Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Fathers on Aerial Toll-Houses - Part 2

Third Toll-House of Judging and Slander
Christ is risen!

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 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.


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


➤St. Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea (+379)--

→"Being under the sentence of death, knowing that there is One Who saves and One Who delivers [he cries out:] In Thee have I put my trust he says, save me from weakness and deliver me (Ps. 7:1-2) from captivity. I think that the noble athletes of God, who have wrestled considerably with the invisible enemies during the whole of their lives, after they have escaped all of their persecutions and reached the end of life, are examined by the prince of the world in order that, if they are found to have wounds from the wrestling or any stains or effects of sin, they may be detained; but, if they are found unwounded and stainless, they may be brought by Christ into their rest as being unconquered and free. Therefore [the Holy Prophet King David] prays for his life here and for his future life. For, he says, "Save me" here "from them that persecute me; deliver me there in the time of the scrutiny lest at any time he seize upon my soul like a lion." You may learn this from the Lord Himself Who said concerning the time of His passion, Now the prince of this world is coming, and in Me he will have nothing (John 14:30). He who had committed no sin said that He had nothing; but, for a man it will be sufficient if he dares to say: "The prince of this world is coming, and in me he will have few and trivial penalties." And there is a danger of experiencing these penalties, unless we have someone to deliver us or to save us. For, the two tribulations set forth, two petitions are introduced. Save me from the multitude of them that persecute me; and deliver me, lest at any time I be seized as if there were no one to redeem me (Ps. 7:1-2)."

➤St. Gregory the Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople (+389)--

→"Divine fear has overcome me, a mass of horrors: dismal Tartarus, scorching flames, whips, demons, the tax-collectors of our souls. All a myth to the wicked."

➤St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople (+407)--

→"Pondering these things--as well as other similar things that are more unknown, which only those who have arrived there and have experienced understand--some who are lying in bed jump up, wanting to escape but cannot; others grind their teeth; others scratch their cheeks; others roll their eyes around pitifully as they see the strength of their body gradually fading, the tongue uttering, and the deposit certainly obtained, the opposing powers standing by, scrutinizing, criticizing, and trying to seize.  And then the thief enters and denounces and rends the soul from the body.  Then we will require many prayers, many helpers, many good deeds, and a great protection from angels on the journey through the spaces of the air. If when traveling in a foreign 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, publicans, and tax-collectors by Holy Scripture."

→"Lazarus was then escorted away by angels, but certain frightful powers, who were perhaps sent for this, were demanding the soul that other person.  For the soul cannot on its own depart to that life, since this is impossible. If we, in going from city to city, have need of a guide, how much more will the soul, when it is torn from the body and translated to the future life, have need of guides."

→(On Eph. 2:2) "Here again he [the Apostle Paul] means, that Satan occupies the space under Heaven, and that the incorporeal powers are spirits of the air, under his operation. For that his kingdom is of this age, i.e., will cease with the present age, hear what he says at the end of the Epistle; "Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against powers, against the world rulers of this darkness;" (Eph. 6:12) where, lest when you hear of world-rulers you should therefore say that the Devil is uncreated, he elsewhere (Gal. 1:4) calls a perverse time, "an evil world," not of the creatures. For he seems to me, having had dominion beneath the sky, not to have fallen from his dominion, even after his transgression."

→"Most persons may be then heard relating horrors, and fearful visions, the sight whereof they that are departing may not endure, but often shake their very bed with much vehemence, and gaze fearfully on the bystanders, the soul urging itself inwards, unwilling to be torn away from the body, and not enduring the sight of the coming angels. Since if human beings that are awful strike terror into us beholding them, 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?"

→"Moreover another told me, without learning it from someone else, but as being himself thought worthy to be both an ear and eye witness of it, that, 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]."

