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Tollhouses: purification or condemnation?

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I'm trying to figure out the idea of tollhouses. I don't want to start a debate about whether they exist or not, but on the presumption that they do how the soul can pass through them. The tradition seems to say that if we have unconfessed passions and attachments to sin we will not pass through. However, St. John says if we confess not to have sin, we deceive ourselves. St. Jerome in his books against the pelegians makes a case that even the saints still sin and have various harmful attachments and habits. It is nigh on impossible to be in *complete* repentance or perfect purity before we die. So, that being, how do we pass through the tollhouses? St. Mark of Ephesus seems to speak that the separation of the soul and body with the accusations of demons causes a cleansing fear, which if so the tollhouses cleanse us instead of condemn us. Seems to be a reasonable explanation. However not all the fathers speak this way but speak of the accusations as actually condemning us. In which case there is little hope to pass through. Again, not looking for a debate here, but for those who agree with the tollhouses in one way or another what do you think? I haven't found any books on this issue, they are all on whether the tollhouses exist or not which I'm not looking for.
 

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Whether they exist or not... we will all one day die... and will find ourselves sooner or later standing before the Lord, and once again present at the Final Judgement.

With this knowledge in mind, it would behoove us to be the best we can at all times in our lives. Yes, we will fall into sin... will miss the mark... be lazy, get angry, filled with pride, gluttonous, careless, etc.

However, the hope is that we hit the mark more than we miss it.

....and while we should always love the Lord, we should also always respect Him, and even have a tinge of fear as we approach anything holy.

However, we ought not allow the concept of these tollhouses to scare us. The final judgment belongs to God Himself... and He told us that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven.

Best thing is to love well, forgive others, be merciful, selfless, prayerful, and count on the mercy of God. He has not abandoned us in our lives, and He will not abandon us in our death.
 

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Well worth watching:

 
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Well worth watching:

I've seen this before and initially I agreed with it. But the patristic evidence on tollhouses is overwhelming apart from a few obscure visions. Countless saints speak of them, including the pillars of Orthodoxy such as St. John Chrysostom, Mark of Ephesus, Cyprian, etc. For that reason, I can't just throw the idea under the bus. However as I said, I don't want to debate if they exist, but a reasonable explanation that *if* they do how us sinners who have not been completely purified from the passions can get through.
 

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Maybe it’s more a matter of how easily one gets through? Or does the patristic evidence refute that notion?
 

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Are the tollhouses more powerful than God?
 
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It's everywhere. St. Ignatius Brianachovsky gives at least 20 examples of the toll houses in the liturgy I don't remember the list exactly but for instances tollhouses in liturgy, the canon for the departure of the soul in the Great Book of Needs. Prayers in the Octoechos for Friday vespers tone 2. The prayer of st. Eustratius prescribed for the Saturday Midnight Office. It's not only in liturgy, it's in synaxaria, patristic homilies, many saints in the philokalia, scriptural commentaries (for instance, see St. Theophylact commentaries on St. Luke), the teachings of modern saints like St Theophan the Recluse and St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco.

Here are just a few examples:
Because the prisoner too is then most grieved, when they are leading him out to the court; then most trembles, when he is near the judgment-seat, when he must give his account. For the same kind of reason 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? - St. John Chrysostom Homily LIII on Matthew

"Then we will require many prayers, many helpers, many good deeds, and a great protection from the 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." St. John Chrysostom
Homily on Patience and Gratitude


One day, at the beginning of the ninth hour, when the venerable one (Anthony), began to pray before taking food, he was suddenly taken up in the Spirit and carried by the angels to the heights. The aerial demons tried to prevent his ascent; the angels who argued with them demanded that they state their reasons for preventing Anthony, for he had no sins. The demons tried to expose sins he had committed from his very birth, but the angels shut the mouths of the slanderers, telling them that they should not enumerate his sins committed since his birth, which have already been blotted out by Christ’s grace. But let them present the sins—if there are any—he committed after he became a monk and dedicated himself to God. While making their accusations the demons pronounced many brazen lies; but since their slander was unfounded, a free path was opened to Anthony. He then immediately came to himself and saw that he was standing in the same place that he had stood for prayer. Forgetting all about food, he spent the entire night in tears and lamentations, pondering on the multitude of mankind’s enemies, on the struggle with such an army, and the difficult path to heaven through the air. - St. Athanasius life of St. Anthony the Great.

