THE THEOTOKOS AND THE TOLL HOUSES

by Dr. Adnan Trabulsi

which the soul supposedly has to pass through after death in order to be tested and judged. One of its most peculiar and strange aspects of this teaching is the fear of the Mother of God from those Toll Houses. Most of the modern defenders of the teaching of the Toll Houses avoid mentioning the fear of the Theotokos, or are completely ignorant about it. What are the Toll Houses? The first person who mentioned and taught about the so-called Toll Houses in a systematic defined way in the Orthodox Church1 was St. Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807-1867), followed by St. John Maximovich (1896-1966). Their teaching was published by Father Seraphim Rose (19341982) who was a very strong believer in it. More recently we find two contemporary major defenders of the teaching of the Toll Houses myth who circulated that teaching in their books: Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos (from Greece) and the French theologian Jean-Claude Larchet.2
1. As we will discuss in a different book, we can find several ideas similar to those of the Toll Houses myth in some Gnostic documents and in some historical documents as early as the fourth century. Those few documents that were attributed to some of the Church Fathers were proven to be pseudepigraphical or forgery. The hallmark of the tollhousers is using those pseudepigraphical documents as authentic! 2. We are not, by any means, trying to discredit those great Christians mentioned here. They, in fact, are very prominent and distinguished in either their ascetics.

THE THEOTOKOS AND THE HERESY OF THE TOLL HOUSES
Dr. Adnan Trabulsi

he Orthodox Church had been the target of so many different teachings (from within and from outside) that had tried to penetrate into her dogmas since the Day of Pentecost. One of those teachings is about the experience of the soul right after death. It is called the teaching of the Toll Houses or the aerial Toll Houses or the custom houses, because it presumes the presence of toll houses established by demons in the space through

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Before we discuss the teaching of the fear of the Theotokos from those alleged Toll Houses, and since the defenders of the Toll Houses teachings (the "tollhousers") accuse their opponents of misrepresenting and misunderstanding them, it would be appropriate first to present the definition of the Toll Houses teaching from one of its famous and prominent teachers, St. Ignatius Brianchaninov. In his book The Soul After Death Fr. Rose mentions St. Brianchaninov's description and the purpose of the Toll Houses. According to St. Brianchaninov, "All who have openly rejected the Redeemer comprise the inheritance of Satan: their souls, after the separation from the body, descend straight to hell."3 What about the majority of Christians who are not bad enough to go to "hell," and not good enough to go to “Heaven”? According to Fr. Seraphim, St. Brianchaninov answers plainly: "But Christians who are inclined to sin are also unworthy of being immediately transferred from earthly life to blessed eternity. Justice itself demands that these inclinations to sin, these betrayals of the Redeemer should be weighed and evaluated. A judging and distinguishing are required in order to define the degree of a Christian soul’s inclination to sin, in order to define what predominates in it – eternal life or eternal
3. Fr. Seraphim Rose: The Soul After Death; St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, CA, 1993; p. 65.

death."4 According to St. Brianchaninov, then, most souls upon death need to be evaluated, meaning that their degree of goodness or wickedness is not yet known, and need to "be weighed and evaluated." It is not clear why God, according to the tollhousers, cannot decide, upon death, the degree of the inclination of each Christian soul to sin, and why He needs those demoniac trials. How are those souls "weighed and evaluated"? St. Brianchaninov, according to Fr. Seraphim, gives a direct answer: For the testing of souls as they pass through the spaces of the air there have been established by the dark powers separate judgment places and guards in a remarkable order. In the layers of the under-heaven, from earth to heaven itself, stand guarding legions of fallen spirits. Each division is in charge of a special form of sin and tests the soul in it when the soul reaches this division. The aerial demonic guards and judgment places are called in the patristic writings the tollhouses, and the spirits who serve in them are called the tax-collectors."5
4. Ibid., p. 65. 5. Ibid., p. 65-66

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We will discuss most of the teachings of the Toll Houses in a separate book. In this booklet, however, the discussion will be focussed on one important part of this heresy: The fear of the Mother of God (The “Theotokos”) from the Toll Houses.
PROBLEMS TEACHING WITH THE TOLL HOUSE

the demons…7
St. John Maximovich, as a faithful disciple of St. Ignaty Brianchaninov, repeated this teaching in one of his sermons, On the departure of the soul. This teaching was published by Father Seraphim Rose in his book The Soul After Death.8 Although two contemporary defenders of the Toll Houses heresy, Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos9 and Jean-Claude Larchet10, are surely aware of this heresy, they do not reject it in their own books on The Soul After Death and the Toll Houses. One must take their silence as tacit agreement with the whole Toll House doctrine. St. John Maximovich teaches the following: How terrible these demons and their tollhouses are may be seen in the fact that the Mother of God Herself, when informed by the Archangel Gabriel of Her approaching death, begged Her Son to deliver Her soul from these demons and, answering Her prayer, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, appeared from heaven to receive the soul of His Most
7. Ibid., p.95. 8. Fr. Seraphim Rose: The Soul After Death; St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, CA, 1993; p. 184. 9. Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos: Life After Death; Birth of the Theotokos Monastery, 2005. 10. Jean-Claude Larchet: La vie après la mort selon la tradition orthodoxe; Le Cerf, 2001.

The teaching of the Toll Houses includes several violations of the teachings of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Among those violations is the heresy of the fear of the Theotokos, the Mother of God, of those alleged Toll Houses. St. Ignaty Brianchaninov was the first to mention this heresy in a published essay Word About Death in Russian in the 19th century.6 He claimed that the Theotokos, when informed by the Archangel Gabriel about her imminent death, prayed tearfully to God to

protect her soul from the evil spirits that soar in the space below heavens. And at her repose, Christ, her son and God, came down, accompanied by angels and heavenly spirits, in order to receive her holy soul. She prayed to Him according to St. Brianchaninov: Receive my spirit in peace and protect me from darkness, lest I would face any of

6. St. Ignatii Brianchaninov: Word About Death; Azbuka Klassica

Publications; St. Petersburg, 2011 (in Russian)

