St Augustine & Fr Panteleimon

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St Augustine & Fr Panteleimon

(Continuation from Comments on above topic)

Dear, DIAKRISIS DOGMATON, thanks for pointing out to me the reference. As you may know, ACCOS have the same numbering for their separate OLD and NEW Testament series.  For some reason I looked only in the O.T., while the quote indeed is found in one of the volumes of the N.T. series. In any case, the correct reference should be more specific and contain the following detail: “Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture, NEW TESTAMENT, Vol. XI”. (In fact, the portion of Catena, as I checked later, exists in the writings of the Saint in Migne: PG 74, 1013-16.)

Here some more quotes from St Cyril, pertaining to the emptying Hades, which you asked about. You are correct in saying that there is no contradiction with regards completely or partially emptying. Our nature, captivated by Satan, was liberated from the bonds, but liberation does not mean salvation to all but only to ‘His own’. So, it is correct to say “all liberated” but not to say “all were saved”.

Comm. on Isaiah, I, 2008, 94: “he came to life again after emptying Hades” // 2008, 189-190: “canceled death... and restored everything to its original state” // 2008, 265: “plundering Hades and showing in actual fact that he is superior to death” // Comm. on Isaiah, III, 2008, 46-47: “liberated everyone” // FC 115, 249: “...death will in due course give way, and the goad of Hades will be no more” // ACT II, 2015, 260: “despoiled Hades and thrown open the gates of darkness for those who were there”.

A few remarks here about translation from one language to another (and how a wrong translation can lead to alienated doctrines!)

●  ACCOS English translation is not quite accurate. They say, “those who were in Hades had a chance to acknowledge Him”.  The text does not mention any ‘chance’. Rather it should be read: “those who were in Hades would certainly recognized him” (“οὗτοι γὰρ καὶ εἰς ᾅδου πάντως ἐπέγνωσαν”).

●  Also ACCOS translation of «ἀνακαλύφθητε» (“Be enlightened’) is not correct either; the verb (ἀνακαλύπτομαι) means appear, shew, be revealed, come out in the light, come forth, uncover - but in no way enlighten. The translation in modern Greek you provide has it correct: ‘φανερωθεῖτε’ (v. ‘φανερώνομαι’). ‘Be enlightened’ means another thing (actually a new doctrine!), it is a serious distortion. God enlightens the heart of man before he dies, not afterwards. The reposed one, after death he ceases to be a whole man. “This is a human being: a soul united to a suitable and fitting body,” says St Basil the Great (Migne PG 31, 548). Our God doesn’t enlighten or talk to corpses decayed in the tombs or to separated souls deprived from their bodies. He enlightens a man in this life. “God will not allow him to die in ignorance, but will lead him to the truth, and will enlighten him with the light of knowledge” (St Neilos the Ascetic, Letter 154, bk a’). Bishop Ignaty Brianchianinov says, “throughout the whole of his earthly life, the grace of God does not cease to assist man till the very moment of his departure” (Arena, p. 187). No posthumous enlightenment or conversion, or anything of this sort, in inferno, but during ‘earthly life’. There are no left-overs of humanity for later - no matter if they are pagans or whatever. The King and Prophet is not lying: “The Lord looks out of heaven; he beholds all the sons of men. He looks from his prepared habitation on all the dwellers on the earth” (Psalm. 32:13-14). According to St Ambrose, “He walks in the hearts and minds of each and every one of us” (FC 42, 347). He walks in the hearts of the living men, not of the dead. “The Holy Spirit is not absent from any created being… Thus we find many barbarians and nomadic peoples turning to a civilized way of life” (St Maximus the Confessor, Philokalia, First century of various texts, 72). With such clear a teaching of the Church, that the barbarians during their life are converted, who can blaspheme the Providence of God that is not present in every single human being? Who can deny the omnipotence and care of our loving Saviour for all men! Does our God not care for the remote people? Do the ‘distances’ hinder Him to reach and save people?

