Note: As many are being asked to, and agreeing to temporarily forego participation in Divine Services (whether voluntarily, or due to their not being offered) out of concerns for the spread of the Corona virus, may this beautiful and short story from St. Iakovos' youth be instructive to us all with great discernment and in obedience to our spiritual leaders. Once, out of love and sacrifice for his fellow man, the Saint agreed to forego participation in church for the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. The Lord did not abandon him.
When Elder Iakovos of Evia (1920-1991) was serving in the army before he became a monk, he was granted permission to take all of Holy Week and Pascha off.
But during the week, he noticed one of his fellow soldiers was very depressed. And he asked him, “Why are you so sad, Mr George?”
“Papa-Iakove, you with your religiosity, managed to convince the commander to give you the entire week off. You will be fine with your chanting, your monk practices, but how about me? I also want to go to my village to spend Pascha with my fiancée. ”
“Okay, George, now you want the day of Pascha off – do you also want a couple of other days off?”
“Well, it would be good to have Great Friday off, and even Thursday, so I can get to church and hear a couple of gospels…”
“Don’t worry George, I will take care of it.”
This man of God, who lived for these services – this was his life, these hymns were his breath – he sacrificed it all for his fellow man, and he stayed inside the barracks – Holy Thursday, Holy Friday, Saturday and Pascha Sunday.
Out of curiosity I asked him, “Very well, Elder, how did you pass these days?”
“I was serving guard duty, and I was on a hill watching the citizens of Athens going to their churches, and I was trying to repeat the prayer of Jesus. And on the night of Pascha, when I heard the joyous bells, I sighed and I said, ‘O my Christ, now our Christians are receiving Your Holy Light.’ And as I said this, the Holy Light came to me as well!”
“How did this happen, Elder?”
“Well, my child, a light came from on high and rested on me, and I became all light!”
The man of God had sacrificed the created light of the Pascha candle, and he received the uncreated Light of Divinity. This was Elder Iakovos. This was inside his nature – the willingness to sacrifice even his prayer and his personal effort and struggle, for the love of his neighbour.
Source: From a talk given by Bishop Neophytos of Morphou, Cyprus.