Question: There is a petition for a shameless and painless repose in the Litany but more often than not people die in pain and sorrows. What do we ask for then?
Answer: The “shameless” death means that we have to entrust our immortal souls to God. We must have faith and peace inside. We say that we hope for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come but we are limited by the time and space of this world. What does the life of the world to come to look like? What will happen after death? It is too tricky; we can barely comprehend it. However, when you see a person who is about to depart from this life and, in spite of all pain, his eyes radiate light, hope, absence of panic, and trust in God, it has a huge influence on all people around that dying person.
I recall the death of a woman who had worked for the KGB. She did not have any family, except for two kids. Her husband had abandoned them. It was really tragic. I gave her communion just a couple of days before she reposed. She was assured that her children would be taken care of and that God would not leave them alone. She looked frightening, her skin was yellowish; yet her eyes were filled with so much liveliness, so much trust, and so much love! I don’t know why but I wanted to stay by her deathbed for as long as I could. “I’d like to have the spiritual power of this brave woman, too,” I thought to myself. This must be that shameless and peaceful kind of death when a person knows where and to whom he is about to go. May God grant everyone a death like this!
Question: Why does God demand absolute loyalty from our souls?
Answer: Darkness can’t coexist with love and light. God won’t let you choose a part of your life that you can set apart for him and then keep on doing what you want, i.e. sinning, with the rest of your life. We must give up all our heart to God because He deserves it. He gave up his entire life as a human for our sake. He feeds us with His Body and Blood; His love is absolute; He came into this world to save us. That is why He cannot say that there is a part of your heart and your life that belongs only to you and that you can dispose of as you please. You have to hand your whole life over to God and to rely on his Providence. That is how we can enter eternal life and defeat death.
Ye cannot serve God and mammon (Cf. Matthew 6: 24). You can’t divide your heart and your life. You’ve got to choose yes or no. If we decide to follow Christ, we must follow him till the end. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved (Matthew 24: 13).
Question: Sometimes a person feels God’s grace after communion, and this grace supports him for some time. However, one might sometimes think that he does not deserve communion. Should one worry about it or not?
Answer: You must not rely on yourself. When your soul is sick, you disinfect its wounds by communion. It can hurt. The Lord may grant comfort and joy one time and you may have to withstand a spiritual battle the other time and feel depressed. The medicine works anyway, and you should not go by your emotions because it may be a trial sent by God.
We hear that there used to be ascetics who spent decades praying despite the fact that they could not feel anything. God regarded it as a great feat of ascetic devotion. Naturally, we would like our souls to be soaring high after a communion; sometimes they feel pain and suffer instead. It doesn’t mean that we are unworthy. In fact, no one deserves the Holy Gifts—who can be worthy of it? Do you really think that the fact that you don’t eat something or read some prayers means that you deserve the Communion? Of course not!
Speaking of worthy communion, the less worthy of it you feel, the more you deserve it. If you acknowledge that you are guilty and that the Lord loves you as you are: the dirty, ungrateful, and ill-spirited person that you are; if you feel sorry for that, this is what makes you worthy. The other kind of “worthiness”, i.e., when you deem yourself better than someone else; when you feel superior because you have read all there was to read because you have prepared properly to receive this love—that’s a shameful condition. We’d better avoid it.
I suffer from despair. How do I brace up and get to church? What do I do if my relatives do not share my enthusiasm about God and the Church? Children make noise in church. What do I do?