Friday, July 31, 2020

Concerning Angels ( St. John of Damascus )

He is Himself the Maker and Creator of the angels: for He brought them out of nothing into being and created them after His own image, an incorporeal race, a sort of spirit or immaterial fire: in the words of the divine David, He maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire: and He has described their lightness and the ardor, and heat, and keenness and sharpness with which they hunger for God and serve Him, and how they are borne to the regions above and are quite delivered from all material thought.

An angel, then, is an intelligent essence, in perpetual motion, with free-will, incorporeal, ministering to God, having obtained by grace an immortal nature: and the Creator alone knows the form and limitation of its essence. But all that we can understand is, that it is incorporeal and immaterial. For all that is compared with God Who alone is incomparable, we find to be dense and material. For in reality only the Deity is immaterial and incorporeal.

The angel’s nature then is rational, and intelligent, and endowed with free-will, change. able in will, or fickle. For all that is created is changeable, and only that which is uncreated is unchangeable. Also all that is rational is endowed with free-will. As it is, then, rational and intelligent, it is endowed with free-will: and as it is created, it is changeable, having power either to abide or progress in goodness, or to turn towards evil.

It is not susceptible of repentance because it is incorporeal. For it is owing to the weakness of his body that man comes to have repentance.

It is immortal, not by natures but by grace. For all that has had beginning comes also to its natural end. But God alone is eternal, or rather, He is above the Eternal: for He, the Creator of times, is not under the dominion of time, but above time.

They are secondary intelligent lights derived from that first light which is without beginning, for they have the power of illumination; they have no need of tongue or hearing, but without uttering words they communicate to each other their own thoughts and counsels.

Through the Word, therefore, all the angels were created, and through the sanctification by the Holy Spirit were they brought to perfection, sharing each in proportion to his worth and rank in brightness and grace.

They are circumscribed: for when they are in the Heaven they are not on the earth: and when they are sent by God down to the earth they do not remain in the Heaven. They are not hemmed in by walls and doors, and bars and seals, for they are quite unlimited. Unlimited, I repeat, for it is not as they really are that they reveal themselves to the worthy men to whom God wishes them to appear, but in a changed form which the beholders are capable of seeing. For that alone is naturally and strictly unlimited which is uncreated. For every created tiring is limited by God Who created it.

Further, apart from their essence they receive the sanctification from the Spirit: through the divine grace they prophesy: they have no need of marriage for they are immortal.

Seeing that they are minds they are in mental places, and are not circumscribed after the fashion of a body. For they have not a bodily form by nature, nor are they tended in three dimensions. But to whatever post they may be assigned, there they are present after the manner of a mind and energize, and cannot be present and energize in various places at the same time.

Whether they are equals in essence or differ from one another we know not. God, their Creator, Who knoweth all things, alone knoweth. But they differ from each other in brightness and position, whether it is that their position is dependent on their brightness, or their brightness on their position: and they impart brightness to one another, because they excel one another in rank and nature. And clearly the higher share their brightness and knowledge with the lower.

They are mighty and prompt to fulfill the will of the Deity, and their nature is endowed with such celerity that wherever the Divine glance bids them there they are straightway found. They are the guardians of the divisions of the earth: they are set over nations and regions, allotted to them by their Creator: they govern all our affairs and bring us succor. And the reason surely is because they are set over us by the divine will and command and are ever in the vicinity of God.

With difficulty they are moved to evil, yet they are not absolutely immovable: but now they are altogether immovable, not by nature but by grace and by their nearness to the Only Good.

They behold God according to their capacity, and this is their food.

They are above us for they are incorporeal, and are free of all bodily passion, yet are not passionless: for the Deity alone is passionless.

They take different forms at the bidding of their Master, God, and thus reveal themselves to men and unveil the divine mysteries to them.

They have Heaven for their dwelling-place, and have one duty, to sing God’s praise and carry out His divine will.

Moreover, as that most holy, and sacred, and gifted theologian, Dionysius the Areopagite, says, All theology, that is to say, the holy Scripture, has nine different names for the heavenly essences. These essences that divine master in sacred things divides into three groups, each containing three. And the first group, he says, consists of those who are in God’s presence and are said to be directly and immediately one with Him, viz., the Seraphim with their six wings, the many-eyed Cherubim and those that sit in the holiest thrones. The second group is that of the Dominions, and the Powers, and the Authorities; and the third, and last, is that of the Rulers and Archangels and Angels.

