On the Baptism of Tears

St. John Climacus ca. 7th cent.

The tears that come after Baptism are greater than Baptism itself, though it may be rash to says so. Baptism washes off those evils that were previously within us, whereas the sins committed after baptism are washed away by tears. The Baptism received by us as children we have all defiled, but we cleanse it anew with our tears. (Step 7, On Mourning)

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

We have been baptized as babies, unaware; as incomplete we also incompletely received the grace, receiving the remission from the first trangression. (On the Mystical Life, The Ethical Discourses. Vol. 3: Life, Times, and Theology, p. 118)

The first Baptism has the water which foreshadows the tears, [and] it has the myron of the anointing which signifies beforehand the intelligible myron of the Spirit. The second [Baptism], however, is no longer a type of the truth, but is the truth itself. (On the Mystical Life, The Ethical Discourses. Vol. 3: Life, Times, and Theology, p. 117)

On Demonic Encounters at the Departure of the Soul

Lk. 12:20 But God said to him, Fool! This night they demand your soul from you; and that which you prepared, to whom will it be?

Jn. 14:30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on Me…

Eph. 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Jude 1:9 But when the Archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”

Met. Hierotheos Vlachos of Nafpaktos

Also related to the foregoing is the teaching of both Holy Scripture and the holy fathers about the taxing of souls… We find this topic in the whole biblico-patristic tradition and it corresponds to a reality which we need to look at in order to prepare ourselves for the dreadful hour of death… According to the teaching of the Fathers of the Church, the soul at its departure from the body, as well as when it is preparing to leave, senses the presence of demons who are called customs demons, and is possessed with fear because of having to pass through customs.

Of course we must say from the start that the customs demons have no sovereignty over the righteous, those who have united with Christ. The righteous not only will not go through the “customs-houses”, but they will also not be in fear of that. We shall see this better when we compare the teachings of the Fathers… the tax collectors, in their effort to collect as many taxes as they could — and especially in order not to let some people escape who could not accept the very heavy and unjust tax — contrived various means: they would lie in wait in narrow roads and seize passers-by, forcing them to give what they owed. It was very unpleasant and odious to the people of that time. It is just this familiar and odious image which the Fathers used in order to give the people of that time an understanding of the terrible mystery of death and of the terrible things that unfold when the soul is being prepared for departure, especially when it is leaving the body.

The image of the tax collectors certainly belongs to the reality of that time. But the teaching that the demons try to seize a man’s soul at its departure is mentioned in many texts of Holy Scripture and of the Fathers of the Church. We have already seen that after death the souls of the righteous are received by the angels and the souls of the of sinners by the demons. With the malice which all the demons have against men, they would like to dominate everyone and have them in their power forever. But they cannot have authority over the righteous.

A basic passage which the Fathers of the Church interpret as referring to the customs demons is what Christ said shortly before His Passion: “for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in me” (Jn. 14, 30). The ruler is this world is the devil. He is called the ruler of the world not because he is really the ruler and final authority in the whole world, but because he dominates the world of the unjust…

St. Paul, referring to the spiritually dead who were deprived of the grace of God, writes: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the ways of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2, 1-2). This passage indicates that men are deadened by sins and the work of the devil.

Likewise the devil is characterised as the prince of the power of the air because he is in the atmosphere and is constantly waging war on men. It is precisely this image which the Fathers have in view, saying that when the soul leaves the body and passes through the air towards heaven, it meets the ruler of the air. The passage also mentions that this ruler is working now too in the sons of disobedience.

There are many passages in the Old Testament which the Fathers use to indicate what is called the souls’ payment of customs duties. I should like to mention two of them. One comes from a psalm of David in which the Prophet King speaks to God and says: “0 Lord my God, in you I put my trust; save me from all those who persecute me; and deliver me, lest they tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces, with no one to rescue me” (Psalm 7, 1-2). The other passage is in the book of the Prophet Jeremiah, where it says: “there seemed to be a fire burning in my bones; I was wearied and could not endure, for I heard many mocking me on every side” (Jer. 20, 9-10). (Life After Death pg. 65)

Met. Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk

According to the patristic view widespread in the East, the soul of the righteous encounters angels after its departure from the body (this opinion is partly based on Luke 16:22), but demons torture the soul of a sinner. One of the homilies of Macarius of Egypt speaks of this…We find a similar concept of the fate of a person after death in Blessed Diadochus, the bishop of Photiki, who says that people who have not confessed their sins during life will be terror-stricken at the hour of death. And “he who then finds himself in fear will not pass freely by the prince of Hades, because they consider the timidity of this soul to be a sign of its co-participation in their evil deeds.” But the soul of the God-loving person that bears repentance for sins, at the hour of separation from the body “is borne from the world by angels beyond all the dark hordes, because such a soul is inspired by spiritual love in some way.” It is said in both Macarius and Diadochus that demons meet the souls of sinners, while the souls of the righteous fall into the arms of angels. There exists, however, another idea, according to which the soul of every person, including the righteous, endures trials after death. Basil the Great, speaking on the “steadfast divine ascetics, who have sufficiently grappled with invisible enemies all their life,” claims that when they find themselves at the end of life, “the prince of this age comes to know of it, in order to keep them for himself if there can be found any wounds on them received during the battle, or any kind of stain or imprint of sin.”

…The testimony of another type of patristic literature is the fundamental teaching on the “tribulations” — trials in the afterlife that the soul of each persons endures. This teaching found reflection in various memorials of Byzantine ascetic and hagiographic literature, particularly in The Torments of Blessed Theodora. Described in this account is an experience of going through twenty torments (“tollhouses”), each of which correspond to one of the sins: a person must give answer to the demon-torturer for every sin committed, and if hat person cannot prove their innocence, they will not be permitted to go on to the next torment. To a modern person, such descriptions can seem to be the stuff of fantasy or some kind of unhealthy “eschatological sadism,” although the experience of people who have survived clinical death, researched by doctors, psychologists, and theologians, in some cases support the testimony in these ordeals. (Orthodox Christianity, Doctrine and Teaching of the Orthodox Church Vol. II pp. 499-501)

St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165

For the passage, ‘Deliver my soul from the sword, and my only-begotten from the hand of the dog; save me from the lion’s mouth, and my humility from the horns of the unicorns,’ is indicative of the suffering by which He should die, i.e., by crucifixion. For the ‘horns of the, unicorns,’ I have already explained to you, are the figure of the Cross only. And the prayer that His soul should be saved from the sword, and lion’s mouth, and hand of the dog, was a prayer that no one should take possession of His soul: so that, when we arrive at the end of life, we may ask the same petition from God, who is able to turn away every shameless evil angel from taking our souls. (Dialogue with Trypho 105)

St. Melito of Sardis died ca. 180

And what was taken from earth was dissolved, and what was given from God was confined in Hades; and there was separation of what fitted beautifully, and the beautiful body was split apart. For man was being divided by death; a strange disaster and captivity were enclosing him, and he was dragged off a prisoner under the shadows of death, and desolate lay the Father’s image. (On Pascha, 54-56)

Tertullian ca. 160-220

Undoubtedly, when the soul, by the power of death, is released from its concretion with the flesh, it is by the very release cleansed and purified: it is, moreover, certain that it escapes from the veil of the flesh into open space, to its clear, and pure, and intrinsic light; and then finds itself enjoying its enfranchisement from matter, and by virtue of its liberty it recovers its divinity, as one who awakes out of sleep passes from images to verities. Then it tells out what it sees; then it exults or it fears, according as it finds what lodging is prepared for it, as soon as it sees the very angel’s face, that arraigner of souls, the Mercury of the poets. (A Treatise on the Soul 53)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235

For as a serpent cannot mark its track upon a rock, so the devil could not find sin in the body of Christ. For the Lord says, Behold, the prince of this world comes, and will find nothing in me. (Jn. 14:30) (On Proverbs)

And when those who are conducted by the angels appointed unto the souls have passed through this gate, they do not proceed on one and the same way; but the righteous, being conducted in the light toward the right, and being hymned by the angels stationed at the place, are brought to a locality full of light…. But the unrighteous are dragged toward the left by angels who are ministers of punishment, and they go of their own accord no longer, but are dragged by force as prisoners. And the angels appointed over them send them along, reproaching them and threatening them with an eye of terror, forcing them down into the lower parts. And when they are brought there, those appointed to that service drag them on to the confines or hell. And those who are so near hear incessantly the agitation, and feel the hot smoke. And when that vision is so near, as they see the terrible and excessively glowing spectacle of the fire, they shudder in horror at the expectation of the future judgment, (as if they were) already feeling the power of their punishment. (Against Plato, On the Cause of the Universe)

Origen of Alexandria ca. 185-254

Who could follow the soul of a martyr as it passes beyond all the powers of the air and makes its way toward the altar of heaven? Blessed is that soul which, by the crimson of its blood poured out in martyrdom, puts to rout the ranks of the demons of the air advancing toward it. Blessed is he of whom the angels shall sing the prophetic words as he enters into heaven: “Who is this that comes up from Bosra?”(Hom. in Judic., 7.2. excerpted from “The Angels and Their Mission” by Jean Danielou pg. 115)

St. Alexander of Alexandria died ca. 326

For the form indeed lay rotting in the ground; but that inspiration which had been as the breath of life, was detained separate from the body in a dark place, which is called Hades. There was, therefore, a division of the soul from the body; it was banished ad infernos, while the latter was resolved into dust; and there was a great interval of separation between them; for the body, by the dissolution of the flesh, becomes corrupt; the soul being loosened from it, its action ceases. For as when the king is thrown into chains, the city falls to ruin; or as when the general is taken captive, the army is scattered abroad; or as when the helmsman is shaken off, the vessel is submerged; so when the soul is bound in chains, its body goes to pieces; as the city without its king, so its members are dissolved; as is the case with an army when its general is lost, they are drowned in death, even as happens to a vessel when deprived of its helmsman. The soul, therefore, governed the man, as long as the body survived; even as the king governs the city, the general the army, the helmsman the ship. But it was powerless to rule it, from the time when it was immoveably tied to it, and became immersed in error; therefore it was that it declined from the straight path, and followed tempters, giving heed to fornication, idolatry, and shedding of blood; by which evil deeds it has destroyed the proper manhood. Nay, but itself also being carried at length to the lower regions, it was there detained by the wicked tempter. (On the Soul and Body and Passion of the Lord, 3)

St. Anthony the Great ca. 251-356

For once, when about to eat, having risen up to pray about the ninth hour, he perceived that he was caught up in the spirit, and, wonderful to tell, he stood and saw himself, as it were, from outside himself, and that he was led in the air by certain ones. Next certain bitter and terrible beings stood in the air and wished to hinder him from passing through. But when his conductors opposed them, they demanded whether he was not accountable to them. And when they wished to sum up the account from his birth, Antony’s conductors stopped them, saying, ‘The Lord has wiped out the sins from his birth, but from the time he became a monk, and devoted himself to God, it is permitted you to make a reckoning.’ Then when they accused him and could not convict him, his way was free and unhindered. And immediately he saw himself, as it were, coming and standing by himself, and again he was Antony as before.

After this, when he once had a discussion with certain men who had come to him concerning the state of the soul and of what nature its place will be after this life, the following night one from above called him, saying, ‘Antony, rise, go out and look.’ Having gone out therefore (for he knew whom he ought to obey) looking up, he beheld one standing and reaching to the clouds, tall, hideous, and fearful, and others ascending as though they were winged. And the figure stretched forth his hands, and some of those who were ascending were stayed by him, while others flew above, and having escaped heaven-ward, were borne aloft free from care. At such, therefore, the giant gnashed his teeth, but rejoiced over those who fell back. And immediately a voice came to Antony, ‘Do you understand what you see?’ And his understanding was opened, and he understood that it was the passing of souls, and that the tall being who stood was the enemy who envies the faithful. And those whom he caught and stopped from passing through are accountable to him, while those whom he was unable to hold as they passed upwards had not been subservient to him. So having seen this, and as it were being reminded, he struggled the more daily to advance towards those things which were before. And these visions he was unwilling to tell, but as he spent much time in prayer, and was amazed, when those who were with him pressed him with questions and forced him, he was compelled to speak, as a father who cannot withhold ought from his children. And he thought that as his conscience was clear, the account would be beneficial for them, that they might learn that discipline bore good fruit, and that visions were oftentimes the solace of their labours. (St. Athanasius: Life of St. Anthony, Chaps. 65-66)

St. Pachomius the Great ca. 292-346

As for you, my son, shun the satisfactions of this age, so as to be happy in the age to come. Do not be negligent, letting the days pass by till unexpectedly they come looking for you and you arrive at the straits of your anguish and the ‘horror-faces’* surround you and drag you off violently to their dark place of terror and anguish. Do not be sad when you are cursed by men; be sad and sigh when you sin — this is the true curse — and when you go away bearing the sores of your sins.

If you have hit your brother, you will be handed over to pitiless angels and you will be chastised in torments of fire for all eternity. (Pachomian Koinonia III: Instructions, Letters, and Other Writings of Saint Pachomius and His Disciples. The Instructions of Saint Pachomius, 23,41)

St. Macarius the Great ca. 295-392

When the soul of a man departs from the body, a certain great mystery is there enacted. If a person is under the guilt of sin, bands of demons and fallen angels approach along with the powers of darkness which capture the soul and drag it as a captive to their place. No one should be suprised by this fact. For if, while a man lived in this life, he was subject to them and was their obedient slave, how much more, when he leaves this world, is he captured and controlled by them? (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 22)

[T]he angel of the Lord that had appeared to him earlier in his [St. Macarius] life, appeared surrounded with heavenly hosts and said to him, ‘Come with us, for all of these are waiting for you.’ The saint replied and said, ‘My master Lord Jesus Christ whom my soul loves, accept my spirit.’ When he said that he gave up his spirit.

This was on the twenty-seventh day of the Coptic month of Baramhat. As the Angel of the Lord was escorting his spirit to Heaven, some of the elders saw the devils come to hinder his ascent. They heard them saying to him. ‘You are saved and have escaped from us.’ The saint replied, ‘Not yet.’ When the saint set one foot inside the Heavenly gate they said to him, ‘You have entered,’ he replied ‘Not yet.’ When he had completely entered they said again to him weeping, ‘You have entered,’ He then shouted back, ‘I have accepted the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I thank my Lord for His Heavenly grace and love to mankind.’ (The Life of St. Macarius the Great)

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

And once more, if the devil, the enemy of our race, having fallen from heaven, wanders about our lower atmosphere, and there bearing rule over his fellow-spirits, as his peers in disobedience, not only works illusions by their means in them that are deceived, but tries to hinder them that are going up (and about this the Apostle says: According to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience); while the Lord came to cast down the devil, and clear the air and prepare the way for us up into heaven, as said the Apostle: Through the veil, that is to say, His flesh Heb. 10:20— and this must needs be by death— well, by what other kind of death could this have come to pass, than by one which took place in the air, I mean the cross? For only he that is perfected on the cross dies in the air. Whence it was quite fitting that the Lord suffered this death. For thus being lifted up He cleared the air of the malignity both of the devil and of demons of all kinds, as He says: I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven; and made a new opening of the way up into heaven as He says once more: Lift up your gates, O you princes, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors. (On the Incarnation, Chap. 25)

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373

While the dying person addresses his last words to us, suddenly his tongue is at a loss, his eyes dim, his mouth falls silent, his voice paralyzed when the Lord’s troops have arrived, when His frightening armies overwhelm him, when the divine bailiffs invite the soul to be gone from the body, when the inexorable lays hold of us to drag us to the tribunal… Then the angels take the soul and go off through the air. There stand principalities, powers and leaders of the adverse troops who govern the world, merciless accusers, strict agents of an implacable tax bureau, like so many examiners that await the soul in the air, ready to demand a reckoning, to examine everything, brandishing their claims, that is to say our sins: those of youth and of old age, those intentional and those not so, those committed by actions and those by words or thoughts. Great then is the fear of the poor soul, inexpressible its anguish when it sees itself at grips with these myriads of enemies, who stop it, push and shove it, accuse it, hinder it from dwelling in the light, from entering into the land of the living. But the holy angels, taking the soul, lead it away. (“Sur la seconde venue du Christ”, ed. Assemani, tome 3, pp. 275-276. excerpted from “Life After Death According to the Orthodox Tradition” by Jean-Claude Larchet pp. 90-91)

St. Macrina the Younger ca. 327-379

Thou hast given a sign to those that fear Thee in the symbol of the Holy Cross, to destroy the adversary and save our life. O God eternal, to Whom I have been attached from my mother’s womb, Whom my soul has loved with all its strength, to Whom I have dedicated both my flesh and my soul from my youth up until now—-do Thou give me an angel of light to conduct me to the place of refreshment, where is the water of rest, in the bosom of the holy Fathers. Thou that didst break the flaming sword and didst restore to Paradise the man that was crucified with Thee and implored Thy mercies, remember me, too, in Thy kingdom; because I, too, was crucified with Thee, having nailed my flesh to the cross for fear of Thee, and of Thy judgments have I been afraid. Let not the terrible chasm separate me from Thy elect. Nor let the Slanderer stand against me in the way; nor let my sin be found before Thy eyes, if in anything I have sinned in word or deed or thought, led astray by the weakness of our nature. (St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of St. Macrina)

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

The dying person, knowing only that there is only one Savior and Liberator cries out: In Thee have I put my hope, save me” from my weakness “and rescue me” from captivity. For I think that the valiant athletes of God, after having kept up the good fight the whole course of their existence against the invisible enemies and escaping every trap, when they arrive at life’s end, are examined by the Prince of this world. If they are found, following the battle, to still have some wounds, stains or remnants of sin, are detained by him. However , if they are to the contrary whole and untainted, these invincible heroes remain free and are admitted by Christ to the place of rest. (Homilies, On Psalm 7, 2 PG 29, 232B, D.)

