored everything to its original state” // 2008, 265: “plundering Hades and showing in actual fact that he is superior to death” // Comm. on Isaiah, III, 2008, 46-47: “liberated everyone” // FC 115, 249: “…death will in due course give way, and the goad of Hades will be no more” // ACT II, 2015, 260: “despoiled Hades and thrown open the gates of darkness for those who were there”.

    A few remarks here about translation from one language to another (and how a wrong translation can lead to alienated doctrines!)

    ● ACCOS English translation is not quite accurate. They say, “those who were in Hades had a chance to acknowledge Him”. The text does not mention any ‘chance’. Rather it should be read: “those who were in Hades would certainly recognized him” (“οὗτοι γὰρ καὶ εἰς ᾅδου πάντως ἐπέγνωσαν”).

    ● Also ACCOS translation of «ἀνακαλύφθητε» (“Be enlightened’) is not correct either; the verb (ἀνακαλύπτομαι) means appear, shew, be revealed, come out in the light, come forth, uncover – but in no way enlighten. The translation in modern Greek you provide has it correct: ‘φανερωθεῖτε’ (v. ‘φανερώνομαι’). Be enlightened means another thing (actually a new doctrine!), it is a serious distortion. God enlightens the heart of man before he dies, not afterwards. He doesn’t enlighten or talk to corpses decayed in the tombs or to souls deprived from their bodies. “God will not allow him to die in ignorance, but will lead him to the truth, and will enlighten him with the light of knowledge” (St Neilos the Ascetic, Letter 154, bk a’). Bishop Ignaty Brianchianinov says, “throughout the whole of his earthly life, the grace of God does not cease to assist man till the very moment of his departure” (Arena, p. 187). No posthumous enlightenment or conversion, or anything of this sort, in inferno, but during ‘earthly life’. There are no left-overs of humanity for later – no matter if they are pagans or whatever. The King and Prophet is not lying: “The Lord looks out of heaven; he beholds all the sons of men. He looks from his prepared habitation on all the dwellers on the earth” (Psalm. 32:13-14). According to St Ambrose, “He walks in the hearts and minds of each and every one of us” (FC 42, 347). He walks in the hearts of the living men, not of the dead. “The Holy Spirit is not absent from any created being… Thus we find many barbarians and nomadic peoples turning to a civilized way of life” (St Maximus the Confessor, Philokalia, First century of various texts, 72). With such clear a teaching of the Church, that the barbarians during their life are converted, who can blaspheme the Providence of God that is not present in every single human being? Who can deny the omnipotence and care of our loving Saviour for all men! Does our God not care for the remote people? Do the ‘distances’ hinder Him to reach and save people?

    ● In another place ACCOS translation says that He preached in Hades in order “to deliver all those who would believe”. However, the text doesn’t say that they believed in Hades. It actually says that He preached to those that would believe in Him if He was incarnate, i.e. if He had become man during their lifetimes. The translation in modern Greek puts it very nicely, although the English one seems to ignore it («γιά νά ἐλευθερώσει ὅσους ἐπρόκειτο νά πιστέψουν ἄν σαρκωνόταν στή δική τους ἐποχή»). Thanks for providing the Greek translation so that at least we can compare!

    **

    Thanks, Diakrisis Dogmaton, for the sources (links) that you suggested for further reading. I confess that I usually avoid myself to introduce third-hand sources to others. Especially regarding serious matters of the faith. The Patrologists, the Canonists, the Biblical scholars and the rest of the various branches of theology often fight with each other. Instead of taking one side or the other, wouldn’t it be better to spend our time in reading the plain teaching of the Church – the authoritative and genuine works of the Holy Fathers? Instead of tasting ready, fast–food prepared and served by other ‘cooks,’ would it not be better to labor ourselves -especially by joining reading with prayer? Wouldn’t that be a better ‘recipe’?

    In any case, since you offer them to me for ‘review’ I would like to comment briefly to one of the papers you suggested, the one with the title PASSAGES FROM THE CHURCH FATHERS And Other Orthodox Christian Sources Concerning Our Saviour’s Descent into Hades (which looks like an official, synodical document perhaps?) (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzJKrDVZPwcvWlRBRl9IcnJSdVRYOFhzZnN5UTlRYzRNRWln/view;). Unfortunately, there are some misunderstandings or distortions in it and I’m afraid that the paper hardly could withstand a serious critic. Please, endure me for a while.

    A.

    About the Rich man and Lazarus (pp. 20-22).

    The paper ends up with wrong conclusions. No patristic testimony whatsoever is mentioned and naturally, since the Fathers of the Church unanimously condemn the view accepted there, that the Rich man “repented for his sinful life” in Hades! Surprisingly, and opposing the Fathers, the authors of the paper consider this view “a good point”! Is that out of ignorance, a mistake, or on purpose?… In fact, the Fathers express without any exception and clearly in their writings the correct view about the fate of the rich man. I could site here their very wording, but they are so numerous to mention and I have to spare the space here:

    Athanasius the Great / Maximus the Confessor / Cyril of Alexandria / Romanos Melodist / Theophylactos / Isidore of Pelusium / Ephraim the Syrian / Gregory the Great / Gregory Palamas / Gregory of Nyssa / Gregory the Theologian / Basil the Great / Ambrose of Milan / Epiphanius of Cyprus / Anastasios of Sinai, and par excellence, Saint John Chrysostom.