➤St. Makarios the Great of Egypt (+391)--

→"Like the tax collectors who sit along the narrow streets and snatch at the passers-by and extort from them, so also the demons watch carefully and grab hold of souls. And when they pass out of the body, if they are not completely purified, they are not permitted to go up into the mansions of Heaven there to meet their Master.  For they are driven down by the demons of the air. But if, while they still live in the flesh, they shall, because of their hard toil and much struggle, obtain from the Lord on high grace, they, along with those who through virtuous living are at rest, shall go to the Lord, as He promised.  "Where I am, there also My servant will be" (Jn. 12:26). And for the endless ages they shall reign together with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and always and for all eternity. Amen."

→"When you hear that there are rivers of dragons and mouths of lions and the dark forces under the heavens and fire that burns and crackles in all the members (such that the earth could never contain), you will remain ignorant of such things unless you receive the pledge of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22).  These forces will hold your soul and when you depart from this life will not allow you to rise to Heaven."

→"When the soul of a man departs from the body, a certain great mystery is there enacted. If a person is under the guilt of sin, bands of demons and fallen angels approach along with the powers of darkness which capture that soul, and drag it as a captive to their place. No one should be surprised by this fact. For if, while a man lived in this life, he was subject to them and was their obedient slave, how much more, when he leaves this world, is he captured and controlled by them? You can understand this, however, from what happens to those on the better side. Indeed, angels even now stand alongside God's holy servants and holy spirits surround and protect them. And when they leave their bodies, the bands of angels receive their souls and carry them to their side into the pure eternity. And so they lead them to the Lord."

→"If the dark power of the passions and the malice of evil spirits cleaves to a soul, if the invisible spirits of error accompany it and haunt the highways and byways of its thoughts in order to act through the passions, and if this soul becomes their accomplice, when it comes to leave the body, the spirits of error and the Prince who delights in evil, the Ruler of the world of darkness, receives it, takes charge of it and detains it among themselves; it entirely belongs to them, this soul that did their will and accompanied them to the end when in the flesh. And conversely, the soul that accompanies the essence of the desirable and inexpressible beauty of the divine Spirit's light, the soul that accompanies and dwells with the grace of Christ's truth, the soul that has been from its time here below favored with holiness of heart and the indwelling of Christ in the highways and byways of its thoughts, when this soul comes to leave the body, the spirits of the saints in light (receive it) and the King of peace, Christ, who Himself finds His joy in excellent souls, receives this soul and welcomes it into His presence as His very own bride and intimate associate, this soul that has never acted on earth outside of His will."

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Fathers on Aerial Toll-Houses - Part 1

The Last Judgment
Christ is risen!

One of the most hotly debated topics in recent times is Aerial Toll-House theology.  This topic has garnered so much attention that a comprehensive work, titled "The Departure of the Soul," was recently published by St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery to examine quite literally much of the Church's history as it pertains to Aerial Toll-Houses.  This volume explores Holy Scripture, Holy Synods, Patristics, theologians, liturgical forms, iconography, and other various references.

So, what are Aerial Toll-Houses?

In basic summary, Aerial Toll-Houses refer to the intermediate state--or particular (also known as "partial") judgment--where the recently reposed are accused by demons in an attempt to condemn their souls to hell, and opposite of that, the reposed are defended by the Angels, the Saints, and the intercessory prayers of the Church Militant to elevate their souls to heaven.

The theology behind Aerial Toll-Houses becomes a bit more complex when further examining the teachings of the Church over the last two millennia, as multiple viewpoints currently exist among Orthodox Christians.  My intent, however, is not to examine the nuances behind this doctrine, but rather to create a systematic reference guide to Patristic and Scriptural testimony, using "The Departure of the Soul" in addition to my own findings.  Being that the references are so vast, this reference guide will be broken into multiple posts as I compile it.  For citations, please reference the actual published volume; my own findings will be properly cited within the article.  It is my hope and prayer that you find this reference guide as useful and edifying as I have.  Enjoy!

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


➤St. Justin Martyr the Philosopher (+166)--

→"But Thou, Lord, do not remove Thine assistance from me; give heed to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword, and my only begotten from the hand of the dog; save me from the lion's mouth [This was written] that, when we arrive at the end of life, we may ask the same petition from God, who is able to turn away every shameless evil angel from taking our souls."

