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Toll Houses- After Death Reality or Heresy? (Nikola Zbiljic, IOCS Cambridge, Jun 2013)

Toll Houses- After Death Reality or Heresy? (Nikola Zbiljic, IOCS Cambridge, Jun 2013)

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Toll Houses:After Death Reality or Heresy?
Toll Houses:After Death Reality or Heresy?

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Toll  Houses  :  After  Death  Reality  or  Heresy?

 
    ”For  our  struggle  is  not  against  flesh  and  blood,  but  against  the  rulers,   against  the  powers,  against  the  world  rulers  of  this  darkness,  against   the  spiritual  forces  of  evil  in  the  heavens.”  (Ephesians  6:12)     Keeping  the  true  faith  and  preserving  the  ancient  tradition  of  the  Orthodox   Church  has  become  an  ever  increasing,  difficult  battle  in  our  contemporary   world.  Great  number  of  the  flock  of  the  Church  have  become  caught  up  in   “worries”  of  the  world  that  some  of  our  clergy,  (mainly  in  traditional   protestant  territories),  who  were  chosen  from  that  flock,  have  started  to   adapt  the  tradition  of  the  Church  to  suit  that  world.  Due  to  this  unfortunate   fact,  the  tradition  of  the  Church  starts  to  fade  and  is  dying.  One  such  ancient   tradition  is  the  Orthodox  teaching  on  the  Arial  Toll  Houses.   In  this  paper  I  will  show  that  the  recent  opposition  to  ancient  eschatological   tradition  of  the  Church  on  Aerial  Toll  Houses  is  the  after  death  reality,  and  as   such  is  not  a  heresy  of  gnostic  origin  as  is  claimed,  but  rather  the  Devine   revelation  that  has  essential  value  in  guiding  the  faithful  to  salvation.   “Rejection  of  possibility  of  their  existence  (Toll  Houses)  contradicts  the   consciousness  of  the  ancient  Church....”1     What  happens  to  the  soul  after  its  separation  from  the  body  at  the  time  of   death,  for  forty  days  thereafter  and  until  the  Last  Judgement  is  found  in  the   Holy  Tradition  of  One  Holy  Catholic  and  Apostolic  Church.  The  Orthodox   Church  teaches  that  the  man’s  soul  after  its  separation  from  the  body  is   taken  to  God  for  judgement,  which  in  contrast  to  the  Last  Judgement  is   called  Particular  Judgement  because  it  is  not  happening  in  front  of  whole   world  and  it  does  not  have  the  aim  to  decide  the  fate  of  the  soul  for  eternity,   like  the  Last  Judgement,  but  until  the  time  of  the  general  resurrection.  The   fact  that  the  fate  of  the  soul  is  being  decided  straight  after  death,  according   to  the  deeds  of  the  departed  is  seen  in  our  Saviour’s  parable  of  “the  Rich  man   and  Lazarus”  (Luke  16,  23)   The  righteous  Lazarus  was  taken  to  the  bosom  of  Abraham  and  the  rich  man   was  in  thrown  to  hades  where  there  was  “gnashing  of  the  teeth”  and  the   “great  abyss”  separated  the  righteous  from  the  wicked.  

                                                                                                                1  Minutes of the Session of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside or Russia 19 November/2 December, 1980