    To support their view, the authors of the paper do not undertake the labor to quote not even a single Father (if there exist any!)… To whom are they talking, to ‘catechumens’? Where are the “many passages from the Holy Fathers [that] teach the Orthodox [sic] doctrine of posthumous enlightenment” that you mention in your note above? Where have the “Passages from the Church Fathers” mentioned in the title gone? The reader is supposed to accept their opinion blind, as a ‘patristic position’!

    B.

    St Maximos the Confessor quote.

    In another part of this paper (pp. 23-24) something even worse is done: one of the Fathers is scissored! St Maximus answers the question about preaching to the dead in Hades (I Peter 4:6). In the first half of his answer he mentions the opinion that circulated among the people at his time, how others responded to the question (“some say…”). This is not what the saint believes, but what others say. Then, the saint goes forth to express his full response. But what if, perhaps, ‘some’ do not want to listen to what the Gospel and the Churches position is? What if they prefer to keep for themselves just what the others say? Very easy! A scissor does the work perfectly. You cut that portion and, lo the miracle, the view of ‘some’ becomes the view of the Church and of the Fathers! The ‘letter’ kills, so let us kill the letter! You shut the mouth of the saint and all is accomplished!… To anyone concerned: St Maximus says in his cut piece something interesting: “The dead are judged in this world”. No ‘chance’ after departure! They are judged IN THIS WORLD. I don’t see why we have to play with the divine words? Why we cut & paste and tailor the divine saying to fit our measurements? St Isaac the Syrian is very serious when he forewarns us: “Let no one take hold of, and bring forth out of context, a statement from our words and leave the rest, senselessly clutching that alone in his hands” (Homily 76). Have we lost our senses to arm against the Fathers whom we claim we follow?

    C.

    Another (in)famous example is the story about Trajan the Emperor (p.8), the persecutor of Christians. Supposedly by the prayers of St Gregory the Great he was relieved from Hell. In this apocryphal story God is asking St Gregory never to pray again on behalf of impious non-Christians.

    It is true, that Christians do not pray for the impious dead non-Christians. Not because we want them to be kept in torments but because it is their free choice and after all, as a result of their previous life, they are not receptive of any sort of help. How it is possible, asks Cabasilas, for somebody “to look at the light whose eyes have been gouged out” (Life in Christ, 4).

    However, according to the story, it is in the hands of God to free them, but He, nevertheless, wants them to be kept in their sad state. Here the saint appears more compassionate than God! Is it the God of Orthodoxy Who is portrayed in this scenario? Does God want people to be punished in Hell? Is it not their passions that torment them?

    To understand the hoax of this story we simply can check with the works of the ‘real’ St Gregory. First, this story is not found there. Second, in his writings St Gregory easily persuades us to the truth of the matter. He clearly states – in opposition to this story – that we do not pray for those condemned to eternal fire. (Dialogues 4:44: “holy men do not now pray for them that die in their infidelity and known wicked life: for seeing certain it is that they be condemned to endless pains, to what purpose should they pray for them, when they know that no petition will be admitted of God”). Also in his work The Parables of the Gospel, St Gregory says that there is no time of repentance in the other life, all the opportunities are finishing here: “Once the door of the kingdom is closed they can no longer approach him, who was formerly so approachable… he who wasted the time of fruitful penance pleads in vain before the gate of the kingdom”). Again, in another work he says: “The Saints do not pray for the unbelieving and impious that are dead” (Moralia, 34:19). This is the genuine teaching of St Gregory the Great; his counterpart’s sayings exist only in apocryphal and dubious sources. Again in another place: “In such state as a man departeth out of this life, in the same he is presented in judgment before God” (Dialogues 1,41,3).

    Repentance, conversion, change of one’s mind, or no matter what one calls it, does not exist after the departure of the soul from the body. Besides that, the condemned ones are tormented by their own passions and not by God, as false anti-christian stories teach.

    “We know, that God does not punish anyone in the future, but everyone makes themselves receptive to share in God. And so to share in God is a delight, while not sharing in Him is hell” (St John of Damascus, Contra Manichaeos 44). To be deprived from those unspeakable goods – that is hell. The Rich man was not tortured by God but “because it is a punishment for the voluptuous to lack delights” (St Ambrose). Unsatisfied passions are the “chasm” that Abraham couldn’t help to overcome and reach the unfortunate man: he was tormented from inside.

    After all, if indeed it was possible for one to move from Hell to Paradise, that would be the real torment!… Adam was in Paradise and was tormented; he was expelled and was relieved. “To be saved, we must humble ourselves, for the proud man even were he to be set down in paradise would not find peace there but would be discontent, and say, ‘Why am I not up in the front rank?’ But the humble soul is filled with love and does not seek to be in the foreground. The humble soul wishes good to all men, and in all things, is content” (Starets Silouan, 1991, 304). “But he who loves not his enemies will never find peace, even though he were to be set down in paradise” (422).

    D.

    About Plato.

    This story, included into St Anastasius Q & A, does not belong to the genuine writings of St Anastasius of Sinai. The work Question-Answers that bears the name “Anastasius of Sinai” is in fact a compilation of 3 authors with this name: Anastasius the 3rd, bishop of Nicaea, Anastasius the 2nd, bishop of Antioch and Anastasius the Presbyter the Sinaite. The compiler thought that they were one and the same person and collected them in one. The above Q&A belong to the latter one, the Sinaite Presbyter, whose writings, as an editor of his works noted, “are not worthy of mentioning since they do not contain genuine Christian teaching”.

    The problem with the # 61 Q&A is not simply because it refers to an apocryphal story (of course not all the apocryphal are to be rejected) but because it is in direct opposition with the teaching of the Church and the consensus patrum. The Fathers characterize with strong and harsh expressions (actually they ‘anathematize’) Plato and his strange and heretical and demonic philosophical ideas. “An evil spirit, and some cruel demon at war with our race, a foe to modesty, and an enemy to good order, oversetting all things, hath made his voice be heard in [his] soul,” says St John Chrysostom (On Gospel of St Matthew, 1:10, 11).

