In the Orthodox Church, there is a doctrine of the Good Death. The soul completes its moral progress at the moment of separation from the body. There is also a concept of ‘Expiratory suffering’. The Orthodox Church acknowledges that death is an essential part of the lifecycle.
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Good death recognised by the Orthodox Church
Orthodox Christians believe that only a ‘good death’ can be accepted. They say that a person’s life ends on a good note and that their death should not be a source of pain for those around them. Euthanasia is a form of assisted suicide and Orthodox Christians do not support this form of suicide.
Orthodox Christians have opposed the doctrine of Purgatory since it was first officially proclaimed at the Council of Lyons in 1274 and expanded on in the Council of Florence in 1439. This doctrine posited that the dead in Purgatory experience punishments for all their earthly sins, and is therefore not recognised by the Orthodox Church.
A study of the liturgy of the Orthodox Church reveals that the Great Entrance is a commemoration of the death of Christ. The act of placing the gifts on the altar is a symbolic representation of Jesus being lifted from the cross and buried in the tomb. This remembrance of Christ’s death is meant to unite the assembly and help them actively witness Christ’s death. The repetition of the remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice also adds to the weight of the liturgy and contributes to its call to participate.
Moral progress of the soul ends at the very moment of separation of body and soul
The separation of body and soul is the moment when the soul’s moral progress stops. It is then that the soul’s definite destiny is determined. It is then judged based on the whole result of all its deeds. According to Orthodox Christian beliefs, the soul either begins to enjoy life in Paradise or undergo a life of suffering in Hell.
The soul is a nonmaterial component of the human being, which is the source of a person’s individuality and humanity. The soul is often equated with the mind and self, and is the part of an individual that partakes in divinity. The soul, therefore, survives the physical death of the body, though it cannot exist without its body.
The purpose of creation was to bring about the free action of God, but this was distorted through the experience of sin. The first sin triggered an unnatural and disorderly state, and disobedience to God was the cause of this. The sin of disobedience dissolved the communion with God, which in turn disrupted the relationship between man and his wife. In addition, it ruined the relationship between man and other living creatures.
The word ‘expiratory suffering’ is not found in Roman Catholic teaching on the soul’s experiences after death. The Orthodox view of the afterlife differs from the Roman Catholic one in a number of ways. In the first place, the Orthodox view of purgatory does not consider the afterlife as a punishment for sins. Rather, it considers it a purifying process to remove sin and the attachment to passion.
Another important concept in Orthodox asceticism and spirituality is the concept of prelest. According to the Orthodox Church, prelest is the greatest danger faced by Christians praying the Jesus prayer and by new Orthodox members. These texts are based on patristic interpretation, which is the only form of interpretation acceptable to the Church.
Among orthodox saints quotes on death, St. Gregory Palamas teaches that the soul is created by God to be eternally existing. As such, it cannot pass into nothingness. In Homily 31, St. Gregory Palamas discusses two definitions of death.
Remembrance of the dead
The Orthodox Church encourages people to remember the dead through prayers. Some people believe that praying for the dead is superstitious or heretical, but the Orthodox Church firmly believes that it is a valid practice. In this book, you’ll find 300 sayings from 50 Orthodox saints. They hail from Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Greece, Russia, Serbia, Montenegro, and more.