Thursday, July 2, 2020

Dealing with everyday stress ( St. Paisios )

Today's life is full of stress. What is it that makes it this way? We seem to have all the comforts we could possibly imagine. Even in the most well off people there is still this sense of anxiety and busyness. Is it our worldly comforts that are the culprit?

Elder Paisios offers some thoughts on this subject. He is direct in saying, yes, it is these worldly pleasures that are at the root of the problem.

He says,

Worldly stress is the result of worldly happiness, of worldly pleasures and self-indulgence. Educated externally and being full of anxiety, hundreds of people (even young children) are driven to psychoanalysis and psychiatrists. New psychiatric hospitals are being built and young psychiatrists go on for post-graduate studies. Many of them do not even believe in God or accept the existence of the soul. How can these people help the human soul when they themselves are full of anxiety? How can one feel truly comforted if he does not believe in God and in the true and eternal life after death? When man grasps the deeper meaning of this true life, stress goes away, divine consolation comes and he is healed...The answer to our anxiety is not drugs, alcohol, tranquilizers or psychiatric treatment. It will not be cured by Yoga or some new age or eastern meditation practice. The problem is that we have lost God as the center of our lives. Once we make our love of God the primary focus of our lives and allow His grace to work though us, then no matter what circumstance we encounter in life we will be comforted and embraced in His love. All anxiety disappears. This is the aim of the Orthodox way of life––To put God first and seek the Holy Spirit. The anxieties of modern life are only symptoms of our separation from God.

Saint Theophan the Recluse adds the following about anxiety:

Are you thinking of arranging your life on your own, through your own efforts and abilities, as if that was what you were told? Take a look, and if this is indeed the case, rush to correct it. With this attitude you will not get rid of your confusion....Seek the help of your spiritual father, participate int he sacraments of the Church, follow the fasting guidelines, read holy Scripture daily, and have a firm rule of daily prayer.

Elder Paisios
Reference: With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man, p 167-168

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Be ready, for we do not know when the Lord will come for us...( St. John Maximovitch )

Stand fast on spiritual watch, because you don’t know when the Lord will call you to Himself. In your earthly life be ready at any moment to give Him an account. Beware that the enemy does not catch you in his nets, that he not deceive you causing you to fall into temptation. Daily examine your conscience; try the purity of your thoughts, your intentions. 

There was a king who had a wicked son. Having no hope that he would change for the better, the father condemned the son to death. He gave him a month to prepare.
The month went by, and the father summoned the son. To his surprise he saw that the young man was noticeably changed: his face was thin and drawn, and his whole body looked as if it had suffered.

“How is it that such a transformation has come over you, my son?” the father asked.
“My father and my lord,” replied the son, “how could I not change when each passing day brought me closer to death?”
“Good, my son,” remarked the king. “Since you have evidently come to your senses, I shall pardon you. However, you must maintain this vigilant disposition of soul for the rest of your life.”
“Father,” replied the son, “that’s impossible. How can I withstand the countless seductions and temptations?”

Then the king ordered that a vessel be brought, full of oil, and he told his son:

“Take this vessel and carry it along all the streets of the city. Following you will be two soldiers with sharp swords. If you spill so much as a single drop they will cut off your head.”

The son obeyed. With light, careful steps, he walked along all the streets, the soldiers accompanying him, and he did not spill a drop.
When he returned to the castle, the father asked,

“My son, what did you see as you were walking through the city?”
“I saw nothing.”
“What do you mean, ‘nothing’?” said the king.
“Today is a holiday; you must have seen the booths with all kinds of trinkets, many carriages, people animals…”
“I didn’t notice any of that,” said the son. “All my attention was focussed on the oil in the vessel. I was afraid to spill a drop and thereby lose my life.”
“Quite right, my son,” said the king. “Keep this lesson in mind for the rest of you life. Be as vigilant over your soul as you were today over the oil in the vessel. Turn your thoughts away from what will soon pass away, and keep them focused on what is eternal. You will be followed not by armed soldiers but by death to which we are brought closer by every day. Be very careful to guard your soul from all ruinous temptations.”