➤St. Isaiah of Scetis (+370)--

→"Keep death before your eyes daily, and be concerned about how you will leave this body, pass the powers of darkness that will meet you in the air, and encounter God without hindrance, foreseeing the awesome day of His judgment and reward for all our deeds, words, and thoughts."

→"Beloved Brother: Those who occupy themselves with the ephemeral and vain world, if they advance and make gains do not count the trials which they have endured, but rejoice at the progress which they have made. Can you imagine, then, my brother, what joy the soul of a man who undertakes spiritual work for God, and finishes it successfully, experiences? It is natural for the soul to feel unfading joy, for at the moment of its departure, the good works which it has done will precede it when it ascends into Heaven. At that time the Angels of God will rejoice together with it, as they see it delivered from the powers of darkness. This happens because, when the soul of man departs from the body, the Angels go along with it. However, all of the powers of darkness then hasten to meet it and seek to take hold of it, thereby to examine it carefully and learn whether or not it was engaged in any of their own works. It is not now the Angels who struggle with the demons to protect the soul; but the deeds of the soul surround and defend so that the demons cannot touch it. And if the good deeds of the soul defeat the demons, then the holy Angels sing on its behalf, until the soul, with joy and gladness, meets God. At that time, the soul completely forgets all of its good deeds in this vain world, as well as the labors knew. Blessed, indeed, is he against whom the leaders of darkness can find nothing. He will find joy, honor, and rest beyond all measure. Let us thus weep with the whole power of our soul before God, that in His goodness He will take pity on us and send aid from on high, by which we might do all to conquer the leaders of evil who obstruct our path [towards Paradise - Trans.].  Let us thus disengaged from the many other pursuits of life, take care with resoluteness of heart to fulfill the Will of God, which will save us from the hands of the demons when they shall come to meet us there above. Let us remember love for the poor, that this love might save us from greed, when the sin of greed shall come to meet us.  Let us acquire peace with all, the humble and the great, that this might guard us against hate, when it shall come to meet us.  Let us acquire patience before all and in all things, that this might guard us against carelessness, when it shall come to meet us.  Let us love all of our brothers and sisters, without hating anyone or repaying anyone any ill done against us; for this shall guard us against envy, when this demon too shall come too shall come to meet us.  Let us love the endurance in humility of our neighbor's word, even if this word should bring upon us hurt and derision; for humility will guard us against pride, when it too shall come to meet us.  Let us seek to honor our neighbor and not to condemn or hurt anyone; for this shall protect us from gossip, when it shall come to meet us.  Let us despise the cares of the world and its honors, that we might be saved from its bewitching evil, when it shall come to meet us.  Let us teach our tongues to be unceasingly occupied with the commandments of God, righteousness, and prayer, that we might be protected from falsehood, when it too shall come to meet us. All of these foregoing evils impede the soul, while the virtues to which we have attained help it to confront these evils successfully. Now, what prudent man would commit his soul to eternal death just to be relieved from the labors required to gain these virtues? Let us do all that is within our power and the power of our Lord Christ, which is great, to help humble ourselves; for our Lord Jesus Christ knows that man is hapless, and thus He has granted him repentance, as long as the soul is in this corruptible body, that he might, until his very last breath, correct himself and flee from sin."  

→"Nothing helps the soul more at the hour of its departure than stillness, silence and the remembrance of God.  During your departure, the angels of God, together with your guardian angel, will reveal all your good deeds: the fasts, vigils, the many prostrations, and even your little rug which is worn out by innumerable prostrations, as testimony against the demons. And seeing this, your soul will then rejoice if you have fervently fulfilled all that I have taught you in this book. On the other hand, the demons will also reveal if you were at times depressed, or did not fast, or did not keep vigil, or did not remain in stillness, or wandered here and there, seducing men or being yourself seduced by them. All this the evil demons will reveal at your departure, in writing with the day and hour, as well as the person whom you seduced or by whom you were seduced. If you truly repent of all this and properly spend the rest of the time in stillness and silence, then ours will be the victory, by the grace of Christ in other words, with the angels and your guardian. Then the radiant angels will take you and Proceed with you to Heaven. And if the other side prevails--which I pray will not happen to you--then I do not know what to say to you. For this reason, everywhere in the present book I inspired have you to remain in stillness and to stay away from any associations with men. If you obey me, then at that hour you will be very grateful to me, and if you do not listen, then know that you yourself have given your soul voluntarily into the hands of the enemies. If you fear God, then take care for your soul, because you are not a child and you are not senseless and you know what is good and what is bad, what is salvific and what will bring on perdition. You do not know when death will come--now or on the morrow, at midnight or midday. Therefore, be attentive to what is written for you."

