The older I grow, the more I perceive the instability, the vanity of earthly things. Oh, why do we trouble ourselves in vain with all these things? Our life is short - dust, ashes, a dream - and in a little while, we shall taste corruption.
Elder Ephraim of Mt. Athos and Arizona
Today you have your health, and tomorrow you lose it, today you are laughing, and tomorrow you are sullen. Now your eyes are shedding tears from an abundance of joy, and soon they will be shedding tears from pain and grief, today the economy is stable, and tomorrow misfortune strikes, today you receive good news, and in a little while bad news replaces it. In vain we trouble ourselves, life is a shadow and a dream.
Where are our parents, our siblings, our grandparents? The tomb has received them all, they have all decayed and have been eaten by worms. The tomb and decay await us also!
Ah, ah, death - bitter is your remembrance. Our Christ has given us the power to become sons and daughters of God by arming us with so many divine weapons to fight our relentless enemy. But we - and I - above all, become prisoners of our enemy by neglecting the weapons Christ gave us, and as we approach death we tremble in agony and try by every means to prolong our life, because the soul is afraid to leave the body. Why is it afraid? Why does it not take courage as a child of God? Is it going perhaps to a foreign king? But the king is its Maker, its Savior, Who shed His blood in order to redeem our soul from its enemy.
Why then does it fear and lack courage?
Death is inherently cold - "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even to death" said our Jesus. Yes death is cold by nature. But unfortunately, most of the fear comes from the conscience: the conscience does not assure the soul that it has lived properly, it has not put itself in order, it has not washed its wedding garment, and so it is ashamed to present itself to the King, thinking about what the verdict will be: yes or no? Will I be saved or not? If, however, the soul leaves without having confessed and without having repented completely, then woe - this is the evil day the prophet Jeremiah hints at. Let us pray that our holy God will deliver us from this by giving us complete repentance, worthy works of repentance, works of mercy and love, and a spirit of repentance with true humility, so that the just Judge may be merciful towards us, so that when the fearful hour of death comes, the soul will take courage in the mercy of God and say,
I trust in God. That He will have mercy on my lowliness.
Amen - so be it.
Glory to Thee our God.
+ Glory to Thee for All Things! +
Counsels from the Holy Mountain - by Elder Ephraim
Elder Archimandrite Ephraim (Moraitis) (born Ioannis Moraitis) (June 24, 1927 - December 7th, 2019) was an archimandrite and former abbot of Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos, spiritual guide of several monasteries on Mount Athos and Greece, and the founder of several monasteries in the United States. He labored in Arizona at St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery.
Elder Ephraim was a hieromonk for 71 years and an elder for more than 50 years. He was a disciple of Saint Joseph the Hesychast of Mount Athos and lived in monastic obedience to him for 12 years until the saint's repose in 1959. Elder Ephraim wrote many books on his experiences and homilies of Saint Joseph.