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Excerpts from the Prologue From Ochrid

On Death and the Future Life

Two Visions of St. Andrew the Fool for Christ

FOR CONSIDERATION

A vision of St. Andrew the Fool for Christ: Holy Andrew, walking one day along the streets of Constantinople, saw a great and splendid funeral. A rich man had died, and his cortege was magnificent. But when he looked more closely, Andrew saw a host of little black men capering merrily around the corpse, one grinning like a prostitute, another barking like a dog, a third grunting like a pig, a fourth pouring something filthy over the body. And they were mocking the singers and saying: 'You're singing over a dog!' Andrew, marveling, wondered what this man had done. Turning round, he saw a handsome youth standing weeping behind a wall. 'For the sake of the God of heaven and earth, tell me the reason for your tears', said Andrew. The young man then told him that he had been the dead man's guardian angel, but that the man had, by his sins, greatly offended God, casting his angel's counsel from him and giving himself over utterly to the black demons. And the angel said that this man was a great and unrepentant sinner: a liar, a hater of men, a miser, a shedder of blood and a dissolute man who had turned three hundred souls to immorality. In vain was he honoured by the Emperor and respected by the people. In vain was this great funeral. Death had caught him unrepentant, and the harvest had come without warning.

FOR CONSIDERATION

A vision of St. Andrew the Fool for Christ: St. Paul was not the only one to be caught up into Paradise and hear 'unspeakable words' (II Cor. 12:4). Over eight hundred and fifty years after St. Paul, this happened to St. Andrew. One winter night, holy Andrew was lying among the dogs on a dunghill, to warm his frozen body. An angel appeared to him and caught him up to Paradise (whether in the body or out of the body, Andrew himself was unable to explain) and kept him for two weeks in the heavenly world, bearing him to the third heaven. 'I saw myself clad in shining garments like lightning, with a wreath of flowers on my head and girt with a kingly girdle, and I rejoiced greatly at this beauty, and marveled in mind and heart at the unspeakable loveliness of God's Paradise, and I walked around it with great gladness.'

After that, Andrew writes of how he saw Christ the Lord: 'And when a flaming hand drew aside the curtain, I saw my Lord as the Prophet Isaiah saw Him aforetime, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up and surrounded by seraphim. He was clad in a red garment, His face shone and His eyes rested on me with great kindness. Seeing Him, I fell down before Him, worshipping before the awesome throne of His glory. I have no words for the joy that gripped me at the sight of His face; and now, remembering this vision, I am filled with unspeakable joy. And I heard my most merciful Creator speak three words to me with His most sweet and pure lips, which so sweetened my heart and inflamed it with love for Him that I melted as wax at such spiritual warmth.' When St. Andrew asked also after this if it would be possible to see the most holy Mother of God, it was said to him that she was for the moment not in heaven, but had gone down to earth to be of help to the poor and needy.

From The Prologue From Ochrid, Vol. 4 Lazarica Press, Birmingham, 1986, pp. 15, 18-19.

On the Efficacy of Prayers for the Dead

FOR CONSIDERATION

Love is almighty. It can, among other things, soften the judgement on the souls of departed sinners. The Orthodox Church deliberately emphasizes this, and strives to offer prayers and alms for the dead. Most rich in all spiritual experience, the Church knows that prayers and alms for the dead help them in the other world. St Athanasia the Abbess (April 12th) commanded her nuns to prepare a table for the poor and needy for forty days after her death. The nuns observed this only for ten days, then stopped it. The saint then appeared, accompanied by two angels, and said to the nuns: 'Why have you not carried out my instructions? Know that by alms and the prayers of the priest for the souls of the departed during the forty days, the mercy of God is invoked. If the departed souls are sinful, they receive through these alms God's forgiveness of their sins; and, if they are sinless, then they are efficacious for the forgiveness of those who do the alms.' She is, of course, thinking here of alms and prayers linked with a great love for the souls of the departed. Such alms and prayers are indeed of help.

Ibid., Vol. 3, p. 15.