→"Fasting, with stillness and prayer, is our intercessor before God.  With this, the holy Fathers pleased God, became vessels of the Holy Spirit, and performed many miracles. And we too, my lady, who have entered the invisible martyrdom and the battle with demons--if we become victorious, God will award us with a crown of holiness and glory; and if we are vanquished, then woe to us, for we will receive everlasting torment. For this reason, let us be sober and watchful, let us fast and keep vigil; let us be still and humble. If we keep this, then when Christ comes at our death He will justify us; He will deliver us from the rulers of torments, who have all our sins written down; and He will take us to our original fatherland--in other words, to Paradise."

➤St. Athanasius the Great, Archbishop of Alexandria (+373)--

→"And once more, if the devil, the enemy of our race, having fallen from heaven, wanders about our lower atmosphere, and there bearing rule over his fellow-spirits, as his peers in disobedience, not only works illusions by their means in them that are deceived, but tries to hinder them that are going up--and about this the Apostle says: According to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience--while the Lord came to cast down the devil, and clear the air and prepare the way for us up into heaven, as said the Apostle: Through the veil, that is to say, His flesh--and this must needs be by death--well, by what other kind of death could this have come to pass, than by one which took place in the air, I mean the cross? For only he that is perfected on the cross dies in the air.  Whence it was quite fitting that the Lord suffered this death. For thus being lifted up He cleared the air of the malignity both of the devil and of demons of all kinds, as He says: I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven; and made a new opening of the way up into heaven as He says once more: Lift up your gates, O you princes, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors. For it was not the Word Himself that needed an opening of the gates, being Lord of all; nor were any of His works closed to their Maker; but we it was that needed it, whom He carried up by His own body.  For as He offered it to death on behalf of all, so by it He once more made ready the way up into the heavens."

→"Our Lord Jesus Christ, who took upon Him to die for all, stretched forth His hands, not somewhere on the earth beneath, but in the air itself, in order that the Salvation effected by the Cross might be shewn to be for all men everywhere: destroying the devil who was working in the air: and that He might consecrate our road up to Heaven, and make it free."

→"And once again, stretching out His hands upon the Cross, He overthrew the prince of the power of the air, that now works in the sons of disobedience, and made the way clear for us into the heavens."

➤St. Ephraim the Syrian (+373)--

→"Are you not aware, my brethren, what fear and what pressure we will suffer at the hour of our departure from this life when the soul is separated from the body? Great is the fear and great the mystery that takes place then, because holy angels and a multitude of the heavenly host appear to it, as well as all adverse powers and the rulers of darkness, each desiring to receive the soul or to offer it places. If the soul then had acquired in this life good virtues and lived a decent life, they become good angels, and encircle the soul and do not leave any of the enemy powers to touch it; but on the contrary they receive it with joy and gladness along with the holy chanting to God hymns of victory, presenting it to Christ the Master and glorious King, and together with it and all the heavenly powers they worship Him; and at last it is led to a place of rest, to the ineffable joy, the everlasting light, in the Kingdom of Heaven, where there is neither grief, nor sighing, nor tears, nor cares, but eternal life and everlasting rejoicing, together with all those who pleased God.  But if in this life it lived shamefully, associating with the dishonorable passions and dragged by the pleasures of the flesh and the vanity of this world, in the day of its exodus from this life these selfsame passions and pleasures which it acquired in this life become malicious demons circling the wretched soul, not allowing the angels of God to approach; but together with the adverse powers of the rulers of darkness they receive it and lead it sullen, lamenting and weeping pitifully to dark and gloomy and grievous places, where all the sinners have been kept for the day of Judgment and the eternal punishment; where the devil along with all his angels will be imprisoned."

