In this audio recording, Elder Ephraim of Arizona recalls his afterlife experience at the time he was still living as a young monk in a small skete on Mount Athos, in the cell of his spiritual father, Saint Joseph the Hesychast. Later on, Elder Ephraim has built eighteen Orthodox Christian monasteries in North America and fell asleep in the Lord on December 7, 2019.
Audio source: balanthsberoia
Elder Ephraim of Arizona:
Our conscience will not accuse us. When is our conscience not going to accuse us? When we will have completed the second bath that is named “Holy Confession”.
The case of death is terrifying. We have not experienced her and we do not know her, yet she will arrive.
When my Holy Elder had reposed, and I had only one “ypotaktikos” [follower] in New Skete where he had reposed in the same cell and …… one afternoon during which we had to fall asleep and then wake up at sunset to hold an all-night Vigil according to our rules… I went to bed and I found myself to leave this life and ascend to meet God. This was not sleeping, it was a vision, something else, alien to the laws of nature.
While ascending, I reached the skies … ascending towards the infinite of God. There I realized that I am ascending in order to be judged. When I realized this within me, in a few moments, I think that I will stand before the Court of Christ and “then what?” … came the question. The most likely thing is that I will fail and the least likely is for me to succeed. In case I fail … “what happens?”. Immediately, the notion of hell, of eternity came to me, “there will be no light for you”, instead of angels you will meet demons and so much more, so “what happens now?”
Such great fear, such terror caught me that I felt like being a thousand times awake. If now I am awake and say these things, at that moment I was a hundred times awake such liveliness. This was not something natural, it was out of the ordinary.
And I was begging God … “Please God, take me back” “I beg you, take me back so I can repent, so I can change” and I notice that I stopped ascending and I started descending. I descend… I descend… I am back at my cell… I see my body and I enter it. I returned back to myself and I started thanking God with tears for bringing me back.
Though life was so “clean” next to the Elder, still the reality was that this troubled me a lot. I have also experienced other situations that make me think seriously about how one leaves this world for the next. From one moment to another and I will find myself before the Court of the Christ. At this Court, there is no need for lawyers and testimonies. With a single look from Christ, you are judged. And from then on, it [is decided] where you will end up to … where the life of eternity will be spent… When one thinks that he will find himself in the terrible darkness of hell and instead of angels, demons… In this life, if one sees a demon while awake, in case God permits it, he will prefer to be thrown into fire instead of watching the demon… now imagine having lost salvation and with the thought of eternity, this will not end…
Our life [on this earth] ends at some point, as much as we are tempted, as much as we get sick, whatever we do, some day it ends. “But there, it never ends, what happens then?”. These thoughts occupied the holy men and women and for these, they never neglected their ascetic duties. As Saint Antony said … He received the information from God that he will depart from this life and as a man that he was, he started crying. And his fellow monks ask him: “Abba, are you crying? Are you also afraid of death?” He says: “My children, as soon as I became a monk, the memory of death never abandoned me and for this reason, I never neglected my duties”. He had never neglected his duties, he had achieved sainthood, he was communicating with the eternals as if he was visiting a neighbor.
Despite all these, he still cried to the information and to the memory that he is leaving. I wonder what will happen to myself that I am not compared to the least to the status of St. Antony and I am so unworthy. I cannot get over this fact and yet it is true, we see it in action … we see how people die, we bury them, we see them on their deathbeds and how they apologize…”