Book Review: The Departure of the Soul

Lately a new book has become available, The Departure of the Soul, published by St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery in Arizona. Its full title is, The Departure of the Soul According to the Teaching of the Orthodox Church; a Patristric anthology, and this about sums it up. It deals with the Scriptural material as interpreted by the Fathers, and goes on to examine the teaching as found in the liturgical services of the Orthodox Church, the writings of the saints, and the hagiography or lives of the saints. It contains an examination of the iconographic tradition expressing this teaching with an impressive 216 pages of full colour plates, and much more. It is a formidable volume, and not one to be held in one hand while drinking a Starbucks coffee with the other—it contains 1112 pages in all, bound sturdily between its two hard covers. That makes it a bargain at $58. It took five years to research and produce.

It also contains an impressive number of hierarchical introductory endorsements, including those of Metropolitan Joseph of the Antiochians, Metropolitan Hilarion of ROCOR, Bishop Mitrophan of the Serbian Church, Archbishop Nicolae of the Romanian Church, and my own archbishop Irenee of the OCA. (They will I trust forgive my lack of capitalization.) The volume concludes with a number of 17 academic endorsements from scholars writing to support the book, including the respected and prolific Archpriest John A. McGuckin. These impressed me even more than the hierarchical endorsements, if only because scholars are more vulnerable in their careers than are bishops, and must take greater care what they endorse. The fact that a number of scholars endorse the book is very significant, for works emanating from a monastic milieu do not always find a welcome reception in the world of Academia—or vice-versa.

The book was not written because the Athonite monks in Arizona had nothing else to do. In the Introduction it is explained that “In 1978, a lone author, Deacon Lev Puhalo (later Fr. Lazar Puhalo in tonsure), launched a campaign against the Orthodox Church’s 2,000-year old teaching on the trial of the soul at death”. His teaching was banned by his own jurisdiction (ROCOR) whose Synod warned that his writing “can cause great harm to the souls of the faithful”. Nevertheless (the Introduction continues) “Deacon Lev and several subsequent writers who reiterated his un-Orthodox views continued to issue their publications”. They note that these writings “have fuelled a controversy for nearly forty years, even to this present day”. Thus it was that in 2011 the editors of the book began their research into the topic. Their book represents the fruit of their extraordinary labour, including chapter 7, entitled “On the Falsifications, Misrepresentations, and Errors of Those Who Oppose the Teaching of the Orthodox Church”. Not surprisingly Puhalo comes in for detailed scrutiny, as editors present “over sixty fallacies which Puhalo used to attempt to support his invalid theories”, including many deliberate falsifications of both text and iconography. Puhalo’s personal history also comes in for some needed scrutiny in Appendix G, which narrates his “Extended Biographical Information”.

As a pastor, I note that even apart from the correction of distortions and misrepresentations of the Church’s Tradition, the book also serves as a corrective to the more widely-held errors of secular society, which routinely assumes that, with the possible exception of White Supremacists, terrorists, and Nazis, everyone goes to a heaven of some sort as soon as they die with little or no fuss. Look at the pages of Facebook or any social media as soon as any celebrity dies: there you will see a multitude of posts comforting themselves and others with the thought that the deceased celebrity has passed effortlessly through the Pearly Gates and is now strolling the streets of heaven (and possibly giving out autographs).

It reminds me of the old 1974 song by the Righteous Brothers, “Rock and Roll Heaven”. One of its lyrics reads, “If there’s a rock n’ roll heaven, well you know they’ve got a hell of a band…Jimmy gave us rainbows, and Janis took a piece of our hearts…There’s a spotlight waiting, no matter who you are, ‘cuz everybody’s got a song to sing, everyone’s a star”. A happy thought (and one that accords with today’s fascination with universalism), but is it sensible? The Jimmy who gave us rainbows was Jimi Hendrix, and the Janis who took a piece of our hearts was Janis Joplin. Jimi would become angry and violent when drunk or when he mixed alcohol with drugs. After his death in 1970 at the age of 27, an autopsy revealed that he choked to death on his own vomit while high on barbiturates. Janis, rarely seen without a bottle of her favourite “Southern Comfort”, died of accidental heroin overdose, possibly compounded by alcohol, in October 1970, also aged 27. One can and should have sympathy for such young people, but it is at least an open question whether they made it to heaven, despite their acknowledged skill in rock n’ roll. The point is this: our culture assumes that everyone makes it to heaven, especially celebrities. No fuss, no muss, no trial of the soul at the hour of death. Just a quick and painless step from choking to death here on your vomit to the heavenly spotlight there, “cuz everybody’s got a song to sing, everyone’s a star”. This is assumed without argument in our culture, and may not challenged at the office water-cooler without giving the impression of being a heartless, judgmental misanthrope. But the challenge to our culture needs badly to be made just the same. We may be grateful therefore that the monks in the Arizona desert have taken up that challenge, and done their work—and now offer it to us at such a comparatively low price. No church library should be without one.



