St. Macarius, quoted from Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina
“The truly intelligent man pursues one sole objective: to obey and to conform to the God of all. With this single aim in view, he disciplines his soul, and whatever he may encounter in the course of his life, he gives thanks to God for the compass and depth of His providential ordering of all things. For it is absurd to be grateful to doctors who give us bitter and unpleasant medicines to cure our bodies, and yet to be ungrateful to God for what appears to us to be harsh, not grasping that all we encounter is for our benefit and in accordance with His providence. For knowledge of God and faith in Him is the salvation and perfection of the soul.”
+ St. Anthony the Great, “On the Character of Men and on the Virtuous Life: One Hundred and Seventy Texts,” Text 2, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 1)
There is no need to prove that bodily nourishment cannot satisfy the soul of man, nor can bodily drink quench its thirst. But even all this spirit of life, that shines through all created things, giving them life and harmony, is incapable of feeding and refreshing the soul.
The body directly receives food that is in essentials identical to the body. The body is of the earth, and food for the body is of the earth. This is why the body feels at home, among its own, in the world. But the soul suffers; it is crucified and suffers; it is disgusted and protests at having to receive food indirectly, and this a food not identical to itself. The soul therefore feels itself, in this world, to be in a foreign country, among strangers.
That the soul is immortal, and that it, in its essence, belongs to the immortal world, is proved by the fact that, in this earthly world, it feels itself a discontented traveller in a foreign land, and that nothing in the world can fully feed and refresh it. And even were the soul to be able to pour the whole universe into itself like a glass of water, its thirst would not only not become less but would, of a certainty, become greater. For then there would not remain in it one single illusory hope that it would, beyond the next hill, light on an unsuspected source of water.
+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Homilies: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year, Volume 1, “24. The Gospel on the Giver of Living Water and the Samaritan Woman John 4:5-42”
Death has one characteristic in common with love: it, like love, works a profound change in many that experience it and go on living. A mother after a funeral goes to the graves of her children. Who goes there? The children in the mother’s soul, with the mother, go to their graves. In a mother’s soul, the mother lives only in one little corner; all the rest is a palace for the souls of the children taken from her.
So it is with Christ, though to an immeasurably greater extent. He submitted to the confines of the grave so that men, His children, should know the spaciousness of the limitless palace of Paradise.
A mother goes to the graves of her children, as though to raise them to life in her soul, to redeem them by her tears, to have compassion on them by her thoughts. A mother’s love saves her children from disappearance and annihilation in this world, at least for a time.
The Lord, humiliated and spat upon, succeeded, through bowing to His Cross and Tomb, in truly raising the whole human race by His love, and saving it forever from vanishing away and being annihilated. Christ’s act is incomparably greater than the act of any lonely mother in the world, His love for the human race being immeasurably greater than the love of any mother in the world for her children.
Although a mother, out of her great love and sorrow, always has tears to shed, she takes her remaining tears with her when she herself goes down into the grave. The Lord Jesus, though, shed all His tears for His children, to the last drop – and all His blood to the last drop. Never, O sinner, will more precious tears be shed for you, neither living nor dead. Never will a mother, or wife, or children, or homeland, pay more for you than Christ the Saviour paid.
O poor and lonely man – do not say: who will mourn for me when I die? Who will weep over my dead body? Lo, the Lord Christ has mourned for you and wept over you, both in life and in death, more whole-heartedly than your mother would for you.
It is not fitting to call those dead for whom Christ, in His love, suffered and died. They are alive in the living Lord. We shall all know this clearly when the Lord visits the graveyard of this world for the last time, and the trumpets sound.
A mother’s love cannot separate her dead children from those living. Still less can Christ’s love. The Lord is more discerning than the sun: He sees the approaching end of those still alive on earth, and sees the beginning of life for those who have entered into rest. For Him who created the earth from nothing, and man’s body from the earth, there is no difference between the earth’s, or his body’s, being a man’s grave. Grain lying in the field or stored in a granary – what difference does this make to the householder, who is thinking in both cases of the grain, and not of the straw or the granary? Whether men are in the body or in the earth – what difference does this make to the Householder of men’s souls?
Coming on earth, the Lord paid two visits to men: the first to those living in the grave of the body and the second to those in the grave of the earth. He died in order to visit His dead children. Ah, how very truly a mother dies when she goes to the graves of her children!
+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Homilies: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year, Volume 1, “22. The Second Sunday After Easter: The Gospel on the Myrhh-Bearing Women”
Come, brethren, before the end, and let us all look upon our clay, upon the infirmity and meanness of our nature. Let us behold our end, and the organs of the vessel of our flesh. Let us see that man is dust, food for worms, and corruption; that our bones grow dry, and have no breath of life within them. Let us gaze on the tombs. Where is man’s glory? Where his outward beauty? Where is the eloquent tongue? Where the noble brow, and where the eye? All is dust and shadow. Therefore, Saviour, spare us all.
Why does man deceive himself and boast? Why does he trouble himself in vain? For he is earth, and soon to the earth he will return. Why does the dust not reflect that it is formed from clay, and cast out as rottenness and corruption? Yet though we men are clay, why do we cling so closely to the earth? For if we are Christ’s kindred, should we not run to him, leaving all this mortal and fleeting life, And seeking the life incorruptible, Which is Christ himself, the illumination of our souls?
Thou hast formed Adam with thine hand, O Saviour, and set him on the border between incorruption and mortality; thou hast made him share in life through grace, freeing him from corruption and translating him to the life that he enjoyed at first. Give rest, O Master, to thy servants thou hast taken from us; may they dwell with the righteous in the choir of thine elect; write their names in the book of life; raise them with the sound of the Archangel’s trump, and count them worthy of thy heavenly Kingdom.
Christ is risen, releasing from bondage Adam the first-formed man and destroying the power of hell. Be of good courage, all ye dead, for death is slain and hell despoiled; the crucified and risen Christ is King. He has given incorruption to our flesh; he raises us and grants us resurrection, and He counts worthy of his joy and glory all who, with a faith that wavers not, have trusted fervently in him.
— Four Stichera at the Praises, Matins, Saturday before Meatfare, Lenten Triodion, p. 139
“When the soul of a man departs from the body, a certain great mystery is there enacted. If a person is under the guilt of sin, bands of demons and fallen angels approach along with the powers of darkness which capture the soul and drag it as a captive to their place. No one should be surprised by this fact. For if, while a man lived in this life, he was subject to them and was their obedient slave, how much more, when he leaves this world, is he captured and controlled by them?”
+ St. Macarius the Great, The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 22