+Metropolitan JOSEPH

Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of all North America,
Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

This subject is one of the most difficult topics to write about and, all too often, people speculate when they write books on the afterlife and the departure of the soul. This particular publication deals with the subject in a very serious and grounded way. It provides excellent references and sources and is based on a solid foundation of Orthodox theology.

As such, it is a wonderful study of the topic and can be used as either a reference book for those who do not have time to read the entire work or as a deep theological study of the issue for those who do.

+Metropolitan HILARION

Metropolitan of New York and Eastern America,
Ruling Archbishop of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

The Departure of the Soul According to the Teaching of the Orthodox Church is a monumental collection of patristic, theological, and liturgical writings concerning the great mystery which awaits the human soul after it is separated from its mortal body.

This is a matter which concerns each one of us and it is imperative and most beneficial for us to be aware of what is to come and in what state of repentance and purification from sin we need to approach the dread Judgment Seat of Christ in order to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

I am pleased to recommend this book for all Orthodox Christians.


Ruling Hierarch of the Canadian Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church

When I was a boy, a pious man named O… lived near our house in the village. He was sick for a very short period of time. One night my grandfather told my father: “Go, visit him; he is very ill.” My father went and returned after a few hours. Grandfather asked him: “Did he die?” My father answered affirmatively, but noted that he suffered and spoke the whole time. Since then, to this day, I ask myself why did he suffer? Do righteous people have faults or sins which they must repent of so that they are cleaner when they appear before the Lord?

I remember another man, a really militant atheist, who suddenly fell ill and died within minutes. He later came back to life and recalled how he spent only three minutes in hell and that he would rather spend thirty years in illness than another three minutes in hell. He used to say: “Somebody told me: Your mother saved you from being sent straight into hell.” That man became a real Christian and spoke publicly of the sins he committed and the mercy of God. Both of these cases are the work of the love of God because the Lord said: I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way, and live (Ezekiel 33:11).

The thing I do fear is sudden death; that is, not having the time to repent properly. And another thing I pray for is to be of a healthy mind in my last moments. There are so many people near death who are sick and don’t even know their own names or the names of their dear ones. How can they remember their sins or confess them to the Lord in front of a priest? O God, be merciful to us at our hour of death! Do not give us up into the hands of our enemies! Amen!

+ Metropolitan NICOLAE

Ruling Hierarch of the Romanian Orthodox Metropolis in the Americas

We rejoice that the great scholars and defenders of the Orthodox treasure from Mount Athos, like Saint Gregory Palamas, Saint Paisios Velichkovsky, together with Saint Nikodemos and the Kollyvades Fathers, and many others, have spread their influence to North America through the work of the monks from Saint Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona. They continue in our disturbed times the work of our beloved Athonite Saints and Elders by promoting and defending the salvific patristic and hesychastic heritage that we are all responsible to leave to the next generation, intact and undefiled by human passions and a non-transfigured thinking.

Wrong faith leads to wrong behavior and for this reason books like The Departure of the Soul are very useful to clarify and explain for today’s people what the Holy Scriptures and the Church Tradition have said since the beginning. Because throughout history we have witnessed how even small misconceptions and erroneous interpre-tations of the Scriptures and of the Fathers’ words have led to many spiritual disasters and threaten the very eternal salvation of our souls, we pray that other sound books like this may be published for the benefit of those thirsty souls that want the pure crystal clear water of the ancient and original teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Saints that followed Him!

As the book illustrates, the Orthodox Romanian faithful have expressed their faith also through the frescos of the churches that have remained intact until today, and serve as a testimony through time about how beautifully the Bible’s teachings mingle with the Holy Fathers’ lives and their experiences of the other world.

May our Lord Jesus Christ, through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, give us true understanding of our Orthodox faith and a humble heart to follow the narrow road that leads to His Eternal Kingdom!

Archbishop IRÉNÉE

Archbishop of Ottawa,
Ruling Hierarch of the Archdiocese of Canada, Orthodox Church in America

Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His saints (Ps.116: 15). How these words contrast with the present day, post-Christian society we live in. Today death is not spoken of, and when it does happen, we deny it by destroying the body as soon as possible by cremation, and if necessary, the relatives and friends assemble not to mourn or pray but to “celebrate the life” of the one who has “left.”

We are grateful to the fathers of Saint Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery for this tremendous work The Departure of the Soul, compiling, translating, and editing this collection of writings of Orthodox Christian Fathers and scholars on the subject of death. Falling asleep in the Lord is an important part of our life that we should be preparing for every day. We pray at each Divine Liturgy for “a Christian ending to our life, painless, blameless, peaceful, and a good defense before the dreadful judgment seat of Christ.”

The need to educate our flock is essential, and this publication will prove to be invaluable in helping our faithful find consolation and a pious understanding of this difficult part of our life.

+Metropolitan NIKOLAOS

Metropolitan of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki,
Church of Greece

According to Orthodox theology, death can be described in general terms, but it cannot be accurately defined in its details, because it is more of an unknown mystery than any biological event. And when it comes, we welcome death, as it introduces us to a higher state of life. Therefore, we do not examine the event of death with boldness or excessive curiosity, based on our knowledge, but we stand before this unknown mystery with reservation, respect, and holy fear.

