An interview with Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and St. Vlassios by Pavel Chirila, Professor and Doctor at St. Irene’s Hospital in Bucharest (Romania)
Question: Tell us something about sudden death.
Answer: The assessment of sudden death depends on each one’s viewpoint. For secular people, sudden death is good, accepted and desirable, because they will not suffer and they will not be tormented by illnesses and old age. For believing Christians, though, sudden death is bad, because they are not given the possibility to prepare better for their encounter with Christ and the heavenly Church. When someone visits a high-ranking official, he prepares accordingly. We should do the same with respect to our encounter with Christ.
Preparation, by repentance, is essential. This is why Father Paisios of everlasting memory used to say that cancer is a saintly illness because it has filled Paradise with saints, meaning that a long illness prepares people with prayer and repentance. According to the teaching of St. Maximus the Confessor, pain cures pleasure. In any case, death is the most certain event. We see it around us, everything dies, all living creatures, our friends, our relatives. What is not certain and is unknown to us is the hour of death, when death will come. It may happen while sleeping, while walking, while traveling, while working, while entertaining ourselves, etc. This is why we should pray to God daily, as the Church does: “For the completion of our lives in peace and repentance, let us ask the Lord” and “For a Christian end to our lives, peaceful, without shame and suffering, and for a good account before the awesome judgment seat of Christ, let us ask the Lord”.
In the teaching of the holy Fathers, we come across the truth that one of the greatest gifts a person can have is the daily “memory of death”. When this is maintained with the grace of God, it leads man not to despair, hopelessness, or psychological fear, but to inspiration, to prayer, creativity, even in human affairs, because he tries to finish his tasks and prepare properly. When we live each day as if it were the last day in our life, then even sudden death will find us ready.
"The Mystery and the Process of Death", Solia, Jan/Feb 2013 .
Leavetaking of Pascha
Christ is risen from the dead, Trampling down death by death, And upon those in the tombs Bestowing life!