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Pure Mother and conduct it to heaven.11 This heresy, according to its teachers, contains the following elements: + The Theotokos was afraid of the demons of the aerial Toll Houses; + The Theotokos was afraid of the trials of those Toll Houses; + The Theotokos wept out of great fear; + The Theotokos prayed to Christ to come down and receive her soul so she would not have to go through those Toll Houses; + The Theotokos’ soul was indeed carried by Christ to heaven, bypassing the Toll Houses; + The icon of the Dormition represents this heresy by showing Christ carrying His Mother’s soul in His hands.12 In order to discuss this heresy, we would like first to pose a question to the Toll Houses defenders: Do the saints pass through those alleged Toll Houses? The best way to answer this question is to let the defenders of the Toll Houses myth give us the answer. The answers of those defenders fall into two groups: 1) The saints escape the Toll Houses and do not pass through them; 2) The saints indeed pass through
11. Fr Serphim Rose, ibid, p.184. 12. Christ indeed carried His mother’s soul, but this was because she is His mother, the holiest of all human beings who ever lived, not because of any “Toll Houses.”

the Toll Houses but very quickly. Let us examine both groups of answers. I-The saints do not pass through the Toll Houses. Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos says: The demons have no authority over the men of God. All who are united with God and have within their soul and heart the uncreated energy of God are outside the control of the demons. So the deified will not go through the so-called customs houses. The righteous people, who during their lives have purified their souls and bodies from passions of the soul and body and have been clothed in the pledge of the Spirit and united with God, escape the power of the customs houses, since the demons have no power over them. The souls of the righteous are led, free and undistracted, toward God, with whom they are united.13 Metropolitan Hierotheos also says: Of course the souls of the saints, which have been united with Christ and bear
13. Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos: Life After Death; Birth of the Theotokos Monastery, 2005; p. 79.

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the seal of the Holy Spirit, cannot be controlled by the demons.14 Metropolitan Vlachos quotes a saying by St. Diadochos of Photike: The soul of a man who rejoices in the love of God, at the hour of death, is lifted with the angels of peace above all the hosts of darkness.15 Jean-Claude Larchet, in his La vie après la mort quotes from a homily attributed to St. Macarius of Egypt, more correctly, “Pseudo-Macarius.16 This homily mentioned that, when the righteous soul once leaves the body, it is received by the spirits of the saints of the light and by Christ, the Lord of the peace. (p.90) St. Macarius, according to Larchet, also says that the spirits of the holy servants of God are received by the angles who lead them to the Lord.17 Larchet repeats the saying of St. Diadochos of Photike quoted by Metropolitan Hierotheos.18
14. Ibid.p.77. 15. ibid. p.23. 16. There is a general agreement among scholars and historians that the author of the homilies attributed to St. Macarius of Egypt has nothing to do with St. Macarius himself. Most probably the author was an ascetic writer from Syria. Larchet was aware of the studies that mentioned this point and published in Dictionnaire de Spiritualité x (1977), col. 20-43. However, Larchet, Vlachos and most of the tollhousers insist to use documents that were proven to be forgery as long as they support their teachings. 17. Fr. Seraphim Rose: The Soul After Death; St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, CA, 1993; p. 184. 18. Jean-Claude Larchet: La vie après la mort selon la tradition orthodoxe; Le Cerf, 2001; p.102.

These answers lead us to conclude that the defenders of the Toll Houses believe that the souls of saints cannot be attacked or grasped by the demons. Hence, they are sheltered from the Toll Houses. II-The saints indeed pass through the Toll Houses but very quickly. Metropolitan Hierotheos quotes St. Andrew of Crete who teaches that: It is clear and indisputable that the souls of all people, even saints, pass through that obscure place, but they do not dwell in it.‘ The souls of the saints pass through Hades without staying… 19 Vlachos confirmed this idea on the pages 93 and 94 of his book Life After Death but he contradicts this idea on page 77 when he says: The souls of the righteous are led, free and undistracted, toward God, with whom they are united. On the other hand, Father Rose quotes St. Brianchaninov, who said: The great saints of God pass through the
19. Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos: Life After Death; Birth of The Theotokos Monastery, 2005; p. 93

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aerial guards of the dark powers with such great freedom because during earthly life they enter into uncompromising battle with them and, gaining the victory over them, acquire in the depths of their heart complete freedom from sin, become the temple and sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, making their rational dwelling place inaccessible for the fallen angels.20 We find the same idea in Eternal Mysteries beyond The Grave by Archimandrite Panteleimon: Even the souls of holy men who have pleased God by their righteous life pass through the trials to which all souls are subject upon their death. The saints, however, are covered by God’s grace and pass through these trials with great speed and glory. 21 Lastly, Father Seraphim quotes St. Theophan the Recluse’s commentary on the eightieth verse of Psalm 118: Let my heart be blameless in Thy Statutes, that I may not be put to shame. St. Theophan says: No matter how absurd the idea of the toll-houses may seem to our ‘wise men,’ they will not escape passing through
20. Fr. Seraphim Rose: The Soul After Death; St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, CA, 1993; p. 83 21. Archimandrite Panteleimon: Eternal Mysteries Beyond The Grave; Holy Trinity Monastery, N.Y., 1996; p. 113.

them. What do these toll-houses gatherers seek in those who pass through? They seek…. passions. Therefore, in the person whose heart is pure and a stranger to passions, they cannot find anything to wrangle over; on the contrary, the opposing quality will strike them like arrows of lightning.22 We may conclude then that saints will not pass through the Toll Houses at all, or they will pass through them very quickly. We may also conclude that the reason for this resides in the grace that protects the saints or because of the lack of passions in them. Here we reach the important and crucial question of our discussion.

22. . Fr. Seraphim Rose: The Soul After Death; St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, CA, 1993; p. 8670.

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aware of this teaching and did not criticize it or reject it, or even mention it, thereby indicating their acceptance. Fr. Rose mentioned an anonymous critique of Maximovich‘s sermon Life after Death. That critique contained several points, one of which is the fear of The Theotokos. The critique, according to Father Rose, says: This tale also included a patently blasphemous description of the repose of the Most Holy Theotokos. 24 Did The Theotokos Pass Through the Toll Houses, And Did She Fear Those Houses? This question carries, within itself, the seed of heresy, and discloses ignorance of the important dignity and role of the Mother of God. However, since the defenders of the heresy of the Toll Houses teach that The Theotokos feared the Toll Houses, then it became necessary to address this matter. As we mentioned earlier, St. Brianchaninov was the first one who mentioned this teaching (Collected Works, vol. 3, Tuzov ed., St. Petersburg, 1883, in Russian), foll-owed by St. Maximovich (Life after Death, in “The Orthodox Word,” 1971, No. 4), and Fr. Seraphim Rose published Maximovich’s teachings in His The Soul After Death pp. 18-95. Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos and Jean- Claude Larchet23 were
23. Larchet mentioned Maximovich’s sermon on Life after death in his book La vie après la mort, p. 122, footnote #89.

