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Protection of the Soul by the Virgin Mary before and after death | Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou

[Orthodox Podcast] It is important to have a good relationship with the Virgin Mary. This relationship will come up at the time of the exit of our soul. The evil spirits will be kept away and the Virgin Mary will enlighten us to fight at that time, so that we might even earn a crown of a martyr.

This English translation of the Sermon of Metropolitan of Morphou Neophytos given during the 4th Salutations Service to the Theotokos on 16.03.2018 in the Holy Monastery of Panagia of Arakas, Cyprus, was recorded for otelders.org, by Peter Eliades.

Audio source: RumOrthodox

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Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou:

A verse that was carved in my heart tonight from the Small Compline which is attached to the Service of Salutations to the Theotokos, and which is of interest to all of us as we will all come across it, or at least most of us. It says, at
the point where the deacon said, “Spotless, undefiled …”

“At the hour of my death, care for my miserable soul and drive the dark faces of the evil spirits far from it.”

The hymnographer is a humble man [as you can realize] and he humbles himself, and does not wish to be exalted, praised, or glorified as we do. How does he characterize his soul? “Miserable.”
If I say to one of you, “How are you dealing with your miserable soul?” You won’t speak to me again!
As I once said jokingly to a steward, “How are you, my sinful steward?” It took him two months to talk to me again.
I explained to him afterwards, My good man, we, the priests and archpriests in order to perform the Liturgy, we say twenty two times, “O God, be gracious unto me a sinner, and have mercy upon me.” [Only] with this attitude, do we open our mouth to receive the Communion.
If we want to consider ourselves as true Christians, we need to be self-aware that we are sinners! The whole purpose of these hymns [of the Salutations] is [to realize] that from the spiritual death sin bears, the Virgin Mary managed to save us by offering her body and her blood to the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit was united with this most-holy body, with this most-holy blood, and “of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,” the Son and Word of God was incarnate, and we have the great feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos which we will celebrate in a few days. [The scene of the Annunciation of the Theotokos] is depicted [in this church] above the iconostasis.
Thus, if we wish for our soul, which is immortal … from the moment the sperm and the ovum of our parents is united, this [created] man with his conscience, which conscience is “retained” by the soul, will never die. Never!
Only the body dies, the soul does not! This is why the soul is called “immortal.” She knows no death.
And why is that? Because the soul is not imparted by our father and our mother, but by the Holy Spirit! God, Himself, imparts the soul! Thus, God, the Life-giving Spirit imparts the soul at the moment of our conception. In the same way, the Holy Spirit gives the order for the soul to exit when the body dies.
But the soul does not die! It says here that the soul has an exit: “at the time of my exit [departure].” From where does the soul exit? The soul exits the body.
[The verse] says, “my miserable soul.” [The hymnographer] is worried!

“At the hour of my death, care for my miserable soul and drive the dark faces of evil spirits far from it.”

Where are those evil spirits of which the author of the prayer is worried, and calls the Theotokos to drive them away at the hour of death? “At the hour of death,” spirits approach the soul and tempt her. Evil spirits!
God allows this [to happen] even to faithful men. So that “at the time of the exit of the soul,” they will pray, they will be humbled, and they will ask help from Christ, from Virgin Mary and the Saints. At that time, the greatest help possible for man is received by the Virgin Mary.
We asked once our Saint Elder Iakovos [Tsalikis] of Evia, who was canonized re- cently officially by our Ecumenical Patriarchate: When a man “psychomachei” [is agonizing], as we say in Cyprus, and his soul exits his body, at the time of the exit of the soul, we, the relatives, the friends, the priests, what shall we do?
Do you know what he advised us? Read the Salutations to the Most Holy Theotokos. This is what he told us. As long as the soul is united with the body, we read the Salutations to the Theotokos. As soon as the soul is separated from the body and our person dies, that is his body dies, we start reading the Psalter.
Look at the wisdom of our church! Meaning both our body and soul need prayer. Both our living soul and our dead body.