Some, indeed, like Gregory the Theologian, say that these were before the creation of other things. He thinks that the angelic and heavenly powers were first and that thought was their function. Others, again, hold that they were created after the first heaven was made.

But all are agreed that it was before the foundation of man. For myself, I am in harmony with the theologian. For it was fitting that the mental essence should be the first created, and then that which can be perceived, and finally man himself, in whose being both parts are united. But those who say that the angels are creators of any kind of essence whatever are the mouth of their father, the devil. For since they are created things they are not creators. But He Who creates and provides for and maintains all things is God, Who alone is uncreate and is praised and glorified in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Theology of freedom ( Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos of Nafpaktos )

We can confront the topic of freedom from many angles. The first angle is the moral one, from which man's freedom is to act without being hindered by various duties. The second angle is the psychological one, from which his freedom consists in being able to make decisions without being subjected to various influences. A third angle is the philosophical one, from which freedom is the inalienable right of man, as a rational being, to think and to act. It is also possible for all the other freedoms, social, personal, national, economic, and so forth, to be put into this framework.

Those aspects of freedom will not concern us, but we are going to examine freedom from one angle, that of theology. For we shall discover that it differs greatly from the other angles, in that it is more integrated.

It must be said from the start that independence, or freedom, is an essential constituent of man. When God created man, He gave him free will, which not even He Himself violates.

In Holy Scripture it says that man was created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1,26). The holy Fathers have given various definitions as to just what this image is. Sometimes they refer it to man's sovereign dignity, to his superiority and his lordship over the terrestrial world, sometimes to his soul and body, sometimes to the whole man, sometimes to the ruling part of his soul, which is the nous, sometimes to his independence. All these definitions show that the holy Fathers avoid specifying one particular point which is the image, but they rather describe all the functions which express the image. In any case it is a fact that one interpretation of the image also refers to independence, which interests us here.

John of Damaskos' interpretation concerning the image is characteristic. He says that God formed the body from the earth and "by His own inbreathing gave him a rational and noetic soul, which last we say is the divine image". Extending this interpretation he says: "for 'in His image' means the nous and free will, while 'in His likeness' means such likeness in virtue as is possible". Thus 'in the image' refers chiefly to the noetic and independent. In what is to be said below we shall mostly interpret independence, freedom, because there are many misinterpretations on this subject. We shall emphasize some essential points.

a) The relativity of human freedom

Man as a creature, as created by God, has absolute freedom within its relativity. With his freedom he can even turn against his creator, but this freedom is relative. This is because man is not uncreated, but created, which means that he was created by God and therefore has a beginning.

Archimandrite Sophrony observes: "Absolute freedom means being able to determine one's being on all levels, independently, without constraint or limit in any form. This is the freedom of God - man does not have it", for he has not the authority to create "out of nought".

The ultimate temptation for the freedom of man (and in general of subsistent spirits) "is to fashion his own being, determine himself in all things, become a god himself, and not just take what is given, because that would entail a feeling of dependence".

Thus man does not have absolute freedom by his biological birth. But he can acquire absolute freedom by his rebirth and experiencing Christ's life, as we shall explain in the next section.

b) The challenge of freedom

The preceding also leads us to another parallel conclusion, that what is given to man by his existence is a challenge for freedom. True freedom is not just the choice of an event, but the possibility of a self-determined existence.

It has been observed very correctly that: "The ultimate challenge to the freedom of the person is the 'necessity' of existence. The moral sense of freedom, to which Western philosophy has accustomed us, is satisfied with the simple power of choice: a man is free who is able to choose one of the possibilities set before him. But this 'freedom' is already bound by the 'necessity' of these possibilities, and the ultimate and most binding of these 'necessities' for man is his existence itself: How can a man be considered absolutely free when he cannot do other than accept his existence?" Therefore man "as a created being cannot escape the 'necessity' of his existence".

In this light we can interpret an agonising existential question of many contemporary young people: "Why did my parents give birth to me without asking me? Why should I come into existence without being asked?" To be sure, before someone came into existence there was no one to be asked, but in any case this is a question which shows that the greatest challenge for freedom is the fact of existence and the fact that therefore man has to do something in order to be given the possibility of determining a new birth for himself.