The  thief  that  repented  and  asked  the  Lord  to  “remember  him  in  His   Kingdom”  was  given  the  promise  to  be  the  first  dweller  in  Paradise  by  the   crucified  Jesus:  “  Today  you  will  be  with  me  in  Paradise”  (Luke  23,  43)     The  Particular  Judgement,  according  to  the  teaching  of  the  Church,  is   preceded  by  the  soul  going  through  Aerial  Toll  Houses  accompanied  by  the   Angel  of  God  where  the  evil  spirits,  which  are  in  the  air  (Eph.  6,  12)  are   trying  to  hold  it,  and  stake  a  claim  to  it  by  revealing  all  its  sins  committed   during  lifetime.  The  demons  are  attempting  to  hold  it  and  drag  it  down  to   Hades  by  appealing  to  the  attachment  of  the  soul  to  the  earthly,  worldly   things  that  the  person  was  accustomed  to,  in  particular  appealing  to  its   weaknesses  and  the  affinity  to  commit  particular  “enjoyable”  sins.   Therefore,  the  war,  which  was  waged  during  the  life  on  earth,  is  being   continued  after  the  separation  of  the  soul  from  its  body.  We  have  been   forewarned  to  shield  ourselves  from  all  the  devils  attacks  on  the  soul  on  the   “evil  day”  by  taking  up  “the  full  armour  of  God  so  that  you  may  be  able  to   stand  your  ground”  (Eph.  6,  13)   St  Jerome  interpreting  the  Apostle  says:  ”The  battle  of  the  Christian  soul   with  the  devils  is  fought  …chest  to  chest,  but  the  soul  can  only  shield  itself   with  one  basic  weapon,  and  that  is  lots  of  good  deeds”2   Gregory,  the  student  of  the  Saint  Basil  the  New,  who  lived  in  the  first  half  of   the  X  century,  had  revelation  of  the  events  surrounding  the  hour  of  death  of   the  blessed  Theodora  and  her  torments  while  passing  through  the  Aerial   Toll  Houses.3   The  teaching  on  Areal  Toll  Houses,  albeit  without  such  detailed  descriptions   as  the  recount  of  Gregory  of  the  Theodora’s  experience  is  most  ancient,  and   can  be  found  in  “virtually  every  Father  of  the  Church”4       St  Cyril  of  Jerusalem  teaches:  “  In  same  unique  way  the  devil  torments  the   soul  by  recounting  and  numbering  all  the  sins  and  lawlessness  which  we   have  committed  with  deed,  word,  knowingly  or  unknowingly,  from  the   youth  to  the  day  of  death,  when  the  soul  is  carried  to  God  to  be  judged”5   Despite  the  forces  of  evil  in  the  air,  the  soul  is  not  left  alone  to  face  them,   however  it  is  accompanied  by  angels  of  God  which  come  down  from   Heavens  to  help  the  soul  from  devils  accusations,  lies  and  deceits.  As  we   have  seen  in  Luke  16,  22,  the  Angel  carried  the  poor  man  Lazarus  to   Paradise,  thus  the  faithful  expect  their  help  during  souls  unnatural  
                                                                                                                2  Commentaries  on  the  Ephesians     3  Lives  of  the  Saints  for  26  March,  St  Basil  the  New   4  Fr.  Thomas  Hopko  “Toll  Houses:  After  Death  Reality  or  Heresy”  Ancient  Faith  Radio  transcript  Sept   30  2007   5  Homily  on  the  leaving  of  the  soul    

separation  from  the  body,  the  time  of  death  and  thereafter  until  the   particular  judgement.  ”Then  we  are  in  need…  of  many  helpers…great   protection  from  the  Angel  while  we  going  through  the  aerial  spaces”6   Many  righteous  and  saints  of  the  Church  have  visions  at  the  time  of  their   death  and  have  articulated  what  they  saw  to  the  ones  that  were  leaving   behind,  so  we  may  be  better  prepared  when  that  inevitable  hour  comes.   St.  Athanasius  the  Great  writes:  “certain bitter and terrible beings stood in the air and wished to hinder him (St Anthony) from passing through. But when his conductors opposed them, they demanded whether he was not accountable to them. And when they wished to sum up the account from his birth, Antony's conductors stopped them, saying, 'The Lord hath wiped out the sins from his birth, but from the time he became a monk, and devoted himself to God, it is permitted you to make a reckoning.’…  And his understanding was opened, and he understood that it was the passing of souls, and that the tall being who stood was the enemy who envies the faithful. And those whom he caught and stopped from passing through are accountable to him, while those whom he was unable to hold as they passed upwards had not been subservient to him…”7 The depicted vision of St Anthony in his hagiography stresses the importance of the repentance and leading the God fearing life, as in the contrary we will fall in the hands of the evil one and will not pass those terrible aerial hurdles on the way to dwellings prepared by God for His righteous. (John 14, 2) St Mark of Ephesus, that Great pillar of Orthodoxy states: “"But if souls have departed this life in faith and love, while nevertheless carrying away with themselves certain faults, whether small ones over which they have not repented at all, or great ones for which – even thought they have repented over them – they did not undertake to show fruits of repentance: such souls, we believe, must be cleansed from this kind of sin, but not by means of some purgatorial fire or a definite punishment in some place (for this, as we have said, has not been handed down to us). But some must be cleansed in they very departure from the body, thanks only to fear, as St. Gregory the Dialogist literally shows; while others must be cleansed after the departure from the body, either while remaining in the same earthly place, before they come to worship God and are honored with the lot of the blessed, or – if their sins were more serious and bind them, for a longer duration – they are kept in hell [i.e., Hades], but not in order to remain forever in fire and torment, but as it were in prison and confinement under guard" 8   St.  John  of  the  Ladder  gives  the  account  of  a  monastic  who  was  dying,  and   who  had  begun  to  pass  from  this  life  to  the  next,  and  to  experience  the  
                                                                                                                6  St  John  Chrysostom  “Homily  on  the  remembrance  for  the  departed”   7  St  Athanasius  the  Great  “Life  of  St  Anthony  the  Great”   8  St  Mark  of  Ephesus  “First  Homily:  Refutation  of  the  Latin  Chapters  concerning  Purgatorial  Fire,  taken   from  In  "The  Soul  After  Death,  p  208  

