What Happens the First 40 Days After Death

By St. John Maximovitch

Limitless and without consolation would have been our sorrow for close ones who are dying, if the Lord had not given us eternal life. Our life would be pointless if it ended with death. What benefit would there then be from virtue and good deed? Then they would be correct who say: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”

But man was created for immortality, and by His resurrection Christ opened the gates of the Heavenly Kingdom, of eternal blessedness for those who have believed in Him and have lived righteously. Our earthly life is a preparation for the future life, and this preparation ends with our death. “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27). Then a man leaves all his earthly cares; the body disintegrates, in order to rise anew at the General Resurrection. Often this spiritual vision begins in the dying even before death, and while still seeing those around them and even speaking with them, they see what others do not see.

But when 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. Continue reading “What Happens the First 40 Days After Death”

Theosis – Deification as the Purpose of Man’s Life

By Archimandrite George
Abbott of the Holy Monastery of St. Gregorios on Mount Athos

DEIFICATION IS POSSIBLE THROUGH THE UNCREATED ENERGIES OF GOD

In the Orthodox Church of Christ man can achieve deification because, according to the teachings of the Holy Bible and the Fathers of the Church, the Grace of God is uncreated. God is not only essence, as the West thinks; He is also energy. If God was only essence, we could not unite with Him, could not commune with Him, because the essence of God is awesome and unapproachable for man, in accordance with: ‘Never will man see My face and live’ (Exod. 33:20).

Let us mention a somwhat relevant example from things human. If we grasp a bare electric wire, we will die. However, if we connect a lamp to that wire, we are illuminated. We see, enjoy, and are assisted by the energy of electric current, but we are not able to grasp its essence. Let us say that something similar happens with the uncreated energy of God.

If we were able to unite with the essence of God, we too would become gods in essence. In other words everything would become a god, and there would be confusion so that, nothing would be essentially a god. In a few words, this is what they believe in the Oriental religions, e.g. in Hinduism, where the god is not a personal existence but an indistinct power dispersed through all the world, in men, in animals, and in objects (Pantheism). Continue reading “Theosis – Deification as the Purpose of Man’s Life”

The Apostolic Canons

THE APOSTOLIC CANONS

Translated by Henry R. Percival, 1899.

The Canons of the Holy and Altogether August Apostles [Latin version adds: set forth by Clement, Pontiff of the Roman Church]

Canon I.

Let a bishop be ordained by two or three bishops.

Canon II.

Let a presbyter, deacon, and the rest of the clergy, be ordained by one bishop,

Canon III. (III. And IV.)

If any bishop or presbyter offer any other things at the altar, besides that which the Lord ordained for the sacrifice, as honey, or milk, or strong-made drink instead of wine, [the text here varies] or birds, or any living things, or vegetables, besides that which is ordained, let him be deposed. Excepting only new ears of corn, and grapes at the suitable season. Neither is it allowed to bring anything else to the altar at the time of the holy oblation, excepting oil for the lamps, and incense.

Canon IV. (V.)

Let all other fruits be sent home as first-fruits for the bishops and presbyters, but not offered at the altar. But the bishops and presbyters should of course give a share of these things to the deacons, and the rest of the clergy.

Canon V. (VI.)

Let not a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, put away his wife under pretence of religion; but if he put her away, let him be excommunicated; and if he persists, let him be deposed.

Canon VI. (VII.)

Let not a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, undertake worldly business; otherwise let him be deposed. Continue reading “The Apostolic Canons”

The priesthood according to Saint John Chrysostom

by Fr. John Behr,  Dean of Saint Vladimir’s Theological Seminary

In his work on the Priesthood, Saint John does occasionally speak in very high terms of the priest as the liturgical officiant, but his main concern is with the priestly ministry more generally, following the example of Christ, Who came to serve rather than to be served. As he puts it, while the priesthood is ranked among the heavenly ordinances, it is nevertheless enacted on earth. And the tasks of the priest are numerous: he was the teacher and moral guide of the community; he was the liturgical leader, deciding which catechumens should be admitted to baptism, and he presided at the Eucharist; he was the spiritual guide for those who wanted to lead more ascetic lives; he received guests form other churches; he maintained an elaborate system of charity for the care of strangers, the support of widows, orphans and the poor, he cared for the women who were ranked in the order of “virgins”.

Judging from his writings, it was the concern for the widows, the virgins, and the poor which caused him the greatest anxiety: he speaks of the holiness and knowledge necessary for such work, and also the endless patience and ability to steward alms in an irreproachable manner (On the Priesthood 3:12). Elsewhere, he mentions that in Antioch there were some 3,000 widows and virgins who were looked after by the Church. One can only imagine the immense amount of work that this required! Continue reading “The priesthood according to Saint John Chrysostom”

The Mystery of Baptism

We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.” -Nicene Creed

Baptism is the first of the Holy Mysteries, or Sacraments, of the Church.  A Mystery is a sacred and holy act through which God’s saving power, His grace, works upon the recipient.

In Protestant countries, and particularly in North America, the predominant view of Baptism is that of it being a symbolic act.  Baptism, in most Protestant churches, represents an act of obedience to Christ, an outward expression of an inward conviction.  It is generally believed that one must first hear the Gospel, believe in Christ, and then be baptised; that only people of accountable age who have made a profession of faith should be baptised remains the dominant evangelical position.  There are of course some variances and differences in the precise theology and expression, as well as some additional concerns for those Protestant churches that practice infant baptism, such as the Lutheran and Reformed churches.

The historic, and authentic, Orthodox-Catholic understanding of baptism is quite different however.  The Orthodox-Catholic Church maintains the Sacramental efficacy of baptism as a true Mystery of our Lord.  It is essential to our salvation, to our place in the Church, to our walk with Christ.    Baptism is the foundation upon which the Christian life is built, it is the first Sacrament all Christians must receive.  In Baptism the person dies to sin and is born-again into the spiritual life.  As St. John says “no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”
Continue reading “The Mystery of Baptism”