Most of the Saturdays in Great Lent are “Soul Saturdays,” days when the Orthodox remember and pray for the departed. Thus my attention each week is drawn back to this great cloud of the departed who bear witness to Christ and draw my attention to Christ’s final victory over death. These are some thoughts from several years back on the topic.
Having spent two-and-a-half years as a Hospice Chaplain, I had opportunity to be present to over 200 deaths (that does not include the many I have witnessed in my years in ordained ministry. As you sit with someone who is dying, there finally arises a boundary beyond which you cannot go: death itself. I can pray for the “departure of the soul from the body” (the priestly service done at the time of death in Orthodoxy), and I can pray and even know the fellowship of the saints and the departed.
Christ told His disciples, “Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come. Then said the Jews among themselves, “Whither will he go, that we shall not find him?”
Christ has been where we have not and entered where we cannot yet go.
The experience of death, and the boundary it represents, also hides from us a reality we can only know by faith. And, according to Scripture, it is probably the greatest occasion for fear.
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he[Jesus] himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
I sometimes think that most fears are really about death on some level. The loss of power over our own lives that we frequently imagine to be true during our healthy years. It is admitting this powerlessness that is inevitably the case that gives us pause, and engenders fear.
I had a cousin, about a year older than myself. She was diagnosed with Childhood Onset Rheumatoid Arthritis (a very virulent form of the disease) when she was only ten. In the summers I used to go and stay a week or two with her family near the South Carolina mountains to be company for her. We gained a closeness that never seemed to leave the relationship over the years. She was among the most honest people I’ve ever known.
I recall talking to her in the months before she died (it was becoming apparent that this was the case). We were both in our forties. In the conversation the subject of faith, God, heaven, etc. came up. She spoke with great tenderness about God. I remember asking her, “How is that you’ve been in pain and crippled for 35 years and yet speak so kindly of God?”
Her answer was very enlightening: “I haven’t always felt this way about God,” she said. “There was a time when I would wake up in the morning and curse God.” But then her voice lowered and she added meekly, “That was before I knew He was good.”
It is among the greatest professions of faith I have every heard.
To stand at the boundary of life and death, and to stand without fear, we must know that there is a good God. In C.S. Lewis’Narnia Chronicles someone says of Aslan, “He’s not a tame lion, but He’s good.”
This is the fear of death: that goodness does not win in the end. I believe it therefore to be utterly necessary in the preaching of the gospel to remind people again and again, “He is a good God and loves mankind” (the words of the traditional Orthodox dismissal).
In is only in Christ, finally, that we have the perfect image of the perfect God and can say, based on that revelation, “He is good.” I rejoice in that goodness, and pray to know it more each day as we journey to Pascha and beyond.
Photo: The entrance to the tomb of Lazarus in Bethany.
Why should we pray for the departed? I can understand having services to remember our loved ones who have died, but to pray for them just doesn’t make any sense to me. If they have died in the faith and the hope of the resurrection, they are already in the presence of God. What could be of greater comfort and consolation than being in His presence, where the Father shelters us in His everlasting Light? No more prayers need to be made on their behalf for they have fought the good fight and finished the race and are ready to receive the crown of glory and life.
As far as praying for those who have departed in unbelief and rejection of Christ, I cannot see that being of any benefit either. For they made their choice in this life, and because of the choice to reject Christ and His love, they will not be comforted by His loving presence nor will they receive a crown of glory and life. Our prayers cannot change that.
I asked my priest this same question, but he was unable to answer it other than to say that the Church has always prayed for the departed.
I do understand, btw, how necessary it is to believe that “God is good.” When one is dying this is especially of great comfort. And also, that He is merciful and kind, not willing that any should perish. I seldom recall hearing about God’s goodness while among the Calvinists. His Sovereignty, yes and often. But seldom did I hear of His kindness, mercy, and love.
The Church’s official statement in the matter has always been that “our prayers are of benefit,” though it does not seek to draw the precise boundaries of that benefit. I believe that all for whom we pray will benefit before God. God alone knows the heart of each man and woman and He alone knows who has indeed accepted or rejected Him. This is not for us to judge. It is for us to pray. Our prayers are a communion in love. We simply hold all who have gone before in the communion of God’s love, which He Himself more assuredly does. What God does with that is not for us to answer – except that we know He is good, and that He can and is doing “abundantly above all we could ask or think.”