    Of course we know that idolaters that had a virtuous life will be comforted in the other life as St John Chrysostom says (NF 10, 241 “But in proof that they who, not having known Christ before His coming in the flesh, yet refrained from idolatry and worshipped God only, and showed forth an excellent life, shall enjoy all the blessings”). However, Plato, from the point of a good life doesn’t pass the test either. He taught that women are created to be common to all, no one should have his own wife but all women should be available to everyone. There were “demons that preached these things”, St Chrysostom says, and adds some more epithets, about their “uncleanness” of his ways of life, homosexuality and “pederasty” besides adultery and other “inventions of devils, and contrary to nature”. They consider pederasty “re¬spectable and a part of philosophy,” he says (On Babylas, 49, FC 73, 103). St John of Damascus, in the Heresy of Platonists, mentions their belief about “uncreated soul” and “transmigration of souls into bodies, even into those of reptiles” (Heresies, 6).

    The story, after the appearance of Plato (or perhaps the demon that appeared in the form of Plato!) concludes: “When you hear about this do not think that conversion is always possible in Hades. This is something that happened on one unique occasion, when Christ descended into the underworld”. Good to know. Conversion happened only once, and it happens no more! You should correct your paper then, which in the very beginning says that there is conversion in Hades – or erase that story about Plato. One of the two, please.

    In his writings, the real Saint Anastasius says that the Christian should anathematize “those that do teach alienated doctrines and do not follow the saints and teachers of the Church, and consider them condemned and estranged from Christ” (Odegos, 3.2). Which “saint Anastasius” we should prefer, the above paper’s or the real one?

    After all, in the service of the Sunday of Orthodoxy we anathematize (thrice) all the heresies and among them the pagan ancient philosophers and their teaching, and namely Plato. According to St Gregory Palamas, “we place the opinions of the Fathers above the babbles of Aristotle and Plato” (Letter to Barlaam, 1,33). Otherwise, if we give credibility in such stories as the ones about Plato, Trajan etc. we rather may think seriously about changing the Synodicon of Orthodoxy!

    Your synod (?) anathematized the council of 1912, something that nobody in the whole world (no local church or synod of bishops) dared ever to do; still, you withhold anathematizing those that the whole Church anathematized! Based on a false story!

    Sorry, but I don’t really intend to intervene in your position or beliefs. You have all the rights to believe and write whatever you want. Just a few thoughts because you answered to me and that’s all. I wish we don’t start unending public dialogues.

  • bas-f

    Dear, DIAKRISIS DOGMATON, thanks for pointing out to me the reference. As you may know, ACCOS have the same numbering for their separate OLD and NEW Testament series. For some reason I looked only in the O.T., while the quote indeed is found in one of the volumes of the N.T. series. In any case, the correct reference should be more specific and contain the following detail: “Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture, NEW TESTAMENT, Vol. XI”. (In fact, the portion of Catena, as I checked later, exists in the writings of the Saint in Migne: PG 74, 1013-16.)

    Here some more quotes from St Cyril, pertaining to the emptying Hades, which you asked about. You are correct in saying that there is no contradiction with regards completely or partially emptying. Our nature, captivated by Satan, was liberated from the bonds, but liberation does not mean salvation to all but only to ‘His own’. So, it is correct to say “all liberated” but not to say “all were saved”.

    Comm. on Isaiah, I, 2008, 94: “he came to life again after emptying Hades” // 2008, 189-190: “canceled death… and restored everything to its original state” // 2008, 265: “plundering Hades and showing in actual fact that he is superior to death” // Comm. on Isaiah, III, 2008, 46-47: “liberated everyone” // FC 115, 249: “…death will in due course give way, and the goad of Hades will be no more” // ACT II, 2015, 260: “despoiled Hades and thrown open the gates of darkness for those who were there”.

    A few remarks here about translation from one language to another (and how a wrong translation can lead to alienated doctrines!)

    ● ACCOS English translation is not quite accurate. They say, “those who were in Hades had a chance to acknowledge Him”. The text does not mention any ‘chance’. Rather it should be read: “those who were in Hades would certainly recognized him” (“οὗτοι γὰρ καὶ εἰς ᾅδου πάντως ἐπέγνωσαν”).

    ● Also ACCOS translation of «ἀνακαλύφθητε» (“Be enlightened’) is not correct either; the verb (ἀνακαλύπτομαι) means appear, shew, be revealed, come out in the light, come forth, uncover – but in no way enlighten. The translation in modern Greek you provide has it correct: ‘φανερωθεῖτε’ (v. ‘φανερώνομαι’). Be enlightened means another thing (actually a new doctrine!), it is a serious distortion. God enlightens the heart of man before he dies, not afterwards. He doesn’t enlighten or talk to corpses decayed in the tombs or to souls deprived from their bodies. “God will not allow him to die in ignorance, but will lead him to the truth, and will enlighten him with the light of knowledge” (St Neilos the Ascetic, Letter 154, bk a’). Bishop Ignaty Brianchianinov says, “throughout the whole of his earthly life, the grace of God does not cease to assist man till the very moment of his departure” (Arena, p. 187). No posthumous enlightenment or conversion, or anything of this sort, in inferno, but during ‘earthly life’. There are no left-overs of humanity for later – no matter if they are pagans or whatever. The King and Prophet is not lying: “The Lord looks out of heaven; he beholds all the sons of men. He looks from his prepared habitation on all the dwellers on the earth” (Psalm. 32:13-14). According to St Ambrose, “He walks in the hearts and minds of each and every one of us” (FC 42, 347). He walks in the hearts of the living men, not of the dead. “The Holy Spirit is not absent from any created being… Thus we find many barbarians and nomadic peoples turning to a civilized way of life” (St Maximus the Confessor, Philokalia, First century of various texts, 72). With such clear a teaching of the Church, that the barbarians during their life are converted, who can blaspheme the Providence of God that is not present in every single human being? Who can deny the omnipotence and care of our loving Saviour for all men! Does our God not care for the remote people? Do the ‘distances’ hinder Him to reach and save people?

