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A Return from the Dead in Contemporary Greece

by Archimandrite [now Metropolitan] Cyprian

Herewith I am sending you an account of a person know who died and returned to life, which I think you will find interesting as an example for your series of articles.

About four years ago, we received a call to take Holy Communion to an old lady, a widow living in a suburb of Athens. She was an old calendarist, and being almost bedridden, was unable to get to church. Though normally we do not undertake such services outside the monastery, and would direct people to a parish priest, nonetheless on this occasion I had a special feeling that I should go, and having prepared the Holy Gifts, I set out from the monastery. I found the old lady lying ill in a small and poor room; having no means of her own, she was cared for by various kind neighbors who brought her food and other necessities. I set down the Holy Gifts, and asked her if there was anything she wished to confess. She replied, "No, there is nothing on my conscience from these past years which I have not already confessed, but there is one grave sin from years ago which I would like to tell you, even though I have confessed it to many priests." I replied that if she had already confessed it, she should not do so again. But she insisted, and what she had to tell is as follows:

When she was young and newly married, some 35 years before, she became pregnant at a time when her family was in the greatest financial straits. The other members of the family pressed her to have an abortion, but she refused absolutely. Eventually, however, due to the threats of her mother-in-law, she gave in against her will, and the operation was performed. The medical supervision of the illicit operation was very primitive with the result that she caught a serious infection, and within the space of a few days died, without being able to confess her sin.

At the moment of death, which occurred in the evening, she felt her soul part from the body in the way that is usually described; her soul remained nearby and watched the body being washed, clothed and placed in the coffin. In the morning, she followed the procession to the church, watched the funeral, and saw the coffin loaded into the hearse for transfer to the cemetery. The soul was as though flying a small height above the body.

Suddenly there appeared in the road two "deacons," as she described them, in shining white sticharia and oraria. One of them was reading a scroll. As the car approached, he held up his hand, and the car ground to a halt. The driver got out to see what was wrong with the motor, and in the meanwhile the angels started to converse. The one holding the scroll which was clearly the record of her sins, looked up from his reading and said: "It is sad, she has a very serious sin on her list, and is bound for hell, since she did not confess it." "Yes," said the other, "but it is a pity that she should be punished, as she did not want to do it, but was forced into it by her family." "Very well," replied the First, "the only thing to do is to send her back to be able to confess her sin and repent of it."

With these words, she felt herself being drawn back into her body, for which at that moment she felt an indescribable disgust and repulsion. After a moment, she came to, and started to knock on the inside of the coffin, which had been closed. The scene that followed can be imagined.

After hearing her history, which I have set forth in brief. I gave her Holy Communion, and departed giving glory to God who had permitted me to hear it. Being a matter of confession, I cannot tell you her name, but can inform you that she is still alive. If you feel it would be edifying, you certainly have my permission to publish it.

From The Soul After Death, by Fr. Seraphim Rose, 1980, pp.232-4.