How disappointing. One can’t read the Orthodox liturgies without reading about universalism over and over. Right now I’m reading “Saturday in the fifth week of the Great Fast on which we sing the Akathistos Hymn to the Most Holy Theotokos”. Universalism is on more than 50% of the pages. For example, I just finished reading Canticles Four and Five. On these two pages are found the following:
“Hail, mercy-seat of the world, O lady undefiled; hail, ladder raising all men from the earth by grace.”
“Hail, All-blameless, who hast saved the world from drowning in the flood of sin.”
“Hail, slayer of hell [hades], bridal chamber full of light.”
That’s three passages in two pages whose interpretations are most naturally universalistic. It would require lots of absurd footnotes otherwise:
*Footnote 1: “All” does not mean “all”. “All” means “some”. Only some men are raised from the earth by grace. Oh, those Byzantines sure liked to exaggerate!
Footnote 2: “The world” does not mean “the world”. Rather, it means “some people who live in the world”. Once again, we see how imprecise and poetic those tricky Byzantines were.
Footnote 3: “Slayer of hell [hades]” does not mean that the Theotokos puts an end to death. Certainly not. The second death will exist to all eternity, with plenty of eternally lost sinners consigned forever to hell [hades]. The passage merely means that a certain (unknown) percentage of men will escape hell [hades]. Oh, those silly Byzantines! Aren’t you lucky you have us smart commentators to make sure you don’t actually believe what these texts (only seem!) to say?*
In contrast, the passages which (out of their greater context) could possibly be pressed into service to teach non-universalism are vanishingly rare. I can read these liturgies for days without coming across one, while I have NEVER read Orthodox liturgies for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time without reading gloriously universalistic passages. (And I have read at over 1,700 pages of liturgies.) The entire tenor of the Orthodox liturgy is universalistic. One would have to pretty much ignore the whole point of the proclamations of the litugry (which amounts to “Christ saves His entire creation!”), while rooting around for a few scattered phrases, and trying to press them into subverting the plain meaning of the liturgies as a whole.
It never ceases to amaze me.