  1. Fr. Lawrence,

    I would leave a lengthy reply but time prohibits it. I will suffice to say that if I believed in the God you promote by promoting toll houses and now Unquenchable Fire, I would be an atheist. Putting aside “theological” arguments, can you not see what these “doctrines” do to character of God. Do you suppose before all creation the Trinity decided that they would create billions of people of who the vast majority will be tortured by demons unto ages of ages. Hitler was much kinder than that for he merely killed the people he didn’t like who already existed. Your theology proposes that a completely loving God would actually choose to make a world that He knows in advance will essentially be a failure and leave billions of his beloved creatures in torture. What in impotent and repulsive and ultimately evil picture of God.

    I’m sorry, but that God is not the God of St. Porphyrios or St. Isaac or countless others. Anything can be “justified” with thousand out of context quotes from “Fathers” that most don’t even know. Of course, they totally discount any of Lev Puhalo’s research earlier on.

    This doctrine and that of the Unquenchable Fire, leave my heart as cold as ice. It frightens me to think that you actually get excited about a book about demons torturing sinners… and eternally with end. As you have been made aware, there are plenty of unbelievable good sources on the eventual salvation of all and plenty to counter the Orthodox opinion (not Doctrine) that incorporeal demons grab incorporeal sinners and torture them forever. God is the judge of all and satan was defeated at the Christ. How could you possibly read St.. John’s Paschal homily and then support this stuff. I am literally baffled.

    1. I think you misunderstand the concept of the toll-houses, which does not suggest that demons torture sinners at all, much less unto ages of ages. Leaving aside my book Unquenchable Fire (the subject of a different post), I can only suggest that you read what The Departure of the Soul with its numerous citations of the Fathers actually says. It is clear that you have not read the book.

      1. Fr. Lawrence,

        You are correct. I did not read the book but I read the reviews, the table of contents, and about 60 pages on the St. Anthony’s bookstore website, which is really all one needs to assess it’s content which is very much in favor of making toll houses a Dogma of the church. Plus who would pay $59 to learn what Seraphim Rose said in The Soul after Death? They spend a whole chapter “debunking” Lev Puhalo. Hardly needed if the book wasn’t about advancing the toll house agenda! And why should I believe their scholarship over Puhalo’s?

        If, as you say, the demons do not torture sinners at all, please explain what I’m missing. That is my understanding of the whole “doctrine” of toll houses.

        I freely admit that I probably have misunderstandings the toll houses, but from what I have read, there is zero biblical evidence (that isn’t out of context) to support the toll house theory. I guess I just question the reason for writing a tome to convince people of a theory that is held as a minor position in the Church— and one that does such damage to Christians with sensitive consciences.

        The whole content of the book seems to be quotes from esoteric monks, dreams and the speculations of “saints” from “untranslated” writings: like whatever they said must be true. The saints were hardly infallible and often resorted to scare tactics to try to motivate stubborn people.

        This book will not help people draw closer to the Lord and love Him even more, but will serve to drive away potential converts and give skeptics one more thing to scoff at. It seems to me to be literalistic Orthodox Fundamentalism at its best. It only serves to threaten, cajole, and fill with fear those who struggle with sin. It however does not serve to convict, invigorate, inspire or fill one with true repentance that leads to joy (perhaps fear based “repentance” that doesn’t last.)

        On the contrary, the theory makes God seem weak and actually in cahoots with demons and even proposes that the least sins send us to toll house land. It’s as if Christ didn’t even destroy death, the power of satan and forgive us our sins. Did the thief on the Cross have to go “through the toll houses” . He never repented but just said remember me in your kingdom to some guy he just met who happened to be God. There are so many holes logically in this theory that simply inspires fear and nothing else.

