Orthodox America

 Grandmother's Clock 

"Grandma, why is it that you always count each time your clock strikes, and then you look as though you're thinking about something?"  The seven-year-old girl put this question to her dear grandmother as she climbed onto her lap.

"I've developed a habit of counting the chimes, and then I reflect on the fact that with each passing hour the life still ahead of me is that much shorter and death is that much closer. The clock begins to strike and I think to myself, "Another hour of my life has flown into eternity; I have an hour less to live in this world.  The striking of the clock, like the tolling of a funeral bell, reminds me that eventually the last hour of my life will strike, and then the funeral bell will let people know that my time on earth has come to an end."

"But why, Grandma, do you think about this? It can't be very pleasant. Surely you don't want to die?"

"No, my child, I don't want to die, but death does not ask us when he will be welcome.  However, I've reached the age when the thought of death is there whether we want it or not.  And what kind of Christian would I be if I was afraid to think about death?  Our Lord teaches us to think about death and to be prepared for it any day, any hour, in order that we might properly prepare ourselves for the life to come.  And so, when the clock begins to strike, I think to myself: Yet another hour of my life here on earth has gone by.  What good have I done, or what bad have I done in the past hour?  Am I becoming a better person or not?  Am I prepared to stand before God at His judgment?  If I did or said something bad in the hour just gone by, then I sigh to the Lord over my sin and afterwards try to refrain from committing the same offense.  If, for example, one of the servants did something wrong or badly, or they said something that vexed me, or if you were mischievous-if I remember death it helps me to keep from getting cross and saying angry words.  Instead, I am able to respond with kindness, even love."

"From now on, Grandma, I'm going to do the same.  Every time the clock begins to strike, I'm going to think about death, just as you do." "It is good, my child, for each and every Christian to do that, but at your age it's beyond your ability.  Don't promise something you cannot carry through.  When you grow up, then you can undertake to do as I do.  Until then, do this. When the clock strikes, ask yourself:  My life has grown by another hour.  What have I done in this hour, what have I learned, what have I discovered?  If there's something you neglected or forgot to do-hurry and do it.  If you offended someone or you have taken offense, be quick to make it up with that person, and in the next hour try not to do anything bad or to repeat the mistakes you made in the hour gone by. In this way, with each passing hour, you will become wiser and kinder; you will grow in body and soul."

"That sounds good, Grandma.  I'm going to do just that."

"And may the Lord bless you, my dear child."

(Translated from Iskra Bozhiya (The Divine Spark), compiled by Rev. Grigory Diatchenko Moscow 1903, reprinted 1991 St. Petersburg.)