→"No one will help us in that day--neither friend nor relation. Only our repentance in this world, with its accompanying virtues namely true love, humility, obedience, and temperance will help us These accompany us when we set off from this ephemeral world. They resist those opposing powers which wish to seize us."

→"You see that, in accordance with the Gospels, we will be judged in that day.  Pay attention exactly to what is written and do not despise it. Woe to those who blaspheme against the Sacred Scriptures! For many are idle talkers and deceive themselves; whenever they hear about judgment and Hades, they mock, saying: "Am I better than the rest of the world? Wherever the world goes, there will I go, also. What can hold me down in all the world? I will now enjoy all the pleasures of this life, like everybody else." Then, upon the completion of the term of his life, comes a harsh angel sent to seek his soul, saying: 'Your road in this life is complete; come then to the other world; come to your proper place.'  Then he forsakes the joys of this life which he had thought he would be enjoying eternally, and is removed away to the place of his torment, dragged by evil angels; and when he sees this place, he will be frightened, and he will beat his face with his hands, turning his gaze here and there, but even though he tries to escape, he will by no means be able to break loose, for he will be held securely by those who lead him away."

→"All the days of my life have I wallowed in the sea of evil, and I did not lament my sins. And all at once death will place its shackles upon me... 
May Thy cross accompany me during that dreaded crossing, may it drive the powers of darkness away from me; may it be for me the key that opens the gates of paradise, that I may enter into bliss, rejoice and glorify Thy compassion, O most merciful One!"

→"Lo, I try to gather my thoughts from every corner, but I am successful, for the things responsible for the passions of my thoughts remain in me. I have not yet been freed from the influence of the evil spirits that will detain me on my upward path toward heaven. I have not yet acknowledged the weight of the multitude of my sins..."

→"Do not leave me in the terrible hour of death, O my Lady, but rush to my aid, rescue me from the bitter torments of the demons. For if thou so choosest, thou hast the power to do this, for thou art truly the Mother of God who reignest over all."

→"In a short time we shall pass through terrible and fearful places, and there is no one here who can avoid walking this path.  There will be no one there to accompany and assist us; neither parents nor brethren, nor friends, nor relatives, nor wealth, nor any other such thing.  If at that very hour we find ourselves stripped of God's protection, the princes of darkness shall certainly hold us back.  They are unyielding and merciless; they fear not kings, nor do they respect masters; they honor neither the small nor the great. Only from those who live in piety do they withdraw in fear, allowing them free passage.  I imagine what this hour will be like and fall down before Thy goodness, O Lord. Give me not up to those who offend me, that Thine enemies might not boast that they have taken Thy servant, O good Lord. May they not gnash their teeth and terrify my sinful soul, saying, 'Thou hast fallen into our hands, thou hast been handed over to us. This is the day for which we have waited.'  No, O Lord, deal with me not according to mine iniquities and turn not Thy face away from me. Say not to me, "Amen, I say to thee, I know thee not." Punish me, O Lord, according to Thy compassion, and may mine enemy not rejoice over me.  Extinguish his fury, nullify all his actions, provide for me a path to Thee free from attacks and revilement.  Incline Thine ear to my prayer, O good Lord, not because of my righteousness, but because of Thy compassion and Thy great mercy. Save my sorrowful soul from death. Thou art the Lord of all and Thou hast power over all creatures.  Thou hast said, O Lord, "Ask, and it shall be given to you; knock, and it shall be opened to you." Lo, I ask and I knock. Before my end comes, O Lord, cleanse me of all sin. Amen."

→"At the time when my humbled soul departs from my body, when--woe is me!--I will have to speak with the enemies outside the gates (Ps. 127:5), then, O Lady, regard me with thy merciful eye; free me from all the merciless tormentors and the terrible task-masters of the prince of this age; be my defender and destroy all record of my sins. Lead me saved and unashamed to the throne of thy Son and His unoriginate Father and the All-Holy Spirit--the light-creating Trinity, one in essence. Amen."

