“FOR MANY MORE YEARS!”... Wait... just HOW MANY MORE years can there be???
By Athanasios Rakovalis
18th of January... we honour the memory and the struggles of Saint Athanasios the Great! It was my name-day today! My hearing and my sight were overwhelmed with the traditional wish “for many more years!” God bless my friends, and I thank them wholeheartedly for their friendly disposition and the honour they bestowed on me, and I reciprocate their sentiments!
But this got me thinking... all those multiple wishes “for many more years”... how many more years can there be? As many as they may be, they will end very soon. What are they, compared to eternity? Nothing! A drop in the Ocean...
It seems this custom that we have, of wishing “for many more years”, is indicative of man’s love for life, and his aversion for death. It reveals the fear of death that is nestled in our souls. We strive to push death far from us... as far as we can... We try to forget it, because even the memory of death is terrible and it ruins our disposition.... a childish, immature behaviour and stance towards life. We are mentally shutting our eyes towards the inevitable.
We act like ostriches who bury their heads in the sand.... we don’t dare to think of death and confront it... confront the most certain event of our life!
As for me, instead of the wish “for many more years”, I would prefer to hear the wish that the first Christians used to exchange amongst themselves. This wish has been preserved in our day, mainly among monastics. Their wish is expressed as: “A GOOD REPENTANCE, AND A GOOD PARADISE!”
Repentance, which means an about-face in our mindset… which means, driving out all malice from our thoughts: wickedness, self-serving, cruelty, egotism and the like, which we tend to nurture and preserve with our own free will, in the deepest part of our being - our heart – where they cast darkness like heavy clouds inside our soul and our mind.
But when the clouds dissipate, then will come the light! When malice vanishes, then will come virtue, honesty, kindness, patience, forgiveness, love.... Then man comes into contact with the source of virtues: God - our Lord Jesus Christ. It is then that we begin a truly real, living, personal, inner and immediate relationship with Christ....
We begin to seek God; we want to meet Him, to love Him. That is when we can savour peace and joy in our soul... Man then begins to savour Paradise from this life – because Paradise is our living relationship with Christ... and Christ, in His abundant benevolence, gives us life from His eternal life, because He is the Source of the life and the existence of everything that exists.... Through that ontological relationship with Christ, we can become what man was, in the beginning: incorruptible and eternal... “Truly I say to you, that whosoever hears My word and believes on Him who sent Me, has life eternal...and shall have moved from death to life...” (John :24) are words said by Christ Himself! Truly immense words – because the matter of death is a huge one !!! What mere mortal dares to utter such a statement??? Who dares to make such a promise??
And to those who think to themselves that these are all “theories”... or religious obsessions... I will reply thus: “Take a look at our Saints - the miracles they performed while they were still alive here, but more importantly, the miracles they continue to perform after their dormition, all evidence the truth: a truth that thousands of present-day people living among us have seen with their own eyes and experienced with their physical bodies. I also deposit my own personal testimony... He Who had said “I am the way, truth and life” (John 14:6) is, beyond every doubt, the Truth! Praised be Your kindness, my Lord! Praised be Your love, my God!
It is we, who have the problem – the darkness of malice inside us... and this truth can become their own, only by those who are attracted to benevolence, and are predisposed to repent...
So, here’s wishing “A Good Repentance, and a Good Paradise”...