Hell is a creation of created beings


St. John of Damascus says: “and you should also know this, that God does not punish anybody in the world to come, but each person makes himself capable of participation in God. Participation in God is joy; non-participation in Him is hell.” (John Damascene, Against the Manichaeans in: J.P. Migne (ed.), Patrologiae cursus completus (Tomus XCIV, Paris: Garnier Fratres, 1864)

So, according to St. John of Damascus, hell is a creation of created beings and especially of the devil. In the familiar description of hell in the Gospel as ‘the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Matt. 25:41), the dative (rendered in English as ‘for the devil’) should rather be read as a dative of causal agency (‘by the devil’)!

No council universally recognized by the Eastern Orthodox Churches has formulated doctrine on hell, so there is no official doctrine to which all the faithful are bound. Beliefs concerning the nature and duration of hell are considered theologoumena, or theological opinions, rather than dogmas of the Church.

However, the Orthodox Church teaches that there is no created place of divine absence, for this presence is experienced either as torment or as paradise, depending on the spiritual state of a person dwelling with God. Several Orthodox theologians do describe hell as separation from God, in the sense of being out of fellowship or loving communion. Archimandrite Sophrony of Essex spoke of “the hell of separation from God”. And Paul Evdokimov stated: “Hell is nothing else but separation of man from God, his autonomy excluding him from the place where God is present.” According to Theodore Stylianopoulos, “Hell is a spiritual state of separation from God and inability to experience the love of God, while being conscious of the ultimate deprivation of it as punishment.”

Orthodoxy, contrary to Roman and Protestant teaching, emphasize the mystery of God in His pre-eternal transcendence and maintain a tradition of apophatic theology, while the scholastic approach of the West tends to be downplayed or viewed as subordinate. Thus, there is no single “official” teaching of the Church apart from apostolic doctrine received and, when necessary, defined by Ecumenical Councils.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Wednesday May 13, 2015 / April 30, 2015

Apodosis of Prepolovenie. Tone four.
Fast. Fish Allowed

Holy Apostle James, the brother of St. John the Theologian (44).
Uncovering of the relics (1558) of St. Nicetas, bishop of Novgorod (1108).
St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov), Bishop of the Caucasus and Stavropol (1867).
St. Donatus, bishop of Euroea in Epirus (387).
Uncovering of the relics of Hieromartyr Basil, bishop of Amasea (322).
Martyr Maximus of Ephesus.
New Martyr Argyra of Prussa (1725).
Venerable Clement the Hymnographer, abbot of the Studion (9th c.).
Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Of the Passion”.
Translation of the relics of Venerable Sabbas, abbot of Zvenigorod Monastery.
St. Erconwald, bishop of London ( 693) (Celtic & British).
Martyrs Eutropius and Estelle of Saintes (3rd. c.) (Gaul).
Sts. Quintian and Atticus (Greek).

Scripture Readings

Acts 13:13-24

At Antioch in Pisidia

13 Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. 14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. 15 And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, “Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.”

16 Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: 17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He brought them out of it. 18 Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness. 19 And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment.

20 “After that He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. 21 And afterward they asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ 23 From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus— 24 after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

John 6:5-14

5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.

7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”

8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”

10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon is Igumen of All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.


  1. Greetings in the Lord, Abbot Tryphon. Thank you once again for your daily posts. This ministry, not recognize by all, has surely helped me in discerning many things about my vocation as an aggregate monk in Holy Transfiguration Monastery in California.

    Just wanted to mention about today’s post… if hell looks like the picture you posted, it is not all that bad, LOL!

    Some day the Lord will grant me the grace to visit All Merciful Monastery. Considering that I live in Puerto Rico, it is literally across the nation. But, I pray for your health every day and for the brotherhood.

    Christ is Risen,

    Br. Maximos

  2. Question: during the Holy Saturday services, there are references that Jesus made a descent into hell. The terminology here is quite place based. Also, Matthew 25:41 should be read “by the devil”, but is translated “for the devil” in English, Russian, and Slavonic texts. Also the explanations of the soul after death (3rd, 9th, and 40th day) include references to traveling through hell. So this has always been confusing to me – seeing the sayings from the saints that speak of hell as a condition (e.g. for some, sunlight is a joy, but if you have sick eyes, sunlight is a torture). But lots of liturgical practice treats it as a place.

  3. Yes! Yes! Yes! Beautiful blog today. That we are able to live with God sustaining our very existence but without any sense of that LOVE shows the very humility of God within his very creation. God allows us to withdraw, but, in sustaining us, God feels the very suffering we feel, for whatever we feel, God participates within.

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