Inspired by this question and answers for it: what happens with a soul after one's death according to Eastern Orthodox doctrine? I'm interested in all variants.
OK I'm finally getting around to answering this question. Unfortunately I'm limited on time so this is a summary of the Orthodox position. First of all, Orthodoxy's entire anthropology differs from Western Christianity (no original guilt/concupiscence). As such, their soteriology doesn't begin in the same place as Western Christianity and thus concludes differently. Many Western Protestants emphasize "getting saved" so that you don't go to hell when you die. The emphasis often has more to do with avoiding hell than going to heaven. But even heaven is not the goal nor focal point of Orthodoxy.
The point is to become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), being united with Christ and thus escaping corruption and death. As 1 Corinthians 15:22-28 says,
And so our emphasis is on Christ's defeat of sin, death, and Satan - and that this victory means that one day "God will be all in all." In other words, there will be no way to escape from God's presence. "Heaven" is not some place up in the sky that hides us from the underworld. "Hell" is not a place and it is not the absence of God. This also means that dying and going to heaven isn't the end of the story nor is it the focus. Eastern Orthodox Christianity is about "life after life after death" (to borrow a phrase coined by N.T. Wright), i.e. life after the final judgment, after the bodily resurrection (the notion of a disembodied eternal existence in a purely spiritual heaven or becoming angels are Gnostic concepts). This is important because Orthodox do not think of hell as a "place," it's more of a metaphor or concept. Everyone will be in God's loving presence when they die, but for some that will be paradise and for others it will be torment. Much of the Western concepts of heaven and hell are derived more from pagan cultures than from the scriptures, which only used these existing cultural terms to hint at transcendent mysteries.
As to what happens after physical death (other than being in God's presence), no one really knows (this is freely admitted by most Orthodox scholars). The best we have is speculation and the "hints" we get in the Bible. As such, there are a variety of "theories" in Orthodoxy (but this speculation is often not helpful). But where everyone agrees is that we go to be in God's unfiltered presence.
A note about praying for the dead. Presently, when we die, we all go to be in God's presence until we await the final judgment and bodily resurrection. We believe that it may be possible for individuals to change their disposition towards God's love after death. This is not dogma, but we hold out hope for this. Since death is a defeated foe (it's just not annihilated yet), we also ask deceased saints to pray for us since they are now in God's presence and also mystically present with us in worship. After the final judgment, it will likely be too late to change one's disposition, but we hold out hope that all might come to know God's love as a wonderful thing for all eternity (see more on this here). I don't have time to elaborate on this much more here, and it wouldn't be entirely on topic anyways.
If you'd like to read more in depth about this, check out this article.
Orthodox Tradition is made by saints, living temples of Holy Spirit. Many times, they let us testimonies for spiritual benefit of posteriority.
In 'Life of saint Basil the New' book, written by his disciple Gregory, is described what happened with the soul of Theodora after death, a widow who took care of the saint in her life. Her soul was judged passing through a series of tollbooths: slander, insult, lying, anger and rage, pride and arrogance, idle and obscene talk, usury and deceit, falsehood and vainglory, greed, drunkenness, grudge-bearing, sorcery, gluttony and epicurism, idolatry, sodomy and pedophilia, adultery, robbery, theft, fornication, mercilessness and cruelheartedness, sloth, stinginess, murder, heresy. Remarkable observation is that she passed all of them not by her own merits, but only just prayers of the saint Basil.
In the life of St. Anthony the Great (written by St. Athanasius the Great), he saw a vision of souls rising towards heaven and some being stopped by a large demon and cast down
Before die, saint Lazar, the Serbian Tsar, had a complete vision of the world, on the battlefield where his army was defeated by turks:
Only holy tradition of Orthodoxy recorded many testimonies like these, giving the complete view that can be known about life before and after physical death.
I've searched some answer by myself, and here's what I've found. According to the linked document, both Paradise and hell are Christ's eternal presence, perceived as bliss by truly faithfull and as burning flames by the others. After death a soul leaves body and goes to Christ, where it experiences bliss (Paradise) or torment (hell). These states grow to fullness after the Final Judgement and ressurection of bodies, when the body is involved too.
Addendum: another find addressing the way to Paradise or hell! According to it the soul should be going through this world for two days, on the third day be tested by demons and then visit souls in heaven and paradise. Before the 40th day when the Temporal Judgement comes, the eternal fate of the soul can be changed by prayers of the living and of the saints in Paradise (but livings' prayers can be stronger).
|show 1 more comment|