    ● In another place ACCOS translation says that He preached in Hades in order “to deliver all those who would believe”. However, the text doesn’t say that they believed in Hades. It actually says that He preached to those that would believe in Him if He was incarnate, i.e. if He had become man during their lifetimes. The translation in modern Greek puts it very nicely, although the English one seems to ignore it («γιά νά ἐλευθερώσει ὅσους ἐπρόκειτο νά πιστέψουν ἄν σαρκωνόταν στή δική τους ἐποχή»). Thanks for providing the Greek translation so that at least we can compare!

    **
    Thanks, Diakrisis Dogmaton, for the sources (links) that you suggested for further reading. I confess that I usually avoid myself to introduce third-hand sources to others. Especially regarding serious matters of the faith. The Patrologists, the Canonists, the Biblical scholars and the rest of the various branches of theology often fight with each other. Instead of taking one side or the other, wouldn’t it be better to spend our time in reading the plain teaching of the Church – the authoritative and genuine works of the Holy Fathers? Instead of tasting ready, fast–food prepared and served by other ‘cooks,’ would it not be better to labor ourselves -especially by joining reading with prayer? Wouldn’t that be a better ‘recipe’?

    In any case, since you offer them to me for ‘review’ I would like to comment briefly to one of the papers you suggested, the one with the title PASSAGES FROM THE CHURCH FATHERS And Other Orthodox Christian Sources Concerning Our Saviour’s Descent into Hades (which looks like an official, synodical document perhaps?) (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzJKrDVZPwcvWlRBRl9IcnJSdVRYOFhzZnN5UTlRYzRNRWln/view;). Unfortunately, there are some misunderstandings or distortions in it and I’m afraid that the paper hardly could withstand a serious critic. Please, endure me for a while.

    A.

    About the Rich man and Lazarus (pp. 20-22).

    The paper ends up with wrong conclusions. No patristic testimony whatsoever is mentioned and naturally, since the Fathers of the Church unanimously condemn the view accepted there, that the Rich man “repented for his sinful life” in Hades! Surprisingly, and opposing the Fathers, the authors of the paper consider this view “a good point”! Is that out of ignorance, a mistake, or on purpose?… In fact, the Fathers express without any exception and clearly in their writings the correct view about the fate of the rich man. I could site here their very wording, but they are so numerous to mention and I have to spare the space here:

    Athanasius the Great / Maximus the Confessor / Cyril of Alexandria / Romanos Melodist / Theophylactos / Isidore of Pelusium / Ephraim the Syrian / Gregory the Great / Gregory Palamas / Gregory of Nyssa / Gregory the Theologian / Basil the Great / Ambrose of Milan / Epiphanius of Cyprus / Anastasios of Sinai, and par excellence, Saint John Chrysostom.

    To support their view, the authors of the paper do not undertake the labor to quote not even a single Father (if there exist any!)… To whom are they talking, to ‘catechumens’? Where are the “many passages from the Holy Fathers [that] teach the Orthodox [sic] doctrine of posthumous enlightenment” that you mention in your note above? Where have the “Passages from the Church Fathers” mentioned in the title gone? The reader is supposed to accept their opinion blind, as a ‘patristic position’!

    B.

    St Maximos the Confessor quote.

    In another part of this paper (pp. 23-24) something even worse is done: one of the Fathers is scissored! St Maximus answers the question about preaching to the dead in Hades (I Peter 4:6). In the first half of his answer he mentions the opinion that circulated among the people at his time, how others responded to the question (“some say…”). This is not what the saint believes, but what others say. Then, the saint goes forth to express his full response. But what if, perhaps, ‘some’ do not want to listen to what the Gospel and the Churches position is? What if they prefer to keep for themselves just what the others say? Very easy! A scissor does the work perfectly. You cut that portion and, lo the miracle, the view of ‘some’ becomes the view of the Church and of the Fathers! The ‘letter’ kills, so let us kill the letter! You shut the mouth of the saint and all is accomplished!… To anyone concerned: St Maximus says in his cut piece something interesting: “The dead are judged in this world”. No ‘chance’ after departure! They are judged IN THIS WORLD. I don’t see why we have to play with the divine words? Why we cut & paste and tailor the divine saying to fit our measurements? St Isaac the Syrian is very serious when he forewarns us: “Let no one take hold of, and bring forth out of context, a statement from our words and leave the rest, senselessly clutching that alone in his hands” (Homily 76). Have we lost our senses to arm against the Fathers whom we claim we follow?

    C.

    Another (in)famous example is the story about Trajan the Emperor (p.8), the persecutor of Christians. Supposedly by the prayers of St Gregory the Great he was relieved from Hell. In this apocryphal story God is asking St Gregory never to pray again on behalf of impious non-Christians.

