Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This really follows on from our discussion about prayers for those in Hell.
The Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory is not, of course held by the Orthodox - although I am sometimes unclear how different the idea of toll houses is from it. I have been trying to understand our teaching on this, and have reached a stage where I need at least a little (and possibly a lot of) help.
As I am reading it, the Orthodox teaching is that when we die we repose, awaiting final judgement, and there is no 'purification' process before then.
Hilary of Arles and St. Clement write that His mercy is so great that He can forgive every sin committed in thought, word and deed from the beginning to the end of the world. It is the trials of this life to which we think St. Peter is referring when he writes about being tested in the fire, an interpretation we take from, among others places, the Pastor of Hermas, Book I, Chapter III where we read:
Quote:For as gold is tested by fire, and thus becomes useful, so are you tested who dwell in it [the world] Those therefore who continue steadfast, and are put through the fire will be purified by means of it.
In his commentary on 1 Peter, the Ven. Bede writes:
Quote:Peter says that we must still suffer for a little while, because it is only through the sadness of the present age and its afflictions that it is possible to reach the joys of eternity. He stresses the fact that it is only ?for a little while,? because once we have entered our eternal reward, the years we spent suffering here below will seem like no time at all.
St. John Chrysostom tells us:
Quote:The righteous suffer so that they may be crowned with glory, but sinners suffer in order to bring judgement on their sins. But not all sinners pay the price of their sins in this life, but await the resurrection.
We would take into account here the view of St. Gregory the Great on 1 Corinthians 3:15, when he writes in Dialogue 4.41:
Quote:We should remember that in the world to come no one will be purged even of his slightest faults unless he has deserved such a cleansing through good works performed in this life.?
And we take that ?cleansing? to mean the Last Judgement, although it seems to me that we read it without taking into account the influence on him of Augustinian ideas of Grace.
Seeing the Church as a spiritual hospital, and Christ as the great healer of our hurts, we read 1 John 16 as telling us that our sins are already washed away by His love. As St. Isaac of Nineveh writes:
Quote:The sum of all is God, the Lord of all, who from love of His creatures has delivered His Son to death on the Cross. For God so loved the world that He gave is only-begotten Son for it. Not that He was unable to save us in any other way, but in this way it was possible to show us His abundant love abundantly, namely by bringing us near to Him by the death of His Son [Ascetical Homily 74)
So, for us, there is only one judgement after death ? the last one. Some, the unbelievers, will perish, because they are already condemned [ John 3: 18], for the rest of us, judgement will be pronounced, according to His great mercy and not according to our deserts, because He is the only Just Judge.
Is this a proper reading of the Orthodox position?
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)