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Response to Pen & Pulpit on Orthodoxy

Image Credit: Ancient Faith
Christ Pantocrator
At this point, it is no secret that former evangelical juggernaut, Hank Hanegraaff, has converted to the Orthodox Faith through the Greek Orthodox tradition.  Over the last week, the evangelical and Orthodox communities have discussed the "good" and the "bad" behind the conversion, but the intent of this post is not to discuss those stories that have already received so much attention.  Rather, the intent of this post is to respond to a recent article posted by the Protestant blog, "Pulpit & Pen," who have used the platform of Hank Hanegraaff's conversion to boost their own notoriety.  In this case, however, not all press is good press, as there has been a strong backlash from Orthodox and Evangelical believers alike.

Jeff Maples, the author of the recent articles discussing Hanegraaff and the Orthodox Church, has made some strong accusations against Orthodox Christians all over the world.  Without beating this subject to the floor even further, the Reader's Digest version of Maples' claims is that Orthodox Christians are not Christians, but rather apostates.  Even further, in an even more outrageously despicable assertion, Pulpit & Pen has strongly asserted that those Coptics recently martyred for their faith are not Christians.

In the most recent article by P&P, Maples tells of his recent experience at Hanegraaff's parish.  On Holy Saturday, this year (2017), Maples and gang visited St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC, for what appears to be Rush service, Paschal Matins, and Paschal Liturgy.  He outlined 9 total issues which apparently stood out to him and which he took great issue with.  Of course, these issues are largely exaggerated and overly-caricaturized.  At the heart of the article, though, sheer ignorance is demonstrated by Maples in that he set out to "experience" a Liturgy for the sake of proving his adversaries wrong and to bolster his own claims against the Orthodox Church.  Because of all of the alleged complaints that he's received with accusations of "misrepresentation" towards the Orthodox Church, he felt that attending a Liturgy would build his credibility in his presentation of the Orthodox Church.

Let's take a look at Maples' issues (his comments in orange):

1.) I have sat through many Catholic masses. I was married in a Catholic church, and I can definitely say I’ve “been there done that.” But I’ve never sat through anything so long and tedious as the Greek Orthodox mass. Perhaps being a special Saturday night “resurrection service,” this wasn’t the norm, but it was excruciatingly long. 2 1/2 hours in and no sign of slowing down.

1.) Orthodox services are long.  Special festal services are long.  The length of one's worship, however, should not be limited or governed by one's willingness to participate.  The Kingdom of God deserves all of our attention, devotion, and time, and if a 2 1/2 hour commitment is just too much for an individual, maybe check out one of those billboard evangelical churches that promise short services in addition to the circus acts that permeate throughout.  Additionally, it should be mentioned, that Maples attended multiple services in one sitting (Rush, Paschal Matins & Liturgy).  This was not merely a "resurrection service"; this was the Feast of feasts and the greatest Liturgy of the year for the Church.  The service doesn't slow down; the Orthodox don't slow down.  And we certainly don't take shortcuts.  On a final note, Maples also mentioned that the service was "tedious."  The only "tedious" thing about the service--at least that I can imagine--is the level of each individuals participation in the Liturgy; we participate in the Church corporately.

2.) The cliché, “bells and smells” is actually a true reality. The burning of incense and ringing of bells was a noxious combination. It reminded me of being in a college dorm smoking weed and blowing the smoke through toilet paper rolls stuffed with dryer sheets.

2.) The "bells and smells" cliché rings true.  It's a reality because we meet to celebrate and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom we are chief.  Incense and bells are just two individual pieces [of many] that help us to utilize all of our senses holistically to more strongly worship the Living God.  What struck me as odd, though, is not so much what Maples was reminded of, but more so that he was reminded of what seemed to be his own past which involved "smoking weed and blowing the smoke through toilet paper rolls stuffed with dryer sheets" inside of his dorm.  Like, who does that?

3.) The liturgy was vain and repetitious. Literally, the same ritualistic prayers and chanting were sung over and over. Every prayer included an invocation of Mary and the Saints.

