There are two main theories concerning the fifth ecumenical council and its “alleged” condemnation of apocatastasis and Origen:
- Origen and/or apocatastasis was never explicitly condemned.
- Origen and apocatastasis were condemned and the fifteen Origenist anathemas were implicitly part of the council.
Origen and apocatastasis were never condemned. The first view is hard to get a finger on, because it is a chameleon. There is no single view of apocatastasis: Origen’s? Evagrius’? Saint Gregory of Nyssa’s? Pseduo-Isaac the Syrian’s? It would seem that to those espousing such a view that no condemnation could ever be “explicit” enough. Alura of Shameless Orthodoxy, for example, writes that:
- “There is no blanket condemnation of apocatastasis at II Constantinople.”
This would be like someone saying to Saint Athanasius there was no “blanket condemnation” of Arianism, to Saint Justinian there was no “blanket condemnation” of Nestorianism, or to Saint Maximus the Confessor there was no “blanket condemnation” of Miaphysitism. Its a logical fallacy I’d like to call “an appeal to endless specificity.”
An appeal to endless specificity presupposes a post-modernist uncertainty of knowledge–that we can never really know what is true. Unless a statement is so unequivocal that it cannot be understood in any other way, there is no way to convince such a person. However, could anything be stated unequivocal enough? Ironically, due to historical examples of Arius asserting he was not an Arian and Nestorius asserting he was not a Nestorian, it appears the Church has condemned the idea (though only implicitly) that people can constantly recast their beliefs and the meanings of their words. But that’s enough on this topic for now.
Father Kimel, another who doubts that the fifth ecumenical council condemned apocatastasis, made a similar statement:
- “[A] condemnation of a person by name, without specification of specific teachings, is dogmatically useless.”
This is problematic for the same reason as the above–it disregards “common knowledge” that the Origenist anathemas–specifically those in 543 AD and 553 AD* condemn Origenist apocostasis in as much detail as, what was thought to be, possible and that the council minutes were appended with these anathemas so that the consciousness of the Orthodox Church over centuries dictated that the fifth ecumenical council condemned apocatastasis and Origenism. Since the 7th century until the 19th century, the minutes always included the anathemas in 553 AD. The idea that apocatastasis was not condemned is admittedly a new idea by Father Kimel’s admission–just look at what he named his article. The fact that his thesis is new is proof enough that it is wrong.
*By way of review, in 543 AD Justinian had a list of 10 anathemas that condemned Origen which was signed onto by the Patriarchs, including Pope Vigilius. The ninth anathema condemned universalism as it condemned those who taught that “the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end” and the tenth condemned Origen in his person. The 553 AD anathemas were more specific, generally condemning Origenist ideas as explicated by a writer named Evagrius in the forth century, but also in more than a few places condemns apocatastasis and in its introduction condemns Origen by name.
Nevertheless, it is impossible to convince the likes of Father Kimel, because they refuse to take the historical evidence at its word. By his own admission in the aformentioned comment, he writes, “We don’t even know how many of the council bishops had even read Origen’s actual writings.” He also writes elsewhere that because the council fathers did not understand Origen, or what they were condemning, somehow the condemnation is not real. This is not even a logical fallacy, but simply “making stuff up”–how does Father Kimel know what as many as 165 bishops had in their heads? Its an empty accusation that anyone can throw at anyone else. It would be equivalent of the Arians accusing Athanasius of not really understanding Arianism and so invalidating his opposition to Arius and his followers.
For this reason, I have no desire to actually convince those with the first position in mind–because they admittedly, whether they know it or not, refuse to be convinced by the evidence. At least David Bentley Hart, in his travesty of a “book,” admitted that much.
Constantinople II did include the 15 anathemas. I want to focus on the second position–because I in fact contradicted it in my book review when I claimed the fifth ecumenical council was referencing the 543 AD anathemas. As follows is not exactly a correction, though certainly an elaboration on the topic. Let’s start with the common assertion that the fifth ecumenical council included the 553 AD anathemas and referred to them in their minutes.