There are a number of astounding stories within the lives of the saints that teach us to be very bold about these prayers – as do the kneeling prayers on the day of Pentecost.
Are there any writings, encyclicals, or books written on this subject? I would be very interested in learning more about this.
Christ be with you!
The Church speaks of this subject with much wisdom, Father, our prayers are indeed “communion in love”. Entering by the gate, they passed into life eternal.
I’ll try to pull some links together for you.
I’m a Christian (raised in a non-denominational Christian church) and I’m confused as to how your faith differs from mine. Some very obvious ways are the traditions you keep. Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that His death, burial, and resurrection secured salvation for those who believe and are baptized in His name?
Thank you Father Stephen for your article!
Could we say that our prayers for the departed also help us to more thoroughly forgive them their sins against us and also help us to seek forgiveness of our sins against them?
Father will probably give a much better reply than me, but here goes.
You said, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that His death, burial, and resurrection secured salvation for those who believe and are baptized in His name?”
The Orthodox do believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that Christ trampled down death by His death and His resurrection . In the Creed, the Orthodox recite at every Divine Liturgy as regards Jesus Christ our Lord, “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-Begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light, True God of True God, begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made. Who for us men and our salvation came down from Heaven and was Incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried. On the third day He arose, according to the Scriptures. He ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, whose Kingdom shall have no end.”
As far as believing in the Protestant doctrine of Eternal Security, or Once Saved Always Saved, the Orthodox do not believe or teach this doctrine. This is the simple answer. As to WHY the Orthodox Church does not teach this doctrine, the short answer is that it was not taught by any of the Church Fathers, pre or post Nicene. For 1500 yrs. such a doctrine was never heard or preached by the Church.
There are many more reasons as to why this doctrine of Eternal Security is not taught by the Orthodox Church. This is just a brief answer.
I hope I answered your question, and if not, I’m sure others here can help.
I just wanted to also write some things about salvation. Please correct me, Father Stephen, if I am wrong. I am a recent convert from last summer.
From the things I have read and the sermons/homilies I’ve heard and from going to Church and praying here are some things that I now understand about salvation.
In the Gospel it does say, and I’m not quoting, that if one believes in Jesus Christ as the Son of God that that one will be saved. But what is belief? Is it a one time acknowledgement or is it something deeper. If we believe that the weather outside is below zero we will act accordingly, most likely, and dress warmly before we go outside. If we believe that we have a certain amount of money in the bank and that we have a job that pays us a certain amount of money every month, then we will act accordingly, hopefully, and not spend well beyond our means. If we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God – one of the Holy Trinity – One God – and that He as Son of God became man by the Holy Spirit born of the Virgin Mary then we will also act accordingly – though this acting accordingly is difficult! Jesus told the Apostles to preach repentance and Baptism to all the nations. Repentance is a turning toward something. So rather than just saying sorry and going on our way it is our task to turn away from error and sin and turn toward God. God is always calling us to Him.
1 Timothy 2:3-4 (New King James Version)
3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
We need to turn to Him and find Him through Jesus Christ (Who is God as the Son of God) in His Church. God always calls us to Him because He is love:
1 John 4:16 (New King James Version)
16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
God calls us to follow His commandments:
John 14:21 (New King James Version)
21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
So what can we know about salvation?
1 John 5:13 (New King James Version)
13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
Who was this letter written to? It was written to the faithful to protect and strengthen their faith. Why does he say that they “may know” that they have eternal life and yet say that they “continue to believe?” What does “to know” mean? Is it objective knowledge?
Throughout the gospels Jesus Christ casts out demons. When these demons see Him they cry out and acknowledge that He is the Son of God:
Luke 8:28 (New King James Version)
28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?’
James 2:19 (New King James Version)
19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble!
The demons do not have faith in God though; they do not believe or understand the love of God. One has to have faith in God in one’s heart, soul, in one’s being, rather than just in the mind ; it cannot be just some objective, rational thought. If we believe and have faith that the sun will rise in the mornings, we will plan our days accordingly. If we believe and have faith, that our parents are our parents, we will continue to call them our parents and treat them in the proper manner. If we believe that God truly became man in Jesus Christ so that He might bring us back to Him because He loves us, then we will do our best to live our lives according to His commandments which he told us trying to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. Who is our neighbor? Everyone.