3.) Here, we arrive at some heart issues and some bearing false witness issues.  The Orthodox Liturgy is somewhat repetitive [during the Paschal services]: we worship corporately, sing and chant hymns and songs (mainly that Christ is risen), venerate the saints, and worship the Almighty God of the universe.  Other than that and the Litanies, there is hardly anymore repetition.  I hope Maples will forgive me for stating this, but to make the claim that our Liturgy is "Literally, the same... over and over" is an outright lie.  And this lie is followed by another lie.  The majority of our prayers, contrary to popular caricaturization, do not actually invoke Mary or the Saints.  To close on this point, calling the Liturgy "vain" appears to be a heart issue.  The Liturgy is only vain to an individual who finds no meaning in what is being delivered to the congregation.  I, for one, have always been moved by the Liturgy in its entirety, so vanity, in this case, appears to be a subjective [and unfair] charge leveled against the Orthodox, that actually seeks to examine each individual's heart without any basis in doing so.  One could easily argue that the hymns (or rock music) that Maples "worships" to at his "church" are vain.  They mean different things to different people.

4.) While there was actually quite a bit of Scripture reading, there was absolutely no teaching. In fact, the vast majority of Scripture reading was sung in the eerie Byzantine chant. You’d really have to pay attention and try to listen really hard to even understand what they were reading or reciting.

4.) The Orthodox Church reads a lot of Scripture corporately.  A lot.  And why wouldn't we?  The Orthodox gave and preserved the Scripture!  And there is some strong teaching in the Church.  In fact, the Orthodox Liturgy is comprised of more theology than one would receive at any other tradition in the world.  Our hymns and chants are steeped in theology--sweet, sweet Trinitarian and Christological theology.  And our Byzantine chants are not "eerie."  That would be like me saying Reformed hymns (err, is Maples even confessionally Reformed?) are monotonous and sound like they're being sung by the frozen chos... nah, I won't go there.  Again, this is subjective, and it's different for everyone, obviously based on preference.  Maples probably didn't hear a homily/sermon during the Paschal Liturgy because St. John Chrysostom's beautiful sermon was read aloud.  There are theological powerhouse Priests who employ fantastic teaching during their homilies, and there are those who are not the most eloquent speakers when it comes to theology, but again, this is not exclusively an Orthodox issue, as this problem exists in every single tradition around the world.  Let's not set double standards.  On a final note, the Orthodox understand what's being sung, chanted, and read.  Why?  Because we participate in it and have learned it, or eventually will.  And if someone can't understand what's being said, maybe try picking up the Bible or Liturgy booklets that each parish provides.  Just an idea... but that would take too much effort, right?

5.) The facility was adorned, literally, wall to wall, floor to ceiling in graven images of the saints. The images were painted in such a way that the expressions on their faces were devoid of any emotion. They looked like lifeless figures just floating around in space.

5.) Ah, yeah!  The beauty of our icons.  The Saints bear witness to the Church and participate in the Divine Liturgy mystically, when Church Militant and Church Triumphant gather to partake of the Holy Eucharist.  But why is it that our flat painted icons are considered "graven images of the saints," but the literally graven/carved Reformation wall, which features "saint John Calvin," is not considered a "graven image?"  And of course our icons are devoid of emotion; the Orthodox Church has reasons for this.  Would Maples have liked it more if they were smiling or frowning?  Oh, and they're not just "floating around in space."  Maples said they were "wall to wall," remember?

6.) The enthusiasm of the clergy and participants in the service was extremely low. Those participating in the rituals walked around with lifeless expressions on their faces. The entire ritual was empty and dead.

6.) One can easily make this argument about Calvinists, Methodists, Anglicans, Lutherans, Catholics, Wesleyans, Particular Baptists, you name it.  This charge is "literally" just grasping at straws.  It is writing something down just for the sake of writing something down.  At the very root of it, it is a heart issue, and it is impossible for Maples to know the extent of the clergy and participant's hearts in their worship of God and their participation in the Liturgy.  The "lifeless expressions" charge is also pretty funny.  What did ya expect, Maples?  Wide-eyed smiles?  A motivational speaker?