        I’m sure there is some other good stuff in the book, but the brass tax is that this book is about reclaiming the toll house victory lap. If toll houses weren’t being disputed, I’d bet my left arm this book would never have been written.

        Plus the Monastery offers other compelling titles like Revelation: The Seven Seals and Revelation: The Seven Trumpets and the Antichrist. A sure sign that they have an unhealthy focus on fear and the promotion of speculation. Heck even St. Porphyrios rebuked St. Paisios for scaring people by constantly talking about 666 and the antichrist.

        Forgive me for my strong opinions and if I come across disrespectful but I have lived under way too much fear, depression and guilt for believing things like toll houses and losing hope of ever winning my endless battle with the passions. An the Fathers DO say that any thought that causes fear, confusion and a loss of joy is not from God.

        This is a metaphor at best. Even Fr Michael Pomazansky clearly identifies it as an allegory, and not at all as a doctrine of faith. Also disagreeing would be Alexander Kalomiros, Stanley Harakas and Thomas Hopko who thought it primarily a metaphor for our passions.

        I think the monks would do much better if they focused on the Love and Grace of God. And on books and lectures regarding the healing love of God to the mass of humanity that struggles with passions, sins, wounds, and Truth, which our culture desperately needs to hear. No conversion will EVER come from reading this this book and to even give it attention is unhelpful, in my humble opinion. I feel the same way as St. Porphyrios did when hearing the distress that St. Paisios was causing. I’d be willing to bet that Fr. Freeman and other priests like him won’t be praising that book. Sorry for the rant, but this stuff just strikes a nerve.

        Forgive me, a sinner.                                                                                                                            

        1. Thank you for your reply. Just a few things in response to such a lengthy comment. Please allow me to number them for ease of organization.
          1. The book is not simply a restatement of Rose’s The Soul after Death, but a painstaking and comprehensive collection of what the Fathers have taught regarding the trial of the soul after death. Puhalo constantly obsesses over Rose, but this book does not. It is a patristic anthology.
          2. In a book of 1112 pages there is unfortunately no real substitute for reading what is actually written, apart from taking my word for it. The basic teaching is that “the departing soul is met by both holy powers and evil spirits. The soul’s entire life is laid bare: all its thoughts and desires, words and deeds are scrutinized. Many of the Fathers described the particular judgment as a court of law with God presiding while His angels act as the defense and the demons act as prosecutors. The defendant’s lifetime are the exhibits brought forward and weighed in the balance held in the hand of the Lord who proclaims the verdict” (p. 39). Note that the demons do nothing to torture at this trial, much less torture eternally.
          3. It is admitted that the concept of the trial of the soul at death is a symbol, which “points to a distinction between the celestial or immaterial archetype and its material imitation…these verbal and visual images are ‘symbols’ and veils…Images point to the truth without being absolutely identical with it” (p. 37-38). Presumably this is what you meant by ”metaphor” or “allegory”.
          4. The book contains not just dreams and speculations, but the actual teaching of many saints and Fathers. It also contains copious examples of this teaching in the liturgical material of the Church. Whether or not something found in all the Fathers and throughout our liturgical material makes it a “dogma” I leave to you.
          5. It is not a matter of “debunking” Puhalo, or preferring one bit of scholarship over another, but of Puhalo being caught out in deliberate falsifications of the texts and images that he presents. What he wrote and the original text and images that he used and twisted are both set forth, and photos of the original texts are also used so one can judge for oneself. One can see for oneself that Puhalo’s “scholarship” is spurious and that he deliberately falsifies.
          6. There is nothing in the teaching contrary to our doctrine of salvation by grace. To quote from Chrysostom: “When we see angels threatening, and stern powers among our visitors, what shall we not suffer, the soul being forced from the body and dragged away, and bewailing much, all in vain?…In the case of those who are about to depart hence, if they happen to be partakers of the mysteries [Holy Communion] with a pure conscience, when they are about to breathe their last, angels keep guard over them for the sake of what they have received and bear them hence [to heaven]” (p. 145-6). One could multiply such citations, but you get the idea.
          To sum up, the toll-house teaching contains nothing to cause a devout disciple of Jesus any fear. Equating toll-houses with salvation by works to cause fear in the devout simply misunderstands and twists what is being taught.

