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Purgatory in Eastern Catholisicm #341986 01/25/10 12:09 AM
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SpiritualJourney Offline OP
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Article 5 of the Treaty of Brest 1595, states :5. We shall not debate about purgatory, but we entrust ourselves to the teaching of the Holy Church.
Does this mean that Eastern Catholics accept the dogma of Purgatory or not? How does that blend with Easten theology?

Re: Purgatory in Eastern Catholisicm [Re: SpiritualJourney] #341992 01/25/10 01:08 AM
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The essentials East and West are the same: after death there is a cleansing journey of the soul. The East images the cleansing journey as a purifying ascent to the Father. The West images the journey as a purifying fire to expiate sin.

The main issue from the Eastern viewpoint is that since we do not and cannot know the details we ought not to over-speculate, as well as put specific measures on the Lord's fogiveness.

Others will certainly comment at further length.

Re: Purgatory in Eastern Catholisicm [Re: Administrator] #341997 01/25/10 03:14 AM
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Nelson Chase Offline
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I always understood Article Five to mean that the Eastern (Ukrainian Church at this particular union synod) Church and the Western Church would agree to disagree on this topic and mutually respect each others respective traditions. Thats how I understand this article of the Union of Brest. How it has played out in history, I will leave to others, since I don't know.

I think we as Greek Catholics can disagree with the idea of Purgatory as defined in the Western Church, since it is not part of our Liturgical and Theological Tradition. But we can't say that Purgatory is heretical! Thats the important part. Just as a Latin Catholic can't say that distinctly Byzantine theology is heretical since it is not Roman.


Last edited by Nelson Chase; 01/25/10 03:20 AM.
Re: Purgatory in Eastern Catholisicm [Re: Nelson Chase] #342008 01/25/10 07:37 AM
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In the deliberations on life after death one must in general keep in mind that it is not pleased the Lord to reveal to us very much aside from the fact that the degree of a soul's blessedness depends on how much a man's life on the earth has been truly Christian, and the degree of a man's posthumous suffering depends upon the degree of sinfulness. To add conjectures to the little that the Lord has been pleased to reveal to us is not beneficial to our salvation, and all disputes in this domain are now especially detrimental, the more so when they become the object of the discussion of people who have not been fully established in the Faith. Acrid polemic apart from the spirit of mutual love turns such an exchange of opinions from a deliberation into an argument about words. The positive preaching of truths of the Church may be profitable, but not disputes in an area which is not subject to our investigation, but which evokes in the unprepared reader false notions on questions of importance to our salvation.

Decision of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.

I think that it sums it up nicely.

Alexandr

Re: Purgatory in Eastern Catholisicm [Re: SpiritualJourney] #342010 01/25/10 08:33 AM
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aramis Offline
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To use the modality taught by Rev. Fr. Steven Greskowiak and Right Reverend Fr. Michael Artim: Purgatory is that place or state of purification after death. Anything more is a theologumenon.

The actual dogmatic definition doesn't include the the purifying flames, tho' the Roman teaching includes it.

Byzantine teaching, at least from the 5 priests of the MoP I've heard teach on it, is theosis through and through. Tho' 3 of them point out that theosis is the byzantine understanding of the dogma of purgatory.


Re: Purgatory in Eastern Catholisicm [Re: aramis] #342020 01/25/10 02:00 PM
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The Byzantine Catholic catechism, Light For Life, Part One: The Mystery Believed, discusses the Last Judgment, prayer for the dead and the fate of the deceased at some length (pp. 60-64), but makes no mention of purgatory except for the following endnote found on pages 101-102:

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12. The basic concept of the purification of souls after death is based on 2 Maccabbees 12:39-45, and I Corinthians 3:11-15. The need for purification is taught by several Fathers of the East and West (among the earliest, St. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 7.6). The Western Church, after St. Augustine (City of God, 21.13, 24) elaborated this concept in the doctrine of "purgatory", a place of painful purification, which was defined at the Councils of Lyons and Florence, which were called to ratify unions with the Byzantine Church. The Council of Trent reaffirmed these definitions but forbade fantastic descriptions. The Eastern Churches have been reluctant to speak with assurance of a separate place of purification, or to describe that purification as "painful". Yet none have been more committed to prayer that the departed be granted rest with the saints. In any dialogue on this question, Roman Catholics must admit that the description of purgatory was influenced by medieval mythology.