There are many varying interpretations of the fifth council, but I assert here that the simplest explanation is probably best. Claudius Ptolemy allegedly said, “We consider it a good principle to explain the phenomena by the simplest hypothesis possible.” The Bibilical teaching is equivalent, though it essentially is a negation: “a fool’s voice is known by his many words” (Ecc 5:3 [LXX Ecc 5:2]). The point is, when interpreting a historical question, the simplest explanation with the least guessing is best.
The problem is that the historical data we have leads to no simple historical conclusion pertaining to the 553 AD anathemas, other than that apocatastasis (though not every possible formulation of the doctrine) and Origen in his person were certainly condemned–of this there can be no doubt.
As follows is a comprehensive treatment of the topic:
We know from Session V, Par 87 of Constantinople II that it was considered a settled fact that the Church had already condemned Origen and his doctrines. Further, it adds the curious detail that Pope Vigilius and “your holinesses” had already condemned Origen:
And we find indeed many others who were anathematized after death, including also Origen: if one goes back to the time of Theophilus of holy memory or even earlier, one will find him anathematized after death. This has been done even now in his regard by your holinesses and by Vigilius the most religious pope of Elder Rome.
One historian counts five previous condemnations of Origen preceding Theophilus’. Obviously, these condemnations are cited as precedent and are approved of. It should be noted that these five previous condemnations may have not touched upon apocatastasis specifically, as Theophilus did not in his council (see section 6). Nevertheless, it should be reiterated that the 543 AD and 553 AD anathemas did.
Let’s zero in on the statement: “even now in his regard by your holinesses and by Vigilius.” This can only refer to one of two things. Either there was a recent set of anathemas that members of the council ascribed to or there was a condemnation that was “recent” in some other sense–such as the 543 AD anathemas. Simply taking the words at face value, the 553 AD anathemas are likely being referenced.
The anathema in verse 11 of Session VIII of the same council likewise condemns Origen and his writings. This is important, because it addresses the whole issue of this “debate” between the universalists and the orthodox–if the 553 AD anathemas are being referred to, there can be no doubt that apocatastasis is declared heretical. If the 543 AD anathemas are referred to, there can be no doubt that both apocatastasis and universalism in general are declared to be heresies, as the ninth anathema absolutely disallows for both.
This may surprise people, though it should not. “Luminaries” (cf. 2 Cor 11:14) such as David Bentley Hart, who’s PHD should be lit on fire and has zero business calling himself a scholar, asserts that, “[S]ince the late nineteenth century various scholars have convincingly established that neither Origen nor ‘Origenism’ was ever the subject of any condemnation pronounced by the ‘holy fathers’ in 553.”
It is obvious that he never read the fifth council, nor did the “scholars” he cite.
In any event, there can be zero doubt that Origen was anathematized. So, let’s never pretend ever again that an ecumenical council “never condemned Origen.” The passage in Session VIII reads as follows:
If anyone does not anathematize Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinarius, Nestorius, Eutyches and Origen, with their impious writings, and all the other heretics condemned and anathematized by the holy catholic and apostolic church and by the aforesaid holy four councils, and those who held or hold tenets like those of the aforesaid heretics and persisted or persist in the same impiety till death, let him be anathema (v. 11).
Our earliest historical sources all concur that the fifth ecumenical council condemned Origen via the fifteen anathemas. The earliest source we have that interprets the council for us, and thereby the above passage, is the Life of Saint Sabas. It is dated at 558 AD at the very latest, which means it was written within five years of the council.
When the fifth holy ecumenical council had assembled at Constantinople a common and universal anathema was directed against Origen and Theodore of Mopsuestia and against the teaching of Evagrius and Didymus on pre-existence and a universal restoration [lit. “restitution of all things” or “apocatastasis”], in the presence and with the approval of the four patriarchs (Life of Sabas, quoted from Vol 2 of Price’s Constantinople II, p. 270).
The second earliest source we have was written approximately 593-594 AD: Evagrius Scholasticus’ Ecclesiastical History. This is written forty years after the council. The following is what Evagrius records for us:
Justinian asked the assembled synod concerning these matters, after attaching both a copy of the deposition and the missives to Vigilius concerning these things…Accordingly a reply to Justinian was given by the synod, after it had made acclamations against Origen and his companions in error (Ibid., p. 271).
According to Price, further retellings of the event in the seventh century follow that of Evagrius Scholasticus.
