Nature of Heaven and Hell in Eastern/Syrian Catholicsm


I am a Catholic and I used to believe that Heaven and Hell are real places/realms where the soul goes after the judgement, with the good people entering heaven and the unrepentant sinners being condemned to hell. I met a Indian Syrian Catholic recently and he mentioned that Heaven and Hell are states of the soul rather than a physical realm. According to him, heaven is a state of euphoria that the soul achieves when it is closer to the Creator. I would like to know if this is the official position of the Syrian rite Catholic Churches. Also, what is the view of the other Eastern churches?

Merry Christmas


Why can’t they be both?


I dont mean to deny any version here. This is all new information to me. I want to know if this is the official view of the Syrians. And if yes, I would like to read more about this.


I’m not Eastern Catholic myself but from what I studied from several scources (not all reliable, I have to admit), Heaven and Hell are even in Latin Theology not believed to be strictly places- after all we have been to space and God is not in the sky nor are the saints. Heaven is just metaphorical name. Souls probably exist in different view than we can ever understand during our earthly lives therefore comparing heaven to state of soul might be the right idea- however in sense of soul it can also be “real place”, it just isnt “real place” for us on the Earth. After all there is no time in heaven and therefore it doesnt exist in same dimension or it doesnt exist in the same way as this world. This is mostly my opinion formulated from what I’ve read about, nothing dogmatical nor authoritative, so if anyone feels like I made mistakes please let me know.

EDIT: As I just found out, Catechism of Catholic Church defines both Hell and Heaven as states of soul, not places. Therefore Latin theology too believes that heaven and hell are states of soul. Of course, it has been portrayed as place in history (never believed to be by scholars or domgatically defined to be so), but that was to express what people could not fully understand back then- not that we can now, but we are tiny bit closer.


Thanks a lot. I never really knew that. So is there any difference at all in how the Latin, the Eastern or the Syrian Churches define Heaven and Hell?


Take a look at this book preview on Early Syriac Theology by Maronite Chorbishop Beggiani. There isn’t much detail on the specific question you asked, but that’s typical. You’ll find the Eastern Churches are satisfied with the “mystery” of God, and unlike the West, haven’t tried to define every detail. In fact, we even refer to the sacraments as mysteries (The Mystery of Baptism, etc.).

The entire chapter is included in the preview and is very short.


From what I know, not really. Depiction of them was different in art, but as with any Catholic theology- even if they would interpret it differently it would speak about exactly same thing from different perspective. From what I’ve read however, Heaven and Hell are not defined differently. Catechism of Catholic Church seems to define them in same way Orthodox scources (unofficial, however) that I have encountered do- therefore there is no reason for Eastern Catholics to not do the same. I am not sure about Syrian Churches however.


Thanks a lot. Now, I’ve got one more question, might sound a bit juvenile though. If Heaven and Hell are states of the soul, where does Satan fit in all of this? I know that the bible talks about the devil. Is the Christian concept of the devil some kind of personification of evil or is just a myth arising from depictions in Christian art?


In the Church’s traditional latin theological tradition, heaven and hell are considered as real places as well as purgatory. In this tradition, the highest heaven is called the empyrean heaven, a created invisible corporeal place or heaven beyond the visible heavens where the good angels dwell when they are not exercising their providential administrations over the corporeal visible world and where the souls of humans go who go to heaven. Hell is considered a place in the bowels of the earth. Heaven and hell are also states of soul but in the cases of Jesus and Mary not just a state of soul since they have glorified bodies. As Adamhovey remarked, ‘Why can’t they be both’, namely a state and a place which is what I believe and which Holy Scripture appears to say too. The bodies of Jesus and Mary have to be somewhere because they aren’t everywhere and the same goes for the spirits of the angels, both the good angels and the bad angels, and the souls or spirits of those humans who have died.


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