Tag Archives: Hell

St. John Maximovitch: God’s grace always assists those who struggle, but this does not mean that a struggler is always . . .

Icon of St. John the WonderworkerGod’s grace always assists those who struggle, but this does not mean that a struggler is always in the position of a victor. Sometimes in the arena the wild animals did not touch the righteous ones, but by no means were they all preserved untouched.

What is important is not victory or the position of a victor, but rather the labor of striving towards God and devotion to Him.

Though a man may be found in a weak state, that does not at all mean that he has been abandoned by God. On the cross, the Lord Jesus Christ was in trouble, as the world sees things. But when the sinful world considered Him to be completely destroyed, in fact He was victorious over death and hades. The Lord did not promise us positions as victors as a reward for righteousness, but told us, “In the world you will have tribulation — but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).

The power of God is effective when a person asks for the help from God, acknowledging his own weakness and sinfulness. This is why humility and the striving towards God are the fundamental virtues of a Christian.

+ St. John Maximovitch

St. John Chrysostom: Let us not then make ourselves unworthy of entrance into the bride-chamber . . .

Icon of St. John ChrysostomLet us not then make ourselves unworthy of entrance into the bride-chamber: for as long as we are in this world, even if we commit countless sins it is possible to wash them all away by manifesting repentance for our offenses: but when once we have departed to the other world, even if we display the most earnest repentance it will be of no avail, not even if we gnash our teeth, beat our breasts, and utter innumerable calls for succor, no one with the tip of his finger will apply a drop to our burning bodies, but we shall only hear those words which the rich man heard in the parable ‘Between us and you a great gulf has been fixed.’ [Luke xvi. 26]

Let us then, I beseech you, recover our senses here and let us recognize our Master as He ought to be recognized. For only when we are in Hades should we abandon the hope derived from repentance: for there only is this remedy weak and unprofitable: but while we are here even if it is applied in old age itself it exhibits much strength. Wherefore also the devil sets everything in motion in order to root in us the reasoning which comes of despair: for he knows that if we repent even a little we shall not do this without some reward. But just as he who gives a cup of cold water has his recompense reserved for him, so also the man who has repented of the evils which he has done, even if he cannot exhibit the repentance which his offenses deserve, will have a commensurate reward. For not a single item of good, however small it may be, will be overlooked by the righteous judge. For if He makes such an exact scrutiny of our sins, as to require punishment for both our words and thoughts, much more will our good deeds, whether they be great or small, be reckoned to our credit at that day.

Wherefore, even if thou art not able to return again to the most exact state of discipline, yet if thou withdraw thyself in a slight degree at least from thy present disorder and excess, even this will not be impossible: only set thyself to the task at once, and open the entrance into the place of contest; but as long as thou tarriest outside this naturally seems difficult and impracticable to thee. [Matt. xxv. 34; 249 Luke xvi. 26]. For before making the trial even if things are easy and manageable they are wont to present an appearance of much difficulty to us: but when we are actually engaged in the trial, and making the venture the greater part of our distress is removed, and confidence taking the place of tremor and despair lessens the fear and increases the facility of operation, and makes our good hopes stronger.

For this reason also the wicked one dragged Judas out of this world lest he should make a fair beginning, and so return by means of repentance to the point from which he fell. For although it may seem a strange thing to say, I will not admit even that sin to be too great for the succor which is brought to us from repentance. Wherefore I pray and beseech you to banish all this Satanic mode of thinking from your soul, and to return to this state of salvation.

+ St. John Chrysostom, An Exhortation to Theodore After His Fall, Letter 1

 

St. Justin Popovich: . . . the dogma of papal infallibility is not only a heresy but the greatest heresy against the True Church of Christ . . .

Icon of St. Justin Popovich“With respect to the dogma concerning papal infallibility, as a particular matter the pope has been proclaimed to be the Church, and the pope─a man─has usurped the place of the God-man. That is the ultimate triumph of humanism and simultaneously “the second death” (Rev. 20: 14, 21:8) of the papacy, and through it and after it the death of every humanism. However, the dogma of papal infallibility is not only a heresy but the greatest heresy against the True Church of Christ, which has existed in our terrestrial world as a theanthropic body ever since the appearance of the God-man. No other heresy has revolted so violently and so completely against the God-man Christ and His Church as has the papacy with the dogma of the pope-man’s infallibility. There is no doubt about it. This dogma is the heresy of heresies, a revolt without precedent against the God-man Christ on this earth, a new betrayal of Christ, a new crucifixion of the Lord, this time not on wood but on the golden cross of papal humanism. And these things are hell, damnation for the wretched earthly being called man.”

