Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev

Hell Really Exists

Hell Really Exists

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All religions contain an eschatological dimension since they are directed not only towards the reality of the material world, but also to the spiritual world;not only to the present age, but also towards the future. In Christianity, however, eschatology plays such an essential role that, without the eschatological dimension, Christianity loses its meaning. Eschatology permeates the entire life of the Church: its services, sacraments and rites, its theological and moral doctrine, its asceticism and mysticism. The entire history of the Church is filled with eschatological expectations, beginning with the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ and continuing until the present day. Indeed, it is because the resurrection has taken place - because we live in the time of the resurrection - that eschatology is so fundamental to the Church.

As Fr Georges Florovsky notes, the Western liberal theological tradition beginning with the Age of Enlightenment ignored eschatology; to many, it seemed to be a remnant of the long-forgotten past. But modern theological thought - both Catholic and Protestant - has once again discovered eschatology, returning to the realisation that all dogmas of faith are directly related to it.1

As for Orthodox theology, it never lost its eschatological dimension. Yet the 'pseudomorphosis' of Orthodox theology in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries could not but leave its mark on eschatology. The expositions of eschatology in Greek and Russian textbooks on dogmatic theology from this period mostly follow Catholic schemes. In this sense the twentieth century became also for the Orthodox Church a time for re-thinking eschatology, for returning to its patristic foundations.

According to Fr Alexander Schmemann, eschatology is a distinguishing characteristic of the Christian faith inasmuch as it is 'belief in God, belief in the saving power of certain historical events, and finally belief in the final victory of God in Christ and of the Kingdom of God'.

Eschatology looks to the future, to the mystical eschaton of the coming Kingdom. At the same time, as Christians we already possess that in which we believe. The Kingdom is still to come, and yet the Kingdom that is to come is already in the midst of us. The Kingdom is not only something promised, it is something of which we can taste here and now. And so in all our preaching we are bearing witness - martyria - not simply to our faith but to our possession of that in which we believe.

Schmemann writes that the true essence of the Christian faith lies in the fact that we 'live in time by that which is beyond time-living by that which is not yet come, but which we already know and possess'.2

These two aspects of Christian eschatology are developed in the New Testament teaching on the Kingdom of God. The expression 'to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven' (Mt 5:20,- 7:21; 19:23-4), repeatedly used by the Saviour, points to the prospect for salvation after death. Christ gives his disciples the Kingdom which will come to fulfilment in the eschaton, at his second coming (cf. Lk 22:29-30).

On the other hand, Christ's preaching, like that of John the Baptist, began with the message that the Kingdom of Heaven was 'at hand' (Mt 4:17,- 3:2), i.e. had truly approached the people. The news of the nearness of the Kingdom becomes a leitmotif of Christ's preaching: the Kingdom of God is not a reality of 'life beyond the grave', but rather an experience which is accessible to man already in his earthly life. The eschatological 'last times' begin with the first coming of Christ and his preaching on earth.

An event from Christ's life that had a special eschatological significance was his Transfiguration. The gospel account of this event begins with Christ's words that 'there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the Kingdom of God has come with power' (Mk 9:1), and these words are understood in the Orthodox tradition as referring to the Transfiguration. The vision of Christ in his glory and the experience of the divine light are at the very heart of both Orthodox mysticism and Orthodox eschatology. According to St Gregory Palamas, the light of the Transfiguration 'is not something that comes to be and then vanishes'. Rather, Christ's disciples experienced a transformation of their senses so that 'they beheld the Ineffable Light where and to the extent that the Spirit granted it to them'.3 This was, therefore, not only a prefiguration of the eternal blessedness to which all Christians look forward, but also the Kingdom of God already revealed, realised and come.

The Kingdom is already present in the Church invisibly, being the foundation of its life. This experience is manifested in the Orthodox services, especially in the Divine Liturgy, which is not only an anamnesis, a remembrance of past events (the last supper, the suffering, death and resurrection of the Saviour), but also a participation in the future reality. During the Liturgy the Saviour's promise is realised: 'That you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom'. The words of the eucharistic prayer place events of the past, present and future into one continuous series: 'You brought us into being out of nothing, and when we fell, you raised us up again. You did not cease doing everything until you had led us to heaven and granted us your kingdom to come'. The Kingdom of God is 'the future', but at the same time it has already been given. The Liturgy already raises people into the heavens,it is already 'heaven on earth'.

