Rev. Mother had left him in their study with books to read after lunch but he had not touched
any of them. Fr Ignatius saw him about jobs and watched him as he got into bed and finally turned his face to the wall to
sleep, from which he did not awake on this earth. Rev. Mother told us he did
not even feel like writing, and even more curiously, the night before he had been unable to get the usual daily message from
the Master except, ‘We are well pleased with all that has been done today.’
At 2.30 p.m. Rev. Mother entered the study and found him lying on his right side, his head and
neck an ugly mauve colour. She called Fr Filius Domini at once and told him,
‘I think he is dead!’
As the news leaked out to us we could hardly believe it, for we had all assumed that he would
remain with us until Christ came again, yet there was no heartbeat, no sign of breath on his lips. He lay as one asleep, and although we massaged his body and raised his head to drain the blood from it,
it was all of no avail. He grew colder and colder. We thought that even if he died he might immediately return to life again and surprise us all. Yet some of the women standing by were already thinking how dreadful it would be without him to guide us.
The men, for the most part, were more hopeful. Fr
Ignatius was sent off in the car, which he had never driven – in fact he had never driven a car before. At reckless speed he rushed to a coffee-house where he finally found Dr Frankos eating his lunch. At the news he left his meal at once and Fr Ignatius drove back. So anxious was he to get the doctor to Rev. Father that he nearly overturned the car at the first corner
and continued at full speed with many narrow escapes until they reached the Abbey. The
good doctor was greatly shaken by the journey, but soon recovered enough to examine Rev. Father. One glance convinced him that Rev. Father was indeed dead, but he applied several tests to make sure and
finally gave him an injection in case he could be revived, after striking a match near his eyes and so on. He gave his final verdict that Rev. Father had died of a heart attack due to high blood-pressure. He said,
‘It is finished.’
How often Rev. Father had said those very words to mark the end of Christ’s life in our
Good Friday Three Hours Service! ‘It is finished, consummated. Every jot
and tittle of his life fulfilled and no need to return to earth again.’ Rev.
Father had passed into the realms of the Saints. For Rev. Mother it was a time
of ‘woe unspeakable.’
The Doctor had no death certificates with him so offered to drive Fr Ignatius in order to get
one. He would take Fr Peter as well, he said.
Rev. Mother suggested that Fr Peter wait at the Doctor’s house for the certificate while Fr Ignatius drove to
the hospital for another doctor, in case Dr Frankos had been mistaken in his conclusion. The three of us drove off but were
stopped just down the Limassol road at the coffee-house of Elias by a policeman who demanded to search the car. It was fortunate he did not ask for our licence, although the doctor was driving. After this brief delay all went smoothly.
Some time later Fr Peter was standing in the doctor’s office, receiving the duplicated certificate. The doctor said, ‘You must inform the Commissioner’s office.’ Fr
Peter said goodbye to the doctor, who said little, and walked home via the back streets of Limassol. The Commissioner’s Office was closed, it being a Saturday afternoon.
The clear, windy, blue sky with swallows darting here and there over the housetops, was as Rev. Father had often seen
it. It was a long walk but Fr Peter offered it up as a sacrifice for Rev. Father,
whether or not he was in the land of the Hereafter or alive again. He passed
Triada Church but there was no one there,
nor at the Convent School
in Andreas Street, where he saw a girl knocking at
the door and receiving no reply for a soul seeking comfort.
Our little band was in a similar position. God the
Trinity seemed far away and silent. We knocked hard with our prayers at the gate
of Heaven but no light came, at first. Eventually it did come, as it always will
to those who persevere in faith, even through the darkest hours.
While the younger clergy were away in Limassol on their separate missions, Fr Filius Domini had
administered the Last Rites (Extreme Unction) according to the Eastern rite. It was after this and after Fr Ignatius had returned
from the hospital with no doctor available, that the Rev. Mother had been told expressly by Christ the King that Rev. Father,
known in his mystic nature as Custos, or Guardian, had been called to his well-deserved rest.
Now there was no doubt, no hope of a miraculous recovery.
