Thursday, June 23, 2011

Freedom from the Fear of Death

by Rich Vincent
Approximately 10 very short phrases of this article have been reconstructed to render it a non-polemic piece as this poster considers its content extremely vital to the Gospel and a legitimate consideration for all Christians. My thought was to remove any unnecessary distraction to those who might take offense and would otherwise embrace the contents and subject matter herein. The original article can be read here.

April 18, 2008
Freedom from the Fear of Death
The Curse of Sin and the Resurrection of Christ
Rich Vincent

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)


The earliest gospel preached by the apostles is summarized in the creed handed down to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. The "good news" is not principally about us; it is about Christ Jesus: "Christ died... he was buried... he was raised." In other words, the same Christ who died and was buried (and thus, was truly dead) is the same Christ who rose from the dead.

The creed emphasizes that Christ's death and resurrection are "in accordance with the scriptures." In this way, the events concerning Jesus of Nazareth are connected to Israel's story, and not just a few "proof-texts." In this regard, Anglican scholar and pastor N. T. Wright writes,

Paul is not proof-texting; he does not envisage one or two, or even half a dozen, isolated passages about a death for sinners. He is referring to the entire biblical narrative as the story which has reached its climax in the Messiah, and has now given rise to the new phase of the same story, the phase in which the age to come has broken in, with its central characteristic being (seen from one point of view) rescue from sins, and (from another point of view) rescue from death, i.e. resurrection.


Since Jesus' life, death, and resurrection are "the continuation and fulfillment of God's dealings with Israel," the "good news" is the consummation of God's original redemptive intent as communicated in the sacred scriptures.

It is here that the gospel connects to our lives. Though the good news is not principally about us, it does have significance for us. That is, the good news possesses redemptive significance: It is "for our sins." Jesus' death and resurrection are God's saving response to the human condition that is the consequence of human rebellion to God.

What, then, is the nature of the human condition to which Jesus' death and resurrection are the only remedy? How does Jesus' death and resurrection address the problem of sin? And how does this all fit into the ancient story of God's dealings with creation and humanity? In order to answer these questions, we must go all the way back to the beginning of God's story in the book of Genesis.

Original Goodness

Sometimes we focus so much on humanity's fall into sin that we ignore a foundational truth: The world is good - created and blessed by God to be the stage upon which God's grace and goodness is expressed and experienced (Genesis 1; cf. 1 Timothy 4:4).

Not out of lack or necessity, but in complete freedom, God created the heavens and the earth out of the overflow of the Triune fullness, in order that all creation may share in the divine fullness of life and love. God's original intention was that the heavens and the earth would be a temple of the living God.

In this cosmic temple, humankind was granted a special and unique role. Unlike any other creature, humanity was not created by Divine Fiat - the utterance of the Divine Word ("Let there be...") - but by the direct involvement and action of God. Consequently, humankind bears the divine image, possessing a unique capacity to reflect the divine likeness and to mediate the divine presence. Through communion with God (walking and talking with God) and stewardship on God's behalf (obedience to God's will), humankind dwelt in harmony with itself, fellow humans, God, and God's creation.

This sacred harmony was disrupted by sin. Through human disobedience to God's will, death entered the world. Paul summarized this truth in Romans 5:12: "Therefore, sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned." With the introduction of sin, and along with it, death, the disintegration of creation began, and with it, the need for divine redemption.

Original Sin

The disintegration, or corruption, of creation has four dimensions. Because of sin, humankind is now alienated

from God. Whereas Adam once walked with God, Adam now hides from God. God's lonely cry, "Adam, where are you?" underscores the pain of this separation. This is not God's will. God's redemption will bring reconciliation.

from others. The blame-shifting between Adam and Eve, seeking to be right at the expense of the other, is one expression of this. Domination, jealousy, murder, and vengeance rapidly ensue, and become the "normal" human experience. This is not God's will. God's redemption will bring healing.

from self. Once naked and unashamed, Adam and Eve now experience shame. They are profoundly aware that they are not what they should be. They seek to hide the truth from one another and from themselves. This is not God's will. Redemption will bring wholeness.

from creation. Creation is subject to vanity (Romans 8:20-23). Thus begins the human struggle to survive in the face of death and corruption. "Domination and exploitation of the creation for selfish ends by greedy human beings became the order of history." This is not God's will. Redemption will bring renewal and re-creation.

This is the tragic situation in which we find ourselves. The sinful exercise of human freedom, provoked by the devil, introduced forces of disintegration and corruption into creation. From the beginning, the devil, sin, death (and the corruption that accompanies it) are inseparably linked. All exist as parasites on God's good creation.

What then is needed to redeem what was lost in the fall? Restored union and communion with God and others, and a reintegrated environment that is no longer susceptible to corruption. Redemption is no less than the recovery of all that was lost in Adam. It is God's divine response to the human condition brought about by human sin. All that is divided must be reunited. All that is corrupted must be healed.

This restoration and renewal of all things in Christ is at the heart of the gospel message: "God's plan for the fullness of time is to gather up all things in him [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth" (Ephesians 1:10). This union comes about through the death and resurrection of Christ:

He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:18-20)
Through the redemptive work of Christ, "the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Romans 8:21).

When Christ's work is complete, the Lord's promise will be fulfilled: "Indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord" (Numbers 14:21); "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14).

God's intention to fill all creation with the divine presence and love is the heartbeat of sacred history. This work of redemption is God's ultimate answer to our greatest problems: sin, death, and the devil. Through Jesus' death and resurrection, these enemies are addressed, overcome, and defeated. We now live in light of this victory and await its future consummation in the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 20).

Reevaluating Our Perspective on Death

In order to fully appreciate the scope of God's redemptive work in Christ, we must reevaluate our perspective on death. Our view of original sin deeply influences our understanding of God's redemptive plan. We are often unaware of this influence. However, we must never underestimate the following fact: The way we describe our problem ("original sin") deeply influences what we perceive as the necessary solution to our problem. In other words, our view of salvation is primarily shaped by our understanding of what exactly is wrong and what needs to be put to right.

Some Christians generally assume that death is God's punishment for sin. In other words, death is God's doing. Stated in the starkest of terms, some Christians generally assume that death is God's judgment on guilty sinners - God's punishment for sin. Though we attempt to soften the blow by assigning the devil as God's chosen instrument of death, the implications remain the same: God kills guilty sinners. And God is justified in doing so because of the guilt of sin. The "wages of sin is death" because God vindictively punishes the sinner for his or her sins.

However, a more traditional view of our main problem ("original sin") and God's solution is markedly different. Sin is its own undoing; it contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction. Sin is the turning away from the divine life and love, and its ultimate consequence is alienation and death. God did not create death; we brought it upon ourselves through our sin. God warned of death because death is not God's will: "for in the day that you eat from it, you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16). Rather, communion, obedience, and the sharing of divine life is God's will.

Death exists in the world as a parasite apart from the will of God. It is not God's creation. Since sin is always a perversion of the good, it brings decay and disintegration to all it touches. It destroys rather than builds up. Death is the ultimate experience of the disintegration of creation due to human sin. In death, the corruption of sin is complete.

The difference between the two views described above comes down to this: Generally speaking, the first view assumes that death is God's doing - God's punishment for sin - and therefore, God's will. In the traditional Christian view, death is God's enemy, a great evil, a perversion, a distortion, a corrupting parasite on God's good creation.

In my opinion, the historical and traditional perspective is faithful to the whole message of scripture. In other words, it does a better job of connecting the dots of sin, death, and the devil. Viewing original sin and death in this manner, our problem is not simply that we are guilty and need forgiveness. Our problem is that we are sick (the ultimate expression being death) and need divine healing (the ultimate expression being resurrection).

The life and ministry of Jesus supports this view. In the establishment and expression of God's kingdom, Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead. Theologian, John Romanides asks, "If death and man's bondage to Satan, however, are the will of God, we necessarily ask why the Evangelists present Christ to us through numerous miracles in which He heals the sick, casts out demons, and raises the dead?" This is also evident in Jesus' great struggle in Gethsemane. Why was Jesus so reluctant to die, if death were not a great evil? Likewise, why would Jesus so passionately weep over Lazarus' tomb (especially with the knowledge that he would soon raise him from the dead), if it were not that death is a great evil that demands divine redemption?

I believe that this historical and traditional view best connects and explains the biblical evidence. God is not responsible for death and corruption. Death is not God's will; it is God's enemy. God speaks through the prophet, "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezekiel 33:11). Why would we assume that God enacts punishment for sin through death when no biblical text explicitly states this? On the contrary, we read, "The soul that sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4) and "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). These passages do not read "The soul that sins shall die by God's hand" or "The wages of sin is death by God." Instead, death is the tragic consequence and ultimate end of sin. The very seeds of death are contained in every act of sin, since sin is a turning away from the divine life, love, and communion.

Because we often assume death is God's punishment, we present the gospel in an un-Biblical fashion: we push personal guilt in the transmission of sin to the forefront and relegate the power of Satan, death, and corruption to the background. We assume that "guilt" is our primary problem and "forgiveness" our primary need. For those concerned with the truth of this matter, death and corruption is our primary problem, and our ultimate need is divine healing and wholeness. In other words, we who are "dead in our sins and trespasses" need life by God's grace alone, for we are chained to our sins and helpless before death (Ephesians 2:1).

When we begin to think in this manner, many familiar (and unfamiliar) passages take on a new meaning. For example: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" (John 3:16). Our problem here is not guilt and the solution forgiveness. Our problem is our inherent corruptibility due to sin ("perish") and our need is for "eternal life."

Death - The Fruit and Root of Sin

The problem of sin goes deeper and the connections are greater than we often realize. Death is not simply the fruit of sin; it is also sin's root. The devil uses the fear of death to provoke further sin and destruction.

As noted above, in Romans 5:12, Paul connects Jesus' saving work to Adam's fall. "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned." The text continues with Paul arguing that death, not guilt, is the real problem. Death reigned in spite of personal guilt demonstrated through breaking God's law: "sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses" (Romans 5:13-14a). It is not personal guilt alone that calls for divine forgiveness, but "the dominion or reign of death" that must be addressed by the gift of life.

The Greek of Romans 5:12b could also be constructed, "and because of which death all have sinned." This would cause the entire passage to read: "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and because of which death all have sinned." Viewed in this light, we discover that sin "is an egocentric illness contracted from the parasites called corruptibility and death. Adam died because he sinned, and death spread to all men. Now we sin because we die, for the sting of death is sin. ... Death is the root; sin is the thorn that springs from it."

Put simply: sin leads to death and death arouses sin. Death is the fruit and root of sin. This evil cycle is doomed to lead to destruction unless divine redemption halts its progress.

And this is exactly what the devil seeks to do. Whether one believes in a personal devil or one views the devil as a metaphor - the embodiment of systemic sin and destructive powers - the outcome is the same. Death is used by the evil powers to excite fear, sin, and destruction. This is the point the author of Hebrews makes in Hebrews 2:14-15: "Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself [Jesus] likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death." This harmonizes with 1 John 3:8b: "The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil."

