Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King
Thou art the King of Glory, O Lord Jesus Christ; when Thou didst take upon Thee to deliver man, Thou didst not abhor the Virgin's Womb

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Eastern Orthodox Aerial Toll-Houses + Me Feeling Spiritually Murdered = Hope (sike)

Having a bad day today spiritually.

I've made an appointment with Father to confess my sins, but I don't really know where to begin (my last Confession was during Advent or just before) and I'm struggling to examine my conscience which I've been trying to do over the past week.  Maybe I'll find a good examen online that I can follow because the one in my missal is not hitting the nail on the head... 

There is just not enough time for anything because I have school, work, and my spiritual life (I don't really have a social life right now besides for being with my best friend a lot, but that's fine because I'm worried about more important things).  I've been spending tremendous amounts of time on my spiritual life to the detriment of my academic career because I'm still running in circles and trying to find answers about homosexuality, gender identity, and trying to be a good Catholic in spite of all that.

All I want to do when I'm not researching answers to how to have a more peaceful interior life or praying is sleep.  My life consists of being on the Internet trying to make the most out of Catholicism in my life, prayer (including reading the Scriptures and devotions), and sleep.  I feed myself as well ;-)

Did I mention that last night I finally found out what the Aerial Toll-Houses are?  Eastern Orthodox tradition hypothesizes that the Particular Judgment of the soul after it leaves the body consists in it being carried by the Holy Angels Heavenward where it makes 20 stops at the different Toll-Houses where there are demons who try to steal the soul to Hell by convicting it of sins it has committed in life (or by accusing it of sins it didn't commit) to see if the soul has sufficifiently satisfied for it.  If the soul has sufficiently satisfied for the sin [of that Toll-House] by some good work, the Angels may guide the soul the next one where it is tempted or convicted again by different demons for a different type of sin.  If the soul has not satisfied, the demons snatch it, and carry it to Hell.  If the soul makes it past all 20 Toll-Houses, it may ender the Joy of the Lord in Heaven after the Final (General) Judgment.

The Church Fathers have said that those who commune of the Sacred Mysteries and confess their sins truthfully often are not in danger of the demons at these terrifying Toll-Houses, and that the prayers of the faithful on Earth and the Saints who have cleared all 20 Toll-Houses. 

Although not all of the Eastern Orthodox accept this as doctrine (some say it's a metaphor), it seems that most of them believe it and they have the texts to prove it.  It really scares me if they are real because I always thought that God would be my Judge at my Particular Judgment and that He wouldn't necessarily cooperate with the demons.  Purgatory seems scary enough, but if this is how one even gets there, it kinda leaves me hanging as to how the heck I'm supposed to clear all those Toll-Houses if they even exist.  Now I really see the importance of gaining Indulgences and always trying to be in a State of Grace on this life.  Keep in mind, one can have insufficient "collateral" at any of the Toll-Houses and immediately go to Hell. 

Before, I always wondered why the Orthodox prayed for the dead since they didn't believe in Purgatory, but in light of these Toll-Houses, it makes sense.  But how will I have anyone to pray for me if I'm not a member of a parish community where people will know what to pray about concerning me?  People could easily forget, and if these little "judgment houses" are real, I could be falling to an endless woe, and the fact that I tried really hard in life wouldn't even matter. 

After all, isn't the fear of Hell and the desire to see God the reason that I pray so much, offer Mass frequently, try to share the Truth with others, do good deeds, and believe through Charity?  What's the point if all these demons are just going to make it all go to naught?  I would hope that my Guardian Angel (like the Toll-House believers say) is recording the good things that I do out of love for God.  I would hope that God would remember His Promise to His children, and consider where my heart is at the moment of death. 

http://orthodoxinfo.com/death/theodora.aspx (St. Theodora's Journey Through the Toll-Houses)

Something in me just keeps feeling like I'm being set up for failure!!!  And frankly, it is making me not trust God in a sense, but making so scared of Him that I don't feel like continuing. 