Before discussing the most important aspects of Orthodox eschatologi-cal expectation, it is necessary to explain two things. First, we must note that eschatology is an area of questions, and not answers,of mysteries, and not of the obvious,of hopes, not of definite, final affirmations. Much of what concerns the future fate of the world and humankind has been revealed to us in holy scripture and the tradition of the Church, but much still remains in the hidden depths of God's mysteries.

The second explanation concerns the co-existence of two eschatologies in the Christian theological tradition - the 'personal' and the 'universal-historical'.4 Personal eschatology deals with questions concerning death and the fate of the person after death. Universal eschatology, which will be the focus of this chapter, is concerned with future events relevant to the history of all humankind - the second coming of Christ, the general resurrection, the Last Judgement, the ultimate fate of the righteous and of sinners.

the second coming of christ

The main focus of Christian eschatology is the second coming of Christ. The entire history of Christianity unfolds in the period of time between the first and second comings of the Saviour. The fate of all people - both the living and the dead - is woven into this history. Those who lived before Christ, including the righteous of the Old Testament, also remain in expectation of the second coming. In Eastern Christian patristic literature, the theme of the second coming of the Saviour was generally developed from two different perspectives. On the one hand, the spirit of the joyful anticipation of Christ's coming was never completely lost: this is the spirit expressed in the words of the apostle Peter about Christians

'looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God' (2 Pet 3:12), and in the exclamations 'Maranatha' (1 Cor 16:22) and 'Even so, come, Lord Jesus' (Rev 22:20), which reflect early Christian liturgical practice.

On the other hand, Church writers paid close attention to the fearsome and alarming events which, according to the New Testament, will precede Christ's second coming. The theme of the Antichrist (cf. 2 Thess 2:8, 1 Jn 2:18, etc.) was particularly developed in Eastern patristics. In the patristic tradition, the term 'Antichrist' points to the main enemy of Christ and the Church, 'who shall come at the end of the world'5 in order to deceive the entire world and turn people away from the true faith. The main characteristics of the Antichrist will be apostasy, resistance to God and the desire to pass himself off as God.6 St Paul writes that 'the mystery of iniquity doth already work' (2 Thess 2:7). The war of the Antichrist against Christ began at the moment of Christ's first coming but the final battle, vividly described in the Apocalypse, will take place at his second coming.

In the perception of modern human beings, the word 'apocalypse' (literally, 'revelation') is usually associated with the horrors and catastrophes that will precede the end of world history; and such a view can be found also among some Orthodox Christians. It would be an error, however, to lose sight of the fact that the main character of the second coming will be Christ, and not the Antichrist; and that the second coming itself will not be a moment of defeat, but a great moment of the glory of God, the victory of good over evil, life over death, and Christ over the Antichrist. It is not by chance that the theme of victory is one of the leitmotifs of the Apocalypse. All who have taken the side of good in the cosmic battle between good and evil will participate in this victory;their names will be written into the Book of Life (Rev 2, 3, 21).

The second coming of Christ will mark the completion of world history; yet this completion is not a tragic and painful breaking point in the fate of mankind, but the glorious goal to which history, through God's providence, is moving unswervingly. The Christian philosophy of history takes a view of the 'end of the world' with which 'apocalyptic' fears are incompatible, a view permeated by joyful expectation and hope.

the general resurrection

The doctrine of the general resurrection is one of the most difficult Christian beliefs for the rational mind-set. The power of death over everything and everyone, its inexorable and irreparable character, seems such an obvious fact that the doctrine of the resurrection can seem to contradict reality itself. The decay and disappearance of the body after physical death seems to leave no hope for its subsequent restoration. Moreover, the doctrine of the resurrection of the body contradicts the majority of philosophical theories that existed in the pre-Christian era, including Greek philosophy, which viewed liberation from the body as the highest good, a passage into a purely spiritual, noumenal state.