Now, all three themes - sin, death, and the devil - come together: Sin results in death, and the fear of death is used by the devil to deceptively and cunningly destroy the works of God. Thus, death is both the fruit and root of sin. And it is precisely the devil's cunning use of the fear of death that excites sin and furthers human corruption and societal and ecological destruction.

Fear of Death as a Root of Sin

The power of death and corruption is not negative, but positively active: "The sting of death is sin" (1 Corinthians 15:56); "Sin reigns in death" (Romans 5:21). Though we were made for life in God, we are now, due to sin and death, corruptible, perishing, decaying. We are sick, and we need healing. We need redemption from death and the ultimate disintegration it brings. The evil one plays on our fear of death, furthering sin and death in rebellion to God's will.

Christian theologians are not the only ones who have made this connection. In his Pulitzer Prize winning work, The Denial of Death, psychologist Ernest Becker suggests that the fear of death haunts the human animal like nothing else.

Animals "live and they disappear with the same thoughtlessness: a few minutes of fear, a few seconds of anguish, and it is over. But to live a whole lifetime with the fate of death haunting one's dreams and even the most sun-filled days--that's something else."

We know emotionally that we are creatures who will die. Consciously or unconsciously, this truth pervades our entire lives. Death is not simply a one-time event. It is a process. We live with it our entire lives. Ernest Becker argues that we, in order to maintain the illusion of sanity, deny death:

Everything that man does in his symbolic world is an attempt to deny and overcome his grotesque fate. He literally drives himself into a blind obliviousness with social games, psychological tricks, personal preoccupations so far removed from the reality of his situation that they are forms of madness--agreed madness, shared madness, disguised and dignified madness, but madness all the same.

The fear of death and disintegration brings anxiety, despair, and a frantic search for meaning. We fear the threats of disease, sickness, bodily decay, challenges of aging, and physical violence that could maim or destroy us. The 1987 Report of the World Council of Churches Inter-Orthodox Consultation draws attention to the social implications of the fear of death:

"Fear of death instilled anxiety, acquisitiveness, greed, hatred and despair in human beings. Modern forms of economic exploitation, racial oppression, social inequalities, war, genocide, etc. are all consequences of the fear of death and collective signs of death."


Afraid to die, we are also afraid to truly live. We fear both death and life. Our desire for self-preservation easily descends to self-absorption and self-justification. We come to believe that practically everyone is expendable except ourselves. In its most extreme form, we actually feel we can defeat our own death by killing others. War is the most obvious expression of this.

In this state, we dare not risk our security to help others. Our well-being takes on greater importance than self-giving love. Any perceived threat triggers fear and anxiety. John Romanides writes, "Being under the way of death and not having real and correct faith in God, man is anxious over everything and is ruled by selfish bodily and psychological motives and, thus, he is unable to love unselfishly and freely. He loves and has faith according to what he perceives to be to his own advantage."

Fear is a powerful force wielded to influence our decisions. Politicians, advertisers, and even preachers play on our fears in self-serving ways. Ultimately, we fear the loss of life and the loss of our way of life. As long as the fear of death holds us under its dominion - whether consciously or unconsciously - we dare not take the necessary risks to live fully, selflessly, and in a Christ-like manner.

The Significance of the Resurrection

The death and resurrection of Christ are central to the good news of God's redemption because sin and death have been fully addressed in Jesus' death and resurrection. Christ Jesus has "abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10).

Christ's work is redemptive ("for our sins") and the fulfillment of God's saving purposes ("in accordance with the scriptures") because it recovers all that was lost in Adam. Sin, death, and the devil have been dealt a lethal blow in the death and resurrection of Christ (see Colossians 2:13-15). These parasites on God's good creation are removed, and all things are restored in Christ.

Resurrection is the culmination and consummation of God's redemptive purpose because it represents the ultimate undoing, reversal, and defeat of death. It represents the highest achievement of divine healing. It is the reason we can cry out in praise with Paul, "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).

This is the reason Paul argues for the necessity and centrality of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. "Without the resurrection, there is no reason to suppose that Jesus' crucifixion dealt with sins, or with sin. But, with the resurrection, the divine victory over sin(s), and hence over death, is assured."[14] Paul is crystal clear: "there is no gospel at all unless the death of Christ can be seen to deal with sin once and for all."

No Fear

It is our faith in Jesus' victory over sin, death, and the devil that gives us the courage to renounce the fear of death and walk in the power of God's Spirit (see 1 Timothy 1:7). The fear of death through which the devil prevailed is now vanquished. The strength of evil is broken. "Death is a great enemy, but it has been conquered and will at the last be conquered fully. ... death is important; it is an enemy, but for the Christian, it is a beaten enemy."

Fear keeps us from being perfected in love. This is the point the Apostle John makes in 1 John 4:17-18:

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.



Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dear and Pious Roman Catholics,

Dear and Pious Roman Catholics,

This is a brief but sincere confession regarding why I still feel bonded to you, but have made a choice that most of you have not…

I have been accused by certain RC of leaving Rome for the “attention”. (LOL is my first but friendly reaction.) Grant it, I have received much more attention than I realized I would because of it, but this definitely was not the catalyst for my decision. But neither was any obvious intellectual or well thought-out and convincing argumentation or line of scholastic reasoning. To my dismay, this misconception of my ability to choose without regard to “facts” has only exacerbated the attention I’ve received from well-meaning Romans who now think I am an easy target for a well-reasoned argumentation back into the jurisdiction of the Papacy. This might make sense, IF, the arguments were as well defined as they are between Rome and the Reformation, (Protestants), but I find that they are not. And don't worry; there are plenty of Orthodox who are not only angry with me for expressing my faith with Catholics without intellectual justification (oftentimes), but who worry that either I will be hurt in the process or that I will hurt someone else in the process. I don't take their concerns lightly, but neither am I cowered by them, and I don't say that with any sense of personal pride or lack of humility whatsoever. I simply am where I am with no other possible position to take. It is not my choice…at least that is how I feel at the moment.

Smart people are very good at articulating convincing arguments to justify their positions, whether or not their positions are correct, especially those smart people who have years of literary experience, or, at least have had the time to put in the effort to gain volumes of historical and philosophical study. These articulate arguments not only convince themselves, but can oftentimes convince others as well. I am not one of them.

Upon leaving Rome for Orthodoxy I have found that arguments from both sides are much more complicated and convincing in defending the claims and legitimacy of each, than is any dialogue of reason I have EVER faced while leaving Protestantism for Rome. However, my decision to leave Protestantism for Rome was never based on the sheer power of a good argument either, even though the scholastic evidence is overwhelming. It was rather a call toward the Sacred and visible expression of the authority of Christ in the visible expression of His Church, something that Protestants both imitate, BUT, deny its very existence at the same time.

This self-defeating existence of the Protestant mind-set finally forced me to look closely at the one Church available for my examination that did not deny it’s visible authority, either in practice, nor in theory. Neither in space and time, nor in heaven and eternity. It’s visibility and authority did not try to spiritualize itself to the point of being irrelevant, invisible, and self-defeating as is the obvious and honest conclusion of every single claim of Protestantism and their futile attempts to keep Heaven separate from the Earth as they insist that death STILL separates our earthly existence from heaven and relegates the heavenly realm to the future; either at our own death, or at the culmination of the age. The Protestants have succeeded in participating in this delusion in spite of the fact that Christ’s Body is NOT divided, and especially not by death, as Christ alone has conquered death for all mankind once and for all. The curtain has been torn asunder. There is nothing left to wait for, nothing left to separate our earthly existence from our heavenly future. It is both now and future. We still ‘advance’ while in our temporal existence, but we still have our roots in Heaven, and they are growing there right this minute.

Anyway, long story shorter, since my brief year in Rome, I have come to witness yet another visible manifestation of heaven’s authority on earth coming out of Orthodoxy, and it’s beauty has been so overwhelming I could not ignore it’s veracity, and not of it’s intellectual arguments, but of its success in maintaining a window to heaven that is even clearer than what I’ve witnessed in the windows of Rome. Of course I have checked the claims of Orthodoxy and have weighed it’s arguments to some extent just to make sure there were no glaring problems that just might prove my eyes were deceiving me, but as I stated in the beginning of this note, the intellectual arsenal of defenses and apologetics for Orthodoxy are just as exhaustive if not more plentiful, as are those of Rome, and my only chance at making a move between the two was not finally going to be based on the intellectual, at least not immediately, it was going to be based on the clarity of the windows to heaven that each provided. Otherwise, I would be forced to choose neither until I was “smart enough” to make a move. This to me was unthinkable. I had to choose so that I could be in communion with heaven.

Too ‘cheesy’ for you? Too un-academic? I understand, and I am not only criticized by certain Romans for the current reason for my position, but by many in Orthodoxy as well as I stated earlier. So far I don't care too much about these accusations because I am just enjoying the view of heaven I have at the windows of Orthodoxy giving me light to read and study so that my intellect can catch up. It could take me years, but this view I have is helping me to pass this time with patience. And, I am not too proud or presumptive enough to say that once my intellect does catch up, I might yet once again find myself in Rome. Until then, I find the view and the light source much more brilliant and refreshing in Orthodoxy.

Thanks for your time. I love you, at least the best way I can for now.

Sincerely, and warm regards,
Forgive me.
Steve Hunt

(p.s., my above greeting and signature line are not some delusional impression of my own “piety”, lol, but are a rule of writing I am trying to adopt from certain priests I know. I find it a proper expression of respect and manners fitting for the Church.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What IS the beauty that will save the world?

Quote Frenzy  ►  "The Liturgy will save the world"  †  "In the Liturgy, postmodernism simply doesn’t have a target"  †  "Only Incense can stop postmodernism"  †  "At the sounds of the Liturgy, the idols of hermeneutics fall down"  †  "Clouds of Incense are immune to Derrida"

Yes, I'm still thinking about that great blog post by Jacob; Only Incense Can Stop Postmodernism. This is not an analysis of his post, just some thoughts stirred up from reading it.

It seems that postmodernism is destroying faith in the West. However, many in the East are enjoying a resurgence of faith. Amazing? Although analysis of how this has happened in the Roman Catholic Church is somewhat controversial, it's not hard to assume that a destruction of the Liturgy is at the root. Where this Liturgy is not being destroyed, the RCC can boast of growth in Asia and Africa. At the same time, the Russian Orthodox Church, with a timeless liturgy, has resurrected from a position of being in the slaughter house (50+ million martyred in the 20th century alone), to being the Russian government's most sought after ally. And even in the West, hit hardest by postmodernism, faithful Christians seem to be leaving their assaulted Christian bunkers and flocking to Churches who have a strong tradition in Liturgy, such as those expressed by this article and this article.

It is interesting to me in all of this that it would seem the day's of Protestantism and the days of Roman Catholic 'innovations' are numbered. They are not 'protected' by any root in Liturgy, at least for the most part. They will either be rooted in the sacredness of Apostolic Tradition or simply change into some non-Christian entity and/or dissapear all together. They have only lasted as long as they have because postmodernism had not quite yet completely destroyed what they are rooted in; (strong families and communities, and the virtues they protect).