The one who has done much evil in this life will be confronted by frightening, sinister-looking angels, emitting fire in their breath and their glances because of the harshness of their character; their gloomy and threating demeanor will be like the night. (PG 29.372A7—B6. Excerpted from “The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology by Brian E. Daley. Chap 7: Facing Death in Freedom: Eastern Eschatology in the Age of Nicea [325-400], pg. 82)

Theophilus of Alexandria died ca. 412

The same Abba Theophilus said, “What fear, what trembling, what uneasiness will there be for us when our soul is separated from the body. Then indeed the force and strength of the adverse powers come against us, the rulers of darkness, those who command the world of evil, the principalities, the powers, the spirits of evil. They accuse our souls as in a lawsuit, bringing before it all the sins it has committed, whether deliberately or through ignorance, from its youth until the time when it has been taken away. So they stand accusing it of all it has done. Furthermore, what anxiety do you suppose the soul will have at that hour, until sentence is pronounced and it gains its liberty. That is its hour of affliction, until it sees what will happen to it. On the other hand, the divine powers stand on the opposite side, and they present the good deeds of the soul. Consider the fear and trembling of the soul standing between them until in judgment it receives the sentence of the righteous judge. If it is judged worthy, the demons will receive their punishment, and it will be carried away by the angels. (Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection pp. 81-82)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

[F]rom the parable, it is quite certain that souls when they leave the body do not still linger here, but are forthwith led away. And hear how it is shown: “It came to pass,” it is said, “that he died, and was carried away by the angels.” Not the souls of the just only, but also those of sinners are led away. This also is clear from the case of another rich man. For when his land brought forth abundantly, he said within himself, “What shall I do? I will pull down my barns and build greater,” (Luke xii. 18.) Than this state of mind nothing could be more wretched. He did in truth pull down his barns; for secure storehouses are not built with walls of stone; they are “the mouths of the poor.” But this man neglecting these, was busy about stone walls. What, however, did God say to him? “Thou fool, this night shall they require thy soul of thee.” Mark also: in one passage it is said that the soul is carried away by angels; in the other, that “they require it;” and in the latter case they lead it away as a prisoner; in the former, they guard and conduct it as a crowned victor. And like as in the arena a combatant, having received many wounds, is drenched with blood; his head being then encircled with a crown, those who stand ready by the spot take him up, and with great applause and praise they bear him home amid shouting and admiration. In this way the angels on that occasion led Lazarus also away. But in the other instance dreadful powers, probably sent for that purpose, required the soul. For it is not of its own accord that the soul departs this life; indeed, it is not able. For if when we travel from one city to another we need guides, much more does the soul stand in want of those who can conduct it, when it is separated from the flesh, and is entering upon the future state of existence. (Four Discourses, Chiefly on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Discourse 2.1-2)

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

Let no one tear her [St. Monica] away from Your protection. Let not the devil, who is a lion and serpent in one, bar her way by force or by guile. For she will not answer that she has no debt to pay, for fear that her cunning accuser should prove her wrong and win her for himself. Her reply will be that her debt has been paid by Christ, to whom none can repay the which He paid for us, though the debt was not His to pay. (Confessions, Bk. 9, 13.36. excerpted from the “Birth of Purgatory” by Frances Le Goff, p. 65)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

Lk. 12: 58-59 For whilst you are going with him who has a suit against you in the way to the magistrate, give diligence that you may be delivered, from him; lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the exactor, and the exactor cast you into prison. I tell you, you shall not come out thence, until you have made compensation unto the last mite.

Now perhaps it may be imagined that the sense of this passage is difficult to comprehend: but it will become very easy if we examine the metaphor by what takes place among ourselves. For let there be supposed, He says, some one who has brought a charge against you before one of those in authority, and has pointed you out to those whose office it is to carry the accused into court, and is causing you to be taken thither. “While therefore, He says, you are still with him on the way,” that is, before you have come to the judge, “give diligence,” that is, weary not, in using all your earnestness that you may be delivered from him. For otherwise he will give you up to the judge; and then, when you have been proved to be indebted to him, you will be delivered to the exactors, to those, that is, whose office it is to exact the money; and they will cast you into prison, and make you pay the last mite.

Now all of us, without exception, upon earth are guilty of offences: he who has a suit against us and accuses us is the wicked Satan: for he is “the enemy and the exactor.” While therefore we are in the way: that is, ere yet we have arrived at the termination of our life here, let us deliver ourselves from him: let us do away with the offences of which we have been guilty: let us close his mouth: let us seize upon the grace that is by Christ, which frees us from all debt and penalty, and delivers us from fear and torment: lest if our impurity be not cleansed away, we be carried before the judge, and given over to the exactors, that is, the tormentors, from whose cruelty no man can escape: yea, rather, who will exact vengeance for every fault, whether it be great or small. (Commentary on Luke, Sermon XCV)

LXX Isa. 3:12 My people, the tax collectors scourge you, and the creditors lord it over you.

At a mystical level, on the other hand, the text refers also to other tax collectors, whom those wanting to live an upright life should avoid; the wicked and hostile powers even demand, as it were, of people on earth attention that is depraved, and collect from them as a kind of tax the inclination to the passions of the mind. The sacred text, for instance, blesses those who do not heed the call of the collector; anyone who resists the desires of the flesh and with youthful alertness repels the harm coming from sin, trampling down its overtures and vanquishing the spirits of wickedness, is proof against the call of the collector. Such tax collectors are therefore to be avoided, not allowed to harvest in us the produce leading to sin or apply scourging. Now, we shall succeed in this when we are strengthened in Christ, and expel from our minds wicked thoughts, base desires, and every form of vice. (Commentary on Isaiah Vol. 1: Chapters 1-14 trans. by Robert Charles Hill pg. 97)

St. Euthymius the Great ca. 377-473

Listen to an edifying and true story that some Egyptian elders I met told me about a man thought holy by all but who in secret stirrings of his heart angered God becuase, I think, of assent to impure thoughts. Their story went as follows. A man with second sight, on entering this man’s city, found him gravely ill and all the citizens affirming with tears, “If the saint dies, we have no firther hope of salvation; for we are all protected through his intercession.” On hearing this, the man with second sight hurried off to get a blessing from the supposed saint. When he drew near, he saw many candles all ready and great crowds of clerics and laymen, including the bishop himself, waiting to conduct the funeral. Going in to him, he found him still breathing, and saw with the eye of his mind the devil of hell with a fiery fork inserting the fork into his heart and with many tortures pulling at his soul; and he heard a voice from heaven saying, “Just as his soul did not give me rest for a single day, so you too are not to stop pulling at his soul and torturing it.” I have recounted this to make us at all times ready for combat and prepared for the departure of the soul from the body, lest, seduced by love of pleasure, we be unbearably tormented at the time of departure…let us entreat God, Who has applied corrective not capital punishment, to free His creature from the plot of the impure and pleasure loving spirit. (Cyril of Scythopolis: The Lives of the Monks of Palestine. Life of Euthymius pp. 33-34)

St. Diadochos of Photiki ca. 5th cent.

If we do not confess our involuntary sins as we should, we shall discover an ill-defined fear in ourselves at the hour of our death. We who love the Lord should pray that we should be without fear at that time; for if we are afraid then, we will not be able to freely pass the rulers of the nether-world. They will have as their advocate to plead against us the fear which our soul experiences because of its own wickedness. But the soul which experiences the love of God, at the hour of its departure, is lifted with the angels of peace above all the hosts of darkness. (Philokalia Vol. 1, pg. 295: On Spiritual Knowledge, 100)

St. Symeon of Emesa, Fool for Christ ca. 6th cent.

Grant her angels who will keep her soul safe from the spirits and beasts of the air, evil and unmerciful beings who endeavor to swallow up everything which comes into their midst. Lord, Lord, send out to her mighty guards to rebuke every impure power molesting her. (Leontius of Neapolis, Life of Symeon the Fool, 9; Krueger, p. 141.)

St. Columba of Iona ca. 521-597

[W]hilst the holy man was living in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), he one day suddenly raised his eyes to heaven and uttered the words, “O happy woman happy because of thy virtues; the angels of God are now carrying thy soul to paradise.” Now these words from the mouth of the saint were heard by a certain religious brother, a Saxon, by name Genere, who was at the moment working at his trade, which was that of a baker. And on the same day of the month, at the end of the same year, the saint addressed the same Genere the Saxon, and said, “I see a wonderful thing; behold, the woman of whom I spake in thy presence last year, now meeteth in the air the soul of her husband, a poor and holy man, and together with the holy angels engageth in a contest for it against the adverse powers; by their united assistance, and by the aid of the virtuous character of the man himself, his soul is rescued from the assaults of the demons, and brought to the place of eternal refreshment. (St. Adamnan, Life of St. Columba Bk. 3.11)

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

One must reflect deeply on how frightful the hour of death will be for us, what terror the soul will then experience, what remembrance of all the evils, what forgetfulness of past happiness, what fear, and what apprehension of the Judge. Then the evil spirits will seek out in the departing soul its deeds; then they will present before its view the sins towards which they had disposed it, so as to draw their accomplice to torment. But why do we speak only of the sinful soul, when they come even to the chosen among the dying and seek out their own in them, if they have succeeded with them? (Homilies on the Gospels, XXXIX, 8 [on Luke 19:42-27], PL 76, 1298D-1299D)

St. John the Almsgiver died ca. 616

The blessed man always used to talk much about the thought of death and the departure of the soul so that on several occasions those who went in to him with a haughty bearing and laughing face and bold eyes came out from his presence with humble demeanor and a contrite face and eyes filled with tears. He used to say: ‘My humble opinion is that it suffices for our salvation to meditate continually and seriously about death and to think earnestly upon the fact that nobody will pity us in that hour nor will anyone travel with us out of this life except our good deeds. And when the angels come hastening down, in what a tumult will a soul then be if it is found unready! How it will beg that it may be allowed a further short span of life, only to hear the words: “What about the time you have lived, have you spent it well?” ‘

And again he used to say as though speaking of himself, ‘Humble John, how will you have the strength to “pass the wild beasts of the brake”, [Ps/ 68:30 = LXX 67:31, which read epitimeson tois theriois tou kalamou] when they meet you like tax collectors? Woe is me, what fears and tremors will encompass the soul when it is called to account by so many keen and pitiless accountants?’ (Leontius of Neapolis, Life of St. John the Almsgiver, 41)

St. John Moschos ca. 550-619

One of the fathers said that in Thessalonica there was a monastery of virgins. One of them was coerced by the operation of the evil one into going out of the monastery. She went and fell into porneia by the machinations of the demon who scoffed at her until she left the monastery. Once she had fallen, she remained some time in sin then finally, undergoing a change of heart by the cooperation of God the good, she came to repentance. Re-entering her community in order to repent, she fell before the gateway of the monastery — and she died. Her death was revealed to one of the holy bishops. He saw holy angels coming to receive her soul and demons in attendance; he witnessed a dialogue taking place between them. The angels were saying: ‘She came in repentance’, but the demons said: ‘She served us so long a time she is ours’. Their altercation lasted some time and then the demons, those who obstruct the good, said: ‘She did not get as far as entering the monastery; how can you say she repented?” In answer to this the holy angles said: ‘Insofar as God saw her intention tending in that direction, He accepted her repentance. And she was a mistress of repentance by virtue of the goal she set for herself: the Lord the and Master of all.’ Put to shame by these words, the demons withdrew. (The Spiritual Meadow: Supplementary Tales. Cistercian Publications trans. by John Wortley, pg. 200)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

By the fear of God and the threat [of chastisements] to come, halt the violent impulses of the senses. In everything and everywhere remember death and the soul’s terror upon it’s leaving the body, and how the powers of the air and the dark forces come to meet it, all dissociated and cut to pieces in proportion to its disastrous familiarity with them through the passions. (Letters, 24, PG 91, 609C-612D.)

So the Lord put off the principalities and powers at the time of His first experience of temptation in the desert, thereby healing the whole of human nature of the passion connected with pleasure. Yet he despoiled them again at the time of His death, in that He likewise eliminated from our human nature the passion connected with pain. In His love for humanity, He accomplished this restoration for us though He were Himself liable; and what is more, in His goodness, He reckoned to us the glory of what He had restored. So too, since He assumed our nature’s liability to passions, albeit without sin (cf. Heb. 4:10), thereby inciting every evil power and destructive force to go into action, He despoiled them at the moment of His death, right when they came after Him to search Him out. He triumphed (Col. 2:15) over them and made a spectacle of them in His Cross, at the departure of His soul, when the evil powers could find nothing at all [culpable] in the passibility proper to His human nature. (Ad Thalassium 21)

St. John Climacus ca. 7th century

Some of the dying would answer: “Blessed be God Who has not turned away my prayer nor His mercy from me.” (Ps. 62:50) Others would say, “Blessed be the Lord God Who has not given us a prey for their teeth.” (Ps. 123:6) But others would be sad and say: “Will our souls pass through the impassable water of the spirits of the air?” (cf. Ps. 123:5) These would be unsure, and worried about the rendering of accounts after death. (Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 5)

St. Anastasios the Sinaite ca. 620-710

We were there at the end of Abba Stephen the Byzantine, I and Abba Theodosios the African who became the bishop of Babylon. As we were chanting the “Blameless is the man…” (Psa. 119 [118 LXX]) as is usual at the gathering of the soul, suddenly his face became very grim and with a commanding voice he spoke to something that appeared to him. “Why do you come here? Go into the outer darkness. You have nothing on me. The Lord is my part.” When we arrived in our chanting at this verse saying, “You are my part, O Lord,” Abba Stephen gave over his spirit to the Lord. Seeking a garment in order to bury him we found nothing at all of wealth and glory.