What may we conclude from the preceding? It seems that “even now in his regard by your holinesses and by Vigilius” is a reference to the participants of the fifth council signing onto the fifteen anathemas as every single historical source we have tells us. Pope Vigilius, probably before the council acted, in some way consented to the same after receiving “a copy of the deposition and the missives” written by Justinian. If so, this means I was in error in asserting that the 11th verse is an explicit reference to the 543 AD anathemas.
A case for the 543 AD anathemas to be referenced by Constantinople II. In what way did Vigilius consent to the 553 AD anathemas? I am going to make the case that it was probably his ascription to the 543 AD anathemas that is being referred to. Further, in consequence, I think it is most likely that the council fathers would have viewed the 543 AD anathemas as authoritative. We have the following reasons:
First, Session V indicates that the council approved of Theophilus’ anathemas, which is in keeping with the ecumenical councils affirming churchwide as well as local condemnations, such as that of Valentinus. For example, Chalcedonian and Constantinople II fathers took for granted that past condemnations of Valentinus were binding (Chalcedon: Session 1, v. 164, v. 551; Constantinople II: Session V, v. 64; Pope Vigilius’ First Constitutum, v. 228) even without a prior ecumenical council weighing in on the issue. If the Church condemned a heresy somewhere in a local council or simply it was understood to be condemned by the consciousness of the Church, it was treated as authoritative. It is in some ways analogous to a local saint canonization. Therefore, all previous condemnations would have been approved as consistent with the Church’s historic condemnation of Origen (as Session V posits). I admit this argument is a stretch, but not so far of a stretch to be irrelevant.
Second, Justinian held Constantinople II with no hope of reconciling the miaphysites in the near future. This suggests (according to Father Price) that the council was merely held to cloak with Churchwide authority* what Justinian already declared to be church policy (since 544 AD Justinian was requiring bishops to condemn the three chapters). Hence, being that Justinian penned the 543 AD anathemas only shortly before his own condemnation of the three chapters, it is extremely unlikely that the council fathers acting at his behest would have referred to Origen’s condemnation as a given without taking for granted that the 543 AD condemnations were also in view.
*It has been suggested by Father Price that the political purpose of Constantinople II was to cow the western churches. This is why Pope Vigilius’ capitulation was so important. The fifth ecumenical council proved to be successful in achieving this goal.
Lastly, but most importantly, it is extremely unlikely (though not impossible) that Pope Vigilius would have condemned Origen in 553 AD, prior to the fifth session. Why? One just needs to simply read the torturously written First Constitutim, issued in the May of the same year. Long story short, Vigilius painstakingly interprets every single passage of the three chapters, gives an interpretation and condemnation completely in accordance with the council fathers, and then refuses to condemn the chapters and reiterates his excommunications against the council fathers (who were excommunicated before the council). Why? Here is one passage which sums it up for us:
…that our fathers…preserved unharmed the persons of priests who had died in the peace of the church, and that, as we said above, the same was defined canonically by decrees of the apostolic see, namely that no one is permitted to pronounce any new judgement on the persons of the deceased but that they are to be left exactly as the last day found each one (First Constitutum, v. 219).
Vigilius absolutely refused to condemn people after they die and is emphatic on this point. Being that Pope Vigilius was essentially being tortured and starved into submission, it seems unthinkable that he would have publicly opposed the council at the 11th hour on no grounds other than not condemning people after they die–only to have done such merely weeks before.
This means the simplest explanation is that the council in Session V was referring to Pope Vigilius’ “recent” 543 AD condemnation of Origen. According to Price, “In 543 Vigilius signed Justinian’s edict condemning Origen, who had
no friends in the west” (Vol 1, p. 43). Liberatus of Carthage (a contemporary) confirms this, as does Cassiodorus (another contemporary.)
Granted, we cannot discount the possibility that Vigilius simply contradicted himself very publicly in a matter of weeks on a huge issue. However, I think anyone who has actually read the First Constitutim, which was called by one Roman Catholic interpreter one of the finest pieces of theological writings in the early church (which is saying much because Vigilius is not a saint), would conclude that Vigilius is far too careful of a theological thinker to have pulled an embarrassing 180 degree turn, without some sort of explanatiion (like he did in his Second Constitutim) in such a short period of time. He must have anticipated that signing onto the 553 AD anathemas and condemning Origen would have undercut the very premise he had for opposing the council–a council that he was not actively working with and whose members were already all excommunicated.
