January 28, 2013

On the Gehenna of the Wicked (St. Ephraim the Syrian)

By St. Ephraim the Syrian

- My brethren, great is one’s fear at the hour of death, since at the moment of the separation of the soul from the body, there appear before the soul all of the works which it did, both day and night, both good and evil, while, at the same time, the Angels hurry to take the soul from the body. Now, the soul of a sinner, seeing its evil deeds, hesitates to depart. Urged by the Angels and trembling from its evil deeds, it implores with fear, saying: “Leave me for just one more hour, and afterwards I will leave.” But the answer to the soul is given by all of its deeds together — all that the soul has done –: “You created us. Together with you, then, we must appear before God.” So, trembling and wailing, the soul leaves the body and goes to appear before the eternal Judge of divine justice. (The Evergetinos)

- Maybe it is that the Gehenna of the wicked consists in what they see, and it is their very separation that burns them, and their mind acts as the flame. The hidden judge who is seated in the discerning mind has spoken, and has become for them there the righteous judge, who beats them without mercy with the torments of contrition. Perhaps it is this which separates them out, sending each one to the appropriate place; perhaps it is this which grasps the good with its right hand stretched out, sending them to that right hand of mercy; and it again which takes the wicked in its upright left hand, casting them into the place called “the left”; maybe it is this which silently accuses them, and quietly pronounces sentence upon them...this inner intelligence has been made the judge and the law, for it is the embodiment of the shadow of the law, and it is the shadow of the Lord of the Law. (Epistle to Publios, 22)