My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True 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.
by Nikolai Velimirovich
A devout elder lay on his deathbed. His friends gathered around him and mourned him. With that, the elder (geronda) laughed three times. The monks asked him: "What are you laughing at?" The elder (geronda) replied: "I laughed the first time because all of you are afraid of death; the second time, for none of you are prepared for death; the third time because I am going from labor to rest."
Behold, how a righteous man dies! He is not afraid of death. He is prepared for death. He sees, that through death, he passes from the difficult life to eternal rest.
When the nature of man imagines itself in its original state in Paradise, then death is unnatural, the same way that sin is unnatural. Death emanated from sin. Repented and cleansed from sin, man does not consider death annihilation, but the gate to life eternal.
If, at times, the righteous prayed to God to prolong their earthly life, that was not because of love for this life nor because of the fear of death but solely that they would gain more time for repentance and cleansing from sin in order that they may present themselves before God, more sinless and more pure. Even if they showed fear before death, that was not out of fear of death but the fear of God's judgment. What kind of fear then must the unrepentant sinner have before death?
A man went into the forest to choose a tree from which to make roof-beams. And he saw two trees, one beside the other. One was smooth and tall but had rotted away inside, and the other was rough on the outside and ugly, but its core was healthy. The man sighed and said to himself: "What use is this tree if it is rotten inside and useless for beams? The other if it is rough and ugly is at least healthy on the inside and so, if I put more effort into it, I can use it for roof-beams for my house."
And, without thinking any more about it, he chose that tree to make roof-beams.
So will God choose between two men for His house, and will choose not the one who appears outwardly righteous, but the one whose heart is filled with God's healthy righteousness.
Blessed is the man who uses his sufferings, knowing that all suffering in this life is loosed on men by God in his love for mankind, for the benefit and assistance of men. In His mercy, God looses suffering on men because of their sins--by His mercy and not His justice. For, if it were by His justice, every sin would inevitably bring death, as the Apostle says: "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (St. James 1:15). In place of death, God gives healing through suffering. Suffering is God's way of healing the soul of its sinful leprosy and its death. (Source: Orthodox Heritage)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God