So, what are we to make of Session V’s claim that Vigilius’ anathematization of Origen was “recent?” We can only speculate, though I think the preceding makes it impossible that he had signed onto the 553 AD anathemas before the First Constitutim. It is possible that Justinian sent the 553 AD anathemas to Vigilius (as the early historians state) and he took a lack of reply or some sort of acquiescent non-committal reply as approval of the anathemas. Or, Vigilius’ earlier acceptance of the 543 AD anathemas was posed to the council in the place of a Vigilius’ non-reply. Ultimately, we do not know. In either event, the fact that Vigilius had about 10 years earlier signed onto the 543 AD anathemas is the only factual event that makes any subsequent speculation work.
What are we to make of Pseudo-Anastasius’ letter between Vigilius and Justinian that allegedly showed the 553 AD anathemas were explicitly condemned by Vigilius? If I have the same Pseudo-Anastasius in mind, he is a source centuries later and he cites potential forgeries which have details that are incorrect (such as the “Donation of Pepin”). That, in addition to the fact we already know that he is a deceiver not writing under his own name, renders his account suspect to say the least.
Conclusion. From the preceding, one may conclude that Origen and apocatastasis were condemned by the fifth ecumenical council, as was taken for granted by all contemporary sources and the seventh council itself. It is not “obvious,” as I claimed previously, that the 543 AD anathemas are specifically invoked by the council. The historical evidence is that the 553 AD anathemas were viewed as containing the authority of the fifth council. Nevertheless, the case has been made that one may infer that the 543 AD anathemas were likewise considered authoritative by the same council.
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Thank you for this article, Craig. You’ve researched the topic thoroughly, and I appreciate that.
One note regarding Pseudo-Anastasius: You said, “he is a deceiver not writing under his own name, renders his account suspect to say the least.” Such a practice was common in ancient times – it doesn’t make the person a deceiver. Admittedly though, everything such a person writes should be carefully evaluated, whether it is of a historical or theological nature.
Utilizing such an attack is a double-edged sword that will inevitably cut the person who wields it. The corpus attributed to St. Dionysius was most likely not written by the Areopagite from the Acts of the Apostles, but he is not considered a deceiver. Rather, his works are held in high esteem by the Church.
Aside from that, your article addresses the apocatastasis catastrophe well and I enjoyed reading it.
Fair enough comment. Historically speaking, Pseudo Dionysus is something I struggle a lot with.
It need not be a struggle, in my opinion. I’m not sure if this speaks to your doubts but the way I look at it is the following: Has the Church accepted something as good, even authoritative? If the consensus of the Church says yes, then authorship doesn’t really matter. The same could be said about several books of the Bible. Some of the Old Testament and Epistles have questionable authorship. But that doesn’t really matter because the content is accepted without hesitation by the Church. Regardless of authorship, it is the discernment of the Church that gives credibility to any writing.
Did you know the seventh ecumenical council quotes from the Areopagite as from St. Dionysius naming him as such?
It also cites canons from the council of Jersualem from the 1st century. What’s your point? That questionable historical accuracy also means questionable doctrinal accuracy? Have you ever read your bible?
I don’t think this is the debate you want to choose, lol. I am not absolutely in favor of apokatastasis as the universal reconciliation of friendship with God.
I do though believe there is an Orthodox Apokatastasis which is the universal restoration of nature. But deification is not proper to human nature, so it is no prejudice to the reprobate.
The point is that certain canons say certain things. In the context of a single council with two groups of canons regarding the same subject, a subject whose content is spelled out by the emperor who called it, both the letter and the later canons interpret the context and the former canons.
We can both agree on a traditional Orthodox dogma of hell. But let’s be wary of making canons and councils say what we want, and not what the council fathers intended.
The notion of “Orthodoxy at any price!” To the detriment of the historical record is more worthy of Catholic Answers than yourself Craig. I enjoy your apologetics. Let’s just temper it with greater historical accuracy and nuance. That’s all I’m saying.