7.) There is obviously little to no pursuit of holiness in this church. Several times during the service, the ushers and deacons could be seen stepping out to take smoke breaks. Many of the women and even some of the younger girls were dressed less than modestly.

7.) Again, heart issue.  How can one judge what the "pursuit of holiness" looks like in a 2 1/2 hour timeframe, much of which is done in pitch black?  I can't speak to ushers and deacons stepping out to take smoke breaks, but I seriously doubt the veracity of this claim, especially as it pertains to Deacons, as they are generally not permitted to leave the altar during Liturgy.  And as far as women's dress, it really makes me wonder what the intent of Maples visit was, aside from him and his gang wanting to "confront Hanegraaff," as he states earlier in his article, which is a whole other ridiculous venture.  Orthodox women tend to be some of the most modest of women worldwide, especially in their dress (head coverings and dresses, anyone?).

8.) Repeatedly, the chanting and liturgy included a summons to God to perform certain acts. It was clear that they believe that God works through and is dependent upon these rituals to activate the work of the Holy Spirit.

8.) Huh?  Perform certain acts?  Like 1) save His people, 2) bless His inheritance, 3) forgive our sins, 4) grant us peace and safety, 5) make the schisms cease, 6) grant us life eternal, 7) be glorified, etc.?  Oh, Maples probably was referring to prayer here.  Yea, dude.  We pray and send our petitions--a lot.

9.) The Greek and Eastern Orthodox church is clearly a lifeless church. There was absolutely no gospel in this service. A lost person could not walk into this church and walk out a changed man. It was literally a Pagan practice. Like a seance. Pure witchcraft was going on in this place. In this religion, salvation doesn’t come through Christ’s imputed righteousness and substitutionary atonement on the cross, it comes through these dead rituals that they believe ontologically changes them into divine beings. It was truly one of the most wicked experiences I’ve ever seen.

9.) The Orthodox Church is the Life-Giving Church.  It is the clearest and truest expression of the Faith, delivered once and for all to the saints.  The Gospel is presented more times in one sitting than it is in months at the most conservative of Protestant churches.  It has preserved the clear teaching of Christ and the Apostles since the first century, and continues to do so.  In Orthodoxy, salvation comes through Christ.  And through Christ, the Sacraments were instituted as a means of grace--as Life-Giving-and-Preserving instruments in which God extends to His people.  It is truly the most glorious experience in the universe--where Heaven and Earth meet.  And to Maples claim about paganism?  Were there human sacrifices?  Blood rituals?  Druids and Shamans with masks?  I'll let Prince Vladimir, a former pagan from the 10th century, respond:

"When we journeyed among the Bulgars, we beheld how they worship in their temple, called a mosque, while they stand ungirt. The Bulgarian bows, sits down, looks hither and thither like one possessed, and there is no happiness among them, but instead only sorrow and a dreadful stench. Their religion is not good. Then we went among the Germans, and saw them performing many ceremonies in their temples; but we beheld no glory there. Then we went on to Greece, and the Greeks led us to the edifices where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendour or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty. Every man, after tasting something sweet, is afterward unwilling to accept that which is bitter; so we cannot remain any more in paganism.”

It is very disheartening to witness a professing Christian lie so boldly and openly over a public forum which is viewed by many.  No charity was employed and no benefit of doubt was given towards Orthodox Christians.  Maples is a man set out on a mission not to disprove Orthodoxy--his arguments are too weak for that--but rather, to misrepresent the Orthodox Church and Orthodox Christians through a series of bold lies and baseless accusations off one short visit to one specific parish.  The reality is that the Orthodox Church has withstood the test of time, and it will always continue to do so, even in the face of false witness.

The best way to engage any given subject is by being intellectually honest, and part of that requires refraining from employing your own set of presuppositions to judge an ideology (in this case, a Tradition).  The only way to test Maples' claims is to visit a local Orthodox parish yourself or to speak to a few of the hundreds of millions of Orthodox Christians in our midst and asking sincere questions.

Come, taste and see that the Lord is Good.