Many of us in the community are the last member of our immediate family. It is a fact that often gives one pause as we think about and pray for those who have gone before us. For my part, I look forward to the day to be welcomed into the Kingdom by those of my family who have gone before me, particularly those whom I have never met because they were taken into glory long before I was born.
It is the same for those of us who are still among the living Sisters of St. Basil of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Province. So many have gone before us, and we look to them to be on the welcoming committee when we enter into the fulness of life.
After the Lord called my brother +Father Joe to himself, I found myself even more willing to be called home. When that time comes, whether I will feel the same willingness, I leave to God's goodness and mercy. There is a prayer our +Sister Magdaline would pray with the women who were residing at St. Basil's Home for Women, and I often make it a part of my evening prayer ever since. It reads as follows: My Lord and my God, even now I most willingly and cheerfully accept whatever form of death you will be pleased to send me, with all its anguish, sorrow and pain. Perhaps when my time comes, this prayer will be in my heart.
As Byzantine Catholic, and as members of a monastic order, we also have a rich tradition of prayers. The Parastas Service abounds with prayers that place before our minds eternal truths. We sing them in ushering someone to eternity, but they speak to our hearts about our own journey to the heavenly kingdom. In fact, the entire service is rather more for the benefit of the living than for the departed soul.
The following hymn is replete with images for our reflection, reminding us of our beginning and our end, so real and yet so sublime: O Lord, I am the image of your glory which is beyond description, even though I bear the marks of trangressions, have mercy on your creature, O Master, in your compassion cleanse me. Grant me the home I yearn for, and again make me an inhabitant of Paradise.
As Sisters of St. Basil, we have special verses that replace the Canon in the Parastas. When singing them, I often think of when the rest of the community will be singing them for me. All are so meaningful, but I quote just one of the verses for Tone 4: For the believers, death is but a sleep since you have rested in the tomb and have destroyed the dominion of death, You the Master of the whole universe. We pray to You: To our sister who comes to you, grant rest in the dwelling place of the Saints, O Lover of Humankind and Source of Life.
For me, to be ushered into eternity with the singing of these hymns, will be only one of the many blessings of my life as a Sister of St. Basil. And to think it all began because two people loved each other...two among the many who will greet me on the other side of this life.