God tells us to love our enemies too. How is this possible? Through Jesus Christ. Throughout the New Testament their are references to salvation as a process, not as a kind of knowledge to hold. Not only that, but in the Gospels, there are references to Baptism and Communion as being necessary to salvation.
Mark 16:16 (New King James Version)
16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
John 6:53-56 (New King James Version)
53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides n Me, and I in him.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (New King James Version)
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat, this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me. 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
and Paul offers a strong exhortation about receiving the Eucharist:
1 Corinthians 11:27-30 (New King James Version)
27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
Why would Paul say this if it were not truly the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ? How would people become weak or sick or even sleep (which I think means death).
In the Bible there are also many references to salvation being a process:
Matthew 10:22 (New King James Version)
22 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
Here, Jesus Christ tells us that as Christians we must suffer in this world for Him, and He further says that it is “he who endures to the end (that) shall be saved.” Enduring to the end shows a process, not a one-time decision. As a process, Christians must continue to cooperate with God in being saved. It is also work for the Christian as Paul says in Philippians:
Phillippians 2:12 (New King James Version)
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
There are also warnings about not following Christ:
Matthew 7:24-27 (New King James Version)
24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock 25 and the rain descended, the flood came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it fell. And great was its fall.”
Matthew 7:21-23 (New King James Version)
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
The Gospel is the love of God. God became man so that man – may partake of His divine energies through Him and be united to Him through Jesus Christ Who is the Head of the Church. He calls us to love too. To love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We can only begin to love with God. The Gospel is about love and this is illustrated when Jesus talks about the Last Judgment, Matthew 25; 31 – 46, He is talking about love for our neighbor also I think:
Matthew 25: 37-40 (New King James Version)
Then the righteous will answer Him, saying ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”
Because everyone is made in the image of God – (Genesis 1:26,) we must respect and love everyone.
I am a sinner. I must rely on God to change me. Without God I am horrible to people at times. Though I am weak, God can change me and teach me to follow Him. Jesus Christ truly is the light of the world. Let us all cling to Him and keep trying to offer ourselves to Him and keep asking Him to change us so that we may better follow Him! Thank God for everything!!!
(note: I found nearly all of the quotes from the Bible from http://www.biblegateway.com and then retyped them in this document)
Abbey, if I could just add to what Darlene has said.
There are “significant” differences between the Faith as espoused by Holy Tradition and non-Orthodox traditions.
The Orthodox Church maintains that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and is received by the Son.
By departing from the singularity of truth, other confessions open themselves up to a distorted view of history and the Kingdom. From these, stem the manifold divisions of modernity.
By God’s grace, may we depart this life knowing His goodness.
Abbey, I do think that one of the hardest things we are invited to do is to receive Christ in His fullness. Within your question of “Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that His death, burial, and resurrection secured salvation for those who believe and are baptized in His name?” I have to wonder how it is that Christ comes to us. Specifically, I wonder about His Incarnation and how this reality continues to permeate our lives as much as we allow for it.
I guess I didn’t want to debate doctrinal differences so much as have a basic summary of what the Orthodox belief system entails. Whenever I look on Wikipedia or church websites it gets so confusing. Like if you were going to try and “win” someone to your faith what would you say?
The most basic text-based summary is the Nicene Creed. However, when I am talking to people in person about Orthodoxy, I start with the Sign of the Cross. From there, I let try to let them “drive” our next interactions as invariably everyone has questions, encourage them to seek Christ and His Kingdom, and regularly pray for them in general and in any specifics that I have. Some people approach me with questions before I even get a chance to make a beginning. But Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life who gives any increase of our connectedness to Him.
Yes, we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that His death, burial, and resurrection secured salvation for those who believe and are baptized in His name? Orthodoxy understands itself as a way of life. It has maintained its continuity with the Church of the Apostles throughout various ages and cultures. It is the Church from which came the early and modern martyrs, the canon of Scriptures, the Councils concerning the doctrines, etc. I hope that answers your question (without an argument). Forgive people’s enthusiasm.
“Like if you were going to try and “win” someone to your faith what would you say?”