By the time Fr Peter had walked home from the town, the undertaker, sent by the doctor, had inspected
the body, taken measurements, arranged for the coffin, a second-class funeral, hearse and one carriage for the bearers, and
suggested a place of burial. He had arrived when Fr Ignatius was next door asking
Daphnes if he knew of someone who could lay out the body for us, but we were capable of that task.
The next arrival was a cemetery official who asked the same questions as the undertaker but particularly
if we wished Rev. Father to be buried in Polemedia (the English Army Depot) or locally in Agia Nicolas. We decided on the latter. So he laid out the body, which for him was merely to leave on his clothing and him in the ‘lying
in state’ position.
When he had gone, Sr Mary, Fr Ignatius and Fr Peter took the matter in hand properly. They washed the body, plugged it and re-robed him in his blue cope and Eastern stole (made by us in Cyprus), folded his hands across his chest and tied up his
jaw so the mouth was closed. Whilst doing all this they noticed a rusty brown mark on his left side in a similar place to that of our Lord, though He was pierced on the right side,
according to tradition.
We then moved the body to the Refectory which was turned temporarily into a church, with his feet
towards the altar. We then left the task for a while. Two candles were left burning on the altar. About this time Daphnes and Chloe Panagidou arrived with some
lilies and a jasmine garland.
Rev. Father had died in the room he also used as a study. It was strange, though we thought little
about it at the time, but the painting of Our Lady by Sasso Ferrati, which was used by the Rev. Father as a temporary reredos
when he took confession, and which Sr Reginae was returning to his study, fell down and its frame smashed, though the glass
surprisingly remained intact. So it was with Rev. Father, his earthly casket
had broken but his soul lives immortally.
In the study above Rev. Father’s bed on the wall was a 16th century tapestry showing a ruined
church and a hunt in full cry in the foreground. It used to hang in the Refectory
at Barnet. At the foot of his bed was a stand with a statue of St Ursula on it. Opposite
the bed under the window facing the sea was a table, and in a corner of the room was a Fr Filius Domini cupboard. The room was not only a study and bedroom but also a sitting room for visitors, and so under the other
window towards the pump-house was a window seat covered with a green embroidered cloth.
On the wall opposite his feet was a painting of St Teresa of Avila by Ribalta (it had
been next to their four-poster bed in England
(in the Red Room). Above the Ribalta was a pencil drawing of ‘The Thorn-Crowned
Christ’ by Correggio.
Late in the evening we had our usual evening prayers, and even Rev. Mother, who sat at the back
of the study in deep shock, managed in a broken voice to say a few prayers aloud. We
sang Hymns 27, ‘We sought Thee, O God, in the realms of light,’ and 344, ‘Guardian Angel who hath brooded.’
Rev. Mother arranged for some of us to keep vigil during the night, which all would have been glad to do, but like the three
disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane,
needed some sleep.
Later that evening Mr Houri, our lawyer, arrived, since Fr Ignatius had sent out for him, had
found him home at last and brought him along. Rev. Mother had expressed a desire
to see him and needed his legal advice. He gave her great comfort and promised
to help her in any way possible, and that she should send to him for money should that need arise, or for material help in
any way. He considered such kindness his simple duty. Out here in Cyprus
it is the custom for someone to act as patron for a widow, since she is not supposed to take part in any legal or business
matters for a season, but to rest from them and recover from the shock of her husband’s death. He was acting like another Joseph of Arimathea. Rev. Mother
told him frankly about the Court Case in England,
which, being a lawyer, he had already heard about. To all these things he listened
with great sympathy.
Kostas and Elenora came later, expecting no doubt to take part in the usual ‘night wake’
where relatives and friends sit round the dead body all night. This doleful custom
is fortunately no longer carried on in England,
and certainly not by us who have more enlightened views, so Kostas said his prayers along with his wife, kissed Rev. Mother
reverently on the forehead and left us.
During her meditation the Master said to Rev. Mother, ‘To-night
I weep with you.’ She also heard her Guardian Angel say most practically that the death had been caused by a ruptured large blood vessel in his head. Then she heard Rev. Father speaking: ‘It’s Jack, don’t weep ... I was met at the confines of the Saint Plane by St Peter and St Paul, Our Lady and St John.’
