On Meditating on the End of Days

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

You might indeed find many remedies for evil in Scripture, many medicines to save from destruction and lead to health; the mysteries of death and resurrection, the sentences of terrible judgment and everlasting punishment; the doctrines of repentance and of remission of sins; all the countless illustrations of conversion, the piece of money, the sheep, the son who wasted his substance with harlots, who was lost and was found, who was dead and alive again. Let us not use these remedies for ill; by these means let us heal our soul. Bethink you of your last day, for you will surely not, unlike all other women, live for ever. The distress, the gasping for breath, the hour of death, the imminent sentence of God, the angels hastening on their way, the soul fearfully dismayed, and lashed to agony by the consciousness of sin, turning itself piteously to things of this life and to the inevitable necessity of that long life to be lived elsewhere. Picture to me, as it rises in your imagination, the conclusion of all human life, when the Son of God shall come in His glory with His angels, For he shall come and shall not keep silence; when He shall come to judge the quick and dead, to render to every one according to his work; when that terrible trumpet with its mighty voice shall wake those that have slept through the ages, and they that have done good shall come forth unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation. Remember the vision of Daniel, and how he brings the judgment before us: I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool;…and His wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth before Him; thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened, Dan. 7:9-10 clearly disclosing in the hearing of all, angels and men, things good and evil, things done openly and in secret, deeds, words, and thoughts all at once. What then must those men be who have lived wicked lives? Where then shall that soul hide which in the sight of all these spectators shall suddenly be revealed in its fullness of shame? With what kind of body shall it sustain those endless and unbearable pangs in the place of fire unquenched, and of the worm that perishes and never dies, and of depth of Hades, dark and horrible; bitter wailings, loud lamenting, weeping and gnashing of teeth and anguish without end? From all these woes there is no release after death; no device, no means of coming forth from the chastisement of pain. (Letter 46.5)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

By the fear of God and the threat [of chastisements] to come, halt the violent impulses of the senses. In everything and everywhere remember death and the soul’s terror upon it’s leaving the body, and how the powers of the air and the dark forces come to meet it, all dissociated and cut to pieces in proportion to its disastrous familiarity with them through the passions. Let us think of the bitterness of the soul in hell, in the awareness and recollection of all the evil it has done in its body. Let us think of the final consummation of the entire world, of the immense conflagration destroying the universe in a frightful tumult of elements dissolved by flames: the heavens precipitously fleeing the terrifying development of fire purifying creation for the Parousia of the Pure; the sea disappearing; the earth shaken to its foundations, casting forth the countless myriads of the bodies of all men without exception. Let us think of the dread hour of reckoning at that time, at the dreadful and terrifying judgment seat of Christ, when all the powers of heaven and every human creature since the foundation of the ages will see right down to the most naked of our thoughts; when the ineffable light will welcome some for the brilliance of their works and when the illumination of the holy and blessed Trinity will cause to shine with even more brilliance those who can see It and endure the sight by the purity of their soul. Outer darkness will welcome the others, as well as the gnawing, untiring worm and the inextinguishable fire of Gehenna. Finally, the most serious of all, the eternal shame and regret of conscience. Think of all that so to be worthy of the first and not to be condemned to suffer this trial; let us be with them and with God, or rather wholly with God alone, totally within Him, with no longer anything of the earthly within us; in order to be close to God, become gods, receiving being gods, from God. In this way the divine gifts are venerated and are awaited in the love of the Parousia of divine joy. (Letters, 24, PG 91, 609C-612D.)