Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Life & Death

St Paul the Apostle  (ca 60 ad)

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed -- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

1st Letter to the Corinthians, 15: 51-58

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Letter to the Colossians 3:1-4

St Anthony the Great  (ca. 330 ad)

Life is the union and conjunction of [1] the mind, [2] the soul. [3] and the body. Death, on the other hand, is not the destruction of these conjoined things, but the dissolution of their union.  For by God we are preserved after the disolution, too.

Philokalia #93

Mortal beings are sorry because they know in advance that they will die. Immortality, being good, comes to the holy soul.  Mortality, on the other hand, comes to the foolish and wretched soul.

Philokalia #169

Paschal Troparion (ca 500 ad)

Christ is risen from the dead,Trampling down death by death, And upon those in the tombs, Bestowing life!


In the year AD 302, Diocletian issued an edict that every Christian soldier in the army should be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods of the time. However George objected and with the courage of his faith approached the Emperor and ruler. Diocletian was upset, not wanting to lose his best tribune and the son of his best official, Gerontius. George loudly renounced the Emperor's edict, and in front of his fellow soldiers and Tribunes he claimed himself to be a Christian and declared his worship of Jesus Christ. Diocletian attempted to convert George, even offering gifts of land, money and slaves if he made a sacrifice to the Roman gods. The Emperor made many offers, but George never accepted.  Recognizing the futility of his efforts, Diocletian was left with no choice but to have him executed for his refusal.


Fr. John Romaindes (1955 ad)

St.  Paul clearly says  that "the sting  of death  is sin,"  that "sin reigned in  death,"  and that death  is "the last enemy  that shall be destroyed." In  his epistles,  he is  especially inspired when  he is speaking about the victory of Christ over death and corruption. It would be highly   illogical  to   try   to  interpret   Pauline  thought   with  the presuppositions (1)  that death  is normal or  (2) that at most,  it is the outcome of  a juridical decision of God to punish  the whole human race for one sin,  (3) that happiness is  the ultimate destiny of  man, and (4) that the soul  is immaterial, naturally immortal and  directly created by God at conception   and  is   therefore   normal  and   pure  of   defects  (Roman scholasticism).  The Pauline  doctrine of  man's inability  to do  the good which he  is capable of acknowledging  according to the "inner  man" can be understood only if one takes seriously the power of death and corruption in the  flesh, which  makes it  impossible for  man to  live according  to his original destiny.

The moralistic problem raised  by St. Augustine concerning the transmission of  death to  the descendants of  Adam as  punishment for the  one original transgression is  foreign to Paul's thoughts. The  death of each man cannot be considered the outcome  of personal guilt. St. Paul is not thinking as a philosophical moralist  looking for the  cause of the fall  of humanity and creation in the breaking of objective rules of good behavior, which demands punishment from a God  whose justice is in the image of the justice of this world. Paul  is clearly  thinking of the  fall in terms  of a personalistic warfare between God and  Satan, in which Satan is not obliged to follow any sort of moral rules  if he can help it. It is for this reason that St. Paul can  say  that the  serpent  "deceived Eve" and that  "Adam was  not deceived, but the woman  being deceived was in the transgression." Man was not punished by God, but taken captive by the devil.

It is  only when one understands the meaning  of death and its consequences that one can understand  the life of the ancient Church, and especially its attitude toward martyrdom. Being  already dead to the world in baptism, and having  their life  hidden with  Christ in  God, Christians  could not falter  in the face  of death. They  were already  dead, and yet  living in Christ.  To be  afraid of  death was  to be  still under  the power  of the devil--II  Timothy 1:7: "For God hath not given us  the spirit of fear, but of power, and of  love, and of sound mind." In trying to convince the Roman Christians not to hinder  his martyrdom, St. Ignatius wrote: "The prince of this world would fain carry me away, and corrupt my disposition toward God. Let none  of you therefore, who are in Rome,  help him." The Cyprianic controversy  over  the  fallen during  times  of  persecution was  violent, because the Church understood that it was a contradiction to die in baptism and then  to deny Christ for  fear of death and  torture.

No comments:

Post a Comment