You can delete that reply Craig- my context was flipped in my mind.
I don’t fully favor apokatastasis as taught by Origenists. At all really.
It is helpful to know though that Justinian wrote a letter to the council detailing the specifics of what was being condemned.
And what was specifically being condemned in the mind of St. Justinian and the council fathers was the notion that-
A. Given souls pre-exist, they have fallen into matter.
B. That the resurrection, in its fullness will be a return to the pre-matter state
C. And therefore the resurrected soul and Christ will abandon its body
D. Being reunited into a single spiritual Christ substance.
The notion of reconciliation proper is not condemned, but a recapitulation of all things that sheds the body and unites into a single spiritual thing.
That is precisely what Constantinople II condemned.
St. Justinian writing-
“Moreover, [they assert] that the sun, the moon and the stars, belonging themselves to the same henad of rational beings, became what they are through turning to what is worse, while the rational beings who for the greater part grew cold in divine love were named souls and were decked in our more dense bodies, and those who had reached the acme of evil were bound to cold and dark bodies and became and are named demons; and that from the state of the angels originates that of the soul, and from that of the soul that of demons and human beings, and from the whole henad of rational beings one mind alone remained undeviating and constant in divine love and contemplation, and it became Christ and King and a human being; and that there will be a total destruction of bodies with the Lord himself first shedding his own body and [then] of all the others; and that all will be raised again to the same henad and become minds (as they were in their pre-existence), when indeed the devil himself and the other demons are restored to the same henad, and when impious and godless human beings will be with godly and inspired men and the heavenly powers and will enjoy the same union with God that Christ too enjoys, just as in their pre-existence, with the result that there will be no difference at all between Christ and the remaining rational beings, neither in substance nor in knowledge nor in power nor in operation. For Pythagoras said that the origin of everything was the monad;55 and again Pythagoras and Plato, after asserting there is a whole company of bodiless souls, say that those who fall into some sin or other are made to descend into bodies as a punishment.
On account of these wicked and destructive doctrines, or rather ravings, we bid you most sacred ones to assemble together, read the appended exposition attentively, and condemn and anathematize each of these articles together with the impious Origen and all those who hold or have held these beliefs till death.”
One of the anathemas from 543 ad condemned that there can be any end of damnation. This even contradicts st gregory of nyssa. so, it pretty much condemns any flavor of apokatastasis.
But does it occur outside this context or within it? Were these cabins admitted or were the later canons admitted? Did one set supersede another?
Canons! Not cabins!
I do not quite think of this ultra-legalistically. If it helps at all, check out this article: https://orthodoxchristiantheology.com/2020/06/08/confuting-universalism-with-conciliar-fundamentalism/. The saints affirm eternal damnation in prayers and Nicea ii as well. Constan II is actually not the strongest evidence of the traditional teaching, though it is remembered as such.
Accuracy in thought and historical context are not a moral failure, lol. They don’t constitute legalism. What we need to be careful of is a certain kind of illusory authority that took over Catholicism, where theologians maintain certain opinions, and the same theologians teach their opinions are of a certain dogmatic value, and all said theologians explain theologically why they should bind you.
But these opinions are all smoke and mirrors because they have no greater validation than the opinions of those same and other theologians in the first place. It’s like trying to bootstrap your authority and leads to false teachings.
Let’s beware of that in Orthodoxy as well. That’s all.
From the website, Papal Encyclicals Online, we find the following information regarding this council: ( https://www.papalencyclicals.net/councils/ecum05.htm)
“The council did not debate ecclesiastical discipline nor did it issue disciplinary canons. Our edition does not include the text of the anathemas against Origen since recent studies have shown that these anathemas cannot be attributed to this council.”
Modern scholarship, which Craig apparently finds anathema because it torpedoes a large portion of his hellist desires for mankind, has come to a conclusion which was hidden from the fathers of the sixth and seventh ecumenical councils, i.e. , that the canons of Justinian are bogus.
In fact, looking at the behavior of the emperor, one would have to really question the entire validity of the council. Is a council held under threat, violence, and duress a true council in any sense of the word? The initial desire of Justinian in calling the council was to find a way to unite the warring factions (Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian) so that the empire would have unity rather than the fractions and disssent that was ripping it apart.
