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ReligionChristianityAfterlife in Orthodox perspective (2nd part)

Afterlife in Orthodox perspective (2nd part)

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Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict: beyond common belief

It is undeniable that war, this scourge that ravages humanity, sows devastation. The longer a conflict persists, the more it fuels animosity between the involved nations, making the restoration of trust between the belligerents all the more difficult. As the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia has already reached the sad centenary of its existence, it is difficult to imagine the torments endured by these two peoples, each bearing its share of suffering.

Exodus of the soul

The soul, united by the will of God with the body, is separated, again by the will of God, from the body with which it previously constituted a person.

Divided, the soul passes into the realm of beings homogeneous to it, into the spiritual, angelic realm; and for the good or evil qualities she has acquired, she joins either the good angels – in heaven, or the evil, fallen angels – in hell. This truth was revealed by the Lord Himself in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, teaching us that souls, after being separated from the body, on the same day enter either heaven or hell. “Today you will be with me in paradise,” Jesus Christ said to the prudent thief.

This means that each soul, after separation from its body, will either be in heaven or hell. When? “Today,” said the Lord Jesus Christ

How to understand the word “day”? How to harmonize with the teaching of the Church about the 3rd, 9th and 40th days?

There are days and nights and years on earth, and eternity beyond the grave is either bright or dark. In order to reach the soul of a light or dark state beyond the grave, a certain space of time is needed, which corresponds to the earthly forty days. The various states in which the soul finds itself after separation from the body correspond to certain days on earth. Since the afterlife state of the soul is known in the first three days after death, then in the next 30 days, the Church and the relatives of the deceased use special means these days to propitiate God.

So, the word “today” means the time after the grave – eternity. Days 3, 9 and 40 are days on earth, but they are not beyond the grave: there is only “today” and there is no other day.

The sacrament of death is the door through which the soul, having parted with its body, enters into eternity.

What happens then to the body, we see and know, what happens to the invisible soul – we do not see, however, we know for sure from the teaching of our St. The Church, which is the pillar and ground of the truth, for it is taught by the Holy Spirit.

Exodus of the soul and what happens around it at this time, St. The Fathers say this: good and evil angels will appear to the soul. The vision of the latter will confuse the soul to the extreme: it finds consolation in the vision and protection of good angels. Then a person’s good deeds and a clear conscience serve as a great help, a consolation. Then obedience, humility, good deeds and patience will help the soul, and she, accompanied by angels, goes to the Savior in great joy. The passionate, sin-loving soul is taken away by evil spirits to “hell for torment (St. Theodore Stud.).

Once two angels appeared to Saint Macarius of Alexandria. The soul, – said the angel, – like a pious person, so not a pious one, comes into fear and is frightened by the presence of terrible and formidable angels. She hears and understands the tears and sobs of the people around her, but she cannot utter a single word or raise a voice. She is embarrassed by the upcoming long journey, a new way of life and separation from the body (St. Macarius of Alexandria).

The tales of Theodore the Studite and Macarius of Alexandria are supplemented by the following information in the word of St. Cyril of Alexandria at the end of the soul: “In what fear and trembling does the soul abide until the final verdict is pronounced! Divine forces stand against the face of unclean spirits and represent good thoughts, words and deeds that belong to the soul, and she, in fear and trembling, in the midst of angels and demons bickering about her, awaits either her justification and liberation or condemnation and death ”(St. Cyril Alex .).

The previous information supplements Taxiot’s testimony. He says that the good angels had an ark with them, from which they took out his good deeds during ordeals and contrasted them with his evil deeds.

St. Gregory, a disciple of St. Basil, in a vision asked St. Theodora about the circumstances that accompanied her death “How can I tell you the bodily pain, burden and tightness that the dying are subjected to! The state of the soul when separated from the body is like that of a naked man who has to fall into a fire, burn and turn into ashes. When the hour of my death came, evil spirits surrounded me; some of them roared like beasts, others barked like dogs, others howled like wolves. Looking at me, they were furious, threatened, rushed at me, gnashing their teeth. I was exhausted from fear and suddenly saw two angels standing on the right side of my bed, whose presence calmed me. Then the demons retreated. One of the angels asked them in anger: why do you always anticipate our coming to the dying and frighten and confuse every soul that differs from the body? But don’t get too excited, because you won’t find anything here. There is God’s mercy to this soul, and you have neither a part nor a lot in it.

The demons became embarrassed and began to show my evil deeds committed in my youth, and shouted: “Whose sins are these, didn’t she do this and that?”

Finally, there is death, a very terrible sight, the likeness of a human, but without a body, made up of nothing but naked bones. She brought various instruments of torment: swords, arrows, sickles, pitchforks, axes, and others. My humble soul trembled with fear. The holy angels said to death: “do not delay, release this soul from carnal unions, quickly and quietly release it, it does not have much sinful weight.” Death approached me, took a small ax and cut off my legs first, then my arms; after that, with other tools, she broke all my limbs, separating them one from the other according to composition. I lost my arms, legs; my whole body became dead and I could no longer move.

Then she cut off my head, and I could not move my head, which had become a stranger to me. After that, she dissolved some composition in a bowl and, putting it to my lips, forced me to drink. This drink was so bitter that my soul could not endure it, shuddered and jumped out of the body, tearing itself away from it.