The son obeyed his father, and lived happily.

Watch, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. (I Cor. 16:13).

The Apostle gives Christians this important counsel to bring their attention to the danger of this world, to summon them to frequent examination of their hearts, because without this one can easily bring to ruin the purity and ardor of one’s faith and unnoticeably cross over to the side of evil and faithlessness.
Just as a basic concern is to be careful of anything that might be harmful to our physical health, so our spiritual concern should watch out for anything that might harm our spiritual life and the work of faith and salvation. Therefore, carefully and attentively assess your inner impulses: are they from God or from the spirit of evil? Beware of temptations from this world and from worldly people; beware of hidden inner temptations which come from the spirit of indifference and carelessness in prayer, from the waning of Christian love.
If we turn our attention to our mind, we notice a torrent of successive thoughts and ideas. This torrent is uninterrupted; it is racing everywhere and at all times: at home, in church, at work, when we read, when we converse. It is usually called thinking, writes Bishop Theophan the Recluse, but in fact it is a disturbance of the mind, a scattering, a lack of concentration and attention. The same happens with the heart. Have you ever observed the life of the heart? Try it even for a short time and see what you find.
Something unpleasant happens, and you get irritated; some misfortune occurs, and you pity yourself; you see someone whom you dislike, and animosity wells up within you; you meet one of your equals who has now outdistanced you on the social scale, and you begin to envy him; you think of your talents and capabilities, and you begin to grow proud… All this is rottenness: vainglory, carnal desire, gluttony, laziness, malice-one on top of the other, they destroy the heart.
And all of this can pass through the heart in a matter of minutes. For this reason one ascetic, who was extremely attentive to himself, was quite right in saying that
“man’s heart is filled with poisonous serpents. Only the hearts of saints are free from these serpents, the passions.”
But such freedom is attained only through a long and difficult process of self-knowledge, working on oneself and being vigilant towards one’s inner life, i.e., the soul.
Be careful. Watch out for your soul! Turn your thoughts away from what will soon pass away and turn them towards what is eternal. Here you will find the happiness that your soul seeks, that your heart thirsts for. 

(Translated from Pravoslavnaya Rus) and taken from
ORTHODOX AMERICA, Vol. XIV, No. 2-3, September-October, 1993

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Heart must be soft, the heart must be warm ( Father Seraphim Rose )

We should not think we can be hard and cold and correct and still be Christians. Being correct is external side of Christianity. It's important but not of first importance. Of primary importance is the heart. The heart must be soft, the heart must be warm. If we do not have this warm heart, we have to ask God to give it, and we have to try ourselves to do those things by which we can acquire it.

One thing that can save us is simplicity. It can be ours in our hearts if we pray to God to make us simple; if we just do not think of ourselves so wise...

As soon as you begin to hear or think to yourself critical statements [about people in the Church], you have to stop and warn yourself that, even it its true––because often those statements are true to some degree––this critical attitude is a very negative thing. It will not get you anywhere. ...remember not to judge, not to think you're so wise that you know better. On the contrary, try to learn perhaps without words, from some of those people whom you might be critical of....
If we follow the simple path––distrusting our own wisdom, doing the best we can with our mind, yet realizing that our mind, without warmth of heart, is a very weak tool––then an Orthodox philosophy of life will begin to be formed in us.

Father Seraphim Rose

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Every person will receive a new body during the Second Coming ( St. Epifanios, Bishop of Cyprus )