By this we understood that he was fortunate enough to pass right through the lower planes to that
of the fully canonised Saints, where he may lay our plaints before the Throne of Grace. We remembered a certain game, the
Path of Perfection, on Rev. Mother’s birthday (March 10th 1947) which Rev.
Father won easily, the first to reach Heaven. Rev. Mother was upset at the time
as she expected to die with him. She had really taken that game to be prophetic,
which it was.
Now Rev. Father died during the Octave of Saints Peter and Paul and it was therefore significant
that the Daily Light reading for July 2nd should be; ‘Now therefore ye are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow
citizens with the saints of the household of God.’
It is convenient to note here a dream by Fr Peter, which came later, in which he saw Rev. Father,
who was no singer, accompanied by St Peter and St Paul and singing the hymn written by Archbishop Churchill Sibley, ‘Onward,
ever onward,’ in a strong, rich voice.
When Fr Solomonos was told about the death of his friend, Rev. Father, he said earnestly, ‘I
already knew, for he came and said to me, “I am going away and I shall not be back.”’
Solemn Requiem. (July 3rd 1949)
This was held at 10.30 a.m. by Fr Filius Domini, and to it came some of our close neighbours including
Daphnes, Chloe, Mrs Solomonos, Elene, Anna, Mrs Elenora, Sophia and others of our Cypriot friends. Fr Ignatius preached the
sermon in English and then in Greek, pointing out Rev. Father’s virtues and mental qualities and his position in our
Community as leader and guide. He said Rev. Father, the person, did not lie in
the coffin before us, it was but the empty cask of the soul, and that living soul had gone to God.
It was at this solemn ceremony that Sr. Mary had a clear vision of Rev. Father coming down to
us, between his angel and St John (his patron saint), chatting with them as they came.
He went straight to Rev. Mother and comforted her, before returning via a row of lights to the Saint Plane where he
is taking a brief holiday. Sr Gabrielle was also favoured at this hallowed moment by seeing the Hand of
Christ the King in its banner spring to life, as if to show that it was His Hand that had taken Rev. Father to his reward,
as was indeed the case.
During the service, as Rev. Father lay in state, many tears were shed but not a word of criticism
was raised by anyone then or afterwards. He had so often been the victim of unjust
criticism and persecution, of bitter condemnation by those who were spiritually blind, that this was indeed a rare pleasure. He was a sensitive man, certainly never neurotic, but rarely appreciated for his true
worth even by those who should have known better. He became a martyr to his sound
principles. Here in the Church all came to gaze upon his face once more. Eastern and Western Faith mingled together in their sorrow, paying silent tribute
to this noble man who had won their love and respect, the Founder of a group of Christians taking new directions and imbued
with a fresh downpouring of the Holy Spirit in an age fast growing materialistic. It
was plain to see that he had won the hearts of these Greek-Cypriots by his presence, not by his words, for he never learned
Mrs Solomonos comforted the Rev. Mother by saying she would meet her husband again, for she did
not believe death was the end. When our friends had gone, we brought crosses, books and other holy objects to touch his dear
body before it was returned to the earth whence it came. Then we took the body
back into the room where he had died, to await the burial service. There was
a saying in his family that ‘the eldest son would always die in a place alone, away from his friends’ and this
was certainly true in his case. No one was with him when he died, not even the Rev. Mother.
The burial service was due to begin at 2.30 p.m., and at about 1.45 p.m. Economos Solomonos and
his old father came across to say a few prayers through their tears. Little John Cuffe was taken to see the body and for the last time to say a ‘goodbye’
he will never remember in this world. Just before 2 p.m. a sign was given us in the form of a Divine Father cross in a circle
of light and around it could be seen, on staring, a dove with its beak bent over his body.
So in that moment the Trinity marked Its Presence. The Divine Father’s
equal-armed cross, the dove of the Holy Spirit and the mark of Jesus Christ in his side.