          1. Fr. Lawrence and Paula,

            Thank you for your explanation. I’m sure it’s simply foolish for me to comment on a book I haven’t read. All things equal, i’m probably not going to make it through a 1112 page book. Heck, I’m still working on the Brothers Karamazov for the past four years! I appreciate your patient and logical discussion. I am hooked by the topic of toll houses and not able to discuss it very rationally. I would however, take issue with point #2 where demons are given the position of “prosecutor”. Scriptures are clear that God alone is the judge and to posit demons as prosecutors seems like pure speculation. Wasn’t Satan defeated at the cross? Satan can taunt, tempt and roar, but as St. Anthony said, he has no teeth.

            I’ve read plenty of fathers and sat in the liturgy/services and funerals for 25 years and haven’t heard a text on toll booths. So… the monks must have really done some digging or used interesting translations or obscure texts. Just seems curious to me.

            I’ve been to St. Gregory Palamas Greek Orthodox Monastery in Ohio about 10 times and not once have I heard anything mentioned about toll houses. Abbot Joseph was our parish priest for 10 years prior to returning to the monastery and never mentioned or spoke of toll houses and if you are familiar with him, he’s a true Traditionalist and the last person to backpedal on a difficult issue. He taught me that toll houses were pious folk traditions and not the official teaching of the Orthodox Church — perhaps just another way the fathers used to talk about getting stuck in our passions.

            Again, I have not read the book, so I am ultimately unqualified to really weigh in on it’s actual content.

            Forgive me for my boldness and criticism on your blog.


            Thank you for your concern and observations. I suffered from depression from believing for years that I was not one of Calvin’s elect. Orthodox theology and practice and a spiritual father helped me to overcome this. St. Isaac, Fr. Lev Gellet, St. Silouan and St. Porphyrios have become my balm.. When years into my Orthodox journey I was told by Seraphim Rose followers that even one sin could keep me from God and send me to be tortured by demons in toll houses, much of my despair came back, and I lost my resolve to even try since it seemed hopeless. It took a lot of time to heal again from this experience. So…. when I hear about a 1112 page book that (to me) seemed primarily aimed at proving that toll houses is an important part of the tradition, I didn’t find that too comforting. That’s all.

          2. No need to apologize, dear brother. Perhaps an earlier blog post I wrote might help somewhat? It can be accessed at:

          3. Herschel says: “Scriptures are clear that God alone is the judge and to posit demons as prosecutors seems like pure speculation. ”

            Scripture says: “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Rev. 12:10-11)

          4. Duane: Thank you for the apt citation. It brings into clearer focus the role that the demons play–not as prosecutors (much less judges), but accusers. No one in the debate is suggesting that the roles played by both angels and demons in any way compromises the final authority of the divine Judge. I thank you for making this clear.

        2. post #1
          tortured by demons…. creatures in torture….repulsive and ultimately evil …. leave my heart as cold as ice…..frightens me….torturing sinners….torture them forever….
          post #2
          If….. the demons do not torture sinners…. does such damage to Christians with sensitive consciences…. scare tactics…serves to threaten, cajole, and fill with fear… inspires fear and nothing else… A sure sign that they have an unhealthy focus on fear… scaring people… I have lived under way too much fear, depression and guilt.
          Herschel, I’m sorry but your choice of words jump out at me and lead me to question the source of your aversion to the implications and the meaning of toll houses. If the source is unresolved fear and guilt, then I fully understand why it hits a nerve with you. If I am way out of line here, please forgive me. But that type of fear is a sure impediment to fully trust in the mercy of our Lord. I have concluded that if I can not trust in His mercy, if I can not believe His words that He will never leave me or forsake me, then I might as well give it all up right here and now. I believe all of us are sensitive and very aware of our sinful nature, some more sensitive than others, some have had pretty awful experiences that produces lasting damage. But the fact that there is real spiritual warfare, even after death, combined with the assurance that Christ’s holy angels are there to fight for us, is meant to be a comfort.
          Listen, my upbringing and consequent sins left a great deal of guilt and despair also. My priest told me that my magnification of these unwanted thoughts was a diversion of proper focus…on myself rather than on Christ. He was correct. It takes a lot of determination to absolutely insist to fully trust in the mercy of God. Our minds are our greatest enemy. But I tell you, He did not leave or forsake me. And He hasn’t with you either.