It is also interesting to me to note the supernatural power and wisdom of this Apostolic Tradition which has protected the Gospel and the Church for over 2000 years, no matter what new means are constructed (or destructed), on Earth, to try and destabilize what God has established eternally in Heaven. If it is beauty that will save the world [ search ] then what is more beautiful than what God brings to the Earth from Heaven? It really is only the beauty of the Liturgy that will save the world, (and the Church), and it really is only incense that can stop postmodernism.

*It is especially in the context of the liturgy that beauty can touch the human soul, so "superficiality, banality, and negligence" have no place in the liturgy.  *source


Thursday, March 17, 2011

RADIATION PROTECTION - With Tincture of Iodine

TOPICAL APPLICATION ONLY!
(transdermal drug delivery system)

*Due to the scarcity of documentation available, (that I can find), I make no claim that topical tincture of iodine is equally as effective as oral potassium iodide in blocking thyroid uptake of radioactive iodine, (idodine-131). However, this makes sense enough to me to try if potassium iodide tablets or liquid are not available.

UPDATE: 03/18/2011; AUDIO: Shane Connor, (Potassium Iodide manufacturer), confirms that TOPICAL tincture of iodine is an acceptable substitute for oral potassium iodide tablets, (and other radiation concerns).
ARTICLE: http://www.ki4u.com/plan_b.htmhttp://www.ki4u.com/plan_b.htm


Radiation Plume Projected to Hit Southern California Late Friday (03/18/2011)





Tincture of iodine keeps radiation away - possible home remedy in event of nuclear plant mishap
Science News, Dec 7, 1985

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University's medical center in Hershey have stumbled onto what may be an effective home remedy to prevent serious radioactive contamination of the thyroid gland from iodine-131 emitted in the event of a major nuclear plant mishap. They swab the skin with a tincture of iodine.

Of the many radioactive gases that can be emitted during a nuclear plant release, iodine-131 causes special concern. Because iodine is readily accumulated in the thyroid, exposure to radioactive iodine can lead to serious, concentrated doses in the small metabolism-regulating gland. For years scientists have considered prescribing community-wide ingestion of potassium iodide in regions downwind of a serious nuclear accident to block the thyroid's uptake of radioactive iodine.

The body can't distinguish between radioactive iodine and the iodine in the drug, so taking potassium iodide would fulfill the thyroid's need for the element. Should any radioactive iodine be inhaled or ingested later, studies show most of it would be excreted. This would prevent the radioactive damage -- including thyroid cancer--it might otherwise have initiated.

But potassium iodide is prescription drug, and its post-accident distribution could exacerbate the traffic tie-ups and panic that nuclear crises would inevitably foster. In fact, says Kenneth Miller, director of health physics at the Hershey Medical Center, his team's decision to look at skin absorption of household iodine sources resulted from discussions over how they would have tried to manage potassium iodide's distribution in the immediate hours after the neighboring Three Mile Island accident in 1979.

In their study, the Hershey team injected 2 microcuries of iodine-131 into 72 rats. Haft got no further treatment; the others were treated with one of the following: a paw dipped in tincture of iodine or povidone iodine (an over-the-counter germicidal solution), skin swabbing with tincture of iodine (some with a covering bandage) or oral administration of potassium iodide. Writing in the November HEALTH PHYSICS, Miller and his colleagues report that all skin applications of household iodine solutions were comparable to oral potassium iodide in blocking thyroid uptake of iodine-131; they limited the gland's accumulation to between 3 and 10 percent.

While cautioning that these were animal studies, Miller told SCIENCE NEWS, "We think there is a failry good possiblity that this technique will aslo work in humans." Moreover, since these skin compounds are approved for human use, and since the effective dose in rats suggests human skin swabbing need only cover an area the size of a hand or scraped knee, Miller sees little concern over safety. His team is now preparing to conduct the necessary human tests.

COPYRIGHT 1985 Science Service, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Saints; a Window to Your Faith; East or West

A Cross Section of Saints, East and West

Although I am not in any way a serious or significant contender in the debate between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, I can't help but admire the way the author of the following excerpt analyzes significant spiritual differences between the two by contrasting some of their respective Saints. It is very interesting if nothing else. Personally, I think it is much more than that.

EXCERPT FROM "WHY ORTHODOXY IS THE TRUE FAITH"

by Alexey Osipov
March 18, 2004

But there is a different way, which shows apparently, what Catholicism is and where it leads one to.

This is also a method of comparative investigation, but investigation of the spiritual sphere of life, demonstrated in the life of saints. Here the whole deception (as it is called in the ascetic language) of the Catholic spirituality gets revealed, the deception fraught with very grave consequences for an ascetic who chose this way. You know, sometimes I give public lectures, attended by different people. Frequently they ask me the question: "What is the difference of Catholicism from Orthodoxy? What is its fault? Is it not just a different way to Christ?" Many times I saw it is enough to give a few examples from the life of catholic mystics for the inquirers to say: "Thank you, now it is clear. It's enough."

Indeed, any Local Orthodox Church or non-Orthodox church can be judged by her saints. Tell me who your saints are and I will tell what your church is. Any church calls as saints only those who realized in their life the Christian ideal, as this Church understands it. That is why canonization of a certain saint is not only testimony of the Church about this Christian, who according to her judgment is worthy of the glory and suggested by her as an example to follow. It is at the same time a testimony of the Church about herself. By the saints we can best of all judge about the true or imaginary sanctity of the Church.

I am going to give you a few examples to illustrate the idea of sanctity in the Catholic church.

One of the great Catholic saints is Francis of Assisi (13th century). His spiritual mentality is revealed through the following facts. Once Francis prayed for a long time (the subject of his prayer is very indicative) "about two mercies": "The first is … that I can go through all the sufferings that You, O Sweetest Jesus, have gone through in Your excruciating passions. And the second mercy… is that I could feel the infinite love, with which you, Son of God, were burning." As we see, Francis was concerned not about the feeling of being sinful, but he openly claimed for equality with Christ! During this prayer Francis "felt absolutely turned into Jesus", Whom he saw at once as a six-winged Seraph, striking him with firing arrows at the points of cross wounds of Jesus Christ (hands, feet and the right side). After this vision painful bleeding wounds (stigmata) appeared - the traces of "Jesus' passions" (M.V.Lodyzhensky. Invisible light. - Pg. 1915. - P.109).

The nature of such stigmata is well-known in psychiatry: permanent concentration of attention on the Christ's passions excites nerves and psyche of a person and may cause such effect after long exercise. There is grace-giving in it, because in such compassion with Christ there is no true love, about which the Lord directly said: He who has my commandments, and keeps them, he is the one who loves me (Joh.14:21). That is why substitution of struggle with one's old man by imaginary emotions of "compassion" is one of the gravest mistakes in the spiritual life, who leads many ascetics to self-conceit, pride - to apparent spiritual deceit accompanied by direct mental disorder (comp. Francis's "sermons" to birds, wolf, turtle-doves, snakes, flowers, his awe of fire, stones, worms).

The goal of life set by Francis is also very indicative: "I laboured and want to labour further…, for it brings honour" (St. Francis of Assisi. - M., Izd.Frantsiskantsev, 1995. - P.145). Francis wishes to suffer for the others and atone their sins (P.20). And at the end of his life he frankly said: "I do not know any transgression of mine that I have not atoned by confession and repentance" (M.V.Lodyzhensky. - p.129). All this testifies for his not seeing his sins, i.e. his total spiritual blindness.

For comparison I'll describe to you a moment from life of St. Sisoi the Great (5th century). "Just before his death, surrounded by the brethren, when Sisoi looked like talking with invisible ones, to the question "Father, tell us, whom are you talking with?" he said: "The angels have come to take me, but I pray to them that they let me stay here for a short time for repentance". Knowing that Sisoi was perfect in virtues the brethren objected to him: "Father, you have no need in repentance", and Sisoi answered like this: "Verily, I do not know, if I have at least started the cause of my repentance" (Lodyzhensky. - p.133). This deep understanding, sight of one's imperfection is the main distinctive trait of all true saints.

And here are some extracts from "Revelations of blessed Angela" (†1309) (Revelations of blessed Angela. - M., 1918).

The Holy Spirit, she writes, says to her: "O, My daughter, My sweetest, I love you so much" (p.95). "I was with the Apostles and they saw Me with their bodily eyes, but did not feel Me like you feel Me" (p.96). Angela reveals also such things about herself: "In the darkness I see the Holy Trinity, and I feel I myself dwell within the Trinity in the darkness in the very middle of It" (c.117). Her feelings to Jesus Christ she expresses in the following words: "I could put my whole self inside of Jesus Christ" (p.176). Or: "I cried of His sweetness and sorrow for His departure and wanted to die" (p.101) - and in such moments she would start to beat herself so violently that nuns had to take her out of kostel (p.83).

One of the greatest Russian religious philosophers of the 20th century A.F.Losev gives a sharp, but true appraisal of Angela's "revelations". He wrote: "Being tempted and enticed by flesh results in the Holy Spirit's appearing to blessed Angela and whispering such amorous words to her: "My daughter, you are My sweetest, My daughter, you are My dwelling, My daughter, you are my delight, love me, for I love you so much, much more than you love Me". The Saint is in sweet languor, born away with love languishing. And the beloved appears again and again and more and more burns her body, her heart, her blood. The Cross seems to her to be the bride-bed… What can be more in contrast to the Byzantine-Moscow austere and chaste ascetics, than these continuous statements: "My soul was accepted into the Divine light and enskied", - her passionate looking on the Lord's Cross, on Christ's wounds and individual members of His body, her intended calling forth of blood marks on her body, etc? To crown it all Christ embraces Angela with His hand, nailed to the cross, and she says to Him being full of languish, torment and happiness: "Sometimes in this strong embrace my soul seems to enter the side of Christ. And it is impossible to relate the joy and illumination one feels there. They are so mighty that I could not stand on my feet, but was lying and my tongue grew numb… And I was lying and my tongue and members of the body grew numb (A.F.Losev. Essays on antique symbolism and mythology. - M., 1930. - V.1. - p.867-868).

St. Catherine of Siena (+1380) is one more vivid example of Catholic sanctity. She was canonized by Pope Paul VI in the highest rank of saints - "Doctors of the Church" (Doctor Ecclesiae). I'll quote a few extracts from Catholic book by Antonio Sikari "Portraits of saints". To my mind these extracts need no comments.

Catherine was about 20 years old. "She felt, a decisive turning point in her life was coming near, and she kept devout prayers to Her Lord Jesus repeating a beautiful, most tender formula that became habitual to her: "Unite in matrimony of faith with me!" (Antonio Sikari. Portraits of saints. V.II. - Milano, 1991. - p.11).

"Once Catherine had a vision: her divine bridegroom embraced her and drew her to Himself, then He took the heart from her chest to give her another one, which was more like his one" (p.12).