●  In another place ACCOS translation says that He preached in Hades in order “to deliver all those who would believe”. However, the text doesn’t say that they believed in Hades. It actually says that He preached to those that would believe in Him if He was incarnate, i.e. if He had become man during their lifetimes. The translation in modern Greek puts it very nicely, although the English one seems to ignore it («γιά νά ἐλευθερώσει ὅσους ἐπρόκειτο νά πιστέψουν ἄν σαρκωνόταν στή δική τους ἐποχή»). Thanks for providing the Greek translation so that at least we can compare!

Thanks, Diakrisis Dogmaton, for the sources (links) that you suggested for further reading. I confess that I usually avoid myself to introduce third-hand sources to others. Especially regarding serious matters of the faith. The Patrologists, the Canonists, the Biblical scholars and the rest of the various branches of theology often fight with each other. Instead of taking one side or the other, wouldn’t it be better to spend our time in reading the plain teaching of the Church – the authoritative and genuine works of the Holy Fathers? Instead of tasting ready, fast–food prepared and served by other ‘cooks,’ would it not be better to labor ourselves -especially by joining reading with prayer? Wouldn’t that be a better ‘recipe’?

In any case, since you offer them to me for ‘review’ I would like to comment briefly to one of the papers you suggested, the one with the title PASSAGES FROM THE CHURCH FATHERS And Other Orthodox Christian Sources Concerning Our Saviour’s Descent into Hades (which looks like an official, synodical document perhaps?) (;). Unfortunately, there are some misunderstandings or distortions in it and I’m afraid that the paper hardly could withstand a serious critic. Please, endure me for a while.


About the Rich man and Lazarus (pp. 20-22).

The paper ends up with wrong conclusions. No patristic testimony whatsoever is mentioned and naturally, since the Fathers of the Church unanimously condemn the view accepted there, that the Rich man “repented for his sinful life” in Hades! Surprisingly, and opposing the Fathers, the authors of the paper consider this view “a good point”! Is that out of ignorance, a mistake, or on purpose?... In fact, the Fathers express without any exception and clearly in their writings the correct view about the fate of the rich man. I could site here their very wording, but they are so numerous to mention and I have to spare the space here:

Athanasius the Great / Maximus the Confessor / Cyril of Alexandria / Romanos Melodist / Theophylactos / Isidore of Pelusium / Ephraim the Syrian / Gregory the Great / Gregory Palamas / Gregory of Nyssa / Gregory the Theologian / Basil the Great / Ambrose of Milan / Epiphanius of Cyprus / Anastasios of Sinai, and par excellence, Saint John Chrysostom.

To support their view, the authors of the paper do not undertake the labor to quote not even a single Father (if there exist any!)... To whom are they talking, to ‘catechumens’? Where are the “many passages from the Holy Fathers [that] teach the Orthodox [sic] doctrine of posthumous enlightenment” that you mention in your note above? Where have the “Passages from the Church Fathers” mentioned in the title gone? The reader is supposed to accept their opinion blind, as a ‘patristic position’!


St Maximos the Confessor quote.

In another part of this paper (pp. 23-24) something even worse is done: one of the Fathers is scissored! St Maximus answers the question about preaching to the dead in Hades (I Peter 4:6). In the first half of his answer he mentions the opinion that circulated among the people at his time, how others responded to the question (“some say…”). This is not what the saint believes, but what others say. Then, the saint goes forth to express his full response. But what if, perhaps, ‘some’ do not want to listen to what the Gospel and the Churches position is? What if they prefer to keep for themselves just what the others say? Very easy! A scissor does the work perfectly. You cut that portion and, lo the miracle, the view of ‘some’ becomes the view of the Church and of the Fathers! The ‘letter’ kills, so let us kill the letter! You shut the mouth of the saint and all is accomplished!... To anyone concerned: St Maximus says in his cut piece something interesting: “The dead are judged in this world”. No ‘chance’ after departure! They are judged IN THIS WORLD. I don’t see why we have to play with the divine words? Why we cut & paste and tailor the divine saying to fit our measurements? St Isaac the Syrian is very serious when he forewarns us: “Let no one take hold of, and bring forth out of context, a statement from our words and leave the rest, senselessly clutching that alone in his hands” (Homily 76). Have we lost our senses to arm against the Fathers whom we claim we follow?