    It is true, that Christians do not pray for the impious dead non-Christians. Not because we want them to be kept in torments but because it is their free choice and after all, as a result of their previous life, they are not receptive of any sort of help. How it is possible, asks Cabasilas, for somebody “to look at the light whose eyes have been gouged out” (Life in Christ, 4).

    However, according to the story, it is in the hands of God to free them, but He, nevertheless, wants them to be kept in their sad state. Here the saint appears more compassionate than God! Is it the God of Orthodoxy Who is portrayed in this scenario? Does God want people to be punished in Hell? Is it not their passions that torment them?

    To understand the hoax of this story we simply can check with the works of the ‘real’ St Gregory. First, this story is not found there. Second, in his writings St Gregory easily persuades us to the truth of the matter. He clearly states – in opposition to this story – that we do not pray for those condemned to eternal fire. (Dialogues 4:44: “holy men do not now pray for them that die in their infidelity and known wicked life: for seeing certain it is that they be condemned to endless pains, to what purpose should they pray for them, when they know that no petition will be admitted of God”). Also in his work The Parables of the Gospel, St Gregory says that there is no time of repentance in the other life, all the opportunities are finishing here: “Once the door of the kingdom is closed they can no longer approach him, who was formerly so approachable… he who wasted the time of fruitful penance pleads in vain before the gate of the kingdom”). Again, in another work he says: “The Saints do not pray for the unbelieving and impious that are dead” (Moralia, 34:19). This is the genuine teaching of St Gregory the Great; his counterpart’s sayings exist only in apocryphal and dubious sources. Again in another place: “In such state as a man departeth out of this life, in the same he is presented in judgment before God” (Dialogues 1,41,3).

    Repentance, conversion, change of one’s mind, or no matter what one calls it, does not exist after the departure of the soul from the body. Besides that, the condemned ones are tormented by their own passions and not by God, as false anti-christian stories teach.

    “We know, that God does not punish anyone in the future, but everyone makes themselves receptive to share in God. And so to share in God is a delight, while not sharing in Him is hell” (St John of Damascus, Contra Manichaeos 44). To be deprived from those unspeakable goods – that is hell. The Rich man was not tortured by God but “because it is a punishment for the voluptuous to lack delights” (St Ambrose). Unsatisfied passions are the “chasm” that Abraham couldn’t help to overcome and reach the unfortunate man: he was tormented from inside.
    After all, if indeed it was possible for one to move from Hell to Paradise, that would be the real torment!… Adam was in Paradise and was tormented; he was expelled and was relieved. “To be saved, we must humble ourselves, for the proud man even were he to be set down in paradise would not find peace there but would be discontent, and say, ‘Why am I not up in the front rank?’ But the humble soul is filled with love and does not seek to be in the foreground. The humble soul wishes good to all men, and in all things, is content” (Starets Silouan, 1991, 304). “But he who loves not his enemies will never find peace, even though he were to be set down in paradise” (422).

    D.

    About Plato.

    This story, included into St Anastasius Q & A, does not belong to the genuine writings of St Anastasius of Sinai. The work Question-Answers that bears the name “Anastasius of Sinai” is in fact a compilation of 3 authors with this name: Anastasius the 3rd, bishop of Nicaea, Anastasius the 2nd, bishop of Antioch and Anastasius the Presbyter the Sinaite. The compiler thought that they were one and the same person and collected them in one. The above Q&A belong to the latter one, the Sinaite Presbyter, whose writings, as an editor of his works noted, “are not worthy of mentioning since they do not contain genuine Christian teaching”.

    The problem with the # 61 Q&A is not simply because it refers to an apocryphal story (of course not all the apocryphal are to be rejected) but because it is in direct opposition with the teaching of the Church and the consensus patrum. The Fathers characterize with strong and harsh expressions (actually they ‘anathematize’) Plato and his strange and heretical and demonic philosophical ideas. “An evil spirit, and some cruel demon at war with our race, a foe to modesty, and an enemy to good order, oversetting all things, hath made his voice be heard in [his] soul,” says St John Chrysostom (On Gospel of St Matthew, 1:10, 11).

    Of course we know that idolaters that had a virtuous life will be comforted in the other life as St John Chrysostom says (NF 10, 241 “But in proof that they who, not having known Christ before His coming in the flesh, yet refrained from idolatry and worshipped God only, and showed forth an excellent life, shall enjoy all the blessings”). However, Plato, from the point of a good life doesn’t pass the test either. He taught that women are created to be common to all, no one should have his own wife but all women should be available to everyone. There were “demons that preached these things”, St Chrysostom says, and adds some more epithets, about their “uncleanness” of his ways of life, homosexuality and “pederasty” besides adultery and other “inventions of devils, and contrary to nature”. They consider pederasty “re¬spectable and a part of philosophy,” he says (On Babylas, 49, FC 73, 103). St John of Damascus, in the Heresy of Platonists, mentions their belief about “uncreated soul” and “transmigration of souls into bodies, even into those of reptiles” (Heresies, 6).

    The story, after the appearance of Plato (or perhaps the demon that appeared in the form of Plato!) concludes: “When you hear about this do not think that conversion is always possible in Hades. This is something that happened on one unique occasion, when Christ descended into the underworld”. Good to know. Conversion happened only once, and it happens no more! You should correct your paper then, which in the very beginning says that there is conversion in Hades – or erase that story about Plato. One of the two, please.

    In his writings, the real Saint Anastasius says that the Christian should anathematize “those that do teach alienated doctrines and do not follow the saints and teachers of the Church, and consider them condemned and estranged from Christ” (Odegos, 3.2). Which “saint Anastasius” we should prefer, the above paper’s or the real one?