The apostolic kerygma ('proclamation') revealed the radical difference between ancient philosophy and the recently born Christianity, especially on this point. The book of Acts contains an account of St Paul's preaching on the Areopagus, which began very successfully and could have been quite convincing for the Athenian senators if only Paul had not begun to speak of the resurrection. For his preaching of 'Jesus and the resurrection' the Athenians called Paul a 'babbler' (Acts 17:32-3,- 18). Yet the doctrine of the general resurrection is the heart of Christian eschatology. Without this teaching, Christianity loses its meaning, just as the Christian kerygma, according to St Paul, is in vain without faith in Christ's resurrection (1 Cor 15:12-13). St Paul was the first Christian theologian to systematise the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead: all subsequent development of this doctrine was based on the foundations laid by him. The apostle enlarges on this teaching most fully in the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Here he links the resurrection of the dead to Christ's resurrection, placing one event in direct dependence on the other (1 Cor 15:12-19). The resurrection of the entire human race follows from the resurrection of Christ with the same obvious logic as the death of all people following from the death of Adam (1 Cor 15:17-23, 47-9).

St Paul examines in detail the question of the nature of the bodies in which the dead will rise (1 Cor 15:35-53). Christ will 'change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body' (Phil 3:20-1). In other words, the bodies of the resurrected will be similar to Christ's glorified body, i.e. his body after his resurrection.

In the third century, Origen and St Methodius of Olympus disagreed sharply over the nature of resurrected bodies. Origen's writings reflected the opinion that the bodies of the resurrected will be spiritual and ethereal. But Methodius rejected the view that human bodies will be destroyed, even if Christ had said that the saints will be 'as angels in heaven' (Mk 12:25,- Mt 22:30) in the resurrection. According to Methodius, Christ's words should be understood not in the sense that the saints will lose their bodies after the resurrection, but in the sense that their state of blessedness will be like that of the angels.7

In the fourth century, St Gregory of Nyssa devoted much attention to the subject of the resurrection of the dead. In answering the question of what the 'mechanism' of re-uniting the soul with the body will be like at the general resurrection, and how the souls will recognise their own bodies, Gregory advances his opinion that there is a natural mutual attraction between the soul and body, an attraction which does not cease even after death.8 Each body has its own eidos, its own appearance, which remains in the soul like the imprint of a seal even after its separation from the body. At the general resurrection, the soul will recognise this eidos and will re-unite with its body. In doing so, the scattered particles that once comprised the material substance of the body will re-unite, just as drops of spilled quicksilver gather together. The Bishop of Nyssa writes: 'If it is God's command that corresponding parts unite by themselves with that which is their own, this will present no difficulty for him who renewed nature'9.

the last judgement

The notion that man will be judged for his actions can already be found in the Old Testament (e.g. Eccl 11:9),it is in the New Testament, however, that this teaching is developed in its fullness. Speaking with the disciples on the Mount of Olives not long before his death on the Cross, Christ draws a picture of the Last Judgement, when he will 'separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats'. The only criterion according to which the righteous will be separated from the sinners is works of mercy towards one's neighbour (Mt 25:31-46).

God's judgement will not be something forced upon humankind from the outside, and will not simply be a result of a 'just requital' by God. The necessity of judgement follows from the principle of man's moral responsibility before God and other people. The Last Judgement begins in the earthly life of the person and takes place every moment when one chooses or neglects to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit those in prison, or share with those in need. Christ's words about the Last Judgement are not a threat of retribution, but a call to do good. This is how the Orthodox Church understands this parable, addressing the following words to its members on the Sunday of the Last Judgement:

Having understood the Lord's commandments, let us live in accordance with them: let us feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, give rest to strangers, visit the sick and those in prisons, so that he who will come to judge the entire world will say to us: come, blessed ones of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you.10