Another (in)famous example is the story about Trajan the Emperor (p.8), the persecutor of Christians. Supposedly by the prayers of St Gregory the Great he was relieved from Hell. In this apocryphal story God is asking St Gregory never to pray again on behalf of impious non-Christians.

It is true, that Christians do not pray for the impious dead non-Christians. Not because we want them to be kept in torments but because it is their free choice and after all, as a result of their previous life, they are not receptive of any sort of help. How it is possible, asks Cabasilas, for somebody “to look at the light whose eyes have been gouged out” (Life in Christ, 4).

However, according to the story, it is in the hands of God to free them, but He, nevertheless, wants them to be kept in their sad state. Here the saint appears more compassionate than God! Is it the God of Orthodoxy Who is portrayed in this scenario? Does God want people to be punished in Hell? Is it not their passions that torment them?

To understand the hoax of this story we simply can check with the works of the ‘real’ St Gregory. First, this story is not found there. Second, in his writings St Gregory easily persuades us to the truth of the matter. He clearly states – in opposition to this story - that we do not pray for those condemned to eternal fire. (Dialogues 4:44: “holy men do not now pray for them that die in their infidelity and known wicked life: for seeing certain it is that they be condemned to endless pains, to what purpose should they pray for them, when they know that no petition will be admitted of God”). Also in his work The Parables of the Gospel, St Gregory says that there is no time of repentance in the other life, all the opportunities are finishing here: “Once the door of the kingdom is closed they can no longer approach him, who was formerly so approachable… he who wasted the time of fruitful penance pleads in vain before the gate of the kingdom”). Again, in another work he says: “The Saints do not pray for the unbelieving and impious that are dead” (Moralia, 34:19).  This is the genuine teaching of St Gregory the Great; his counterpart’s sayings exist only in apocryphal and dubious sources. Again in another place: “In such state as a man departeth out of this life, in the same he is presented in judgment before God” (Dialogues 1,41,3).

Repentance, conversion, change of one’s mind, or no matter what one calls it, does not exist after the departure of the soul from the body. Besides that, the condemned ones are tormented by their own passions and not by God, as false anti-christian stories teach.

We know, that God does not punish anyone in the future, but everyone makes themselves receptive to share in God. And so to share in God is a delight, while not sharing in Him is hell” (St John of Damascus, Contra Manichaeos 44). To be deprived from those unspeakable goods - that is hell. The Rich man was not tortured by God but “because it is a punishment for the voluptuous to lack delights” (St Ambrose). Unsatisfied passions are the “chasm” that Abraham couldn’t help to overcome and reach the unfortunate man: he was tormented from inside.

After all, if indeed it was possible for one to move from Hell to Paradise, that would be the real torment!... Adam was in Paradise and was tormented; he was expelled and was relieved. “To be saved, we must humble ourselves, for the proud man even were he to be set down in paradise would not find peace there but would be discontent, and say, 'Why am I not up in the front rank?' But the humble soul is filled with love and does not seek to be in the foreground. The humble soul wishes good to all men, and in all things, is content” (Starets Silouan, 1991, 304). “But he who loves not his enemies will never find peace, even though he were to be set down in paradise” (422).


About Plato.