Life After DeathGod, the Creator of all things, ordered and arranged all things superbly, just like a large city. He embellished everything by the word of His commandment. He composed each object from the appropriate elements and made each animal distinctly different, so that the universe may become perfectly replete with beauty through the existence of a vast array of living organisms. God filled the heavens with stars, the air with birds, the earth with animals, and the oceans with fish. Lastly, He created man, after He prepared everything for him like a spectacular home, and He ushered man, this likeness and replica of His own image,into the world, as if placing an exquisite statue, which He just finished constructing with His own hands, into a resplendent temple.
God certainly knew that whatever He would fashion with His own hands would necessarily be immortal, since it would be the work of Immortality. Immortality creates immortal things, just as evil generates evil things, and injustice gives rise to unjust things. It is not an act of righteousness to be unrighteous; this is an act of unrighteousness. Similarly, it is not an act of injustice to carry out justice; this is an act of justice. In corruption does not produce corruption—corruption does. Likewise, corruption does not produce immortality—immortality does. In brief, as with the above examples, everything that is created is necessarily similar to its creator. God is immortality, and life, and in corruption. Man has been created by God. Everything that is created by immortality is immortal; hence, man is immortal. This is exactly why God Himself fashioned man. In contrast, He merely commanded that all the other species of animals be brought forth from the air, the earth, and the water. “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that have life, and fowl that may fly above the earth” (Gen. 1:20), He said. And, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature after its kind” (Gen. 1:24). 
However, when it came to man, God no longer said “Let the earth bring forth,” or “Let the waters bring forth,” but, “Let Us make man in Our image and likeness” (Gen. 1:26). And “God took the dust of the ground and formed man, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gen. 2:7). By definition, a true human being consists of both a soul and a body united in one harmonious person. Because neither the soul without a body nor the body without a soul can be called a human being."God created man in his own image; in the image of God He created him" (Gen. 1:27). Thus He showed concern for His own statue, desiring for it to remain forever and not be easily destroyed or corrupted. Something similar takes place with artists who create statues. Such craftsmen not only pay close attention to ensure that they create statues that are beautiful, appealing, exquisite, and impressive, but they also, as much as they possibly can, seek to transmit immortality to their works of art, and desire to preserve them unchanged throughout time. This is what Phideas did with the idol of Zeus at Olympia.As soon as he completed the figure (which he sculpted from ivory), he ordered that oil be poured around both legs of the statue, in order to preserve it ageless in perpetuity, as much as possible.
If artists and sculptors desire for the works they produce to endure forever, wouldn't God, Who creates magnificent works of art, Who is capable of all things and Who creates things out of nothing, wouldn't He want much more for man, His rational statue, to remain indestructible and immortal? Would He have allowed man, whom He created with His own hands and shaped in His own image and likeness, who is the adornment of the world and for whom the world was created, to decompose in such a lamentable manner and be handed over to demise and corruption? Not at all!God created man to be in corrupt and rendered Him an image of His own eternal character. For as the Wisdom of Solomon attests, “God did not make death; neither hath He pleasure in the destruction of the living” (Sol. 1:13). Rather, “Through the envy of the devil came death into the world” (Sol. 2:24). Death was then found as a means of correction and rectification. 
Man became utterly defiled and marred when he rejected God’s commandment, and he developed many evil blemishes, which the devil and father of deception conceived in order to have man ceaselessly think of and be inclined toward unrighteousness. Seeing that an eternal evil had arisen through the ploy of the deceiver, God cloaked man with death, so that, through the decomposition of the body, all the evil that had taken root within it could die and disappear. For death is nothing other than the separation of the soul from the body.God did not exile man from Paradise because He did not want him to eat and reap life from the tree (for man would have lived forever as soon as he ate from the tree of life), but so that evil would not become eternal.  Because if God wanted man to die once and for all without tasting life, why did He send Christ to the earth from the heavens? To contend that God did this because He regretted [sentencing man to death], is a feeble argument. God is neither oblivious of the future nor malicious; on the contrary, He is perfectly good, and He knows everything that will take place in the future. Therefore, He did not exile man from Paradise in order to prevent him from eating from the tree of life and impede him from remaining alive forever, but in order to first mortify sin through death [of the body], and subsequently, after the death of man and the dissolution of sin, for man to be resurrected pure and immaculate, and thus partake of life.To assert that the body is unable to receive immortality is absurd and blasphemy. 