accusations  of  the  demons:  "And  while,  thus  being  called  to  account  he  was   parted  from  his  body,  leaving  us  in  uncertainty  as  to  his  judgment,  or  end,  or   sentence,  or  how  the  trial  ended."9   St  Diadochos  of  Photiki,  likewise  instructs  us  to  pay  special  attention  to   repenting  our  involuntary  sins,  as  on  the  contrary:  “"…we  shall  discover  and   ill-­‐defined  fear  in  ourselves  at  the  hour  of  our  death.  We  who  love  the  Lord   should  pray  that  we  may  be  without  fear  at  that  time;  for  if  we  are  afraid   then,  we  will  not  be  able  freely  to  pass  by  the  rulers  of  the  nether  world.   They  will  have  as  their  advocate  to  plead  against  us  the  fear  that  our  soul   experiences  because  of  its  own  wickedness.  But  the  soul,  which  rejoices  in   the  love  of  God,  at  the  hour  of  its  departure,  is  lifted  with  the  angels  of  peace   above  all  the  hosts  of  darkness”10   Many,  many  more  ancient  Church  fathers  have  loudly  and  without  fear   declared  their  Spirit  inspiring  revelations  on  what  happens  to  the  soul  after   death,  and  all  in  unison  declare  that  we  are  to  be  prepared  for  the  oncoming   onslaught  of  evil  spirits,  who  will  do  everything  in  their  power  to  stop  our   ascent  to  Paradise,  especially  at  the  time  when  our  soul  is  most  vulnerable-­‐   immediately  after  parting  from  its  body.  Likewise,  the  saints  of  our  times   have  been  and  are  with  “one  voice”  and  in  accord  with  the  ancient  Church   Fathers,  preaching  on  the  existence  of  the  Aerial  Toll  Houses.   St  Seraphim  of  Sarov:  “Two  nuns  passed  on.  Both  had  been  abbesses.  The   Lord  revealed  to  me  that  their  souls  were  having  difficulty  getting  through   the  Aerial  Toll  Houses…”  The  importance  of  prayer  for  the  departed:   “…Three  days  and  nights,  I,  a  lowly  sinner,  prayed  and  begged  the  Mother  of   God  for  their  salvation.  The  goodness  of  the  Lord,  through  the  prayers  of  the   Most  Holy  Mother  of  God,  finally  had  mercy  upon  them.  They  passed  the   Aerial  Toll  Houses  and  received  forgiveness  of  sins.”11   St  Ignatius  Brianchaninov  who  wrote  extensively  on  the  theme  of  life  after   death,  states:”  The  teaching  of  the  Toll  Houses  is  the  teaching  of  the   Church”12   Likewise  St  Macarius  of  Moscow  writes:  ”Such  uninterrupted,  constant,  and   universal  usage  in  the  Church  of  the  teaching  of  the  Toll  Houses,  especially   among  the  teachers  of  the  IV  century,  indisputably  testifies  that  it  was   handed  down  to  them  from  the  teachers  of  the  preceding  centuries  and  is   founded  on  apostolic  tradition.”13  
                                                                                                                9  St  John  of  the  Ladder  “Ladder  of  Devine  Ascent”  step  7,  sec.  50   10  St  Diadochos  of  Photiki  “Philokalia,  Vol  I,  p  295   11  Fr  John  Mack  in  St.  John  Maximovitch,  “Life  After  Death”   12  St  Ignatius  Brianchaninov  “Collected  Works”  Vol  III,  p.138   13  St  Macarius  of  Moscow  “Orthodox  Dogmatic  Theology”  Vol  II  1883,  p535  

