He possessed an indescribable love for the Mother of God. I have never witnessed such an intense devotion to her, second only to his love for God, as I did in Starets Joseph. His eyes would well up with tears at the mere mention of her name, or when he gazed upon her icon, or when he sang a hymn dedicated to her.
On one occasion, he couldn’t find sleep, and he confided in me the reason for his restlessness:
He once confessed to me, “Just as soon as I remembered the Mother of God, I couldn’t fall asleep anymore.” His deep affection and devotion are evident in the heartfelt words he wrote in his epistles.
He expressed, “I cannot simply kiss the Icon of the Mother of God once and walk away, for when I approach it, I am drawn to it like a magnet. I long to kiss it for hours, as it enters my soul like a breath of life, filling me with grace and preventing me from leaving. It is a love, divine love, a burning fire that warmly greets you as soon as you step into the Church, especially in the presence of a wonderworking Icon. A sweet fragrance envelops you, transporting you to a state of rapture for hours, transcending yourself in the fragrant Paradise. The Mother of God abundantly bestows grace upon those who keep their bodies pure.”
Countless saints have offered praises to the Theotokos, yet I have not encountered a more beautiful and sweeter invocation for every moment than this: “My Mother! My sweet Mother!”
The moment we call upon her name, she immediately rushes to our aid without delay. Even before we finish uttering the words, “Most Holy Theotokos, help me!” she swiftly traverses our thoughts, filling our hearts with enlightenment. She guides our minds towards prayer and our hearts towards love. There have been countless nights when you would spend hours in lamentation, fervently calling upon her in prayer, offering praises not only to her but also to the One she cradles in her arms.
For a long time, he had been praying for the Mother of God to receive him, to grant him rest. Often, he would hold her Icon close, tears streaming down his face, and beseech, “When will you come to me? When will you take my soul?” In a testament to his profound love and devotion, the Mother of God answered his plea by taking his pious soul on the very day of her Dormition. Starets Joseph, op. cit., pp. 202-203.
Excerpt from “My Starets Joseph the Hesychast” – Archimandrite Ephraim Filotheos, Evangelismos Publishing House.