Once it was said, she died. "Later she said that her heart was lacerated by divine love and that she went through death having seen the gates of paradise". But "return, My child, the Lord told me, you have to return… I shall lead you to princes and masters of the Church". "And the humble young lady started to send her messages all over the world, long letters, which she dictated with an astonishing swiftness, at times three or four at a time and on different subjects, however without floundering and doing it ahead of secretaries. These letters end with a passionate formula: "The sweetest Jesus, Jesus the Love" and are often opened with the words: "I, Catherine, Jesus' servant and slave of His slaves, am writing to you in His precious blood…" (12).

"The main thing that arrests attention in Catherine's letters is her insistent repetition of the words: "I want" (12).

"According to some researches in ecstasy she addressed these resolute words "I want" even to Christ" (13).

In her correspondence with Gregory XI, whom she tried to persuade to return from Avignon to Rome: "I say unto you in the name of Christ… I say unto you, Father, in Jesus Christ… Answer to the call of the Holy Spirit, addressed to you" (13).

She addressed the king of France with the following words: "Fulfill God' will and mine" (14).

"Revelations" of Teresa of Avila, canonized by the same Pope Paul VI as a Doctor of the Church (16th century), are no less indicative. Before death she cried out: "Oh, my God, my Spouse, at last I will see you!" This cry, an extremely strange one, did not sound by chance. It is a natural result of Teresa's whole "spiritual" exercise, the essence of which is revealed for example in the following fact.

After numerous appearances "Christ" says to Teresa: "From this day you will be My spouse… From now on I am not only your Creator, God, but also the Spouse" (D.S. Merezhkovsky. Spanish mystics. - Brussels, 1988. - P. 88). "Oh, Lord, I want either suffer with You, or die for You!" Teresa prays and collapses utterly exhausted with these caresses…", D. Merezhkovsky writes. After this it is no surprise, when Teresa confesses: "The Beloved calls my soul with such penetrating whistle that I cannot overhear it. This call so touches the soul that it breaks down with desire". It is not by chance that renowned American psychologist William James, analyzing her mystical experience, wrote that "her understanding of religion was reduced to endless flirting between the worshipper and the deity" (James W. Variety of religious experience./Transl. from English. - M., 1910. - P.337).

One more illustration of the idea of sanctity in Catholicism is Teresa of Lisieux (Teresa the Little, or Teresa of the Child Jesus), who died in the age of 23, and in 1997 marking the 100th anniversary of her death John Paul II by his "infallible" decision declared her to be one more Doctor of the Ecumenical Church. Here are a few quotations from spiritual autobiography of Teresa "Story of one soul", expressively testifying her spiritual state (Story of one soul // Symbol. 1996, No.36. - Paris. - P.151).

"In an interview before taking the veil I revealed what I was going to do in Karmela: I have come to save souls, and first of all to pray for the priests" (to save not herself, but others!).

Speaking about her unworthiness she adds: "I invariably keep a bold hope to become a great saint… I thought I was born for glory and looked for the ways to achieve it. And then the Lord, our God… let me know that my glory would not be revealed to judgment of a mortal, and the essence of it is I will be a great saint!!!" (comp. Macarius the Great, whom people called "earthly god" for the rear highness of his life, prayed: "O God, cleanse me, a sinner, for I have never done anything good in Thy sight"). Later Teresa wrote even more frankly: "In the heart of my Mother-Church I will be Love… through this I will become everything… and my dream will come true!!!"

Teresa's doctrine about spiritual love is also extremely "remarkable": "It was kissing of love. I felt beloved and said: "I love You and commit myself to You forever." There were no requests, no struggle, no sacrifices; long ago Jesus and small poor Teresa understood everything after a single glance… This day brought not only mutual glances, but fusion, when there were no more two of them, and Teresa disappeared like a water drop lost in the depth of the ocean". I think no comments are necessary to this dreamy romance of a poor girl - a Doctor of the Catholic Church.

Mystical experience of one of the pillars of the Catholic mystics, founder of the Jesuits Order Ignatius Loyola (16th century) was also based on the methodical development of imagination.

His book "Spiritual exercise", which has enormous authority with the Catholics, calls a Christian to imagining and contemplating the Holy Trinity, Christ, Mother of God, angels, etc. All this fundamentally contradicts the foundations of the spiritual feats of the saints of the Ecumenical Church, for it leads the faithful to the total spiritual and mental disorder.

An authoritative collection of ascetic writings of the ancient Church "The Dobrotolubie" ("The Philokalia") strictly forbids this kind of "spiritual exercise". Here are a few quotations from it.

Saint Nilus of Sinai (5th century) warns: "Do not desire to see sensually Angels or Virtues, or Christ, otherwise you'll go mad taking a wolf for the shepherd and bowing to demon-enemies" (St.Nilus of Sinai. 153 Chapters on Prayer. Ch.115 // The Dobrotolubie: In 5 volumes. V.2. 2nd edition. - M., 1884. - p. 237).

St. Simeon the New Theologian (11th century) reasoning about those who "imagine heavenly blessings, angel hosts and abodes of saints" in prayer definitely says "this is a sign of prelest" (spiritual deceit). "Going this way even those who see light with their bodily eyes, smell fragrance with their nose, hear voices with their ears and the like get seduced (St. Simeon the New Theologian. On three forms of prayer // The Dobrotolubie. V.5. M., 1990. p.463-464).

St. Gregory the Sinaite (14th century) reminds: "Never accept things when you see something sensual or spiritual, inside or outside, even if it has an image of Christ or an angel or a certain saint… The one who accepts it easily gets seduced… God does not resent one being attentive to himself, if one fearing to get seduced does not accept what He gives,… but rather praises him as a wise one" (St. Gregory the Sinaite. Hesyhast instruction // same. - p.224).

So the landowner, whom St. Ignatius Brianchaninov described in his work, was quite right, when he seeing a catholic book "On the Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis (15th century) snatched it out of her hands and said: "Stop playing a romance with God". The above examples do not leave any doubts in the truth of these words. Unfortunately, the Catholic church has lost the art to distinguish the spiritual from the sensual, and sanctity from reveries, and thus also Christianity from paganism.

That's what I wanted to say about Catholicism.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Some in Rome Share a Motto with the East

Traditional Roman Catholics recognize the following as "their" motto, ...but it is also shared with Orthodox Christians:

"We are what you once were.
We believe what you once believed.
We worship as you once worshipped.
If you were right then, we are right now.
If we are wrong now, you were wrong then.
"

The above quote was recently made known to me by my Traditional Roman Catholic brother, Mike.

Good morning Roman Brethren. I want to mention a simple thing here now about unity between Western Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox. As a former Roman Catholic I have a heart to reach out to faithful Roman Catholics, and even though my learning is lacking to the extreme, in comparison to most, this has not convinced me to be silent about the little I do know.

That said, (sincerely), I perceive that an underlying sentiment within Roman Catholics is that there is no need to make the reconciliation between E and W too complicated; and of course I would agree. However, I believe there is a certain position that Roman Catholics tend to take which brings them to the false conclusion that the Eastern Orthodox are complicating things unecessarily; and that is, their false assumption that the East is exactly the same as the West, and only complicate matters with semantics. This of course leads them to believe that they already understand the East, and any effort to further understand the East would be redundant. Though I am no expert on either the E or the W, having been born and raised in the West I have predominantly thought with a Western mind my entire life. Most in the West do not even consider this difference in thinking as significant, so it is no wonder there is no rush to understand the East. So no, it is not complicated, it is as plain as making the obvious significant to the Western brethren.

John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen (1995), -> “wished to reaffirm, so that the universal Church would treasure the rich witness, wisdom and spirituality of the Christian East and would look back with nostalgia to the first Christian millennium, WHEN THE CHURCH LIVED IN UNITY". (Emphasis mine)       http://rumkatkilise.org/byzpope2.htm

So the uncomplicated simplicity is, that we were once ONE BODY. What changed? Every scholar, whether E or W knows what changed. It was the mindset of the West. This is significant, and this is simple. This is not complicated. The East has remained constant and the West has not. Whether this is “right” or not, must be the uncomplicated question every faithful Christian must answer. It is the East that has remained “Orthodox”; it is the West that has transformed into “Heterodox”. The East has preserved the original Apostolic establishment of the Church which Rome at one time, and for centuries, had helped preserve as well.

From this simple premise I present to you this morning, it is plain to see that it is the West that must justify its diversion to something that is not consistent with its own heritage and the faith of its own Fathers…and now, with the faith of its Eastern relatives. If 5 walk in agreement for centuries on the same road, and then one decides to leave the other 4 to walk his own road, the responsibility and the accountability falls on the one who veered, not on the 4 who continue the course.


A video series
discussing how and why Rome left Orthodoxy ◄



A SHORT video
discussing what would need to happen before the East and the West could once again, be ONE BODY ◄

Saturday, February 5, 2011

River of Fire

Original Piece

River of Fire
by Alexander Kalomiros

A reply to the questions:
(1) Is God really good?
(2) Did God create hell?


I
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Reverend fathers, dear brothers and sisters:

There is no doubt that we are living in the age of apostasy predicted for the last days. In practice, most people are atheists, although many of them theoretically still believe. Indifference and the spirit of this world prevail everywhere.

What is the reason for this state?

The reason is the cooling of love. Love for God no more burns in human hearts, and in consequence, love between us is dead, too.

What is the cause of this waning of men's love for God? The answer, certainly, is sin. Sin is the dark cloud which does not permit God's light to reach our eyes.

But sin always did exist. So how did we arrive at the point of not simply ignoring God, but of actually hating Him? Man's attitude toward God today is not really ignorance, or really indifference. If you examine men carefully you will notice that their ignorance or indifference is tainted by a deep hate. But nobody hates anything that does not exist.

I have the suspicion that men today believe in God more than at any other time in human history. Men know the gospel, the teaching of the Church, and God's creation better than at any other time. They have a profound consciousness of His existence. Their atheism is not a real disbelief. It is rather an aversion toward somebody we know very well but whom we hate with all our heart, exactly as the demons do.

We hate God, that is why we ignore Him, overlooking Him as if we did not see Him, and pretending to be atheists. In reality we consider Him our enemy par excellence. Our negation is our vengeance, our atheism is our revenge.

But why do men hate God? They hate Him not only because their deeds are dark while God is light, but also because they consider Him as a menace, as an imminent and eternal danger, as an adversary in court, as an opponent at law, as a public prosecutor and an eternal persecutor. To them, God is no more the almighty physician who came to save them from illness and death, but rather a cruel judge and a vengeful inquisitor.

You see, the devil managed to make men believe that God does not really love us, that He really only loves Himself, and that He accepts us only if we behave as He wants us to behave; that He hates us if we do not behave as He ordered us to behave, and is offended by our insubordination to such a degree that we must pay for it by eternal tortures, created by Him for that purpose.

Who can love a torturer? Even those who try hard to save themselves from the wrath of God cannot really love Him. They love only themselves, trying to escape God's vengeance and to achieve eternal bliss by managing to please this fearsome and extremely dangerous Creator.

Do you perceive the devil's slander of our all loving, all kind, and absolutely good God? That is why in Greek the devil was given the name DIABOLOS, "the slanderer".

II

But what was the instrument of the devil's slandering of God? What means did he use in order to convince humanity, in order to pervert human thought?