  2. Thank you Father Lawrence for mentioning this book and it’s contents. I did notice it for sale at my church. Having your endorsement of the book as sound teaching of the Orthodox Church that includes addressing the fallacies of universalism, I am looking forward to purchasing it. That the monks put seven years of work into this book speaks of their great concern for both the integrity of the Church and for the faithful receiving sound teaching. I appreciate such an extended effort.

  3. Herschel,
    I very much appreciate your response. I learn from you as well to not loose sight of the complexities of our nature, that what meets the eye always goes much deeper. So thank you for sharing and answering my “observations”. Please forgive my “bluntness”.
    I’m very glad that in this fragmented world we have these blog sites to offer the opportunity to connect. Hope to “see” you again!

  4. Here’s another perspective from St. John Chrysostom in his 2nd homily on the parable of Lazarus and the rich man,,,

    —-“…a soul which departs from the body does not fall under the tyranny of the devil… for it while the soul dwells in the body the devil cannot bring violence upon it, it is obvious that when it departs he likewise cannot…

    ‘And it came to pass’ , He says ‘that the beggar died and was carried away by the angels’. Not only the souls of the righteous but also the souls of those who have livd in wickedness are carried away thither… ‘Thou fool, this night shall they require thy soul of thee.’ see how there He says ‘carried away by angels,’ here, ‘they shall require’? The one they (the angels) led forth as in bonds, the other they escorted as a champion.” —-
    From this passage, at least, it seems clear that Chrysostom did not believe that demons took away any souls or that there were any toll houses or that the demons had any power to tyrannize ANY departed soul. I have found quite a few others insinuating the same thing or that the conscience (now clearly enlighten in death) becomes a sort of tyranny.

    It seems to me that toll houses are not a cut and dry issue but more of a rhetorical advice used by some fathers. It concerns me that this book and very stern traditionalist seem to use this when it can in my experience (and of those who I have known that hear about it) fill hearts with fear. Is that what God wants? I thought he wants us to love and trust him implicitly.

    If my dad told me that he loved me but that he would let the corner bully tyrannize me for however long if i do something wrong and don’t ask forgiveness in time or even develop a bad habit, i wouldn’t love him quite as much if at all.

    Satan is the accuser of the brethren but I don’t understand that verse as a posthumous passage. They can accuse all they want but even the thief on the cross has been set free from all bondage by the defeating of satan on the Cross. The whole toll house thing wreaks to me of giving satan power that he doesn’t have.

    1. Reading the text from the beginning shows that Chrysostom was here addressing an error in which the simple people in his congregation believed that the souls of those who died violently became demons. That was why he stressed at such length that the soul departing from the body “cannot fall unto the tyranny of the devil”—i.e. cannot become a demon. This does not mean that the demons are not involved in post-death experience. A careful reading of the text shows that though the angels lead away all the souls of the departed, it makes a distinction between Lazarus who was carried in triumph, and the rich man, whom the angels led away as a prisoner. The “they” who required the rich man’s soul were the demons: Chrysostom goes on to explain, [the rich man’s soul] was required by some frightful powers, perhaps sent just for this purpose…Awareness of our sins always pricks us, especially at that time when we are about to be led away to the examination of accounts in that terrible court.” The text you cite does not speak much about post-death experience one way or the other. Chrysostom’s only point was that the fates of the righteous and the unrighteous diverge sharply after death, with the righteous having nothing to fear and the unrighteous having everything to fear. Chrysostom’s teaching is in harmony with the multitude of the other Fathers who go on to speak of the role of demonic accusation at the particular judgment after death.

      1. I think you are bending your interpretation to match your view. It clearly says that the angels led the wicked away in bonds. Plus, it is fairly clear that he is not talking about people turning into demons but being tyrannized by demons. I think people on both ends of this issue have tunnel vision. I certainly do.