The Orthodox Church teaches that all people without exception will stand before the Last Judgement - Christians and pagans, believers and non-believers. However, the thought that Christians will be judged with special strictness is present already in the Epistles: 'Judgement must begin at the house of God' (1 Pet 4:17), i.e. beginning with the Christian Church. Regarding those who are outside the Church, St Paul writes that they will be judged in accordance with the law of conscience written in their hearts (Rom 2:14-15). Virtuous pagans, says Chrysostom, are astonishing because 'they had no need of the law but fulfilled everything contained in it, having inscribed in their minds not the letter, but deeds'.11 And he draws a radical conclusion: 'If a pagan fulfils the law, nothing else will be necessary for his salvation.'12 When acts committed during one's life are evaluated, moral criteria will be applied to all people without exception, the only difference being that Jews will be judged according to the Law of Moses, Christians by the gospel, and pagans according to the law of conscience written in their hearts. According to Basil the Great, the Last Judgement will be not so much an external as an internal event: it will take place primarily in the conscience of each person, in his mind and memory. Moreover, the Last Judgement will occur with lightning speed: 'It is probable that by some ineffable power, in an instant, all actions committed during our lifetime will be imprinted in the memory of our soul, as in a picture.'13

These explanations introduce an important corrective into the understanding of the Last Judgement that is reflected, for example, in Michelangelo's renowned frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. In these frescoes, the main idea is that justice is administered: each person receives according to his merits, and God's sentence is irreversible. But in the Orthodox understanding, the Last Judgement is not so much the moment of requital as the victory of truth. It is the revelation of God's mercy and love that is underscored. God will never cease to be love and light, but, subjectively, divine love and the divine light will be perceived differently by the righteous and by sinners.

'the power of love works in two ways'

For most Christians in the West today, the very idea of 'torments of hell' will seem primitive, totally off-putting, and impossible to reconcile with the idea of a loving God. From the Orthodox point of view, hell is also irreconcilable with divine love. This is why Eastern Fathers stressed that God did not create hell: it was created by humans for themselves. The source of eschatological torment is the will of those humans who are unable to partake in God's love, to feel God's love as a source of joy and blessedness. Isaac the Syrian writes that:

those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love. Nay, what is so bitter and vehement as the torment of love? I mean that those who have become conscious that they have sinned against love suffer greater torment from this than from any fear of punishment. For the sorrow caused in the heart by sin against love is more poignant than any torment. It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in Gehenna are deprived of the love of God. Love ... is given to all. But the power of love works in two ways: it torments sinners, even as happens here when a friend suffers from a friend, but it becomes a source of joy for those who have observed its duties.14

Fr Georges Florovsky writes that the possibility of hell is contained in the primordial paradox of creation: 'in the act of creation God posits something totally other than himself, "over against" himself. Accordingly, the world of creatures has its own mode of existence.' God gave the created world freedom, and thus autonomy. In this is revealed the 'kenotic self-limitation' of God, who 'as it were spares room for the existence of something different'. Yet 'the sting of the paradox, of the kenosis, is not in the existence of the world, but in the possibility of hell'. The world may be obedient to God, in which case 'it is not a "limitation", but an expansion of God's majesty. On the contrary, hell means resistance and estrangement, pure and simple.'15

According to many theological and liturgical texts of the Eastern Church, Christ in his descent into hell liberated all people from hell -without exception. Truly, hell has been 'abolished' by the resurrection of Christ: it is no longer unavoidable for people and no longer holds them under its power. But people re-create it for themselves each time sin is consciously committed and not followed by repentance.

This follows from one's understanding that hell consists in being tormented by sorrow for the sin against love. This 'sorrow' is a fruitless and belated remorse, to be distinguished from the repentance that one can bring forth during one's life. Repentance is remorse for sins accompanied by a change of mind (this is the literal meaning of the Greek metanoia), a change in one's whole way of living. Remorse, on the contrary, is sorrow over evil committed without the possibility of doing anything for its correction. One has the possibility of correcting mistakes only in earthly life. As Symeon the New Theologian writes, after death there begins a state of inaction, when nobody can do anything, good or evil. Thus, one will remain as one was at the end of one's earthly life.16

For many centuries, the doctrine of hell was a subject of theological discussion in the Christian East and West. During these debates, questions were asked such as: is liberation from hell possible? Are the torments of sinners eternal or temporary? How can one reconcile eternal torment with the notion of God's boundless and ineffable love towards man?

The Western and Eastern theological traditions did not always answer these questions in the same way. For example, in the West, under the influence of St Augustine and a number of other Latin Fathers, the doctrine of purgatory was conceived as an interim place between heaven and hell, or rather a special section of hell where sinners are exposed to the fires of purification.