These evil spirits exist and depending on the passions/sins that we have cultivated during our lives, such evil spirits we will encounter, meaning
One who loved money will be tempted at that time by the demon of avarice.
One who was fornicator and did not repent will be tempted by the demon of fornication.
One who was jealous and did not repent and made the lives of his fellow men tougher with his jealousy will be tempted by the demon of jealousy.
One who was envious, by the relevant demon.
One who was ruthless to people and criticized and blamed the others all the time and he only wanted glory and fame for himself, there exists for him a demon that tempts.
Hence, depending on how we deal with our passions, relative is the temptation we receive, both during our lifetime and during the exit of the soul from the body. One more thing.
After the soul exits the body and we mourn our man who has fallen asleep, as one does not die. After the Resurrection of Christ, there is no death. There is only dormition. We do not say the death of the Virgin Mary. We say the Dormition of the Theotokos. We do not say graveyard. We say place of dormition [koimi- tirion/τόπος κοίμησης]. That’s the right word. Why is that? Because everyone will awake. This is what Resurrection means.
The teachers asked the little children of an elementary school, “What are we celebrating during Pascha?”
And they replied, “The Resurrection of Christ!”
“Why do we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ? Why is it of interest to us if Christ resurrected?”
The little children replied, “Because Christ resurrected, we can also resurrect during the Second Coming and not die again!”
Watch the understanding of these little children from elementary school!
They also asked them, “Why do we say someone fell asleep or the Dormition of Theotokos? What is death for you?”
And they replied, “Separation of soul from the body. That’s death!” “What is resurrection for you, children?”
“An awakening,” a little girl told me, “to wake up when we listen to the alarm clock of our soul!”

“And who is the alarm clock of the soul?” I asked. “Christ!”
The Word of God. Even the term itself resonates “voice.” This God-man voice will be heard and everyone will resurrect. But until that terrific Day of Judgment comes, we have an upward hill for the soul to ascend when she separates from the body.
There are the tollhouses. That is the uncleaned spirits which, depending on the passions for which we did not repent, and did not work on them thoroughly, and chose not to repent for particular sins and passions and evils. They will call us out. It is probable that we will not be able to reach the Light of Virgin Mary, let alone the Light of Christ.
In order for you to realize what I mean [let me tell you this]. When the mother of Saint Iakovos Tsalikis fell asleep, he himself told this to me. He would perform every day a Liturgy for her and would commemorate her [during the Liturgy]. On the fortieth day [since her falling asleep], he saw his mother! During the Divine Liturgy, inside the altar and he saw her in the light.
He told her, “My mother, God gave you glory!” “Yes, my Iakovos.”
“I was worried about you, my mother! How did you pass through the terrible tollhouses when your soul exited the body and ascended to the Light of Christ?”
What do you think she told him? “I passed through easily, my Iakovos. They did not tempt me at all.”
“My mother, were you that careful of yourself [i.e., spiritual care of herself during her lifetime]?”
“Listen, my Iakovos. My road …” — she said it in a simplistic way in order for him and for us to be able to comprehend it — “My road to the Heaven of Christ was paved right and left with ‘the loaves of bread’ … with the breads I gave to the poor. Thus, the demons had no right neither to accuse me nor to claim my soul.”
This woman was so merciful to the point that she deprived her children of goods in order to provide to the poor. She was looking for orphans to give them clothes, even if her own children did not have the essentials. All these things “were found” by her soul during the ascent, at the time of exit, while she was heading to the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ.
Thus, it is important to have a good relationship with the Virgin Mary. This relationship will come up at the time of the exit of our soul. The evil spirits will be kept away and the Virgin Mary will enlighten us to fight at that time, so that we might even [get the chance to] earn a crown of a martyr.
Even at the time our soul will exit the body and will be ascending to the Savior of souls, Jesus Christ, even then let us have deposits of virtues such as alms, such as repentance, such as forgiveness, such as kindness, such as fasting, prayer and vigil. When a man cultivates these virtues, he will find them in front of him. “As we do on earth, we will find them in heaven.” Above all, alms, love and honor to our Virgin Mary.
I wish this love to be cultivated by you in this village, two villages united, Lagoudera, Saranti, and you are united by the Virgin Mary of Arakas. I wish that this unity under the Mother of God to be cultivated all the time as well as your love to the Monastery of the Virgin Mary. The more we honor the Virgin Mary, the more she will honor us with her presence at the terrific moment of the exit of our miserable soul, and “the dark faces of the evil spirits” will be kept away from our soul. In case we also have the virtues of alms, forgiveness, repentance, more and more, our soul will be illuminated by the Light of Christ.
[I wish you] many blessed years, a “good fight” for the remainder of Lent, happy Pascha, and Lambrin axwristoi!
[Lambrin axwristoi/και τη Λαμπρήν αχώριστοι is a Cypriot wish used as an answer to “good fight”/καλό στάδιο, meaning to be found all together on Easter day.]
Through the prayers of our Holy Father, O Lord Jesus Christ Our God, have mercy upon us and save us!

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