— St. Justin Popovich, Orthodox Faith & Life in Christ, “Reflections on the Infallibility of European Man”

St. Kosmas: What does our Christ instruct us to do? . . .

Icon of St. Kosmas“What does our Christ instruct us to do? Meditate on our sins, on death, on hell, on paradise, and on our soul, which is more precious than the entire world. We are to eat and drink moderately, similarly, to clothe ourselves moderately, and to use the remaining time for our soul-to make it a bride for our Christ. And then we can call ourselves human beings and earthly angels. But if we concern ourselves with what we shall eat and what we shall drink, how we shall commit sin, how to dress up this stinking body which tomorrow will be eaten by worms, and do not concern ourselves about our soul which is eternal, then we can’t be called human beings, but animals. So make your body a servant of the soul, and then you can call Yourselves human beings.”

— St. Kosmas Aitolos, The Life of St. Kosmas Aitolos Together with an English Translation of His Teaching and Letters

Prayer of St. Eustratius: And now, O Master, let Thy hand shelter me, and let Thy mercy come upon me . . .

Jesus”And now, O Master, let Thy hand shelter me, and let Thy mercy come upon me; for my soul is troubled and in distress at its departure from my wretched and defiled body. May the evil counsel of the adversary never overtake it and bind it in darkness through the sins which I have committed in this life, whether in knowledge or in ignorance. Be merciful unto me, O Master, and let not my soul see the dark forms of the evil demons, but may Thy bright and shining Angels receive it. Give glory to Thy holy name, and by Thy might lead me unto Thy divine judgment seat. When I am being judged, may the hand of the prince of this world not seize me and snatch me, a sinner, into the depths of hades; but do Thou stand by me, and be unto me a Savior and Helper, for these present bodily torments are a joy to Thy servants.”

— Prayer of St. Eustratius, Saturday Midnight Office

St. Gregory Palamas: Adam chose the treason of the serpent . . .

Icon of St. Gregory of Palamas“… Adam chose the treason of the serpent, the originator of evil, in preference to God’s commandment and counsel, and broke the decreed fast. Instead of eternal life he received death and instead of the place of unsullied joy he received this sinful place full of passions and misfortunes, or rather, he was sentenced to Hades and nether darkness. Our nature would have stayed in the infernal regions below the lurking places of the serpent who initially beguiled it, had not Christ come. He started off by fasting (cf. Mk. 1:13) and in the end abolished the serpent’s tyranny, set us free and brought us back to life.”

— St. Gregory Palamas, The Homilies Vol. II

St. Nektarios: After the end of the General Judgment . . .

Icon of the Last Judgment“After the end of the General Judgment, the Righteous Judge (God) will declare the decision both to the righteous and to the sinners. To the righteous He will say: ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;’ while to the sinners He will say: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” And these will go away to enternal hades, while the righteous will go to enternal life. This retribution after the General Judgment will be complete, final, and definitive. It will complete, because it is not the soul alone, as the Partial Judgment of man after death, but the soul together with the body, that will receive what is deserved. It will be final, because it will be enduring and not temporary like that at Partial Judgment. And it will be definitive, because both for the righteous and for the sinners it will be unalterable and eternal.”

— St. Nektarios

St. John Chrysostom: Wherefore, I exhort you, when we receive children from the nurse . . .

Icon of St. John Chrysostom“Wherefore, I exhort you, when we receive children from the nurse, let us not accustom to old wives’ stories, but let them learn from their first youth that there is a Judgment, that there is a punishment; let it be infixed in their minds. This fear being rooted in them produces great good effects. For a soul that that has learnt from its first youth to be subdued by this expectation, will not soon shake off this fear. But like a horse obedient to the bridle, having the thought of hell seated upon it, walking orderly, it will both speak and utter things profitable; and neither youth nor riches, not an orphan state, not any other thing, will be able to injure it, having its reason so firm and able to hold out against everything.”

— St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on 2 Thessalonians, Homily 2.

St. John Maximovitch: . . . the demonic hosts tremble when they see the Cross . . .

Icon of St. John the WonderworkerIn the prophet Ezekiel (9:6) it is said that when the Angel of the Lord was sent to punish and destroy the sinning people, it was told him not to strike those on whom the “mark” had been made. In the original text this mark is called “tau,” the Hebrew letter corresponding to the letter “T,” which is how in ancient times the cross was made, which then was an instrument of punishment.