Abba Stephanos the Cypriot, a serene man participating in the Holy Spirit and adorned with all virtues, had come with me to the holy mountain. When he was about to die he suffered such trouble in departing as nobody had seen; and after remaining many days as if impaled, he died. Someone who knew his work and life had difficulty in his thoughts as to why such a man needed to fall into such trouble. And behold, Stephanos appeared to him in a dream saying, “Brother, although troubled a little, I found greater confidence before the Lord.” (Tales, 20, 28)

One of the brothers met an elder who lived on Mount Sinai and asked him, “Father, tell me how I should pray, for I have done much to anger God.” The elder said to him, “Son, when I pray I say this, ‘Lord, make me worthy to serve You as I have served Satan; make me worthy to love You as I have loved sin.’” And again he said, “It is good to raise the hands in the air and beg God that at its exit the soul might pass unhindered by all the impediments which try to delay it in the air.” (Tales – Supplement 4. Material found only in the Sinai manuscripts. These being primarily Sinai Greek Codex 451, and SGC 659)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

Whilst Sigebert still governed the kingdom, there came out of Ireland a holy man called Fursey renowned both for his words and actions, and remarkable for singular virtues, being desirous to live a stranger for our Lord, wherever an opportunity should offer…he built himself the monastery, wherein he might with more freedom indulge his heavenly studies. There, falling sick, as the book about his life informs us, he fell into a trance, and quitting his body from the evening till the cock crew, he was found worthy to behold the choirs of angels, and to hear the praises which are sung in heaven. He was wont to declare, that among other things he distinctly heard this: “The saints shall advance from one virtue to another.” And again, “The God of gods shall be seen in Sion.” Being restored to his body at that time, and again taken from it three days after, he not only saw the greater joys of the blessed, but also extraordinary combats of evil spirits, who by frequent accusations wickedly endeavored to obstruct his journey to heaven; but the angels protecting him, all their endeavors were in vain. Concerning which particulars, if any one desires to be more fully informed, that is, with what subtle fraud the devils represented both his actions and superfluous words, and even his thoughts, as if they had been written down in a book…He also saw devils flying through the fire, raising conflagrations of wars against the just. Then followed accusations of the wicked spirits against him, the defense of the good angels in his favor, and a more extended view of the heavenly troops; as also of holy men of his own nation, who, as he had long since been informed, had been deservedly advanced to the degree of priesthood, from whom he heard many things that might be very salutary to himself, or to all others that would listen to them. (Ecclesiastical History Bk. 3.19)

St. Boniface the Apostle to the Germans ca. 680-755

I thank God that now I can the more fully meet thy wishes, because but lately I spoke with this brother myself, when he came back here from abroad; he set forth to me in his own words the marvellous spectacle which he beheld when rapt in spirit beyond the body… As he quitted the body, angels of such dazzling brightness that he could scarcely look upon them for their splendour, bore him up. With sweet and harmonious voices they were singing, “O Lord, rebuke me not in Thy wrath: neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure.” “They raised me,” said he, “high into the air, and circling the world I beheld a blazing fire, the mighty flame soaring terribly aloft, as though to grasp the whole mechanism of the world in its embrace, had not the holy angel calmed it with the sign of Christ’s holy cross. When he had made the sign of the cross before the threatening flame, it gradually retired. By its terrible heat I was sorely tried, while my eyes were burned, and my sight was shattered by the brightness of the gleaming spirits until an angel, splendid to behold, touched my head with a protecting hand, and brought me safe from harm in the flames.

He added that during the time while he was out of the body, such a multitude of souls leaving the body had gathered where he was as to exceed what he had thought before to be the numbers of the whole human race. An innumerable band of evil spirits and a bright choir of heavenly angles had also assembled; and there was the greatest dispute between the demons and the angels over the souls leaving the body, for the demons were accusing the dead and making heavy the burden of their sins, while the angels were excusing them and lightening their load. (Letter XIII, To the Holy Virgin and Dear Lady Eadburga)

St. Theodore the Studite ca. 759-826

Are you not afraid of death, which we shall all face in a little while? How are we to look on the fearsome angels, as they come to take us from the body? How are we to journey on that long and unending road, if we have not obtained the necessities for the journey? (Catechesis 103, On Keeping God’s Commandments and the Just Threat Against Those who Neglect Them)

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

You fill me with all blessings, O my God; but all of these will not help me if You will not give me the grace to overcome without confusion the gates of death. If the prince of darkness, when he come, should not see Your glory surrounding me and be not completely rendered powerless, he with his darkness be not dissipated by Your inaccessible light and if all the opposing powers with him be not put to flight, seeing the sign of Your stamp on me…of what use to me are all these which are now taking place in me? (Hymns, 28, ll. 201-211; Maloney, p. 152. Also see: Sources Chretiennes, Les Editions du Cerf, Paris. Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos “Life After Death” pg. 68)

St. Boris the Passion-Bearer ca. 986-1015

My Lord, Jesus Christ, hear me this hour and vouchsafe me to share of the company of Thy saints. For, O Lord, even as once this day Zechariah was slaughtered before Thine altar, so now also am I slaughtered before Thee, O Lord. O Lord, Lord, remember not my former transgressions, but save my soul, so that the deceitful counsel of my adversaries may not block its way, and let Thy bright angels receive it. Because, O Lord, Thou art my Savior, do Thou forgive them that do these things, for Thou art the true God, and to Thee is glory forever. Amen. (Hagiography of Kievan Rus’, trans. Paul Hollingsworth [Cambridge, MA: Harvard U, 1992], p. 16)

St. Nikitas Stithatos ca. 1005-1090

[S]ouls, obscured and frightfully plunged in darkness because of the malice of their acts, words and thoughts, their habits, occupations and dispositions, these are the souls of sinners; when they are violently torn from the body, they give off such stench as they have imparted to it in leaving, along with all manner of unpleasantness. These souls, filled with obscurity, stench and rottenness, are dragged away against their will by dark and avenging angels, in the midst of a terrible fear, shaking with fright, to the depths of hell as into a dark prison devoid of consolation. They are handed over to the impure and evil spirits that guard this prison, there where the prince of darkness is held fast by eternal bonds so to be consumed by fire along with his kind, the angels of darkness. They are handed over to them to remain with them eternally in the future; they have, in fact, accepted them as friends during their life in their acts and their words. They have preferred their suggestions, they have implemented them to their loss and others. (On the Soul, XIV, 79-81)

St. Theodosius of the Kiev Caves ca. 1009-1074

…I pray Thee, O my Lord, have mercy on my soul, that it may not encounter the malice of Thy enemies, but that Thy angels may receive it and lead it through the trials of the darkness after death towards the light of Thy mercy. (A Life of St. Theodosius, The Way of the Pilgrim and Other Classics of Russian Spirituality edited by G.P. Fedotov)

St. Theophylact of Ochrid ca. 1055-1107

God said unto him, Thou fool, this night they shall require thy soul of thee. The words God said unto him do not mean that God conversed with the rich man, although the parable puts it in this form. Instead, the thought’s that came into the man’s mind are what God spoke. Thou fool. He calls him a fool because everything he wanted was foolish, as we have shown. And every man like him is foolish and acts in vain, for, as David says, in vain doth every man disquiet himself. (Ps. 38:14) Why? Because he stores up things without knowing for whom he gathers them. How can he not be called a fool who does not know that the length of a man’s life rests with God alone and that no man can set limits of his own life? Notice also the words they will require. Like some stern imperial officers demanding tribute, the fearsome angels will ask for your soul, and you will not want to give it because you love this life and claim the things of this life as your own. But they do not demand the soul of a righteous man, because he himself commits his soul into the hands of the God and Father of spirits, and he does so with joy and gladness, not in the least bit grieved that he is handing over his soul to God. For him the body is a light burden, easily shed. But the sinner has made his soul fleshy, something in substance like the body and like the earth, rendering it difficult to separate from the body. This is why the soul must be demanded of him, the same way that harsh tax collectors treat debtors who refuse to pay what is due. See that the Lord did not say, “I shall require thy soul of thee,” but, they shall require. (The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to St. Luke, Chap. 12.16-21)

St. Meletios Homologetes ca. 1209-1286

…[T]he time of death is full of consternation since all the tax collectors bring forward deeds and words, plans and thoughts, desires, and all that we have done when instructed by them, in obedience to our enemies. Alas for our lack of perception! After the release the powers and authorities and all the principalities of Satan pick everyone out and examine minutely the things that are in the soul and the body. They meet with us to cut and chop, to forcibly drag us down because of the previous disposition we had towards them, because the affection and condition through the passions, and because of our familiarity with them, by which they alienated us from God our Maker and Master. (excerpted from “Traditions of Belief in Late Byzantine Demonology” by R.P.H. Greenfield, pp. 17-18)

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

When the evil one was justly abandoned by the God of the true life because of his voluntary sin, he became a dead spirit… the evil one caused our double death by his single death. Having flung us down even lower than himself, he appeared to be great and exalted, and boasted that he had outwitted us with his intelligence and reduced us to slavery. As he was immortal, he appeared, alas, to be our god. Even after death our souls, having been deserted by God, fell to his lot and he dragged them down to into Hades, and shut them up in seemingly inescapable prisons. (Homily 16, On Holy and Great Saturday)

St. Nilus of Sora 1443-1508

But, O soul, whatever time you still have, give up your shameless deeds and convert yourself to a noble life. Turn to the Lord and cry out with faith: “I have sinned, Lord. But I know your mercy and love for men. For this reason, I fall down and beg your goodness to grant me mercy, O Lord! For my soul will be confused and will be sick at my having turned away from my repentance and at my wicked bodily deeds. May the evil powers never capture me and cast me into darkness for my invisible and visible sins of my whole earthly life.

Have mercy on me, O Master, and do not let my soul ever look upon the ugly countenances of the evil demons, but let your radiant and most glorious angels receive me. You have authority to forgive sins. Forgive me my sins. Let my sin never again be before You for because of my weakness I have sinned in word and in deed and in thought, deliberately and indeliberately. May I turn toward you when I am divested of my body and not be found with any filth on the image of my soul. And may the hand of the dark prince of this world never receive me, a sinner, and drag me into the depths of hell, but may you stand before me and be my Savior and Protector! (Nil Sorsky, The Complete Writings: Have Mercy on Me, O Master!)

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk 1724-1783

After the Prayer of the Ambon at the liturgy on every Lord’s day and holy day, there shall be a reading, either an interpretation of the Gospel, or from another book accepted by the holy Church or even a profitable sermon from the Prologue. On certain Sundays, there shall be read from the Sequential Psalter that greatly profitable sermon, so stirring for for the sleepy and heedless soul, On the Departure of the Soul (*) by St. Cyril of Alexandria. (Journey to Heaven, The Life of St. Tikhon pg. 204)

(*) In the fifth century the depiction of the immediate judgement upon the soul after its departure from the body, called the Particular judgement, was even more closely joined to the depiction of the toll-houses, as we see in St. Cyril of Alexandria’s “Homily on the Departure of the Soul,” which sums up the images of this kind in the Fathers of the Church which preceded him. (Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky “On the Question of the Tollhouses”)

St. Makarios of Corinth 1731-1805

Suffer me to say: if death suddenly overtakes those who delay communicating and finds them unprepared, without Divine Communion, what will be in store for these wretched ones? How will they be able to pass freely by the demonic publicans of the air? (Manna from Athos: The Issue of Frequent Communion on the Holy Mountain in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries by Hieromonk Patapios and Archbishop Chrysostomos, p. 126)

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite 1749-1809

The Great Elder [Barsanuphius of Gaza] would give over the souls of certain dying brethren to the Holy Life-giving Trinity, and while they would be passing over to heaven, he would free them from demonic attacks. (The Life of Saints Barsanuphius and John, 5)

St. Seraphim of Sarov 1759-1833

Two nuns, who had both been abbesses, died. The Lord revealed to me how their souls had been subjected to the aerial tests, how they had been tried and then condemned. For three days and nights I prayed, wretched as I am, entreating the Mother of God for them, and the Lord in His goodness pardoned them through the prayers of the Mother of God; they passed all the aerial tests and received forgiveness through God’s mercy. (St. Seraphim of Sarov: A Spiritual Biography by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore. Chapter XV “Amazing Wonderworker” pg. 396)

St. Ignaty Brianchaninov 1807-1867

For the testing of souls as they pass through the spaces of the air there have been established by the dark powers separate judgment places and guards in a remarkable order. In the layers of the under-heaven, from earth to heaven itself, stand guarding legions of fallen spirits. Each division is in charge of a special form of sin and tests the soul in it when the soul reaches this division. The aerial demonic guards and judgment places are called in the patristic writings the toll-houses, and the spirits who serve them are called tax-collectors. (Discourse on Death, Collected Works, vol. III, Saint Petersburg, 1886, p. 136)

At both judgments God Himself is present and judges. At the private judgment He judges by means of angels of light and fallen angels; at the general judgment He judges by means of His Incarnate Word. (The Arena, An Offering to Contemporary Monasticism, p. 6)

St. Theophan the Recluse 1815-1894

No matter how absurd the idea of toll-houses may seem to our ‘wise men’, they will not escape passing through them. What do these toll-gatherers seek in those who pass through? They seek whether people might have some of their goods. What kind of goods? Passions. Therefore, in the person whose heart is pure and a stranger to passions, they cannot find anything to wrangle over; on the contrary, the opposing quality will strike them like arrows of lightning. To this someone who has a little education expressed the following thought: The toll-houses are something frightful. But is quite possible that the demons, instead of something frightful, might present something deceptive and seductive, according to all kinds of passions, to the soul as it passes through one after the other. When, during the course of earthly life, the passions have been banished from the heart and the virtues opposed to them have been planted, then no matter what seductive thing you might present, the soul, having no kind of sympathy for it, passes it by, turning away from it with disgust. But when the heart has not been cleansed, the soul will rush to whatever passion the heart has most sympathy for; and the demons will take it like a friend, and then they know where to put it. Therefore, it is very doubtful that a soul, as long as there remain in it sympathies for the objects of any passion, will not be put to shame at the toll-houses. Being put to shame here means that the soul itself is thrown into hell. (The One-Hundred Eighteenth Psalm, Interpreted by Bishop Theophan, Moscow 1891, reprinted Jordanville, 1976 pp. 289-290)

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

Represent to yourself how necessary repose is to the departed one, and how greatly he (or she) needs the prayers for him (or her) of the living, being a member of the one body of the Church; how the demons are contesting his (or her) soul from the angels, and how it trembles, not knowing what its eternal destiny will be. Our prayer of faith and love for the departed means much in the Lord’s sight. (Saint John of Kronstadt on Prayer – Extracts from his Writings. Chap. XI.118 On Prayer for the Departed, pp. 44-45)

St. Nikolai Velimirovich 1881-1956

[Taxiotes] spent his entire life in grievous sins, but finally repented, left his military service and adopted a way of life pleasing to God. Once when he had gone with his wife to their property close to the city, he fell into adultery with the wife of his workman, and immediately after this a snake bit him and he died. He lay dead for six hours, and after that he arose and, on the fourth day, broke his silence and related how he had somehow passed through all the toll-houses until he arrived at the toll-house for adultery. There he had fallen into the dark dwelling of the demons, but was then led out by an angel who vouched for him, and had returned to the body to expiate his last sin. He lived in penitence for forty days, going from church to church and striking his head against the doors and thresholds. Weeping incessantly, he spoke of the terrible torments in which sinners lived in that world, and implored people not to sin and to repent of sins already committed. On the fortieth day he went with joy to the Kingdom of the merciful God. (The Prologue from Ochrid: April 10th)

St. John Maximovitch 1896-1966

[W]hen it leaves the body, the soul finds itself among other spirits, good and bad. Usually it inclines toward those which are more akin to it in spirit, and if while in the body it was under the influence of certain ones, it will remain in dependence upon them when it leaves the body, however unpleasant they may turn out to be upon encountering them.