Why was Adam exiled (after being cloaked with coats of skins (Gen. 3:21)) and impeded from eating from the tree of life if it was impossible for man to live eternally with his body? He was impeded precisely because it was possible for him not to die had he tasted from this tree: "And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of Us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever. Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So He drove out Adam (Gen. 3:22-24). Hence, it was possible for man to live had he not been prevented from tasting of immortality. He was prevented, however, in order for sin to perish as it was sentenced to death along with the body, and so that the body could be resurrected once sin had been destroyed. 
God decided to cloak man with death so that man would not become an eternal evil, as we have already stated, having within himself sin as a reigning and everlasting entity; for sin would have taken root in an immortal body and would have had a source of everlasting nourishment. Thus, the purpose of the coats of skins was for sin to be utterly destroyed, through the decomposition of the body, so that not even a small rootlet would be left behind from which new shoots of sin would be able to emerge again.Oftentimes, certain fig trees growing next to beautifully constructed temples have extended their roots like a network through the joints in the walls and displaced the stones from their proper positions. The damage resulting from this proliferating tree will not cease until it is thoroughly uprooted, at which time the branches that have grown into the structure will also whither. Afterwards, once the fig tree's branches have been removed, it is possible to reposition the stones in their original and correct location. Thus, the temple will be restored without any remnants of the damage it had previously sustained, while the fig tree will die after it has been completely uprooted. Similarly, God, Who engineered and built His own temple (i.e., man) cut down and eradicated sin, which had sprouted like a wild fig tree, through the use of a temporary means, namely death, in order for the body to be resurrected immortal and unblemished once sin has withered, perished, and completely vanished. 
Before the body dies, and for as long as it lives, sin co-exists, concealing within it its roots, even though it is cut back and pruned externally with self-control and the word of God. Otherwise, if sin were completely and truly removed from us after baptism, we would never commit any wrongdoing again. However, even after believing in Christ and receiving the bath of purification, we often find ourselves sinning. Thus, no one can boast that he is without sin, or that he has never even thought of something unrighteous. Hence, at present it is possible to control and subdue sin through faith so that harmful fruits do not grow; nevertheless, it is not possible to totally pull up the roots. At present we control the shoots of sin (i.e., the evil thoughts) by cutting them as if with an axe, so that no root of bitterness springs up and plagues us (Heb. 12:15); after the body is resurrected, the ability to even think of something evil will disappear.
The Apostle Paul, realizing that the root of sin has not yet been removed from man, states the following: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I want to do, I do not do; but the evil that I do not want to do, that I do. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wants to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members (Rom. 7:18-22). Hence, sin has not yet been eradicated; it has not yet altogether died, but it still lives. How would it have been possible for sin to have been completely destroyed and abolished if man had not first been cloaked with death, thus allowing sin, like a plant, to whither away with the body, wherein it hid its roots, and enabling man to be resurrected once more no longer having any embedded roots of bitterness? 
Death was used by God, our defender and true physician, as an antidote to uproot and abolish sin, so that evil would not eternally dwell within us (since it would have sprouted in an immortal body), and so that we would not remain crippled and alienated from virtue (since we would forever carry the terrible sickness of sin within everlasting and immortal bodies). 
For this reason, God very ingeniously used death as a medicinal means of purification, in order to save both the soul and the body, so that we may thus be rendered immaculate and flawless.It is similar to a craftsman who decides to melt down an exceptionally beautiful and perfectly symmetric gold statue that he constructed, after suddenly witnessing that it has been vandalized by a certain malicious and envious man who could not stand to see the statue's splendor, and who consequently damaged it in order to satisfy his jealousy and derive empty pleasure. If the craftsman wants to restore his work to its initial beauty and perfection, it is necessary for it to be dismantled and melted down again, so that all the deformities and mutilations that resulted from the assaults of jealousy can be obliterated, while the statue is recreated again to the exact same shape and form, free of imperfections and damage. The craftsman does not intend to destroy the statue, even though it is melted to its elemental form; rather, the intention is to restore it and eliminate the scars.
It seems to me that our God decided to do the same thing with us. For when He saw that His most-noble and splendid sculpture, man, had been severely injured by the malicious assaults and envy [of the devil], He, as a compassionate Being, could not bear to abandon man in this state, eternally blemished with an everlasting flaw; rather, He proceeded to breakdown the human body into it’s elemental constituents. Thus, in the first case a statue is melted down; in the second case, the body dies and decomposes. The purpose of the former is to reshape and renew a precious metal; the purpose of the latter is to resurrect [the body]. This is what the prophet Jeremiah affirms as well with the following words: "Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he was forming something of wet clay upon the stones. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter. So he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter?’ says the Lord. ‘Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hands’" (Jer. 18:3-6). Pay close attention to how the mighty hand of the Lord did not wish to abandon man, His own work, in deception after suffering unjustly from the evil-doer. On the contrary, He softened and wet the clay just as a potter remolds clay in order to remove through this reworking all the blemishes and cracks and make it entirely new, flawless, and pleasing. "Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?" (Rom. 9:21). It seems to me that the Apostle is saying: Doesn't God have the power to use the same matter to reconstruct and to rejuvenate every person, so that they are resurrected either unto honor and glory, or dishonor and condemnation? Unto dishonor for them who lived in sin; unto honor for them who lived with righteousness, just as it was revealed to the Prophet Daniel: "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament" (Dan. 12:2-3). How is death not beneficial, since it eradicates all the things that ravage our human nature? But so that we do not repeat the same things over and over again, let us confirm this by examining the Ode in the book of Deuteronomy.
When God says, “I will kill, and I will make alive; I will wound and I will also heal. And there is no one who will deliver out of My hands” (Dt. 32:39), what else is He trying to teach us other than that the body is first killed and dies precisely for this reason: so that it may again be resurrected and live? It is first struck and shattered so that it may again be recreated healthy and whole. And there is nothing at all that can deliver and snatch[man] from the great and mighty hand of the Lord, in order to destroy and eliminate him: not fire, not death, not darkness, not chaos, not even corruption.God did not adorn the entire creation in vain, but in order for it to remain forever, just as the book of Wisdom attests: “For He created all things that they might exist, and the generations of the world so they might be preserved, and there is no poison of death in them” (Sol. 1:14). 
The Apostle Paul clearly affirms the same when he states, “The earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:19-21). Hence, the creation joyfully awaits to be restored to a better and more beautiful state, and it rejoices as it looks forward to the resurrection of God’s children, with whom it “groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Rom. 8:22). It does so in expectation of our deliverance (and the deliverance of even the body itself) from corruption, when we will cast away the mortality of the flesh as we are resurrected, according to the scriptural verse: “Shake off the dust and rise up. Sit down, O Jerusalem” (Isa. 52:2). And as the Apostle confirms:“Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23). Why then did God not make man an angel, if He desired man to become an angel instead of a human being? Was He perhaps unable to do so? To make such a claim is blasphemy. Did He perhaps put off making something better in order to create something worse first. This is also implausible. God does not err when it comes to creating what is good, nor does He postpone, nor is He incapable. Rather, He has the power of doing what He wants when He wants. And so, He created man in the beginning, desiring for him to be and to remain a human being. If God desired this, and if He desires what is good, then, it follows, that man is good; and man is comprised of both a soul and a body. 
Hence, man is not body-less, but he has a body, so that he does not turn into something other than a human being. It is necessary for God to preserve all the immortal beings He created as they are. 
For, as the Wisdom of Solomon states, “God created man for immortality and made him an image of His own eternity” (Sol. 2:23). Hence, the human body will not vanish; for man consists of a soul and a body.
Pay attention to how the Lord teaches this very same thing to the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection of the body. In order to discount the teaching of the resurrection of the body, “the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection,” states the Gospel, “came to Him” (Mt. 22:23), and they posed a question to Christ concerning a certain lady who was supposedly married to seven brothers. If there will be no resurrection of the body, and if only man’s soul will be saved, then Christ would have agreed with them and admitted that their way of thinking was proper and correct. However, He responded thus:“In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in Heaven” (Mt. 22:30). He said this not because people will not have a body, but because they will thereafter live in in corruption, no longer being married or given unto marriage. 
Just as the angels in Heaven, we also will dwell in Paradise no longer occupied with weddings, but with beholding God, and reaping life, as Christ presides over us. He did not say “they will become angels,” but “as angels”; that is, “crowned with glory and honor; differing a little than the angels” (Ps. 8:6), and very close to being angels.Therefore, it is most illogical to conclude that the bodies of the saints will not be resurrected because Christ states that they will appear as angels during the Resurrection. The word “resurrection” itself clearly indicates that this event will indeed occur. For, a resurrection takes place not when something has not fallen, but it occurs when something that has —fallen rises up again, just as when the prophet states, “I shall raise up the fallen tabernacle of David” (Amos 9:11). What falls is that which dies, not that which does not die. The body dies; for the soul is immortal. If then the soul is immortal, whereas the body is what lies dead, they who believe in the resurrection but simultaneously maintain that man will be without a body in fact deny the resurrection. For not what is standing, but that which has fallen is raised up, according to the scriptural verse, “Will not he who falls arise? Or he who turns away, will he not return?” (Jer. 8:4).