Of course, we would expect Father Rose to dispute this critique and defend the teaching of the fear of The Theotokos. However, he took an unexpected turn by saying: Archbishop John’s name is not mentioned here, although from the description it is precisely clear what sermon the critic is referring to; but such language shows as intolerable disrespect no matter which Orthodox authority he might be attacking!25 This is the end of Fr. Rose’s response to the critic in this matter. Father Rose was obviously offended by the way
24. Fr. Seraphim Rose: The Soul After Death; St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, CA, 1993; p. 258. 25. Ibid. p. 258.

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the critic mentioned and criticized this teaching. Specifically, Father Rose resented what seemed to him disrespect to Archbishop John Maximovich, but he did not see any disrespect to The Theotokos herself or to Christ Himself by entertaining such blasphemy against her. In Fr. Rose’s opinion, a bishop, like John Maximovich, should not have been criticized, even if he had erred gravely! Moreover, when he mentioned The Theotokos‘ fear of the Toll Houses, he said in a footnote in his book that This is visually depicted in the traditional Orthodox icon of the Dormition.26 Obviously, the defenders of the Toll Houses distorted not only Theological teachings of the Orthodox Church, but her iconography as well. The teaching of the fear of The Theotokos from the Toll Houses is a very serious deviation from the Orthodox faith. It contains grave errors that are diametrically opposed to the teachings and belief of the Orthodox Church. As we found above, the advocates of the Toll Houses believe that the saints do not pass through the Toll Houses or pass through them very quickly without difficulty. So the question here is: How could the tollhousers teach that The Theotokos is in fear of the Toll Houses, while they also teach that the saints do not fear them at all? Are the saints more holy than the Virgin, or more glorious or more confident of their victory over Satan and his
26. Fr. Seraphim Rose: The Soul After Death; St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, CA, 1993; footnote on page 184.

demons? Are the saints more full of Grace than The Theotokos? Second, the tollhousers teach that the Toll Houses are integral aspects of the so-called Particular27 Judgment. Fr. Rose says: In Orthodox dogmatic theology the passage through the aerial tollhouses is a part of the particular judgment by mean of which the fate of the soul is determined until the last judgment. 28 According to this heresy then, the Toll Houses were established by demons to detain the departing soul by trial during its ascent after death so its proper place can be determined, based on the outcome of those trials. This means that before entering the Toll Houses, the fate of the departing soul is not known yet. Because the soul is not perfected, and not spotless, and not sinless, it needs to be put into trials to determine how many unrepented sins it has before death. Since the saints are perfect or almost perfect29, according to the tollhousers, then the saints will not pass through those alleged Toll
27. Although the Orthodox Church speaks of a “partial” judgment, not a “particular” judgment. 28. Fr. Seraphim Rose: The Soul After Death; St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, CA, 1993; p. 83. 29. It is not easy to understand the notion of “saints” by the tollhousers. However, it is not consistent with the Orthodox teaching at all. The tollhousers used a Gnostic document written by Gregory of Thrace to support their teaching; they canonized Basil the New and Theodora based on this Gnostic document; they think that St. Maximovich cannot err, according to Father Rose, and is beyond any criticism, while they teach heretical teachings about the Theotokos. Contradiction is the hallmark of the teachings of the tollhousers.

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Houses, or will pass them very quickly since they have no unrepented sins re-maining before their death. The critical question here is: Why did The Theotokos fear the Toll Houses? If she feared them then she was not spotless, sinless, or blameless. She had something to fear about, perhaps a sin she didn’t want to be disclosed during those alleged demoniac trials. What a blasphemy! What a shame! The spotless, the sinless, the Most Holy One, she, whom the archangel greeted her as being “Full of Grace”, the Mother of God had some unrepented sin or sins that caused her to fear those Toll Houses! If the Toll Houses determine the fate of The Soul After Death, then The Theotokos’ fear of them means that her soul’s destiny was not really determined after her repose. She merely evaded the trial not by a fullness of grace or holiness but by a special privilege. Also, The Theotokos’ fear of the Toll Houses means that she had to go through them, which means, in turn, she had to go through a particular judgment, because the Toll Houses are this judgment. Then, according to the tollhousers, The Theotokos was really under judgment when she died, and that contradicts the teaching of the Holy Church about her. Knowingly or unknowingly, the tollhousers deny the teachings of the Holy Church and the fullness of her belief in Mary (Mariology), which is based on the Church’s teaching about Christ (Christology). If Mary feared the Toll Houses, then Mary was not sinless and Christ didn’t come from a sinless woman who could not have been the New Eve. Jesus Christ, therefore, cannot 17

be the God incarnate, or Son of God. If Mary was not sinless, then she could not be the Holy of Holies, the Ark, the Temple of God, the Queen of Heaven, more honorable than the Cherubim. All these titles that the Church uses would be meaningless and a pack of lies! It would be impossible to summarize the Church’s teachings on The Theotokos in just a few sentences. However, we can mention what is proper to our discussion here, and then we can appreciate how much this heresy that accuses The Theotokos of fear deviates far from the teachings of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Christ Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. He is our Saviour and our salvation. Everything in the Holy Bible, the Holy Tradition, and liturgy and life of the Church, the art and history of the Church, is centred upon Christ, the Rock. All the teachings of the Church about Mary (Mariology) are inseparable from the teachings of the Church on Christ (Christology ). Any error in our teachings on Mary reflects an error in our teachings on Christ. When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law (Galatians 4:4-5). So, Christ, the Son of God, The Word, became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1: 14). Christ did not come randomly, accidentally, or 18

by chance. He came to carry out the mystery of the divine dispensation that was foreseen by God from eternity. For this reason, before the world, the Virgin was chosen from among the ancient generations by the good will of God the Father before the ages 30 God foresaw Mary before all ages and provided for her birth by a series of pious generations that preceded her and culminated in Joachim and Anna, her parents. Many prefigures in the Old Testament pointed to Mary: the tent of Abraham’s hospitality, the parting of the Red Sea, the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy of Holies, the Temple, the Burning Bush, the golden censer, and the golden urn of manna, the ladder of Jacob, etc. Mary was conceived in a miraculous way, lived a life that surpassed human nature. She was dedicated wholly to God in soul and body. Her will was subject to the divine will completely. She was “Full of Grace,” the maiden worthy of God, the beauty of human nature, as St. John of Damascus says:31 When Gabriel disclosed to Mary how the divine dispensation would be carried out, she consented and showed full obedience. By the disobedience of the first Eve humanity fell; by the obedience of the Second Eve humanity is saved. She was a coworker with God to save us. She was not an impersonal tool
30. St. John of Damascus, First Encomium on the Dormition, Ch. 3. 31. Homily on the Birth of The Theotokos, chapter 7.