The angels took her into their arms. Looking back, I saw my body lying soulless, insensible, motionless. As if another person, having thrown off his clothes, stood and looked at her, so I looked at my body and was surprised. Angels held me, and demons approached us, showing my sins. The angels began to look for my good deeds and, by the grace of the Lord, they found them. They were collecting all my good deeds ever done with God’s help and preparing to weigh them against my evil deeds. At that time, our reverend father Basil unexpectedly appeared and said to the holy angels: “This soul served me a lot in my old age; I prayed to God for her, and God gave her to me.”

With these words, he took out a scarlet full bag from the bowels and, giving it to the angels, said: “When you go through air ordeals and evil spirits begin torturing the soul, redeem it from her debts with this. I am rich by the grace of God, then and by my labors I have collected a lot of treasure and I will give this bag to the soul that has served me.

Having said this, he left. The crafty spirits were perplexed, then they raised deplorable cries and left. And again St. Basil came, carrying with him many vessels of pure oil and precious ointment.

He opened them one by one and poured them over me; I was filled with a spiritual fragrance and felt changed and enlightened.

The monk said to the holy angels: “When you have done everything that is proper for this soul, then bring it into residence in the monastery prepared for me by the Lord.” After that, the Reverend became invisible. The angels took me and we went east.”

St. John of Damascus writes: “God will save the creation of His hands, excluding only those who clearly belong to the number of outcasts who have trampled on the right faith, so that the left side of the scale pulls too much on the right. For God-enlightened men say that at the last gasp, human deeds are, as it were, weighed on the scales, and if in 1) the right side takes precedence over the left, that person will obviously give up his soul among the host of good angels; 2) if both are in balance, then God’s love for mankind wins without a doubt; in 3) if the scales bow to the left, but not enough, then the mercy of God even then makes up for the deficiency. These are the three divine judgments of the Lord: the just, the philanthropic and the most good. 4) when evil deeds take on a very great preponderance.

These are all the circumstances that accompany the death of a person. Yes, and the Savior Himself, speaking about the outcome of the righteous and the sinner, also expressed in general terms that the death of a sinner is fierce, – it was said to the first (Lk. 16:23), and about the second that the angels carried his soul to the bosom of Abraham (Lk. 16 :22). Therefore, the circumstances accompanying both deaths must be similar to the testimony of St. Fathers.

– From ourselves, of course, with the help of the grace of God, our outcome, our death depends; we can make it red or fierce, judging by how we accept and fulfill again the commandment of Christ: “Be ready at any hour for death” and “repent and believe in the Gospel.” Therefore, unceasing repentance and active, living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will make our outcome favorable.

Not only the poor, like Lazarus, will inherit life and be blessed with a blessed end, but the rich, if they are poor in spirit, are humble. Not only the rich, like the gospel rich man, go to hell and have a fierce death, but also the poor, if they do not bear their cross with generous patience. So, get ready, i.e. prepare for death at every hour.

Death fear and languor are inherent in man. All the Saints prepared themselves for this terrible hour with tears, and their death was majestic.

“God! for your servants, says St. Basil the Great, – those who are separated from the body, coming to You, our God, there is no death, but the transition from sadness to the most useful and sweetest, and to peace and joy ”(Prayer for the evening. Five. Trebn.).

And so, death – calm down, brethren and sisters – is not annihilation, the cessation of human existence. The soul lives in another world, to which, perhaps, we will go at the same time. In our Lord Jesus Christ, the conqueror of our death, and, consequently, the death of the deceased or deceased, let us say to them not “farewell”, but “goodbye”, dear spouse or tender wife, goodbye, good parents, goodbye, dearest brother or sister…

Exodus of a righteous soul

From the angelic revelation of St. Macarius of Alexandria can see that the outcome of a righteous soul is the exact opposite of the outcome of a sinful soul. The righteous soul, after being separated from the body, is received by the holy angels, guarded by them, and carried to a land full of light, joy and bliss. The outcome of such souls is not surprising, for while still on earth they were with angels.

Here is what St. Ephraim the Syrian on the Exodus of a Righteous Soul:

“Workers and perfect ascetics rejoice at the hour of separation.

Having before their eyes the great work of their asceticism, vigils, fasts, bows, prayers, tears, their souls rejoice, because they are called from their bodies to enter into peace.

Exodus of a sinful soul

The death of a sinner is cruel (Ps. 33:22), the very word of God testifies. Why so? Consider what is a sinner?

The violator of the law of God, the trampler of His commandments. Just as virtue, turning to conscience, brings unearthly joy to the soul, so it is true that vice gives rise to fear of responsibility. Death for a sinful soul is fierce, because even at the moment of its very exodus it is met by evil spirits, whom it fearlessly served on earth, and with whom, as well as with similar sinners, it will have to enter into eternal union.

Etc. Macarius the Great talks about the outcome of a sinful soul as follows:

“When a sinful soul leaves the body, then a great mystery is performed. Hordes of demons and opposite angels, and dark forces come to her, and steal the soul into their own region.

And this should not be surprising. If a person, while still living in this world, submitted to them and became their slave, all the more, when he comes from the world, he is captivated and enslaved by them.

Separation from life, writes St. Ephraim the Syrian, – extremely saddens the sinner, who sees before his eyes his negligence with its bitter fruits. What repentance grips the heart of one who did not care about his salvation here.

From the spirit of the patristic writings it is revealed that sometimes the Lord, according to His inscrutable destinies, honors St. Communion of people who were not distinguished by piety, and vice versa: for any previous sins, although in due time they were cleansed by repentance, He deprives this last parting word and the righteous himself.

(to be continued)

Source: Afterlife. How our dead live and how we will live after death / Monk Mitrofan – Kiev. Ed. Ukrainian Orthodox Church. 1992. – 336 p. (in Russian)

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