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.
ON THE DEPARTURE OF THE SOUL ACCORDING TO THE TEACHING OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH (Part III)
"Death must find us ready."
By Elder Ephraim of Arizona
After death, eternity follows. Every person at a certain moment will abandon his body on the earth and proceed with his soul to eternity, to the life that has no end. Man's soul will remain without the body until the Second Coming of Christ, at which time the bodies of both the righteous and the unrighteous will be resurrected in order to be judged. It is a fact that after death, man's soul is separated from the body and lives in a unique state.
For this reason, we should--and I first--seriously take into account this reality and regulate our life accordingly. Let us correct our lives in order to avoid eternal Hell and instead acquire (through God's mercy and compassion) the Kingdom of Heaven. We must take a long, hard look at our salvation and realize that it is not a game; it is not something we can ignore; it is not a joke.
Let us stare our salvation straight in the eyes, no matter how alarming or disconcerting it is. Let us correct our life. Let us thank God from the depth of our heart, and let us offer Him praise and doxology because we are still alive and we can amend the matters related to our soul and prepare ourselves. We do not know, as we see in practice, the day, the hour, or the moment of our departure from the world. Let us do our prayer rule. Let us not neglect our vigil. Let us not be sluggish when it comes to attending church and the Divine Liturgy. Let us love one another, because love is God, and "he who abides in love, abides in God and God in him" (1 John 4:16). Who loves God? He who keeps His Commandments. The first and foremost Commandment of God is to love God: the second, to love our neighbor and brother.
Let us condemn and humble ourselves before God. Let us humble ourselves before our Crucified Christ and beseech Him for forgiveness. Let us correct ourselves so that our petition for His Divine Blood to wash and cleanse us, and for His death to become life for us may be fulfilled. We must thank God from the depth of our heart for keeping us alive until now and granting us time to correct ourselves.
We leave from this world and we go to the other world. The afflictions of this world, because they are temporary and short-lived, are insignificant compared to the reward for these pains which is given in the other world. However, they frequently appear to us as very heavy, unbearable, and never-ending. This reveals our human weakness and also the work of the devil, who presents things to us in a different way to surely lead us to despair and the hopeless thought that the torments will never end. But they do end, and often in a moment of time. And immediately, with the closing of our eyes, in front of us opens the theoria, the reality of the spiritual world. While before we were seeing people, immediately now, in a moment, we see spirits either bright or dark, either Angels or demons.
As soon as the eyes of the flesh close, the eyes of the soul open instantly and the person sees those things that he could not see previously with the eyes of the body. Death is the bridge that transports us from this world to the other.
We must undertake the right struggle, the correct confronting of this reality that we are here temporarily and we are departing to the other world for eternity. Here we perceive Christ with the feeling of our soul. There, if the mercy of God saves us, we will see Him face to face.
The soul that struggles, that persists, that believes with unshakable faith in the existence of God, in the other life, in the days of grace, feels that she is armed with the weapons of the Light, of grace, of Divine eros. She feels as if she is standing before the Throne of God ready to do battle against those who oppose Him Whom she worships and champions. Sometimes she also feels dressed as the bride of the Heavenly Bridegroom, adorned with the beauty of Heaven and possessed of the love and the yearning for when she will be united eternally with the Heavenly Bridegroom.
May our Good God enlighten each one of us and give us the strength to settle and arrange any outstanding debts. Let us exert ourselves; let us not be negligent. The present life is not a time for negligence and procrastination.
No one is sinless except Our Holy God. No holy person left the earth without some small sin; however, this did not impede their salvation and holiness. This is why only God is sinless. The great Fathers advise us to depart having committed as few sins as possible. Insignificant sins do not hinder our salvation. For when the scale pan is full of virtue, it will tip the scale, and these small sins will be tossed into the air.
May God, through His infinite mercy, permit all of us to be found together in the joy and bliss of His eternal Kingdom. (Source: Elder Ephraim, The Art of Salvation)
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"-- Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God