January 20, 2014

The Last Days of Elder Anastasios of Koudoumas (5 of 5)

The Grace of a Blessed End

The last days before his repose he would pray constantly. He had difficulties. He would say to the Fathers of the Monastery:

"Your prayers are still keeping me in this earthly life. Extension is a gift of repentance. I thank you and I bless you all. I pray for all."

They notified me that the biological end of the Elder was imminent, and then I sent the following message:

"May the Archangel Michael accompany him with all the heavenly powers and the cherished saints, that the blessed vessel of the desert may enter into the heavenly Liturgy. May his glorious path and his entrance into the Holy of Holies be blessed."

At some point the Elder told the Abbot of the Monastery to give him his blessing that he may head towards the Light. He struggled to do so. But when His Eminence Metropolitan Makarios of Gortynis recited a prayer, his soul departed towards the Light. This incident shows the meeting of a charismatic theologian with the Grace of Archpriesthood and reveals that the gifts are given by God through the Church, to be active in the Church, with the prayers of the Bishop to the glory of the Triune God.

Fr. Anastasios promptly informed me via message that the Elder reposed:

"Elder Anastasios has gone to the Light of the Resurrection. May we have his prayers."

I replied:

"May we have his resurrectional prayers. Christ will say, as He said to Abba Sisoes: 'Bring Me the vessel of the desert.' God blessed you that you met him and revealed him. You gained the experience of a deified man. Send my wishes to the Abbot and the Fathers of the Monastery."

Elder Anastasios was blessed, and indeed a great theological testimony of our times, comparable to the great God-seeing ascetics of the Gerontikon.

His case reminds me of the words of Saint Gregory the Theologian, which he spoke as death was approaching: "Strike the body, the soul remains unreceptive; the divine image I will render to Christ as I received it, O murderer of men." "Bring me, Christ, I who worship you, as you want."

He also reminded me of the words of Saint John Chrysostom, that death is "no more fearful, but trodden under foot, completely despised."

Further, he reminded me of the words of Elder Sophrony, that at the moment of our departure from this world it is "triumphant", and "in anticipation of this fearful yet great moment the soul more deeply feels utmost peace, fatherly love, and rushes to the unwaning Light."

Thus Elder Anastasios lived and thus he ended, or rather was thus perfected.

"As they who are of dust, are also of dust, they who are heavenly are also heavenly. And as we have borne the image of dust, we shall also bear the heavenly image" (1 Cor. 15:48-49). Indeed, Elder Anastasios was a resurrection in name and in life he bore the heavenly image.

Favored by God are the Abbot and the monks of Koudoumas Monastery that they had such a blessed Elder, whom they served from their heart.

In the midst of the problems of my episcopal ministry, God has sent me some joys, one of which was my meeting with Elder Anastasios of Koudoumas, whom I felt was a heavenly lighting in our wretched times, and his repose caused me to feel a small sense of orphanhood, but a more intense sense of resurrection joy.

May we have his intercessions.

Source: Dogma (December 16, 2013). Translated by John Sanidopoulos.