The Fathers on Aerial Toll-Houses – Part 3

Blessed Lent!

Continuing the testimony of the Church Fathers on the doctrine of Aerial Toll-Houses, I have added several more quotes as points of reference.  Please make sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 prior to reading this article, so as to acquire the source and intent of these quotes, as well as to maintain the continuity of the witness of the Church throughout the first millennium.

Enjoy!

(Editor’s note: All of these quotes were typed manually.  If you discover any possible errors/typos, please leave a comment.  Thank you!)

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➤St. Amphilochios, Bishop of Iconium (+394)–

→”Despite this, however, he did not despair of his salvation, but, returning from his sinful deed, would cry out in the church the same words to God—to the Lord, Who loves mankind—adding the following:

‘My Lord, I swear to Thee on my word that I shall no longer commit this sin. Only forgive me, Good and Most Merciful Lord, whatever sins I have committed, from the beginning to this moment….’

One day when all that we have described again occurred, the brother, having fallen to sin, rushed to the church, lamenting, groaning, and crying with anguish, to invoke the mercy of God, that He might have compassion on him and take him from the sin of immorality.

No sooner had he called on God, the Lover of man, than the Devil, that evil of old and destroyer of our souls, seeing that he could gain nothing, since whatever he accomplished by sin, the brother expunged by his repentance, became infuriated and appeared visibly before the brother. Facing the Icon of Christ, the Devil said to our compassionate Savior: ‘What will become of the two of us, Jesus Christ? Your sympathy for this sinner defeats me and takes the ground I have gained, since You keep accepting this dissolute man and prodigal, who daily mocks You and scorns Your authority. Indeed, why is it that You do not burn him up, but, rather, tolerate and put up with him? Is it because one day You intend to condemn all of the adulterers and the dissolute, and You will destroy all sinners?’

‘Actually, You are not a just Judge. But by whim Your power is sometimes applied leniently and overlooks things. So, while I was cast from the heavens down to the abyss for a little breach of pride, to this fellow here, even though an immoral man and a prodigal, You calmly show Your sympathy, just because he throws himself down in front of Your Icon.’

‘In what way can You be called a just Judge, then? For, as I see it, You receive individual people with great kindness, but ignore justice in general.’

The Devil said all of this, poisoned with great bitterness, whilst there poured forth from his nostrils a black flame.

Having said these things, he fell silent. A voice was heard in response, coming forth from the Divine sanctuary, saying the following: ‘O all-cunning and ruinous dragon, are you yet not satisfied with your evil and destructive desire to gobble up the world? Now you have even the nerve to try to do away with this man, who has come with contrition to entreat the mercy of My compassion—to devour him, too? Can you offer up enough sins that, by them, you can tilt the balance of justice against the precious blood which I shed on the Cross for this man? Behold My murder and death, which I endured for the forgiveness of his sins.’

‘You, when he turns again to sin, do not turn him away, but receive him with joy, neither chastising him nor preventing him from committing sin, out of the hope that you might win him over. Yet I, Who am merciful and love mankind, Who counselled My laudable Apostle Peter to forgive sins seven times seventy (cf. Matt. 18:22), do I not show him mercy and compassion? Indeed—simply because he flees to Me—I will not turn him away until I have won him over. Furthermore, I was crucified for sinners and for their salvation; My immaculate hands were nailed to the Cross, that those who so wish might take refuge in Me and be saved. For this reason, then, I neither turn away nor reject anyone, even if he should fall many times a day and many times return to Me; such a person will not leave My Temple saddened, for I came not to call the righteous, but to call sinners to repent.’

During the time that this voice was heard, the Devil was fixed in his place, trembling and unable to run away. The voice then again began to say: ‘We have heard from all that you say, O Seducer, that I am not just; to the contrary, I am just beyond all. In whatever moral state I find a person, in that state I judge him. Look at this man, who a few moments ago repented, having returned from sin and having fallen at My feet with a sincere resolution to abandon sin, and thereby having conquered you.’

‘Therefore, I will accept him immediately and save his soul since he did not lose hope in his hard toil for salvation.’

‘Look how much he merits by his repentance before Me, for which he is honored. As for you, let your hatred be shred to pieces and you disgraced.’

While this was being said, the repentant brother had thrown himself before the Icon of the Savior. With his face to the ground and lamenting, he surrendered his spirit to the Lord. At the same time that the repentant brother departed to the Lord, a great tempest fell upon Satan, like a fire from Heaven, and devoured him. From this incident, my brothers, let us learn of the limitless compassion of God and of His love of man—what a good Master we have!—that we might never again be disheartened by our sins, but rather look after our salvation with zeal.”

