Field Flowers
or Lilies of the Field
Gathered from the Divine Scripture, Concerning
God's Commandments and the Holy Virtues
St. Paisius Velichkovsky

3. AN INSTRUCTION MOVING TO CONTRITION WHICH CUTS OFF ALL SELF-EXALTATION AND HUMAN PRIDE AND CONVERTS THE SOUL TO FOUNTAIN OF TEARS

If you seek such contrition, it is most sweet and soul-profiting to pay heed to the following instruction concerning the departure of your soul.

Now, O man, you are taking enjoyment of beauty, attractiveness, and glory, and spend your life in vain adornment, hoping thus to spend hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year. O man! Your life is all the time coming to an end. Life passes by; time little by little goes past; the frightful Throne of the Lord is being prepared; the Righteous Judge is drawing near.

O man! The judgment is at the doors; expect a frightful answer. The fiery river, boiling, is resounding with a crackling and with powerful sparks. Frightful torments are raging, awaiting the torture of sinners.

O man! Labor, strive, struggle. Before your death a herald will not come! The reward of the Saints is at hand; crowns are being prepared for the righteous; for those who labor and endure sorrows, the Kingdom of Heaven is opened; endless repose is at hand, and unutterable joy is being prepared. Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered the heart of man, that which God has prepared for those who love Him.

O man! Have you heard of torments? Why do you not tremble and become frightened? O man! Have you heard of unending joy? Why do you not struggle? Why do you waste the time of your life in tumult and vanity? Later you will not find another time, even though you might search with tears.

O man! Even if you live for a hundred, for a thousand years in this word with every food and enjoyment, fattening yourself like a calf, and making yourself look good, like a fox - when the frightful end, death, will come, then our life will seem as a single day, and all satiety and adornment will disappear without a trace, like the flower of the grass, which quickly falls away.

O man! Your life from birth to maturity and old age is like a single day, and after this is the speedy, unexpected end of you life.

O man! Bring to mind: where are your grandfathers and great-grandfathers, where are your father, and mother, and brothers, where are your relatives and close friends? Did they not all depart this life? Did they not also whish to live a little longer in this world, to enjoy themselves, adorn themselves, and make merry in their prosperity? But behold - against their own desire they were taken away.

Remember that you are earth, you are nourished by the earth, and you will go again into the earth: the flesh will disintegrate and rot, will be eaten by worms, and the bones will crumble like dust. Bring to mind the days of eternity and the years of past generations. How many kings and princes there were who lived in enjoyment and adornment! And what did this help them in their departure from this temporal life; where then were their enjoyment and adornment? For now they are earth and ashes!

How many strong, rich, valiant young men, blossoming with youth and beauty, there have been in this world; and how did their mighty strength, their pleasant youth blossoming with beauty, help them? It is as if all this had never been. Thousands of thousands and ten thousands of ten thousands, or as the sand of the sea, have been the men of every kind; and all of them departed this life.

Some of them could not give any kind of answer at the hour of death, but unexpectedly, standing or sitting, were taken away by death. Some gave up the spirit while eating and drinking; others died suddenly while traveling; some, while lying in bed and thinking to refresh their body by a small, brief sleep, in such a condition have fallen asleep in an eternal sleep; some miserably endured agonies at their last hour, beholding fearful, threatening spectacles, the mere depiction of which can terrify us not a little. And there have been other various and sudden deaths!

Oh, oh! Woe, woe! How the soul weeps before death, raising its eyes to the angels, stretches out its arms to men, pitifully implores, - but receives no help. In truth, the vanity of man!

Oh, oh! Woe, woe! Frightful and terrible is it to all when the soul is forcibly separated from the body. The soul departs with weeping, and the body is given over to the earth. Then all hope in the vanity, charm, glory and enjoyment of earthly things is converted to nothing.

Oh, oh! Woe, woe! A great weeping and lamentation, a great sighing and affliction is the separation of the soul.