Re: Purgatory in Eastern Catholisicm [Re: StuartK] #342029 01/25/10 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by StuartK
The Byzantine Catholic catechism, Light For Life, Part One: The Mystery Believed, discusses the Last Judgment, prayer for the dead and the fate of the deceased at some length (pp. 60-64), but makes no mention of purgatory except for the following endnote found on pages 101-102:

12. The basic concept of the purification of souls after death is based on 2 Maccabbees 12:39-45,


I would like to comment if people will indulge me.

Sacred scripture tells us:


"It is a holy and pious thing that atonement
be made for the dead, that they might be delivered
from their sin."

~ 2 Macc 12:46

I'd like to comment, for those who don't know the context.

What had happened was that many of the dead Jewish soldiers were found to have small idols in their clothing. They had been worshipping idols and the text says that this idolatry is the reason God allowed them to be slain in battle.

So the surviving soldiers began to offer profound prayers that this dreadful sin would be forgiven and Judas Maccabeus decided to send a large quantity of silver to the Jerusalem temple for prayers for the forgivness of these slain idolators.

The whole incident substantiates not just prayers for the dead but the scripturally based hope and belief that sin, even very serious sin (mortal sin if you will), may be forgiven by God after death.

2 Macc 12: 39-46
King James Version
http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/Kjv2Mac.html

Re: Purgatory in Eastern Catholisicm [Re: Hieromonk Ambrose] #342059 01/25/10 10:00 PM
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Thank you Father, we do hope for the purification of everyone that dies. Given the cause of their suffering and the shock of finding the little idols under the clothing of the slain Jews- I've always thought of the verse from Maccabees as an example of just that. It keeps our mind and heart set on good things to come.

Re: Purgatory in Eastern Catholisicm [Re: columba] #342119 01/26/10 01:17 PM
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Perhaps of interest is the judgment of Elder Cleopa:

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We know well from solid testimonies of Holy Scripture that for evildoers the torments of hell will be eternal. ... Truly, God is forgiving and long-suffering towards those who fall into sin in this life, for the time of our correction is now, in this life, and the acquisition of His forgiveness depends on our own repentance. In the life on the other side of the grave, however, we no longer are able to repent, to change our minds, given that there God does not judge us according to His omnipotence and goodness, but in accord with His impartiality and righteousness, rewarding each according to his deeds. If God were to forgive all the sins of men without justice or fairness, what would be the point of continually alarming us with the terror of the eternal torments if, in fact, they didn't exist? How is it possible for God to tell us lies instead of the truth? ... God offers eternal joy to the righteous, who struggled for a time to carry out good works here on earth, but as a just and righteous God, He also chastises eternally the ungodly that transgressed in this temporal life. Why is it so? Because the wounds incurred from sin that are not healed in this life through the appropriate repentance will remain infected eternally in the presence of God. ... It must be clear that he who dies in grave and disastrous sins is separated from God forever and in particular will not be able, in the next life, to be amended. In the life beyond the grave his sins will remain with him eternally and thus the torments will also continue to exist forever. (The Truth of Our Faith, pp. 213-217)


On the other hand, Elder Cleopa recognizes that prayer for the dead is efficacious for their removal from Hades to Heaven, but with one qualification:

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It is indeed possible for someone to be redeemed from perdition, but not through the purgatorial fire as the Roman Catholics content (their offering of expiation presented for the living and the dead notwithstanding. The Lord, as ruler of the heavens, the earth and the infernal regions has the power to remove a soul from Hades, as Scripture testifies: 'The Lord killeth and maketh alive; He bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up.'