And so, even then was foretold the power of the Cross, which preserves those who venerate it. Likewise by many other events in the Old Testament the power of the Cross was indicated. Moses, who held his arms raised in the form of a cross during the battle, gave victory to the Israelites over the Amalekites. He also, dividing the Red Sea by a blow of his rod and by a transverse blow uniting the waters again, saved Israel from Pharaoh, who drowned in the water, while Israel crossed over on the dry bottom (Exodus, Chs. 14, 17).

Through the laying on of his hands in the form of a cross on his grandsons, Jacob gave a blessing to his descendants, foretelling at the same time their future until the coming of the “expectation of the nations” (Genesis, Ch. 48).

By the Cross, the Son of God having become man, accomplished our salvation. He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross (Phil. 2:8). Having stretched out His hands upon the Cross, the Saviour with them, as it were, embraced the world, and by His blood shed on it, like a king with red ink, He signed the forgiveness of the human race.

The Cross of the Lord was the instrument by which He saved the world after the fall into sin. Through the Cross, He descended with His soul into hell so as to raise up from it the souls who were awaiting Him. By the Cross, Christ opened the doors of paradise which had been closed after our first ancestors had been banished from it. The Cross was sanctified by the Body of Christ which was nailed to it when He gave Himself over to torments and death for the salvation of the world, and it itself was then filled with life-giving power. By the Cross on Golgotha, the prince of this world was cast out (John 12:31) and an end was put to his authority. The weapon by which he was crushed became the sign of Christ’s victory.

The demonic hosts tremble when they see the Cross, for by the Cross the kingdom of hell was destroyed. They do not dare to draw near to anyone who is guarded by the Cross.

The whole human race, by the death of Christ on the Cross, received deliverance from the authority of the devil, and everyone who makes use of this saving weapon is inaccessible to the demons.

When legions of demons appeared to St. Anthony the Great and other desert-dwellers, they guarded themselves with the Sign of the Cross, and the demons vanished.

When they appeared to Saint Symeon the Stylite, who was standing on his pillar, what seemed to be a chariot to carry him to heaven, the Saint, before mounting it, crossed himself; it disappeared and the enemy, who had hoped to cast down the ascetic from the height of his pillar, was put to shame.

One cannot enumerate all the separate examples of the manifestation of the power of the Cross in various incidents. Invisibly and unceasingly there gushes from it the Divine grace that saves the world.

The Sign of the Cross is made at all the Mysteries and prayers of the Church. With the making of the Sign of the Cross over the bread and wine, they become the Body and Blood of Christ. With the immersion of the Cross, the waters are sanctified. The Sign of the Cross looses us from sins. “When we are guarded by the Cross, we oppose the enemy, not fearing his nets and barking.” Just as the flaming sword in the hands of the Cherubim barred the entrance into paradise of old, so the Cross now acts invisibly in the world, guarding it from perdition.

The Cross is the unconquerable weapon of pious kings in the battle with enemies. Through the apparition of the Cross in the sky, the dominion of Emperor Constantine was confirmed and an end was put to the persecution against the Church. The apparition of the Cross in the sky in Jerusalem in the days of Constantius the Arian proclaimed the victory of Orthodoxy. By the power of the Cross of the Lord, Christian kings reign and will reign until Antichrist, barring his path to power and restraining lawlessness (Saint John Chrysostom, Commentary on 11 Thes. 2:6-7).

The “sign of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:30), that is, the Cross, will appear in the sky in order to proclaim the end of the present world and the coming of the eternal Kingdom of the Son of God. Then all the tribes of the earth shall weep, because they loved the present age and its lusts, but all who have endured persecution for righteousness and called on the name of the Lord shall rejoice and be glad. The Cross then will save from eternal perdition all who conquered temptations by the Cross, who crucified their flesh with its passions and lusts, and took up their cross and followed their Christ.

But those who hated the Cross of the Lord and did not engrave the Cross in their soul will perish forever. For “the Cross is the preserver of the whole universe, the Cross is the beauty of the Church, the Cross is the might of kings, the Cross is the confirmation of the faithful, the Cross is the glory of angels and the scourge of demons” (Monday Matins).

— St. John Maximovitch

St. John Chrysostom: For not eating and drinking makes friendship . . .

Icon of St. John Chrysostom“For not eating and drinking makes friendship: such friendship even robbers have and murderers. But if we are friends, if we truly care for one another, let us in these respects help one another. This leads us to a profitable friendship: let us hinder those things which lead away to hell.”

— St. John Chrysostom, Homily 30 on Hebrews