For the course of two days the soul enjoys relative freedom and can visit places on earth which were dear to it, but on the third day it moves into other spheres. At this time (the third day), it passes through legions of evil spirits which obstruct its path and accuse it of various sins, to which they themselves had tempted it. According to various revelations there are twenty such obstacles, the so-called “toll-houses,” at each of which one or another form of sin is tested; after passing through one the soul comes upon the next one, and only after successfully passing through all of them can the soul continue its path without being immediately cast into gehenna. How terrible these demons and their toll-houses are may be seen in the fact that Mother of God herself, when informed by the Archangel Gabriel of her approaching death, answering her prayer, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself appeared from heaven to receive the soul of His Most Pure Mother and conduct it to heaven. (A Homily on Life After Death)

[T]he Virgin Mary during Her earthly life avoided the glory which belonged to Her as the Mother of the Lord. She preferred to live in quiet and prepare Herself for the departure into eternal life. To the last day of Her earthly life She took care to prove worthy of the Kingdom of Her Son, and before death She prayed that He might deliver Her soul from the malicious spirits that meet human souls on the way to heaven and strive to seize them so as to take them away with them to hades. The Lord fulfilled the prayer of His Mother and in the hour of Her death Himself came from heaven with a multitude of angels to receive Her soul. (The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God)

On Angelic Theosis

St. John Climacus ca. 7th century

We shall never cease to advance in love, either in the present or in the future life, continually adding light to light. And however strange what I say will seem to many, nevertheless it shall be said. According to the testimonies we have given, I would say that even the spiritual beings (i.e. the angels) do not lack in progress; on the contrary, they will ever receive more and more glory, more and more knowledge. (The Divine Ladder: Step 26. cited from Cavarnos “The Future Life According to Orthodox Teaching” pg. 46)

On Homosexual Acts

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination… Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things… (Lev. 18:22, 24)

For this reason (i.e. their refusal to acknowledge, thank and glorify God) God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameful acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their errors. Rom. 1:26-27)

Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality…will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10)

…Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. (Jude 7-8)

St. Polycarp of Smyrna ca. 69-155

For it is well that they should be cut off from the lusts that are in the world, since “every lust warreth against the spirit; ” and “neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God,” nor those who do things inconsistent and unbecoming. Wherefore, it is needful to abstain from all these things, being subject to the presbyters and deacons, as unto God and Christ. The virgins also must walk in a blameless and pure conscience. (Epistle to the Philippians Chap. 5)

St. Melito of Sardis died ca. 180

But thou, a person of  liberal mind, and familiar with the truth, if thou wilt properly consider these matters, commune with thine own self; and, though they should clothe thee in the garb of a woman, remember that thou art a man. (A Discourse Which Was in the Presence of Antoninus Caesar)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

For as it was in the days of Noe, they did eat and drink, they bought and sold, they married and were given in marriage, and they knew not, until Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all; as also it was in the days of Lot, they did eat and drink, they bought and sold, they planted and builded, until the time that Lot went out of Sodom; it rained fire from heaven, and destroyed them all: so shall it also be at the coming of the Son of man.” “Watch ye therefore, for ye know not in what day your Lord shall come.” [In these passages] He declares one and the same Lord, who in the times of Noah brought the deluge because of mews disobedience, and who also in the days of Lot rained fire from heaven because of the multitude of sinners among the Sodomites, and who, on account of this same disobedience and similar sins, will bring on the day of judgment at the end of time (in novissimo); on which day He declares that it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for that city and house which shall not receive the word of His apostles. (Against Heresies Bk. 4.36.3)

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

Luxury has deranged all things; it has disgraced man. A luxurious niceness seeks everything, attempts everything, forces everything, coerces nature. Men play the part of women, and women that of men, contrary to nature; women are at once wives and husbands: no passage is closed against libidinousness; and their promiscuous lechery is a public institution, and luxury is domesticated. O miserable spectacle! Horrible conduct! (The Instructor 3.3)

Tertullian ca. 160-220

The Christian [man] confines himself to the female sex. (Apology 46)

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

Each generation is reminded by what it hears, that whatever has once been done may be done again. Crimes never die out by the lapse of ages; wickedness is never abolished by process of time; impiety is never buried in oblivion. Things which have now ceased to be actual deeds of vice become examples…Men are emasculated, and all the pride and vigour of their sex is effeminated in the disgrace of their enervated body; and he is most pleasing there who has most completely broken down the man into the woman. He grows into praise by virtue of his crime; and the more he is degraded, the more skilful he is considered to be. Such a one is looked upon— oh shame! And looked upon with pleasure. And what cannot such a creature suggest? He inflames the senses, he flatters the affections, he drives out the more vigorous conscience of a virtuous breast; nor is there wanting authority for the enticing abomination, that the mischief may creep upon people with a less perceptible approach.

Oh, if placed on that lofty watchtower you could gaze into the secret places— if you could open the closed doors of sleeping chambers, and recall their dark recesses to the perception of sight—you would behold things done by immodest persons which no chaste eye could look upon; you would see what even to see is a crime; you would see what people embruted with the madness of vice deny that they have done, and yet hasten to do—men with frenzied lusts rushing upon men, doing things which afford no gratification even to those who do them. (Epistle 1.8-9)

St. Methodius of Olympus died ca. 311

The sober and joy-producing vine, from whose instructions, as from branches, there joyfully hang down clusters of graces, distilling love, is our Lord Jesus, who says expressly to the apostles, I am the true vine, you are the branches; and my Father is the husbandman. But the wild and death-bearing vine is the devil, who drops down fury and poison and wrath, as Moses relates, writing concerning him, Deut. 32:32-33 For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps. The inhabitants of Sodom having gathered grapes from this, were goaded on to an unnatural and fruitless desire for males. (Banquet of The Ten Virgins Bk. 5.5)

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

[M]en, denying their nature, and no longer wishing to be males, put on the guise of women, under the idea that they are thus gratifying and honouring the Mother of their so-called gods. But all live along with the basest, and vie with the worst among themselves, and as Paul said, the holy minister of Christ Romans 1:26: For their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness. But acting in this and in like ways, they admit and prove that the life of their so-called gods was of the same kind. For from Zeus they have learned corruption of youth and adultery, from Aphrodite fornication, from Rhea licentiousness, from Ares murders, and from other gods other like things, which the laws punish and from which every sober man turns away. Does it then remain fit to consider them gods who do such things, instead of reckoning them, for the licentiousness of their ways, more irrational than the brutes? Is it fit to consider their worshippers human beings, instead of pitying them as more irrational than the brutes, and more soul-less than inanimate things? For had they considered the intellectual part of their soul they would not have plunged headlong into these things, nor have denied the true God, the Father of Christ. (Against the Heathen, Part 1.26)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

Now the pomp of the devil is the madness of theaters and horse-races, and hunting, and all such vanity: from which that holy man praying to be delivered says unto God, Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity. Be not interested in the madness of the theatre, where thou wilt behold the wanton gestures of the players, carried on with mockeries and all unseemliness, and the frantic dancing of effeminate men (Catechetical Lectures 19.6)

St. Epiphanius of Salamis ca. 315-403

But these speak evil of things which they naturally know not.’For they blaspheme the holiest of holy things, bestowed on us with sanctification, by turning them into dirt.

And these are the things they have ventured to say against the apostles, as the blessed Paul also says, ‘So that some dare blasphemously to report of us that we say, Let us do evil that good may come upon us; whose damnation is just.’

And how many other texts I could cite against the blasphemers! For these persons who debauch themselves with their own hands—and not just they, but the ones who consort with women too—finally get their fill of promiscuous relations with women and grow ardent for each other, men for men, ‘receiving in themselves the recompense of their error’ as the scripture says. For once they are completely ruined they congratulate each other on having received the highest rank. (Panarion 11:6-8)

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

…[E]ffeminate and unmanly men, of doubtful sex, but of manifest impiety; to whom, I know not how or why, Emperors of the Romans entrusted authority over men, though their proper function was the charge of women. In this lay the power of that servant of the wicked one, that sower of tares, that forerunner of Antichrist… (Oration 21.21)

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

The adulterer will be excluded from the sacrament for fifteen years. During four he will be a weeper, and during five a hearer, during four a kneeler, and for two a slander without communion…He who is guilty of unseemliness with males will be under discipline for the same time as adulterers. (Letter 217, Canon 58, 62)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one towards another. (Rom. 1:26-27)

All these affections then were vile, but chiefly the mad lust after males; for the soul is more the sufferer in sins, and more dishonored, than the body in diseases. But behold how here too, as in the case of the doctrines, he deprives them of excuse, by saying of the women, that they changed the natural use. For no one, he means, can say that it was by being hindered of legitimate intercourse that they came to this pass, or that it was from having no means to fulfil their desire that they were driven into this monstrous insaneness. For the changing implies possession. Which also when discoursing upon the doctrines he said, They changed the truth of God for a lie. And with regard to the men again, he shows the same thing by saying, Leaving the natural use of the woman. And in a like way with those, these he also puts out of all means of defending themselves by charging them not only that they had the means of gratification, and left that which they had, and went after another, but that having dishonored that which was natural, they ran after that which was contrary to nature. But that which is contrary to nature has in it an irksomeness and displeasingness, so that they could not fairly allege even pleasure. For genuine pleasure is that which is according to nature. But when God has left one, then all things are turned upside down. And thus not only was their doctrine Satanical, but their life too was diabolical. (Homily 4 on Romans)

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

[T]hose offenses which be contrary to nature are everywhere and at all times to be held in detestation and punished; such were those of the Sodomites, which should all nations commit, they should all be held guilty of the same crime by the divine law, which has not so made men that they should in that way abuse one another. For even that fellowship which should be between God and us is violated, when that same nature of which He is author is polluted by the perversity of lust. But You avenge that which men perpetrate against themselves, seeing also that when they sin against You, they do wickedly against their own souls; and iniquity gives itself the lie, either by corrupting or perverting their nature, which You have made and ordained, or by an immoderate use of things permitted, or in burning in things forbidden to that use which is against nature; Rom.1:24-29 or when convicted, raging with heart and voice against You, kicking against the pricks; Acts 9:5 or when, breaking through the pale of human society, they audaciously rejoice in private combinations or divisions, according as they have been pleased or offended. And these things are done whenever You are forsaken, O Fountain of Life, who art the only and true Creator and Ruler of the universe, and by a self-willed pride any one false thing is selected therefrom and loved. (Confessions Bk. 3.8)

St. Sabas the Sanctified ca. 439-532

[O]ur father Sabas would never allow an adolescent to live in his community who had not covered his chin with a beard, because of the snares of the evil one. Whenever he received an adolescent of immature age who wished to make his renunciation, he would welcome him and then send him to the thrice-blessed Abba Theodosius…when sending a brother to the great Abba Theodosius, as has been said, [our father Sabas] would first give him the following admonition: ‘My child, it is unsuitable, indeed harmful, for a lavra like this to contain an adolescent. This is the rule made by the ancient fathers of Scetis and transmitted to me by our great father Euthymius. For seeing me wanting to settle in his lavra when an adolescent, he sent me to the blessed Theoctisus, saying that it is out of place and harmful for an adolescent to live in a lavra. As for you, go off to Abba Theodosius, and you will obtain benefit there.’ (Cyril of Scythopolis, Life of Sabas, 29)

St. Justinian the Emperor ca. 483-565

[W]e ought to abstain from all base concerns and acts — and especially does this apply to such as have gone to decay through that abominable and impious conduct deservedly hated by God. We speak of the defilement of males (de stupro masculorum) which some men sacrilegiously and impiously dare to attempt, perpetrating vile acts with other men.

For, instructed by the Holy Scriptures, we know that God brought a just judgment upon those who lived in Sodom, on account of this very madness of intercourse, so that to this very day that lands burns with inextinguishable fire. By this God teaches us, in order that by means of legislation we may avert such an untoward fate. Again, we know what the blessed Apostle says about such things, and what laws our state enacts. Wherefore it behoves all who desire to fear God to abstain from conduct so base and criminal that we do not find it committed even by brute beasts. Let those who have not taken part in such doings continue to refrain in the future. But as for those who have been consumed by this kind of disease, let them not only cease to sin in the future, but let them alos duly do penance, and fall down before God and renounce their plague [in confession] to the blessed Patriarch; let them understand the reason for this charge, and, as it is written, bring forth the fruits of repentance. (Novel 141)

St. John the Faster died ca. 595

As for intercourse of men with one another, such as practicing double masturbation, it received the stated penance of up to eighty days.

It has seemed advisable to exclude any man who has been so mad as to copulate with another man from Communion for three years, weeping and fasting, and towards evening confined to xerophagy, and doing two hundred metanies. But as for one who prefers to relax, let him fulfill the fifteen years. (Canons of St. John the Faster: 9, 18)

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

[I]n Genesis we read that our Lord rained fire and brimstone upon the city of Sodom: that both fire might burn them, and the stench of brimstone smother and kill them: for seeing they burnt with the unlawful love of corruptible flesh, by God’s just judgment they perished both by fire and an unsavoury smell; to the end they might know that they had, by the pleasure of their stinking life, incurred the sorrows of eternal death. (Dialogues Bk. 4, chap. 36)

What is ‘brimstone’ but the fuel of fire, which, however, so cherishes the fire, that it sends out the very foulest stench. What then do we understand by ‘brimstone,’ but carnal sin, which, while it fills the mind with wicked thoughts like a kind of ill savours, is kindling everlasting fires for it; and whilst it spreads the cloud of its stench in the lost soul, it is as it were providing against it fuel for the flames to come after. For that the ill savour of the flesh is understood by brimstone, the mere history of Holy Writ by itself hears record, which relates that the Lord ‘rained down fire and brimstone upon Sodom.’ Who, when He had determined to punish her carnal wickednesses, by the very character of the punishment marked out the stain of her guilt: since ‘brimstone’ hath stench, and fire burning; and so, forasmuch as they had been kindled to bad desires in the ill savour of the flesh, it was meet that they should perish by fire and brimstone combined; that by their just punishment they might be taught what they had done in unjust desire. And so this ‘sulphur is scattered upon the habitation’ of the wicked man, as often as the corrupt indulgence of the flesh exercises dominion within him; and whereas bad thoughts unceasingly occupy him, and forbid his bringing forth the fruit of good practice… (Moralia in Job 14.23)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

The fire of Sodom is poured down upon those who trample on the law of nature by abusing it. And this is the reproof of the conscience, whenever, like fire, it completely burns it. (Questions and Doubts, Question 99)

St. Barsanuphius of Gaza ca. 6th century

May the demons not weaken you so as turn your attention to a brother (to whom you are attracted), or to converse with him; but if you should happen unexpectedly to come together with him, against your desire, restrain your glance with fear and decency and do not listen attentively to his voice. And if this brother, out of ignorance, should himself begin to speak with you or sit next to you, then skillfully avoid him, but not suddenly, rather with decorum. Say to your thought: “Remember the terrible Judgment of God and the shame which will then overtake those who are attracted by these shameful passions.” Compel your thought, and you will receive help, by the prayers of the Saints, and God will have mercy on you. Do not be a child in mind, but a child in malice (1 Cor. 14:20); in mind, O brother, be perfect. Pay heed to yourself, as to how you will meet God. Amen. (Saints Barsanuphius and John: Guidance Toward Spiritual Life. Answers to Questions of Disciples, Question 255)

St. John Climacus of Sinai ca. 7th century

“Blessed are the peacemakers” [Matt. 5:9]. No one will deny this. But I have also seen enemy-makers who are blessed.

A certain two developed impure affection for one another. But one of the discerning fathers, a most experienced man, was the means whereby they came to hate each other, by setting one against the other, telling each that he was being slandered by the other. And this wise man, by human roguery, succeeded in parrying the devil’s malice and in producing hatred by which the impure affection was dissolved.

Some set aside one commandment for the sake of another commandment. I have seen young men who were attached to one another in a right spirit. Yet, in order not to offend other men’s conscience, by mutual agreement they kept apart for a time. (The Divine Ladder, Step 26)

St. John Climacus on Obedience

St. John Climacus ca. 579-649

Obedience is the burial place of the will and the resurrection of lowliness. (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 4: On Obedience)

On Avoiding Church Services

St. Barsanuphius of Optina 1845-1913

St. John Climacus was asked if there are reliable signs by which it’s possible to know whether a soul is drawing near to God or moving away from Him. After all, regarding ordinary things there are clear signs as to whether they’re good or not. When, for instance, cabbage, meat or fish begins to rot, it’s easy to notice it, since the rotting object begins to give off a foul odor, the color and taste change, and its external appearance witnesses to its deterioration. Well, and what about the soul? After all, it’s bodiless and can’t give off a bad smell or change its appearance. To this question the Holy Father replies, “A sure sign of the deadening of the soul is the avoidance of church services.”

A man who is growing cold towards God begins first of all to flee attending church. At first he tries to come to services later, and then he ceases altogether to visit God’s temple. Therefore it’s mandatory for monks to attend church services. True, it’s sometimes permitted, due to urgent matters, not to go to all the services, but when possible, it’s regarded as a necessary duty. Here in the Skete we even make the rounds of the cells on feast days, so that no one evades church services. (Letter 04/12/1911)

On Practical Chalcedonianism

St. John Climacus ca. 7th century

Some say that prayer is better than the remembrance of death, but I praise two natures in one person (*). (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 28 On Prayer)

(*) A loving nature (Prayer) and a fearful nature (remembrance of death), just as Christ has His Divine and human natures united in one Person.

St. John Climacus on the Accounting After Death

St. John Climacus ca. 7th century

Some of the dying would answer: “Blessed be God Who has not turned away my prayer nor His mercy from me.” (Ps. 62:50) Others would say, “Blessed be the Lord God Who has not given us a prey for their teeth.” (Ps. 123:6) But others would be sad and say: “Will our souls pass through the impassable water of the spirits of the air?” (cf. Ps. 123:5) These would be unsure, and worried about the rendering of accounts after death. (Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 5)

Don’t Judge Before the Time

1 Cor. 4:5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

St. John Climacus ca. 579-649

And remember — now I say this as something to be pondered, and do not start passing judgment on the offender — Judas was one of the company of Christ’s disciples and the robber was in the company of killers. Yet what a turnabout there was when the decisive moment arrived! (The Ladder of Divine Ascent Step 10)

St. John Climacus on Prayer

St. John Climacus ca. 579-649

Prayer is by nature a dialogue and a union of man with God. Its effect is to hold the world together. It achieves a reconciliation with God.