    After all, in the service of the Sunday of Orthodoxy we anathematize (thrice) all the heresies and among them the pagan ancient philosophers and their teaching, and namely Plato. According to St Gregory Palamas, “we place the opinions of the Fathers above the babbles of Aristotle and Plato” (Letter to Barlaam, 1,33). Otherwise, if we give credibility in such stories as the ones about Plato, Trajan etc. we rather may think seriously about changing the Synodicon of Orthodoxy!

    Your synod (?) anathematized the council of 1912, something that nobody in the whole world (no local church or synod of bishops) dared ever to do; still, you withhold anathematizing those that the whole Church anathematized! Based on a false story!

    Sorry, but I don’t really intend to intervene in your position or beliefs. You have all the rights to believe and write whatever you want. Just a few thoughts because you answered to me and that’s all. I wish we don’t start unending public dialogues.

  • bas-f

    Dear, DIAKRISIS DOGMATON, thanks for pointing out to me the
    reference. As you may know, ACCOS have the same numbering for their separate OLD
    and NEW Testament series. For some
    reason I looked only in the O.T., while the quote indeed is found in one of the
    volumes of the N.T. series. In any case, the correct reference should be more
    specific and contain the following detail: “Ancient Christian Commentary On
    Scripture, NEW TESTAMENT, Vol. XI”. (In fact, the portion of Catena, as I
    checked later, exists in the writings of the Saint in Migne: PG 74, 1013-16.)

    Here some more quotes
    from St Cyril, pertaining to the emptying Hades, which you asked about. You are
    correct in saying that there is no contradiction with regards completely or partially emptying. Our nature, captivated by Satan, was liberated from
    the bonds, but liberation does not mean salvation to all but only to ‘His own’.
    So, it is correct to say “all liberated” but not to say “all were saved”.

    Comm. on Isaiah, I, 2008, 94: “he came to life
    again after emptying Hades” // 2008, 189-190: “canceled death… and restored everything to its
    original state” // 2008, 265: “plundering Hades and showing in actual fact that
    he is superior to death” //
    Comm. on Isaiah, III, 2008, 46-47: “liberated everyone” // FC 115, 249: “…death will in due course give way, and the goad
    of Hades will be no more” // ACT II, 2015, 260: “despoiled Hades
    and thrown open the gates of darkness for those who were there”.

    A few remarks here
    about translation from one language to another (and how a wrong translation can
    lead to alienated doctrines!)

    ● ACCOS English
    translation is not quite accurate. They say, “those who were in Hades had a chance to acknowledge Him”. The text does not mention any ‘chance’.
    Rather it should be read: “those who
    were in Hades would certainly recognized him” (“οὗτοι γὰρ καὶ εἰς ᾅδου πάντως
    ἐπέγνωσαν”).

    ● Also ACCOS
    translation of «ἀνακαλύφθητε» (“Be enlightened’) is not correct either; the verb (ἀνακαλύπτομαι) means appear,
    shew, be revealed, come out in the light, come forth, uncover – but in no
    way enlighten. The translation in
    modern Greek you provide has it correct: ‘φανερωθεῖτε’ (v. ‘φανερώνομαι’). Be enlightened means another thing
    (actually a new doctrine!), it is a serious distortion. God enlightens the
    heart of man before he dies, not
    afterwards. He doesn’t enlighten or talk to corpses decayed in the tombs or to
    souls deprived from their bodies. “God
    will not allow him to die in ignorance, but will lead him to the truth, and
    will enlighten him with the light of knowledge” (St Neilos the Ascetic,
    Letter 154, bk a’). Bishop Ignaty Brianchianinov says, “throughout the whole
    of his earthly life, the grace of God does not cease to assist man till the
    very moment of his departure” (Arena, p. 187). No posthumous enlightenment
    or conversion, or anything of this sort, in inferno, but during ‘earthly life’.
    There are no left-overs of humanity for later – no matter if they are pagans or
    whatever. The King and Prophet is not lying: “The Lord looks out of heaven;
    he beholds all the sons of men. He looks from his prepared habitation on
    all the dwellers on the earth” (Psalm. 32:13-14). According to St
    Ambrose, “He walks in the
    hearts and minds of each and every one of us” (FC 42, 347). He walks in the hearts of the living
    men, not of the dead. “The Holy Spirit is not absent from any created being…
    Thus we find many barbarians and nomadic peoples turning to a civilized way of
    life” (St Maximus the Confessor, Philokalia, First century of various
    texts, 72). With such clear a teaching of the Church, that the barbarians
    during their life are converted, who can blaspheme the Providence of God that
    is not present in every single human being? Who can deny the omnipotence and care of our
    loving Saviour for all men! Does our God not care for the remote people? Do the
    ‘distances’ hinder Him to reach and save people?

    ● In another place
    ACCOS translation says that He preached in Hades in order “to deliver all those
    who would believe”. However, the text doesn’t say that they believed in Hades.
    It actually says that He preached to those that would believe in Him if He was
    incarnate, i.e. if He had become man
    during their lifetimes. The translation in modern Greek puts it very
    nicely, although the English one seems to ignore it («γιά νά ἐλευθερώσει ὅσους ἐπρόκειτο νά πιστέψουν ἄν σαρκωνόταν στή δική τους ἐποχή»). Thanks for providing the Greek
    translation so that at least we can compare!

