The night of November 20th to 21st arrived. The hour was approaching when Father Jacob was to end his martyrdom in this life. There were enough illnesses, and there was also the toil of the great ascetic. And the blessed Elder knew this well. The curtain was falling over the small world, and the curtain of the boundless world, the world without end, of happiness and glory, was opening. It was the world for which those who have suffered much and loved the Lord without hesitation are destined.
The blessed Elder Jacob had been keeping vigil in prayer since evening. Though he was exhausted, he did not forget the grieving ones. He read the last letters and responded to about 15 of them, comforting and advising as needed. It was November 21st. The daylight was breaking, and the Elder began to celebrate the feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Church, for which he had prepared all night. He dressed to go down to the Church. He shouldn’t have gone down, but he desired it so much, so much that nothing could stop him from his last communion. He descended with great effort. Although it was still dark outside, some monks could observe his changed face. His countenance had an unusual radiance, overflowing with love alone, and his angelic smile made him even more beautiful. During the morning service, he sang while kneeling with such ease and grandeur that you would think he was not ill.
The divine voice filled the Church with a wondrous chant, as if multiple angels were singing together. That day was also sacred for Father Ilarion because he was ordained as a hierodeacon at Filla by the Metropolitan of Halchidha in the morning. It was evident that this Liturgy was not an ordinary one. However, he neither spoke nor revealed what he experienced during his last Liturgy. Did he see Cherubim and Seraphim again? Did he see the Saints around him? Did he see the Most Holy Blood of the Lord or Jesus the Lord as the Lamb on the Holy Altar, as before? We do not know anything.
The Liturgy ended shortly before 9 o’clock, and the Elder left the Church with a very good spiritual disposition. He then descended the stairs to the central gate of the monastery, crossed to the other side, and climbed the few steps of the other wing of the monastery. A few meters away was the Church of St. Haralambos, where a few people awaited him for confession. He usually heard confessions there, and he did the same now. After confessing the others, at 10 o’clock, he heard the confession of Hierodeacon Gennadas, to whom he spoke cheerfully and emphatically:
I’m glad you’re here! Don’t leave, so you can be here when they would dress me.
Upon hearing this, the hierodeacon protested, unwilling to believe what he had heard from the Elder about his impending death. But the Elder insisted.
After finishing the confession, he showed signs of fatigue but maintained a cheerful disposition. He stood up, took the deacon by the hand, and they left the small church. They descended the stairs and entered the main church. Here, he prayed, kissed all the icons, thanked and glorified God. But the Elder was already living in another world. His inner and outer being were illuminated by the divine light, from which his joy and radiance emanated. Only one monk, Ephraim, was privileged to witness this wondrous state. He was cleaning the candlesticks and saw the blessed Elder entering the church with a transformed face. He radiated brightness and exuded joy and happiness. The monk remained motionless, gazing at the Elder, himself inundated with joy and astonishment.
Then, Father Jacob exited the church and together with the hierodeacon, they circled the monastery from the inside. They went everywhere, passing by all the monks, blessing them and transmitting the overflowing joy from his angelic face. After inspecting the entire monastery, they went out through the southern gate, slowly turning right and stopping at the workshop, where he lovingly blessed the monks there. Then he turned right again and, pausing in front of each small church, made the sign of the cross many times. Afterward, he ascended higher, towards the northwest, asking the hierodeacon to help him climb a little further. From that vantage point, the whole monastery could be seen as if from an airplane. It was beautiful, renewed, well-maintained… He had found it in ruins, destroyed, and very small. Now it was renewed and full of good monks.
He gazed at it from up above and couldn’t get enough. In his gaze, one could see a great love for the monastery. He spent a considerable amount of time looking at it. Was he thinking about how the monastery looked when he first arrived? I don’t think so, because the joy never left his face. There was no time for unpleasant memories… Now he only glorified, for there were only a few moments left, and he dedicated them to great things…
His legs could no longer hold him, so he said to the hierodeacon:
“Come, my son, let’s go.”
They turned to the other side. It was almost noon; the noon of November 21st.
Being exhausted, the Elder retreated to his cell for a while. In the meantime, Father Alexi came, who was going to conduct a funeral for the first time. The new priest didn’t know the order of service or how to sing. The blessed Elder patiently instructed him on what to do, step by step, and began to sing the stichera of the funeral service. Father Alexi sang along, but the Elder sang much more beautifully and rejoiced in spirit. At one point, Father Alexi thought he had learned how to sing the funeral service and wanted to leave, thanking and seeking the Elder’s blessing. But the Elder insisted on singing the entire service from the beginning. And so it was done. Father Alexi sang it in its entirety, and the Elder was filled with nothing but joy and delight.
Father Alexi left after 2 o’clock, and the Elder remained alone. At 3:15, there was a knock on the door, and they informed him that Gherasima had arrived. And even though he found it difficult to receive strangers in his cell, he still said:
“Let her come. This child is in need. I must see her.”
He received Gherasima for confession. He put on his epitrachelion and sat on the edge of the bed, facing the Crucifix, and began. He listened attentively, advised her, encouraged her, and suddenly, with a changed countenance, he said:
“My daughter, here is Venerable David… And Saint James, the brother of the Lord… Sing their troparia!”
Meanwhile, the minutes passed, and the Elder’s agony increased because he wanted to see his disciple, Deacon Hilarion, who had been ordained that morning by Metropolitan Chrysostom of Halchidha during the Liturgy.
At 4:15, without hearing any noise, Father Jacob said to Gherasima:
“My daughter, open the door, as the parents have arrived.”
And indeed, the parents had reached the door. As Gherasima opened the door, the Elder tried to get up, to stand on his feet, but in that moment he said, “I feel dizzy, I feel dizzy…” and collapsed, losing his balance. The girl managed to catch the Elder and held him to prevent him from hitting the ground. His breathing was very labored. At the same time, the parents entered, led by Father Ilarion, but upon seeing the Elder lying on the ground, confusion, fear, panic, and crying immediately ensued. Father Cyril knelt down and began to rub his hands, while other monks rushed to the Church of Saint Haralambos and read the Paraklesis, weeping. Another monk hurried to call the doctor. The pulse of the great ascetic was weak, almost imperceptible. His face turned slightly red, but the Elder remained calm, without agony. And after a few moments, his last breath departed from his holy lips…
And so the soul of the Elder flew to the heavens like a little bird, as he had prophesied before. Everything had come to an end. At 4:17 in the afternoon, the blessed Elder left the perishable world of pain and entered the blessed tent of the Triune God.
The monastery’s fathers did not want to believe that their Elder had departed; they still tried to help him. There was an indescribable commotion. They spoke while crying, making it difficult to understand each other. Nevertheless, everything had come to an end.
Excerpt from the book Blessed Jacob Tsalikis – Evanghelismos Publishing House.