Oh, woe! Woe! Short is this path on which we go with the body. This life is smoke, steam, dirt, ashes, dust, stench. As smoke disperses in the air, as the flower of the grass quickly falls away and fades, as a horse quickly runs away, as water flows quickly by, and as the fog ascends from the surface of the earth, and as the dew of the morning vanishes, or as a bird flies by: thus does the life of this age pass away. As the wind passes by, so does time go and pass by, and the days of our life come to an end.

It is better to endure more and to love fierce and cruel sorrows in this world, than to have a thousand years of joy and repose in this age as against a single day of the age to come. For the path of earthly life is not long; it appears for a short time and soon passes by. In truth, vanity and corruption is everything sweet, beautiful and glorious in this world. For these things, just like a shadow, being altered, pass everything by, and they are in this world like a dream. Now someone is, and a little later he departs; today he is with us, and in the morning is given over to the tomb.

Oh, oh! Woe, woe! Truly, in vain does everyone born of earth trouble himself! We all change, we all will die: kings and princes, judges and powerful ones, rich and poor, and every human being. Today he rejoices with us, takes enjoyment and adorns himself, and in the morning we weep over him and lament and mourn. Oh, man! Come to the tomb. Behold there a dead man lying. He is not glorious, not good of appearance, not beautiful. How he is swollen up and gives off a foul odor! The flesh rots and is corrupted and is devoured by worms: the bones are laid bare and the whole body crumbles to dust.

Oh, oh! Woe, woe! O sinful soul, what a frightful vision! Woe, woe! Made rich with the senses of soul and body, created most wisely, there is in you now neither splendor, nor good appearance, nor beauty. Whither has you bodily beauty and splendid youth disappeared? Where is the smiling face, where the splendid and bright eyes? Where is the eloquent tongue of Aristotle? Where is the breath, where the sweet, soft and gentle voice? Where is the eloquence of wisdom, the dignified walk, the dreams and desires and the vain cares? All this has fallen away and is eaten by worms. Behold how some of them come out of the mouth and nostrils, others from the eyes and ears, other from the posterior opening, and how the whole is filled with ugliness and foulness.

Oh, oh! Woe, woe! Beholding the dust lying in the tomb, let us say to ourselves: "Who is the king and the noble, who the poor man? Who is the master, and who the slave? Who is the glorious, who the inglorious? Who is the wise, who the fool? Where are the beauty and enjoyment of this world? Where are the power and wisdom of this age? Where are the dreams and the short-lived charms? Where is the corruptible and vain wealth? Where are the silver and gold ornaments? Where is the multitude of slaves standing by? Where are all the cares of this vain age? There is nothing left of all this; the man is deprived of all this."

Oh, oh! Woe, woe! Truly, in vain does everyone born of earth trouble himself. I behold you in the tomb and am terrified and shed tears with my whole heart. Oh, oh! Cruel and merciless death, who can flee you? You devour the human race like unripe wheat.

And thus, brethren, having come to see the shortness of our life and the vanity of this age, let us take care for the hour of death, leaving off the tumult of this world and the useless worldly cares; for neither wealth nor glory nor enjoyment will remain with us after death; and nothing of this will descend with us into the tomb. Only good deeds will go there and defend us and remain with. We were born naked, and naked we depart again.

And so, hearing this, we should not only sit in hesychia in our cells, restrain our tongue, take care for our souls, and weep in prayer over our sins, but we should even hide ourselves under the earth, mourn there over our sins, but we should even hide ourselves under the earth, mourn there over our sins while we are still alive, and live while dying for the sake of God in struggle. Knowing our speedy departure, let us before death wear out our corruptible body, because after death also it must remain corruptible until the Lord God resurrects us from the dead on the Last Day and grants to us immortal life and the endless Kingdom forever. Amen.

Translated by Fr. Seraphim Rose and Olga Oleinikov, Little Russian Philokalia, vol. IV





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