First of all I`m sending you the prayers and blessings of the fathers from the Holy Mountain. May the prayers of these holy people bring God`s blessing in your souls, in your families and in any aspect of your life.
I`d like to start from something very useful that I read in the refectory of our monastery during supper and because it is very nice I`m going to read it to you and we`ll say a few words about it.
Blessed Theodoritus from Antiochia, the Bishop of the Holy Church of Cyr says that one day a dirty monk dressed in an old robe, with his hand wrapped in a hairy rag came to him. He invited him to eat together. And while they were sitting at the table, the monk ate with his left hand because his right one was tied in that old cloth, as I said. And Theodoritus asked him :
`Why brother don`t you eat with your right hand and use your left one ?
`Forgive me, holy father, but I have a disability and that`s why I can`t.`
Theodoritus tried to make him confess the truth but he didn`t want.
Then Theodoritus while looking at him stretched his hand and took that cloth throwing it aside. And suddenly from that man`s hand came out such a bad stink that everyone held his breath until he covered it back. Thus the stink stopped. Then the saint wondering asked that man to tell them the whole truth. And the monk sighing started his story in the following way: `Holy father, I had a beautiful mother who remained from a young age a widow and had me as a baby. And she spent so much in lust and debauchery that she gathered a good fortune from her debauchery. I grew up and she, after spending a long time in her shameful way died. I came into my senses and meditating about death and the reward from the afterlife withdrew from the world. And because the fortunes and riches of my parents were many, I said to myself: Christ, my Lord, do not allow me to use this fortune which was gathered in such a dishonorable way. And taking it I spread it all to the poor to the churches, to the monasteries for the soul of my mother and I didn`t keep anything for myself, except for the clothes I wear.
Then I said: Who could ascertain me that God accepted the alms I gave from the fortune which was so badly gathered?
I wonder if my mother gets any benefit from this mercy. And leaving I went to Jerusalem where I related to the patriarch what had happened. And he told me:
`You did right to spread everything taking care of the salvation of your mother. But to be ascertained by someone that she was saved it`s impossible. But go to those who live in the desert and there you will find God bearing men with the gift of clairvoyance who may ascertain you in what regard this divine revelation.
Then I left and went to the skete at those monks but I found from them – and they said it from their humbleness – that in these times there is no such saint on earth. But if you listen to our advice, go to the depths of the desert and there you will find that one who can tell you this. But don`t be idle, go bravely forward and God will be with you.`
Taking some bread and water with me with the prayers of the father I walked for thirty days. And finding a small cave with some water and some human traces being full of joy I knocked at the door as the monks use to do, saying the prayer.
We sat down and the servant of God told me:
`Welcome, son ! Why did you walk such a long way to see me ? Tell me how is the world and the how are the Christians? Is the faith weakened?`
And I answered:
`For your holy prayers everything is in peace. But please saint of God give me advice for the reason I came to you.`
`And what`s the reason for your coming here?`
Then I told him everything happened with my mother and asked him to ascertain me if she had saved her soul or not.
The elder said:
`This is beyond my power, son. But let`s both ask God and what He wills He will show us.
Getting up, he made a circle on the earth with his stick outside the cave and put me in the middle. Then he ordered me to stay there with all my might for seven days saying:
`Stay here for seven days. You shall not sit down, nor eat until I finish my prayer. I won`t sit either nor shall I eat anything. Only I will pray to God day and night to reveal to us what we want.
And he said he was going to do the same in his cave. When he made his prayers he entered his cave.
On the seventh night I was in rapture and I saw the left side of a lake full of dirt and a horrible stink and the heads of many people were coming out of the water and then sinking again as if the lake was boiling from its bottom. And there among those men I saw my mother getting out and then going down in that lake full of dirt. When that reached her chest she cried:
`My sweet son, have mercy on me! Help me, my son!
Then she sank again the depths. This happened for three times and on the third time I saw her coming out and crying in great pain:
`My son, have mercy on me ! Don`t let me in this tormenting place!`
I being overwhelmed by pity forgot the danger and raised my right hand grabbing her hair. Then she sank in the depths and took my right hand with her in that dirty place till my elbow.
Then I saw on my right something looking like a trough with pure nice smelling water. I took her in the trough, I washed her and cleansed her of the dirt. Then I put her with the men who were on the right side those dressed in white clothes. And she praised God Who had saved her from the terrible hell and thanked Him loudly.
This is what I saw. At sunrise the servant of God, the hermit came out and asked me what I had seen in that rapture. I told him everything I had seen and he said everything was true because he had seen that too. When I uncovered my hand not bearing the horrible stink the saint said:
`Do not worry about that. It is the seal of the truth for everyone will hear and see that this is true and it`s no hallucination. And God can even after death show mercy and compassion to those who pray to Him, who pay liturgies and who give alms for the reposed, being merciful with them and saving them from hell. This stink from your hand I assure you God can take it away completely. Then tearing a piece from his old robe wrapped my hand in it and that stink stopped immediately. Then it came a nice scent which remains there as long as I wear that rag of that holy father. But when I take it out as you did, then the smell is impossible to bear for me or anyone else.
Then the pious man said:
`You suffered such pain of this journey and you have no money for going back. What will you do?`
And while saying this, a wind started to blow from the East and stormy clouds flooded the earth. And that holy monk said:
`I order you angel who hold the cloud, in the name of God, take our brother to his house on the cloud as it is written in all the wonders of the Lord, Who gives to all those who pray to Him without doubt and fulfills their requests, for His mercy is forever more for all those who call His Name in truth.
And after the pious man said this the cloud took me and brought me, as it happened with Habakkuk, the prophet, to my home from Antiochia. And I praised God Who makes miracles.
Here, in this wonderful and useful story, we notice the following things:
`Our Orthodox Church believes and dogmatizes that after death there is an eternal life. Eternity means an endless life. There is an eternal life in the light of God and there is an eternal life in the darkness far away from God. As God is without sin, the soul of the man never dies. Only when the man loses God and separates himself from the Light of life then he inherits unfortunately the eternal life of the darkness, far away from God and this place is called hell and is something very frightening.
Excerpt from the book The Art of Salvation published by Evanghelismos.