I have received news within the past half hour that a member if my parish, known to me simply as Spiridon, reposed in the Lord last evening at approximately ten o' clock. He had been in ailing health for some time, having had a stroke some years ago, reducing his mobility, and having had a number of accidents in recent weeks.
Spiridon lived some considerable distance from our parish - up in Lancaster, in fact - and was seldom able to make it to church, although we kept in regular contact with him, and Father Paul and I visited him. He was always a bright character and had the most amazing stories to tell, including playful tales from adolescence, and stories of some of the delightfully colourful characters that he encountered over his years in ROCOR.
Before becoming Orthodox, Spiridon had been Catholic, and was in fact in the final weeks of his novitiate at Ampleforth Abbey when he felt that he could no longer participate in those forms of worship. In telling me his story, he shared that the last straw for him was the casual lack of reverence that was common, even at the monastery, in preparing the bread and wine for the mass. He saw this in comparison to the care and devotion that goes on, unseen, in Orthodox churches, (at the proskomedi), and felt that this was the way that the Eucharist ought to be treated and the this was the honour with which creation should hold its Creator. He left before taking final vows.
Yet he retained the link to monasticism. I was delighted to learn last year of his correspondence with Blessed Seraphim of Platina, for whom I have a great devotion but who reposed in the year before I was born. Spiridon was kind enough to share with me something of the love that he found in Father Seraphim.
Father Seraphim of Platina
Sadly, I shall now never see the letters that he had planned to show to me but to have had that sort of contact with somebody who had benefitted directly from the spiritual wisdom of Father Seraphim is good enough for me.
Spiridon's close ties to the monastic life were also manifested in his close friendship with the monks at Vashon Island, of whom he could not possibly have spoken more fondly. He would often spend months at a time at the monastery, and had expressed a desire for it to be the final resting place of his mortal remains.
Father Spiridon with Father Tryphon
What Spiridon had managed to keep very quiet was that he was, in fact, Father Spiridon, having been made a monk during one of his visits to the monastery. This has only now come to light since he was taken to the hospice last week. This had been known only by the monks, their bishop, and Father Paul.
Monk Spiridon received the Mysteries of Holy Unction, Confession, and Communion during Holy Week, and was anointed both by Fr Jonathan of the Antiochian Deanery and by our own Father Paul, during the last days of his earthly life, so he has been well prepared for his journey.
In a blessed falling asleep, grant, O Lord, eternal rest unto thy departed servant the Monk Spiridon, and make his memory to be eternal.
The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken for misery: and their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace.
And though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality. Afflicted in few things, in many they shall be well rewarded: because God hath tried them, and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace he hath proved them, and as a victim of a holocaust he hath received them, and in time there shall be respect had to them.
The just shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the reeds. They shall judge nations, and rule over people, and their Lord shall reign for ever. They that trust in him, shall understand the truth: and they that are faithful in love shall rest in him: for grace and peace is to his elect.
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