Three Old Age Vignettes

Written at my refuge, the Mikrokastro monastery, under Our Lady’s Protective Veil . Watching my father die the last two weeks has been very painful and filled my mind with images of old age and decay.


Three Old Age Vignettes



 Terminal, Temporary, Transcending 




1 Corinthians 2

14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.


1 Corinthians 3

  1. And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, …

3. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?


I. Terminal

Three Old Age Death Vignettes orthodox city hermit


An Old Man by

C. P. Cavafys (1863-1933)


At the noisy end of the café, head bent

over the table, an old man sits alone,

a newspaper in front of him.


And in the miserable banality of old age

he thinks how little he enjoyed the years

when he had strength, eloquence, and looks.


He knows he’s aged a lot: he sees it, feels it.

Yet it seems he was young just yesterday.

So brief an interval, so very brief.


And he thinks of Prudence, how it fooled him,

how he always believed—what madness—

that cheat who said: “Tomorrow. You have plenty of time.”


He remembers impulses bridled, the joy

he sacrificed. Every chance he lost

now mocks his senseless caution.


But so much thinking, so much remembering

makes the old man dizzy. He falls asleep,

his head resting on the café table.


II. Temporary


Three Old Age Death Vignettes picasso old guitarist orthodox city hermit


Do not go gentle into that good night

Dylan Thomas, 1914 – 1953


Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.


Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.


Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.



III. Transcending

An Old Man in Christ


The royal doors are open, the great Liturgy is about to begin!


In the pouring rain, our fate

In Your hands, Lord brighten,

We make our way to meet you,

Beloved, across massive puddles

Rising with the tide of excitement.


“Ah, the blameless in the way. Alleluia”


Heart, body, mind and soul

Thoroughly cleansed and washed,

We are determined

To sprinkle Joy on your grey day,

Be your Guardian angels For a while

And hold off dark clouds

Of abandonment.


“My soul is worn with endless longing. Alleluia”


At the door, your quiet Strength surprises us!

An enchanting infant’s smile, behold!

You Beam our welcome,

Appropriately Toothless!

Are you, old friend, but a year old?


“Lord, I am become as a bottle in the frost. Alleluia.”


Head bent, hands crossed

The epitrachelion wraps gently

Emasciated shoulders, frail, stooped.

Humbly you whisper to Father

Your Confession, Taste Loyal Servant

The Fountain of Immortality

Invisible choirs accompany our poor hymn!


“Call me up to You, O Savior, and save me. Alleluia.”


You live alone, at your 93,

Even climb, dear, bedroom’s stairs steep!

Yet Angels and Saints keep you company

In the lonely path to Christ.
Christ before wife, mother and child, you put
Grace is free but discipleship is not cheap.


“The sheep that was lost am I. Alleluia.”


World wars have feared

Your Faith’s strong fortress,

Violently, you took the kingdom, by force.

Ravenous wolves failed

To lead you astray, the one pearl of great price

You unearthed, All that you had

You sold and bought.


“The Choir of the Saints has found the Fountain of Life.  Alleluia.”


What a living icon you are!

Like your faded with candles kissed

In your icon corner, full of Grace and Light

Painstakingly you commemorate,

Day-to-day, a long, tattered names’ list.


“Image am I of Your unutterable glory. Alleluia.”


You may be old, feeble and frail,

Yet your zeal and bright courage

Shames us all,

Amidst peppermint and cakes

His wonderful acts prophetically you proclaim,

The Spirit lifts you up,

To generations to come.


“Though I bear the scars of my stumblings. Alleluia”


Old Brother, toothless, we implore you in Christ,

Begging on your knees we sinful, beseech,

Under your roof, unworthy we pray

Just a little more while, abide with us,

Please stay, bless, to Heavens reach!


“Lead me back to be refashioned. Alleluia.”


Meek Humility, shine upon us,

Grace abundant your poor children enthuse!

What matters is the soul not the sole,

Bless us, Bless us, Guide us in judgment

You have inherited the Earth indeed.

Even if you’re wearing odd shoes!


“Into that ancient beauty of Your Likeness. Alleluia.”