He used "theology". He first introduced a slight alteration in theology which, once it was accepted, he managed to increase more and more to the degree that Christianity became completely unrecognizable. This is what we call "Western theology".

Did you ever try to pinpoint what is the principal characteristic of Western theology? Well, its principal characteristic is that it considers God as the real cause of all evil.

What is evil? Is it not the estrangement from God Who is Life? 1 Is it not death? What does Western theology teach about death? All Roman Catholics and most Protestants consider death as a punishment from God. God considered all men guilty of Adam's sin and punished them by death, that is by cutting them away from Himself; depriving them of His live giving energy, and so killing them spiritually at first and later bodily, by some sort of spiritual starvation. Augustine interprets the passage in Genesis "If you eat of the fruit of this tree, you will die the death" as "If you eat of the fruit of this tree, I will kill you".

Some Protestants consider death not as a punishment but as something natural. But. is not God the creator of all natural things? So in both cases, God — for them — is the real cause of death.

And this is true not only for the death of the body. It is equally true for the death of the soul. Do not Western theologians consider hell, the eternal spiritual death of man, as a punishment from God? And do they not consider the devil as a minister of God for the eternal punishment of men in hell?

The "God" of the West is an offended and angry God, full of wrath for the disobedience of men, who desires in His destructive passion to torment all humanity unto eternity for their sins, unless He receives an infinite satisfaction for His offended pride.

What is the Western dogma of salvation? Did not God kill God in order to satisfy His pride, which the Westerners euphemistically call justice? And is it not by this infinite satisfaction that He deigns to accept the salvation of some of us?

What is salvation for Western theology? Is it not salvation from the wrath of God? 2

Do you see, then, that Western theology teaches that our real danger and our real enemy is our Creator and God? Salvation, for Westerners, is to be saved from the hands of God!

How can one love such a God? How can we have faith in someone we detest? Faith in its deeper essence is a product of love, therefore, it would be our desire that one who threatens us not even exist, especially when this threat is eternal.

Even if there exists a means of escaping the eternal wrath of this omnipotent but wicked Being (the death of His Son in our stead), it would be much better if this Being did not exist. This was the most logical conclusion of the mind and of the heart of the Western peoples, because even eternal Paradise would be abhorrent with such a cruel God. Thus was atheisrn born, and this is why the West was its birthplace. Atheism was unknown in Eastern Christianity until Western theology was introduced there, too. Atheism is the consequence of Western theology. 3 Atheism is the denial, the negation of an evil God. Men became atheists in order to be saved from God, hiding their head and closing their eyes like an ostrich. Atheism, my brothers, is the negation of the Roman Catholic and Protestant God. Atheism is not our real enemy. The real enemy is that falsified and distorted "Christianity".

A reply to the questions:III
Westerners speak frequently of the "Good God" (E.g., in France le bon dieu is almost always used when speaking of God.). Western Europe and America, however, were never convinced that such a Good God existed. On the contrary, they were calling God good in the way Greeks called the curse and malediction of smallpox, EULOGIA , that is, a blessing, a benediction, in order to exorcise it and charm it away. For the same reason, the Black Sea was called Eu xeinoV PontoV — the hospitable sea — although it was, in fact, a dreadful and treacherous sea. Deep inside the Western soul, God was felt to be the wicked Judge, Who never forgot even the smallest offense done to Him in our transgressions of His laws.

This juridical conception of God, this completely distorted interpretation of God's justice, was nothing else than the projection of human passions on theology. It was a return to the pagan process of humanizing God and deifying man. Men are vexed and angered when not taken seriously and consider it a humiliation which only vengeance can remove, whether it is by crime or by duel. This was the worldly, passionate conception of justice prevailing in the minds of a so-called "Christian" society.

Western Christians thought about God's justice in the same way also; God, the infinite Being, was infinitely insulted by Adam's disobedience. He decided that the guilt of Adam's disobedience descended equally to all His children, and that all were to be sentenced to death for Adam's sin, which they did not commit. God's justice for Westerners operated like a vendetta. Not only the man who insulted you, but also all his family must die. And what was tragic for men, to the point of hopelessness, was that no man, nor even all humanity, could appease God's insulted dignity, even if all men in history were to be sacrificed. God's dignity could be saved only if He could punish someone of the same dignity as He. So in order to save both God's dignity and mankind, there was no other solution than the incarnation of His Son, so that a man of godly dignity could be sacrificed to save God's honor.

IV

This paganistic conception of God's justice which demands infinite sacrifices in order to be appeased clearly makes God our real enemy and the cause of all our misfortunes. Moreover, it is a justice which is not at all just since it punishes and demands satisfaction from persons which were not at all responsible for the sin of their forefathers 4 In other words, what Westerners call justice ought rather to be called resentment and vengeance of the worst kind. Even Christ's love and sacrifice loses its significance and logic in this schizoid notion of a God who kills God in order to satisfy the so-called justice of God.

Does this conception of justice have anything to do with the justice that God revealed to us? Does the phrase "justice of God" have this meaning in the Old and New Testaments?

Perhaps the beginning of the mistaken interpretation of the word justice in the Holy Scriptures was its translation by the Greek word DIKAIWSUNH. Not that it is a mistaken translation, but because this word, being a word of the pagan, humanistic, Greek civilization, was charged with human notions which could easily lead to misunderstandings.

First of all, the wordDIKAIWSUNHbrings to mind an equal distribution. This is why it is represented by a balance. The good are rewarded and the bad are punished by human society in a fair way. This is human justice, the one which takes place in court.

Is this the meaning of God's justice, however?

The word DIKAIWSUNH,"justice", is a translation of the Hebraic word tsedaka. This word means "the divine energy which accomplishes man's salvation". It is parallel and almost synonymous to the other Hebraic word, hesed which means "mercy", "compassion", "love", and to the word, emeth which means "fidelity", "truth". This, as you see, gives a completely other dimension to what we usually conceive as justice.5 This is how the Church understood God's justice. This is what the Fathers of the Church taught of it. "How can you call God just", writes Saint Isaac the Syrian, "when you read the passage on the wage given to the workers? 'Friend, I do thee no wrong; I will give unto this last even as unto thee who worked for me from the first hour. Is thine eye evil, because I am good?'" "How can a man call God just", continues Saint Isaac, "when he comes across the passage on the prodigal son, who wasted his wealth in riotous living, and yet only for the contrition which he showed, the father ran and fell upon his neck, and gave him authority over all his wealth? None other but His very Son said these things concerning Him lest we doubt it, and thus He bare witness concerning Him. Where, then, is God's justice, for whilst we were sinners, Christ died for us!" 6

So we see that God is not just, with the human meaning of this word, but we see that His justice means His goodness and love, which are given in an unjust manner, that is, God always gives without taking anything in return, and He gives to persons like us who are not worthy of receiving. That is why Saint Isaac teaches us: "Do not call God just, for His justice is not manifest in the things concerning you. And if David calls Him just and upright, His Son revealed to us that He is good and kind. 'He is good,' He says, 'to the evil and impious'".7

God is good, loving, and kind toward those who disregard, disobey, and ignore Him.8 He never returns evil for evil, He never takes vengeance. 9 His punishments are loving means of correction, as long as anything can be corrected and healed in this life.10 They never extend to eternity. He created everything good.11 The wild beasts recognize as their master the Christian who through humility has gained the likeness of God. They draw near to him, not with fear, but with joy, in grateful and loving submission; they wag their heads and lick his hands and serve him with gratitude. The irrational beasts know that their Master and God is not evil and wicked and vengeful, but rather full of love. (See also St. Isaac of Syria, SWZOMENA ASKHTIKA [Athens, 1871], pp. 95-96.) He protected and saved us when we fell. The eternally evil has nothing to do with God. It comes rather from the will of His free, logical creatures, and this will He respects. 12

Death was not inflicted upon us by God 13 We fell into it by our revolt. God is Life and Life is God. We revolted against God, we closed our gates to His life-giving grace. 14 "For as much as he departed from life", wrote Saint Basil, "by so much did he draw nearer to death. For God is Life, deprivation of life is death". 15 "God did not create death", continues Saint Basil, "but we brought it upon ourselves". "Not at all, however, did He hinder the dissolution... so that He would not make the infirmity immortal in us". 16 As Saint Irenaeus puts it: "Separation from God is death, separation from light is darkness... and it is not the light which brings upon them the punishment of blindness". 17

"Death", says Saint Maximus the Confessor, "is principally the separation from God, from which followed necessarily the death of the body. Life is principally He who said, 'I am the Life'".18 And why did death come upon the whole of humanity? Why did those who did not sin with Adam die as did Adam? Here is the reply of Saint Anastasius the Sinaite: "We became the inheritors of the curse in Adam. We were not punished as if we had disobeyed that divine commandment along with Adam; but because Adam became mortal, he transmitted sin to his posterity. We became mortal since we were born from a mortal".19 And Saint Gregory Palamas makes this point: "[God] did not say to Adam: return to whence thou wast taken; but He said to him: Earth thou art and unto the earth thou shall return.... He did not say: 'in whatsoever day ye shall eat of it, die!' but, 'in whatsoever day ye shall eat of it, ye shall surely die.' Nor did He afterwards say: 'return now unto the earth,' but He said, 'thou shalt return,' in this manner forewarning, justly permitting and not obstructing what shall come to pass". 20 We see that death did not come at the behest of God but as a consequence of Adam's severing his relations with the source of Life, by his disobedience; and God in His kindness did only warn him of it.

"The tree of knowledge itself," says Theophilus of Antic, "was good, and its fruit was good. For it was not the tree, as some think, that had death in it, but the disobedience which had death in it; for there was nothing else in the fruit but knowledge alone, and knowledge is good when one uses it properly." 21 The Fathers teach us that the prohibition to taste the tree of knowledge was not absolute but temporary. Adam was a spiritual infant. Not all foods are good for infants. Some foods may even kill them although adults would find them wholesome. The tree of knowledge was planted by God for man. It was good and nourishing. But it was solid food, while Adam was able to digest only milk.

V

So in the language of the Holy Scriptures, "just" means good and loving. We speak of the just men of the Old Testament. That does not mean that they were good judges but that they were kind and God-loving people. When we say that God is just, we do not mean that He is a good judge Who knows how to punish men equitably according to the gravity of their crimes, but on the contrary, we mean that He is kind and loving, forgiving all transgressions and disobediences, and that He wants to save us by all means, and never requites evil for evil. 22 In the first volume of the Philokalia there is a magnificent text of Saint Anthony which I must read to you here:

God is good, dispassionate, and immutable. Now someone who thinks it reasonable and true to affirm that God does not change, may well ask how, in that case, it is possible to speak of God as rejoicing over those who are good and showing mercy to those who honor Him, and as turning away from the wicked and being angry with sinners. To this it must be answered that God neither rejoices nor grows angry, for to rejoice and to be offended are passions; nor is He won over by the gifts of those who honor Him, for that would mean He is swayed by pleasure. It is not right that the Divinity feel pleasure or displeasure from human conditions. He is good, and He only bestows blessings and never does harm, remaining always the same. We men, on the other hand, if we remain good through resembling God, are united to Him, but if we become evil through not resembling God, we are separated from Him. By living in holiness we cleave to God; but by becoming wicked we make Him our enemy. It is not that He grows angry with us in an arbitrary way, but it is our own sins that prevent God from shining within us and expose us to demons who torture us. And if through prayer and acts of compassion we gain release from our sins, this does not mean that we have won God over and made Him to change, but that through our actions and our turning to the Divinity, we have cured our wickedness and so once more have enjoyment of God's goodness. Thus to say that God turns away from the wicked is like saying that the sun hides itself from the blind.23 [Chap. 150]

VI

You see now, I hope, how God was slandered by Western theology. Augustine, Anselm, Thomas Aquinas and all their pupils contributed to this "theological" calumny. And they are the foundations of Western theology, whether Papist or Protestant. Certainly these theologians do not say expressly and clearly that God is a wicked and passionate being. They rather consider God as being chained by a superior force, by a gloomy and implacable Necessity like the one which governed the pagan gods. This Necessity obliges Him to return evil for evil and does not permit Him to pardon and to forget the evil done against His will, unless an infinite satisfaction is offered to Him.

