No, this isn’t going to be a collection of patristic and scriptural quotes torn at random… rather, it’s one woman’s thoughts, one who happens to be a confessing Russian Orthodox Christian. I don’t claim to be speaking for the Church; I’m speaking for myself here. This isn’t the “Teaching of the Church”… it’s the “Reflections of an Orthodox Christian”. Take it as you will… these are my meditations on death and judgement, which arose after the passing of a very beloved friend.
Make no mistake, we’ll all face death, so, we should give some thought to what happens afterwards. Although there are times when the atheist submission that death is final looks all too real (especially after the latest escapade by clerical miscreants who get off scot-free, yet again), I believe that the Christian proposition is correct. That is, we shall face judgement after our passing. My position is that everything that we do as Christians in the Church is in preparation for this Encounter. I do NOT believe that the Judgement is a “heavenly court session”… in fact, I think that this erroneous idea has led to more atheism than most other things (except for “unfair” deaths… that’s the biggie, the largest cause of atheism, in my observation). The Judgement is an Encounter with the Living God. Full stop. You are going to be face-to-face with Goodness, Mercy, and Love… in all of its fullness and without any diminution. If you think that you’re ready for this… do think again. I can think of nothing more terrifying (in the classical sense of the word).
God IS ready to accept you… but you must recognise yourself as God sees you… not as you see yourself. You are going to be facing Someone who knows EVERYTHING about you… and is willing to love you in spite of all that. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ll have to abandon all self-categorisations and every excuse that you’ve used over the years. You must be willing to accept every jot and tittle of what you’ve done… the whole lot, without exception. Most of all, you’ll need to overcome your FEAR… as I grow older, the more I’m convinced that the saints who told us, “It’s a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God”, were not only correct, but under-exaggerating the matter. No, I’m not “afraid” of God… I’m going to meet Him sooner or later, whether I wish to or not. This is the most SERIOUS thing in our existence… and the most consequential. It shall determine our eternal destiny.
I think that Chrysostom was right… the Judgement is being in God’s Presence. Trust me, there are two options… either we shall run away as quickly as we can, or we shall fall down before Him (as much in fright as in adoration). It’s my personal opinion that God sentences no one to Hell… but that many choose that in preference to seeing themselves for what they truly are. One has to be able to say, “I have hurt others”. If you can’t say that… you’re on the hell-bound train, and it’s an express, not a local. That’s what the Patristic Deposit is all about… it’s what the Scripture is all about. Holy Writ and the Fathers aren’t talking points… they’re not proof texts for ignorant barely-converted Episkies and Sectarians. They’re brutally honest books giving us the real deal about our Encounter with the Living God. The older I get, the less patience that I have with “chapter-and-verse” thinking. That sort of thing won’t help you at the Last Day. I’ve no idea how I’d react in the Presence of my Creator and Saviour… I do know that being a jackass laden down with books isn’t going to help me one little bit. I pray for Light… that’s all that I can do.
I reiterate, I don’t claim that any of this is the Teaching of the Church… yet, I think that none of it contravenes any Dogma that I know of. I write this in the wake of the passing of a dear one… Denise, I love you and hope that I meet you again when my time comes to cross the bar. What more is there to say?
Tuesday 4 January 2011