I don’t want to get too far off your original inquiry, Abbeyshane, but I wanted to add that just by asking the above question you will learn much about how the Orthodox faith differs. Rather than distilling theology down to short sound bites in order to win someone over, communicating the Faith (i.e. evangelism) for the Orthodox Church is a slower and more deliberate process. As is salvation.
Good point David. I do wonder whether modernity misses the point when it ignores the cloud of witnesses.
Orthodoxy is experiential. You can read your whole life and work to convince the mind but ultimately you must ‘come and see.’ You have to fall into the rhythm of the prayers, the seasons and most of all – of participating in the Holy Mysteries. The mind on its own can never grasp what the heart knows. It works though, like gentle waves on the sand over time.
My mother died 4 years ago this month. She lived her faith with every breath. She prayed fervently and maintained a prayer rule in addition to her extemporaneous prayers as she worked about the house. She touched lives. Not in a confrontational or argumentative way but with faith and love. A Jehovah’s Witness came to our house monthly for years. And for years my mother invited her in for a cup of tea at each visit. She never tried to argue with her – just showed her kindness and hospitality. When she stopped coming, my mother assumed she’d given up until the day she ran into her at the store. She apologized for not coming sooner but she said the Witnesses had told her my mother couldn’t be saved. It made her re-examine her life and realize she was not a Christian.
Even in my mother’s last days she continued to touch lives. The nurses all told me they would take their breaks in her room as it was a privilege to sit with her. Her room was filled with such light, peace and grace. As I sat vigil by her bed as the shadow of death crept more and more over her face, she suddenly awakened and with great strength and joy asked me if I could see the angels and the light. For three glorious hours she shared these visions of heaven with such robust joy. With tears and overhwhelming joy, we embraced. Her eyes were shining and her whole countenance was radiant. She asked me several times if she was still alive because she said she was in paradise and it was filled with such joy and such light. After three hours, her face grew pensive and she said that her Lord wanted her to wait a little longer. And the visions stopped. She fell asleep in the Lord peacefully the next day.
I miss my mother but I know she continues to worship God with the cloud of witnesses. It is the same God I worship and love with all my heart. Heaven isn’t so far away. We continue to pray for each other. Glory to God for all things.
Ah, Father, I couldn’t help but get a kick out of your comment, “Forgive people’s enthusiasm.” 🙂
anya, thank you for sharing that wonderful story of your mother. my grandmother was the same. in her final years, when she was a shut-in, her church members would go visit her on a regular basis. they always came away saying THEY had recieved a blessing from just being in her presence. we all know a few people like this…but they do seem to be few and far between.
It shouldn’t be that extraordinary. Each and every one of us is created to be filled with God’s light but we somehow keep insisting on pulling the shades down. My mother didn’t and Easton – it sounds like your grandmother didn’t either. There is something powerfully beautiful about the privilege of journeying with someone along the frontier between life and death. God was with my mother every step of the way. And yes, there came a point where I could go no further. It wasn’t fearful but it was sobering – in a peaceful yet powerful way. It made the nonsense we fill our lives with seem all the more ridiculous. And I finally understood, even if for a few minutes, that the veil between heaven and earth is very thin. I could open my heart trustingly to God too. For truly He is a good and loving God.
What you write here has become a major theme for my life. Through various heartaches and even a near-death experience, I had to make the choice that I *believe* that God is good, and that He is good all the time, no matter what happens. It was a life-changing decision and while it certainly is ongoing, I know when I really chose it for the first time. I am not very good at praying for the dead (mainly because I am not very good at praying), but I certainly hope that prayers are said for me after I die. And because God is outside of time, prayers for the dead make sense to me. And because I believe that God is good, prayer for any reason makes sense to me. Thank you for another prescient post.
Please forgive me my enthusiasm and pride. Good wishes to you all.
Thank you for your witness Anya.
This has all been so informative! Anya, you words were beautiful and inspiring. I’m going to continue to look in to Orthodoxy because I like that it (you, they?) values and keeps traditions like Lent (right?). I wish that more churches (like the one I grew up and and the one I currently attend) would/could uphold traditions like those. Legalism can be such an ugly thing but it seems to me like some churches are legalistic about NOT being legalistic…..so people grow up with loose traditions and misunderstandings. Anyways, again, thank you for all your input!