Prayer is the mother and daughter of tears. It is an expiation of sin, a bridge across temptation, a bulwark against affliction. It wipes out conflict, is the work of angels, and is the nourishment of all bodiless beings. Prayer is future gladness, action without end, wellspring of virtues, source of grace, hidden progress, food of the soul, enlightenment of the mind, an axe against despair, hope demonstrated, sorrow done away with. It is wealth for monks, treasure of hermits, anger diminished. It is a mirror of progress, a demonstration of success, evidence of one’s condition, the future revealed, a sign of glory. For the man who really prays it is the court, the judgment hall, the tribunal of the Lord — and this prior to the judgment that is to come. (Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 28: On Prayer)

On Abstinance

St. John Climacus ca. 579-649

…[N]ever imagine that abstinence will keep you from falling. It was a being that never ate that was nevertheless thrown out of heaven. (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 15: On Chastity)

On the Importance of Mourning for Sin

St. John Climacus ca. 579-649

When we die, we will not be criticized for having failed to work miracles. We will not be accused of having failed to be theologians or contemplatives. But we will certainly have some explanation to offer to God for not having mourned unceasingly. (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 7: On Mourning)

Let the Eucharist Change You

St. John Climacus ca. 7th cent.

A body changes in its activity as a result of contact with another body. How therefore could there be no change in someone who with innocent hands has touched the Body of God? (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 28: On Prayer)

St. John Climacus on Free-will and Perseverance

St. John Climacus ca. 7th cent.

Someone asked this question of a discerning man: “Why is it that God confers gifts and wonder-working powers on some, even though He knows in advance that they will lapse?” His answer was that God does this so that other spiritual men may grow cautious, and to show that the human will is free, and to demonstrate that on the day of judgment there will be no excuse for these who lapsed. (Step 26, On Discernment)

On Heresy

Gal 5:19-21

Now the works of the flesh are clearly revealed, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, fightings, jealousies, angers, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and things like these; of which I tell you beforehand, as I also said before, that the ones practicing such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The word “heresy” is from the Greek word αἵρεσις (hairesis), a word meaning choice, course of action or in a extended sense, school of thought and hence inherently implies a conscious, deliberate and willful rejection or opposition to the Divine Truth manifest in the Orthodox Church.

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca.45-107

Do not err, my brethren. (Comp. Jam. 1:16) Those that corrupt families shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (1Cor. 6:9-10) If, then, those who do this as respects the flesh have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with any one who corrupts by wicked doctrine the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such an one becoming defiled [in this way], shall go away into everlasting fire, and so shall every one that hearkens unto him. (Ephesians 16)

I therefore, yet not I, but the love of Jesus Christ, entreat you that ye use Christian nourishment only, and abstain from herbage of a different kind; I mean heresy. For heretics mix up Jesus Christ with their own poison, speaking things which are unworthy of credit, like those who administer a deadly drug in sweet wine, which he who is ignorant of does greedily take, with a fatal pleasure leading to his own death. (Trallians 6)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

There are also those who heard from him (St. Polycarp) that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.” And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, “Dost thou know me?” “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.” Such was the horror which the Apostles and their disciples had against holding even verbal communication with any corrupters of the truth; as Paul also says, “A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” (Tit. 3:10) (Against Heresies 3.3.4)

Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church, — those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the Apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth. And the heretics, indeed, who bring strange fire to the altar of God — namely, strange doctrines — shall be burned up by the fire from heaven, as were Nadab and Abiud. (Lev. 10:1, Lev. 10:2) But such as rise up in opposition to the truth, and exhort others against the Church of God, [shall] remain among those in hades (apud inferos), being swallowed up by an earthquake, even as those who were with Chore, Dathan, and Abiron. (Num. 16:33) But those who cleave asunder, and separate the unity of the Church, [shall] receive from God the same punishment as Jeroboam did. (1Kgs. 14:10) (ibid., 4.26.2)

Now all these [heretics] are of much later date than the bishops to whom the apostles committed the Churches; which fact I have in the third book taken all pains to demonstrate. It follows, then, as a matter of course, that these heretics aforementioned, since they are blind to the truth, and deviate from the [right] way, will walk in various roads; and therefore the footsteps of their doctrine are scattered here and there without agreement or connection. But the path of those belonging to the Church circumscribes the whole world, as possessing the sure tradition from the Apostles, and gives unto us to see that the faith of all is one and the same, since all receive one and the same God the Father, and believe in the same dispensation regarding the incarnation of the Son of God, and are cognizant of the same gift of the Spirit, and are conversant with the same commandments, and preserve the same form of ecclesiastical constitution, and expect the same advent of the Lord, and await the same salvation of the complete man, that is, of the soul and body. (ibid., 5.20.1)

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

Accordingly it is added: “For he hath forsaken the ways of his own vineyard, and wandered in the tracks of his own husbandry.” Such are the sects which deserted the primitive Church. Now he who has fallen into heresy passes through an arid wilderness, abandoning the only true God, destitute of God, seeking waterless water, reaching an uninhabited and thirsty land, collecting sterility with his hands. And those destitute of prudence, that is, those involved in heresies, “I enjoin,” remarks Wisdom, saying, “Touch sweetly stolen bread and the sweet water of theft;” the Scripture manifestly applying the terms bread and water to nothing else but to those heresies, which employ bread and water in the oblation, not according to the canon of the Church. For there are those who celebrate the Eucharist with mere water. “But begone, stay not in her place:” place is the synagogue, not the Church. He calls it by the equivocal name, place. Then He subjoins: “For so shalt thou pass through the water of another;” reckoning heretical baptism not proper and true water. “And thou shalt pass over another’s river,” that rushes along and sweeps down to the sea; into which he is cast who, having diverged from the stability which is according to truth, rushes back into the heathenish and tumultous waves of life. (Stromata Bk. 1 Chap. 19)

Tertullian ca. 160-220

Since this is the case, in order that the truth may be adjudged to belong to us, as many as walk according to the rule, which the church has handed down from the Apostles, the Apostles from Christ, and Christ from God, the reason of our position is clear, when it determines that heretics ought not to be allowed to challenge an appeal to the Scriptures, since we, without the Scriptures, prove that they have nothing to do with the Scriptures. For as they are heretics, they cannot be true Christians, because it is not from Christ that they get that which they pursue of their own mere choice, and from the pursuit incur and admit the name of heretics. Thus, not being Christians, they have acquired no right to the Christian Scriptures; and it may be very fairly said to them, Who are you? When and whence did you come? As you are none of mine, what have you to do with that which is mine?  (Prescription Against Heretics 37)

I must not omit an account of the conduct also of the heretics— how frivolous it is, how worldly, how merely human, without seriousness, without authority, without discipline, as suits their creed. To begin with, it is doubtful who is a catechumen, and who a believer; they have all access alike, they hear alike, they pray alike— even heathens, if any such happen to come among them. That which is holy they will cast to the dogs, and their pearls, although (to be sure) they are not real ones, they will fling to the swine. Simplicity they will have to consist in the overthrow of discipline, attention to which on our part they call brothelry. Peace also they huddle up anyhow with all comers; for it matters not to them, however different be their treatment of subjects, provided only they can conspire together to storm the citadel of the one only Truth. All are puffed up, all offer you knowledge. Their catechumens are perfect before they are full-taught. The very women of these heretics, how wanton they are! For they are bold enough to teach, to dispute, to enact exorcisms, to undertake cures— it may be even to baptize. Their ordinations, are carelessly administered, capricious, changeable. At one time they put novices in office; at another time, men who are bound to some secular employment; at another, persons who have apostatized from us, to bind them by vainglory, since they cannot by the truth. Nowhere is promotion easier than in the camp of rebels, where the mere fact of being there is a foremost service. And so it comes to pass that today one man is their bishop, tomorrow another; today he is a deacon who tomorrow is a reader; today he is a presbyter who tomorrow is a layman. For even on laymen do they impose the functions of priesthood. (ibid., 41)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235

Do not devote your attention to the fallacies of artificial discourses, nor the vain promises of plagiarizing heretics, but to the venerable simplicity of unassuming truth. (Refutation of All Heresies Bk. X Chap. 30)

St. Methodius of Olympus died ca. 311

The dragon, which is great, and red, and cunning, and manifold, and seven-headed, and horned, and draws down the third part of the stars, and stands ready to devour the child of the woman who is travailing, is the devil, who lies in wait to destroy the Christ-accepted mind of the baptized, and the image and clear features of the Word which had been brought forth in them. But he misses and fails of his prey, the regenerate being caught up on high to the throne of God—that is, the mind of those who are renovated is lifted up around the divine seat and the basis of truth against which there is no stumbling, being taught to look upon and regard the things which are there, so that it may not be deceived by the dragon weighing them down. For it is not allowed to him to destroy those whose thoughts and looks are upwards. And the stars, which the dragon touched with the end of his tail, and drew them down to earth, are the bodies of heresies; for we must say that the stars, which are dark, obscure, and falling, are the assemblies of the heterodox; since they, too, wish to be acquainted with the heavenly ones, and to have believed in Christ, and to have the seat of their soul in heaven, and to come near to the stars as children of light. But they are dragged down, being shaken out by the folds of the dragon, because they did not remain within the triangular forms of godliness, falling away from it with respect to an orthodox service. Whence also they are called the third part of the stars, as having gone astray with regard to one of the three Persons of the Trinity. As when they say, like Sabellios, that the Almighty Person of the Father Himself suffered; or as when they say, like Artemas, that the Person of the Son was born and manifested only in appearance; or when they contend, like the Ebionites, that the prophets spoke of the Person of the Spirit, of their own motion. For of Marcion and Valentinus, and those about Elkesaios and others, it is better not even to make mention. (Banquet of the Ten Virgins Discourse 8, Chap. 10)

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373

Yes surely; while all of us are and are called Christians after Christ, Marcion broached a heresy a long time since and was cast out; and those who continued with him who ejected him remained Christians; but those who followed Marcion were called Christians no more, but henceforth Marcionites. Thus Valentinus also, and Basilides, and Manichæus, and Simon Magus, have imparted their own name to their followers; and some are accosted as Valentinians, or as Basilidians, or as Manichees, or as Simonians; and other, Cataphrygians from Phrygia, and from Novatus Novatians. So too Meletius, when ejected by Peter the Bishop and Martyr, called his party no longer Christians, but Meletians , and so in consequence when Alexander of blessed memory had cast out Arius, those who remained with Alexander, remained Christians; but those who went out with Arius, left the Saviour’s Name to us who were with Alexander, and as to them they were hence-forward denominated Arians. Behold then, after Alexander’s death too, those who communicate with his successor Athanasius, and those with whom the said Athanasius communicates, are instances of the same rule; none of them bear his name, nor is he named from them, but all in like manner, and as is usual, are called Christians. For though we have a succession of teachers and become their disciples, yet, because we are taught by them the things of Christ, we both are, and are called, Christians all the same. But those who follow the heretics, though they have innumerable successors in their heresy, yet anyhow bear the name of him who devised it. Thus, though Arius be dead, and many of his party have succeeded him, yet those who think with him, as being known from Arius, are called Arians. And, what is a remarkable evidence of this, those of the Greeks who even at this time come into the Church, on giving up the superstition of idols, take the name, not of their catechists, but of the Saviour, and begin to be called Christians instead of Greeks: while those of them who go off to the heretics, and again all who from the Church change to this heresy, abandon Christ’s name, and henceforth are called Arians, as no longer holding Christ’s faith, but having inherited Arius’s madness. (Discourse 1 Against the Arians, 3)

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet; ‘I will take away from them the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the scent of myrrh, and the light of a lamp, and the whole land shall be destroyed.’ (Jer. 25:10) For the whole service of the law has been abolished from them, and henceforth and for ever they remain without a feast. And they observe not the Passover; for how can they? They have no abiding place, but they wander everywhere. And they eat unleavened bread contrary to the law, since they are unable first to sacrifice the lamb, as they were commanded to do when eating unleavened bread. But in every place they transgress the law, and as the judgments of God require, they keep days of grief instead of gladness. Now the cause of this to them was the slaying of the Lord, and that they did not reverence the Only-Begotten. At this time the altogether wicked heretics and ignorant schismatics are in the same case; the one in that they slay the Word, the other in that they rend the coat. They too remain expelled from the feast, because they live without godliness and knowledge, and emulate the conduct shewn in the matter of Bar-Abbas the robber, whom the Jews desired instead of the Saviour. (Festal Letter 6.6)

St. Hilary Poitiers ca. 300-368

But I trust that the Church, by the light of her doctrine, will so enlighten the world’s vain wisdom, that, even though it accept not the mystery of the faith, it will recognise that in our conflict with heretics we, and not they, are the true representatives of that mystery. For great is the force of truth; not only is it its own sufficient witness, but the more it is assailed the more evident it becomes; the daily shocks which it receives only increase its inherent stability. It is the peculiar property of the Church that when she is buffeted she is triumphant, when she is assaulted with argument she proves herself in the right, when she is deserted by her supporters she holds the field. It is her wish that all men should remain at her side and in her bosom; if it lay with her, none would become unworthy to abide under the shelter of that august mother, none would be cast out or suffered to depart from her calm retreat. But when heretics desert her or she expels them, the loss she endures, in that she cannot save them, is compensated by an increased assurance that she alone can offer bliss. This is a truth which the passionate zeal of rival heresies brings into the clearest prominence. The Church, ordained by the Lord and established by His Apostles, is one for all; but the frantic folly of discordant sects has severed them from her. And it is obvious that these dissensions concerning the faith result from a distorted mind, which twists the words of Scripture into conformity with its opinion, instead of adjusting that opinion to the words of Scripture. And thus, amid the clash of mutually destructive errors, the Church stands revealed not only by her own teaching, but by that of her rivals. They are ranged, all of them, against her; and the very fact that she stands single and alone is her sufficient answer to their godless delusions. The hosts of heresy assemble themselves against her; each of them can defeat all the others, but not one can win a victory for itself. The only victory is the triumph which the Church celebrates over them all. Each heresy wields against its adversary some weapon already shattered, in another instance, by the Church’s condemnation. There is no point of union between them, and the outcome of their internecine struggles is the confirmation of the faith. (On the Trinity Bk. 7,4)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

But since the word Ecclesia is applied to different things (as also it is written of the multitude in the theatre of the Ephesians, And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the Assembly), and since one might properly and truly say that there is a Church of evil doers, I mean the meetings of the heretics, the Marcionists and Manichees, and the rest, for this cause the Faith has securely delivered to thee now the Article, “And in one Holy Catholic Church;” that thou mayest avoid their wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which thou wast regenerated. And if ever thou art sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord’s House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God (for it is written, As Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it, and all the rest,) and is a figure and copy of Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and the mother of us all; which before was barren, but now has many children.(Cathechetical Lectures 18.26)

St. Gregory Nazianzus ca. 329-390

Yea! Would that I were one of those who contend and incur hatred for the truth’s sake: or rather, I can boast of being one of them. For better is a laudable war than a peace which severs a man from God: and therefore it is that the Spirit arms the gentle warrior, as one who is able to wage war in a good cause. (Oration 2.82)

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

As for all those who pretend to confess sound Orthodox Faith, but are in communion with people who hold a different opinion, if they are forewarned and still remain stubborn, you must not only not be in communion with them, but you must not even call them brothers. (Patrologia Orientalis, Vol. 17, p. 303)

Abba Agathon ca. 4th cent.

Several brothers once visited Abba Agathon, for they had been informed that he was possessed of great spiritual discretion. And wishing to test him, to see if he would become angry, they said: “Are you Agathon? We have heard about you that you are debauched and proud.” He replied, “Yes, it is so.” They said to him once more, “Are you Agathon the loose-tongued lover of slander?” “I am he,” he responded. And the visitors spoke to him a third time, “You are Agathon, the heretic?” To this, he answered, “I am not a heretic.” After this answer, they asked him to explain: “Why, when we called you so many things, did you admit them, while you would not, however, endure the accusation that you were a heretic?” And the Abba said to them: “The first things I accepted since they were beneficial for my soul; but not the accusation that I am a heretic, since heresy is separation from God.” On hearing this reply, the visitors marvelled at the spiritual discretion of the Abba and departed, benefitted in soul. (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: Agathon 5)

Abba Poemen the Great ca. 4th cent.