    **

    Thanks, Diakrisis Dogmaton, for
    the sources (links) that you suggested for further reading. I confess that I
    usually avoid myself to introduce third-hand sources to others. Especially
    regarding serious matters of the faith. The Patrologists, the Canonists, the
    Biblical scholars and the rest of the various branches of theology often fight
    with each other. Instead of taking one side or the other, wouldn’t it be better
    to spend our time in reading the plain teaching of the Church – the
    authoritative and genuine works of the Holy Fathers? Instead of tasting ready,
    fast–food prepared and served by other ‘cooks,’ would it not be better to labor
    ourselves -especially by joining reading with prayer? Wouldn’t that be a better
    ‘recipe’?

    In any case, since you offer them to me for ‘review’ I would like to
    comment briefly to one of the papers you suggested, the one with the title PASSAGES FROM THE CHURCH FATHERS And Other
    Orthodox Christian Sources Concerning Our Saviour’s Descent into Hades (which
    looks like an official, synodical document perhaps?) (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzJKrDVZPwcvWlRBRl9IcnJSdVRYOFhzZnN5UTlRYzRNRWln/view;). Unfortunately,
    there are some misunderstandings or distortions in it and I’m afraid that the
    paper hardly could withstand a serious critic. Please, endure me for a while.

    A.

    About the Rich man and Lazarus (pp. 20-22).

    The paper ends up with wrong conclusions. No patristic testimony
    whatsoever is mentioned and naturally, since the Fathers of the Church
    unanimously condemn the view accepted there, that the Rich man “repented for
    his sinful life” in Hades! Surprisingly, and opposing the Fathers, the authors
    of the paper consider this view “a good point”! Is that out of ignorance, a
    mistake, or on purpose?… In fact, the Fathers express without any exception
    and clearly in their writings the correct view about the fate of the rich man.
    I could site here their very wording, but they are so numerous to mention and I
    have to spare the space here:

    Athanasius
    the Great / Maximus the Confessor / Cyril of Alexandria / Romanos Melodist / Theophylactos
    / Isidore of Pelusium / Ephraim the Syrian / Gregory the Great / Gregory
    Palamas / Gregory of Nyssa / Gregory the Theologian / Basil the Great / Ambrose
    of Milan / Epiphanius of Cyprus / Anastasios of Sinai, and par excellence,
    Saint John Chrysostom.

    To support their view, the authors of the paper do not undertake the
    labor to quote not even a single Father (if there exist any!)… To whom are
    they talking, to ‘catechumens’? Where are the “many passages from the Holy Fathers [that] teach the Orthodox [sic]
    doctrine of posthumous enlightenment” that you mention in your note above?
    Where have the “Passages from the Church
    Fathers” mentioned in the title gone? The reader is supposed to accept their
    opinion blind, as a ‘patristic position’!

    B.

    St Maximos the Confessor quote.

    In another part of this paper (pp. 23-24) something even worse is done:
    one of the Fathers is scissored! St Maximus answers the question about
    preaching to the dead in Hades (I Peter 4:6). In the first half of his answer he
    mentions the opinion that circulated among the people at his time, how others
    responded to the question (“some say…”). This is not what the saint
    believes, but what others say. Then, the saint goes forth to express his full
    response. But what if, perhaps, ‘some’ do not want to listen to what the Gospel
    and the Churches position is? What if they prefer to keep for themselves just
    what the others say? Very easy! A scissor does the work perfectly. You cut that
    portion and, lo the miracle, the view of ‘some’ becomes the view of the Church
    and of the Fathers! The ‘letter’ kills, so let us kill the letter! You shut the
    mouth of the saint and all is accomplished!… To anyone concerned: St Maximus
    says in his cut piece something interesting: “The dead are judged in this
    world”. No ‘chance’ after departure! They are judged IN THIS WORLD. I don’t
    see why we have to play with the divine words? Why we cut & paste and tailor
    the divine saying to fit our measurements? St Isaac the Syrian is very serious
    when he forewarns us: “Let no one take hold of, and bring forth out of
    context, a statement from our words and leave the rest, senselessly clutching
    that alone in his hands” (Homily 76). Have we lost our senses to arm
    against the Fathers whom we claim we follow?

    C.

    Another (in)famous example is the story about Trajan the Emperor (p.8),
    the persecutor of Christians. Supposedly by the prayers of St Gregory the Great
    he was relieved from Hell. In this apocryphal story God is asking St Gregory
    never to pray again on behalf of impious non-Christians.

    It is true, that Christians do not pray for the impious dead
    non-Christians. Not because we want them to be kept in torments but because it
    is their free choice and after all, as a result of their previous life, they
    are not receptive of any sort of help. How it is possible, asks Cabasilas, for
    somebody “to look at the light whose eyes have been gouged out” (Life in
    Christ, 4).

    However, according to the story, it is in the hands of God to free them,
    but He, nevertheless, wants them to be kept in their sad state. Here the saint
    appears more compassionate than God! Is it the God of Orthodoxy Who is
    portrayed in this scenario? Does God want people to be punished in Hell? Is it
    not their passions that torment them?

    To understand the hoax of this story we simply can check with the works
    of the ‘real’ St Gregory. First, this story is not found there. Second, in his
    writings St Gregory easily persuades us to the truth of the matter. He clearly
    states – in opposition to this story – that we do not pray for those condemned
    to eternal fire. (Dialogues 4:44: “holy men do not now pray for them that
    die in their infidelity and known wicked life: for seeing certain it is that
    they be condemned to endless pains, to what purpose should they pray for them,
    when they know that no petition will be admitted of God”). Also in his work
    The Parables of the Gospel, St
    Gregory says that there is no time of repentance in the other life, all the
    opportunities are finishing here: “Once the door of the kingdom is closed
    they can no longer approach him, who was formerly so approachable… he who
    wasted the time of fruitful penance pleads in vain before the gate of the
    kingdom”). Again, in another work he says: “The Saints do not pray for
    the unbelieving and impious that are dead” (Moralia, 34:19). This is the genuine teaching of St Gregory the
    Great; his counterpart’s sayings exist only in apocryphal and dubious sources.
    Again in another place: “In such state as a man departeth out of this life,
    in the same he is presented in judgment before God” (Dialogues 1,41,3).