Now, I'm not saying that these Toll-Houses in the sky are real or that they're infallibly declared (I've never even heard of them except for a couple times over the past 5 years), but it's just an uncomfortable thought kinda like Purgatory and Hell are uncomfortable, but at least in Purgatory, you're guaranteed Heaven and are sad and tormented by the fact that your sins offended God and the Poor Souls of the Church Suffering (those in Purgatory) actually see their sins for what they really are and are praying to be cleansed of them and satisfy for them.  These Toll-Houses seem like your fate is more or less in the hands of demons and they don't want your good nor have they ever.  Your Angels are supposed to help you, but the demons have the last word.

Aerial Toll-Houses Iconographic Depiction
Everything is just looking like Christianity is just not possible for me because I'm convicted of everything and I feel like I lack the help of the Holy Ghost, but I am praying that this is not the end of the road and that I am destined for victory eventually.  I can't even be of much help to those around me because I don't even really know what to do anymore.  I am feeling so literally crushed by the weight of my sins and how numerous they are (yet, I can't name them to save my life...funny...) that I feel like I just can't get up some times.  I want to win, but without God's help, I can't even lift up a spiritual weapon. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
"Be Thou unto me a God, a Protector, and a house of refuge, to save me:  for Thou art my strength and my refuge:  and for Thy Name's sake Thou wilt lead me, and nourish me.  Ps.  ibid.  2.  In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped, let me never be confounded:  deliver me in Thy justice, and save me."  --Introit of the Mass of Quinquagesima Sunday


  1. 1. here is a pretty thorough guide to Confession you may find useful: http://www.orthodox.net/confess/confession-chart-russian-english.pdf

    2. its not that the demons are judging you INSTEAD of God -- God is always in charge, but we know from Scriptures that He sometimes uses demons to His own ends -- think of the book of Job especially. If you struggle to live a good Christian life the demons will not be able to make that all for naught, as you say. Trust in God, pray unceasingly, and force yourself to keep the commandments of God -- by His grace!

    1. Jesse, this link is very helpful and something that I want to meditate on frequently to help with my nightly examinations of conscience which I'm going to try to start doing. Thank you so much for this information.

      Still working on trusting God and relying on Grace, but I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't afraid of the possibility of Hell and its torments, plus being separated from God forever... Pray for me

  2. also, we don't speak of the soul making satisfaction for its sins -- that is not a concept we have in our theology.

  3. I would also add that even though the general judgement criteria are the same for each person, the standards are different. A monastic will face a harsher judgement for lack of fasting than a lay person. Ultimately each person will face what they were capable of doing and didn't --- not what the ultimate standard was that they failed to achieve. For example a person raised in a brothel will not be judged by the "sexual sins" they had no control over but a person raised in a pious household who fell into sexual sin might be.

    Also worth noting is that, unlike in the Catholic Church, visions to a single person are rarely meant for everyone. I know that typically in Catholic history when someone has a vision of Mary, Christ, etc, it is spread around to everyone with instructions on behavioral or dogmatic changes based on the vision. Example: vision of Mary, "I am the Immaculate Conception" got the ball rolling with the official dogma that was later proclaimed in the Catholic Church. For Orthodox, when one has a vision, unless you have FANTASTIC spiritual discernment, DON'T assume it came from God. Once you can be sure through a spiritual father/ mother that it is from God, use it to personally direct your heart towards God and change your behaviors. Don't run around saying you had a vision from God and now everyone has to do X, Y, & Z. Not that I'm saying Saints' visions cannot be helpful to others but for Orthodox we believe what we need to know for salvation is revealed in the Church, not through the vision(s) of a sole person or persons.

  4. Also, it is not in Orthodox theology that one can be "separated from God". God is everywhere present and fillest all things. He sustains our existence. He is just as present with those in Hell as those in Heaven. Heaven and Hell are not physical "places". The difference is the person. Hell is Hell to the "damned" because they want to get away from God's presence and the feeling of His holiness but can't. Whereas Heaven is Heaven to the "saved" because they love God's presence and now they are in full contact with Him for all eternity. Here on earth He is still everywhere present as well but we can choose to ignore His presence (our "free will"). Once we die, no such choice. So either you accept Him and eternity feels like Heaven or reject Him and eternity feels like Hell.