Incidentally it should be pointed out that in the opinion of some, the embryo in its mother's womb is asked if it wishes to come to life. And the miscarriage of many embryos is interpreted as their refusal to be born. Thus in a way their existential freedom is preserved. We cannot judge this view from the patristic point of view, because the holy Fathers have not expressed themselves on this matter, at least as far as I know.

c) Freedom and fall

The freedom of man before the fall somehow worked differently from that which works today. Freedom as we know it in the period after the fall, after the victory of sin and the passions, after the illness which came into the whole human race as a consequence of Adam's sin, after the decay of communities and institutions, is receiving dreadful effects and it requires great pains in order to express it in a positive way. In the life before the fall there was the possibility of positive or negative response to the will of God, but that was different from freedom as we live it today. In other words, today we suffer terrible pressures and effects, and therefore it is with great labour and struggle that we make decisions about doing something, while in man's original life this labour and struggle did not exist.

We should further point out that man's freedom even to sin and to withdraw from his Creator was a sign not of perfection but of imperfection. For his vacillation about what to do, instead of being stimulated by love and freedom towards the purpose of creation, the lack of impetus in man towards his archetype, shows a weakness and imperfection. Man should naturally be led towards the good. St. Maximos the e Confessor, interpreting the request of Christ's prayer "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" says that he who impels his rational power towards God and worships him mystically becomes a participant in the angels' worship of God. In this case the words of the Apostle Paul apply: "For our citizenship is in heaven". Among these men desire does not sap their powers through sensual pleasure, "but there is only the intelligence naturally leading intelligent beings towards the source of intelligence, the Logos Himself". The perfection of man's freedom lies in his turning naturally towards his archetype.

d) Natural will and will based on opinion

While speaking of man's independence, I think that something must also be said about Christ's independence. St. John of Damaskos speaks "about the wills and independence of our Lord Jesus Christ". It is the subject of a dogma which shows us true freedom, how the two wills in Christ work and also how the saints too, who are united with Christ, can experience true freedom.

There is a difference between 'willing' and 'how one wills'. To will is a work of nature, just as seeing is, since in all men there is willing. However, 'how one wills' is not of nature, "but of our opinion", just as how to see well or badly is also a matter of the particular opinion and freedom of each man. The "willing" is called will and "natural will", "how one wills" which is subject to the will, is called "will based on opinion".

Through His incarnation Christ assumed human nature, wholly without sin. Thus in His hypostasis the divine was united immutably, inseparably, indivisibly with human nature. Since Christ had two natures, therefore "we say that his natural wills and natural energies were two". But since the hypostasis is one, therefore "also we call one and the same both his willing and his doing". And Christ wills and acts not in a divided way but in unison; for He wills and "each form acts in communion with the other". It is one who acts, but in any case He has two natural energies and wills which do not act separately, but each single energy works in communion with the other. In any case "we call the wills and the actions natural and not hypostatic".

We have said that in each person there is the natural will and the will based on opinion. Christ had two natural wills, which worked "in communion with each other", but he did not have a will based on opinion. The will based on opinion is that of option, which is expressed after judgement, thought, dissent and decision. There was none of this in Christ. Therefore St. John of Damaskos says characteristically: "It is impossible to speak of opinion and option in Christ, if we want to speak literally". Opinion is a fruit and result of seeking and will and judgement about the unknown. After the opinion is formed, the option prefers one or the other. But Christ was not simply a man, but also God who knew everything, and therefore "he was unhesitating in thought and seeking and will and judgement, and naturally he was at home with the good, and evil was alien". Christ's will was naturally guided to doing good and to withdrawal from evil. This is why as God He never sinned, nor did He have any possibility to sin. What the human will desired did come about in the Person of Christ "not in contradiction of opinion but in identity of natures". This means that "He wished these things naturally, at the time when His divine will wished and allowed the flesh to suffer and do the same things". Thus in Christ there was not dissent, wavering, inner conflict when there was something to be done.

Christ, being God and man, naturally had "a will", but He did not have the will based on opinion, as we said before. His human will "yielded and submitted to His divine will without being moved by his own opinion, but willing those things which his divine will wanted it to will".

