When I first came across this passage as a student more than forty years ago, I said to myself: That is the only view of hell that makes any sense to me.  God is love, St. Isaac tells us, and this divine love is unchanging and in inexhaustible.  God’s love is everywhere and embraces everything: “If I go down to hell, There are there also”.  Thus even those in hell are not cut off from the love of God.  Love acts, however, in a twofold way: it is joy to those who accept it but torture to those who shut it out.  In the words of George MacDonald, “The terror of God is but the other side of His love; it is love outside, that would be inside.”  

 

Thus those in hell feel as agonizing pain that which the saints feel as unending delight.  God does not inflict torment upon those in hell, but it is they who torment themselves through their willful refusal to respond to His love.  As George Bernanos observes, “hell is not to love anymore.”  “The love of God,” writes Vladimir Lossky, “will be an intolerable torment to those who have not acquired it within themselves.”  

Bishop Kallistos Ware of Oxford England

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