Some heretics came to Abba Poemen one day and began to speak evil of the archbishop of Alexandria suggesting that he had received the laying on of hands from priests. The old man, who had remained silent till then, called his brother and said, ‘Set the table, give them something to eat and send them away in peace.’ (ibid., Abba Poemen 78)

Abba Theodore ca. 4th cent.

He also said, ‘If you are friendly with someone who happens to fall into the temptation of fornication, offer him your hand, if you can, and deliver him from it. But if he falls into heresy and you cannot persuade him to turn from it, seperate yourself quickly from him, in case, if you delay, you too may be dragged down with him into the pit. (ibid., Theodore of Pherme 4)

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

Heretics bring sentence upon themselves since they by their own choice withdraw from the Church, a withdrawal which, since they are aware of it, constitutes damnation. Between heresy and schism there is this difference: that heresy involves perverse doctrine, while schism separates one from the Church on account of disagreement with the bishop. Nevertheless, there is no schism which does not trump up a heresy to justify its departure from the Church. (Commentary on Titus 3:10–11)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

They (the Galatians) had, in fact, only introduced one or two commandments, circumcision and the observance of days, but he says that the Gospel was subverted, in order to show that a slight adulteration vitiates the whole. For as he who but partially pares away the image on a royal coin renders the whole spurious, so he who swerves ever so little from the pure faith, soon proceeds from this to graver errors, and becomes entirely corrupted. Where then are those who charge us with being contentious in separating from heretics, and say that there is no real difference between us except what arises from our ambition? Let them hear Paul’s assertion, that those who had but slightly innovated, subverted the Gospel. Not to say that the Son of God is a created Being, is a small matter. Know you not that even under the elder covenant, a man who gathered sticks on the sabbath, and transgressed a single commandment, and that not a great one, was punished with death? Numbers 15:32-36 and that Uzzah, who supported the Ark when on the point of being overturned, was struck suddenly dead, because he had intruded upon an office which did not pertain to him? 2 Samuel 6:6-7 Wherefore if to transgress the sabbath, and to touch the falling Ark, drew down the wrath of God so signally as to deprive the offender of even a momentary respite, shall he who corrupts unutterably awful doctrines find excuse and par don? Assuredly not. A want of zeal in small matters is the cause of all our calamities; and because slight errors escape fitting correction, greater ones creep in. As in the body, a neglect of wounds generates fever, mortification, and death; so in the soul, slight evils overlooked open the door to graver ones. It is accounted a trivial fault that one man should neglect fasting; that another, who is established in the pure faith, dissembling on account of circumstances, should surrender his bold profession of it, neither is this anything great or dreadful; that a third should be irritated, and threaten to depart from the true faith, is excused on the plea of passion and resentment. Thus a thousand similar errors are daily introduced into the Church, and we have become a laughing-stock to Jews and Greeks, seeing that the Church is divided into a thousand parties. But if a proper rebuke had at first been given to those who attempted slight perversions, and a deflection from the divine oracles, such a pestilence would not have been generated, nor such a storm have seized upon the Churches. (Homily 1 on Galatians)

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

The Apostle Paul has said: A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted and sins, being condemned of himself. Titus 3:10-11 But though the doctrine which men hold be false and perverse, if they do not maintain it with passionate obstinacy, especially when they have not devised it by the rashness of their own presumption, but have accepted it from parents who had been misguided and had fallen into error, and if they are with anxiety seeking the truth, and are prepared to be set right when they have found it, such men are not to be counted heretics. Were it not that I believe you to be such, perhaps I would not write to you. And yet even in the case of a heretic, however puffed up with odious conceit, and insane through the obstinacy of his wicked resistance to truth, although we warn others to avoid him, so that he may not deceive the weak and inexperienced, we do not refuse to strive by every means in our power for his correction. (Letters 43,1)

We believe also in the holy Church, that is, the Catholic Church. For both heretics and schismatics style their congregations churches. For heretics violate the faith itself by a false opinion about God; schismatics, however, withdraw from fraternal love by hostile separations, although they believe the same things we do. Consequently, neither heretics nor schismatics belong to the Catholic Church; not heretics, because the Church loves God; and not schismatics, because the Church loves neighbor. (Faith and the Creed 10:21)

St. John Cassian ca. 360-435

Tell me, I pray, if any Jew or pagan denied the Creed of the Catholic faith, should you think that we ought to listen to him? Most certainly not. What if a heretic or an apostate does the same? Still less should we listen to him, for it is worse for a man to forsake the truth which he has known, than to deny it without ever having known it. (On the Incarnation Bk. VI Chap. 10)

For the scheme of the mysteries of the Church and the Catholic faith is such that one who denies one portion of the Sacred Mystery cannot confess the other. For all parts of it are so bound up and united together that one cannot stand without the other and if a man denies one point out of the whole number, it is of no use for him to believe all the others. (ibid., Bk. VI Chap. 17)

St. Vincent of Lerins died ca. 445

I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church. (The Commonitory, Chap. 2)

Here, possibly, some one may ask, ‘Do heretics also appeal to Scripture?’ They do indeed, and with a vengeance; for you may see them scamper through every single book of Holy Scripture,—through the books of Moses, the books of Kings, the Psalms, the Epistles, the Gospels, the Prophets. Whether among their own people, or among strangers, in private or in public, in speaking or in writing, at convivial meetings, or in the streets, hardly ever do they bring forward anything of their own which they do not endeavour to shelter under words of Scripture. Read the works of Paul of Samosata, of Priscillian, of Eunomius, of Jovinian, and the rest of those pests, and you will see an infinite heap of instances, hardly a single page, which does not bristle with plausible quotations from the New Testament or the Old.

But the more secretly they conceal themselves under shelter of the Divine Law, so much the more are they to be feared and guarded against. For they know that the evil stench of their doctrine will hardly find acceptance with any one if it be exhaled pure and simple. They sprinkle it over, therefore, with the perfume of heavenly language, in order that one who would be ready to despise human error, may hesitate to condemn divine words. They do, in fact, what nurses do when they would prepare some bitter draught for children; they smear the edge of the cup all round with honey, that the unsuspecting child, having first tasted the sweet, may have no fear of the bitter. So too do these act, who disguise poisonous herbs and noxious juices under the names of medicines, so that no one almost, when he reads the label, suspects the poison. (ibid., 25)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

I write these things not wishing to cause distress to the heretics or to rejoice in their ill-treatment — God forbid; but, rather, rejoicing and being gladdened at their return. For what is more pleasing to the faithful than to see the scattered children of God gathered again as one? Neither do I exhort you to place harshness above the love of men. May I not be so mad! I beseech you to do and to carry out good to all men with care and assiduity, becoming all things to all men, as the need of each is shown to you; I want and pray you to be wholly harsh and implacable with the heretics only in regard to cooperating with them or in any way whatever supporting their deranged belief. For I reckon it hatred towards man and a departure from divine love to lend support to error, so that those previously seized by it might be even more greatly corrupted. (Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 91 col. 465c)

St. John Climacus ca. 7th cent.

A transgressor is someone who observes the divine law only in his own depraved fashion and holds heretical belief in opposition to God. (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 1)

A very well-informed man once put this question to me: “Leaving aside murder and the denial of God, what is the most serious of sins?”

“To lapse into heresy,” I replied.

(ibid., Step 15)

Snow cannot burst into flames. It is even less possible for humility to abide in a heretic. This achievement belongs only to the pious and the faithful, and then only when they have been purified. (ibid., Step 25)

In any conflict with unbelievers or heretics, we should stop after we have twice reproved them (cf. Tit. 3:10). But where we are dealing with those eager to learn the truth, we should never grow tired of doing the right thing (cf. Gal. 6:9). And we should use both situations to test our own steadfastness. (ibid., Step 26)

St. Isaac the Syrian died ca. 700

Beware of reading the doctrines of heretics for they, more than anything else, can arm the spirit of blasphemy against you. (The Ascetical Homilies, Homily Four)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

All heretics distort the Scriptures, for there is no book either of the Old or New Testament in which they do not understand many things perversely. But they also often twist the meaning of the Scriptures either by taking something away or adding or changing, whatever their faithlessness has commanded…(Commentary on 2 Pet. 3:16)

You who perceive the true God, in whom you have eternal life, keep yourselves from the teachings of heretics which lead to everlasting death, because like those who fabricate idols in place of God, they by their wicked teachings change the glory of the imperishable God into the likeness of perishable things. (Rom. 1:23) (Commentary on 1 Jn. 5:21)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

With all our strength, therefore, let us beware lest we receive communion from or grant it to heretics; Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, saith the Lord, neither cast ye your pearls before swine(Mat. 7:6), lest we become partakers in their dishonour and condemnation. For if trojan is in truth with Christ and with one another, we are assuredly voluntarily united also with all those who partake with us. For this union is effected voluntarily and not against our inclination. For we are all one body because we partake of the one bread, as the divine Apostle says. (1 Cor. 10:17) (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk. 4, 13)

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

It is heresy when someone turns aside in any way from the dogmas that have been defined concerning the right faith. (Discourses XXXII. 2)

St. Theodosius of the Kiev Caves ca. 1009-1074

My son, it is not meet to praise another’s faith. Whoever praises an alien faith is like a detractor of his own Orthodox Faith. If anyone should praise his own and another’s faith, then he is a man of dual faith and is close to heresy. If anyone should say to you: “your faith and our faith is from God”, you, my son, should reply: “Heretic! do you consider God to be of two faiths? Don’t you hear what the Scriptures say: “One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.” (Eph. 4,5) (Testament to the Great Prince

Izyaslav of Kiev)

On the Perseverance of the Saints

John Jefferson Davis, professor of Systematic Theology and Christian ethics at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA

The first extensive discussion of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is found in Augustine’s Treatise on the Gift of Perseverance, written in A.D. 428 or 429 in the context of the controversies with Pelagius on the issues of grace, original sin, and predestination. At the very outset Augustine affirms the grace of God as the ultimate basis for the believer’s final perseverance: “I assert….that the perseverance by which we persevere in Christ even to the end is the gift of God.” From a human perspective it is inscrutable why, given two pious men, one should be given the grace of final perseverance and the other not. From a divine perspective it must be the case that the individual who perseveres is among the predestined while the other is not. The one who fails to persevere has not been called according to God’s plan and chosen in Christ according to God’s purpose.

God’s sovereignty in election and predestination, then, is the basis for Augustine’s understanding of final perseverance. The grace of God

“which both begins a man’s faith and which enables it to persevere unto the end is not given in respect of our merits, but is given according to His own most secret and at the same time most righteous, wise, and beneficent will; since those whom He predestinated, them He also called, with that calling of which it is said, ‘The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.’ ”

Unlike Calvin and those in the later Reformed tradition, however, Augustine does not believe that the Christian can in this life know with infallible certitude that he is in fact among the elect and that he will finally persevere. According to Augustine “it is uncertain whether anyone has received this gift so long as he is still alive.” The believer’s life in this world is a state of trial, and he who seems to stand must take heed lest he fall. It is possible to experience the renewal of baptismal regeneration, and the justifying grace of God, and yet not persevere to the end. The recognition of this possibility should make the believer’s confession of faith “lowly and submissive” and lead to continued dependence on the grace of God. Augustine’s understanding of perseverance, then, reflects his understanding of the eternal predestination of God, the warning passages addressed to believers in the NT, and his sacramental theology of grace and baptismal regeneration. He held that God’s elect will certainly persevere but that one’s election could not be infallibly known in this life — and that in fact one’s justification and baptismal regeneration could be rejected and lost through sin and unbelief. Augustine’s understanding set the parameters for Aquinas, for the Council of Trent, and for the Roman Catholic tradition generally down to the present day.

…Luther’s understanding of perseverance clearly bears marks of the Roman Catholic tradition and yet differs from it on the key point of the believer’s present certitude of the experience of grace. In the context of a late medieval Church whose theology and practices mitigated against such certitude, Luther is horrified that the pope “should have entirely prohibited the certainty and assurance of divine grace.”  The preacher’s essential task is to make the hearers sure of their salvation. “If you want to preach to a person in a comforting way,” urged Luther in a midweek sermon on Matt 18:21-22, “then do it so that he who hears you is certain that he is in God’s favor, or be silent altogether.” Preachers who make their hearers doubt are “good for nothing.” Assurance that one is presently in a state of grace is foundational to the Christian life. “I must be able to say,” stated the great reformer, “I know that I have a gracious God and that my works, performed in this faith and according to this Word, are good fruits and are pleasing to Him.”

Like Augustine, Luther believed that regeneration occurred through the waters of baptism. “But,” noted the Reformer, “all of us do not remain with our baptism. Many fall away from Christ and become false Christians.” In his commentary on 2 Pet 2:22 he writes as follows on apostates in the Church: “Through baptism these people threw out unbelief, had their unclean way of life washed away, and entered into a pure life of faith and love. Now they fall away into unbelief and their own works, and they soil themselves again in filth.”

One who has experienced the justifying grace of God through faith can lose that justification through unbelief or false confidence in works. “Indeed, even the righteous man,” writes Luther in his comments on Gal 5:4, “if he presumes to be justified by those works, loses the righteousness he has and falls from the grace by which he had been justified, since he has been removed from a good land to one that is barren.”

Martin Luther shared with the Roman Catholic Church of his day the belief that the grace of baptismal regeneration and justification could be lost.

…Like Luther, Calvin believes that the Christian can enjoy moral certitude of his present state of grace. Calvin, however, has greater confidence than Luther and the Catholic tradition before him that the believer can also have great assurance of his election and final perseverance.

Calvin also differs from Luther in his understanding of regeneration. According to Calvin, once the Spirit brings a person to regeneration this reality cannot be lost.

…Calvin, Arminius and Wesley agreed that if election were unconditional, then final perseverance would logically follow as a matter of course. Augustine and Aquinas affirmed unconditional election but taught that believers did not enjoy infallible certitude of their election and hence of their final perseverance. Luther believed that the Christian could have certitude concerning the present state of grace but not concerning final perseverance. Like the Roman Catholic tradition that preceded him and the Wesleyan tradition that succeeded him, Luther did not see regeneration as inextricably linked with final salvation. The Calvinistic tradition has understood election as unconditional, regeneration as permanent, and certitude of final perseverance as a genuine possibility for the believer. (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society [JETS] 34/2 (June 1991) p. 213-228The Perseverance of the Saints: A History of the Doctrine by John Jefferson Davis)

Barnabas ca. 70-130

We take earnest heed in these last days; for the whole [past] time of your faith will profit you nothing, unless now in this wicked time we also withstand coming sources of danger, as becomes the sons of God. That the Black One may find no means of entrance, let us flee from every vanity, let us utterly hate the works of the way of wickedness. Do not, by retiring apart, live a solitary life, as if you were already [fully] justified; but coming together in one place, make common inquiry concerning what tends to your general welfare. For the Scripture says, Woe to them who are wise to themselves, and prudent in their own sight! (Isa. 5:21) Let us be spiritually-minded: let us be a perfect temple to God. As much as in us lies, let us meditate upon the fear of God, and let us keep His commandments, that we may rejoice in His ordinances. The Lord will judge the world without respect of persons. Each will receive as he has done: if he is righteous, his righteousness will precede him; if he is wicked, the reward of wickedness is before him. Take heed, lest resting at our ease, as those who are the called [of God], we should fall asleep in our sins, and the wicked prince, acquiring power over us, should thrust us away from the kingdom of the Lord. And all the more attend to this, my brethren, when you reflect and behold, that after so great signs and wonders were wrought in Israel, they were thus [at length] abandoned. Let us beware lest we be found [fulfilling that saying], as it is written, Many are called, but few are chosen. (Epistle of Barnabas, 4)

The Didache ca. 70-120

Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord comes. But you shall assemble together often, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you be not made complete in the last time. (Chap 16)


St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 45-107

Do not err, my brethren. (Comp. Jam 1:16)Those that corrupt families shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (1Cor. 6:9-10) If, then, those who do this as respects the flesh have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with anyone who corrupts by wicked doctrine the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such an one becoming defiled [in this way], shall go away into everlasting fire, and so shall every one that hearkens unto him. (Epistle to the Ephesians, 16)

