The souls’passing through the toll-houses (II)

The teaching of the Holy Scripture and of the Holy Fathers

about the souls’passing through the toll-houses

 Metropolitan Hierotheos of Navpact

There are many texts in the Old Testament that are used by the Fathers for proving the souls’ passing through the toll-houses. We shall mention two of them. One is from the psalm of David, where the Prophet King says addressing to God:

`O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me:Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver.`[2].

After mentioning the basic texts interpreted by the Fathers we shall go to their teaching about the customs taxation. We must say that we shall mention at the beginning their teaching about customs clearance and we shall refer at the mystical interpretation of this situation. As it shall be shown more clearly below the souls of the righteous will not be overwhelmed by fear, because they have the grace of God and the demons have no power over them. The souls of those who didn’t repent agonize and they may suffer the influence of the demons and of their passions.

The demons exist but the customs taxation also means the effects of the passions. We should never forget about this, because ignorance causes wrong conceptions. The reader of this chapter must be very careful in studying the patristic teaching.

Saint Basil the Great interpreting the words of the psalm: ` save and deliver me from all who pursue me,or they will tear me apart like a lion` says that the brave men who fought all their life against the invisible enemies at the end of their life are searched by `the ruler of this age` and if they are found with wounds, spots or seals f their sins to be kept as slaves. But if they are found pure `as some men who cannot be enslaved, they will be free to rest in Christ.` That is why whoever is under the power of death knowing that `The Savior is One, the Redeemer is One` cries to Christ the Savior: ` pursue me,or they will tear me apart like a lion` Thus Christ being without sin said the word: ` He has no hold over me` But for the man is enough to say that `the ruler of this world is coming and he found in me few and small things.[3]

The hour of our death is frightening because then the man remembers all his sins and sees some frightening things. Saint John  Chrysostom says that there are many people who relate terrible visions the men on their deathbed cannot bear to see. They are so terrible that the bodies of those who agonize bounce up and frighten those who are present.

Saint   John Chrysostom adds that if we are scared when we see frightening men the more scared we shall be when we see at the time when the soul gets out of the body `threatening angels and hostile powers.` The soul that leaves the body laments in vain. [4]

Saint Simeon the New Theologian refers at the same subject stressing out the fact that whoever has the light of Christ defeats the devils who approach him because the devils are burnt by the divine light. This things happens even now when the man has a contemplation and is clad in the light of God. But this will be even more intense when the soul leaves the body. The saints says that the Christian will have no avail of his spiritual strife if he will not burn the devil with the light of God. And this means that the essence and the aim of the spiritual life is for the man to unite with the light. Saint Simeon writes: `If the ruler of darkness didn’t come to see the glory that is with me and wasn’t burnt by Your Inaccessible Light and if all the hostile powers that are with him were not chased away seeing the sign of Your seal and if I didn’t pass through strengthened by Your Grace without trembling and if I didn’t approach You and kneel before You, what is the use of those that are happening to me now?[5]

The devils who want even in the last moment to grasp the soul of the man are described by saint Diadochus of Photice as the rulers of hell. The man who loves God shall not be overwhelmed by fear because love chases fear away and he will pass through these demons freely. The soul of the man who is blessed with the love of God when his soul leaves his body `raises with the angels of peace above the dark armies.`[6]

Thus the Holy Fathers do not resume themselves at emphasizing the existence of the devils and at their fury against men but also emphasize the way we can avoid their threats. By sincere and complete confession of the sins the man frees himself of the lack of courage and of fear and fills himself with the love of Christ and is saved of the devils ‘malice. And the devil has no power over him.

Abba Isaiah calls the demons who come to the agonizing soul the `rulers of darkness` and the `rulers of wickedness` . He says that when the soul of the man leaves the body it goes with the angels. Then the powers of darkness come to him wanting to grab it. In that moment the angels don’t fight with the devils but protect the soul with its good deeds as if they were a wall. When the soul defeats the devils by its good deeds the angels rejoice with it seeing it was saved of the powers of darkness. For this reason abba Isaiah recommends us to love philanthropy, peace, the quest for God and His justice and ignore the things and honor of this world.

In Patericon there is a teaching of archbishop Teophilus referring at this subject. He says that when the soul leaves the body it takes place a judgment between angels and devils. The devils enumerate all the sins made with or without knowledge from birth till death [7] and slander it. And the angels show its good deeds. Then the soul that is judged is overwhelmed by great fear. If the devils win it is heard a voice:  `The impure be taken away so that he won’t see the glory of God.[8] But if the soul is triumphant receives freedom and the devils are shamed and the angels take the soul to that `unspoken joy and glory.`[9]

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[1] Psalm 7, 1-2.

[2] Jeremiah 20, 9-10.

[3] Saint Basil the Great, Works, 5 EPE, pp.44-46.

[4] Saint John Chrysostom, Works, 11 EPE, p. 170.

[5] Saint Simeon the New Theologian.

[6] Saint Diadochus of Photice, Ascetic Word, c.100, Philocaly rom. I, Sibiu 1947, p.389.

[7] Everghetinos

[8] Isaiah 26, 10.

[9] Everghetinos