Each will of Christ, both the divine and the human, willed and moved independently. For in every intelligent nature there is independence. How was it possible to have intelligence and not to have independence? So Christ's soul "was independent in his willing and wanted to moved independently", "but wanted those things independently which His divine will wanted it to will". Thus the two wills in Christ differed not in opinion, but in natural power: the divine will was without beginning, accomplishing all things, therefore having power and dispassion; His human will began in time, suffered natural and blameless passions and, while naturally it was not all-powerful, still, since it had been assumed truly and naturally by God the Word, that is why He was all-powerful.

All these things indicate that since in Christ there were two natures there were also two wills. Likewise his independence, which is closely connected with his human nature, acted naturally towards the good, following the divine will.

e) The freedom of the saints

What has been said is needed in order for us to understand the limits of human freedom and also to understand how freedom, independence functions in the saints. As we shall see in what follows, the saint's independent will, precisely because he is favoured with divine grace, always moves naturally towards the good. When I speak of a saint I mean the deified person who partakes of God's deifying energy.

The Apostle Paul offers this witness: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2,11). He has the certainty that Christ lives in him, and so elsewhere too he says: "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Cor. 11,1). St. Gregory Palamas, bearer of the same Revelation, interpreting this teaching of the Apostle, says: "Do you see clearly that grace is uncreated? Not only is such grace uncreated, but also the result of this sort of energy of God is uncreated; and the great Paul, no longer living the temporal life but the divine and eternal life of the indwelling word, came to be without beginning and without end by grace". And a little further on: "Paul was a created being until he lived the life which had come about by God's command; then he no longer lived this life but a life which had become indwelt by God, become uncreated by grace: and wholly possessing only the living and acting word of God".

In the Apostle's words and in the interpretation by St. Gregory Palamas, champion of the theologians, it is clear that a man who has been united with Christ, who has attained illumination and deification, by grace becomes uncreated and without beginning, because he has the living Christ within him.

And St. Maximos the Confessor, interpreting the words of the Apostle Paul that Melchizedek, who is a type of Christ, was "without father, without mother, without genealogy" (Heb. 7,3), writes: "The person who has mortified the earthly aspects of himself, thoroughly extinguishing the will of the flesh within him and repudiating the attachment to it which splits asunder the love we owe to God alone; who has disowned all the modalities of the flesh and the world for the sake of divine grace... - such a person has become, like Melchizedek, 'without father, without mother, without descent'. For because of the union with the Spirit that has taken place within him he cannot now be dominated by flesh or by nature".

Every Christian, when he is united with Christ, is deified, sanctified, and his whole being, and somehow also his freedom, which is always subject to God's will, is shown favour. In this sense we say that by His incanartion He granted us freedom. He freed us from sin, death and the devil and we enjoy this freedom in our spiritual rebirth. Nicholas Kavasilas says characteristically: "It was when He mounted the cross and died and rose again that the freedom of mankind came about, that the form and the beauty were created and the new members were prepared".

We have already seen that the challenge for freedom is the given fact of existence, and this creates an existential problem. But by rebirth in Christ, which takes place within the Church, the people overcome this existential problem. Just as great as the difference between biological birth and spiritual birth is the difference between the struggle over the fact of existence and the possibility of self-determination of the new existence. Man is born spiritually by his own will. This spiritual birth has great meaning and importance. St. Gregory the Theologian speaks of three births. The first is the biological birth from the parents, the second is through the mysteries of holy Baptism, the father of which is God, and the third is through tears, and the father of this birth is the man himself. To express ourselves through St. Maximos the Confessor, by the first birth we come into being, by the second into "well being" and by the third, which is identical with resurrection, into "ever well being"

Thus man is called to this new life, and if he responds, he is born into "ever well being", overcoming the provocation and temptation given in his existence. And since the deified person becomes "uncreated", "without beginning" and "without genealogy" - by the grace of God - for this reason he acquires a freedom which is absolute within human limits and facts. Since his freedom has an impulse towards God through love, there is no ambivalence in him, his independence functions naturally and so he becomes perfect by grace, since he has abandoned the imperfection of his nature, which is indicated by the battle for single-mindedness.