When the soul leaves the body, the enemy advances to attck it, fiercely reviling it and accusing it of its sins in a harsh and terrifying manner. But if a soul enjoys the love of God and has faith in Him, even though in the past it has often been wounded by sin, it is not frightened by the enemy’s attacks and threat. - St. John Karpathos Texts for the Monks of India Philokalia vol 1.
 

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I see several answers to your question there. :)
 
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I see several answers to your question there. :)
They seem to be more condemnation, yes. But st. Mark of Ephesus says that after death there is a cleansing fear in his homilies. And it still doesn't explain any possibility of how us who are filled with passions will not automatically be condemned. Like the story of St. Anthony the Great more or less says he passed through because he was somehow sinless after he became a monk.
 

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That’s not what I see on those quotes at all. I’ll pull things out later when I have more time. 🙂
 
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Not really when compared to everything else in the Church that does not mention then.
The canon in the book of great needs, every Saturday midnight service, many prayers and canons such as the canon to the guardian angel and prayers at compline, the philokalia and hagiography, countless saints of today (others i did not mention previously are Saint Paisios, St. Macarius of Russia, St. Justin Popovich, and Elder Cleopa), and prescribed synaxaria readings aren't enough?
 

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Not really.
Basil, John Chrysostom, Mark of Ephesus, Symeon the New Theologian, Athanasius all speak of them. Colomba, Gregory the Great, Theophylact. Theophan, Seraphim of Swarovski, John of the Ladder etc etc are all wrong? No questions asked?
 
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While this doctrine has to be acknowledged as part of tradition, as to how much is valid & how much should be inflicted on the laity becomes an inevitable concern. I also acknowledge it is good to avoid most of the prominent modern critics of the doctrine ( like Bishop Lazar).

Anyway, one wonders if the ancient theologians said to have held this doctrine believed it should be inflicted on the laity. The Didache does not touch upon this doctrine; instead, it focuses on the Lord’s commandments, the sermon on the Mount, sacraments etc. Several centuries later, I believe, St. John Climacus affirms that the layperson should have a simple, but informed & profound, faith:



21. Some people living carelessly in the world have asked me: ‘We have wives and are beset with social cares, and how can we lead the solitary life?’ I replied to them: ‘Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not be arrogant towards anyone; do not hate any one; be sure you go to church; be compassionate to the needy; do not offend anyone; do not wreck another man’s domestic happiness;3 and be content with what your own wives can give you. If you behave in this way you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven

From the Ladder of Divine Ascent, step 1 #21:

http://www.prudencetrue.com/images/TheLadderofDivineAscent.pdf

I have never read much of the Ladder & I have heard it is debatable if it concerns toll houses within its content. There is some quote from St. John Chrysostom that is said to affirm this doctrine. I have read his commentaries on Romans & his work: On Wealth & Poverty but nothing about tolls jumped out at me. I know these are just a smattering of his writings but I think his references to tolls are even more of a smattering. Then St. John of Damascus is referenced on this but the default always lands on hymns ( some of which are attributed to & not precisely his). His Exposition of the faith does not contain references to tolls. There is a claim that the Theotokos prayed to avoid the toll houses. I believe I read 3 homilies of St. John of Damascus on the Dormition & nothing about the Theotokos praying about toll houses ( should it not crop up if it sooo prominent?).

Then there is the Theodora vision & toll supporters say not to take it so literally. I wonder how many people were urged (!) just the opposite in other times? Then there is the murky identity of St. Basil “the New.”

Just my rambling on this.
 

