Arizona's Holy Elder's Warning of the Imminence of Death and the Darkness that Will Follow It If the Soul Is Not Prepared

Originally appeared at: Orthodox Ethos

Elder Ephraim says:

Oh, how much the memory of death should flourish in the soul of the Christian! Since he believes in the real truth, it is impossible for him to ignore death.

After my Elder's heart condition had passed, he wept and recited a line from the funeral service: "Alas, what a struggle the soul has as it parts from the body!" Indeed, this is the truth! How beautifully the psalmist expresses what peace a prepared soul has: "I prepared myself and was not troubled." [1]

At any moment, every soul can expect the telegram from Heaven to break off all relations with earthly things, to seal the time of this "fair," to render an exact account of his spiritual trading, and to seal his eternal fate either in the heights of Heaven or the depths of hell.

Ah, when I reflect upon this, what can I say! May the all-compassionate God be merciful to my wretched soul, which has nothing but its indifference and unreadiness. My mind stops when it contemplates this absolute truth about salvation.

Eternity—oh, what a great mystery! The world, the flesh, and the devil lead us astray and throw us into forgetfulness—and suddenly a voice is heard: "Behold, the Bridegroom comes!" When we are breathing our last, what preparation can we make then, when our conscience has already been cauterized and can no longer feel anything or cry out to us? Then the voice of truth is heard: "Only when the sun was setting did you remember God; what were you doing all day long when the sun was shining?"

"Watch and be ready,” [2] cries our Jesus! Blessed are those who have ears to hear, who hear and get ready, for they will be counted worthy of eternal happiness. Blessed are those servants whom the Lord will find ready when He comes, for they will rejoice eternally.

Let us patiently endure the sorrows of life, that we may attain the eternal things full of joy. "In vain does every mortal trouble himself; as soon as we conquer the world, we dwell in the tomb." [3] As long as there is light, let us walk towards our great destination, for the hour is coming when there will be darkness, and then we shall no longer be able to work for our soul.

[1] Psalm 118:60

[2] cf Matthew 24:43-44

[3] from the funeral service

- Elder Ephraim (2016). Counsels from the Holy Mountain: Selected from the Letters and Homilies of Elder Ephraim (2nd ed.). Saint Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery. p. 148-149.

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