We open here the great question of pagan, Greek influence on Christianity.

The pagan mentality was in the foundation of all heresies. It was very strong in the East, because the East was the crossroad of all philosophical and religious currents. But as we read in the New Testament, "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound". So when heresies flourished, Orthodoxy flourished also, and although it was persecuted by the mighty of this world, it always survived victorious. In the West, on the contrary, the pagan Greek mentality entered in unobtrusively, without taking the aspect of heresy. It entered in through the multitude of Latin texts dictated by Augustine, bishop of Hippo. Saint John Cassian who was living then in the West understood the poison that was in Augustine's teachings, and fought against it. But the fact that Augustine's books were written in Latin and the fact that they were extremely lengthy did not permit their study by the other Fathers of the Church, and so they were never condemned as Origen's works were condemned in the East. This fact permitted them to exercise a strong influence later in Western thought and theology. In the West, little by little knowledge of the Greek language vanished, and Augustine's texts were the only books available dating from ancient times in a language understood there. So the West received as Christian a teaching which was in many of its aspects pagan. Caesaro-papist developments in Rome did not permit any healthy reaction to this state of affairs, and so the West was drowned in the humanistic, pagan thought which prevails to this day.24

So we have the East on the one side which, speaking and writing Greek, remained essentially the New Israel with Israelitic thought and sacred tradition, and the West on the other side which having forgotten the Greek language and having been cut off from the Eastern state, inherited pagan Greek thought and its mentality, and formed with it an adulterated Christian teaching.

In reality, the opposition between Orthodoxy and Western Christianity is nothing else but the perpetuation of the opposition between Israel and Hellas.

We must never forget that the Fathers of the Church considered themselves to be the true spiritual children of Abraham, that the Church considered itself to be the New Israel, and that the Orthodox peoples, whether Greek, Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Romanian, etc., were conscious of being like Nathaniel, true Israelites, the People of God. And while this was the real consciousness of Eastern Christianity, the West became more and more a child of pagan, humanistic Greece and Rome.

VII

What were the principal characteristics of this difference of thought between Israel and paganism? I call your attention to this very important matter.

Israel believes in God.

Paganism believes in creation. That is to say, in paganism creation is deified. For the pagans, God and creation are one and the same thing. God is impersonal, personified in a multitude of gods.

Israel (and when we speak of Israel we mean the true Israel, the spiritual sons of Abraham, those who have the faith given by God to His chosen people, not those who have abandoned this faith, The real sons of Abraham are the Church of Christ, and not those carnal descendants, the Jewish race), Israel knows that God and creation are two radically different kinds of existence. God is self existent, personal, eternal, immortal, Life and the Source of life, Existence and the Source of existence; God is the only real Existence: O WN, the Existing, the Only Existing; this is the meaning of the article 'O. 25

Creation, on the contrary, has no self-existence. It is totally dependent on the will of God. It exists only so long as God wants it to exist. It is not eternal. It had no existence. It was null, it was completely nothing. It was created out of nothingness. 26 By itself it has no force of existence; it is kept in existence by God's Energy. If this loving Energy of God ever stops, creation and all created beings, intellectual or non-intellectual, rational or irrational will vanish into non-existence. We know that God's love for His creation is eternal. We know from Him that He will never let us fall into non-existence, from which He brought us into being. This is our hope and God is true in His promises. We, created beings, angels, and men, will live in eternity, not because we have in us the power of eternity, but because this is the will of God Who loves us. By ourselves we are nothing. We have not the least energy of life and of existence in our nature; that which we have comes entirely from God; nothing is ours. We are dirt of the earth, and when we forgot it, God in His mercy permitted that we return to what we are, in order that we remain humble and have exact knowledge of our nothingness. 27 "God," says Saint John Damascene elsewhere, "can do all that He wills, even though He does not will all things that He can do — for He can destroy creation, but He does not will to do so. (Ibid. I, 14) 28

In the Great Euchologion (Venice, 1862), a fundamental liturgical book of the Church, we read:

"O God, the great and most high, Thou Who alone hast immortality"
[7th prayer of Vespers, p. 15]
"Thou Who alone art life-giving by nature... O only immortal"
[Ode 5, Funeral Canon for Laymen, p. 410]
"Thou art the only immortal" [p. 410]
"The only One Who is immortal because of His godly nature"

[Ode 1, Funeral Canon for Laymen, p. 471]
This is the faith of Israel.
What is the teaching of paganism? Paganism is the consequence of the loss of contact with God. The multitude of the sins of humanity made men incapable of receiving the divine light and of having any union with the Living God. The consequence was to consider as something divine the creation which they saw before them every day.

Paganism considers creation as being something self-existent and immortal, something that always existed and will always exist. In paganism the gods are part of creation. They did not create it from nothingness, they only formed the existing matter. Matter can take different forms. Forms come into existence and vanish, but matter itself is eternal. Angels, demons, and the souls of men are the real gods. Eternal by their nature, as is matter itself, they are, however, higher than matter. They might take different material forms in a sequence of material existences but they remain essentially spiritual.

So in paganism we see two fundamental characteristics: (1) An attributing of the characteristics of godhood to the whole of creation, that is: eternity, immortality, self-existence. (2) A distinction between the spiritual and the material and an antagonism between the two as between something higher and something lower.

Paganism and humanism are one and the same thing. In paganism, man is god because he is eternal by nature. This is why paganism is always haughty. It is narcissism. It is self-adoration. In Greece, the gods had human characteristics. Greek religion was the pagan adoration of man. The soul of man was considered his real being, and was immortal by nature.

So we see that in paganism the devil succeeded in creating a universal belief that men were gods and so did not need God. This is why pride was so high in Greece and why humility was inconceivable. In his work The Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle writes the following words: "Not to resent offenses is the mark of a base and slavish man." The man who is convinced by the devil to believe in the error that his soul is eternal by nature, can never be humble and can never really believe in God, because he does not need God, being God himself, as his error makes him believe.

This is why, from the very first, the Fathers of the Church, understanding the danger of this stupid error, warned the Christians of the fact that, as Saint Irenaeus puts it: "The teaching that the human soul is naturally immortal is from the devil" (Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, III, 20. 1). We find the same warning in Saint Justin (Dialogue with Trypho 6. 1-2), in Theophilus of Antioch (To Autolycus 2. 97), in Tatian (To the Greeks 13), etc.

Saint Justin explains the fundamental atheism which exists in the belief of the natural eternity and immortality of the human soul. He writes: "There are some others who, having supposed that the soul is immortal and immaterial, believe though they have committed evil they will not suffer punishment (for that which is immaterial is also insensible), and that the soul, in consequence of its immorality needs nothing from God" (Dialogue with Trypho 1).

Paganism is ignorance of the true God, an erroneous belief that His creation is divine, really a god. This god, however, who is Nature, is impersonal, a blind force, above all personal gods, and is called Necessity (anagkhç). In reality, this Necessity is the projection of human reason, as a mathematical necessity governing the world, It is a projection of rationalism upon nature. This rationalistic Necessity is the true, supreme blind god of the pagans. The pagan gods are parts of the world, and they are immortal because of the immortality of nature which is their essence. In this pagan mentality, man is also god like the others, because for the pagans the real man is only his soul, 29 and they believe that man's soul is immortal in itself, since it is part of the essence of the universe, which is considered immortal in itself and self-existent. So man also is god and a measure of all things.

But the gods are not free. They are governed by Necessity which is impersonal.

VIII

It is this pagan way of thought that was mixed with the Christian teaching by the various heresies. This is what happened in the West, too. They began to distinguish not between God and His creation, but between spirit and matter. 30 They began to think of the soul of man as of something eternal in itself, and began to consider the condition of man after death not as a sleep in the hands of God, but as the real life of man, 31 to which the resurrection of the dead had nothing to add and even the need of the resurrection was doubtful. The feast of the Resurrection of our Lord, which is the culmination of all feasts in Orthodoxy, began to fall into second place, because its need was as incomprehensible to the Western Christians as it was to the Athenians who heard the sermon of the Apostle Paul.

But what is more important for our subject, they began to feel that God was subject to Necessity, to this rationalistic Necessity which was nothing else but human logic. They declared Him incapable of coming into contact with inferior beings like men, because their rationalistic, philosophical conceptions did not permit it, and it was this belief which was the foundation of the hesychast disputes; it had already begun with Augustine who taught that it was not God Who spoke to Moses but an angel instead.

It is in this context of Necessity, which even gods obey, that we must understand the Western juridical conception of God's justice. It was necessary for God to punish man's disobedience. It was impossible for Him to pardon; a superior Necessity demanded vengeance. Even if God was in reality good and loving, He was not able to act lovingly. He was obliged to act contrary to His love; the only thing He could do, in order to save humanity, was to punish His Son in the place of men, and by this means was Necessity satisfied.

IX

This is the triumph of Hellenistic thought in Christianity. As a Hellenist, Origen had arrived at the same conclusions. God was a judge by necessity. He was obliged to punish, to avenge, to send people to hell. Hell was God's creation. It was a punishment demanded by justice. This demand of justice was a necessity. God was obliged to submit to it. He was not permitted to forgive. There was a superior force, a Necessity which did not permit Him to love unconditionally.

However, Origen was also a Christian and he knew that God was full of love. How is it possible to acknowledge a loving God Who keeps people in torment eternally? If God is the cause of hell, by necessity then there must be an end to it, otherwise we cannot concede that God is good and loving. This juridical conception of God as a instrument of a superior, impersonal force or deity named Necessity, leads logically to apokatastasis, "the restoration of all things and the destruction of hell," otherwise we must admit that God is cruel.

