You are on page 1of 6


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 mans 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 Saviours 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 deeds2 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 Theodoras experience is most ancient, and can be found in virtually every Father of the Church4 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 judged5 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 helpersgreat protection from the Angel while we going through the aerial spaces6 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 him7 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 darkness10 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 Church12 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 Houses14 Elder Paisios, considered by faithful a Gods Saint declares: When the soul is prepared and ascends to Heaven, the Toll Houses cant 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? Gods 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 HousesThis teaching about the Toll Houses has early origins; while not a dogma of the Church, it is far more then mere legend or pious opinion15 On the teaching on Aerial Toll Houses we need look no further then Orthodox Churchs 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 Churchs 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

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 Roses 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 Churchs 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 them18

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