➤ St. Ammonas of Egypt (+4th Century)–

→“To my beloved in our Lord, greeting! If any man love the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, he will acquire awe, and awe will beget in him weeping, and weeping joy, and joy will beget strength, and in all this the soul will bear fruit. And when God sees its fruit so fair, He will accept it as a sweet savour, and in all things He will rejoice with that soul, with His angels, and will give it a guardian to keep it in all its ways as He prepares it for the place of life, and to prevent Satan from prevailing over it. For whenever the evil one sees this guardian, that is, the power encompassing the soul, he flees, fearing to approach the man, and afraid of the power that is about him….
For this is the power which He gives to man here; it is this, again, which guides man into that rest, until he shall have passed all the ‘powers of the air’ (Eph. 2:2). For there are forces at work in the air which hinder men, preventing them from coming to God.

Now therefore let us stretch out our prayer unto God, that they may not prevent us from mounting to Him…. Fare well in your heart in our Lord, and every act of love for God.”

➤ St. Theodora of Alexandria (+415)–

→“Blessed Theodora related also: Abba Isaiah spoke of the last day of each Christian: What fright and terror, and what need will we behold when the soul is separating from the body! Then the armies of the enemy forces-the evil powers of this world-will draw near to us. As if they had the right, they will try to grab the soul, showing all the sins that it committed from youth, knowingly or unknowingly. On the other side of these evil powers will stand the angels of God, and they will show the repentance and good deeds.

So, judge for yourself—in what fear and trembling the soul will be, being between them, until the judgment is finished and the last verdict is pronounced for it! If it is found worthy, then the demons will be put to shame and the holy angels will take it away to the heavenly abodes for never-ending joy, as it is written: Thine is the abode of all those who rejoice. Then will the word of the Scriptures be fulfilled: Sorrow and sighing shall flee away (Is. 35:10). The soul will enter into untold glory and gladness, escaping all that is frightful, as ordered by the Righteous and Great Judge.

But if it is found that this soul lived in negligence, then woe to that soul: it will hear that terrible voice: ‘The impious will be removed, so he will not see the glory of the Lord (Is. 35:2). Then it will be overcome by the day of wrath, the day of sorrow and need, the day of darkness and obscurity, the day of evil and cruelty, about which David speaks: Call upon Me in the day of thine affliction, and I will deliver thee (Ps. 49:16). But on that cruel day the soul that lived negligence will not be delivered by the Lord. That poor soul will be given to complete darkness and everlasting fire, where it will be tormented for endless ages.’

Again she said: ‘It is well to raise the hands in prayer and beg God that the soul after its departure might safely pass all those who strive to impede its way to Heaven.’”

➤ St. John Cassian (+435)–

→”This air which is spread out between heaven and earth is so thick with spirits, which do not fly about in it quietly and aimlessly, that divine providence has quite beneficially withdrawn them from human sight. For human beings, utterly unable to gaze upon these things with fleshly eyes, would be overwhelmed by an unbearable dread and faint away because of their frightening confluence and the horrible expressions that they can take upon themselves and assume at will…. We certainly do not doubt that the ranks which the Apostle enumerates also refer to them, because ‘our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against spirits of evil in heavenly places’ (Eph. 6:12).”

➤ St. Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria (+444)–

→”What fear and trembling, agony and need the soul will have when it departs from the body. For the hosts and powers of Heaven approach, and the princes of darkness of the opposing powers, the evil rulers of the world, the rulers of the toll-houses and tax-collectors and debt-reckoners of the air. Along with them is the man-slaying devil, who is mighty in evil, whose tongue is like a sharpened sword. The prophet [David] said about him: ‘The arrows of the mighty one, sharpened with coals of the desert and he lieth in wait as a lion in his den.’ That great dragon, the rebel, Hades, opens wide his mouth, the ruler of the power of darkness, who has the power of death and—in a sense–the punishment, who grasps the soul, seizing it and counting all things I have done in deed and word, in knowledge and ignorance, examining iniquities and sins from my youth up until the day of my demise.

What fear and trembling do you suppose the soul has in that day when it sees the fearsome, fierce, cruel, and merciless and wild demons surrounding it like dark Ethiopians, whose mere sight is worse than every torment? When the soul sees them, it is troubled and terrified; it groans and is troubled and contracts. It takes refuge in the angels of God. The soul is embraced by the holy angels. As it passes through the air and is lifted up, it encounters the toll-houses guarding the ascent and holding it back, preventing the ascending souls.

