Question: Father bless! I wanted to confirm for my own sake when I talk to others about Orthodox teaching of hell. That hell is the experiencing of Gods loving presence which is an all consuming fire that engulfed an individual. Which because of their wickedness and rejection of God causes them torment. Is is the Orthodox teaching and understanding of what hell is? I am man who lives in the United States, coming from a protestant back ground. So the Western theological view of what hell is, is entirely different.
Answer: It is your personal understanding of hell, I suppose. But ultimately we can only contemplate hell by our intuition and innate knowledge. To me, for example, hell is infinite loneliness. When someone puts himself in the centre of his life, lives only for himself and disregards others, he begins to see others as a burden. He disdains their claims for his time and attention; he dreads giving without getting something in return, especially when others criticise him for not doing enough. Many indulge in self-pity and withdraw. They lose interest in all things. Their hearts overflow with bitterness and anger. Today's world is living by the principle, "eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth". It is still not as bad as glorifying evil-doers, but it nevertheless has very little to do with Christianity. So I think your idea makes sense. To some, hell is God's mercy for the sinner. Someone who rejects God cannot live in His love. He lives in the darkness of his selfishness. It is possible to describe hell as eternal torment in a cauldron or a frying pan. But it is only an allegory. If we have not found God and never loved anyone, where else could our souls end up other than in hell? The Church is about togetherness. We are all different, but in it, we all learn how to love others and how to repent our transgressions with humility.