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"Philosophize about the world or worlds; about matter; about soul; about natures endowed with reason, good or bad; about resurrection, about judgment, about reward, or the Sufferings of Christ. For in these subjects to hit the mark is not useless, and to miss it is not dangerous." (St. Gregory the Theologian, Oration 27.9)
 

Ainnir

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It's everywhere. St. Ignatius Brianachovsky gives at least 20 examples of the toll houses in the liturgy I don't remember the list exactly but for instances tollhouses in liturgy, the canon for the departure of the soul in the Great Book of Needs. Prayers in the Octoechos for Friday vespers tone 2. The prayer of st. Eustratius prescribed for the Saturday Midnight Office. It's not only in liturgy, it's in synaxaria, patristic homilies, many saints in the philokalia, scriptural commentaries (for instance, see St. Theophylact commentaries on St. Luke), the teachings of modern saints like St Theophan the Recluse and St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco.

Here are just a few examples:
Because the prisoner too is then most grieved, when they are leading him out to the court; then most trembles, when he is near the judgment-seat, when he must give his account. For the same kind of reason 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? - St. John Chrysostom Homily LIII on Matthew

"Then we will require many prayers, many helpers, many good deeds, and a great protection from the 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." St. John Chrysostom
Homily on Patience and Gratitude


One day, at the beginning of the ninth hour, when the venerable one (Anthony), began to pray before taking food, he was suddenly taken up in the Spirit and carried by the angels to the heights. The aerial demons tried to prevent his ascent; the angels who argued with them demanded that they state their reasons for preventing Anthony, for he had no sins. The demons tried to expose sins he had committed from his very birth, but the angels shut the mouths of the slanderers, telling them that they should not enumerate his sins committed since his birth, which have already been blotted out by Christ’s grace. But let them present the sins—if there are any—he committed after he became a monk and dedicated himself to God. While making their accusations the demons pronounced many brazen lies; but since their slander was unfounded, a free path was opened to Anthony. He then immediately came to himself and saw that he was standing in the same place that he had stood for prayer. Forgetting all about food, he spent the entire night in tears and lamentations, pondering on the multitude of mankind’s enemies, on the struggle with such an army, and the difficult path to heaven through the air. - St. Athanasius life of St. Anthony the Great.

When the soul leaves the body, the enemy advances to attck it, fiercely reviling it and accusing it of its sins in a harsh and terrifying manner. But if a soul enjoys the love of God and has faith in Him, even though in the past it has often been wounded by sin, it is not frightened by the enemy’s attacks and threat. - St. John Karpathos Texts for the Monks of India Philokalia vol 1.
I'm not sure how the last quote alone doesn't reassure you. What's described is, yes, a difficult and frightening journey, but not an impossible one. To me, these are exhortations to repent and go and sin no more in this life, so that journey can be made easier (or less difficult, if you prefer). Also, all the frightening imagery is focused on our enemies attacking us, not on whether we're 99.99% perfect or 100%. The more sin we have, the more ammunition the enemies have. That's what I see here. Repent, repent, repent. For the quote about Saint Anthony, I'm thinking monastics will be held to a higher account as well as being more desirable targets than those of us skittering through life in the world. Is that a correct understanding of these quote? I don't know. But that's what I see.
 
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I'm not sure how the last quote alone doesn't reassure you. What's described is, yes, a difficult and frightening journey, but not an impossible one. To me, these are exhortations to repent and go and sin no more in this life, so that journey can be made easier (or less difficult, if you prefer). Also, all the frightening imagery is focused on our enemies attacking us, not on whether we're 99.99% perfect or 100%. The more sin we have, the more ammunition the enemies have. That's what I see here. Repent, repent, repent. For the quote about Saint Anthony, I'm thinking monastics will be held to a higher account as well as being more desirable targets than those of us skittering through life in the world. Is that a correct understanding of these quote? I don't know. But that's what I see.
That makes some more sense, as long as it's understood that we can never have "enough" faith and love to pass through. My understanding of salvation is that it's like the parables of the talent. It's freely given, but we have to multiply our talent and not just bury it. However even the steward who multiplied his own smaller talent was still rewarded and praised just as the one who returned ten talents. Likewise the parable where the late workers made the same wage as the earlier workers in the vineyard. Salvation is indeed a process, but we can't quantify faith and love by works in such a way that if they aren't of a sufficient numerical quantity the demons aren't "paid" enough because we still have some sins in our flesh.
 

