«For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come». (Heb. 13:14)
Mankind is full of queries. Children have queries, the youth have queries and men have queries. Similarly, the elderly and women also have many questions. The whole world has countless queries. But if there is one query which worries a person most, it is this-is there another life? And this question becomes all the more tormenting as one is approaching the hour of death. Does another life exist? Present life exists because we live it. But a future life? Who is going to tell us? Who has gone to the other life and come back? But such a witness exists. And He is an unfaltering withness. He is a witness who has never told a lie. He is the One who has heralded: «l am the truth». The very one who was in heaven and descended down to earth. «He who is in the heavens... and from heaven descended". This witness is our Lord Jesus Christ. He tells us through His teachings that there exists yet another life. Jesus Christ always spoke about this other life. In his every sermon, He referred to this other life, the eternal life, the Kingdom of Heaven, to His Father's House in Paradise.
On the subject of this after-life, He once told a descriptive parable about the rich man and the poor Lazarus. The first part of the parable refers to life here on earth, the present life. The second part refers to the next life. Here in this life the rich man lived a horrible lifestyle. He was harsh and indifferent towards everyone; not to mention a glutton, a drinker, riotous and a hedonist. Richly dressed in «purple and dark red», not the slightest concerned him about the poor. Neither a thought about the soul or about death.
Lazarus indeed was a hero. He had a great soul. His patience alone was unattainable. Poor, full of sores, without a home, with nothing, alone, all alone as he was. Yet he never held one single grudge against God. It was sufficient for him to eat the crumbs of the gluttonous rich man's food in order to fill his hunger as well as tolerating the dogs that licked his sores.
But this life is short. And death came. Then everything changed. The rich man found himself in the torments of hell and Lazarus in the joy of Paradise, in the bosom of Abraham, as the parable tells us.
The Lord is a witness that there exists another life. Just as unfaltering a witness, is Apostle Paul. The Great Apostle confesses himself that «he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter». (2 Cor. 12:4). The Apostle of all nations was made worthy to be found in Paradise, but he was unable to describe to us all that he saw and heard, as we would want him to. In front of the greatness of eternity he was left speechless. Nevertheless, having a personal perception of the beauty of the other life, he thunders: «For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come». (Heb. 13:14). And elsewhere. «Our citizenship is in heaven» (Phil. 3:20). He considered death as a gain and always had the desire «to depart and be with Christ» (Phil. 1:23).
Another withness of the other life is Evangelist John. The disciple of love, in his vision, his short visit to heaven, the Holy City, in the upper Heavenly Jerusalem, he saw Him... and heard a voice, and received the order: «Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are» (Rev. 1:19). But what did he see? He saw in the Holy City roads strewn with gold, doors made of pearls and saw rivers of crystal. Surely these are but symbols. But behind these symbols shines a life of inexpressible happiness, beauty and perfection.
There is yet another life. Someone presents, hypothetically, two embryos which are asking themselves if there exists another life, another world other than the one in which they are living, inside the womb of their Mother. One says there does exist while the other maintains the opposite. No, there does not exist. However, when their lives had ended inside their Mothers womb and they were born into the world, then the other also believed in the existence of another life. Both then saw the sun, they heard the nightingales and faced the natural beauty of nature and were left in astonishment.
And so just as for the embryos there exists another life outside their Mothers womb, the same applies to us. There exists another life, the life in heaven, which we will be born into through our death. The first Christians named the day of death as the day of birth. And they named this for the reason we say as Orthodox Christians: «We are born in order to die, but we also die in order to live».
We reiterate. There is yet another life. Nothing is more certain than this. The sun may be a lie, but the next life is true; the greatest truth.
The famous astronomist and mathematician Bigourdan, in his eulogy to his dead coleague Poinguare farewelled him with the following words: «l do not address you with the last goodbye, but good meeting in the life beyond the grave, where God promises immortal peace to all workers of goodness.
The following is a story as we have read it in «The Words of Life» of Lefkosia.
«A 17 year old, only girl, daughter of a widowed mother became ill with leukemia. The doctors tried to save the youthful Jenny, because they knew that her likely death would shatter her unfortunate mother, who had focused all her love and fondness on Jenny; a girl of charming beauty, but most of all with virtue and modesty. But despite all their attempts, they could not. Leukemia is an untreatable sickness. One afternoon the sick girl flew to another world. With a smile on her lips Jenny's final words were: «Dear Mother, I will be waiting for you in God's Kingdom. Do not cry! Till we meet again!...».
The whole city mourned for the death of the young girl, whom they were fond of for her goodness. The time of the funeral had come. The church was filled with people. The girls with sobbing followed the funeral procession. Words of emotion were spoken. Endless wreaths layed. After the service the procession was directed towards the cemetery. They reached the grave site. The priest started the Trisagion. Then the time came for the burial. And the mother with an astonishing calmness approached the coffin.
«My child», she said, «l am parting from you with vast pain, but with a deep hope that I shall see you again in God's Kingdom. Wait for me! I lay on your virgin body the New Testament which you always read and loved. And a cross, which I had from my mother and waited for the day of your wedding to place around your neck. They are yours. I offer them to you now. The cross was your hope while you lived. Now it will be your adornment to all eternity».
And with a movement full of love and affection the mother bent over and laid on the chest of her daughter the New Testament and the Cross. Then she kissed her daughter and stood with tearfur eyes looking at her... The people were crying. The burial took place. And on that day the whole town was talking about the heroism of that woman...
There is yet another life, «where everything is beautiful, all things are good, where there are Angels, Archangels..., Seraphim and all the good souls of the earth. «ln this life, the Heavenly Kingdom, I wish we all may be some day, when we leave for good from this earth. To this new life, the good and beautiful, and not to the other life which the rich man found himself in, the parable with his horrible life here on earth.
When the Son of Man comes in glory to reward each according to his works, it will be shown that absolutely nothing exceeds the value of finding true life, the salvation of one's soul. Amen.
«CHRISTΙAN PULSES»An Orthodox Christian Magazine written by the Very Rev. Fr. Gervasios Raptopoulos, a Holy Preacher of the Greek Orthodox Church. «ECHOES FROM GALILEE» is an extra leaflet of «Christian Pulses».
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