Each toll-house presents its own sins: the one for slander examines all things done by the mouth and tongue: lies, oaths, broken vows, idle talk, babbling, and vain talk; gluttonous abuses and prodigal drinking of wine; uncontrolled and improper laughter; immodest and improper kisses; and lewd songs. But the holy angels guide the soul, and they also present everything good we have said with the mouth and tongue: prayers, gratitude, psalms, odes, hymns, spiritual songs, scriptural readings, and everything else good we had sent to God through our mouth and tongue.

The second toll-house is for what the eyes have seen from all improper sights and curious and unbridled gazing, and cunning winks. The third toll-house is for hearing and for everything through this sense they have heard from the unclean spirits. The fourth toll-house is for smell, for fragrant oils and hedonistic scents that are only for vulgar women and harlots. The fifth toll-house is for all the evil and awful things committed by the hands through touch. And the rest of the toll-houses are for evils: envy and jealousy, vainglory and pride, bitterness and wrath, irritability and anger, fornication and adultery and masturbation, murder and sorcery, and the rest of the filthy deeds detested by God–which are not to be listed in detail at this time. In short, in such manner each passion of the soul and every sin has its own toll-house and tax-collectors.

So as the soul beholds these things (and more and greater things also), what fear and trembling and shaking do you suppose it has until the decision comes and it is freed? That is the grievous and dangerous hour, full of sighing and lacking consolation until it sees what the result will be.

The divine powers stand by, as well as the faces of the unclean spirits. The former present the soul’s good actions through words, deeds, thoughts, and ponderings. The soul beholds this while it stands in the midst with fear and trembling, until by its actions, deeds, and words the soul being criticized is either bound or justified and freed—each person is bound by the cords of his own sins. If the soul is worthy and has lived piously and in a God-pleasing manner, the angels receive it. It is henceforth free of worries, and it proceeds, accompanied by the holy powers, as it is written: ‘How joyous are all they that have their habitation in Thee.’ At that time the saying will be fulfilled: ‘Pain and sorrow and sighing have fled away.’ Then, having been freed from those evil and filthy and fearsome spirits, it proceeds into that unspeakable joy.

But if it is found to have lived prodigally in negligence, it hears that awful voice: ‘Let the ungodly one be taken away so that he may not see the glory of the Lord.’ Then it will be overcome by days of wrath and affliction and necessity and grief—by a day of murky darkness. Then the holy angels of God leave it, and those Ethiopian demons receive it and strike it mercilessly as they lead it down to earth. After cutting through the earth, they throw it bound with unbreakable chains into a dark and murky land, in the lowest parts, in the deepest jails and prisons of Hades, where the souls of sinners of all time are locked up, just as Jacob said: ‘To a land, dark and gloomy, to a land of perpetual darkness, where there is no light and no glimpse of human life,’ but eternal grief, unending sorrow, ceaseless weeping, uninterrupted gnashing of teeth, and sleepless sighs. There is the constant saying of ‘woe.’ There they cry out ‘Alas! Alas!’ and there is no one to help. They cry out and there is no one to deliver them.”

➤ St. Hesychios the Priest (+5th Century)–

→“Just as a man blind from birth does not see the sun’s light, so one who fails to pursue watchfulness does not see the rich radiance of divine grace. He cannot free himself from evil thoughts, words, and actions, and because of these thoughts and actions he will not be able freely to pass the lords of hell when he dies.”

→“The hour of death will come upon us, it will come, and we shall not escape it. May the ruler of this world and of the air (John 14:30; Eph. 2:2) find our transgressions few and insignificant when he comes, so that he cannot reprove us by the truth. Otherwise we shall weep in vain. For that servant who knew his lord’s will and did not do it as a servant, shall be beaten with many stripes (cf. Luke 12:47).”

→“If the soul has Christ with it, it will not be disgraced by its enemies even at death, when it rises to heaven’s entrance; but then, as now, it will boldly confront them. But let it not tire in calling upon the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, day and night until the time of its departure from this mortal life, and He will speedily avenge it in accordance with the promise which He Himself made when speaking of the unjust judge (cf. Luke 18:1–8). Indeed, He will avenge it both in this present life and after its departure from its body.”

➤ St. Diadochos, Bishop of Photiki (+5th Century)–

→“If we do not confess our involuntary sins as we should, we shall discover an ill-defined fear in ourselves at the hour of our death. We who love the Lord should pray that we may be without fear at that time; for if we are afraid then, we will not be able freely to pass by the rulers of the nether world. They will have as their advocate to plead against us the fear which our soul experiences because of its own wickedness. But the soul which rejoices in the love of God, at the hour of its departure, is lifted with the angels of peace above all the hosts of darkness. For it is given wings by spiritual love, since it ceaselessly carries within itself the love which is the fulfilling of the law (Rom. 13:10).”

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