2nd Clement ca. 100-150

Let us, then, not only call Him Lord, for that will not save us. For He saith, “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall be saved, but he that worketh righteousness.” Wherefore, brethren, let us confess Him by our works, by loving one another, by not committing adultery, or speaking evil of one another, or cherishing envy; but by being continent, compassionate, and good. We ought also to sympathize with one another, and not be avaricious. By such works let us confess Him, and not by those that are of an opposite kind. And it is not fitting that we should fear men, but rather God. For this reason, if we should do such [wicked] things, the Lord hath said, “Even though ye were gathered together to me in my very bosom, yet if ye were not to keep my commandments, I would cast you off, and say unto you, Depart from me; I know you not whence ye are, ye workers of iniquity.” (2 Clement 4)

St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165

Justin well said: Before the advent of the Lord, Satan never ventured to blaspheme God, inasmuch as he was not yet sure of his own damnation, since that was announced concerning him by the prophets only in parables and allegories. But after the advent of the Lord learning plainly from the discourses of Christ and His apostles that eternal fire was prepared for him who voluntarily departed from God and for all who, without repentance, persevere in apostasy, then, by means of a man of this sort, he, as if already condemned, blasphemes that God who inflicts judgment upon him, and imputes the sin of his apostasy to his Maker, instead of to his own will and predilection. — Irenaeus: Heresies, v. 26. (Other Fragments from the Lost Writings of Justin)

Shepherd of Hermas ca. 150

For the Lord has sworn by His glory, in regard to His elect, that if any one of them sin after a certain day which has been fixed, he shall not be saved. For the repentance of the righteous has limits. Filled up are the days of repentance to all the saints; but to the heathen, repentance will be possible even to the last day. You will tell, therefore, those who preside over the Church, to direct their ways in righteousness, that they may receive in full the promises with great glory. Stand stedfast, therefore, ye who work righteousness, and doubt not, that your passage may be with the holy angels. Happy ye who endure the great tribulation that is coming on, and happy they who shall not deny their own life. For the Lord hath sworn by His Son, that those who denied their Lord have abandoned their life in despair, for even now these are to deny Him in the days that are coming. (Vision Second, Chap. II)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

Some of his disciples, too, addicting themselves to the same practices, have deceived many silly women, and defiled them. They proclaim themselves as being “perfect,” so that no one can be compared to them with respect to the immensity of their knowledge, nor even were you to mention Paul or Peter, or any other of the apostles. They assert that they themselves know more than all others, and that they alone have imbibed the greatness of the knowledge of that power which is unspeakable. They also maintain that they have attained to a height above all power, and that therefore they are free in every respect to act as they please, having no one to fear in anything. For they affirm, that because of the “Redemption” it has come to pass that they can neither be apprehended, nor even seen by the judge. (Against Heresies, Bk. I, 13.6)

And truly the death of the Lord became [the means of] healing and remission of sins to the former, but Christ shall not die again in behalf of those who now commit sin, for death shall no more have dominion over Him; but the Son shall come in the glory of the Father, requiring from His stewards and dispensers the money which He had entrusted to them, with usury; and from those to whom He had given most shall He demand most. We ought not, therefore, as that presbyter remarks, to be puffed up, nor be severe upon those of old time, but ought ourselves to fear, lest perchance, after [we have come to] the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we obtain no further forgiveness of sins, but be shut out from His kingdom. And therefore it was that Paul said, For if [God] spared not the natural branches, [take heed] lest He also spare not you, who, when you were a wild olive tree, were grafted into the fatness of the olive tree, and were made a partaker of its fatness.

As then the unrighteous, the idolaters, and fornicators perished, so also is it now: for both the Lord declares, that such persons are sent into eternal fire; Mat. 25:41 and the apostle says, Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, not effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Cor. 6:9-10 And as it was not to those who are without that he said these things, but to us, lest we should be cast forth from the kingdom of God, by doing any such thing, he proceeds to say, And such indeed were you; but you are washed, but you are sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God. And just as then, those who led vicious lives, and put other people astray, were condemned and cast out, so also even now the offending eye is plucked out, and the foot and the hand, lest the rest of the body perish in like manner. Mat. 18:8-9 (Against Hereises, Bk. IV, 27.2,4)

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

Forgiveness of past sins, then, God gives, however, as to future sins, each one procures this for himself. And this is to repent, to condemn the past deeds, and beg oblivion of them from the Father, who only of all is able to undo what is done, by mercy proceeding from Him, and to blot out former sins by the dew of the Spirit. “For by the state in which I find you will I judge” also, is what in each case the end of all cries aloud. So that even in the case of one who has done the greatest good deeds in his life, but at the end has run headlong into wickedness, all his former pains are profitless to him, since at the catastrophe of the drama he has given up his part; while it is possible for the man who formerly led a bad and dissolute life, on afterwards repenting, to overcome in the time after repentance the evil conduct of a long time. But it needs great carefulness, just as bodies that have suffered by protractred disease need regimen and special attention. Thief, do you wish to get forgiveness? steal no more. Adulterer, burn no more. Fornicator, live for the future chastely. You who has robbed, give back, and give back more than you took. False witness, practice truth. Perjurer, swear no more, and extirpate the rest of the passions, wrath, lust, grief, fear; that you may be found at the end to have previously in this world been reconciled to the adversary. It is then probably impossible all at once to eradicate inbred passions; but by God’s power and human intercession, and the help of the brethren, and sincere repentance, and constant care, they are corrected. (Who is the Rich Man That Shall be Saved? Chap. XL)


Tertullian ca. 160-220

Whereas the material class— in other words, those souls which are bad souls they say, never receive the blessings of salvation, for that nature they have pronounced to be incapable of any change or reform in its natural condition. This grain, then, of spiritual seed is modest and very small when cast from her hand, but under her instruction increases and advances into full conviction, as we have already said; and the souls, on this very account, so much excelled all others, that the Demiurge, even then in his ignorance, held them in great esteem. For it was from their list that he had been accustomed to select men for kings and for priests; and these even now, if they have once attained to a full and complete knowledge of these foolish conceits of theirs, since they are already naturalized in the fraternal bond of the spiritual state, will obtain a sure salvation, nay, one which is on all accounts their due. (Against the Valentinians, Chaps. 29-30)

But some think as if God were under a necessity of bestowing even on the unworthy, what He has engaged (to give); and they turn His liberality into slavery. But if it is of necessity that God grants us the symbol of death, then He does so unwilling. But who permits a gift to be permanently retained which he has granted unwillingly? For do not many afterward fall out of (grace)? is not this gift taken away from many? (On Repentance,6)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-236

Hoodwinking therefore multitudes, he led on (into enormities) many (dupes) of this description who had become his disciples, by teaching them that they were prone, no doubt, to sin, but beyond the reach of danger, from the fact of their belonging to the perfect power, and of their being participators in the inconceivable potency. And subsequent to the (first) baptism, to these they promise another, which they call Redemption. And by this (other baptism) they wickedly subvert those that remain with them in expectation of redemption, as if persons, after they had once been baptized, could again obtain remission. (The Refutation of All Heresies, Bk. VI Chap. XXXVI)

St. Cyprian of Carthage +258

He says that we are sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God. We pray that this sanctification may abide in us and because our Lord and Judge warns the man that was healed and quickened by Him, to sin no more lest a worse thing happen unto him, we make this supplication in our constant prayers, we ask this day and night, that the sanctification and quickening which is received from the grace of God may be preserved by His protection.

…[T]here is need of continual prayer and supplication, that we fall not away from the heavenly kingdom, as the Jews, to whom this promise had first been given, fell away; even as the Lord sets forth and proves: Many, says He, shall come from the east and from the west, and shall recline with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 8:11 He shows that the Jews were previously children of the kingdom, so long as they continued also to be children of God; but after the name of Father ceased to be recognised among them, the kingdom also ceased; and therefore we Christians, who in our prayer begin to call God our Father, pray also that God’s kingdom may come to us. (Treatise 4: On the Lord’s Prayer, 12-13)

St. Aphrahat the Persian ca. 270-345

Therefore, my beloved, we also have received of the Spirit of Christ, and Christ dwelleth in us, as it is written that the Spirit said this through the month of the Prophet: –I will dwell in them and will walk in them.Therefore let us prepare our temples for the Spirit of Christ, and let us not grieve it that it may not depart from us. Remember the warning that the Apostle gives us:–Grieve not the Holy Spirit whereby ye have been sealed unto the day of redemption. For from baptism do we receive the Spirit of Christ … And whatever man there is that receives the Spirit from the water (of baptism) and grieves it, it departs from him until he dies, and returns according to its nature to Christ, and accuses that man of having grieved it.

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373

For what the Word has by nature, as I said, in the Father, that He wishes to be given to us through the Spirit irrevocably; which the Apostle knowing, said, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ for ‘the gifts of God’ and ‘grace of His calling are without repentance.’ It is the Spirit then which is in God, and not we viewed in our own selves; and as we are sons and gods because of the Word in us, so we shall be in the Son and in the Father, and we shall be accounted to have become one in Son and in Father, because that that Spirit is in us, which is in the Word which is in the Father. When then a man falls from the Spirit for any wickedness, if he repent upon his fall, the grace remains irrevocably to such as are willing; otherwise he who has fallen is no longer in God (because that Holy Spirit and Paraclete which is in God has deserted him), but the sinner shall be in him to whom he has subjected himself, as took place in Saul’s instance; for the Spirit of God departed from him and an evil spirit was afflicting him. (Athanasius,Discourse Against the Arians,3:25)

Now, my beloved, our will ought to keep pace with the grace of God, and not fall short; lest while our will remains idle, the grace given us should begin to depart, and the enemy finding us empty and naked, should enter [into us], as was the case with him spoken of in the Gospel, from whom the devil went out; ‘for having gone through dry places, he took seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and returning and finding the house empty, he dwelt there, and the last state of that man was worse than the first. ‘ For the departure from virtue gives place for the entrance of the unclean spirit. There is, moreover, the apostolic injunction, that the grace given us should not be unprofitable; for those things which he wrote particularly to his disciple, he enforces on us through him , saying, ‘Neglect not the gift that is in you. For he who tills his land shall be satisfied with bread; but the paths of the slothful are strewn with thorns;’ so that the Spirit forewarns a man not to fall into them, saying, ‘Break up your fallow ground, sow not among thorns. ‘ For when a man despises the grace given him; and immediately falls into the cares of the world, he delivers himself over to his lusts; and thus in the time of persecution he is offended , and becomes altogether unfruitful.

Therefore the blessed Paul, when desirous that the grace of the Spirit given to us should not grow cold, exhorts, saying, ‘Quench not the Spirit 1 Thessalonians 5:19.’ For so shall we remain partakers of Christ , if we hold fast to the end the Spirit given at the beginning. For he said, ‘Quench not;’ not because the Spirit is placed in the power of men, and is able to suffer anything from them; but because bad and unthankful men are such as manifestly wish to quench it, since they, like the impure, persecute the Spirit with unholy deeds. ‘For the holy Spirit of discipline will flee deceit, nor dwell in a body that is subject unto sin; but will remove from thoughts that are without understanding Wisdom 1:5.’(Letter 3.3-4)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

Terrible in good truth is the judgment, and terrible the things announced. The kingdom of heaven is set before us, and everlasting fire is prepared. How then, some one will say, are we to escape the fire? And how to enter into the kingdom? I was an hungered, He says, and ye gave Me meat. Learn hence the way; there is here no need of allegory, but to fulfil what is said. I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me in; naked, and ye clothed Me; I was sick, and ye visited Me; I was in prison, and ye came unto Me. These things if thou do, thou shall reign together with Him; but if thou do them not, thou shalt be condemned. At once then begin to do these works, and abide in the faith; lest, like the foolish virgins, tarrying to buy oil, thou be shut out. (Catechetical Lectures,15:26)

St. Macarius the Great ca. 4th cent.

Question: Can a man fall who has the gift of grace?

Answer: If he is careless, he certainly falls. For the enemies never take a rest nor do they withdraw from the war. How much more you ought not to cease seeking God! For a very great loss comes to you if you are careless, even though you may seem to be confirmed in the very mystery of grace. (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 15.16)

Do you not hear what Paul says? “If I have all gifts, if I hand my body over to be burnt, if I should speak with the tongues of angels and, yet, I have no charity, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1) These gifts really are to encourage us. And those who settle for these, even though they are in the light, they still are infants. For many of the brothers have reached this degree and enjoyed the gifts of healings and revelation and prophecy. But because they did not reach perfect charity, which is the “bond of perfection” (Col. 3:18), war came upon them and, because they were negligent, they fell. (ibid., Homily 26.16)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

Let us admonish each other. Let us correct each other, that we may not go to the other world as debtors, and then, needing to borrow of others, suffer the fate of the foolish virgins, and fall from immortal salvation. (Concerning Statues, 21)

St. Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

But if someone already regenerate and justified should, of his own will, relapse into his evil life, certainly that man cannot say: “I have not received’; because he lost the grace he received from God and by his own free choice went to evil. (Admonition and Grace: 6,9)

St. Vincent of Lerins + 445

But what do they say? “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down;” that is,. If thou wouldst be a son of God, and wouldst receive the inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven, cast thyself down; that is, cast thyself down from the doctrine and tradition of that sublime Church, which is imagined to be nothing less than the very temple of God. And if one should ask one of the heretics who gives this advice, How do you prove? What ground have you, for saying, that I ought to cast away the universal and ancient faith of the Catholic Church? he has the answer ready, “For it is written;” and forthwith he produces a thousand testimonies, a thousand examples, a thousand authorities from the Law, from the Psalms, from the apostles, from the Prophets, by means of which, interpreted on a new and wrong principle, the unhappy soul may be precipitated from the height of Catholic truth to the lowest abyss of heresy. Then, with the accompanying promises, the heretics are wont marvellously to beguile the incautious. For they dare to teach and promise, that in their church, that is, in the conventicle of their communion, there is a certain great and special and altogether personal grace of God, so that whosoever pertain to their number, without any labour, without any effort, without any industry, even though they neither ask, nor seek, nor knock, have such a dispensation from God, that, borne up by angel hands, that is, preserved by the protection of angels, it is impossible they should ever dash their feet against a stone, that is, that they should ever be offended. (Commonitory 26)

St. Prosper of Aquitaine ca. 390-455

Just as good works are to be referred to Him that inspires them, God, so too evil works are to be referred to those who are sinning. For sinners have not been abandoned by God so that they may themselves abandon God; rather, they have abandoned and have been abandoned and have been changed from good to evil by their own will; and consequently, although they may have been reborn, although they may have been justified, they are not, however, predestined by Him who foreknew what kind of persons they would be. (Responses on behalf of Augustine to the Articles of Objections Raised by his Calumniators in Gaul, 3)

Since there can be no doubt that perserverance in good even to the end is a gift of God, which, it is clear, some, from the very fact that they have not perservered, never had, it is no way a calumniation of God to say that these were not given what was given to others; rather it is to be confessed both that He gave mercifully what He did give, and He withheld justly what He did not give, so that, although the cause of man’s falling away originates in free choice, the cause of his standing firm does not likewise have its origins in himself. If falling away is done by human effort, standing firm is accomplished by means of a divine gift. (ibid., 7)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

Now, we should understand that ababdonment by God of a person’s soul aslo happens frequently if one chooses not to perform what is commanded and produce the fruits of piety toward Him by submitting his neck to the Lord’s pronouncements. Even if styled son or daughter of God, even if becoming Sion, which means lookout, that is, possessing elevated thinking and a pure mind capable of nderstanding mysteries, and then does what is wrong and is guilty of provoking the Holy One of Israel, it will be abandoned by Him and like an unprotected vineyard it will be given over to to Satan and the sufferings of the flesh, shown to be bereft of every virtue, stripped of the priviliges proper to a good lifestyle, and filled with every evil. (Commentary on Isaiah)

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

The manifold mercy of God so assists men when they fall, that not only by the grace of baptism but also by the remedy of penitence is the hope of eternal life revived, in order that they who have violated the gifts of the second birth, condemning themselves by their own judgment, may attain to remission of their crimes, the provisions of the Divine Goodness having so ordained that God’s indulgence cannot be obtained without the supplications of priests. For the Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, has transmitted this power to those that are set over the Church that they should both grant a course of penitence to those who confess, and, when they are cleansed by wholesome correction admit them through the door of reconciliation to communion in the sacraments. In which work assuredly the Saviour Himself unceasingly takes part and is never absent from those things, the carrying out of which He has committed to His ministers, saying: Lo, I am with you all the days even to the completion of the age Mat. 28:20: so that whatever is accomplished through our service in due order and with satisfactory results we doubt not to have been vouchsafed through the Holy Spirit. (Letter 108.2)

St. Faustus of Riez ca. 407-493

We assert that whoever is lost is lost by his own volition, but that he could have obtained salvation by grace had he cooperated with it. On the other hand, whoever, by means of [this] cooperation attains perfection may, of his own fault, his own negligence, fall and lose it and [become] lost. Certainly we exclude all personal boasting, for we declare that all that we have has been gratuitously received from God’s hand. (Epistle to Lucidus, LIII:683)

St. Dionysius the Areopagite ca. 5th cent.

