Dear Parish Faithful,
This a meditation from last year that I am re-posting. (Since the parish distribution list has changed a good deal since this meditation was initially sent out, and the number of readers of this blog has grown substantially, I believe it will be a first for many readers here). I find the passage from Dr. Kalomiros very compelling, so I think it also deserves another look for all of those who may have forgotten its penetrating insight into the realm of “judgment.”
“The evils in hell do not have God as their cause, but ourselves.” (St. Basil the Great)
In this week during which we contemplate the “Last Judgment,” perhaps we need to carefully explore the meaning of what it means that God will “judge” us in the end. Does judgment include punishment? Will God wreak vengeance on His enemies? Will our good and bad works be weighed in a balance, as we tremble before God in the hope that our good works will indeed tilt the balance in our favor? Will the last Judgment resemble an Hieronymous Bosch painting, unrivalled in the luridness of its depiction of the torments of the condemned? (At the opposite pole is the question: Do we even take seriously the biblical claim that we will be judged?). Unfortunately, the excesses of the imagination, a dubious understanding of the biblical expression “the fear of God,” and perhaps a guilty conscience, have led many to believe in God’s judgment as punitive and vindictive. Yet, this often leads to a caricature of judgment, a minimization of our role in determining our judgment, and even a false, if not blasphemous, image of God.
Below, is a powerful passage from an article entitled “The River of Fire – A Reply to the Questions: Is God Really Good? Did God create Hell?”, by the late Dr. Alexandre Kalomiros. As this passage dispels the notion of an angry God with great eloquence, it further reveals our responsibility before the God Who is love for our decisions, and the type of life we freely choose to live.
One could insist, however, that the Sacred Scriptures and the Fathers always speak of God as the Great Judge who will reward those who were obedient to Him and will punish those who were disobedient, in the day of the Great Judgment (II TIM. 4:6-8). How are we to understand this judgment if we are to understand the divine words not in a human but in a divine manner? What is God’s judgment?
God is Truth and Light. God’s judgment is nothing else than our coming into contact with truth and light. In the day of the Great Judgment all men will appear naked before this penetrating light of truth. The “books” will be opened. What are these “books?” They are our hearts. Our hearts will be opened by the penetrating light of God, and what is in these hearts will be revealed. If in those hearts there is the love of God, those hearts will rejoice in seeing God’s light. If, on the contrary, there is hatred for God in those hearts, these men will suffer by receiving on their opened hearts this penetrating light of truth which they detested all their life.
So that which will differentiate between one man and another will not be a decision of God, a reward or a punishment from Him, but that which was in each one’s heart; what was there during all our life will be revealed in the Day of Judgment. If there is a reward and a punishment in this revelation – and there really is – it does not come from God but from the love or hate which reigns in our heart. Love has bliss in it, hatred has despair, bitterness, grief, affliction, wickedness, agitation, confusion, darkness, and all the other interior conditions which compose hell.
The Light of Truth, God’s energy, God’s grace which will fall on men unhindered by corrupt conditions in the Day of Judgment, will be the same to all men. There will be no distinction whatever. All the differences lies in those who receive, not in Him Who gives. The sun shines on healthy and diseased eyes alike, without any distinction. Healthy eyes enjoy light and because of it see clearly the beauty which surrounds them. Diseased eyes feel pain, they hurt, suffer, and want to hide from this same light which brings such great happiness to those who have healthy eyes.
But alas, there is no longer any possibility of escaping God’s light. During this life there was. In the New Creation of the Resurrection, God will be everywhere and in everything. His light and love will embrace all. There will be no place hidden from God, as was the case during our corrupt life in the kingdom of the prince of this world. The devil’s kingdom will be despoiled by the Common Resurrection and God will take possession again of His creation. Love will enrobe everything with its sacred Fire which will flow like a river from the throne of God and will irrigate paradise. But this same river of Love – for those who have hate in their hearts – will suffocate and burn.
“For our God is a consuming fire” (HEB. 12:9). The very fire which purifies gold, also consumes wood. Precious metals shine in it like the sun, rubbish burns with black smoke. All are in the same fire of Love. Some shine and others become black and dark. In the same furnace steel shines like the sun, whereas clay turns dark and is hardened like stone.
The difference is in man, not in God. The difference is conditioned by the free choice of man, which God respects absolutely. God’s judgment is the revelation of the reality which is in man.
From “The “River of Fire,” by Dr. Alexandre Kalomiros, sec. 14.