LIFE AFTER DEATH
by Saint Paisios of Mount Athos
--Geronda [Elder], when a person dies, does he become immediately aware of his spiritual condition?
Some people ask when the Second Coming will take place. But for the person who dies, the Second Coming is, in a way, taking place, because he is judged on the basis of the state in which he is found at the time of death.
--Geronda [Elder], in what state are the souls of the tormented found at this time?
--They are indicted, imprisoned, and suffer in accordance with the sins they had committed; and they await the final trial, the future Judgment. There are those who have been indicted, facing heavy sentences, and those who have been indicted, facing lighter sentences.
--What about the Saints and the thief? (St. Luke 23:32-33 and 39-43)
--The Saints and the thief are in Paradise; but they have not received the final glory, just as those who have been indicted are in hell but have not received the final sentence. Even though God has taught us from centuries ago: "Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand?" (St. Matthew 3:2 and 4:17) He extends the time more and more, because He waits for us (with the pronoun "us", the Elder means all of humanity) to correct ourselves. But we, by remaining in our (unrepentant) misery, are unjust to the Saints because they cannot receive the final glory, which they are to receive after the future judgment.
PRAYER AND MEMORIALS FOR THE DEPARTED
--Geronda [Elder], can the indicted souls who await trial pray?
--They are aware of their condition and seek help, but they cannot help themselves. Those who are in Hades desire only one thing from Christ: to live for five minutes in order to repent. We, who live, still have time for repentance, but those unfortunate ones who have fallen asleep cannot improve their condition on their own; they await help from us. This is the reason why we have an obligation to help them with our prayer.
God wants to help those who have fallen asleep because He cares about their ultimate salvation; but He does not help because He has a noble spirit. He does not want to give the devil the right to say: "How can you save him, since he did not labor to achieve it?" But when we pray for those who have fallen asleep, we give God the right to intervene. God is moved more by our prayers for the dead than by those for the living.
THE FUTURE JUDGMENT
--Geronda [Elder], how is the soul purified?
--When a person observes the Commandments of God, working to be cleansed of one's own passions, then the mind is enlightened; it attains spiritual vision, and the soul becomes as resplendent as it was before the Fall of man. This is the condition he will be in after the resurrection of the dead. But one can see the resurrection of his soul before the General Resurrection only if he is cleansed entirely from the passions. Then, his body will be Angelic, incorporeal, and will not be concerned with material nourishment.
--Geronda [Elder], how will the future Judgment take place?
--In the future Judgment, the condition of each person will be revealed in an instant, and each person on his own will proceed to where he belongs. Each person will recognize, as if on a television screen, his own wretchedness, as well as the spiritual condition of others. He will reflect himself upon the other, and he will bow his head, and proceed to the place where he belongs. For example, a daughter-in-law who sat comfortably with her legs crossed in front of her mother-in-law, who with a broken leg took care of the grandchild, will not be able to say, "My Christ, why are you putting my mother-in-law into Paradise without including me?" because that scene will come before her to condemn her..." (Note: Saint of Damascus writes: "For no one should imagine that there will be no recognition of one person by another on that fearful Day of the Judgment. Yes, truly each person will recognize his neighbor, not through the shape of the body, but by means of the vision of the eye of the soul.")
THE FUTURE LIFE
--Geronda [Elder}, in the other life will those in Hell see those in Paradise?