The power and sacrifice of Christ, which is offered to whosoever seeks it, is unlimited and His goodness so great that only He is able to rescind the eternal anguish of man. We know that God asks that we love our fellow man and looks on this love with joy. We we are truly praying for others, there is nothing greater than love. God hears the prayer of the Church very clearly, especially when the prayers of Christians are united with the suppliant voices of angels in the heavens, and that of the Lady Theotokos. ...

Between Hades and Paradise there does exist a great chasm indeed, as our Lord has told us. Yet, this chasm does not have the power to impede the mercy of our great God, Who hears our prayers for the reposed. We do not suppose, as do the Roman Catholics that there exists a purgatorial fire, but we say that only for those who since very severely (or mortally) and did not confess their sin is the passage form Hades to Paradise impossible. For those who sinned more lightly this pathway is not definitely closed, given that in the future judgment each one's pace, either in heaven or in hell, will be decided definitively, inasmuch as after this judgment someone whose orientation was Hades can no longer pass over into Paradise. For those who sinned unto death, our prayers are completely futile. ... We do not pray for those who have committed sins against the Holy Spirit, for such sins will not be forgiven, neither in this life, nor in the one to come. Rather, we pray for those who committed lighter sins for which forgiveness--when we pray--is also possible in the other world, inasmuch as we love them to inherit eternal life. (pp. 127-129)


I would suggest that this understanding is very similar to the Catholic understanding of purgatory, as it has been re-formulated by John Paul II and Benedict XVI (and before them, by the Anglican C. S. Lewis) and popularized by Peter Kreeft. What is absent in the Elder's presentation is an understanding of why the prayers of the Church are of benefit to those who have commited "lighter sins." Clearly it's not because God has to be persuaded to let these folks off the hook. The notion of purification from self-will fills in what is missing. The gap between Latin Catholicism and Orthodoxy has narrowed considerably on this issue during the past forty years. My personal, and very fallible, reflections on purgatory may be of interest here.

Last edited by Fr_Kimel; 01/26/10 01:21 PM.
Re: Purgatory in Eastern Catholisicm [Re: Fr_Kimel] #342128 01/26/10 03:38 PM
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Father Kimel,

thank you for sharing your insights in your blog. Your blog was about far more than purgatory. I enjoyed reading it. There is a lot to ponder in what you said.

Re: Purgatory in Eastern Catholisicm [Re: Fr_Kimel] #342143 01/26/10 06:00 PM
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The words of Father Cleopa may be the teaching of the whole Romanian Church or they may be his own private theologoumena. I do not know.

But certainly the common teaching of the Orthodox is that even the most serious sin may be forgiven after death. The scriptural foundation for this is 2 Maccabees 12: 39-46 where prayer and almsgiving by the living obtained trhe forgiveness of mortal sin for the dead.

Then we may look at the words of one of Russia's current respected theologians Archbishop Hilarion...

Praying for those in hell...

I was reading an article recently by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev called "Orthodox Worship as a School of Theology", and I came across the following:-

Bishop Hilarion: "Several years ago I came across a short article in a journal of the Coptic Church where it stated that this Church had decided to remove prayers for those held in hell from its service books, since these prayers “contradict Orthodox teaching”. Puzzled by this article, I decided to ask a representative of the Coptic Church about the reasons for this move. Recently I had the possibility to do so, and a Coptic Metropolitan replied that the decision was made by his Synod because, according their official doctrine, no prayers can help those in hell.

"I told the metropolitan that in the liturgical practice of the Russian Orthodox Church and other local Orthodox Churches there are prayers for those held in hell, and that we believe in their saving power. This surprised the Metropolitan, and he promised to study this question in more detail."

Here is the original article ...

http://orthodoxeurope.org/page/12/1.aspx
_______________

I suppose that we could say that the Lord is pleased to rescue the Orthodox from the fires of Hell through the prayers and almsgiving of the faithful but that Catholics, once there, are there for all eternity. But personally I would believe that Catholics also have the opportunity of deliverance from Hell.

"Libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de poenis inferni et de profundo lacu."




Re: Purgatory in Eastern Catholisicm [Re: Hieromonk Ambrose] #342153 01/26/10 10:23 PM
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Why not produce a couple of those prayers in their liturgical context, and let us examine them for ourselves?

Re: Purgatory in Eastern Catholisicm [Re: StuartK] #342164 01/26/10 11:16 PM
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We share, with the Coptic Orthodox, the same Three Kneeling Prayers at Pentecost.

It is the third of these Kneeling Prayers which contains prayers for those in Hell and the Copts have removed it from their Liturgy. They have, only recently, made a judgement that noone may be released from Hell and that this Prayer is therefore supportive of heresy.

I have not heard of other Oriental Orthodox Churches removing this Prayer so they must be continuing to pray for souls to be released from Hell.

Re: Purgatory in Eastern Catholisicm [Re: Hieromonk Ambrose] #342166 01/26/10 11:20 PM
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Much depends on the original language of the prayer. Hades is not Hell, yet many translations employ the term Hell when the original clearly means Hades.

Re: Purgatory in Eastern Catholisicm [Re: Hieromonk Ambrose] #342167 01/26/10 11:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Hieromonk Ambrose
The words of Father Cleopa may be the teaching of the whole Romanian Church or they may be his own private theologoumena. I do not know.

But certainly the common teaching of the Orthodox is that even the most serious sin may be forgiven after death. The scriptural foundation for this is 2 Maccabees 12: 39-46 where prayer and almsgiving by the living obtained trhe forgiveness of mortal sin for the dead.

I certainly pray and hope that what you say may be true, Father. Indeed, I pray and hope that the teaching of St Isaac the Syrian may ultimately prove true. If we may and should pray for the salvation of all, then I must acknowledge that universal salvation is a possibility, and I find that possibility very encouraging. But your comment raises two questions:

1) First, is it in fact the case that "the common teaching of the Orthodox is that even the most serious sin may be forgiven after death"? Is this historically true? Does the historical evidence in fact support your opinion? For example, St Mark of Ephesus appears to support the position of Elder Cleopas in his first homily on purgatory (included in Seraphim Rose, The Soul After Death):

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But we have received that even the souls which are held in hell and are already given over to eternal torments, whether in actual fact and experience or in hopeless expectation of such, can be aided and given a certain small help, although not in the sense of completely loosing them from torment or giving hope for a final deliverance.

St Mark then goes on to say that those who have "departed this life in faith and love, while nevertheless carrying away with themselves certain faults, whether small ones over which they have not repented at all, or great ones for which--even though they have repented over them--they did not undertake to show fruits of repentance" must first be cleansed (though not by purgatorial fire) before they are admitted into heaven.

Am I misunderstanding the teaching of St Mark?

Second, what does it mean to say that God may forgive even unrepented mortal sins after death? Surely it cannot mean that our prayers, even the prayers of the saints, might "persuade" God to forgive. God needs no persuasion to be merciful. His love and forgiveness is unconditional, as St Isaac so powerfully proclaims. The only meaning I can give to the notion that God "forgives" unrepented sin after death is that even after death sinners still have "time" to repent, however that "time" might be understood. But does this accord with what seems to me to be the consensual, or at least majority, teaching of the Fathers that the only time we have for repentance is the present time?

"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).

Perhaps here is a real difference between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. I believe that the magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church that the fundamental option of the individual for or against God is irrevocably established in the present life. It is indeed possible for an individual to definitively reject divine mercy and choose against God (though the Catholic Church does not know that anyone has in fact so chosen--hence the summons to pray for the salvation of all), and if he has definitively chosen Hell, then there can be no possibility of repentance before the general resurrection.

But when all is said, we know so very little. Lord, have mercy.

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