Russian Saint: Be Afraid of Dying Without Repentance (St. Luke of Crimea)

Originally appeared at:

Enemies constantly pursued the prophet David and tried to kill him many times. Once, being in extreme danger, he said to those around him: “I am only one step away from death.”

I remember these words now because a week ago I had to repeat them. Only one step was between me and death - for several hours I lay completely without a pulse, from minute to minute my heart was ready to stop. But the Lord had mercy on me. True, I still feel weak, so I can only talk to you while sitting. But I want to tell you about remembering the hour of death, for each of us must die, and this can happen suddenly.

Our life is short, we cannot waste short days and hours in carelessness. One must always remember the hour of death and be faithful to Christ as He Himself commanded in Revelation to the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian: when he spoke about the seven Angels of the Asia Minor Churches, He called the bishops of these Churches Angels and said to one of these Angels: Be faithful even to death and I will give you a crown of life (Rev. 2:10).

So in our spiritual life we ​​must always be tireless workers of God, fighters against Satan, who at every step distracts us from Christ, at every step tries to kill us with temptations. Therefore, the Lord commanded us: Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning (Luke 12:35).

Never forget that earthly life was given to you only in order to adequately prepare for eternal life, for as you live this earthly life, so will eternal life be for you.

For all holy ascetics and monks, the memory of the hour of death was persistent and constant. Some of them kept a skull in their cells so that, looking at it, they would always remember death. With tears of contrition, they thought that they too would follow the path of death, and they worked for the Lord. Every day at Vespers they listened to the words of the psalm: The death of sinners is cruel (Ps. 33:22) - and often heard: Honorable before the Lord is the death of His saints (Ps. 116:6).

There are many examples of the cruel death sinners die. But one incident that happened forty years ago is so etched in my memory that I will never forget it. I was a zemstvo doctor, and I was called to the house of an extremely evil [man] known throughout the area. When I entered his house, I was struck by the confusion that reigned there: everyone was knocked off their feet, and on the bed lay a fat old man with a purple face, who, seeing me, screamed: “Father, doctor, save me! I'm scared to death." What were you thinking about before, when you were squeezing the last pennies out of your brothers? Death has come, it is already here, and it’s too late to scream — you had to live in such a way as not to be afraid of it.

He who follows Christ and lives according to His commandments does not fear death, for he knows about the Lord’s testament given in the Beatitudes: Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven (Matthew 5:12). Saints die quite differently from that old [man]. Elder Seraphim of Sarov fell asleep in eternal sleep on his knees before the image of the Most Holy Theotokos, to whom he constantly prayed, and the death of our reverend and God-bearing father Seraphim was honest before the Lord.

Jesus Christ told us: Walk while there is light, so that darkness does not overtake you (John 12:35), for this light will go out for you when the hour of death comes, and there is no longer repentance beyond the grave. There you will receive the retribution that you deserve at your death hour.

Walk in the light while the Lord has vouchsafed you to visit the holy church, while the words of the Apostle Paul apply: Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). While we are alive, we must think about our salvation — this is how all pious Christians prepare for eternal life.

About seventy years ago, Doctor Haaz, a former prison doctor, lived in St. Petersburg. He had a holy heart, full of mercy and love for people. In his position as a prison doctor, he tried his best to ease the lot of the unfortunate prisoners. He saw how convicts were driven away to hard labor in shackles, he knew that they had to walk many thousands of miles to Siberia, and his heart was tormented by pity for them. In order to clearly imagine their torment, he once put shackles on his feet and walked in them around the yard of his house for several hours in a row. Before his death, this kind and holy doctor said amazing words to those around him: “Hurry to do good.” Remember them and hurry up, because the hour of death awaits us all.

Hear also the words of the holy prophet Isaiah: Shudder, you carefree ones, be horrified, you careless ones, throw off your clothes and be naked, and gird up your loins (Isa. 32:11), and follow the path of Christ. For so that the hour of death is not terrible for us, we, the weak, need God’s omnipotent help — without it we will not be able to cope with the temptations of Satan. Therefore, we must tirelessly ask for God’s gracious help.

Many of us live in a way that Christians should not live: we are burdened with sins, we have forgotten the words of God: But the sting of death is sin (1 Cor. 15:56). If we are so weak, if our clothes are black from our sins, don’t we need to constantly cry out to God: “Lord, have mercy on us sinners, Lord, help us!” Amen.

Saint Luke (Voino-Yasenetsky)

  • Shqip
  • العربية
  • English
  • Français
  • Deutsch
  • Bahasa Indonesia
  • Italiano
  • Português
  • Русский
  • Español