The pagan Greek mentality could not comprehend that the cause of hell was not God but His logical creatures. If God was not really free, since He was governed by Necessity, how could His creatures be free? God could not give something which He did not possess Himself. Moreover, the pagan Greek mentality could not conceive of disinterested love. Freedom, however, is the highest gift that God could give to a creature, because freedom makes the logical creatures like God. This was an inconceivable gift for pagan Greeks. They could not imagine a creature which could say "no" to an almighty God. If God was almighty, creatures could not say "no" to Him. So if God gave men His grace, men could not reject it. Otherwise God would not be almighty. If we admit that God is almighty, then His grace must be irresistible. Men cannot escape from it. That means that those men who are deprived of God's grace are deprived because God did not give His grace to them. So the loss of God s grace, which is eternal, spiritual death, in other words, hell, is in reality an act totally dependent on God. It is God Who is punishing these people by depriving them of His grace, by not permitting it to shine upon them. So God is the cause of the eternal, spiritual death of those who are damned. Damnation is an act of God, an act of God's justice, an act of necessity or cruelty. As a result, Origen thought that if we are to remain Christians, if we are to continue to believe that God is really good, we must believe that hell is not eternal, but will have an end, in spite of all that is written in the Holy Scriptures and of what the Church believes. This is the fatal, perfectly logical conclusion. If God is the cause of hell, hell must have an end, or else God is an evil God.

X

Origen, and all rationalists who are like him, was not able to understand that the acceptance or the rejection of God's grace depends entirely on the rational creatures; that God, like the sun, never stops shining on good or wicked alike; that rational creatures are, however, entirely free to accept or reject this grace and love; and that God in His genuine love does not force His creatures to accept Him, but respects absolutely their free decision. 32 He does not withdraw His grace and love, but the attitude of the logical creatures toward this unceasing grace and love is the difference between paradise and hell. Those who love God are happy with Him, those who hate Him are extremely miserable by being obliged to live in His presence, and there is no place where one can escape the loving omnipresence of God.

Paradise or hell depends on how we will accept God's love. Will we return love for love, or will we respond to His love with hate? This is the critical difference. And this difference depends entirely on us, on our freedom, on our innermost free choice, on a perfectly free attitude which is not influenced by external conditions or internal factors of our material and psychological nature, because it is not an external act but an interior attitude coming from the bottom of our heart, conditioning not our sins, but the way we think about our sins, as it is clearly seen in the case of the publican and the Pharisee and in the case of the two robbers crucified with Christ. This freedom, this choice, this inner attitude toward our Creator is the innermost core of our eternal personality, it is the most profound of our characteristics, it is what makes us that which we are, it is our eternal face — bright or dark, loving or hating.

No, my brothers, unhappily for us, paradise or hell does not depend on God. If it depended on God, we would have nothing to fear. We have nothing to fear from Love. But it does not depend on God. It depends entirely upon us, and this is the whole tragedy. God wants us to be in His image, eternally free. He respects us absolutely. This is love. Without respect, we cannot speak of love. We are men because we are free. If we were not free, we would be clever animals, not men. God will never take back this gift of freedom which renders us what we are. This means that we will always be what we want to be, friends or enemies of God, and there is no changing in this our deepest self. In this life, there are profound or superficial changes in our life, in our character, in our beliefs, but all these changes are only the expression in time of our deepest eternal self. This deep eternal self is eternal, with all the meaning of the word. This is why paradise and hell are also eternal. There is no changing in what we really are. Our temporal characteristics and our history in life depend on many superficial things 'which vanish with death, but our real personality is not superficial and does not depend on changing and vanishing things. It is our real self. It remains with us when we sleep in the grave, and will be our real face in the resurrection. It is eternal.

XI

Saint John of the Ladder says somewhere in his work that "before our fall the demons say to us that God is a friend of man; but after our fall, they say that He is inexorable." This is the cunning lie of the devil: to convince us that any harm in our life has as its cause God s disposition; that it is God Who will forgive us or Who will punish us. Wishing to throw us into sin and then to make us lose any hope of freeing ourselves from it, they seek to present God as sometimes forgiving all sins, and sometimes as inexorable. Most Christians, even Orthodox Christians, have fallen into this pit. They consider God responsible for our being pardoned or our being punished. This, my brothers, is a terrible falsehood which makes most men lose eternal life, principally because in considering God s love, they convince themselves that God, in His love, will pardon them. God is always loving, He is always pardoning, He is always a friend of man. However, that which never pardons, that which never is a friend of man, is sin, and we never think of it as we ought to. Sin destroys our soul independently of the love of God, because sin is precisely the road which leads away from God, because sin erects a wall which separates us from God, because sin destroys our spiritual eyes and makes us unable to see God's light. The demons want to make us always think of our salvation or our eternal spiritual death in juridical terms. They want us to think that either salvation or eternal death is a question of God's decision. No, my brothers, we must awaken in order not to be lost. Our salvation or our eternal death is not a question of God s decision, but it is a question of our decision, it is a question of the decision of our free will which God respects absolutely. Let us not fool ourselves with confidence in God's love. The danger does not come from God; it comes from our own self.

XII

Many will say: "Does not Holy Scripture itself often speak about the anger of God? Is it not God Himself who says that He will punish us or that He will pardon us? Is it not written that 'He is a rewarded of them that diligently seek Him' (Heb. 11:6)? 33 Does He not say that vengeance is His and that He will requite the wickedness done to us? Is it not written that it is fearful to fall into the hands of the living God?" 34

In his discourse entitled That God is not the Cause of Evil, Saint Basil the Great writes the following: "But one may say, if God is not responsible for evil things, why is it said in the book of Esaias, 'I am He that prepared light and Who formed darkness, Who makes peace and Who creates evils' (45:7)." And again, "There came down evils from the Lord upon the gates of Jerusalem" (Mich. 1:12). And, "Shall there be evil in the city which the Lord hath not wrought?" (Amos 3:6). And in the great Ode of Moses, "Behold, I am and there is no god beside Me. I will slay, and I will make to live; I will smite, and I will heal" (Deut. 32:39). But none of these citations, to him who understands the deeper meaning of the Holy Scriptures, casts any blame on God, as if He were the cause of evils and their creator, for He Who said, "I am the One Who makes light and darkness," shows Himself as the Creator of the universe, not that He is the creator of any evil.... "He creates evils," that means, "He fashions them again and brings them to a betterment, so that they leave their evilness, to take on the nature of good." 35

As Saint Isaac the Syrian writes, "Very often many things are said by the Holy Scriptures and in it many names are used not in a literal sense... those who have a mind understand this" (Homily 83, p. 317).

Saint Basil in the same discourse 36 gives the explanation of these expressions of the Holy Scriptures: "It is because fear," says he, "edifies simpler people," and this is true not only for simple people but for all of us. After our fall, we need fear in order to do any profitable thing and any good to ourselves or to others. In order to understand the Holy Scriptures, say the Fathers, we must have in mind their purpose which is to save us, and to bring us little by little to an understanding of our Creator God and of our wretched condition.

But the same Holy Scriptures in other places explain to us more accurately who is the real cause of our evils. In Jeremias 2:17, 19 we read: "Hath not thy forsaking Me brought these things upon thee? saith the Lord thy God.... Thine apostasy shall chastise thee and thy wickedness shall reprove thee; know then, and see that thy forsaking Me hath been bitter to thee, saith the Lord thy God."

The Holy Scriptures speak our language, the language which we understand in our fallen state. As Saint Gregory the Theologian says, "For according to our own comprehension, we have given names from our own attributes to those of God." 37 And Saint John Damascene explains further that what in the Holy Scriptures "is said of God as if He had a body, is said symbolically... [it contains] some hidden meaning, which through things corresponding to our nature, teaches us things which exceed our nature." 38

XIII

However, there are punishments imposed upon us by God, or rather evils done to us by the devil and permitted by God. But these punishments are what we call pedagogical punishments. They have as their aim our correction in this life, or at least the correction of others who would take a lesson from our example and correct themselves by fear. There are also punishments which do not have the purpose of correcting anybody but simply put an end to evil by putting an end to those who are propagating it, so that the earth may be saved from perpetual corruption and total destruction; such was the case in the flood during Noe's time, and in Sodom's destruction.39

All these punishments operate and have their purpose in this corrupted state of things; they do not extend beyond this corrupted life. Their purpose is to correct what can be corrected, and to change things toward a better condition, while things can still change in this changing world. After the Common Resurrection no change whatever can take place. Eternity and incorruptibility are the state of unchangeable things; no alterations whatever happen then, only developments in the state chosen by free personalities; eternal and infinite developments but no changing, no alteration of direction, no going back. The changing world we see around us is changing because it is corruptible. The eternal New Heavens and New Earth which God will bring about in His Second Coming are incorruptible, that means, not changing. So in this New World there can be no correction whatever; therefore, pedagogical punishments are no longer necessary. Any punishment from God in this New World of Resurrection would be clearly and without a doubt a revengeful act, inappropriate and motivated by hate, without any good intention or purpose.

If we consider hell as a punishment from God, we must admit that it is a senseless punishment, unless we admit that God is an infinitely wicked being.

As Saint Isaac the Syrian says: "He who applies pedagogical punishments in order to give health, is punishing with love, but he who is looking for vengeance, is devoid of love. God punishes with love, not defending Himself — far be it — but He wants to heal His image, and He does not keep His wrath for long. This way of love is the way of uprightness, and it does not change with passion to a defense. A man who is just and wise is like God because he never chastises a man in revenge for wickedness, but only in order to correct him or that others be afraid" (Homily 73).

So we see that God punishes as long as there is hope for correction. After the Common Resurrection there is no question of any punishment from God. Hell is not a punishment from God but a self condemnation. As Saint Basil the Great says, "The evils in hell do not have God as their cause, but ourselves." 40

XIV

One could insist, however, that the Sacred Scriptures and the Fathers always speak of God as the Great Judge who will reward those who were obedient to Him and will punish those who were disobedient, in the day of the Great Judgment (II Tim. 4:6-8). How are we to understand this judgment if we are to understand the divine words not in a human but in a divine manner'? What is God's judgment?

God is Truth and Light. God's judgment is nothing else than our coming into contact with truth and light. In the day of the Great Judgment all men will appear naked before this penetrating light of truth. The "books" will be opened. What are these "books"? They are our hearts. Our hearts will be opened by the penetrating light of God, and what is in these hearts will be revealed. If in those hearts there is love for God, those hearts will rejoice seeing God's light. If, on the contrary, there is hatred for God in those hearts, these men will suffer by receiving on their opened hearts this penetrating light of truth which they detested all their life.

So that which will differentiate between one man and another will not be a decision of God, a reward or a punishment from Him, but that which was in each one's heart; what was there during all our life will be revealed in the Day of Judgment. If there is a reward and a punishment in this revelation — and there really is — it does not come from God but from the love or hate which reigns in our heart. Love has bliss in it, hatred has despair, bitterness, grief, affliction, wickedness, agitation, confusion, darkness, and all the other interior conditions which compose hell (I Cor. 4:6).

The Light of Truth, God's Energy, God's grace which will fall on men unhindered by corrupt conditions in the Day of Judgment, will be the same to all men. There will be no distinction whatever. All the difference lies in those who receive, not in Him Who gives. The sun shines on healthy and diseased eyes alike, without any distinction. Healthy eyes enjoy light and because of it see clearly the beauty which surrounds them. Diseased eyes feel pain, they hurt, suffer, and want to hide from this same light which brings such great happiness to those who have healthy eyes.

