I felt great joy at the thought that I would meet the Lord

I felt great joy at the thought that I would meet the Lord

By Elder Porphyrios Kafsokalivitis

Once I came to the point of death. I had suffered severe perforation of the stomach as a result of the steroids I was given in the hospital when I went for an operation on my eye? which I lost in the end. At that time I was living in a little hut; the monastery had not yet been built. I was so exhausted that I didn’t know whether it was day or night. I came to the point of death and yet I survived. I lost a lot of weight and had no appetite. For three months I survived with three spoons of milk a day. I was saved by a goat!

I lived with the thought of leaving this world. I felt great joy at the thought that I would meet the Lord. I had a very deep sense of the presence of God. And God desired at that time to strengthen and comfort me with something very blessed. Every so often I would feel that my soul was about to depart. I saw in the sky a star that twinkled and emitted sweet rays of light. It was bright and very sweet. It was so beautiful! Its light possessed a great sweetness.

Its colour was a light sky blue, like a diamond, like a precious stone. Whenever I saw it I was filled with comfort and joy because I felt that the whole Church? the Triune Godhead, our Lady, the angels, and the saints? was contained in that star. I had the sense that in it were contained all the souls of all my loved ones, of my elders. I believed that when I would leave this life I, too, would go to that star through the love of God, not through my virtues. I wanted to believe that God, who loves me, revealed it to me in order to tell me, ‘I’m waiting for you!’

I didn’t want to think about hell and about tollgates. I didn’t remember my sins, although I had many. I set them aside. I remembered only the love of God and was glad. And I made entreaty, ‘O my God, for the sake of your love, may I also be there. But if on account of my sins I must go to hell, may your love place me wherever it wishes. It is sufficient for me to be with You.’

For so many years I lived in the desert with love for Christ. I said to myself: ‘If you go to heaven and God says to you, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe? What do you want here?” I’ll reply, “Whatever You want, my Lord, whatever Your love desires; place me wherever Your love wishes. I abandon myself to Your love. If You want to place me in hell, then do so, only don’t let me lose Your love.”’

I had an acute sense of my sinfulness, and that’s why I constantly repeated to myself the prayer of Saint Symeon the New Theologian:

I know, Saviour, that none other
has, as I have, sinned against You,
nor done the deeds that I have done.
But this again I surely know:
neither magnitude of errors,
nor multitude of transgressions,
can surpass my God’s great patience
and His love for man unbounded.

What the prayer says are not our own words. We are unable to conceive and express such words. They were written by saints. But our soul needs to embrace these words written by the saints and to sense and experience them. I also like the other words of the prayer:

Neither tears shed in my weeping
nor the slightest falling tear,
O my God, escapes Your notice,
O my Maker, my Redeemer.

And my work yet unaccomplished
is to Your eyes already known
and all the things I’ve not yet done
are for You already written,
in Your book already entered.

Look down on my humbled being
look on my so great contrition
and forgive me my transgressions,
all my sins, O God of all things…

I repeated this prayer continually and intensely to escape from these thoughts. The more I repeated it, the more, up in the infinity of space, appeared the star, my comfort. It came all these days that I was suffering. And when it appeared, my soul took wings and I said to myself: ‘My star has come!’ It felt as if it were drawing me up from the earth towards it. I felt great joy when I saw it.

I didn’t want to think of my sins, as I’ve said, because these would exclude me from this mystery. Only once, once only, did I sense that the star was empty, it wasn’t twinkling, it wasn’t full. I realized what it was. It was from the ‘contrary one’. I ignored him, and turned my mind elsewhere. I spoke to my sister about some jobs that were to be done. After a while I saw it shining brightly again. Joy came again even more intensely within me.

All that time I had fearful pains throughout my body. Other people saw that I was dying. I had given myself over to the love of God. I did not pray to be released from the pains. My desire was for God to have mercy on me. I had leant on Him, and I waited for His grace to work. I was not afraid of death. For I would go to Christ. As I’ve told you, I repeated constantly the prayer of Saint Symeon the New Theologian, but not in a selfish spirit, and not for my health to be restored. I sensed every single word of the prayer.

An Excerpt from the book:  Wounded By Love: The Life and Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios

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