or vessel, or a passive servant that would be used by God. She was Full of Grace. Her unconditional acceptance of God’s plan made her the Mother of God, the Mother of Life, the Mother of the Church. Her womb became more spacious than the heavens, and the heaven of heavens. In her womb came and dwelt He Who is uncontainable….. O forever virginal Por-tal of God, O hands that carried God and knees that became a throne higher than the Seraphim.32 The Holy Spirit descended upon her, filled her and carried out a seedless conception by which the Son of God became the Son of Man. The humanity of Jesus Christ was made and born from the Virgin free of evil, sin, and death. She became the Queen where the King resides, and the Ark and Holy of Holies where God rests, and the Paradise where all blessings are to be found. She alone stands at the border between created and uncreated nature according to St. Gregory Palamas.33
32. St. John of Damascus, Homily on the Birth of The Theotokos, chapter 9 33. Mary The Mother of God: Sermons by St. Gregory Palamas, Edited by Christopher Veniamin; Mount Thabor Publishing, USA, 2005; Homily on the Dormition; p. 77.

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She is created, yet she surpassed all human limits and became God-like. She became “beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim,”34 because she has more grace, more glory than the angels and archangels, and all creatures. The hypostatic Life, who was incarnate in her, preserved the virginity of her soul and of her body. Death could not hold her except for a short time; corruptibility could not reach her; the Devil could not approach her. As the Queen of Life and Light, as the Paradise, as the Holy of Holies, she became the source of all blessings. Her body is life-giving and the True Ark that leads people from earth to heaven; her tomb became a ladder to heaven. The Tradition of the Church kept for us the story how God guarded her body during her funeral procession.35 The Church saw in this incident a sign of The Theotokos’ dignity as the Queen that was unreachable by any adversary power, visible or invisible. The Theotokos is the Mediatress through whom the incarnation took place, and from her body the body of Christ was taken, and through her mediation, He saved and vivified the human race, as St. Modestus of Jerusalem says:36 The Theotokos is the Mother of the Church, the Mother of all believers. As she told the servants at the Wedding in Cana: “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2: 5) she instructs us to do the
34. Theotokion of the Divine Liturgy of St. Chrysostom. 35. First Kathisma, Matins of the Dormition, Forefeast. 36. Encomium on the Dormition, PG, 68-2, 3288.

same and helps us by her grace to do so. She intercedes for us to Christ her Son, and her intercession is incomparably greater than that of the saints and angels. She is the only Queen Mother, the rational Paradise. And Germanus of Constantinople says: No one is filled with the knowledge of God except through you, All-Holy One. No one is saved but through you, O The Theotokos. No one is delivered from danger but through you, O Virgin Mother. No one is redeemed but through you, O Mother of God. No one receives the gift of mercy but through you who contains God. 37 It is clear that the accusation against The Theotokos regarding fear of the alleged Toll Houses is not a minor issue. It is as serious as the denial of her other titles such as: All Holy, Immaculate, Most blessed, Mother of God, Ever-virgin, and More honourable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim. Our belief in The Theotokos cannot be selective. Each one of her titles expresses certain theological teachings the Church has held since the day of Pentecost. We cannot hold a certain teaching about The Theotokos that contradicts the Church’s other
37. Second Homily on the Dormition, PG 98, 349B, C.

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teachings about her. It is obvious that the notion that The Theotokos had fear contradicts the teachings of the Church and discredits the role Mary played in the history of salvation. Let us consider this heresy in the light of the liturgical tradition of the Church, then in the light of the teachings of the Church Fathers who wrote on the Dormition.

How Do the Teachings of the Church, as Expressed in Her Liturgy, Prove That Fear by The Theotokos Is Incorrect, False and Heretical? We pray what we believe and we believe what we pray. The Holy Church expressed her faith towards The Theotokos in her liturgical prayers. The titles given to the Virgin are not just titles honouring her; they contain what the Virgin means to the believers, and the roles she played in the history of salvation. Those titles summarize the Church’s faith in The Theotokos. It would be very difficult to list all the titles of The Theotokos here, but a brief list will give the readers a good idea about the roles of Mary. 23 24

The Mother of God; the Queen; the Holy of Holies; the Ark; the Temple; the Paradise; the Most Holy; the All-Holy; Immaculate; Most Blessed; Full of Grace; the Ever-Virgin; The Lady; the Virgin Bride of God; The only King’s pure Dwelling Place and Palace; Fiery Throne of the only Omnipotent; Unfailing Well-Spring of the living Water; Blameless Calf for the faithful; Dwelling of Light; Urn of Manna from on high; the Ladder; Depth Unknown; Virgin Maid; Unburning Bush; Chariot of noetic Sun; the Mediatress; the Mother of the Church; the Church; More Honourable than the Cherubim and More Glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim. In the light of all these titles given to The Theotokos, the heresy of the fear of The Theotokos from alleged Toll Houses would be blasphemous, because this heresy teaches exactly the opposite of what the Church believes and teaches and prays. Let us take more specific examples from the Church’s liturgical Tradition. + The Theotokos, being the living tabernacle of God, shall never be touched by an unclean hand... (Matins of the Annunciation) How could The Theotokos be approached and examined by the demons of those Toll Houses, if she is the living Tabernacle that cannot be touched by any unclean creature? + Christ’s book endowed with life and 25

clearly sealed with the Spirit’s grace. (Akathist) +If Mary was sealed with the grace of the Holy Spirit, how, then can she be open to examination by those unclean spirits? + Thou art the death-knell of Hades, and the only King’s pure dwelling place and palace; rejoice, fiery throne of the only Omnipotent. (Akathist) Mary is the pure dwelling place and palace of the heavenly King. She is, then, the death-knell of Hades, since the King has conquered Hades, sin and death by His death and resurrection. How can the demons, the princes of Hades, stand approaching the cause of their defeat and loss? +Rejoice, radiant dayspring that hast dawned, for thou didst dispel the gloom of night, and wholly annihilate the darksome ranks of the demons’ hosts. (Akathist) The Mother of Light has dispelled the darkness and its powers. The All-Holy has annihilated the darksome ranks of the demons and their hosts. Demons lost all their power and dominion by the divine Incarnation. Incarnation is the cause of creation, and it is far greater than creation. Without the Virgin there is no mystery of divine Incarnation, and there is no creation. 26