St. Symeon the New Theologian says that our self-determination, our free will, is not removed by Baptism, "but it grants us freedom no longer to be held against our will in the devil's tyranny". Baptism grants man the freedom not to be tyrannised by his desire, by the devil. After Baptism it again depends on us whether we remain self-willed towards God's commandments or we depart from this way and go back to the devil through his cunning practices.

St. Diadochos of Photike, referring to the desire for self-determination, says that independence is a desire of the rational soul, which moves readily "towards whatever it desires". Therefore he urges us to persuade it to move only towards the good. When it is moving towards the good, it is fulfilling its purpose and moving naturally.

The same saint writes that all men are formed in the image of God. "But to be in His likeness is granted only to those who through great love have brought their own freedom into subjection to God". "Only when we do not belong to ourselves do we become like Him who through love has reconciled us to Himself". From these words of the saint it can be seen that the likeness belongs to the saints who have mortified their passions and subjected their freedom to God through love. He emphasises the subjection of freedom to God, but this comes about through love. For in fact it is only then that freedom moves and functions naturally.

It can be added that "the only exercise of freedom, in an ontological manner, is love". True freedom cannot be expressed without love; it loses its ontological content. And this means "that personhood creates the following dilemma for human existence: either freedom as love, or freedom as negation".

In the saints we encounter the co-existence of love and freedom. They love God really, I could say ecstatically, and therefore their freedom, having been released from different admixtures and ailments, is directed towards God, it moves naturally. And in this way the saints are true men, what we have usually called persons.

Since, however, I do not wish to take my stand on a philosophical and theological level, which may seem abstract - although I do not think it is, for the theological position is necessary - I shall go on to present some expressions of freedom, as it is experienced in the ascetic life of the Church. One is man's freedom from death, another is the freedom of the nous from logic and the senses, and the third is man's freedom from the environment. These topics will reveal clearly the great value of freedom, as the members of our Church experience it.

Taken from the book "The Person in The Orthodox Tradition"By Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos of Nafpaktos.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

How To Distinguish A False Prophet From A True One ( St. Hermas )

“How then, sir,” say I, “will a man know which of them is the prophet, and which the false prophet?”

“I will tell you,” says he, “about both the prophets, and then you can try the true and the false prophet according to my directions.

Try the man who has the Divine Spirit by his life. First, he who has the Divine Spirit proceeding from above is meek, and peaceable, and humble, and refrains from all iniquity and the vain desire of this world, and contents himself with fewer wants than those of other men, and when asked he makes no reply; nor does he speak privately, nor when man wishes the Spirit to speak does the Holy Spirit speak, but He speaks only when God wishes Him to speak. When, then, a man having the Divine Spirit comes into an assembly of righteous men who have faith in the Divine Spirit, and this assembly of men offers up prayer to God, then the angel of the prophetic Spirit, who is destined for him, fills the man; and the man being filled with the Holy Spirit, speaks to the multitude as the Lord wishes. Thus, then, will the Spirit of Divinity become manifest. Whatever power therefore comes from the Spirit of Divinity belongs to the Lord.

Hear, then,” says he, “in regard to the spirit which is earthly, and empty, and powerless, and foolish. First, the man who seems to have the Spirit exalts himself, and wishes to have the first seat, and is bold, and impudent, and talkative, and lives in the midst of many luxuries and many other delusions, and takes rewards for his prophecy; and if he does not receive rewards, he does not prophesy. Can, then, the Divine Spirit take rewards and prophesy? It is not possible that the prophet of God should do this, but prophets of this character are possessed by an earthly spirit. Then it never approaches an assembly of righteous men, but shuns them. And it associates with doubters and the vain, and prophesies to them in a corner, and deceives them, speaking to them, according to their desires, mere empty words: for they are empty to whom it gives its answers. For the empty vessel, when placed along with the empty, is not crushed, but they correspond to each other. When, therefore, he comes into an assembly of righteous men who have a Spirit of Divinity, and they offer up prayer, that man is made empty, and the earthly spirit tees from him through fear, and that man is made dumb, and is entirely crushed, being unable to speak. For if you pack closely a storehouse with wine or oil, and put an empty jar in the midst of the vessels of wine or oil, you will find that jar empty as when you placed it, if you should wish to clear the storehouse. So also the empty prophets, when they come to the spirits of the righteous, are found [on leaving] to be such as they were when they came.

