My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
ON THE DEPARTURE OF THE SOUL ACCORDING TO THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH (Part II)
Christ's Redemptive Love for Humanity
"The devil, the enemy of our race", writes Saint Athanasius the Great, "having fallen from Heaven, wanders about our lower atmosphere, and there bearing rule over his fellow-spirits...tries to hinder them that are going up...while the Lord came to cast down the devil, and clear the air and prepare the way for us up into Heaven...Stretching out His hands upon the Cross, He overthrew "the prince of the power of the air, that now works in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2) and made the way clear for us into the heavens".
Whereas by His descent into Hades, Christ demolished the gates that were detaining the souls of the dead, similarly His Crucifixion cleared the air of the demonic ranks opposing the heavenly ascent of departing souls. Christ in His human nature first died and ascended to the Throne of God, leaving us the path of His Commandments so that we might follow Him to our eternal heavenly homeland. But just as the imprisoning gates of Hades are reforged, as it were, by disobedience to Christ's Commandments so too this disobedience obscured the way He cleared for those Christians who would follow Him to Heaven. Displaying the record of the soul's sins, the heavy debt of which hinders the ascent to God, the demons once again occupy their aerial stations, blocking our free passage and demanding reparation.
However, in His boundless love for the human race, God appointed Guardian Angels to accompany human beings (cf. St. Matthew 18:10) in order to help them in the struggle against the passions in this life and to assist them in that more arduous hour of death.
The help of the Holy Angels during the departure of the soul is immeasurable. The demons intend to bring the soul to despair by accusing the soul of sin, causing it to lose hope in the mercy of the Lord. But the Holy Angels comfort the terrified soul so that it might continue its ascent bolstered by its confidence in God. To counterbalance the handwriting against us (cf. Col. 2:14)--the evidence of the passions in our soul and the details of all unconfessed sins together with our lack of remorse over them--the Angels guarding us bring forward the record of our virtues, our repentance and sincere attempt toward amendment, and all the good deeds we may have performed in this life. In this way, as the departing soul passes through the lower atmosphere, a trial occurs.
The measure of mastery that the passions acquired over the soul--or the soul over the passions--is critical in determining the outcome of the trial. This is the lesson in our Savior's Salvific words to us: "The ruler of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me" (St. John 14:30)--that is, nothing of the culpable passions. The Angels and demons bring forth the evidence of either the elements of virtue or the remainder of the passions in our souls. And then comes the moment of the announcement of the verdict. For this, a Judge is required.
The Particular Judgment
As God is our Creator and Savior, the Giver of every good and the Bestower of life, He is also rightfully our judge. Having given us such generous gifts, with great concern our Master also watches over the contest of our life. Far from lording His blessing over us as would a tyrant, our Benefactor reviews, weighs and appraises how we spent this precious treasure of our time in this life which he gave to us in his kindness. Having both supervised and supported our struggle for salvation which He dearly desires to award to us, it is evident that our Lord Jesus Christ will be the Judge of each person, since the Father "has entrusted all judgment to the Son" (St. John 5:22).
As stated in the Orthodox Nicene Creed (Symbol of Faith), at the end of time Christ "shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead." Additionally, the Gospel Parable of the rich man and Lazarus shows that prior to the Last Judgment, the Lord also conducts an immediate judgment at the departure of the soul (cf. St. Luke 16:23-25). The Apostle Paul noted this judgment: "Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). The Orthodox Church calls this judgment the "Particular Judgment". At this trial, the soul receives its allotment in the afterlife according to the life which it led on earth, either in Paradise, a place of repose and joy, or in Hades, a place of torment and sorrow. It then awaits the General Resurrection that will take place at the Second Coming of Christ. (The Departure of the Soul According to the Teaching of the Orthodox Church, St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" - Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God