A Few Glimpses beyond Death

Here are some stories of what happens beyond the death of this body, and not mere stories, but ones passed down to us from the experience of the saints.

A great place to start is to read the life of St. Theodora of Constantinople.

In The History of the Franks, St. Gregory of Tours has a section on the “Death of the holy bishop Salvius“, in which we see the experience of one who rose from the dead from his funeral bier.

Similarly, St. Bede, in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, relates three stories, one of a person raised from the dead and what he had seen, another of one who before his death was shown the book of his sins by devils, and another who saw the place of punishment appointed for him before his death.

Then, turning to more modern stories, not necessarily passed down by saints, but still not in contradiction to the teachings of the Church, there is the rather lengthy article, “Unbelievable for Many, but Actually a True Occurance“.

And another, not available online, but nestled in a wonderful little book, is from Soviet-era Russia: a woman who mocked Christians, and how her experience beyond death affected her and the many people around her. I highly suggest buying On Earth We’re Just Learning How to Live by Archpriest Valentin Biryukov.

And last of all, a modern saint, St. John Maximovitch, wrote for us, “Life after Death“, in which he especially focuses on the forty days after death. Now, this article has more footnotes than it has St-John-written content, which themselves are a treasure trove of more potential research into life after death, including a list of saints’ lives which reference the toll-houses, to help understand what they are and what they are not.

“Do the People on Earth Know What Awaits Them?”

Now…finally…we make it to one of the best examples to help bring clarity to our questions about what happens after we die. I have shared several warnings: warnings about those who were not dead for long and have limited knowledge of life after death, warnings that our preconceptions can cloud our reasoning in these matters, and warnings that we should not try to over-simplify such matters. All of those warnings still apply. We must be careful not to over-analyze any of these experiences.

With that said, the experience of Venerable Theodora of Constantinople is particularly useful to us. For one, she died (and stayed dead), her soul left her body, she traversed everything between here and place of her soul’s repose till the last day. The obvious question is how we know this story: she appeared to another spiritual child of her own spiritual father, who recorded it for our benefit.

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Service for St. Tikhon of Moscow

We celebrate the glorification of our beloved father Tikhon tomorrow, who did much to establish and organize the Church in America, but also guided the Russian Church through some of the most tumultuous times in its history, the Russian Revolution.

It is likely too late for this to be of help to anybody for this particular Sunday in October of 2022, and it reveals to you all how late these things are prepared here in Bend, Oregon, but hopefully, it will be of use later. I was tempted to not go to the trouble of “cleaning this service up”, but there were just too many awkward phrases that would not be understood, especially when sung in our services, that I could not resist going through and rewording: moving phrases around, placing particular words to be emphasized by the music, and similar other changes.

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Going the “Extra Mile” in Forgiveness

The Gospel passage mentioned in the last post said, …if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. But, going the “extra mile” in forgiveness, in his first epistle, St. Peter says:
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. And James echoes this same idea of “covering” the sins of others: …whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

This covering others’ sins is something we don’t think about much, though it has been around a while…in Proverbs, love covers all offenses, and elsewhere in Proverbs,
Whoever covers an offense seeks love,…

We not only are called to forgive, but to actively use love to cover sins.

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We Determine How Strictly We Are Judged

So much of our society trains us to focus on ourselves, on our rights, and to judge others as respecters or offenders of those rights. This past weekend, in Bend, some alleged social media posts from the shooter who took the life of two innocents revealed this to the extreme. Remembering wrongs others commit against us and the lack of forgiveness is toxic. What we see in Christ’s Gospel is quite the opposite, not focused on the wrongs of others, but on our own spiritual state.

After the story of the man forgiven a massive debt, who turns around and requires someone else to repay him a much smaller debt, resulting in his re-judgment with the same harshness he used, the passage ends: So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

So, we know what not to do. But what should we do? How should we act?

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