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The moment of death ( St. Luke the Surgeon of Simferopol )

 Before David became the King of Israel, he was a servant of King Saul. Since Saul knew that David would someday take his throne, he attempted to kill him. Once when his life was in danger, the Prophet David said to those who were his supporters: “I am only one step away from death.At one time I was almost dead.I hardly had a pulse and my heart almost stopped beating.But the Lord was merciful to me and I am still weak and I am able to speak to you only in a seated position.I wish to tell you something very important about this. I want to talk to you about being cognizant of death because it is very close to each one of us, as it was close to me last Saturday.Anyone of us can die suddenly at a time when it is unexpected.You should know that the lives of many people are ended abruptly.”

Remember always—engrave the name of the Lord in your hearts.Always remember this and do not ever forget it.When people prepare to go for a long walk or start a new chore, they gird themselves for the effort.And when they walk in the darkness of night they carry with them a lantern and this is very important because it must always light our way.

The same thing is true about our spiritual lives.We must gird ourselves and keep our lanterns lit.We must be untiring workers of God and we must struggle against Satan who tries at every turn to hinder us from reaching Christ. He tries to kill us with temptations.This is why the Lord Jesus gave us this command: “They encircled us while we had our lanterns burning.”

We must never forget that earthly life has been given to us so that we can prepare for eternal life. Our fate in eternal life will be judged and based on how we have lived our lives in this world.

You should be faithful to Christ.You should be faithful to the way of life He has shown you in the Book of Revelations written by John the Apostle and Evangelist.He tells us in that book: “Become faithful until death and you will be given the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:8).  We must be faithful to God.We must serve God tirelessly every day, every hour and every moment of our lives.Our life is short, we cannot waste the few hours, days, and years living our lives aimlessly.We should always think about the hour of our death.

All of the holy ascetics always remembered the hour of their death.It was part of their daily prayer life.They even had human skulls in their cells to remind them of their own death.They would look at them with tears in their eyes knowing that they too would follow in their footsteps.They served God tirelessly and worked for the Lord just like St. Seraphim of Sarov did.They would remember every day the words of the 33rd psalm which is read at the vesper service: “The death of the sinners is evil.”Just like you, they also remember the following words: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 16:5). Sinners have a great fear of death and I have seen many examples of this in my life.But there is one particular incident that I witnessed forty years ago that made such a deep impression on me that I will never forget it.

At that time I was a provincial doctor and I was invited to the home of a very evil man.As I entered his house I was startled by the great deal of turmoil that I found there.People in the house were running all over the place.An old man was lying on a bed. His face was very red and as soon as he saw me enter the room he began to yell out at me saying: “Doctor, I beg you to save me.I am dying, I realize now that I will die.”

Where was this man before this moment in life?What was he thinking when he was terrorizing so many people during his life?What was he thinking when he was taking all the people’s money?Now death had arrived.It is here and it is too late now to say: “I am dying, and I realize that I will die.” He should have lived his life knowing someday that he would die so that he would not now be prepared for death.