+Rejoice, for thou art alone the gateway and portal which God the Word traversed. O Lady, thou didst crush the bars and gates of Hades by thy childbirth... (Akathist) Again, the Virgin was the Portal through which God incarnate came to the world to save us. She is the cause of the defeat of Satan and all his angels, and the death of death, and the crush of Hades, because she brought forth the Son of God who descended to Hades and crushed its bars and gates, to release all the prisoners there. How could Mary be subject to the princes of Hades and their assumed trials? How could demons tolerate approaching the cause of their loss? +Rejoice, O most spotless Maid… The death of Hades, and bridal chamber of light +Rejoice, thou through whom Hades was laid bare. (Akathist) +We profess thee, O Lady, as the true Mother of God… thou hast freed men from Hades’ bonds...(Great Canon to The Theotokos) The Most-Holy was the Mother of Life to the children of life, and the Mother of death to the children of death. Through her Hades was deadened; through her the demons of Hades were embittered; through her the grace of Light and life was poured upon us; and through 27

her judgment of the wicked was achieved. How can Hades or its demons approach her? How can the most wicked ones approach the most spotless One? + Rejoice, fiery chariot of God the Word, O thou Queen of all; for in thee the Tree of Life was planted, even the Lord God, O living paradise… (Akathist) Mary was the Living paradise, because where the Lord walks, there Paradise is (Gen.3:8). If Satan and his demons were expelled from Paradise, once and for all, then how could Satan or his demons approach the living Paradise, the True Paradise? How could the most cold and wicked creatures approach the Fiery Chariot of God the Word ? How could the prince of dark approach the Queen of all? +The dead are, through thee, O Virgin, quickened… the multitude of aerial spirits suffereth defeat, O salvation of all mortals. (Akathist) Thus Church has been expressing her faith in the Virgin since the day of Pentecost. The Church never failed to ascertain to her children that The Theotokos defeated the aerial spirits, the demons. This is the clear teaching of the Holy Fathers; this is the solid dogma of the Holy Church. This is why every Christian prays to The Theotokos to be “a fervent protector and help, and to defend me from the assaults of adversaries…and in the hour of my departure, to care for my wretched soul, and drive far from it the dark countenances of evil 28

demons…” (The service of the Compline) Who should fear whom? Who should be the source of terror to whom? After the complete defeat of demons by the Virgin, the tollhousers still believe that she was in fear of them at her departure? What a shame! The Akathist informs us: +Rejoice, Wounding of demons bewailed by them; +Rejoice, Downfall of demons The Virgin was the wound inflicted on all demons and evil powers that never heals. She was a wound to them when she lived a life that surpassed all limits known to creatures; she was a wound to them when she subjected her human will to the divine Will to accomplish the mystery of Incarnation; she was a wound to them when she bore the divine Child in her ever-virgin womb for nine months; she was a wound to them when she gave birth to Emmanuel, the Saviour of the world, in a miraculous way that was hidden to the Prince of this World; she was a wound to them when she interceded to her Son to fill what was missing at the Cana of Galilee, that is, the grace that was missing in the life of the people; she was a wound to them when she “kept all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51) She was a wound to them when Christ, from the Cross, spoke to her as “The Mother of all believers.” (John 19:26-27) She was a wound to them when Christ Himself escorted her most pure soul to her heavenly residence; she was a wound to them when death and decay could not grasp her, but had to release her most 29

blessed body after her repose. Further in the Akathist we hear: +Rejoice, Bulwark against invisible foes. +Rejoice, thou who dist cast down from power the inhuman tyrant. This is how the Church prays to The Theotokos. This is what every Christian asks of the Mother of God: “Unto Thee do I commit mine every hope, O Mother of God; guard me under thy shelter.” (The service of the Compline) How could any Christian think, even for a second, that The Theotokos would fear the demons? +I who stand in the presence of God am sent to declare unto thee the divine will, O all-spotless Virgin. Why dost thou fear thou me, who rather am afraid of thee? Why, O Lady, art thou in awe of me, who am in holy awe of thee? (Matins of the Annunciation) The grace of The Theotokos at the Annunciation was incomparably more glorious than all the grace of all the angels and archangels, and of all other creatures. The archangel Gabriel himself felt awe and fear before the majesty of The Theotokos, addressing her as the heavenly Queen, the True Ark, the True Holy of Holies. If the great Archangel full of divine grace stood in fear and awe before The Theotokos and the Mother of his Lord and God, how could Satan, who is 30

completely void of grace, tolerate approaching the Virgin who is Full of Grace ? +I stand before thee in fear as a servant before his Lady; and in dread, I fear to look upon thee now, O Maiden. The Word of the Father shall descend upon thee like rain upon a fleece, even as it hath seemed good to Him. (Matins of the Annunciation) The Church records Gabriel’s words to the Mistress and Lady of all on the Annunciation, showing how the mystery of divine dispensation was so great, so marvellous, far beyond the understanding of all creatures, angelic and human. For this reason, Mary, the faithful servant of this mystery, without whom this mystery could not have happened, surpasses all comprehension. As Christ Him-self, before His death and resurrection, hid the radiance and illumination of His divine nature, except in the moments of His Transfiguration, thus the Mother of God, while on earth, hid the radiant grace that filled her, the divine illumination that dwells in her. She was the Holy of Holies, the King’s Dwelling and Palace, the East Gate where no creature can pass. However, the Great Gabriel felt overwhelming grace that was radiating from the Mother of God; he felt it in a way that made him tremble in awe and fear, for he was ministering to her as much as he was ministering to God Himself. For the mystery of our salvation requires two parts, divine and human, God and man. 31

If we profess all these aspects of The Theotokos, it is all the more heretical and all the more madness to suppose that she would fear the demons or imaginary aerial Toll Houses.