This is the reason why those who attempt to interpret death based on their own intellectual comprehension often fail, and instead of expressing the truth of God, they preach false assertions and erroneous teachings. Thus, it is of imminent importance to clarify the Orthodox truth from the various fallacies—something which is not easy to do. The initiative taken by St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery in Arizona is a wise one, and the load of the undertaken task quite heavy. The entire work is indeed praiseworthy.

The citations in The Departure of the Soul—free of arbitrary criticism and risky interpretations—taken from the God-inspired books of the Holy Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, the references to the Decrees of the Holy Synods and the writings of the holy Fathers of the Church, the presentation of rich liturgical texts that have been used for generations in the services of the Orthodox Church and have spiritually nurtured millions of faithful throughout the centuries, the excerpts from the lives of our saints, their wondrous experiences and divine revelations, the rich iconographic illustrations inspired by the spirit of Church Tradition and life, constitute a priceless treasure which we can all learn from and resort to so as to be enlightened and strengthen our faith.

Death is a given fact of human life; when we approach it as a mystery, it becomes the best window through which to see life.

(From His Eminence’s foreword.)

+Metropolitan KALLISTOS WARE

Metropolitan of Diokleia, Ecumenical Patriarchate,

I am deeply impressed by this magnificent volume. It is highly informative, thorough and balanced, and it will surely be a standard work of reference for many years to come. It is also beautifully produced, a real pleasure to handle.


Bishop of Canada,
Romanian Orthodox Metropolis in the Americas

This very important book published by St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery is the most comprehensive collection of texts on the subject to date. Its various and rich sources offer to the reader a grand outlook on the Christian Orthodox Tradition starting with the Holy Scriptures and running through the centuries with many witnesses from the liturgical texts and authoritative statements from the Saints, Holy Synods, Hierarchs, Elders, Clergy, and Theologians.

The publication of this book sees the light of day at a shadowy time when society at large seems to relegate traditional spiritual, human, and social values—so deeply engrained in the fabric of society’s structure and lifestyle—to encyclopedias and bookstores. More and more, a secular understanding works its way into society, dictating the terms and framework in which the human mind understands and organizes its own way of life.

This book offers to the reader an alternative vision to the contemporary secular proposal. In my opinion, it shows and proves overwhelmingly with various testimonials that a much older tradition, still alive today, speaks about the human being not as a conglomerate of opaque matter, but as an animated personal reality with a higher vocation who is destined to meet God. This signifies that the human person does not end in death and oblivion, but is called to be transfigured in intimate union with God.

Human life here on earth is not meaningless, but reaches an end which opens upon the beginning of our eternal life. This vision clarifies the sense of responsibility which everyone bears for the gift of life we received from God. Life has ingrained within its immanent reality the transcendence of God Himself. Therefore, the human hypostasis emerges not as a result of an exclusively horizontal mode of becoming but as a complex upright person—fully aware of both his greatness and his humbleness—in the image and likeness of God.

Metropolitan JONAH

Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia;
Former Primate, Archbishop of Washington,
and Metropolitan of All America and Canada,
Orthodox Church in America

The Departure of the Soul is an outstanding achievement and a spiritually and theologically profitable resource for Orthodox Christians. The book is an exhaustively researched and documented study of the doctrine of the Intermediate Judgment, often summarized as the “toll houses,” in Holy Scripture, the Fathers, the Liturgical services, iconography and modern fathers. In short, it presents the Church’s Holy Tradition regarding the teaching of the process of the intermediate judgment of the soul after death, for its entrance into the interim state before the Resurrection and Last Judgment. The work also looks at the modern controversy that occurred in America over this doctrine, and presents and discusses in detail the arguments of its opponents, and the answers of the Tradition. It corrects many of the misconceptions and mischaracterizations of the concept of the toll houses, and presents the consensus of the Fathers in answer.

There is immense value spiritually to this volume. In presenting the patristic and liturgical material, the stories of the saints, and the iconographic images, it leads one to compunction and the remembrance of death—both essential to Orthodox spiritual life. One cannot but wonder, “How will I answer for my own sins? What have I not confessed or acknowledged? How am I in captivity to my passions, sins, and habits? Of what will I be accused?” The liturgical material also includes prayers at the time of death, and meditations from the ancient and modern Fathers on preparation for death. The remembrance of death leads us to more highly value our life; and remembrance of the judgment leads us to repentance, the joyful mourning of soul made radiant by forgiveness through repentance.

This work is obviously a labor of love that has taken five years to compile. With its publication, St. Anthony’s Monastery does a great service for the Orthodox community in clearly presenting this teaching and making it not only academically sound but also spiritually useful. It puts to rest a controversy that has disturbed the faithful for forty years. It gives us an opportunity to use these holy texts and images as a jumping off point for contemplation of not only death and the judgment of the soul, but of the immense mercy and love of God, “Who desires that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth.”