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

The teaching of the Holy Scripture and of the Holy Fathers

about the souls’passing through the toll-houses

Metropolitan Ierotheos of Navpact

We meet these points of view in many texts of the Fathers. Hesychios the Sinaite prays that when the lord of the darkness will come `to find our sins only a few in number and insignificant.[1] Then he shows that when the soul has Christ with itself, He will save him without delay.[2]

Pious Theognostus says that the righteous ascends to heaven peacefully, `towards the bright and joyful angel who comes from the heights` and with his help he crosses the skies unimpeded, without being harmed by the evil spirits.`[3]

The Holy Fathers teach these things not from their fancies, but from relevant experiences. Sometimes these were revealed to them by other saint men and other times they being enlightened by God had such frightening experiences.

Saint Anthony the Great once saw personally such dreadful things. While being in his cell he was raptured and saw himself getting out of his body and ascending to heaven followed by angels. But some frightening angels impeded them to ascend to heaven and they asked explanations for certain facts. Then the angels that accompanied the saint fought with those frightening demons saying that it since for everything he had done since his birth God had forgiven him, they should have accused him only for the sins committed from the moment when he had become a monk. Then the slanderers not finding anything, their path became free.[4]

In a frightening story of saint Anthony are related the following: One night a voice woke up the saint and ordered him to get out of his cell and have a look. Then he saw a high, disgusting, frightening person, who was the devil, standing there with his legs stretched and impeding some of the people to ascend to heaven and in what regarded the others who escaped from his hands he had fury. And it was revealed to the saint that the terrible vision was the ascension to the skies of the souls.

Saint John Chrysostom describes a terrible vision a hermit who lived ascetically in Sinai and who was called Stephen had had in Sinai, near the cave of saint Elijah.

Before his death, while having his eyes open he was raptured and looked around his bed to the right and to the left. Those who were present there heard him answering as if some people had been questioning him.

Sometimes he said `yes, it is true, but I fasted for that so many years. `Other times he said: `No, you are lying. I haven’t done this.` Then again: `Yes, this is true but I cried and served.` Then again: `You are right when you blame me.` But to some others he said: `Yes, it is true, I have nothing to say about these. But God is merciful.

And saint John adds that it was a frightening sight and an invisible, unbearable trial. And what was more frightening was that they accused him even for what he hadn’t done.[5]

From everything we mentioned it is obvious that in the whole tradition of the Church are mentioned the toll-houses, which are the demons, the spirits from the skies who do not fight the man only during his whole life out of their malice and hate, but especially before and after the soul gets out of the body.

In the tradition of the Church it is shown that the demons have no power over the men of God, because all those who are clad in God do not pass through this martyrdom. If the prince of this world had no power over Christ, it happens the same with all those men who are united with Him. That is why the Parents recommend us to live like true Christians, in repentance, confession and spiritual work, to live in the Church and repose in the Church in the Orthodox faith, with the prayers of our fathers so that the lord of darkness and the evil spirits  would have no power over us.

It is a proven fact that when the soul gets out of the body there takes place a tough struggle, especially with the men who have an incomplete purification. What is dreadful is that in our times many people die without being aware of the terrible hour of death. The diseases of our age and the strong medicine treatments change the psychosomatic structure of the man and make it difficult for him to have heed, fear of God and prayer in those critical moments. Of course the medicine help us not suffer because of the diseases but they change our psychosomatic structure and don’t allow us to realize these events and ask for mercy from God.

These moments are very critical. That is why all those who have fear of God and know about these hard moments pray to be aware of the events of that time. And indeed the man has the occasion to repent for everything he had done and ask fr mercy from God. Vigilance in those frightening moments is the most important deed. For this reason the Church prays to God to save us of sudden death.

 Hesychios the Sinaite, Theodulos, Chapter II,59, Philokalia  IV, Sibiu 1948, p. 82.

[2] Ibidem, cap. 57, p. 78.

[3] Theognostos, About deed, contemplation and priesthood, chapter 61, Philokalia  IV, Sibiu 1948, p. 270.

[4] Everghetinos.

[5] Saint John the Climacus, The Ladder, Word VII, chapter 50, Philokalia IX, Bucharest 1980, p. 179.