This, then, is the mode of life of both prophets. Try by his deeds and his life the man who says that he is inspired. But as for you, trust the Spirit which comes from God, and has power; but the spirit which is earthly and empty trust not at all, for there is no power in it: it comes from the devil.

Hear, then, the parable which I am to tell you. Take a stone, and throw it to the sky, and see if you can touch it. Or again, take a squirt of water and squirt into the sky, and see if you can penetrate the sky.”

“How, sir,” say I, “can these things take place? For both of them are impossible.”

“As these things,” says he, “are impossible, so also are the earthly spirits powerless and pithless. But look, on the other hand, at the power which comes from above. Hail is of the size of a very small grain, yet when it falls on a man’s head how much annoyance it gives him! Or, again, take the drop which falls from a pitcher to the ground, and yet it hollows a stone. You see, then, that the smallest things coming from above have great power when they fall upon the earth. Thus also is the Divine Spirit, which comes from above, powerful. Trust, then, that Spirit, but have nothing to do with the other.”

St. Hermas

Thursday, July 2, 2020

The Day Of the Last Judgement! ( St. John Maximovitch )

The DAY OF the Last Judgement! That day no one knows -- only God the Father knows -- but its signs are given in the Gospel and in the Apocalypse of the holy Apostle John the Theologian. Revelation speaks of the events at the end of the world and of the Last Judgement primarily in images and in a veiled manner. However, the Holy Fathers have explained these images, and there is an authentic Church tradition that speaks clearly concerning the signs of the approach of the end, and concerning the Last Judgement. Before the end of life on earth there will be agitation, wars, civil war, hunger, earthquakes... Men will suffer from fear, will die from expectation of calamity. There will be no life, no joy of life but a tormented state of falling away from life. Nevertheless there will be a falling away not only from life, but from faith also, and "when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" (St. Luke 18:8). Men will become proud, ungrateful, rejecting Divine law. Together with the falling away from life will be a weakening of moral life. There will be an exhaustion of good and an increase of evil.

Of these times, the holy Apostle John the Theologian speaks in his God-inspired work, the Apocalypse. He says that he "was in the Spirit" when he wrote it; this means that the Holy Spirit Himself was in him, when under the form of various images, the fate of the Church and the world was opened to him, and so this is a Divine Revelation.

The Apocalypse represents the fate of the Church in the image of a woman who hides herself in the wilderness: she does not show herself in public life, as today in Russia. In public life, forces that prepare the possibility for the appearance of Antichrist will play the leading role.

Antichrist will be a man, and not the devil incarnate. "Anti" means "old," and it also signifies "in place of" or "against." Antichrist is a man who desires to be in place of Christ, to occupy His place and possess what Christ should possess. He desires to possess the attraction of Christ and authority over the whole world. Moreover, Antichrist will receive that authority before his destruction and the destruction of the world.

What is known of this man -- Antichrist? His precise ancestry is unknown: his father is completely unknown, and his mother a foul pretended virgin. He will be a Jew of the tribe of Dan. He will be very intelligent and endowed with skill in handling people. He will be fascinating and kind. The philosopher Vladimir Soloviev worked a long time at presenting the advent and person of Antichrist. He carefully made use of all material on this question, not only Patristic, but also Moslem, and he worked out a brilliant picture.

Before the advent of Antichrist, there was a preparation in the world, the possibility of his appearance. The mystery of iniquity doth already work (II Thes. 2:7). The forces preparing for his appearance fight above all against the lawful Imperial authority. The holy Apostle Paul says that Antichrist cannot be manifested until what withholdest is taken away (II Thes. 2:6-7). St. John Chrysostom explains that the "withholding one" is the lawful pious authority: such an authority fights with evil. For this reason the "mystery," already at work in the world, fights with this authority; it desires a lawless authority. When the "mystery" decisively achieves that authority, nothing will hinder the appearance of Antichrist any longer.

Fascinating, intelligent, kind, he will be merciful — he will act with mercy and goodness; but not for the sake of mercy and goodness, but for the strengthening of his own authority. When he will have strengthened it to the point where the whole world acknowledges him, then he will reveal his face.

For his capital, he will choose Jerusalem, because it was here that the Savior revealed His Divine teaching and His person. It was here that the entire world was called to the blessedness of goodness and salvation. The world did not acknowledge Christ and crucified Him in Jerusalem; whereas, the whole world will acknowledge the Antichrist’s authority and Jerusalem will become the capital of the world.