On the Power of Repentance to Save a Soul

FOR CONSIDERATION

Can a sinner, in the space of ten days, make full repentance of his sin? By the immeasurable grace of God, he can. In the time of the Emperor Maurice, there was a well-known bandit in the region around Constantinople. Both in the countryside and in the capital itself, he inspired fear and trembling. Then the Emperor himself sent him a Cross, as a pledge that he would not punish him if he gave himself up.The bandit took the Cross, and did indeed give himself up. Arriving in Constantinople, he fell at the Emperor's feet and begged his forgiveness. The Emperor kept his word, had mercy on him and let him go free. Immediately after that, the bandit fell gravely ill and sensed that death was near. He began to repent bitterly of all his sins, and implored God with tears to forgive him as the Emperor had. He shed many tears in his prayer, so that the handkerchief with which he wiped them became soaked, and he died after ten days of prayerful weeping. The night of his death, the doctor who had been attending him had a strange vision in a dream: when the bandit on the bed breathed his last, a number of little black men gathered round him, flourishing bits of paper on which his sins were written, and two glorious angels also appeared. A pair of scales was placed in the middle, and the little black men gleefully put all the bits of paper on it, and their side of the scales was loaded while the other was empty. 'What can we put in?', the angels asked each other.'Let's look for something good in his life.' Then there appeared in the hand of one of the angels the handkerchief soaked with tears of repentance. The angels quickly placed it on their side of the scales, and it at once outweighed the other with all its papers. Then the little black men fled, howling in anguish, but the angels took the man's soul and carried it to Paradise, glorifying God's love for mankind.

Ibid., Vol. 4, pp. 81-82.

An Example of How Souls Can Be Rewarded or Punished

FOR CONSIDERATION

Both punishment and reward are in the hands of God. But, as this earthly life is but a shadow of the true life of heaven, so punishment and reward here on earth are but a shadow of that true, eternal punishment and reward. The greatest persecutors of God's holy hierarch Chrysostom were Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria and the Empress Eudoxia. After Chrysostom's death by martyrdom, harsh punishment fell on them both. Theophilus went mad, and the Empress Eudoxia was driven from the court by the Emperor Arcadius. Eudoxia soon fell ill of an incurable disease, sores opening all over her body and worms coming out of the wounds. There was such a stench from them that people in the street could scarcely pass in front of her house. Doctors made use of the most fragrant perfumes, unguents and incenses in an attempt to mitigate the stench from the stricken Empress, but with little success, and she finally died in filth and agony. But God's hand was even heavier upon her after her death. The coffin containing her body shook day and night for thirty whole years, until the Emperor Theodosius translated Chrysostom's relics to Constantinople. But what happened to Chrysostom after his death? He was rewarded with a reward such as God alone can give. Adeltius, the Arab bishop who received the exiled Chrysostom into his house in Cucusus, prayed to God after the saint's death that He would reveal to him where Chrysostom's soul was. Once, when he was at prayer, he was as though taken out of himself, and saw a youth bathed in light, who led him to heaven and showed him the ranks of the hierarchs, pastors and teachers of the Church, naming each of them. But they did not see John there. Then the angel of God led him to the way out from Paradise, and Adeltius was very downcast. When the angel asked the cause of his sadness, Adeltius replied that he was very distressed not to have seen his teacher, John Chrysostom, among those there. The angel answered him: 'No man who is still in the flesh can see him, for he stands beside the throne of God, together with the angelic company of the cherubim and seraphim.'

Ibid., Vol. 4, pp. 193-194.

An Appearance of a Monk to His Brothers

FOR CONSIDERATION

The Orthodox Church possesses an inexhaustible treasure in the evidence of life after death. To note one example among many; one which at the same time witnesses that the spirit of man lives after bodily death and that voluntary obedience brings blessed immortality: when St. Theodosius the Great had founded a monastery, he had at first only seven monks. To establish them well in remembrance of death, he ordered them to dig a grave. When the grave was ready, Theodosius stood over it, gathered the seven of them together and said: 'Well, my children; the grave is now ready! Is there among you one who is ready for death, to be buried in this grave?' One of them, a priest called Basil, fell to his knees and besought Theodosius's blessing to die. Theodosius ordered that the memorial services be held for Basil on the third, ninth and fortieth day, as is the custom for the departed. When the fortieth memorial was finished, Basil, in full health, lay down and died. And he was buried in the new grave. On the fortieth day after his burial, Basil appeared in the morning among the brethren in church and sang with them. At first only Theodosius saw him, but he prayed to God that He would open the eyes of the others. Then all the brethren looked and saw Basil among them. One of the brethren, Letius, joyfully spread his arms wide, intending to embrace Basil, but the latter disappeared. Basil's voice was heard: 'Save yourselves, my fathers and brethren, save yourselves!'

Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 88.