The talk by St Ephrem (4th century desert hermit)
...St. Gregory of Nyssa asserts that it was impossible to read his sermon on the Last Judgment, and still more so to hear it, without tears. My dear brethren; he said, you are listening to the words which I am going to speak concerning the fearful coming of the Lord. But who can relate such terrible things ? If I think of that dreadful moment I am entranced with fear. The King of kings will descend from heaven, from the throne of glory, to take His seat as Judge, and will call all the inhabitants of earth before His judgment-seat. Alas ! a clap of thunder makes us tremble now; how then shall we bear the clang of those trumpets which shall wake the dead ? As soon as the sleeping bodies in the bosom of the grave shall hear this sound, life will animate them once more.
All will rise again in one and the same moment, without a single hair being wanting to them ; they will collect together and stream towards the place of judgment ; for the heavenly King issues His commands, and the stricken earth and the agitated depths of ocean give back their dead; Then he described the fire which enkindles the whole world ; the angels who separate the sheep from the goats ; the sign of the Cross shining with light, which is carried before the King ; man kind in fear and confusion ; the just overflowing with joy, and the wicked a prey to despair ; the heavenly hosts glorifying the thrice holy God with their songs of praise ; heaven opened, and the Lord surrounded by such glory that neither heaven nor earth can support it. Ephrem was so affected that his voice melted into tears, and he was unable to proceed.
But the congregation cried aloud to him, Continue to instruct us in these fearful things, say further, thou servant of God, what will happen after that/ Ephrem then unfolded before their eyes the Book of Life in which all our thoughts, words, and works are written. Then each man will be called up to undergo a severe examination, and will not dare to lift up his eyes to the Eternal Judge, whose divinely just decree awards to each one life or death, heaven or hell. my dearest brethren ! how many tears ought we not to shed day and night in expectation of this fearful judgment. At the mere thought of such things my limbs stiffen.
We conjure thee, exclaimed his hearers, continue to speak to us for our welfare and the salvation of our souls; my dearest brethren !continued Ephrem, then will each Christian be examined whether he has the seal of holy baptism and the treasure of the faith ; each Christian will be asked whether he has lived according to his renunciation of Satan and his works, not only one or two of his works, but all in general. Oh, blessed is he who has faithfully kept his promise ! Then is announced that woeful sentence which parts men for ever from one another : bishops from bishops, priests from priests, deacons and lectors from their companions in orders; children from their parents, brothers from their sisters, friends from their friends. After the separation has taken place, the reprobate will call upon the elect with unspeakable lamentation, and will say :
Farewell ye saints and servants of God ! farewell ye prophets, apostles, and martyrs ! farewell ye parents, children, and friends ! farewell for ever thou most Blessed Virgin, Mother of God ! All ye have prayed for the salvation of our souls but we would not be saved. Farewell saving Cross ! farewell Paradise, thou field of delights, thou ever lasting kingdom, thou heavenly Jerusalem ! Fare well ye blessed ! Farewell to bliss ! We shall see you no more ! We are sinking into an abyss of pain and torments, we have no more hope of salvation for ever Ephrem continued to speak in this way for a long time to the breathlessly attentive congregation, and wept and sobbed, and struck his breast in penitence. He did not do this with the motive of affecting his hearers, but the sinfulness of men, and the justice of God, represented themselves so forcibly to his mind, that his interior agitation made him lose his self-command.