This image depicts a beneficial story told by Abba Makarios the Great of Egypt (Jan. 19) and recorded in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers. It is from the Cemetery Church of All Saints in the town of Perama of Rethymnos, the seat of the municipality of Mylopotamos of Crete, by the iconographer Emmanuel Sephakis. It illustrates through graphic imagery the torment of those who lived life selfishly, in turn having no communion with God or man in the next life, as well as the alleviation the damned receive when they are prayed for by the righteous. The tale is told as follows:
Abba Makarios said, "Walking in the desert one day, I found the skull of a dead man, lying on the ground. As I was moving it with my stick, the skull spoke to me. I said to it, 'Who are you?' The skull replied, 'I was high priest of the idols and of the pagans who dwelt in this place; but you are Makarios, the Spirit-bearer. Whenever you take pity on those who are in torments, and pray for them, they feel a little respite.' The old man said to him, 'What is this alleviation, and what is this torment?' He said to him, 'As far as the sky is removed from the earth, so great is the fire beneath us; we are ourselves standing in the midst of the fire, from the feet up to the head. It is not possible to see anyone face to face, but the face of one is fixed to the back of another. Yet when you pray for us, each of us can see the other's face a little. Such is our respite.' The old man in tears said, 'Alas the day when that man was born!' He said to the skull, 'Are there any punishments which are more painful than this?' The skull said to him, 'There is a more grievous punishment down below us.' The old man said, 'Who are the people down there?' The skull said to him: 'We have received a little mercy since we did not know God, but those who know God and denied Him are down below us.'" Then, picking up the skull, the old man buried it.
|"It is not possible to see anyone face to face, but the face of one is fixed to the back of another. Yet when you pray for us, each of us can see the other's face a little."|