How Does this Heresy Violate the Teaching of the Fathers Who Wrote about the Dormition? The Fathers of the Church could not contemplate Christ without seeing the Mother of God, nor contemplate The Theotokos apart from her Son Jesus. Their teachings about Christ showed their faith in the 32

person of the Virgin and the role she played in our salvation. And their teachings about Mary reveal the width, and the depth, and the height of the mystery of our salvation. She is wherever her Son is. And, ever sensitive to our needs and burdens (They have no wine!) she prays perpetually to her Son on our behalf. And she always instructs us, his servants, to be attentive to His words and to keep His commandments: Whatever He says to you, do it. (John 2:5) Let us now present some of the most prominent Fathers who wrote on the Dormition of The Theotokos. With their help we can see how much the teaching of her alleged fear of the toll houses deviates from the experience and teaching of those holy Fathers. ST. JOHN OF DAMASCUS Today the Eden of the new Adam welcomes the spiritual Paradise where our condemnation has been cancelled, where the true life is planted, where our nakedness is clothed again… For in this Paradise the serpent has no means of entry, that serpent whose false promise of divinization led us to a covetousness that made us the equal only to irrational beasts. (St. John of Damascus, Homily II on the Dormition)38

The Mother of God is the spiritual Paradise. Satan was expelled from the old Paradise, and he has no entry to this Paradise, to The Theotokos. He could not and cannot approach her. How can Satan approach the Mother of life, the Mother of Light, the Spiritual Paradise? Jesus bruised the head of the serpent, the head of the devil (Genesis 3: 15). How could he, then, approach the Mother of the One who crushed his head? Shall not Paradise receive her? Shall not heaven open its gates wide with joy? Surely it will! Eve once lent her ear to the message of the serpent, and allowed herself to hear the Enemy’s advice… But Mary, the truly all-blessed one, lent her ear to the Word of God, and was filled with the energy of the Spirit. She bore the Father’s good pleasure in her womb, at the angel’s word, and without sensual passion or contact conceived the very person of God the Word, who fills all things. She brought him into the world without suffering the pains that adhere to our nature, for she was wholly united with God. How shall death consume her? How shall the realm of death receive her? How shall corruption dare to assault that body once filled with life? These things do not belong to her; they are all foreign to both the soul and the body of the one who bore God. (St. John of Damascus, Homily II on the Dormi34

38. On the Dormition of Mary: Early Patristic Homilies; Translation and Introduction by Brian E. Daley, S.J. SVSP, New York, 1998; p. 205.

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tion)39 If corruption dares not to assault her body, how could we imagine that it might assault her soul after her Dormition? If death dares not to receive her, because she was all-blessed, filled with the energy of the Spirit, she bore the Father’s good pleasure, and because she was wholly united with God, how could Satan, the prince of death, approach her soul or body after her Dormition? How could she fear imaginary demoniac Toll Houses, while she was filled with the energy of the Spirit? Demons cannot approach the grace of God. They would be burnt as if by a fire. How can we, then, assume that demons will approach her soul, and will put her into trial? What a shameful idea! What a heresy! I mean that the king must have come to the one who gave him birth, to receive her soul into his pure and holy hands, her soul so upright and spotless. (St. John of Damascus, Homily II on the Dormition)40 Christ, the Heavenly King, did indeed come to receive the soul of His Most pure Mother, not because of any fear in her of demons or toll houses, God forbid, but because it was His good pleasure (eudokia) to come down to escort the most pure soul of His mother, the Queen of Heaven. To scatter the demons of the air is
39. Ibid., p. 207. 40. On the Dormition of Mary: Early Patristic Homilies; Translation and Introduction by Brian E. Daley, S.J. SVSP, New York, 1998; p. 214.

but a minor power of the Queen of Heaven. If St. John here says that the soul of the Mother of God was spotless, how could the tollhousers posit any trial that this spotless soul would undergo in her ascent to Heaven? And by whom would this trial be conducted? By demons? That the most pure, spotless, blameless soul would need to be tried by the most wicked, most evil demons is irrational. And what happened next? I imagine that the elements of nature were stirred up and altered, that there were sounds, crashes, rumblings, as well as remarkable hymns from angels who flew before her, providing her with an escort and with companions on the way. Some of them would have acted as a guard of honour for her spotless, holy soul, and would have ascended with it on its way to heaven, until they had brought the Queen to her royal throne (cf. Ps 44:10 [LXX]); others would have surrounded her holy, sacred body, singing the songs that only angels can sing in honour of the Mother of God… The sickness would have melted away; the cohorts of demons would have fled, rushing every which-way to their dens beneath the earth. The air, fiery ether, the sky would have been made holy by the ascent of her spirit, as earth was sanctified by the deposition of her body (St. John of 36

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Damascus. Homily II on the Dormition)41 What a marvellous scene St. John describes here. The earth is sanctified by the holy body of The Theotokos; the air is sanctified by the most pure soul of The Theotokos; the angels guard her body and escort her soul; the demons flee away in fear of being burned by the radiant grace of the Mother of Grace. After all this, how can we allow ourselves to think that The Theotokos would appear in front of the demons to be judged by them? This heresy is not lesser than the heresy of denying her ever-virginity. “Let the demons flee,” says St. John of Damascus. (Homily III on the Dormition)42 Thus, St. John of Damascus understood both the dignity of The Theotokos and the lowliness of the demons. The demons must flee when the Queen of Heaven goes forth towards her heavenly home. The demons were once defeated by Her Son; they would not even venture to approach His Mother for any reason. The Theotokos was a mystery unapproachable not only by humans only but also by angels and archangels. The Archangel Gabriel himself addresses the Virgin in this way: Rejoice, Height hard to climb for human thought. Rejoice, Depth hard to explore, even for the eyes of Angels. (Akathist)
41. Ibid., p.214-5. 42. Ibid., p. 234.

Come down, come down, O Lord, and pay your mother the debt you owe her, the return she deserves for having nourished you. Open your divine arms; receive your mother’s soul, you who on the cross entrusted your own spirit into your Father’s hands… Place your soul in the hands of your own Son! (St. John of Damascus, Homily III on the Dormition)43 The Virgin Mary deserved to be the Mother of the Lord, because she was the best woman in human history to deserve this. God did not force her against her will to be the mother of his Son. In the Fullness of time, humanity offered to God the best human being that could ever have existed. Because of her extreme piety and holiness, because of her absolute dedication, God found her to be the best virgin that deserved to be His Son’s Mother. Upon her Dormition, there was a debt that needed to be recompensed by her Son. It was the debt due to the Queen of Heaven, the Mother of God, the Mother of Life and Light. For all these reasons, Christ Himself descended and received the soul of His most pure Mother. ‘Let the earth rejoice’ (Ps 96:11), as her body is laid to rest; let the air leap as her spirit ascends! (St. John of
43. Ibid., p. 236.

