When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!”
I had an event in Safford, Arizona scheduled today for work. Knowing that Safford was home to a Serbian Orthodox monastery, I gladly told the guys I would drive to Safford and meet them. Afterwards, I planned to stop by St. Paisius and spend some time there. On my drive down to Safford I was listening to the Gospel of Luke from the Truth and Life New Testament. Luke is my favorite Gospel as it contains the infancy narrative and since this is the Pre-Nativity season, it seemed like great travelling music.
When the 7th Chapter of Luke was read, the story of the widow of Nain was played. During the funeral service of the Byzantine rite, as the casket it being taken out of the church, the procession stops in the Narthex and the Gospel reading of the widow of Nain is read. I have heard this many times at funerals at my church, but it was especially real for me this year. I know how powerful these words are. I can only imagine what it would have been like to have Christ present, touch the bier and say rise! Yet, through the communion of the saints, in a real way He did say rise!
When I got to St. Paisius, I went to the bookstore and looked at all the great things they had to sell. Afterwards, one of the sisters took me over to the main church and gave me a tour. The church is dedicated to St. Anastasija and is setup in an Orthodox cathedral style. There were many icons, a beautiful iconastasis and chandelier. The sister spent much time with me answering my questions and showing me around. Sister asked me if I was Orthodox and I told her no, I’m an Eastern rite Catholic. She asked where my parish was and the name. When I told her, she said yes, I know your parish. They have ordered from our gift shop several times. She said, I believe I’ve spoken to Theresa during the order process. I smiled and told her that Theresa reposed in April. She dropped her eyes, crossed herself and expressed her sorrow.
She asked if I had children and if it would be okay to add Theresa to their prayer intentions for the deceased, along with Ryan and I to the prayer intentions for the living. She took down the information and said that for the next 40 days, all of us would be included in all of the services of the church. At that time, Fr. Dorotheos the spiritual father attached to the monastery came into the church. Sister asked if she could share my story with Father and she did. He was so understanding and full of joy. He took out his “little black book”, added the names of Theresa & Dad to the deceased he prays for, as well as Ryan, Mom and I to those left behind. He wanted to know about me, what my spiritual life was like and to offer up words of wisdom to me. He invited me to come back to the monastery for a retreat, which I will gladly take him up on.
Sister gave me an Akathist to Jesus Christ for a Loved One who has Fallen Asleep. She walked me around to a few of the original chapels on the property. There was a beautiful spot under a bright yellow tree near the chapel. I told her that I was going to sit for a while and pray the Akathist she had given to me.
The 4th Kontakion reads: “The tempests of life have passed, earthly sufferings are ended, the enemies with their malice are powerless; but love is strong, delivering from eternal darkness and saving all, for whom with boldness it raises a song to Thee: Alleluia!”
As I was praying that Kontakion, the wind picked up and the leaves that had fallen on the ground swirled around me. This went on for about two minutes. And just as quickly as the wind came up, it went away. I’ve had this experience many times when I’ve visited the Columbarium in Phoenix, the last time being December 4th when Ryan visited for the first time. Each time I experience it, the hair raises on the back of my neck and I know that it is a sign of the hope of the resurrection.
When I finished up the Akathist, I reflected on the words that Fr. Dorotheos said to me, and I had another moment come to me, much like the experience I had at the seminary in June 2015. That is going to require some time to understand, but it was powerful none the less. I left St. Paisius full of joy and reflecting on the verse listed at the top of this post. While Jesus was not bodily present in the Narthex on April 21st and there was no earthly miracle that day, God did speak the word Rise and gave Theresa back to her Mother..The Holy Theotokos. Truly God has looked favorably on his people.
Thank you O Holy Trinity for good and holy monastics, priests and bishops!