Honorable Mr. Papanicolaou,
A few hours after the burial of Elder Joseph, you published in your website an article with the title "the funeral of blessed Elder Joseph of Vatopedi" - "Smile from Eternity" describing with few words the event with the help of a few photographs. The photograph of the reposed, smiling not only with his lips but with the full expression of his face, has greatly impressed the world as we see it from the articles and comments in many websites. In fact one could meet people who just reposed with a bright face, or peaceful expression, or with deep restful repose but where is the smile? On one side the spiritual fathers say that the hour of death is frightful for man, on the other side we read in "Gerontika" (Elder Literature) that even the most advanced in the spiritual life through humility they would not lose their courage before they passed on to the other life where there is no more danger. Moreover the elder Joseph suffered from his heart and was greatly tormented by the sickness, so how then did he pose smiling?
The answer is: NO, he did not repose smiling, but SMILED AFTER HIS REPOSE.
From discussions with some fathers of the monastery we bring you the facts of the event.
The two monks who were with him till the last moment, ran to inform Elder Ephraim and the rest of the fathers and did not pay attention to the reposed, who was indeed with his mouth partly open.
They therefore came to prepare him according to the monastic formality. Elder Ephraim ordered not to cover his face. The fathers tried to close his mouth, but it was too late, the mouth would stay open, in fact they tied gauze around to hold his mouth closed, but after they would remove it the mouth would reopen. Some forty five minutes had passed since his repose.
Elder, it will look ugly this way with his mouth open, what should we do?
As he is, do not cover his face!
They stitched the monastic mandya (cloak) as is the custom.
The whole process to put the mandya and stitch it, took some forty five minutes more. They then cut the material around his face, by order, and they found the elder like at last all see him, smiling. Did he hear them and granted them this small favour, so that he may not sadden them? Or did he want to give us an idea of what he saw and the condition in which he is after his departure from the present life?
The smile of elder Joseph is the first supernatural event after his repose, and has become a great consolation to all of us.