This story, included into St Anastasius Q & A, does not belong to the genuine writings of St Anastasius of Sinai. The work Question-Answers that bears the name “Anastasius of Sinai” is in fact a compilation of 3 authors with this name: Anastasius the 3rd, bishop of Nicaea, Anastasius the 2nd, bishop of Antioch and Anastasius the Presbyter the Sinaite. The compiler thought that they were one and the same person and collected them in one. The above Q&A belong to the latter one, the Sinaite Presbyter, whose writings, as an editor of his works noted, “are not worthy of mentioning since they do not contain genuine Christian teaching”.

The problem with the # 61 Q&A is not simply because it refers to an apocryphal story (of course not all the apocryphal are to be rejected) but because it is in direct opposition with the teaching of the Church and the consensus patrum. The Fathers characterize with strong and harsh expressions (actually they ‘anathematize’) Plato and his strange and heretical and demonic philosophical ideas. “An evil spirit, and some cruel demon at war with our race, a foe to modesty, and an enemy to good order, oversetting all things, hath made his voice be heard in [his] soul,” says St John Chrysostom (On Gospel of St Matthew, 1:10, 11).

Of course we know that idolaters that had a virtuous life will be comforted in the other life as St John Chrysostom says (NF 10, 241 “But in proof that they who, not having known Christ before His coming in the flesh, yet refrained from idolatry and worshipped God only, and showed forth an excellent life, shall enjoy all the blessings”). However, Plato, from the point of a good life doesn’t pass the test either. He taught that women are created to be common to all, no one should have his own wife but all women should be available to everyone. There were “demons that preached these things”, St Chrysostom says, and adds some more epithets, about their “uncleanness” of his ways of life, homosexuality and “pederasty” besides adultery and other “inventions of devils, and contrary to nature”. They consider pederasty “respectable and a part of philosophy,” he says (On Babylas, 49, FC 73, 103). St John of Damascus, in the Heresy of Platonists, mentions their belief about “uncreated soul” and “transmigration of souls into bodies, even into those of reptiles” (Heresies, 6).

The story, after the appearance of Plato (or perhaps the demon that appeared in the form of Plato!) concludes: “When you hear about this do not think that conversion is always possible in Hades. This is something that happened on one unique occasion, when Christ descended into the underworld”. Good to know. Conversion happened only once, and it happens no more! You should correct your paper then, which in the very beginning says that there is conversion in Hades – or erase that story about Plato. One of the two, please.

In his writings, the real Saint Anastasius says that the Christian should anathematize “those that do teach alienated doctrines and do not follow the saints and teachers of the Church, and consider them condemned and estranged from Christ” (Odegos, 3.2). Which “saint Anastasius” we should prefer, the above paper’s or the real one?

After all, in the service of the Sunday of Orthodoxy we anathematize (thrice) all the heresies and among them the pagan ancient philosophers and their teaching, and namely Plato. According to St Gregory Palamas, “we place the opinions of the Fathers above the babbles of Aristotle and Plato” (Letter to Barlaam, 1,33). Otherwise, if we give credibility in such stories as the ones about Plato, Trajan etc. we rather may think seriously about changing the Synodicon of Orthodoxy!

Your synod (?) anathematized the council of 1912, something that nobody in the whole world (no local church or synod of bishops) dared ever to do; still, you withhold anathematizing those that the whole Church anathematized! Based on a false story!

Sorry, but I don’t really intend to intervene in your position or beliefs. You have all the rights to believe and write whatever you want. Just a few thoughts because you answered to me and that’s all. I wish we don’t start unending public dialogues.

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Re: St Augustine & Fr Panteleimon

