Below is a homily on the awesome theme of eternity by Metropolitan Augoustinos (Kantiotes) of Florina. I have added a photo of Fr. John reading the Gospel in our Mission during Agape’s Vespers on Pascha, a day in which we rejoice that a joyful eternity awaits us on account of Christ’s glorious resurrection! Christ is risen!
“For here have we no enduring city, but we seek one to come.” In other words, the here-and-now offers Christians no permanent residence, but rather we are left to long for the day when we will enter into our future abode. Commenting on this very passage, Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite says, we must leave behind this passing, vain world, together with its mindset and passions, and run towards our heavenly, eternal homeland. This is a most beautiful line; a shining star. Here I will attempt to draw out its practical implications for you.
Eternity! My brothers and sisters, the first thing one requires if he wants to take hold of eternity is faith. Do you know what today’s people are like? Until the year 1500 AD, everyone believed that the whole earth was the area in and around the Middle East; that Gibraltar was the world’s end. For thousands of years they were completely ignorant of the existence of America. Thus, when Christopher Columbus appeared on the scene and began talking about the existence of another, new world, they were convinced that he had lost his mind. It was therefore no easy task to persuade the king to give him a ship to make his journey. Imagine how long it took to traverse the Atlantic in a tall ship! Seeing nothing before them but endless sky and water, even own crew began to murmur and complain. Columbus heard them and began to pray, and finally they spotted the coast of the new world! We find something similar going on in our own day: they didn’t believe Columbus and we don’t believe Christ, who assures us that there indeed exists a world beyond our own. If we don’t believe Christ, if we don’t take him at his word, we will lose eternity – God have mercy!
The other thing we need is concern and cultivation: Christ tells us that we must turn ourselves toward eternity and make it our concern. And we must cultivate faith in eternal life, asking God to ever increase this faith in us. We must fix our gaze upwards, toward Heaven: “Let us lift up our hearts!” This is what the line, “For here have we no enduring city, but we seek one to come,” means practically. If each of us were to show just a fraction of the concern for eternal life that we show for material things, this world would look entirely different. Sadly, our only desires are material; we lack spiritual aspirations. Materialism and Epicureanism prevail: “…let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.” Let us cultivate faith in eternity, then. Its beauty is indescribable; there are no words to convey it.
But faith and concern alone are not enough; sacrifices are also required if we are to acquire eternity. If we have to make sacrifices for the sake our earthly homeland, how much more ought we to make sacrifices for our heavenly homeland? Our life will eventually set on this earth, but just like the sun, we rise elsewhere – in eternal life. Thus, eternity is worth every sacrifice.
If we cast the desire for eternity out of Christianity, what is left? A colourless, scentless flower; it will lack the beautiful fragrance of eternity. Thus we find this desire established amongst the twelve fundamental tenets of the faith: the Creed ends with the words, “I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen,” does it not?
So as a German philosopher has said, man has many noteworthy characteristics, but chiefly he is a metaphysical being rooted in God, and as the ancient philosopher Plato has said, man is like a tree whose roots are not below him in the ground, but in the eternal realm, where he desires to be translated.
Also of great important is the hour of our departure for eternity, the hour of death. Then the devil fiercely wars against us, but God will send his grace to those faithful who are found worthy of it. Then brilliant, great things often happen. As the ever-memorable Androutsos has said, “Do not lose faith concerning anyone. We do not know what occurs between the soul and God even in the last moment. This is known to God alone.”
In older times, when someone lay at home and the time for the departure of his soul drew nigh, everyone knelt down around him and prayed. We in our day have forgotten about this practice, even those of us who are in some sense ‘religious.’ We have erased the metaphysical world from our minds. “What agony has the soul when it is parted from the body!” sings the Church. Moreover, Christ, when he came to the end of his earthly life, said, “Now is my soul troubled.” The soul of every man is troubled. Saint Basil the Great, too, writing about all these things, says that some wrongly put off repentance until the final hours of their life. At that time, brothers and sisters, the soul will be troubled. Holy people, like the Blessed Augustine, often sent those who were close to them away as death approached for it was their desire to be alone with God: ‘Farewell world and those things associated with it! Farewell relatives and friends!’
Not one of us has experienced death. At that time the bodily senses give way and man sees and lives another reality. He passes through the toll-houses, he comes face-to-face with, “…dark visions of evil demons.” While the minds of great thinkers, as well as the imagination of the laity, have given rise to works centered on the mystery of death and the next life, it must be remembered that whatever is useful for our salvation, God has shown us, God has revealed to us! These things we ought to hold on to, and not seek to penetrate the mysteries of God out of curiosity.
We should not be indifferent towards the world and its blessings, brothers and sisters; God created these things and they are indeed beautiful. However, it is wrong and un-Christian to think that the earth is our permanent residence and that here all the yearnings of the soul are fulfilled. “For here have we no enduring city, but we seek one to come.” This is the proper mindset!
This is why all of us – each one of us to ourselves, parents to their children, catechists to the catechetical schools, teachers to their students, spiritual fathers to their spiritual children – need to begin emphasizing the metaphysical world: remember the end times, remember the end of this life, prepare for the future life. Where were we a hundred years ago? In the mind of God. And where will we be in a hundred years? Close to God, in boundless eternity, “For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.”
Thus we ought to live and chasten ourselves with the belief that, “I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” Amen.
May we contemplate the great mystery of eternity during these holy days of festal celebration: Christ is risen and death is destroyed!
 From the book Εμπνευσμένα Κηρύγματα Ορθοδόξου Ομολογίας και Αγιοπατερικής Πνοής (Orthodoxos Kypseli: Thessaloniki, 2011), 418-422. Translated by Fr John Palmer.
 Hebrews 13:14.
 Isaiah 22:13, 1 Corinthians 15:32.
 Christos Androutsos (1869-1937) was a well-known Greek theologian who taught dogmatics and Christian ethics.
 Idiomelon (tone 2) from the Funeral Service.
 John 12:27.
 Prayer to the Theotokos at Small Compline.
 Luke 20:38.