On the Middle State of Souls in Patristic and Byzantine Literature

The Forerunner Preaching in Hades

“To Sleep, Perchance to Dream”: The Middle State of Souls in Patristic and Byzantine Literature

by Nicholas Constans (Fr. Maximos of Simonopetra)  Senior Research Scholar at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, in Brookline, Mass. He holds a Ph.D. in Patristics and Historical Theology from the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C. He was a professor of theology at Harvard Divinity School, after which he became a monk at Simonopetra (Mt. Athos).

This study is concerned with Patristic and Byzantine beliefs about the immediate postmortem phase of existence, understood as a liminal, intermediate phase between death and resurrection. Never precisely defined, this para-eschatological state appears as an attenuated, semiconscious mode of existence, of indefinite relation to time and space. It is often a phase of self-discovery, or of being self-discovered, in which one’s true character is uncovered and revealed. As a mode of self-confrontation and encounter, it is frequently seen as a form of judgment anticipatory of a future resurrection and a final judgment.

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