The Eastern Christian tradition never recognised the doctrine of purgatory and never made a distinction between eternal torments from which liberation is impossible, and a fire of purgatory from which one can be saved. According to the Orthodox teaching, it is possible to be freed from the torments of hell: the practice of praying for the departed and even for 'those in hell' at Pentecost vespers is based on this. However, this liberation occurs not because of some automatic necessity and not because the sinner serves a kind of 'prison term' established for those who commit certain sins, but through the prayers of the Church and God's ineffable love for man.

The juridical nature of the doctrine of purgatory met with rejection in the Christian East, where it was always thought that God's mercy cannot be limited to just a certain category of the deceased. The Orthodox belief is based on the idea that, until the Last Judgement, changes for the better are possible in the fate of any sinner. In this sense one can say that Orthodoxy views the fate of the person after death with greater optimism than Catholicism, and never closes the door of the saving Kingdom of God to anyone. Until the final verdict of the Judge is pronounced, there is hope for all the departed to enter the Kingdom of heaven.

'that god may be all in all'

Does this mean that God's mercy will cover all human unrighteousness in the end? The Orthodox Church is far from the excessive optimism of those who maintain that all people will necessarily be saved. Origen took that stance in the third century, writing that all living creatures are arranged into a common hierarchy in which each is placed on a level corresponding to their spiritual perfection. In the end all of them will be brought into unity with God, with the difference between them only in the time it takes them to rise from one step to the next and, so to speak, in the degree of pain in this process. The supposition of the final salvation of the Devil and demons is made repeatedly by Origen,17 although in other places he speaks directly of the impossibility of salvation for the Devil and demons:18 obviously, this question remained unanswered for him.

Origen's teaching on the apokatastasis - the universal restoration -was already a subject of debate during his lifetime. He borrowed the term apokatastasis from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 3:21), which speaks of the promised times of the 'restoration of everything' (apokatastasis ton panton). Origen interpreted this term in the sense of a restoration to the primordial state,19 according to the principle that 'the end is similar to the beginning'.20 Following ancient philosophers, Origen viewed the universe as a cyclic process, as a succession of 'aeons', in each of which events that took place in previous aeons can be repeated. In this peculiar system, the apokatastasis is thought of as the completion of a full historical circle and return to the original state - to the state before the fall.21

This theory conflicts with traditional Christian teaching on several counts. It contradicts the vision of the historical process as a path to the final transfiguration and change into a better state, not as a return to the starting point. Secondly, it practically excludes the notion that one can follow Christ into eternal life only of one's free choice. As one modern theologian writes, 'to admit with Origen that evil will come to an end by exhaustion, whereas God alone is ... able to satisfy the inexhaustible desires of human nature, is to forget the absolute character that belongs to personal freedom precisely because it is in the image of God'.22 Thirdly, in Origen's system the apokatastasis is closely linked with the theory of the pre-existence of souls: the life of the soul in the body is viewed as a kind of punishment or trial, necessary for restoration to its primordial dignity. This theory has always been firmly rejected by the Church. Fourthly, Origen's version of the apokatastasis raises the question: what is the moral sense of the entire drama of human history, if good and evil are ultimately irrelevant before divine mercy and justice?

The council of Constantinople in 543 and the fifth ecumenical council in 553 condemned the teaching of Origen and his followers on the doctrine of apokatastasis. But having condemned Origen, the fifth ecumenical council said not a word about the teaching of Gregory of Nyssa, who also wrote of the total extermination of vice and the final salvation of all people.23

In the seventh century the teaching on universal salvation was developed in detail and decisively asserted by Isaac the Syrian. According to Isaac, all who have fallen away from God will eventually return to him: by undergoing purification in the fire of suffering and repentance, they will attain to the angelic state.24 Isaac was strongly averse to the opinion that only a few chosen will enjoy the Kingdom of heaven. On the contrary, he was convinced that the majority will end up in the Kingdom of God, and that only a few evil-doers and sinners will end up in Gehenna, and this only temporarily, for the duration necessary for their sins to be forgiven.25