Craig seems bent on proving that God must torture sinners forever. To what point, Craig? What is accomplished, what goal is achieved by a never-ending torment? How does this idea mesh with the many verses in Scripture which promise “mercy upon all?” Which has more authority, a council run by a emperor who was not above torturing a bishop of the Church to get his way, or the Sacred Scriptures?
I know that the Scriptures have divine imprimature. I also know that councils can be wrong (i.e., the “Robber’s Council of Ephesus.”) I think I shall go with the Scriptures over the councils, for in studying history, I see far too much politics and not enough Spirit of God in this particular council.
That research is far old than Father Price’s for one. Another, I made my argument from the primary sources in which to show the older conjectures to be wrong. Your additional emotional rejoinders do not help make your argument either.
Might you kindly answer my questions? It seems that all those folks with whom I discuss/debate this issue do not wish to answer questions. Kind of like how David Bentley Hart is treated.
What is accomplished by eternal torment/punishment? All things done, all actions taken are taken to a goal. What is the goal of eternal never ending punishment, seeing that the action has no telos?
Scripture states that God will have mercy on ALL. Not a few, not the “elect” not five percent of all who ever live – ALL. How does this mesh with the idea that most human beings will not experience mercy, but rather wrath?
Answers are expected from those who wish to be apologists for their ideas. Answers will be appreciated. Thank you.
Craig continues to dodge me and my questions. He isn’t brave enough to take on Dr. Hart in a debate because Dr. Hart would eat him alive.
I hope you find Orthodoxy some day, Craig. Right now you appear to be kind in a no man’s land between the Roman Catholicism of Western thought (i.e., that God is the Judge, Punisher, and Eternally Offended One who gets His revenge) and Orthodoxy. Can’t be a comfortable place to be.
Justinian seems to be the bully that forced this horrible teaching on us that spawned Islam and Darwinism, Charles D states he left the faith because of this, millions of others have also and still are. Because it’s not true and God is love. If you have to search this hard to find if and when Apokatastasis was condemned at all , when Augustine says “very many” held this view, looks very very, suspicious, especially considering that THIS ISSUE IS PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT AND IMPACTFUL ISSUE IN THE ENTIRETY OF RELIGIOUS THOUGHT, namely, what is the eventual destiny of the vast majority of humanity? Dare we rush through this with assumptions and fiddler on the roof style “tradition”?
Do an in-depth study of Justinian and Constantinople II and you will discover that this council was more a political council with political aims than a religious one. And “Saint” Justinian was a THUG and hardly a saint.
St. Paisios the Athonite: “Let us struggle with all our powers to gain Paradise. The gate is very narrow, and don’t listen to those who say that everyone will be saved. This is a trap of Satan so that we won’t struggle.”
EVIDENCE FROM CHURCH SERVICES OF ETERNAL HELL
From Soul Saturday
From the ever-burning fire, from the darkness without light, from the gnashing of teeth and the worm that torments without ceasing, from every punishment deliver, O our Saviour, all who have died in faith. (Ode 5 of the Matins Canon)
From the Sunday of the Last Judgment
The books will be opened and the acts of men will be revealed before the unbearable judgment-seat; and the whole vale of sorrow shall echo with the fearful sound of lamentation, as all the sinners, weeping in vain, are sent by Thy just judgment to everlasting torment. Therefore we beseech Thee, O compassionate and loving Lord: spare us who sing Thy praise, for Thou alone art rich in mercy. (Vespers Sticheron on “Lord, I have cried”, Tone 6)
I lament and weep when I think of the eternal fire, the outer darkness and the nether world, the dread worm and the gnashing of teeth and the unceasing anguish that shall befall those who have sinned without measure, by their wickedness arousing Thee to anger, O Supreme in love. Among them in my misery I am first: but, O Judge compassionate, in Thy mercy save me. (Vespers Sticheron on “Lord, I have cried”, Tone 6)
Think, my soul, of the fearful examination before the Judge; in trembling prepare thy defence, lest thou be condemned to the eternal bonds. (Ode 6 of the Matins Canon)