Having attained the pinnacle of authority, Antichrist will demand the acknowledgement that he has attained what no earthly power had ever attained or could attain and then demand the worship of himself as a higher being, as a god.

V. Soloviev describes the character of his activity well, as "Supreme Ruler." He will do what is pleasing to all -- on the condition of being recognized as Supreme Authority. He will allow the Church to exist, permit her Divine services, promise to build magnificent churches…. on the condition, that all recognize him as "Supreme Being" and worship him. Antichrist will have a personal hatred for Christ; he will see Him as a rival and look upon Him as a personal enemy. He will live by this hatred and rejoice in men's apostasy from Christ.

Under Antichrist, there will be an immense falling away from the faith. Many bishops will change in faith and in justification will point to the brilliant situation of the Church. The search for compromise will be the characteristic disposition of men. Straight-forwardness of confession will disappear. Men will cleverly justify their fall, and gracious evil will support such a general disposition. There will be the habit of apostasy from truth and the sweetness of compromise and sin in men.

Antichrist will allow men everything, as long as they "fall down and worship him"; and the whole world will submit to him. Then there will appear the two righteous men, who will fearlessly preach the faith and accuse Antichrist. According to Church tradition, they are the two Prophets of the Old Testament, Elijah and Enoch, who did not taste of death, but will taste it now for three days, and in three days they must rise. Their death will call forth the great rejoicing of Antichrist and his servants. Their resurrection will plunge them into great confusion and terror. Then, the end of the world will come.

The Apostle Peter said that the first world was made out of water — an image of the primordial chaos, and perished by water — in the Flood. Now the world is reserved unto fire. The earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up (II Peter 3:5-7, 10). All the elements will ignite. This present world will perish in a single instant. In an instant all will be changed.

Moreover, the Sign of the Son of God, the Sign of the Cross, will appear. The whole world, having willingly submitted to Antichrist, will weep. Everything is finished forever: Antichrist killed, the end of his kingdom of warfare with Christ, the end, and one is held accountable; one must answer to the true God.

"The end of the world" signifies not the annihilation of the world, but its transformation. Everything will be transformed suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye. The dead will rise in new bodies: their own, but renewed, just as the Savior rose in His own body and traces of wounds from the nails and spear were on it, yet it possessed new faculties, and in this sense it was a new body. It is not clear whether this new body will be the same as Adam was made, or whether it will be an entirely new body.

Afterward, the Lord will appear in glory on the clouds. Trumpets will sound, loud, with power! They will sound in the soul and conscience! All will become clear to the human conscience. The Prophet Daniel, speaking of the Last Judgement, relates how the Ancient of Days, the Judge sits on His throne, and before Him is a fiery stream (Daniel 7:9-10). Fire is a purifying element; it burns sin. Woe to a man if sin has become a part of his nature: then the fire will burn the man, himself.

This fire will be kindled within man: seeing the Cross, some will rejoice, but others will fall into confusion, terror and despair. Thus, men will be divided instantly. The very state of a man's soul casts him to one side or the other, to right or to left.

The more consciously and persistently man strives toward God in his life, the greater will be his joy when he hears: "Come unto Me, ye blessed." Conversely: the same words will call the fire of horror and torture to those who did not desire Him, who fled and fought or blasphemed Him during their lifetime!

The Last Judgement knows of no witnesses or written protocols! Everything is inscribed in the souls of men and these records, these "books," are opened at the Judgement. Everything becomes clear to all and to oneself.

Moreover, some will go to joy, while others — to horror.

When "the books are opened," it will become clear that the roots of all vices lie in the human soul. Here is a drunkard or a lecher: when the body has died, some may think that sin is dead too. No! There was an inclination to sin in the soul, and that sin was sweet to the soul, and if the soul has not repented and has not freed itself of the sin, it will come to the Last Judgement with the same desire for sin. It will never satisfy that desire and in that soul there will be the suffering of hatred. It will accuse everyone and everything in its tortured condition; it will hate everyone and everything. "There will be gnashing of teeth" of powerless malice and the unquenchable fire of hatred.

A "fiery Gehenna" — such is the inner fire. "There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Such is the state of hell.

St. John Maximovitch