St  Nikolai  Velimirovich  of  Serbia,  one  of  the  greatest  contemporary   Orthodox  teachers  “…yet  this  night  your  soul  may  depart  your  body  and   tomorrow  you  will  find  yourself  surrounded  by  black  demons  in  the  Toll   Houses”14   Elder  Paisios,  considered  by  faithful  a  God’s  Saint  declares:  “When  the  soul  is   prepared  and  ascends  to  Heaven,  the  Toll  Houses  can’t  bother  it.  However,  if   it  is  not  prepared,  it  is  tortured  by  the  Toll  Houses.  Sometimes  God  allows   the  Toll  Houses  to  be  seen  for  the  soul  of  a  person  who  needs  it,  at  the  hour   in  which  it  is  in  agony,  to  help  us  who  are  still  alive,  that  we  might  struggle   to  pay  our  debts  here.  Do  you  remember  the  event  with  Theodora?  God’s   compassion,  in  other  words,  allowed  some  things  to  be  seen,  to  help  others   to  repent.”   Metropolitan  Kallistos  Ware  “It  is  normal  teaching  in  the  Orthodox  Church   that,  during  the  period  immediately  following  death,  the  soul,  accompanied   by  the  guardian  Angel,  passes  through  a  series  of  twenty-­‐two  telonia,   celestial  Toll  or  Custom  Houses…This  teaching  about  the  Toll  Houses  has   early  origins;  while  not  a  dogma  of  the  Church,  it  is  far  more  then  mere   legend  or  pious  opinion”15   On  the  teaching  on  Aerial  Toll  Houses  we  need  look  no  further  then   Orthodox  Church’s  hymnography. In both the Greek and Slavonic Euchologion, in the canon for the departure of the soul by St. Andrew, we find in Ode 7:"All holy angels of the Almighty God, have mercy upon me and save me from all the evil toll-houses [telonion poneron]." Also in the Greek Euchologion, in the same canon, we find in the first Ode:” Behold a crowd of evil spirits has gathered bearing the record of my sins, and they are shouting aloud and demanding shamelessly my humble soul"16 "When  my  soul  is  about  to  be  forcibly  parted  from  my  body's  limbs,  then   stand  by  my  side  and  scatter  the  counsels  of  my  bodiless  foes  and  smash  the   teeth  of  those  who  implacably  seek  to  swallow  me  down,  so  that  I  may  pass   unhindered  through  the  rulers  of  darkness  who  wait  in  the  air,  O  Bride  of   God."  17   In  view  of  the  overwhelming  Scriptural,  Patristic,  hymnographic  and   theological,  even  scholarly  evidence  of  the  existence  of  the  Toll  Houses  in  the   Orthodox  Church’s  teaching  on  life  after  death,  certain  opposition  from   jurisdiction  hopping  monks  and  priests,  as  well  as  many  so  called  scholars  
                                                                                                                14  St  Nikolai  Velimirovich  “Prologue  of  Ochrid”  Homily  for  June  25     15  Metrop.  Kallistos  Ware  “One  Body  in  Christ”:  Death  and  Communion  of  Saints”  Sobornost  Vol.  III   no.2  (1981)  p  182   16  Nikolaos  P.  Vassiliadis  “Mystery  of  Death”  p.  391  (quoted)     17  Taken  from  Archimandrite  Ephrem  translation  of  Ochtoechos  “anastasis.com”  

are  starting  to  gather  momentum.  Lazar  Puhalo,  in  some  jurisdictions,   bishop  Lazar  sorrowfully  exclaims  that  the  teaching  of  the  Toll  Houses  in  the   Orthodox  Church  has  gnostic  roots,  however  he  vehemently  fails  to  point  out   evidence  supporting  such  a  statement.  The  duet  is  completed  by  Fr  Michael   Azkoul  who  joins  bishop  Puhalo  in  dragging  the  name  of  blessed  Fr   Seraphim  Rose’s  name  through  the  mud  and  accusing  him  of  heresy  for  his   book  “Life  After  Death”  where  he  instructs  and  teaches  the  faithful  on  the   dangers  and  pitfalls  of  sin  and  consequences  that  await  the  faithful  if  they  do   not  take  the  Church’s  imagery  of  the  Tall  Houses  as  the  after  death  reality.   “The  duet”  miserably  fails  to  see  that  by  arrogance  of  their  views  and  by   worldly  desire  for  “fifteen  minutes  of  fame”  they  even  accuse  the  Church   fathers,  ancient  and  new  alike,  of  heresy  for  their  use  of  the  Toll  House   imagery.     I  have  shown  in  this  paper  that  all  the  Church  Fathers  have  spoken,  written   and  chanted  on  the  pitfalls  and  traps  of  the  evil  one  and  have  prayed  to  the   Saints  and  Mother  of  God  to  intercede  and  pray  to  her  Son,  Jesus  Christ  so   that  the  powers  of  darkness  of  the  Toll  Houses  have  nothing  on  them.  May   their  prayers  be  for  our  benefit  as  well,  so  when  “the  evil  hour”  comes  the   demons  will  scatter,  but  for  those  that  are  vehemently  denying  their   existence,  St  Theophan,  bishop  of  Moscow  has  a  message:  “No  matter  how   absurd  the  idea  of  the  Toll  Houses  may  seem  to  our  ‘wise  men’  they  will  not   escape  passing  through  them”18                    

                                                                                                                18  St  Theophan  Bishop  of  Moscow  Interpreting  Psalm  118,  (1891)  

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