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Damascus, Homily Dormition)44

III

on

the

As the unborn John the Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb for joy (Luke 1:44) upon hearing the voice of the Mother of God, the air leaped for joy upon receiving the pure soul of the Mother of God who sanctified the earth and the air. After all these divine teachings of St. John of Damascus, can we rationally attribute to him the teaching of the Toll Houses? How can that inspired mouth, illumined mind, and loving heart teach such a blasphemy as The Theotokos’ fear of the demons of toll houses?’ Where in the teachings of this great saint can we find such heresy? But the tollhousers do not hesitate to falsify facts and falsely claim that St. John of Damascus teaches this heresy. Father Seraphim Rose, for example, claims that the Octoechos,45 the liturgical book written by St. John of Damascus contains references to the Toll Houses. 46 It is a shame to mislead readers; St. John of Damascus wrote only a small part of the Octoechos, and the rest was written between 100 and 200 years later. Besides, all the assumed references to the Toll Houses in the Octoechos do not mean what the tollhousers want them to mean. It is impossible to imagine that St. John of Damascus believed in the Toll Houses since he never wrote anything about them. The
44. Ibid., p. 237. 45. Not to be confused with the “Paraklitiki”, which have no doctrinal value, being written by unknown person in unknown times. 46. Fr. Seraphim Rose: The Soul After Death; St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, CA, 1993; p. 73.

Church’s greatest book of dogmatic theology, A Concise Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, was written by John of Damascus. A close examination of this great book reveals not even a hint of the existence of Toll Houses. ST. ANDREW OF CRETE That countless company of inspired human witnesses is gathered together, as we have already said, and all the spiritual orders of heavenly powers, perhaps, are hovering invisibly above, gathered for this wonderful spectacle. The holy souls of the saints are there, too, I think, drawn together by God around her bed… It is fitting, after all, that the souls of those who have finished their lives and are now made like God should gather near the queen of our nature, to go before her on her way: to lead her and be her escort, and to begin the final hymns in her honour. (St. Andrew of Crete, Homily III on the Dormition)47 This was the proper due to the Mother of God, that the saints, the angels, and the archangels should escort the pure soul of the Queen of Heaven. How can the tollhousers imagine that demons, dark powers, and evil principalities
47. On the Dormition of Mary: Early Patristic Homilies; Translation and Introduction by Brian E. Daley, S.J. SVSP, New York, 1998; p. 137-8.

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can approach the Queen and dare to put her on trial? Truly, this is a satanic teaching! As we mentioned earlier, the Church, in her prayers, expressed her faith in The Theotokos, based on her faith in Christ Himself. The Church services are full of titles given to The Theotokos to express her role in the history of salvation. The Fathers of the Church talk about that role and those titles. St. Andrew of Crete, for example, says about the Mother of God: You are the great achievement of God’s awe-inspiring plan You are the lovely dwelling-place (Ps 83:1 [LXXI]) where God has consented to be with us, the truly desirable land….You are the eternal treasure, <the mystery hidden for all ages’ (Eph.3:9). You are, in truth, the living book in which the spiritual word has been silently inscribed by the living pen of the Spirit. You alone are the text of the new covenant, unerringly written by God…. You are the manifold chariot of God,… You are Mount Sion, the fat mountain, full and solid as a cheese, where God dwells…O divine temple and woman of earth. (St. Andrew of Crete, Homily III on the Dormition; p. 142.) Thus, The Theotokos was (1) the great achievement of God’s awe-inspiring plan, (2) lovely dwelling-place, (3) 41

eternal treasure, (4) mystery hidden for all ages, (5)living book, (6) the text of the new covenant, (7) Chariot of God, (8) Mount Sion, and (9) divine temple. If we understand these titles correctly, if we believe in their meanings, if we pray them in the assembly of the Church, how can we even theoretically ponder The Theotokos passing through the imaginary Toll Houses in abject fear of those demons? The teaching of the Toll Houses and the fear of them by The Theotokos is not a simple or harmless teaching. It is not even a theological opinion — a “theologoumenon”; it is a teaching that violates the basic foundations of the Holy Church. It renders the titles given to The Theotokos meaningless. It has all the aspects and characteristics of heresy. And heresy cannot be a mere opinion, a mere “theologoumenon.” No tomb can contain you, for corruptible things cannot hide the body of a queen. Hades has no power to hold you, for the forces of slavery cannot capture a royal soul. (St. Andrew of Crete, Homily III on the Dormition)48 St. Andrew here declares loudly that Hades cannot reach or hold the most pure soul of the Mother of God. How can Hades do it if its power and dominion were abolished by the death and Resurrection of Christ? How can Hades do so after it became itself captured by Christ? After the Resurrection of Christ Hades lost all of the power
48. Ibid. p. 144.

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that it had held from the beginning of history. Along with Hades, sin and death and the demons lost their dominion as well. Yet, after so great a victory achieved for us by Christ, the tollhousers wish to go back to when Hades and demons had power over humans. What a shame! ST. GERMANUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE When we look at another saint in the Orthodox Church who wrote on the Dormition of the Mother of God, we find again that the Orthodox Church never taught or held any of the heretical teachings of the fear of The Theotokos . When you moved on from the earthly realm, it is clear that you entered the heavens; yet even before that, you had a share of heavenly things, nor did you leave our earth completely when you departed from us. (St. Germanus of Constantinople, Homily I on the Dormition)49 The Virgin Mary received Christ, God incarnate, in her womb, for our salvation. She became the Holy of Holies, the Ark and the true Temple of God. All these happened while she was on earth, before her Dormition. She was the heaven and the Queen of heaven before her
49. Ibid. p. 154.

death. Upon her Dormition she received what was already due, what she was already worthy of. How could demons tolerate approaching her soul upon her departure, and how could demons even be able to put the Queen to trials? Demons were expelled from heaven, and Satan fell from heaven like lightening (Luke 10: 18). How could Satan approach heaven again? How could Satan approach the true heaven, The Theotokos who is made higher than heavens and broader than the “heaven of heavens” according to St. Germanus? ‘You are higher than heaven’ (Job 11:8), and wider than the heaven of heavens – even that seventh heaven… (St. Germanus of Constantinople, Homily I on the Dormition)50 Do the tollhousers not know that The Theotokos is made higher than the heaven of heavens, and the Holy of Holies? Do they not know that this was always the faith of the Holy Church from the days of Christ till our days? When the Virgin Mary was told by Gabriel about her approaching death, When she heard this message, the Mother of God rejoiced greatly taking but little account of this passing human life; lighting great lamps throughout her house, she invited her relatives and neighbours, swept
50. Ibid. p. 163

