Thursday, February 11, 2016

Elder Cleopas on praying for the dead

From the blog Artoklasia, a post entitled "Why Pray For the Dead?"

When you die you will face what is known as the partial judgment. This will include a complete examination of your life. With a good account you will be led by angels to a mystical place where we will anticipate the joys of Paradise awaiting the final judgment and your resurrection. If you do not know God at this point and have not lead a life of repentance you will be controlled by the demons who will lead you to a place where you anticipate the torments of Hell or an eternal life separated from God.

Elder Cleopas tells us this about those who are destined for eternal torments,

"If someone at the partial judgment is destined for eternal torments and is a Christian and servant of Christ, he has but one hope. His hope is in the intercession of living Christians who are able to pray to Christ for him to be rescued from the torments of hell or at least to find some relief from them." Paul tells us, "we must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (2 Cor 5:10) but Elder Cleopa points out that Paul also said to Timothy, "I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men." (1 Tim 2:1) Also James says, "Confess your sins to one another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16)

Elder Cleopa says, "Consequently, if our prayers are able to benefit the living for what reason are they powerless to benefit the dead, granted that they also live by their souls? God is everywhere present and hears both the prayers for the living and for the dead.

We can see in the Old Testament witness to prayers for the dead (2 Mac 12:442-45, Bar 3:4-5). We also see in Holy Tradition and in the Divine Liturgy prayers for the dead.

Praying for the dead does not place our hope of salvation in the hands of humans. Those who are separated from God will not be saved, but those who have their hope additionally in the prayers of men of faith may be helped through their prayers much like Paul depended on the prayers of his followers. We must remember that God is all powerful with unlimited goodness. He is surely able to rescind the eternal anguish of man. He asks for our love and our love of each other. When we pray for each other this is an act of love. We know the Theotokos and the angels and all the saints are always praying for us especially when we join with them in our services, such as a memorial for the dead or the Divine Liturgy. Jesus told us, "Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." (Mk 11:24) Elder Cleopas says, "Consequently, prayer for the reposed is not only a sign and strengthening of the love we share between us, but also proof of our faith. Thus the Savior says, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth." (Mk 9:23)

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16) we are told of a great chasm that exist between heaven and hell. Elder Cleopa tells 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 sinned very severely and did not confess their sin is the passage from 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 place, either in heaven or hell, will be decided definitely, inasmuch as after his judgment someone whose orientation was Hades can no longer pass over into Paradise. For those who sinned unto death, our prayers are completely futile...

God looks down from the heavens with attentiveness upon that which springs from love, for love is in its entirely the sum of His commandments."

- Elder Cleopas
The Truth of our Faith, 123-133


  1. This is a good post. There isn't enough definition in Orthodoxy when it comes to these topics.

    After reading this selection from Elder Cleopas, I still have lots of questions.

    1) Why would somebody who is a "Christian" be "destined for eternal torments" at a partial judgment? Does this just mean "baptized"? Does this mean that a good, Christian person can die and then be dragged down to hell by demons if nobody prays for their soul?

    2) What is this "mystical place" of "anticipation"? I thought the temporary place of the holy and wicked dead was dissolved after Christ's resurrection?

    3) There is some ambiguity here as to whether the dead proceed to subjectively experience the aeons without their bodies as they await the second coming.

    4) 2 Cor. 5:10 appears to be talking about the last judgment, not a partial judgment. Are we judged by Christ twice? If not, why are there only icons and theological understanding of the Second, not the First?

    I have more questions, but it would be nice to have a conversation about these. I've read Seraphim Rose's book "The Soul After Death" but honestly it raised more questions than it answered, as I didn't necessarily take all the anecdotal material at face value.

  2. This is actually pretty well stated. I usually can't help but be suspicious of certain holy persons' morbid ruminations on the post-mortem journey of the soul (anecdotal evidence of this sort is not grounds for dogma, and visions always seem to be oddly sourced from local traditions). But this is articulated without pretension and displays much noble restraint. Thanks for posting it.

    I think it bears mention that the distinction between this and the Roman Catholic doctrine of the purgatorial fire has less to do with a belief in a change of state after death than with retributive temporal punishment.

  3. Firstly, we condemn ourselves by the free choices we make. We answer for our sins. We submit to demons by choosing to sin, choosing sin over grace, and that estranges us from GOD. The demons don't judge us. They claim us, for through sin we surrender to them. So enough of the Calvinist puhaloite heretical nonsense.

    Demons don't judge us. We judge ourselves. The demons remind us of the choices we freely made in life to cavort with them. They claim what we have them by sinning and rejecting CHRIST.

    The Scriptures don't doubt the existence of demons. They affirm it and their war against GOD and humanity. Epistles of St. James and St. Peter are clear that works matter. St. Paul not only amplifies this teaching in both his Epistles to the Corinthians, he even condemns recalcitrant sinners. Meaning that once saved always saved is heretical, unscriptural nonsense.

    And what does the Sermon on the Mount mean other than what we do or don't do on earth in our free will will subject us to either theosis or eternal judgment because grace freely given can be rejected, even renounced?

    As an Orthodox Christian any time a given Scripture is hard for me I take it to CHRIST and to HIS Body, the Church. Here, and only here, will I find the Mind of CHRIST expressed by Fathers, Saints, services who have put on CHRIST and live in HIM in living Scripture. Thus, any "the gods must be crazy" vandalism of scripture, often perpetrated by Protestants and heretics is not considered by me, because in the Church the Logos lives and teaches and HIS Mind is revealed in purification, illumination, theosis through theania, theandria.

    I think Calvinists and puhalo-ites begin from the same heretical starting point outside of the Church, having never shaken off once saved, always saved (which is NOT Scriptural), ruminate on election and rasa damnata, shout double predestination at Orthodox teaching and expect Orthodoxy to recognize that they are the elect. You aren't. The Orthodox teaching of salvation does not conform to that heretical blasphemy, and you heretics don't know more than the Church.

    The Saints indeed participate in the eschaton and intercede for believers as they are glorified in CHRIST. They lived their lives in CHRIST in witness. Others await their Wedding Groom after the Particular Judgement for they await their wedding garments. They are going to the Wedding Banquet. Those awaiting condemnation await our prayers as the Church for relief, for "the prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

    Fr. Seraphim (Rose) did not present an original teaching. All of his detractors cringe when that truth is underscored. He presented the teaching of the Holy Fathers and Saints and services of the Church who speak in a CONSENSUS affirming the reality of the Toll houses. The Orthodox understanding of what constitutes the human person, sin, free will, etc. is where thise who lack Orthodox formations are tasked to go to make sense of Orthodox doctrine for themselves. It is here where you will find why Fathers, Saints and elders are to be revered and their thoughts taken as guiding principles. If you don't lack the humility to listen to the Mind of CHRIST, that is. Anyone who chooses Calvin, Bulgakov, Puhalo or themself over the teaching of the Church doesn't want to be with CHRIST, because such a person is worshipping rebellion, lies, their own pride. Well, we all know whose religious tennet is "non serviam!" People who reject the teaching of the Church reject CHRIST. And that is their free choice to make it. But your free choice will be to your judgement, for CHRIST has defeated sin and will not participate in yours.