Diakrisis Dogmaton
Thank you very much for the additional quotations from Saint Cyril of Alexandria.The important point is that we all agree that there is no ultimate contradiction between patristic statements that say “all” are liberated from the power of death and patristic statements that say “some” are saved. God destroys the power of Hades for “all,” but He does not destroy free will, and only “some” souls choose the gospel. That is why the first quotation from Saint Cyril is so important. The pagan spirits who accepted Christ’s enlightenment in Hades did so because they had not blinded themselves with outrageous idolatry, outrageous lust, and other such grievous sins during their earthy lives, as Saint Cyril says clearly. The soul’s capacity in Hades to perceive and accept Christ’s enlightenment is still based on one’s earthly life, as Saint Cyril indicates. That is why it must be repeated that it is inaccurate to mischaracterize this patristic doctrine as “repentance in Hades.” It is enlightenment by Christ's truth and acceptance of, and conversion to, that truth. It is not "repentance" in the sense of a fundamental change in a soul's character, from fundamentally evil to fundamentally good. It is also misleading to call this traditional patristic doctrine “a second chance.” The acceptance (or non-acceptance) of Christ’s enlightenment in Hades is tied to the one "chance" a soul had in his earthly life to avoid unrepentant practice of the most grievous sins on earth, as Saint Cyril also makes clear. What Christ adds in Hades is a preaching of the truth, the truth which the soul may never have heard on earth: souls are given one chance to accept the gospel, whether on earth or in Hades.


Some people before the Incarnation had some sense of the coming salvation from the Messiah/Christ and some even had some inkling of the Trinity. But the worship of the Trinity was made manifest at the Baptism/Epiphany/Theophany of Christ and thereafter. So, in this sense, everyone from pre-Incarnation times who is saved receives posthumous enlightenment from Christ (about Christ, the Trinity, the Gospel of salvation).

The First Letter of Saint Peter the Apostle, as interpreted by Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Saint Maximus the Confessor, and others, indicates that those who were “disobedient” at the time of Noah, and were “judged in the flesh” on earth, had the Gospel of salvation preached to them by Christ while they were spirits in Hades. I believe that the text from Saint Cyril is authentic and that Saint Maximus is expressing what he himself believes, not what opponents believe. Some were able to accept the Gospel of salvation because they had not blinded themselves with outrageous idolatry and outrageous lusts in their earthly lives. Some were not capable of accepting because of such idolatry and lusts.

Since we all agree that some “certainly recognized him,” then logically, we have to say that some had the “chance” to recognize him. Logically, if a person does in fact recognize Christ, then we can say that that person was given a “chance” to recognize Him.

When Saint Cyril says «ἀνακαλύφθητε», the scholarly translation “be enlightened” is correct because the alternative definition that was offered (“come out in[to] the light”) means substantially the same thing in context: the spirits came out of the darkness of death and into the light of Christ and His Gospel of salvation and were enlightened posthumously while spirits in Hades.

Several ancient ecclesiastical texts mention a sinner or a heretic or a persecutor who, nonetheless, did receive mercy or salvation after the person died. There is an example in the Greek Lenten Triodion that you should check out, mentioned in Father Panteleimon’s letter.

The Synodicon of Orthodoxy anathematizes Origen, Evagrius, and Didymus (“Christian” Platonists), not Plato. Some saints said that Plato taught some Christians things. Some saints said that Plato taught demonic things. Both are correct. Do not most human beings say some good things (Christian) and some bad things (demonic)?

Also, one meaning of “anathema” is not to “pass judgment on” but to “give over to God to judge.”

A text that has been attributed to Saint Anastasius of Sinai (whether from him or another Anastasius) indicated that those who were enlightened posthumously included the philosopher Plato. This view on Plato is not a dogma of the Church, but it is present in ecclesiastical manuscripts. All Orthodox agree that those who claimed to be Orthodox but who taught Platonic-inspired heresies in place of Orthodoxy have been anathematized (Origen, Didymus, Evagrius, etc.). The idea of universal salvation is also anathematized by all Orthodox Christians. Nevertheless, the fact that some believed that Plato came to faith in Christ (and obtained mercy, to some degree) is one more piece among countless pieces of patristic evidence that show that many Holy Fathers teach Christ enlightened some souls in Hades. To refer to a supposed “heresy of posthumous enlightenment” (as a few individuals did in 2011) is to attack a teaching that is stated by several Holy Fathers. Posthumous enlightenment of some souls in Hades is a patristic teaching.

