Many years ago I read in a small book a story which impressed me very much: `A man was the guardsman and keeper of a bridge and below that a big river flowed with many floating vessels. The bridge opened when a ship had to pass and then closed back to let the train pass. Everything was programmed precisely. A captain came with his ship and he needed to pass quickly. He told to his friend, the guardian of the bridge:
`My friend, open the gate for me to pass because I am in a big hurry. Please do this favour to me.`
The train is going to pass in a short time and I can`t open for you.`
`But I`ll pass very quickly. I will fix the engine in such a way that I will pass before you close the bridge and let the train pass.`
`But it`s impossible. I don`t think you can make it.`
`Please do me this favour. The ship will pass and nothing is going to happen.`
And the guardian of the bridge for not disappointing his friend accepted and opened the bridge. But the ship had no time to pass in due time as the captain thought and when the train arrived the bridge was not closed and it fell into the river. The men were drowning and there was a big disaster. Then the guardian because of his fear and remorse lost his minds and wandering on the streets of the city cried: `For five minutes! For five minutes!`
He was saying these words all the time because only five minutes were needed to close back the bridge and impede that disaster to happen. In only five minutes it was done such a big damage.
In the same way when someone will lose his salvation will cry : `Why didn`t I take care ? Why didn`t I force myself? Why didn`t I listen? Why did I let myself be fooled by the devil?` But all his desperate cries will have no effect cause it will be impossible to change the failure.
With the grace of God the man must make a good start and let the things down, lay them on the table and begin to study his plan. How did so many years pass away? Where didn`t I take heed? Where did I take heed? Where did I make progress in spiritual life? Where did I regress? Which passion reigns over me? Which one deludes me? And making this search with the help of God he will find the weak points and will add spiritual powers to face the difficulties. He will also add zeal for the good points to make a good progress kin the coming year. And if death finds him it will find him struggling.
Of course we don`t expect to reach perfect serenity. We don`t expect many things as those achieved by our Holy Fathers but at least to be found by death struggling, improving our ways, taking care of our wounds, praying, asking for mercy and forgiveness from God.
Our comfort is that God is our Father. He is the One Who knows everything. Nothing from what happens to us is hard for Him to know. What effort makes the sun to light the whole world? When the rays find a hole they get in and light even the darkest places. If a sun created by God lights the earth so brightly much more easily and effortlessly and immediately the Sun of the divine Light, our Father and Creator knows all the movements of our mind, of our heart and our feelings and of everything happens in our lives.
And since everything is known to Him when He sees that a man has a good intention and makes ascetical efforts and cares about his soul and cries for his sins and meditates about afterlife and about Judgment and cries without cease asking for mercy and forgiveness God is not unjust. He will help that soul and will offer him good opportunities to prepare himself in the best way. Even to people who didn`t think about God and about their salvation but had a good intention God did many things out of His great love to bring them in a good condition before death in order to take them repenting and being confessed. Robbers and big sinners were enlightened in their last moments and they won eternal life. It is enough if the man doesn`t oppose God selfishly if he doesn`t come into conflict with God because of a luciferic pride.
The robber who was on the right of Christ had done so many wicked things. But God knew his heart and the depths of his soul and allowed to be arrested by the authorities and the rulers of those times to be sent to prison and condemned with Christ and reach that salvatory moment when he received enlightenment and cried those words which made him worthy to go to heaven. Thus if God didn`t let the robber be lost because He saw that he had in his soul a good intention He would show even more mercy to those who cry and ask for mercy, forgiveness and healing!
Let us ask God for this new year – and if He will give us more years they all are His – to help us to put things in order, to give us a new beginning. Let us seek as some disciples to do our duty before God and fulfill His will and obey His commands because their fulfilling is obedience for His will .
If we take into account the time that passed not only without purpose but with sins we will fall into despair. Let us walk on the new path. Let us take heed at our life, at our duties, meditate about death and about the Judgment of Christ to make a new beginning.
We should have this new beginning as a motivation of our prayer. Obedience, prayer and meditation about death guide for sure the obedient monk to the eternal life to the place of the eternal peace.
May God make us all worthy of this achievement and may nobody miss that great and eternal feast of an inexpressible and endless brightness. Amen.
Excerpt from the book The Art of Salvation published by Evanghelismos.