It was also noticeable how saintlike and noble his face had become, as if the full strength of
his character had begun to affect even the material form. It possessed a grandeur
and greatness not seen in the living flesh. In the candle-light he looked like
a finely moulded bronze statue, and almost as though in a moment he would awake from sleep and say, ‘Why are you all
standing around like this?’ Besides us, the only ones to see those divine
signs were the Arab lawyer, Mr Houri, Jimmy the Englishman who lives at his house, and Chloe from next door.
At 2.35 p.m. the burial service began, by which time Rev. Father’s body had been placed
in the black and white canvas coffin by Fr Peter, Fr Ignatius and two bearers from the undertakers. By mistake a new pillow and sheet went in too, but why not? Flowers
were placed around the body and all was ready. Our little Church suddenly became
almost unbearably hot as the spiritual influences began to function. The priests,
who wore heavy copes, felt almost overcome by the heat, though the front door was wide open behind them and the ceiling was
high above the flagstone floor. Partly perhaps this was due to the people who
were crowding in, but not entirely.
The bearers who brought in the coffin were handling it roughly at first, with little respect for
the dead, but as the ceremony proceeded and the spirit of God descended exceedingly, they changed into completely awed men. Reverently and gently they placed the coffin on the catafalque with Sr Filia Reginae,
Sr Gabrielle, Sr Lilian and Sr Bridget each standing at a corner of it and holding candle-holders with lighted candles. The carriage was late so we had to put in an extra hymn (256, ‘Father we thank
You for knowledge vouchsafed us’) and a further address by Fr Ignatius in English.
Many complete strangers crowded in after the start of the Burial Service, so that the cemetery official had the utmost
difficulty getting through to us to let us know the hearse was ready, but the crowd parted readily enough to allow Sr Bertha
to give Fr Peter the message that we were ready to move.
At length the coffin was safely installed on the hearse and the clergy, including Fr Solomonos
and his son Daphnes as cross-bearer, led the way. The clergy wore their blue
and gold copes, but Fr Filius Domini wore Rev. Mother’s gold cope with its rose on the morse. The sun beat down mercilessly as they lined their amices with serviettes and arranged them as hoods in
Armenian fashion. This monkish touch would have pleased the Rev. Father. Rev. Mother was in her white habit and the Sisters in their brown habits and veils,
in public, yes, for the first time since leaving England.
So in procession Rev. Father’s body went to its long home and we sang the Litany of the
Saints under the hot July sun and in the strong hot wind, while people flocked into the roadway, to door and window, away
from idle gossip and the usual discussion over politics at coffee, while ever the orange was ripe upon the tree, or the apricots
harvested home, while the fig and plum were ripening and the bees gathering in their honey, while cars stopped in the way
to reverence his last homeward journey, while our hearts were heavy within us, though our voices rang flute-loud to our Maker
and the Saint’s body passed to its resting-place like a king, and poverty was honoured in this hour of his triumph.
A single bell rang out monotonously as we approached the cemetery and slowly wended our way through
the crowded graveyard. Rev. Mother had been taken in Mr Houri’s car for
the walk would have been too much for her, even though she bore the burden with magnificent faith and self-control. As she stood at the graveside in her white cassock, gold girdle and white veil, she indeed reminded us,
of Our Lady at the cross. The one-and-a-half-mile journey to the cemetery was
her Via Dolorosa, and the crucifixion was the place where the beloved was buried.
It was not a new grave, but strangely enough it belonged to the rich man, Mr Houri, and nearby
one relation of his had already been buried. In Arabic his name means ‘priest,’
and here it was fitting that a great High Priest, Chancellor of the English branch of the Syrian Orthodox Church, should be
laid to rest.
Fr Solomonos gave a touching address to his ‘most beloved friend,’ extolling Rev.
Father’s goodness, saying how he had supported the Cypriot
Church in its misfortunes and successes, and had ever been a good neighbour
and friend. Who amongst those present could refrain from tears? In three short years Rev. Father had won the hearts of these people, and if only the English clergy in
Britain had taken such an interest in
him they would have been richly rewarded. Mr Houri told the Rev. Mother the night
before that we had many friends and so it turned out, whether by hand-clasp or a sympathetic look or word – this one
cannot describe the depth of feeling that accompanied those things.