We say, then, that the goodness of the divine blessedness, while forever remaining similar to and like itself, nevertheless generously grants the beneficient rays of its own light to whoever views it with the eyes of the intelligence. But it can happen that intelligent beings, because of their free will, can fall away from the light of the mind and can so desire what is evil that they close off that vision, with its natural capacity for illumination. They remove themselves from the light which is ceaselessly proferred to them and which, far from abandoning them, shines on their unseeing eyes. With typical goodness that light hastens to follow them even when they turn away from it. (The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, III.3)

St. John Climacus ca. 525-606

Do not be self-confident before judgment has been passed on you. Remember the guest at the marriage feast. He got there, and then, tied hand and foot, he was thrown into the dark outside (Matt.23:13). So do not be stiff-necked, since you are a material being. Many although holy and unencumbered by a body were thrown out even from heaven. (The Divine Ladder: Step 23, On Pride)

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogos ca. 540-604

And they who mourn their transgressions certainly cast forth by confession the wickedness with which they have been evilly satiated, and which oppressed the inmost parts of their soul; and yet, in recurring to it after confession, they take it in again. But the sow, by wallowing in the mire when washed, is made more filthy. I and one who mourns past transgressions, yet forsakes them not, subjects himself to the penalty of more grievous sin, since he both despises the very pardon which he might have won by his weeping, and as it were rolls himself in miry water; because in withholding purity of life from his weeping he makes even his very tears filthy before the eyes of God. (Pastoral Rule, 30)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

Do not lend your ear to the slanderer’s tongue nor your tongue to the fault-finder’s ear by readily speaking or listening to anything against yor neighbor. Otherwise you will fall away from divine love and be found excluded from eternal life. (The Four Hundred Chapters on Love, First Century: 58)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

We are of God by His grace and we are reborn in baptism through faith and kept that we may remain for a long time in faith. But the lovers of the world are subject to the malicious enemy either because they have never been freed from his sovereignty by the waters of rebirth or because sinning again after the grace of rebirth they have been brought again under his sovereignty. (Commentary on 1st John 5:18-19)

For in Egypt He first so saved the humble who cried out to Him from their affliction that He might afterword bring low the proud who murmured against Him in the desert. He stresses this so much that we may remember even now that He so saves believers through the waters of baptism, which the Red Sea foreshadowed, that He demands a humble life of us even after baptism and one seperated from the filth of vices, such as the hidden way of life of the desert quite properly pointed to. If anyone actually profanes this life, either by departing from the faith or by acting evilly, being turned away in heart, as it were to Egypt, he will deserve not to reach the fatherland of the kingdom but to persih among the ungodly. (Commentary on Jude 5-6)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

The remission of sins, therefore, is granted alike to all through baptism: but the grace of the Spirit is proportional to the faith and previous purification. Now, indeed, we receive the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit through baptism, and the second birth is for us the beginning and seal and security and illumination of another life. It behoves as, then, with all our strength to steadfastly keep ourselves pure from filthy works, that we may not, like the dog returning to his vomit, make ourselves again the slaves of sin. (On the Orthodox Faith, 4:9)

On Divine Fire

Tertullian ca. 160-220
When, therefore, the boundary and limit, that millennial interspace, has been passed, when even the outward fashion of the world itself— which has been spread like a veil over the eternal economy, equally a thing of time— passes away, then the whole human race shall be raised again, to have its dues meted out according as it has merited in the period of good or evil, and thereafter to have these paid out through the immeasurable ages of eternity. Therefore after this there is neither death nor repeated resurrections, but we shall be the same that we are now, and still unchanged— the servants of God, ever with God, clothed upon with the proper substance of eternity; but the profane, and all who are not true worshippers of God, in like manner shall be consigned to the punishment of everlasting fire— that fire which, from its very nature indeed, directly ministers to their incorruptibility. (Apology 48)
St. Ephrem of Syrian ca. 306-373
Praise to the Just One
who rules with His grace;
He is the Good One who never draws in
the limits of His goodness;
even to the wicked
He stretches forth in His compassion.
His divine cloud hovers over
all that is His;
it drips dew even on that fire of punishment
so that, of His mercy,
it enables even the embittered
to taste of the drops of its refreshment.
(Hymns on Paradise, X)
St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389
For I know a cleansing fire which Christ came to send upon the earth, Lk. 12:49 and He Himself is anagogically called a Fire. This Fire takes away whatsoever is material and of evil habit; and this He desires to kindle with all speed, for He longs for speed in doing us good, since He gives us even coals of fire to help us. I know also a fire which is not cleansing, but avenging; either that fire of SodomGenesis 19:24 which He pours down on all sinners, mingled with brimstone and storms, or that which is prepared for the Devil and his Angels Matt. 25:41 or that which proceeds from the face of the Lord, and shall burn up his enemies round about; and one even more fearful still than these, the unquenchable fire which is ranged with the worm that dies not but is eternal for the wicked. For all these belong to the destroying power; though some may prefer even in this place to take a more merciful view of this fire, worthily of Him That chastises. (Oration 40: On Holy Baptism, Chap. XXXVI)
St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379
“The voice of the Lord divides the flames of fire.” (Ps. 28[29]:7) …I believe that the fire prepared in punishment for the devil and his angels is divided by the voice of the Lord. Thus, since there are two capacities in fire, one of burning and the other of illuminating, the fierce and punitive property of the fire may await those who deserve to burn, while its illuminating and radiant part may be reserved for the enjoyment of those who are rejoicing. (Homilies on the Psalms, On Ps. 28)
St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 339-397
That gnashing is not of bodily teeth, nor is that perpetual fire made up of physical flames, nor is the worm a bodily one. These things are spoken of, however, because, just as worms are born of massive overeating and fevers, so too, if anyone does not boil away his sins…he will be burned up in his own worms. Whence also Isaias says: “Walk in the light of your fire, and the flame which you have ignited .” (Isa. 50:11) It is a fire which gloominess of sins generates. It is a worm insofar as irrational sins of the soul stab at mind and heart and eat the guts out of your conscience. (Commentary on Luke, 7, 205)
St. Macarius the Great ca. 4th cent.
Imitate her, O child, imitate her, I say, who saw nothing but Him alone who said: “I have come to cast fire on the earth and how I desire but that it be already kindled” (Lk. 12:49). For there is a burning of the Spirit that puts hearts on fire. For that reason the immaterial and divine fire enlightens souls and tests them as pure gold is tested in the furnace. But it burns out any evil, as if it were thorns and stubble. For “our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29), “taking revenge on those who do not know him in flaming fire and who do not obey His Gospel” (2 Thess. 1:8). This fire surrounded Paul in the voice that enlightened his mind while blinding his sense of sight (Acts 9:3). For it was not in the flesh that he saw the power of that light. This fire appered to Moses in the bush (Ex. 3:2). This fire, in the form of a chariot, caught up Elijah from the earth (2Kgs. 4:11). The blessed david, while seeking out the power of this fire, said: “Search me, Lord, and try me. Burn out my reins and my heart” (Ps. 26:2).
This fire inflamed Cleopas and his companion when the Saviour spoke to them after the resurrection. From the same source also angles and the ministering spirits partake of the shining fire according to what has been said: “Who makes his angels spirits and his minsters a flaming fire” (Heb. 1:7). This fire burns up the beam in the interior eye; it renders the mind pure so that recovering its natural power of seeing, it may constantly gaze on the wonderful works of God according to him who says: “Open my eyes and I will ponder the wonders of thy Law (Ps. 119:18). This fire also drives out demons, takes away sins, and has the power of resurrection. It develops immortality, the illumination of holy souls, and the strengthening of the rational powers. Let us beg that this fire come to also to us so that, constantly walking in the light, we may never for even a moment “dash our feet against the stone” (Ps. 91:12)… (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 25.6)
St. Niphon of Constantia ca. 4th cent.
In a vision of the future Judgment, St. Niphon (4th cent.), Bishop Constantia, heard the Righteous judge declare, “Go from Me, ye who have been cursed, into the fire, the everlasting one, which hath been prepared for the devil and his angels: For I hungered and ye did not give Me anything to eat; I thirsted and ye did not give Me anything to drink; I was a stranger and ye did not bring Me in, naked and ye did not visit Me.” (Mt. 25:41-43) And, “these shall go away into everlasting punishment.” (Mt. 25:46)

St. Niphon then records, “As soon as the Judge pronounced that decison, at once, an enormous fiery river spilled over from the east and went rolling violently toward the west. It was broad like a big sea. When the sinners on the left saw it they were stunned and began to tremble, frightened in their despair. Nonetheless, the impartial Judge ordered everyone – just and unjust – to pass through the flaming river, so the fire could try them. Those at His right hand started first. They crossed and came out gleaming like solid gold. Their deeds did not burn, but instead proved to be brighter and clearer with the test; that is why they were filled with joy. After them, those at His left hand came to pass through the fire, so that their deeds might be tried. However, because they were evildoers, the flame began to envelop them and kept them in the middle of the river. Their deeds were burned like straw, whereas their bodies remained unharmed, to burn for endless ages along with the devil and the demons. No one was able to come out of that fiery river. The fire imprisoned all of them, because they deserved condemnation and punishment.” (The Lives of the Pillars of Orthodoxy pgs. 409-410)

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604
The fire of hell is but one: yet doth it not in one manner torment all sinners. For every one there, according to the quantity of his sin, hath the measure of his pain. For as, in this world, many live under one and the same sun, and yet do not alike feel the heat thereof: for some be burnt more, and some less: so in that one fire, divers manners of burning be found, for that which in this world diversity of bodies doth, that in the next doth diversity of sins: so that although the fire be there all alike, yet doth it not in one manner and alike burn and torment them that be damned.(Dialogues Bk. 4.43)
St. John Climacus ca. 579-649
To keep a regular watch over the heart is one thing; to guard the heart by means of the mind is another for the mind is the ruler and high priest offering spiritual sacrifices to Christ. When heaven’s holy fire lays hold of the former, it burns them because they still lack purification. This is what one of those endowed with the title of Theologian tells us. (i.e. St. Gregory of Nazianzus) But as for the latter, it enlightens them in proportion to the perfection they have achieved. It is one and the same fire that is called that which consumes (cf. Heb. 12:29) and that which illuminates (cf. John 1:9) Hence the reason why some emerge from prayer as a blazing furnace and as though having relieved of all material defilements. Others come forth as if they were resplendent with light and clothed in a garment of joy and humility. (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 28: On Prayer)
St. Andrew of Caesarea ca. 6th cent.

Rev 19:11-12a Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems…

 The heavens opening signifies the appearance of the visible judge to come, just as here, when the curtains of the judges on the earth are drawn back the judgment and sentence come down upon those who are guilty. And the white horse is the future joy of the saints, upon which he is carried to judge the nations impartially, I think by His watchful, providential power throwing out flames of fire, which the righteous illuminate but do not burn, but the sinners burn and do not illumine. (Commentary on the Apocalypse) 

 St. Isaac of Syria ca. 7th cent.

As for me I say that those who are tormented in hell are tormented by the invasion of love. What is there more bitter and violent than the pains of love? Those who feel they have sinned against love bear in themselves a damnation much heavier than the most dreaded punishments. The suffering with which sinning against love afflicts the heart is more keenly felt than any other torment. It is absurd to assume that the sinners in hell are deprived of God’s love. Love is offered impartially. But by its very power it acts in two ways. It torments sinners, as happens here on earth when we are tormented by the presence of a friend to whom we have been unfaithful. And it gives joy to those who have been faithful.  (The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian by Bp. Hilarion Alfeyev [Cistercian Studies 175])
The Venerable Bede ca. 673-735
Jas 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.
The tongue is a fire, because by speaking evilly it consumes the forest of virtues. Hence the wise man says about the foolish, And the opening of his mouth is a setting on fire. (Sir. 20:15) That saving fire which, devouring wood, hay, straw, (1 Cor. 3:12) enlightens the secrets of the heart of the heart is contrary, namely, to this destructive fire. Holy teachers are set on fire by it both that they themselves may burn with loving and that by preaching they may set others on fire with fiery tongues, as it were. About them it has been well written that, There appeared to them seperate tongues of fire, as it were, and settled upon each of them, and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:3-4) It is rightly said of the uncontrolled tongue, however, that it is a world of wickedness, because almost all villanous deeds are either planned by it (as robberies, rapes), or carried out by it (as perjuries, flase witnesses), or defended by it (as when some sinner by making excuses denies the evil he has committed and by boasting feigns a good that he has not done.) And having been set on fire by hell, it sets on fire the wheel of our life. By hell, he says, “by the devil and his angels”, for whom hell was made (Mt. 25:41) and who always everywhere take with them the torments of flames, whether they fly in the air or wander on the earth or beneath the earth or are kept [there. They are] like a person with a fever who, even if he is placed on ivory beds or ina sunny places, still cannot avoid the heat and the chill of the illness within him. So therefore the demons, even if they are worshipped in the golden temples or move around through the air, always burn with hellish fire and, being reminded from their own punishment, they also suggest through envy to gullible men, the fuel of vices from which they too may perish. (Commentary on the Catholic Epistles)
Irish Liturgy ca. 7th-11th cent.
You call out to your servant from the flame, (Cf. Ex. 3.2-4)
You do not spurn the bush of thorns,
And though you are consuming fire, (Cf. Dt. 4:24)
You do not burn what you illumine.
Now it is time that the cloudy bee-bread
Should be consumed, all impurity boiled away,
And the waxen flesh should shine
With the glow of the Holy Spirit.
(Celtic Spirituality: Hymn at the Lighting of the Paschal Candle )
St. Mark of Ephesus 1392-1444
Since the saints do not bring with them any evil work or evil mark, this fire manifests them as brighter, as gold tried in the fire, or as the stone amianthus, which, as it is related, when placed in fire it appears as charred, but when taken out of the fire become even cleaner, as if washed with water, as were also the bodies of the Three Youths in the Babylonian furnace. Sinners, however, who bring evil with themselves, are seized as a suitable material for this fire and are immediately ignited by it, and their “work,” that is, their evil disposition or activity, is burned and utterly destroyed and they are deprived of what they brought with them, that is, deprived of their burden of evil, while they themselves are “saved” — that is, will be preserved and kept forever, so that they might not be subjected to destruction together with their evil. (Refutation of the Latin Chapters Concerning Purgatorial Fire, First Homily)
St. John Maximovitch 1896–1966
The Prophet Daniel, speaking of the Dread Judgment, relates how the Ancient of Days, the judge, is on His throne, and before Him is a river of fire. Fire is a purifying element. Fire scorches sin, it burns it up, and woe also burns it up; if sin has become natural to a man, then it burns up the man himself as well.

That fire will flare up inside a man: on seeing the Cross, some will rejoice, while others will fall into despair, confusion, terror. In this way, men will immediately be separated. In the Gospel narrative, some stand to the right of the Judge, some to the left — their inner consciousness separated them. The very state of a man’s soul casts him to one side or the other, to the right or to the left.

The more consciously and persistently a man strives toward God in his life, the greater will be his joy when he hears the words: “Come unto Me, ye blessed”; and conversely, those same words will call forth the fire of horror and torment on those who did not want Him, who fled or fought or blasphemed Him during their life.

The Dread Judgment knows no witnesses or charge-sheets. Everything is recorded in men’s souls, and these records, these “books” are open. Everything becomes clear to all and to oneself, and the state of a man’s soul assigns him to the right or to the left.

Some go to joy, others to horror.

When the “books” are open, it will become clear to all that the roots of all vices are in man’s soul. Here is a drunkard, a fornicator; some may think that when the body dies the sin dies as well. No; the inclination was in the soul, and to the soul the sin was sweet.

And if [the soul] has not repented of that sin and has not become free of it, it will come to the Dread Judgment with the same desire for the sweetness of sin and will never satisfy its desire. In it will be the suffering of hatred and malice. This is the state of hell.

The “fiery Gehenna” is the inner fire; this is the flame of vice, the flame of weakness and malice; and

there will be [the] wailing and gnashing of teeth

of impotent malice.