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her room and decked her bed with flowers, as if it were all a virgin’s bridal chamber, that bed which until then she had flooded every night with prayerful tears, in her longing for Christ her Son. (St. Germanus of Constantinople, Homily I on the Dormition)51 Indeed the Mother of Christ wept, but not because of any presumed fear of Toll Houses, for she offered prayerful tears nightly in her longing for Christ her Son. She never feared death; she cannot fear death because the opposite is true. Death indeed fears the Mother of Life, the Mother of Jesus who defeated death and sin and demons on the Cross, once and for all. The heresy of the Toll Houses turns all things upside down. It has the Mother of God fearing death, while death, for her, was a feast, a feast of crowning the Queen of Heaven when she enters Heaven, her proper dwelling place. This is why the saints express the joy of Mary when she was told about her departure. St. Germanus says: But she said to them [to the apostles]: Greetings, spiritual sons of my Son! Remember His words, how he ordered us at the time of his Passion not to turn the world’s joy into mourning (John 16:20); today, as I take my departure to Him, do not turn delight into sadness. (St. Germanus
51. Ibid. p. 163

of Constantinople, Homily II on the Dormition)52 The Church chants on this holy feast: Come let us rejoice in Zion, the divine and fertile hill of the living God, beholding The Theotokos; for Christ hath translated her to the most worthy and divine abode, in the Holy of Holies; for she is his Mother. (Menaion of the Feast of Dormition) The living Paradise enters her Paradise, and the living Heaven enters her heaven: Come, then, with joy! Open up Paradise, which your ancestor Eve, your natural sister, has locked. (St. Germanus of Constantinople, Homily II on the Dormition)53 Mary, the New Eve, opened Paradise, which was closed by Eve, our first mother. If The Theotokos opened Paradise for us, how could she fear the demons who were expelled from Paradise forever? ST. MODESTUS OF JERUSALEM
52. Ibid. p. 174 53. Ibid. p. 174

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And when Christ our God, co-eternal with his Father and the Spirit, chose by decree to take her to himself, to share in his glory his most blessed mother, who is, after him, the greatest of all beings, all the angels and archangels rushed through the air to gather in a joyful visit to this world, sent from heaven by God to be the celebrants of her holy falling-asleep. (St. Modestus of Jerusalem, An Encomium on the Dormition)54 Who else can welcome the pure soul of the Mother of God, except the angels of light, the angels of divine grace? Who else can escort that soul to her heavenly throne except the heavenly servants of God? Where are the demons now, where are the angels of darkness, of evil? Can they even approach her body or her soul? Will they be able to do that? Can the darkness bear to come closer to the light? Can the evil bear the grace of God? Would God have allowed it? If God did not allow a certain Jew to defile the body of His Mother, during her funeral, how would He allow the demons to assault her soul, or put it on trial? What madness it is to think so and to teach so! The One who gave the law on Sinai, and who administered it from Sion, our God summoned his ark of sanctification to be
54. p. 84-85

brought home from Sion to himself… She is not carried like Moses’ ark of old, drawn by oxen, but she is escorted and surrounded by an army, heaven’s holy angels. (St. Modestus of Jerusalem, An Encomium on the Dormition)55 Again, all the Fathers of the Church believe that the angels and archangels escorted the soul of The Theotokos upon her Dormition. Because thus it was fit for the Mother of God to be escorted; thus it was fit for the Queen of earth and heaven to be treated. For she was foreseen and revealed in prophecy by the activity of the life-giving Holy Spirit – the gate to which no falsehood draws near – there the one truly life-giving way leads us on, and our Lord and God lifts us, by that way, to his Father… They gathered at that gate, and like archangels greeted the celebrated Mother of God; and just as they were ready to send on to the Lord that [angelic] escort whom they dispatched with her to the heavens, they announced the good news to her… (St. Modestus of Jerusalem, An Encomium on the Dormition)56

55. Ibid. p. 84-85 56. Ibid. p. 84-85

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The gate mentioned by Ezekiel (44:1-3) is a prefiguring of The Theotokos. This portal shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord God of Israel shall enter by it; and it shall be shut. The Church proclaims her faith in the ever-virginity of The Theotokos by pointing out that that gate was a prefiguring of the Mother of God: The portal of God through which the Creator, having become flesh, passed through, preserving her sealed. (Theotokion Typicon (Third Tone of the Divine Liturgy) St. Modestus concludes here something more: if that gate shall be shut forever, then it cannot be accessible to any creature, how much more to any falsehood [or evil]? How can, then, the demons, who cannot stand in the truth (John 8: 44), draw near that gate, that forbidden field? In the services of the Dormition of The Theotokos in the Orthodox Church, we have no references of fear of Toll Houses, or that she prayed to her Son to deliver her soul from passing through those alleged Toll Houses, or that she feared being put on trial at those Toll Houses. The services are free of such blasphemous ideas. We chant: Come, ye people, let us praise the all-holy, undefiled Virgin, from whom did issue incarnate, in an ineffable manner, the Word of the Father, crying, and saying, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is thy womb which did contain Christ. Placing thy soul between his holy hands, intercede thou with him, O undefiled one, to save our souls. 49

(Vespers of the Dormition) Truly, the mystery of The Theotokos is what the Church chants: +Rejoice, Height hard to climb for human thought. +Rejoice, Depth hard to explore, even for the eyes of Angels ( Akathist). No wonder that it takes a deep spiritual understanding to comprehend the mystery of the Mother of God who is beyond our understanding. As the Son of God was destined for the fall and rising of many (Luke 2:34), and as the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1Corinthians 1:18), likewise, the mystery of The Theotokos is the fire that tests our faith, our belief, and our understanding of the mystery of the divine dispensation for our salvation. This is why the Church makes The Theotokos the criterion against which our belief is measured: +Rejoice, thou who showest philosophers to be fools. +Rejoice, thou who provest logicians illogical. +Rejoice, for the inventors of myths are faded away. (Akathist) The Toll Houses teaching that accuses The 50

Theotokos of fearing the Toll Houses is blasphemous. It changes the Church’s Christology, “Theotokology,” and soteriology. It substitutes a forgery in place of the Apostolic Faith that was delivered to us throughout the generations. It discredits the victory of Christ over Satan, sin, and death. It imputes to Satan and his legions powers they had lost once and for all through the Resurrection of Christ. Anyone who knows about this teaching and chooses not to condemn it cannot be an Orthodox Christian. He will be either a heterodox or a hypocrite. This teaching is a heresy, and every Christian should condemn it and declare it Anathema! Amen.

“Behold, God Himself will give you a sign: A virgin will conceive and bear a child.”
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