Departing this Life
Most of the day had now passed, and the sun was declining towards the West. Her eagerness did not diminish, but as she approached her end, as if she discerned the beauty of the Bridegroom more clearly, she hastened towards the Beloved with the greater eagerness. Such thoughts as these did she utter, no longer to us who were present, but to Him in person on Whom she gazed fixedly. Her couch had been turned towards the East; and, ceasing to converse with us, she spoke henceforward to God in prayer, making supplication with her hands and whispering with a low voice, so that we could just hear what was said. Such was the prayer; we need not doubt that it reached God and that she, too, was hearing His voice.
"Thou, O Lord, hast freed us from the fear of death. Thou hast made the end of this life the beginning to us of true life. Thou for a season restest our bodies in sleep and awakest them again at the last trump. Thou givest our earth, which Thou hast fashioned with Thy hands, to the earth to keep in safety. One day Thou wilt take again what Thou hast given, transfiguring with immortality and grace our mortal and unsightly remains. Thou hast saved us from the curse and from sin, having become both for our sakes. Thou hast broken the heads of the dragon who had seized us with his jaws, in the yawning gulf of disobedience. Thou hast shown us the way of resurrection, having broken the gates of .hell, and brought to nought him who had the power of death----the devil. Thou hast given a sign to those that fear Thee in the symbol of the Holy Cross, to destroy the adversary and save our life. O God eternal, to Whom I have been attached from my mother's womb, Whom my soul has loved with all its strength, to Whom I have dedicated both my flesh and my soul from my youth up until now----do Thou give me an angel of light to conduct me to the place of refreshment, where is the water of rest, in the bosom of the holy Fathers. Thou that didst break the flaming sword and didst restore to Paradise the man that was crucified with Thee and implored Thy mercies, remember me, too, in Thy kingdom; because I, too, was crucified with Thee, having nailed my flesh to the cross for fear of Thee, and of Thy judgments have I been afraid. Let not the terrible chasm separate me from Thine elect. Nor let the Slanderer stand against me in the way; nor let my sin be found before Thine eyes, if in anything I have sinned in word or deed or thought, led astray by the weakness of our nature. O Thou Who hast power on earth to forgive sins, forgive me, that I may be refreshed and may be found before Thee when I put off my body, without defilement on my soul. But may my soul be received into Thy hands spotless and undefiled, as an offering before Thee."
As she said these words she sealed her eyes and mouth and heart with the cross. And gradually her tongue dried up with the fever, she could articulate her words no longer, and her voice died away, and only by the trembling of her lips and the motion of her hands did we recognise that she was praying.
Meanwhile evening had come and a lamp was brought in. All at once she opened the orb of her eyes and looked towards the light, clearly wanting to repeat the thanksgiving sung at the Lighting of the Lamps. But her voice failed and she fulfilled her intention in the heart and by moving her hands, while her lips stirred in sympathy with her inward desire. But when she had finished the thanksgiving, and her hand brought to her face to make the Sign had signified the end of the prayer, she drew a great deep breath and closed her life and her prayer together.
And now that she was breathless and still, remembering the command that she had given at our first meeting, telling me she wished her hands laid on her eyes, and the accustomed offices done for the body by me, I brought her hands, all numb with the disease, on to her holy face, only that I might not seem to neglect her bidding. For her eyes needed none to compose them, being covered gracefully by the lids, just as happens in natural sleep; the lips were suitably closed and the hands laid reverently on the breast, and the whole body had automatically fallen into the right position, and in no way needed the help of the layers-out.
St. Gregory of Nyssa: Life of St. Macrina - A Letter to Monk Olympius
These things having been defined, I think it necessary also to describe the things religiously performed by us over those who have fallen asleep. For neither is this also the same between the holy and the unholy; but, as the form of life of each is different, so also, when approaching death, those who have led a religious life, by looking steadfastly to the unfailing promises of the Godhead (inasmuch as they have observed their proof, in the resurrection proclaimed by it), come to the goal of death, with firm and unfailing hope, in godly rejoicing, knowing that at the end of holy contests their condition will be altogether in a perfect and endless life and safety, through their future entire resurrection. For the holy souls, which may possibly fall during this present life to a change for the worse, in the regeneration, will have the most Godlike transition to an unchangeable condition. Now, the pure bodies which are enrolled together as yoke-fellows and companions of the holy souls, and have fought together within their Divine struggles in the unchanged steadfastness of their souls throughout the divine life, will jointly receive their own resurrection; for, having been united with the holy souls to which they were united in this present life, by having become members of Christ, they will receive in return the Godlike and imperishable immortality, and blessed repose. In this respect then the sleep of the holy is in comfort and unshaken hopes, as it attains the goal of the Divine contests.
Now, amongst the profane, some illogically think to go to a non-existence; others that the bodily blending with their proper souls will be severed once for all, as unsuitable to them in a Divine life and blessed lots, not considering nor being sufficiently instructed in Divine science, that our most Godlike life in Christ has already begun. But others assign to souls union with other bodies, committing, as I think, this injustice to them, that, after (bodies) have laboured together with the godly souls, and have reached the goal of their most Divine course, they relentlessly deprive them of their righteous retributions. And others (I do not know how they have strayed to conceptions of such earthly tendency) say, that the most holy and blessed repose promised to the devout is similar to our life in this world, and unlawfully reject, for those who are equal to the Angels, nourishments appropriate to another kind of life. None of the most religious men, however, will ever fall into such errors as these; but, knowing that their whole selves will receive the Christ-like inheritance, when they have come to the goal of this present life, they see more clearly their road to incorruption already become nearer, and extol the gifts of the Godhead, and are filled with a Divine satisfaction, no longer fearing the fall to a worse condition, but knowing well that they will hold firmly and everlastingly the good things already acquired. Those, however, who are full of blemishes, and unholy stains, even though they have attained to some initiation, yet, of their own accord, have, to their own destruction, rejected this from their mind, and have rashly followed their destructive lusts, to them when they have come to the end of their life here, the Divine regulation of the Oracles will no longer appear as before, a subject of scorn, but, when they have looked with different eyes upon the pleasures of their passions destroyed, and when they have pronounced blessed the holy life from which they thoughtlessly fell away, they are, piteously and against their will, separated from this present life, conducted to no holy hope, by reason of their shameful life.
St. Dionysius the Areopagite: Concerning things performed over those fallen asleep
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