But alas, there is no longer any possibility of escaping God's light. During this life there was. In the New Creation of the Resurrection, God will be everywhere and in everything. His light and love will embrace all. There will be no place hidden from God, as was the case during our corrupt life in the kingdom of the prince of this world. 41 The devil's kingdom will be despoiled by the Common Resurrection and God will take possession again of His creation. 42 Love will enrobe everything with its sacred Fire which will flow like a river from the throne of God and will irrigate paradise. But this same river of Love — for those who have hate in their hearts — will suffocate and burn.

"For our God is a consuming fire", (Heb. 12:29). The very fire which purifies gold, also consumes wood. Precious metals shine in it like the sun, rubbish burns with black smoke. All are in the same fire of Love. Some shine and others become black and dark. In the same furnace steel shines like the sun, whereas clay turns dark and is hardened like stone. The difference is in man, not in God.

The difference is conditioned by the free choice of man, which God respects absolutely. God's judgment is the revelation of the reality which is in man.

XV

Thus Saint Macarius writes, "And as the kingdom of darkness, and sin, are hidden in the soul until the Day of Resurrection, when the bodies also of sinners shall be covered with the darkness that is now hidden in the soul, so also the Kingdom of Light, and the Heavenly Image, Jesus Christ, now mystically enlighten the soul, and reign in the soul of the saints, but are hidden from the eyes of men... until the Day of Resurrection; but then the body also shall be covered and glorified with the Light of the Lord, which is now in the man's soul [from this earthly life], that the body also may reign with the soul which from now receives the Kingdom of Christ and rests and is enlightened with eternal light" (Homily 2).

Saint Symeon the New Theologian says that it is not what man does which counts in eternal life but what he is, whether he is like Jesus Christ our Lord, or whether he is different and unlike Him. He says, "In the future life the Christian is not examined if he has renounced the whole world for Christ's love, or if he has distributed his riches to the poor or if he fasted or kept vigil or prayed, or if he wept and lamented for his sins, or if he has done any other good in this life, but he is examined attentively if he has any similitude with Christ, as a son does with his father."

XVI

Saint Peter the Damascene writes: "We all receive God's blessings equally. But some of us, receiving God's fire, that is, His word, become soft like beeswax, while the others like clay become hard as stone. And if we do not want Him, He does not force any of us, but like the sun He sends His rays and illuminates the whole world, and he who wants to see Him, sees Him, whereas the one who does not want to see Him, is not forced by Him. And no one is responsible for this privation of light except the one who does not want to have it. God created the sun and the eye. Man is free to receive the sun's light or not. The same is true here. God sends the light of knowledge like rays to all, but He also gave us faith like an eye. The one who wants to receive knowledge through faith, keeps it by his works, and so God gives him more willingness, knowledge, and power" (Philokalia, vol. 3, p. 8).

XVII

I think that by now we have reached the point of understanding correctly what eternal hell and eternal paradise really are, and who is in reality responsible for the difference.

In the icon of the Last Judgment we see Our Lord Jesus Christ seated on a throne. On His right we see His friends, the blessed men and women who lived by His love. On His left we see His enemies, all those who passed their life hating Him, even if they appeared to be pious and reverent. And there, in the midst of the two, springing from Christ's throne, we see a river of fire coming toward us. What is this river of fire? Is it an instrument of torture? Is it an energy of vengeance coming out from God in order to vanquish His enemies?

No, nothing of the sort. This river of fire is the river which "came out from Eden to water the paradise" of old (Gen. 2:10). It is the river of the grace of God which irrigated God's saints from the beginning. In a word, it is the out-pouring of God's love for His creatures. Love is fire. Anyone who loves knows this. God is Love, so God is Fire. And fire consumes all those who are not fire themselves, and renders bright and shining all those who are fire themselves (Heb. 12:29).

God many times appeared as fire: To Abraham, to Moses in the burning bush, to the people of Israel showing them the way in the desert as a column of fire by night and as a shining cloud by day when He covered the tabernacle with His glory (Exod. 40:28, 32), and when He rained fire on the summit of Mount Sinai. God was revealed as fire on the mountain of Transfiguration, and He said that He came "to put fire upon the earth" (Luke 12:49), that is to say, love, because as Saint John of the Ladder says, "Love is the source of fire" (Step 30, 18).

The Greek writer, Fotis Kontoglou said somewhere that "Faith is fire, and gives warmth to the heart. The Holy Spirit came down upon the heads of the apostles in the form of tongues of fire. The two disciples, when the Lord was revealed to them, said 'Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us in the way?' Christ compares faith to a 'burning candle.' Saint John the Forerunner said in his sermons that Christ will baptize men 'in the Holy Spirit and fire.' And truly, the Lord said, 'I am come to send fire on the earth and what will I if it be already kindled? Well, the most tangible characteristic of faith is warmth; this is why they speak about 'warm faith,' or 'faith provoking warmth.' And even as the distinctive mark of faith is warmth, the sure mark of unbelief is coldness.

"Do you want to know how to understand if a man has faith or unbelief? If you feel warmth coming out of him — from his eyes, from his words, from his manners — be certain that he has faith in his heart. If again you feel cold coming out of his whole being, that means that he has not faith, whatever he may say. He may kneel down, he may bend his head humbly, he may utter all sorts of moral teachings with a humble voice, but all these will breathe forth a chilling breath which falls upon you to numb you with cold." 43 Saint Isaac the Syrian says that "Paradise is the love of God, in which the bliss of all the beatitudes is contained," and that "the tree of life is the love of God" (Homily 72).

"Do not deceive yourself," says Saint Symeon the New Theologian, "God is fire and when He came into the world, and became man, He sent fire on the earth, as He Himself says; this fire turns about searching to find material — that is a disposition and an intention that is good — to fall into and to kindle; and for those in whom this fire will ignite, it becomes a great flame, which reaches Heaven.... this flame at first purifies us from the pollution of passions and then it becomes in us food and drink and light and joy, and renders us light ourselves because we participate in His light" (Discourse 78).

God is a loving fire, and He is a loving fire for all: good or bad. There is, however, a great difference in the way people receive this loving fire of God. Saint Basil says that "the sword of fire was placed at the gate of paradise to guard the approach to the tree of life; it was terrible and burning toward infidels, but kindly accessible toward the faithful, bringing to them the light of day." 44 The same loving fire brings the day to those who respond to love with love, and burns those who respond to love with hatred.

Paradise and hell are one and the same River of God, a loving fire which embraces and covers all with the same beneficial will, without any difference or discrimination. The same vivifying water is life eternal for the faithful and death eternal for the infidels; for the first it is their element of life, for the second it is the instrument of their eternal suffocation; paradise for the one is hell for the other. Do not consider this strange. The son who loves his father will feel happy in his father's arms, but if he does not love him, his father's loving embrace will be a torment to him. This also is why when we love the man who hates us, it is likened to pouring lighted coals and hot embers on his head.

"I say," writes Saint Isaac the Syrian, "that those who are suffering in hell, are suffering in being scourged by love.... It is totally false to think that the sinners in hell are deprived of God's love. Love is a child of the knowledge of truth, and is unquestionably given commonly to all. But love's power acts in two ways: it torments sinners, while at the same time it delights those who have lived in accord with it" (Homily 84).

God is love. If we really believe this truth, we know that God never hates, never punishes, never takes vengeance. As Abba Ammonas says, "Love never hates anyone, never reproves anyone, never condemns anyone, never grieves anyone, never abhors anyone, neither faithful nor infidel nor stranger nor sinner nor fornicator, nor anyone impure, but instead it is precisely sinners, and weak and negligent souls that it loves more, and feels pain for them and grieves and laments, and it feels sympathy for the wicked and sinners, more than for the good, imitating Christ Who called sinners, and ate and drank with them. For this reason, showing what real love is, He taught saying, 'Become good and merciful like your Father in Heaven,' and as He rains on bad and good and makes the sun to rise on just and unjust alike, so also is the one who has real love, and has compassion, and prays for all." 45

XVIII

Now if anyone is perplexed and does not understand how it is possible for God's love to render anyone pitifully wretched and miserable and even burning as it were in flames, let him consider the elder brother of the prodigal son. Was he not in his father's estate? Did not everything in it belong to him? Did he not have his father's love? Did his father not come himself to entreat and beseech him to come and take part in the joyous banquet? What rendered him miserable and burned him with inner bitterness and hate? Who refused him anything? Why was he not joyous at his brother's return? Why did he not have love either toward his father or toward his brother? Was it not because of his wicked, inner disposition? Did he not remain in hell because of that? And what was this hell? Was it any separate place? Were there any instruments of torture? Did he not continue to live in his father's house? What separated him from all the joyous people in the house if not his own hate and his own bitterness? Did his father, or even his brother, stop loving him? Was it not precisely this very love which hardened his heart more and more? Was it not the joy that made him sad? Was not hatred burning in his heart, hatred for his father and his brother, hatred for the love of his father toward his brother and for the love of his brother toward his father? This is hell: the negation of love; the return of hate for love; bitterness at seeing innocent joy; to be surrounded by love and to have hate in one's heart. This is the eternal condition of all the damned. They are all dearly loved. They are all invited to the joyous banquet. They are all living in God's Kingdom, in the New Earth and the New Heavens. No one expels them. Even if they wanted to go away they could not flee from God's New Creation, nor hide from God's tenderly loving omnipresence. Their only alternative would be, perhaps, to go away from their brothers and search for a bitter isolation from them, but they could never depart from God and His love. And what is more terrible is that in this eternal life, in this New Creation, God is everything to His creatures. As Saint Gregory of Nyssa says, "In the present life the things we have relations with are numerous, for instance: time, air, locality, food and drink, clothing, sunlight, lamplight, and other necessities of life, none of which, many though they be, are God; that blessed state which we hope for is in need of none of these things, but the Divine Being will become all, and in the stead of all to us, distributing Himself proportionately to every need of that existence. It is plain, too, from the Holy Scriptures that God becomes to those who deserve it, locality and home and clothing and food and drink and light and riches and kingdom, and everything that can be thought of and named that goes to make our life happy" (On the Soul and the Resurrection). 46

In the new eternal life, God will be everything to His creatures, not only to the good but also to the wicked, not only to those who love Him, but likewise to those who hate Him. But how will those who hate Him endure to have everything from the hands of Him Whom they detest? Oh, what an eternal torment is this, what an eternal fire, what a gnashing of teeth!

Depart from Me, ye cursed, into the everlasting inner fire of hatred," 47 saith the Lord, because I was thirsty for your love and you did not give it to Me, I was hungry for your blessedness and you did not offer it to Me, I was imprisoned in My human nature and you did not come to visit Me in My church; you are free to go where your wicked desire wishes, away from Me, in the torturing hatred of your hearts which is foreign to My loving heart which knows no hatred for anyone. Depart freely from love to the everlasting torture of hate, unknown and foreign to Me and to those who are with Me, but prepared by freedom for the devil, from the days I created My free, rational creatures. But wherever you go in the darkness of your hating hearts, My love will follow you like a river of fire, because no matter what your heart has chosen, you are and you will eternally continue to be, My children.

Amen.


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