It was strange that the Church should be dedicated to St Nicolas, whom we knew so well in England as Santa Claus, a role Rev. Father had played every
Christmas except the last one, and now he had reached the same abode as that Saint.
The priest of that Church was named George and the patron saint of England
is St George.
One of the oldest customs which reminded us we were in Cyprus, if we needed reminding, was that
on the approach of the coffin to the graveside the crowd of women present began keening, which we found upsetting, so we began
instead to sing hymn number 30, ‘God’s Love abideth,’ and a stillness and peace came over all present and
the keening and crying slowly died away.
Directly after the burial the clergy were told to remove their copes, not because they were hot,
but because this was the custom after a burial, perhaps as a mark of respect to the dead. Mr Houri took Rev. Mother, Fr Filius
Domini and Sr Reginae, along with Fr Solomonos, back home in his car, but the rest of us walked back after some of us had
remained to see the grave filled in and to visit the little church on the site. At home again we found the undertaker and
the cemetery official and the bearers waiting for their pay, which was £18 and which Mr Houri paid on our behalf. A woman,
a complete stranger to us, came up the drive soon after to offer her sympathy because she had heard that someone had died
It is the custom in Cyprus
to go early in the morning (like the Three Marys) to light a lamp at the graveside and to put some flowers there. This lamp must be kept alight for forty days after the funeral, and so it was arranged that Rev. Mother,
Sr Bertha, Sr Mary, Fr Ignatius and Chloe went to fulfil that task next day. It
has to be just before dawn, as it was in Christ’s time, and in this case again, it was the first day of the week.
Coincidences Surrounding the Funeral.
Many interesting things were discovered after the funeral, and are here related.
On June 4th the Rev. Father had been seeking an ancient prehistoric tomb near a school at the
back of Limassol. He asked two boys to show him where it was. Our car was actually standing over the very site, but the boys misled him by taking him to the cemetery of St Nicolas. Was it a mistake, or a foreshadowing of things to come? Within a month he was buried there. Fr Ignatius had seen the
burial place some two years before when taking a goat to be mated, and never thought to see it again.
On June 15th Rev. Father went with others to Stavravouni Monastery and exhibited the signs of
heart trouble, palpitations, breathlessness and extreme fatigue, yet he pushed on right to the top of the sacred mountain,
and because of its difficulty made it a sacrifice for a special intention. It
marked the beginning of the end, for he was not well from that time on.
On June 21st (St Aloysius’ Day) our Superiors went to St Barnabas’ with Sr Gabrielle,
Sr Helena and Fr Peter. The three last named went on up to the monastery of Stavravouni
but Rev. Father and Rev. Mother went elsewhere, their last outing together.
In the Divine Father Festival on June 24th, in the special Service, Rev. Father had said, ‘Ashes
to ashes and dust to dust, Thus passes the body when the spirit withdraws.’
We had been reading at meals Robert Hugh Benson’s book, The
Dawn of All, and had reached that part which refers to the English bishops’ visit to Rome
during the Feast of St Peter and St Paul. Rev. Father died within the Octave of these two Saints.
Our dog, Bob, ate nothing on the night of Rev. Father’s death and for some days after.
After the funeral we learned that in the very room where Rev. Father died, the previous owner
of the house, a ship’s captain who suffered from ulcers, had also died. Now
Rev. Father had stomach problems frequently, because when he was in Burma
his servant did not want him to leave and so put powdered glass into his food. The
likeness was quite uncanny, especially as Rev. Father was the captain of our little ship of the Confraternity of the Kingdom of Christ.
After the Funeral
When Sr Lilian went to tell the bees of his passing, an ancient custom in England and Europe to
prevent them flying away, as tradition holds they will do if they are not told of a death in the house, they did a strange
thing: they flew out and then back into the hive in single file, a most unusual procedure.
The day after the funeral God sent along a Mr Normand, who works at Amiandos. He had visited us with his friend Mr Houri the lawyer and enjoyed some of our plums. He came to us partly to comfort Rev. Mother but also, we think, to admire the old tapestry in the study.