Who is there in the world that does not fear death? Only he who follows Christ and lives by His commandments does not fear death because he knows the promises made by Jesus Christ in the Beatitudes: “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” (Mt 5:12).

The deaths of the saints were completely different from those of us who lack faith. St. Seraphim of Sarov died while kneeling in front of an icon of the Holy Mother to whom he always prayed.He fell asleep in the Lord on his knees for precious was his death in the eyes of the Lord.

Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us: “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtakes you.”(John 12:35). While you are alive you still have the Light of Jesus Christ. In life you still have the ability to go to Church to hear the commandments of God and to hear the words of Scriptures.You should walk in that Light because when death comes, the Light will go out for you.This is so because beyond the grave, there is no remission of sins and you will receive your reward in accordance to the good deeds that you did in life.

Therefore, walk in the Light while you have the Light so that you will not be overwhelmed by the darkness, the eternal darkness of death.St. Paul the Apostle says: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
(2 Cor. 6:2). Now that we are living is the acceptable time for our salvation.Now, we should think about our salvation and to prepare ourselves for eternal life.That is what all Christians do, all those who love Christ.

Seventy years ago a doctor lived in St. Petersburg, Russia. His name was Gaaz.He had been assigned to serve the needs of those in jail.He had a very kind heart.He had a heart full of compassion and he loved all people.In his position as a doctor to those in jail, he did everything in his power to help these unfortunate people. He saw the prisoners being sent off to far away prisons in chains.He knew that they would be forced to walk thousands of miles until they reached the jails in Siberia and his compassionate heart went out to them.In order for him to feel their pain, he also wore chains on his feet and walked for hours around the yard of his home.When he was on his death bed, this holy man and physician said to the people around him the following miraculous words, words that all of us should keep in our hearts.“You should make it a priority in your lives to do good deeds for people.It is urgent for you to do this because death awaits all of us.Do not be frivolous in your lives.You should be faithful to Christ until death and God will give you the crown of life.”

The Prophet Isaiah said something which we also should remember and imprint it upon our hearts.“Be troubled you complacent ones; strip your lives bare, and gird sackcloth on your waists.” (Isaiah 32:11).

Tremble and remember death.You should always remember the time when you will leave this life and do not ever forget it.In order for us to have this mindset, and to follow Jesus Christ, we need the help of God.Without this help we will not be able to defeat the temptations of Satan.This is why we should ask God to send us Divine Grace.

Lord, have mercy on us sinners. Lord help us.

We should entreat Jesus like the idol worshiping woman did as you heard today in the Gospel reading.She was a Canaanite woman and when she saw Christ with His disciples she began calling after Him and entreating Him with the following request: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David, my daughter is severely demon-possessed.” (Mt. 15:20). But the Lord did not pay any attention to her and He silently continued his journey.The woman continued to entreat Him but He would not answer her.Finally His disciples said to Him: “Send her away, for she cries after us.” (Mt. 15:23).And the Lord answered: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” (Mt.15:24).

The woman continued to entreat Him. What did the Lord say to her?“It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” Mt. 15:26.And in response he heard an astounding answer filled with humbleness and compassion.“True Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” (Mt. 15:27), give me a crumb from your mercy.The Lord stopped when He heard this and said to her: “O woman, great is your faith.Let it be to you as you desire and her daughter was healed from that very hour.” (Mt.15:28).

Many of us live a life that is not consistent with the Christian message.Many of us are burdened with various sins.Many of us have forgotten the Word of God which says: “The sting of death is sin.” (1 Cor. 15:56). Death wounds the person who becomes a slave to sin.Then, if we are weak and if the garments of our souls are all black with sins aren’t we like the dogs?Shouldn’t we also shout unto Christ as the Canaanite woman did: “Lord, I am like a dog, have mercy on me!” “You have girded me with strength for battle and the lanterns are lit around me. Amen.”

St. Luke of Simferopol