        Were the demons not defeated on the cross? Does God give his judgment/punishment over to demons. The scriptures clearly deny this. God/Christ alone judge us and to suppose that he would allow demons “as prosecutors” in his courtroom, seems to me to insult the Cross and the power of the Living God. Peoples’ passions may torture them, but that’s as far as this goes– as far as Fr. Thomas Hopko went, as for as Stanley Harakas goes, as for as Alexander Kalomiris went. All this stuff has to be interpreted. There are no allusions to toll houses in the funeral service perhaps unless it was translated by St. Anthony’s– the scriptures do not speak of them, people leave or don’t join the church because of them. The grace of God becomes a mockery if in the end anyone but ourselves torture us. “The River of Fire” never mentions such a thing and Kalomiros was a great patristic scholar.

        The saints that wrote about them were generally writing to monastics and using (IMO) hyperbolic language and exaggeration to emphasize a point. Toll house proponents seem to me to read the saints like Ken Hamm reads Genesis– without nuance. I could provide more quotes but tit for tat is useless. Instead i rest with St. Isaac who seems to understand the mercy of God unlike the supposition that demons test us when we die…

        First this which is why I resist the toll house theory with all my might…

        From St. Seraphim of Sarov (Little Russian Philokalia Vol. 1; St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood pg. 46):

        “When a man receives something Divine, in his heart he rejoices; but when he receives something diabolic, he is disturbed. The Christian heart, when it has received something Divine, does not demand anything else in order to convince it that this is precisely from the Lord; but by that very effect it is convinced that this is heavenly, for it senses within itself spiritual fruits: love, joy, peace, and the rest (cf. Gal. 5:22).”

        … and St. Isaac

        “As a handful of sand thrown into the ocean, so are the sins of all flesh as compared with the mind of God.”
        “Just as a strongly flowing fountain is not blocked up by a handful of earth, so the compassion of the Creator is not overcome by the wickedness of his creatures.”
        “Someone who bears a grudge while he prays is like a person who sows in the sea and expects to reap a harvest.”
        —St. Isaac The Syrian

        1. Chrysostom is indeed combatting a view in which some of his congregation thought that souls who died violently turned into demons; this is the tyranny that he denies takes place. His words are: “I wish to remove an evil disease from your souls. Many of the simpler people think that the souls of those who die by a violent death become demons. This is impossible, quite impossible…Why did the devil introduce this evil teaching? He tried to abolish the glory of the martyrs…To learn that it is not possible for a soul leaving the body to fall under the tyranny of the demons, hear what Paul says, ‘He who had died is freed from sin’, that is, he no longer sins.” Later on in the same sermon, Chrysostom refers to the unrighteous man’s soul being “required” by “some frightful powers”. The entire passage may be read in the SVS Popular Patristics Series, St. John Chrysostom, On Wealth and Poverty, pp. 41-44.
          Regarding the liturgical material, I refer to the Canon of Supplication at the Parting of the Soul from the Body, published NOT by St. Anthony’s Monastery, but by St. Tikhon’s (from their Book of Needs [Abridged]): from Ode 1: “Make your mercy known to me, O pure one [i.e. the Theotokos] and deliver me from the hands of demons, for like dogs, many surround me.” From Ode 3: “The roaring lions, perceived spiritually, have surrounded me, seeking to bear me away and bitterly torment me. Crush their teeth and jaws, O pure one, and save me.” From Ode 4: “Grant that, unhindered, I may pass by the Prince of the air, the Tormenter, the guardian of the dread path, the violent one, and the scrutinizer of these vain words, as I depart from earth” and “Behold, terror has come to meet me, O sovereign Lady, and I fear it. Behold, a great struggle awaits me, in which be a helper to me, O hope of my salvation”. From Ode 6: “Translate me, O sovereign Lady, to the hallowed and precious arms of the holy angels, so that, covered by their wings, I see not the impious, putrid and dark forms of the demons”. From Ode 8: “Grant that I might escape from the hordes of bodiless barbarians and rise through the aerial abysses and enter into heaven, so that I many glorify you forever, O holy Theotokos”. There really is no getting away from it. We must not let our fear become the lens through which we read and judge our Orthodox tradition.

    2. “but I don’t understand that verse as…”

      Think about your statement here in contradiction to the deep understanding of so many saints and Fathers up until just 40 years ago, and you should see where you err. Lean not on your own understanding.