Deliver me, O Lord, from the gates of hell, from chaos and darkness without light, from the lowest depths of the earth and the unquenchable fire, and from all the other everlasting punishments. (Ode 6 of the Matins Canon)
When Thou, O God, shalt judge all things, who among us earthborn men shall dare to stand before Thee, for we are all beset by the passions? Then the unquenchable fire and the destroying worm shall seize the condemned and hold them fast for ever. (Ode 7 of the Matins Canon)
Wednesday of the First Week
Elijah, glorified by fasting, rode in the divine chariot of the virtues and was carried up to the height of heaven. Eagerly follow his example, O my humble soul, and fast from every evil, from envy, strife and passing pleasure. So shalt thou escape the harsh and everlasting agony of Gehenna, crying out to Christ: Glory be to Thee, O Lord. (Vespers Sticheron on “Lord, I have cried”, Tone 2)
Fifth Sunday in Lent
‘During thy life,’ said Abraham to the rich man, ‘thou hast lived in wealth and luxury; so now thou art tormented in the fire eternally, while Lazarus the poor man rejoices in unending gladness.’ (Ode 5 of the Matins Canon)
From Holy Week
Behold, the Bridegroom cometh at midnight, and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching: and again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep, lest thou be given up to death and lest thou be shut out of the Kingdom. But rouse thyself crying: Holy, holy, holy, art Thou, O our God. Through the Theotokos, have mercy on us. (Apolytikion of the Bridegroom, Tone 8)
O wretched soul, think of thy last hours. Be dismayed at the rebuking of the fig tree. Act, and double the talent given to thee with a fatigue-loving purpose. Awake, watching and crying out, lest we remain outside the chamber of Christ. (Kontakion of Holy Tuesday)
When thou didst help the Disciples at the Supper and knewest the intend of Judas to betray, thou didst reproach him for it, knowing all the while that he was beyond redemption; but preferring to make known to all that thou wast betrayed of thine own will, so that thou might snatch the world from the stranger. Wherefore, O long-suffering one, glory to thee. (Kathisma from the Twelve Passion Gospels Matins, Tone 7)
These prayers do not have the authority of either an ecumenical council, nor of the Sacred Scriptures. There is nothing in Sacred Scripture which points to an eternal torment of the wicked. It is unfortunate that the Eastern Church has picked up on the errors and paganism of Roman Catholicism and incorporated that into their thinking.
Notice how the prayers borrow from Scripture, yet wrongly do so. “. . . the worm that dieth not and the unquenchable fire . . .” This is from the Gospels, and is an account, not of the life to come, but of the destruction of Jerusalem. The bodies of those Jews who ignored Christ were thrown into the garbage dump of Jerusalem after the city was destroyed in AD 70. That garbage dump was in the Valley of Gehenna, a place WHERE THE WORMS NEVER DIED AND THE FIRE WAS UNQUENCHABLE. Yet lazy and stupid translators and interpreters of the Scriptures, guided by the Roman Catholic ideas of legal justice, interpreted them to mean the end of the world and hell. I wouldn’t DARE try to translate any text I found in a foreign language I didn’t understand, yet the Roman Catholic translators, such as Jerome and Augustine, did just that – and screwed it up mightily! The result is not the “Good News” (the Gospel) but rather the horrible news of an angry God kept at bay only by the intercession of Jesus and Mary (I actually saw this in a post by a RC “visionary.”) holding Him back from smiting us all! Does this visionary even realize that she has divided the Trinity and created three gods???
HOW did the Greek Church get this so wrong??? Fortunately, many of the Orthodox priests and laity today are beginning to discover that this hellfire and torment is Roman Catholic theologoumenon and are rejecting it. Men like Metropolitan Timothy Ware, Professor Fr. John Behr, and others. The Orthodox who are keeping this nasty tale alive are almost always converts to Orthodoxy who come into the Church with a pile of Western baggage.
As one Orthodox writer said “I am glad they found Orthodoxy. Now let us pray that Orthodoxy finds them.”
By the way . . . if anyone is interested, I address Constantinople II and a number of other so-called “proofs” of eternal hell in my new book, A Layman Investigates Universal Salvation:
Link is not working because it is a Kindle link and the Kindle version is not up yet. You can find on Amazon.