This incident, together with a message from the Master, started us sorting out Museum objects for sale, and we would need
money to exist and to assist our next move to other shores, for Rev. Father’s death marked a point of important growth
in the work of the Abbey. It meant that our work in Cyprus was almost completed.
The Strangest Message.
On July 10th, we received the strangest message we have ever had, from the Holy Spirit via Rev.
Mother, concerning first of all our goat ‘Stavrapoule’ (‘Little Cross’) we had recently bought. Rev. Mother was shown that it was marked with Her Sign, the St Andrew’s Cross,
and from it a white stem was growing, like the beginnings of a Chi Rho.
“In such a way,” the message ran, “would grow up in our midst the earthly tabernacle of the future leader of this work, who will guide it through triumph and success
unto all eternity, even unto the day of the Coming of his Lord.”
Support from the Cypriots
Later Fr Ignatius, by permission of the Master, told Fr Solomonos and Daphnes who Rev. Father
really was, telling them about the foundations of the Confraternity from the beginning in broad outline, explaining how Rev.
Father and Rev. Mother were called to the Work. He also told how their message was rejected in England,
and how they had eventually come to Cyprus.
He was assured of their continuing support.
On July 12th Miltiades and his wife visited us to pay their late respects to Rev. Mother. He remembered very clearly all the teaching on Life After Death that Rev. Father had
discussed with him.
The Archimandrite, Kallicrates, the Bishop of Kition’s preacher, as he is known, heard of
Rev. Father’s death while he was at Stavravouni at the time and came next day (17th
July) to pray for him before he had eaten. We were in the middle of breakfast
when he arrived and had to clear the Refectory for the service. We set up the
Church speedily and lent him Rev. Father’s red eastern stole, and the Archimandrite offered up the Trisagion and other
prayers for Rev. Father’s soul. We sang Hymn 414, ‘There is no death
for those who toil, throughout this life for Thee.’ Although we had a Western
tabernacle and altar he did obeisance before it in the Greek manner, bowing as if picking up ashes and symbolically throwing
them over himself, and kissing the tabernacle with the utmost reverence.
This day also marked Rev. Father’s first general message to say that he was happy where
he was, and that we should ask Mr Ohley about prices for the Museum objects, in which he has naturally maintained his interest
and concern. He added a very human touch, ‘A
kiss for Johnnie.’
Most of the above information
is directly quoted from Peter Strong’s diaries, and reflects his views at that time. He also refers to many of the hopes
and fears that both he and other members of the community held following the Death of their “Reverend Father”.
Certainly his death was a great shock to all, not least to Jessie Ward. She was deeply affected by her husband’s death,
not so much because she missed him, because unlike most widows, she was able to received messages from him on a regular basis
and even pass them on to other members of the community. Rather, it seems, she initially shrunk from assuming the awesome
responsibility of being solely responsible for leading and guiding the Community they had once led together.
Nevertheless, her faith
and the loyal support of the other members enabled the community to continue and even to survive her own death in 1965. Today
the Work that they founded still persists, despite the many attacks that have been made upon it. Let us pray God that it will
continue and ultimately succeed in its task of spreading the message of Christ’s impending Return to an ever-widening
body of supporters until at length Our Lord does indeed Come Again.
 Within the family John Ward was always known as Jack and his brother, Reginald, as Rex.
Some members of the Community felt certain that Ward would be reincarnated again quite quickly, if they proved worthy
to receive such a special child into their midst. If this was indeed God’s Plan, the Community, apparently has not yet
Though obviously he had a fair understanding of New Testament Greek
[4 This is a reference to the Eighth Apocalypse, in which Ward himself is represented as ship’s boy who
becomes the leader of a small boatload of pilgrims
[5 The Chi Rho is an ancient symbol of Christ, and consists of its first two Greek
letters, X & P, superimposed upon one another. The mark on the goat had the X completed, but only a stub or beginning
of the P. Thus the X was seen to represent the completed life of John Sebastian Marlow Ward and the beginning of the P as
the beginning of the life of his young son, John Reginald Cuffe, then only three months old but who later grew up in the midst
of the Community and eventually came to assume his father’s mantle. We pray he may indeed lead the Work successfully
until the Day of the Coming of his Lord.