    Repentance, conversion, change of one’s mind, or no matter what one calls
    it, does not exist after the departure of the soul from the body. Besides that,
    the condemned ones are tormented by their own passions and not by God, as false
    anti-christian stories teach.

    “We know, that God does not punish anyone in the future, but everyone makes themselves receptive to share in God. And so to share
    in God is a delight, while not sharing in Him is hell” (St John of
    Damascus, Contra Manichaeos 44). To be deprived from those unspeakable goods –
    that is hell. The Rich man was not tortured by God but “because it is a
    punishment for the voluptuous to lack delights” (St
    Ambrose). Unsatisfied passions are the “chasm” that Abraham couldn’t help to
    overcome and reach the unfortunate man: he was tormented from inside.

    After all, if indeed it was possible for one to move from Hell to
    Paradise, that would be the real torment!… Adam was in Paradise and was
    tormented; he was expelled and was relieved. “To be saved, we must humble
    ourselves, for the proud man even were he to be set down in paradise would not
    find peace there but would be discontent, and say, ‘Why am I not
    up in the front rank?’ But the humble soul is filled with love and does not
    seek to be in the foreground. The humble soul wishes good to all men, and in
    all things, is content” (Starets Silouan, 1991, 304). “But he who loves
    not his enemies will never find peace, even though he were to be set down in
    paradise” (422).

    D.

    About Plato.

    This story, included into St Anastasius Q & A, does not belong to the
    genuine writings of St Anastasius of Sinai. The work Question-Answers that bears
    the name “Anastasius of Sinai” is in fact a compilation of 3 authors with this
    name: Anastasius the 3rd, bishop of Nicaea, Anastasius the 2nd, bishop of
    Antioch and Anastasius the Presbyter the Sinaite. The compiler thought that
    they were one and the same person and collected them in one. The above Q&A
    belong to the latter one, the Sinaite Presbyter, whose writings, as an editor
    of his works noted, “are not worthy of
    mentioning since they do not contain genuine Christian teaching”.

    The problem with the # 61 Q&A is not simply because it refers to an
    apocryphal story (of course not all the apocryphal are to be rejected) but
    because it is in direct opposition with the teaching of the Church and the consensus patrum. The Fathers characterize
    with strong and harsh expressions (actually they ‘anathematize’) Plato and his
    strange and heretical and demonic philosophical ideas. “An evil spirit, and some cruel demon at war with our race, a foe to
    modesty, and an enemy to good order, oversetting all things, hath made his
    voice be heard in [his] soul,” says St John Chrysostom (On Gospel of St Matthew,
    1:10, 11).

    Of course we know that idolaters that had a virtuous life will be comforted
    in the other life as St John Chrysostom says (NF 10, 241 “But in proof that they who, not having known Christ before His coming
    in the flesh, yet refrained from idolatry and worshipped God only, and showed
    forth an excellent life, shall enjoy all the blessings”). However, Plato,
    from the point of a good life doesn’t pass the test either. He taught that
    women are created to be common to all, no one should have his own wife but all women
    should be available to everyone. There were “demons
    that preached these things”, St Chrysostom says, and adds some more
    epithets, about their “uncleanness”
    of his ways of life, homosexuality and “pederasty”
    besides adultery and other “inventions of
    devils, and contrary to nature”. They consider pederasty “re­spectable and a part of philosophy,” he says (On Babylas, 49, FC 73, 103). St John of
    Damascus, in the Heresy of Platonists,
    mentions their belief about “uncreated
    soul” and “transmigration of souls
    into bodies, even into those of reptiles” (Heresies, 6).

    The story, after the appearance of Plato (or perhaps the demon that
    appeared in the form of Plato!) concludes: “When
    you hear about this do not think that conversion is always possible in Hades.
    This is something that happened on one unique occasion, when Christ descended
    into the underworld”. Good to know. Conversion happened only once, and it
    happens no more! You should correct your paper then, which in the very
    beginning says that there is conversion in Hades – or erase that story about
    Plato. One of the two, please.

    In his writings, the real Saint Anastasius says that the Christian should
    anathematize “those that do teach
    alienated doctrines and do not follow the saints and teachers of the Church,
    and consider them condemned and estranged from Christ” (Odegos, 3.2). Which
    “saint Anastasius” we should prefer, the above paper’s or the real one?

    After all, in the service of the Sunday of Orthodoxy we anathematize
    (thrice) all the heresies and among them the pagan ancient philosophers and
    their teaching, and namely Plato. According to St Gregory Palamas, “we place
    the opinions of the Fathers above the babbles of Aristotle and Plato”
    (Letter to Barlaam, 1,33). Otherwise, if we give credibility in such stories as
    the ones about Plato, Trajan etc. we rather may think seriously about changing
    the Synodicon of Orthodoxy!

    Your synod (?) anathematized the council of 1912, something that nobody
    in the whole world (no local church or synod of bishops) dared ever to do;
    still, you withhold anathematizing those that the whole Church anathematized!
    Based on a false story!

    Sorry, but I don’t really intend to intervene in your position or
    beliefs. You have all the rights to believe and write whatever you want. Just a
    few thoughts because you answered to me and that’s all. I wish we don’t start unending
    public dialogues.