      “They can accuse all they want…”

      A prosecutor’s job is precisely to accuse the party on trial in a court of law. Their power is not what is within themselves, but in the law itself the person is accused of violating. They just need to successfully make their case to the Judge. But you sound like the one who is interpreting the toll-house teaching like a “fundamentalist” would. You’re taking it hyper-literally, rather than letting Tradition provide you the proper context.

  5. Father, are you aware if this books is available anywhere in Canada yet? St. Anthony’s monastery estimates shipping to Ontario at $29.43; added to the price of the book this comes to $87.43. When the exchange rate is taken into account this is a whopping $116.04 (and this still does not include any possible customs charges). As a fellow Canadian, you’ll appreciate that this makes it somewhat less of a bargain.

    1. Alas, I cannot yet find it available from a Canadian bookseller. Hopefully it will become available locally soon.

      1. Just a follow-up: I contacted the Greek monastery in Brownsburg (between Ottawa and Montreal), and while it is not on their website for order they told me that they do have it in stock: 80$, plus tax (which comes to around 92$) and shipping. I didn’t ask what it would cost to ship, as I plan to take a drive over there one of these days and pick it up.

        For what it’s worth, here’s their website:

  6. We also has these three great Saints : St. John of Kronstadt:
    “When you pray for the repose of the soul of the departed, force yourself to pray with your whole heart remembering that to do so is your essential duty, and not only that of a priest, or ecclesiastic. Represent to yourself how necessary repose is to the departed one, and how greatly he (or she) needs the prayers for him (or her) of the living, being a member of the one body of the Church; how the demons are contesting his (or her) soul from the angels, and how it trembles, not knowing what its eternal destiny will be. Our prayer of faith and love for the departed means much in the Lord’s sight.”

    St. John Maximovitch:
    On the third after death the soul “passes through legions of evil spirits which obstruct its path and accuse it of various sins, to which they themselves had tempted it. According to various revelations there are twenty such obstacles, the so-called “toll-houses,” at each of which one or another form of sin is tested.”

    St. John Chrysostom:
    Then [after death] we will need many prayers, many helpers, many good deeds, a greater intercession from angels on the journey through the spaces of the air. If when traveling in a strange land or a strange city we are in need of a guide, how much more necessary for us are guides and helpers to guide us past the invisible dignities and powers and world-rulers of this air, who are called persecutors and publicans and tax-collectors.

  7. Regarding Jimi Hendrix, one of the 20th century’s greatest artists, and someone who has both given me endless hours of, dare I say, joy and shown me a true artistic path forward and been a great encouragement in this life (I regularly pray for him):

    The cause of the death and vomit was purportedly that he took sleeping pills that were of German origin (belonging to Monika Dannemann) and multiple times stronger than what he thought he was taking. The vomit response is our nature’s wonderful response to ingested contaminants, and while useful for showing the degradation of Jimi’s lifestyle, perhaps shouldn’t be used to indict the man. He was not a dog returning to his vomit, but a man so sedated that when his system tried to purge itself, his airway was occluded.

    More to the point for me was his turning toward goodness as his career was stressing him. He had a cherished grandmother in Vancouver (?) who apparently was quite the church woman. He sought out her counsel. Look at his later lyrics and you may have grounds for hope that this gentle soul (admittedly, at times) may find peace in his Creator.
    As to the charge of being violent when drunk: the known instances are few and very closely bound in with the incredible stress of his celebrity and bad business management, as well as the infidelity of his mother who basically abandoned him in her helplessness against drinking and carrying on. Who of us hasn’t “lost it” on the rare occasion?

    I get your point about it being an “open question” concerning his ultimate destination, but I just had to plead for someone who was much, much more than the media-created druggie, “Jimi Hendrix.” He is a unique and precious soul who gave us a lot. And someone in whom I can see good, despite the grave conditions of his upbringing, and the numerous bad choices of his youth.

    1. I very much appreciate the welcome and added information about Jimi Hendrix. This certainly shows the limitations of Google. I am happy to learn that his death was the result of sleeping pills and not (as I had gratuitously and apparently unjustly assumed) was due to recreational drugs. I also am glad to hear that his violence was uncharacteristic of him. You are right to pray for him; I daily keep a celebrity who died tragically in 1962 in my prayers despite their lack of Christian faith–or actually, because of the lack. Everyone should have someone who prays for them, and I am glad that God lays it upon your heart to pray for Jimi. Thank you so much for your comments and correction.

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