It can be argued that Isaac's view of Gehenna is in some way similar to the Western understanding of purgatory. The difference is that for Isaac, as it seems, there is no eternal hell at all: he only admits Gehenna as a place of temporary punishment. He warns, however, that Gehenna's torment is terrible and unbearable, even though it is limited in time. Gehenna is a reality that is in no way denied by him. Yet he understands it in the context of the gospel's message about God's unspeakable love and boundless mercy. For Isaac, God is primarily a householder making those who worked only one hour equal to those who have borne the burden of the whole day (cf. Mt 20:1-15). A place in the Kingdom of heaven is given to a person not on the basis of his worthiness or unworthiness, but rather on the basis of God's mercy and love towards humankind. The Kingdom of heaven is not a reward, and Gehenna is not a punishment: both are gifts of the merciful God 'who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth' (1 Tim 2:4).

The teaching of Gregory of Nyssa and Isaac the Syrian on the final salvation of all people is not identical with the Origenism condemned in the sixth century: neither Gregory nor Isaac believed in the pre-existence of souls, nor did they teach that the apokatastasis will be a return to the primordial state. Nevertheless, even the teaching on universal salvation found in the writings of these authors can be viewed only as a hypothesis: as a Christian hope, not as a dogma. The key to understanding the idea of the possibility - in the final eschatological perspective - of the salvation of all people can perhaps be found in the words of John Climacus: 'although not all people can be completely free of passions, it is not impossible that all be saved and reconciled with God'.26 People may be at different levels of spiritual perfection, but this does not mean that they cannot all attain salvation. The Lord said, 'In my Father's house are many mansions' (Jn 14:2), and these words have traditionally been understood as indicating various levels of closeness to God in the eschatological Kingdom of God.

St Paul writes that 'God will have all men to be saved' (1 Tim 2:4). God will always, eternally, wish for the salvation of all people, but God will always, eternally, respect the free will of the person, and cannot save people against their will. This is the great paradox of the mystery of salvation. If salvation depended only and exclusively on God, all people would be saved. But since salvation is a fruit of common labours, of the synergy

(collaboration, cooperation) between God and man, man's participation in his own salvation is necessary.

In the twentieth century, the teaching on universal salvation acquired a number of authoritative exponents among the theologians and philosophers of the Russian diaspora. Archpriest Sergius Bulgakov and Nicolas Berdyaev consistently defended this theological opinion. Vladimir Lossky spoke more cautiously but nevertheless unequivocally in favour of this teaching. It was also repeatedly defended by Metropolitan Antony of Sourozh, who wrote that 'the certainty of the salvation of all people cannot be a certainty of the faith, since there are no clear assertions of it in holy scripture that might serve as proof, but it can be a certainty of hope since, knowing God as we know him, we have the right to hope for all things'. The gospel uses the expression 'eternal torments', but there is a difference between divine eternity and the eternity of the created world: the latter 'can be fitted into the confines of time'. If the Devil succeeded in 'creating an eternal kingdom independent of God', that would signify his victory over God.27

The Church's condemnation of Origen's teaching on apokatastasis in no way disaffirms the belief that in the end God will be 'all in all', that death will be vanquished and abolished for good, and that a 'new earth' and 'new heaven' will appear (cf. i Cor 15:22-8, 51-57, and the Book of Revelation). Thus scripture teaches that a certain 'restoration of all things' (Acts. 3:21) will occur, when God will be 'all in all' (i Cor 15:28).

In this connection, St Silouan of Mount Athos could be remembered, who asserted that an Orthodox Christian must pray for the whole world and for every living creature: 'We... must have but this one thought -that all should be saved'.28 The merciful God, he says, 'makes the heart ache for the whole universe, that all men might repent and enter Paradise'.29

Once a certain hermit said to him: 'God will punish all atheists. They will burn in everlasting fire.' But St Silouan answered with sorrow: 'Love could not bear this. We must pray for all.' 'And he did, indeed, pray for all', writes Fr Sophrony, St Silouan's biographer: 'His soul was stricken by the realisation that people lived in ignorance of God and His love, and with all his strength he prayed . for the living and the dead, for friend and foe, for all mankind'.30

In the Orthodox understanding, then, the question of the salvation of all humanity cannot be addressed theoretically: it invites not speculation, but prayer. As long as the Church lives - and it will live forever - the prayer of Christians for those outside the Kingdom of heaven will not cease. Every day the Church offers the Eucharist for all living and departed. And even when time is transformed into eternity and 'we shall all be changed', the Church will pray to the Lord for the salvation of all people who were created by him.