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That makes some more sense, as long as it's understood that we can never have "enough" faith and love to pass through. My understanding of salvation is that it's like the parables of the talent. It's freely given, but we have to multiply our talent and not just bury it. However even the steward who multiplied his own smaller talent was still rewarded and praised just as the one who returned ten talents. Likewise the parable where the late workers made the same wage as the earlier workers in the vineyard. Salvation is indeed a process, but we can't quantify faith and love by works in such a way that if they aren't of a sufficient numerical quantity the demons aren't "paid" enough because we still have some sins in our flesh.
Oh, no. I mean, I have no idea what all the Fathers have written. The bits I've read makes it seem like attacks and resistance. A last ditch effort to drag us away from God, if you will. I could be way off, though. 🤷‍♀️ We'll find out for sure one day, though, and I'm in no hurry. :)
 

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Basil, John Chrysostom, Mark of Ephesus, Symeon the New Theologian, Athanasius all speak of them. Colomba, Gregory the Great, Theophylact. Theophan, Seraphim of Swarovski, John of the Ladder etc etc are all wrong? No questions asked?
Jesus didn't mention the tollhouses.
 
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"Philosophize about the world or worlds; about matter; about soul; about natures endowed with reason, good or bad; about resurrection, about judgment, about reward, or the Sufferings of Christ. For in these subjects to hit the mark is not useless, and to miss it is not dangerous." (St. Gregory the Theologian, Oration 27.9)
Thank you for this. This helps alleviate any fears of an incorrect understanding.
Jesus didn't mention the tollhouses.
Jesus also didn't mention prayers to saints, prayer for the dead,, justification by faith, or holy unction. And many other church teachings.
 

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All those things are within apostolic times. I'm not saying I'm opposed to saints of the Church who may have taught it. It's just not central to being married to Christ.
 

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I think there’s Scriptural basis for all of those, though.
 

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hecma925

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What rich man?
 

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Ok. I had read long ago St. John's sermon about the rich man and Lazarus. Not the one you're referring.

I don't see how the parable you refer to has to do with the concept of toll houses.
 
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Ok. I had read long ago St. John's sermon about the rich man and Lazarus. Not the one you're referring.

I don't see how the parable you refer to has to do with the concept of toll houses.
It says that "they" will take his soul.
 

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If you're going to be posting on this thread, can you please contribute to the discussion? I'm trying to solve a legitimate theological problem, with respect deferred to the Holy Fathers and dismissing my posts with one liners isn't really helping this discussion.
 

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The Latin Vulgate and the Syriac Peshitta also give "they are asking back/requiring." This is smoothed over in every modern translation I've seen, as well as in the KJV; they all understand it as a passive construction "will be asked back/required." The Douay-Rheims translates it literally as "this night do they require thy soul of thee." The passive understanding seems reasonable, though I haven't found a good explanation for it grammatically. John Gill, an 18th-century Baptist and strict Calvinist, notes in his commentary that the ancient versions are referring to devils whom God has commissioned to drag the soul to hell.
 

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If you're going to be posting on this thread, can you please contribute to the discussion? I'm trying to solve a legitimate theological problem, with respect deferred to the Holy Fathers and dismissing my posts with one liners isn't really helping this discussion.
👍
 
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The Latin Vulgate and the Syriac Peshitta also give "they are asking back/requiring." This is smoothed over in every modern translation I've seen, as well as in the KJV; they all understand it as a passive construction "will be asked back/required." The Douay-Rheims translates it literally as "this night do they require thy soul of thee." The passive understanding seems reasonable, though I haven't found a good explanation for it grammatically. John Gill, an 18th-century Baptist and strict Calvinist, notes in his commentary that the ancient versions are referring to devils whom God has commissioned to drag the soul to hell.
That's very interesting. Can you direct me to where John Gill says that?
 
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