Friday, August 20, 2010

Hell: Refuge from the love of God

image from here.

Those who know me well are privy to a part of my life which was very bleak.

I often have described to such persons the necessity I felt to always flee from the presence of love directed towards me.  I could not be in the presence of such love, uncomfortable and scrutinizing as I would feel it.  The shell I was could easily be peered into and I felt this nakedness and avoided at all costs any such experiences if at all possible.

click on images to enlarge

I am currently reading An Orthodox Survival Guide for the 21st Century, by Victor Mihailoff. I just came across this section and thought it well worth publishing.  Bearing in mind that "God is love"(1 John 4:8), I leave the reader with the following excerpt from Chapter 17: God's Relationship with Us:

God allows us to be frightened by descriptions of hell and lets us believe that He is wrathful to the point of administering eternal punishment upon us through condemning us to hell. Hell was created as the place for fallen angels and because some people choose to follow the demons, they too spend eternity with their leaders, the demons, in hell. God does not send them there; they flee from Him and hide there from His light. The fallen-angels and some people who chose and choose to be separate from God are greatly tortured in the presence of His divine light. God's supreme purity burns sin and corruption. Those angels who fell (demons) and people who choose to remain in the state of "fallen nature" all the way up to their physical death are full of impurity. That impurity is part of what they are. God did not create them this way but they freely chose to be such because they prefer to follow their own blind-will instead of blindly (at first), following God's perfect-Will. This impurity which they chose to make part of themselves burns in the presence of God's light. To be with God in heaven, we must become pure because impurity cannot share a place with God's purity. Just as oil and water cannot form an homogeneous mixture, so too, unrepentant sinners and demons cannot live with the Holy Spirit in and around them to the extent that they combine. Their attachment to impurity gives them pain when in God's presence. God mercifully prepared a place of darkness to give them "shade" from His light. They still feel the burning of His love but not so intensely as they would in His presence. This is unavoidable because it is God's love which mercifully maintains their dark retreat without which they would suffer even more. They could not bear to spend even the shortest time in heaven. For them, that is infinitely worse than hell. To be in heaven we need to detach ourselves from impurity. If we become righteous through our own voluntary efforts (free will), even without achieving sainthood in life, we can be freed at death from the remnants of impurity through the grace of God after "purchasing" this grace, so to speak, through works of faith. God's light also burns the lesser impurities of His loyal servants and friends, but they willingly submit themselves to Him for this purpose because they know that after their sins are burned away they will never suffer again. They will be in a state of eternal joy in the presence of their loving Creator!

We then finally come to understand that God is truly merciful and offers His mercy and help to all of us. Some of us learn to humbly accept His offer and the rest do not. We should pray for them.

It is God Whom we will love most in heaven. How great it would be for us to get a head-start while here on earth.


Anonymous said...

Very good Sophocles, thank you.



ioannis said...

Excellent post dear Sophocles!

I wish you all the best for the feast of the Dormition of Lady Theotokos!

(video from the today's Liturgy at Panagia Soumela after 88 years)

Sophocles said...

Constantine and Ioannis,

Thank you.


A blessed feast to you as well, dear friend. And thank you for the link!

Maxim said...

I have come across this idea before, but don't know what authority it has; did the author draw it from some patristic source, or just make it up himself? If it has an authoritative source, I would be interested to know it, because the people who exposed me to this idea before didn't know where it came from.



Sophocles said...

Hi Maxim,

Wht in particular are you referring to?

On the whole I feel it fits in very well patristically. I am currently reading Metropolitan Hierotheos' "Orthodox Psychotherapy" and after re-reading this post nothing in it stands out that would oppose itself to anything I am currently reading.