2 Maccabees, 12:40-46.
“When Judas and his men came to take away for burial the bodies of
their brethren who had fallen in the battle against Gorgias, “they
found under the coats of the slain some of the donaries of the idols
of Jamnia, which the law forbiddeth to the Jews: so that all plainly
saw, that for this cause they were slain. Then they all blessed the
just judgment of the Lord, who had discovered the things that were
hidden. And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him, that
the sin which had been committed might be forgotten…And making a
gathering, Judas sent twelve drachms of silver to Jerusalem for
sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and
religiously concerning the resurrection (for if he had not hoped that
they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed
superfluous and vain to pray for the dead), and because he considered
that they who had fallen asleep in godliness, had great grace laid up
for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the
dead, that they may be loosed from sins.”
Abbeyshane – the Orthodox way of life is beautiful. Yes we keep the Holy Traditions and we have cultural traditions that help seamlessly integrate our faith into the very rhythm and daily routine of our lives. We’re not perfect though – far from it – and often we stumble and fall short. Thankfully the church offers us healing as we approach the Great Physician of our souls and bodies. And once again we can get up, dust ourselves off and continue growing closer to God. We journey together, helping each other along the way, and invite you to journey with us.
Please continue to look into Orthodoxy. You can explore all your questions and find layer upon layer of meaning and depth. It is like the icons of Christ where He is holding the book of life in His left hand and is blessing with His right hand. It is written in reverse perspective on purpose (one of my teachers used to explain it was because they were primitive art and the artists simply didn’t know better). Usually art has a vanishing point but not so in iconography – the closer you get the bigger it all becomes. There is no vanishing point with God.
Have you read “Bread and Water, Wine and Oil”? I highly recommend it.
Another reference to praying for those who have gone on is in 2 Tim 1:16-18 regarding Onesiphorous. I heard Fr. Peter Guillquist discuss this in the context of praying for the departed and the general scholarly acceptance.
@Abbeyshane… “Legalism can be such an ugly thing but it seems to me like some churches are legalistic about NOT being legalistic…”
Yes, I would definitely have to agree with this sentiment. There is something marvelous about a community choosing to join with the witness of the ages contained in Holy Traditions such as Great Lent and praying the Hours. I love feeling like a very small part of something SO much bigger than I am on my own.
Her answer was very enlightening: ”I haven’t always felt this way about God,” she said. “There was a time when I would wake up in the morning and curse God.” But then her voice lowered and she added meekly, “That was before I knew He was good.”
That’s a *war* story. I can no more relate to it than listening to someone talk about Iwo Jima. I marvel that there are such courageous people to tell me things like that. I feel awfully inadequate even quoting the person. “Wow” is the closest I can get to a comment. Thank you for telling about the conversation.
I read the comments, and came across the phrase: “Orthodoxy is a way of life”. I would suggest that it is not a way, but life itself. For if we say that it is a way of life, we admit there are other ways also… Which I just can’t see. We either live or we do not. Forgive me if I am wrong with this.
This is a common saying. It would be correct to say it is “the way” of life (which would echo the name of the early Christians who in the book of acts were called “the way” before they were called Christians. But, it is Christ who is our Life. Orthodoxy is how we rightly live that Life. But there are no other ways – you are right.
Anya, thank you for sharing your grandmother’s beautiful legacy! So wonderful to get such a clear glimpse of God’s goodness in such a tangible way.
I was babtized at the age of 11 so i didnot now the word of god, did not even here of any kind of god at all or anything of the sort ,i was 9 years old
And one day when i was 9 years old a very strong voise came into my head
out of knoware and it said to me I pray togod that this is the truth,and the voise said ——(if something was the truth wouldnt it mean that it was true)
and all of man would know and talk with every one about it.
This week marked the 6 month anniversary of my mother’s falling asleep. Your story is truly a great comfort. May your mother’s memory be eternal!
God is a Surgeon and all pain is a kindness, it’s what we need to be saved. A man who is happy without God is repulsed by this idea because he loves his own life. He is not threatened by his life of worldly balance, he buys a car to make up for the arthritic limb. Only going broke and losing some body parts can save him.
I’m just correcting myself, I think examples of humility and love can also help people to understand that loving Christ means to be crucified. And then of course, God can do whatever He wants and however He wants so all the manuals are irrelevant when we talk about God.
Father Paisios says people do not know that suffering brings joy. I think he’s right.