No one has anathematized a synod of 1912. Rather, a theological opinion letter written by Sergius Stragorodskii on May 16/29, 1913, and published two days later (falsely as a “synodal” opinion), did, strictly speaking, fall under the condemnations or anathemas of the Council of Constantinople of 1351 and the Synodicon of Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy and the Synodicon teach that God’s energies are uncreated, eternal, supremely divine, inseparable from the divine essence, Divinity/Deity/Godhood, God, God Himself. Sergius taught heretically that God's energies are “merely divinity [what is that???], not God, especially not ‘God Himself.’” Even worse, he said that God’s energies were not “divinity” in the normal sense, but only in an abnormal (!) sense used by Gregory Palamas! Sergius condemned Himself by saying the opposite of the Orthodox consensus. If you want to believe in "divinity" that is "not God," you are free to do so, but that is not Orthodoxy, not Christianity, not monotheism.

The accusation from some people that some Orthodox Christians are "opposing saints" when they criticize Augustine of Hippo, can veer off into slander. The statements of Augustine of Hippo on double predestination where rejected (even condemned), by Saint John Cassian, Saint Vincent of Lerins, and councils in the West, usually without naming Augustine. Even the Latin church does not fully accept his teachings because they were so extreme. Scholars have shown that his thought patterns and writings were influenced by Platonism and by Manichaeism. He had been a member of the Manichaean sect and a believer in Manichaean doctrines. The alleged reference to him by the Fifth Ecumenical Council is contained in the Latin translation of the proceedings of the council. It is not in the decree of the council or even in the Greek text of the proceedings. Is this text even genuine? It certainly has not been preserved and received in the Eastern Orthodox Church, but only in the Roman Catholic Church. It does not represent the mind and conscience of the Church. The alleged text also includes a reference to Theophilus who condemned Saint John Chrysostom. Saint Cyril of Alexandria reversed this error of Theophilus. The Church has accepted some of Theophilus’s canons, but she absolutely does not follow him in all things. Neither should we follow Augustine in all things. Many of the errors of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism have their origins in his writings and in the mistaken attitude of considering him a reliable teacher of the faith. The ancient Orthodox Church of the West did perceive his errors, and condemned at least some of them, but exaggerated pro-Augustinianism took over the Latin church and led directly to the schism. Even in the West, veneration took a long time to develop and did not develop in the East. His “authority” was pushed extremely hard by the Franks who hated the Eastern church. Saint Photius believed that Augustine’s writings were interpolated with errors. But very little of Augustine’s writings were translated into Greek — and the ones that had some of the worst errors were not available in Greek. And Saint Photius could not read Augustine’s massive body of writings in Latin. There is no evidence to support Saint Photius’s speculation about interpolations. But his attempt to defend Augustine (through the theory of interpolation) does show that there are errors in those writings.

Augustine’e body of writings is so massive that they have not really been evaluated by Eastern Orthodox until modern times. (Even very learned Russian scholars in modern times did not have access to all of his writings.) Scholars have even published previously-lost works of Augustine in recent decades. It would not surprise me if Father Michael Azkoul was the first Eastern Orthodox person in history to read a majority of Augustine’s works. Father Michael sometimes writes in a one-sided manner, but the evidence he provides needs to be taken seriously. In the Slavic Orthodox churches, Augustine of Hippo is not usually referred to as “saint” (svjatyj) but as “blessed” (blazheni). That is the form of address that is given to Theodoret of Cyrrhus, whose writings against Saint Cyril of Alexandria were condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council — an actual decision of the council, not some alleged statement within the proceedings of the council that the Church never accepted. Augustine is in some calendars, but this is very recent. It is not ancient Orthodox tradition to consider him a Universal Teacher of the Church, and those who point this out are correct. No True Orthodox Christian is “fighting against saints” in the discussions about what every Orthodox acknowledges were Augustine’s serious mistakes.