My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
PRAYER OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT
Lord God Almighty the God of heavenly Powers and of every human being, You dwell in high heaven, yet look after the humble, You examine the hearts and the inner nature of people and You know well their hidden things; You are the Divine and Uncreated Light for which there is no comparison and no chance to be overshadowed; You Yourself, O Immortal King, accept our prayerful petitions, at this present time of the night, as we take courage, from the multitude of Your Loving-Kindness, to address them to You with unclean lips: Forgive us our transgressions in deed, in word and in thought, which we have knowingly or unknowingly committed. Cleanse us from every defilement of flesh and spirit and make us temples of Your Holy Spirit. Grant us, O Lord, to pass through the whole night of this present life with a vigilant heart and a clear mind, awaiting eagerly for the appearance of the bright and luminous day of Your Only-Begotten Son, our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. On that day He will come again to earth with glory as the Judge of all to render unto each person according to their works. By not lying down and being at rest, but by being vigilant and awake in the practice of His Commandments, may we be found ready to enter with Him into the great joy of the divine bridal chamber of His glory, where there is the never ceasing sound of those rejoicing and the inexpressible delight of those who look upon the ineffable beauty of Your Person. For You are the True Light Who enlightens and sanctifies all things, and all creation in turn praises and glorifies You unto the ages of ages. Amen.
TWO VISIONS OF THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM
Compiled by Archimandrite Panteleimon [Source: Eternal Mysteries Beyond the Grave]
("Of all the visions of the Holy Fathers that are known to us, the most vivid and detailed vision of Paradise is that which appeared to Saint Andrew, a fool-for-Christ, who for two weeks supernaturally contemplated the invisible Paradise. He told his vision to a man who knew his secrets, Nicephorus.")
(We begin where we left off)
"We approached a curtain that shone like lightning. Before it stood great youths who were like flames of fire. Their faces shone more brilliantly than the sun, and in their hands they held fiery weapons. They were surrounded by countless numbers of the heavenly host. The youth who was leading me said, 'When the curtain will be removed and you will see the Lord Christ, bow before the Throne of His Glory.'
When I heard this, I trembled with joy. Horror, but also an inexplicable happiness, filled me. I stood there and looked at the curtain. A fiery hand removed it, and I saw my Lord as the Prophet Isaiah once saw Him, sitting on a high, elevated Throne, surrounded by the Seraphim. He was clothed in a crimson garment, His face was shining with unspeakable Light; with great love He turned His eyes on me.
When I saw Him, I fell on my face before Him and bowed before the radiant and terrifying Throne of His Glory. It is impossible to tell how great a joy filled me when I saw His face. Even now, as I remember this vision, I am filled with indescribable sweetness. I lay before the Lord trembling and amazed at His mercy: how did He allow me, a sinful and impure man, to come before Him and see His Divine beauty?
I was full of great tenderness but also of a realization of my unworthiness. As I contemplated the greatness of my Lord, I repeated to myself the words of the Prophet Isaiah: 'Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Host's' (Isaiah 6:5).
Then I heard how my All-Merciful Creator said to me through His Most-Pure lips three Divine words which filled my heart with such sweetness and burned in me with so great a love for Him that I felt myself melting like wax with the warmth of my spirit; the words of David came to pass for me: 'My heart also in the midst of my body is even like melting wax' (Psalm 21:15).
Then all the hosts of heaven sang a most marvelous song, impossible to recount. Then--I do not know how--I found myself once more walking in Paradise. The thought came to me that I had not seen the Lady, the Most Holy Mother of God. And then I saw a man, brilliantly lit like a cloud, who was carrying a cross. He said to me: 'You wish you had seen here the Most Holy Queen of heavenly hosts? She is not here now. She has gone to troubled world in order to help men and to comfort those of them who are in pain. I would show you her holy abode, but now there is no time: you must return to that place from which you have come. Thus the Lord commands.' When he said this, it seemed to me that I was in that same place where I had been before my vision."
TALE FROM THE HOLY MOUNTAIN
There is a holy tale, preserved by the Father of the Holy Mountain, which tells us how grave the sufferings experienced in hell. There were two friends, one of whom was moved by the word of God to enter a monastery. There he spent his life in tearful penance. The other friend remained in the world, led a life full of distractions, and finally his heart became so hardened that he began insolently to deride the Gospel.
Death came to him in the midst of such life. When his friend the monk learned about his death, he, obeying the dictates of friendships, began to pray to God that the state of his departed friend might be revealed to him.
After some time, when the monk had sunk into a light sleep, his friend appeared to him, 'How are you? Is it well with you?' asked the monk. 'Woe is me! The never-resting worm is consuming me and will give me no rest for all time.'
'What is the suffering of hell like?' the monk continued.
'This suffering is unbearable!' the departed exclaimed, 'But it is impossible to avoid God's anger. Because of your prayers, I have been temporarily set free. If you wish, I shall show you my suffering. Were I to reveal it to you in its entirety, you would not be able to bear the view; but recognize it at least partly.' At these words the dead man raised his clothes to his knees. O horror! His legs were completely covered with frightful worms that were eating his flesh. Such a stench issued from his wounds that the horrified monk instantly woke up. But his whole cell was filled with the hellish stench, and the odor was so strong that the monk in his horror jumped out. But he forgot to close the door, and the stench penetrated the whole monastery. All the cells were filled with it, and time did nothing to take it away. Thus the monks were forced to leave their monastery and to wander to a different place. As for the monk who had seen the prisoner of hell and his terrible suffering, all his life he was unable to free himself from the evil odor that kept clinging to him. He could neither wash it off nor cover it with any perfumes."
[Source: From Eternal Mysteries Beyond the Grave, printed in Russian by the Monastery of Saint Panteleimon on Mt. Athos)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God