Further reading

Alfeyev, Bishop H., 'The life of the age to come', in Alfeyev, The Mystery of Faith. An Introduction to the Teaching and Spirituality of the Orthodox Church, ed. J. Rose, London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2002, pp. 199-230. 'The life of the age to come', in Alfeyev, The Spiritual World of St Isaac the Syrian, Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2000, pp. 269-97. Daley, B., 'Apokatastasis and "honorable silence" in the eschatology of St Maximus the Confessor', in F. Heinzer and C. Schönborn (eds.), Maximus Confessor; Actes du Symposium sur Maxime le Confesseur, Freiburg, 2-5 September, Freiburg: Editions Universitaires, 1982, pp. 309-39. Florovsky, G., 'The patristic age and eschatology', in Florovsky, Collected Works of Church History, Vol. iv: Creation and Redemption, Belmont, MA: Nordland Publishing Co., 1976, pp. 63-78. Jevtic, A., Bishop of Herzegovina, 'The eschatological dimension of the Church',

GOTR 38.1-4 (1993). Lossky, V., The Vision of God, trans. A. Morehouse, London: Faith Press, 1963. Ware, K. (Bishop of Diokleia), 'Dare we hope for the salvation of all?', in Ware, The Inner Kingdom, Collected Works, vol. I, Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 2000, pp. 193-215.

Zizioulas, J. D., Metropolitan of Pergamon, 'The Eucharist and the Kingdom', Sourozh 58 (November 1994), 1-12; 59 (January 1995), 22-38; 60 (May 1995), 32-46.

Notes

1. Fr. G. Florovsky, 'The last things and the last events' in Florovsky, Collected Works of Church History, vol. m: Creation and Redemption (Belmont, MA: Nordland Publishing Co., 1976), pp. 243-5.

2. A. Schmemann, ' Liturgy and eschatology', Sobornost 7.1 (1985), 9-10.

3. Gregory Palamas, Homily I on the Transfiguration 4.

4. See N. A. Berdyaev, Eschatological metaphysics' in Berdyaev, The Kingdom of the Spirit and the Kingdom of Caesar (in Russian) (Moscow: Respublika, 1995), p. 277.

5. John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 4.26.

6. Cf. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies v.25.1.

7. Methodius of Olympus, On the Resurrection 31.

8. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Creation of Humanity 27.

9. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Creation of Humanity 27.6.

10. The Lenten Triodion. Meat-fare Sunday, Great Vespers.

11. John Chrysostom, Homily on Romans 5.5.

12. John Chrysostom, Homily on Romans 6.1.

13. Basil of Caesarea, Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah i.i8.

14. Isaac the Syrian, Homily 28 (English numbering).

15. Florovsky, 'The last things and the last events', in Florovsky, Collected Works, I, pp. 245-6.

16. Symeon the New Theologian, Hymn 1.

17. Cf., inter alia, Origen, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans 5.10; 9.41; Commentary on the Gospel according to John; Commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew 13.17.

18. Cf. Origen, Homily on Joshua 8.5.

19. Cf. Origen, Homily on Jeremiah 14.18.

20. Origen, On First Principles 1.6.2.

21. Origen, On First Principles n.9.2-3.

22. O. Clément, The Roots of Christian Mysticism (London: New City, 1993), p. 301.

23. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Soul and Resurrection 7-10.

25. Isaac of Nineveh, 'The Second Part' n.40.12.

26. John Climacus, Ladder of Divine Ascent 26.

27. Metropolitan Antony of Sourozh, Man before God (in Russian) (Moscow, 19931 pp. 59-65.

28. Archimandrite Sophrony, St Silouan the Athonite, trans. R. Edmonds (Tolleshunt Knights: Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 1991), p. 226.

29. Archimandrite Sophrony, St Silouan, p. 426.

30. Archimandrite Sophrony, St Silouan, pp. 48-9.

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  • Sven
    Did st. Isaac the Syrian taught apocatastasis?
    5 months ago

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