Sunday, October 2, 2016

Why Do Our Church Fathers See Death as a Gift from God?


Death is always something that brings sorrow to our hearts. So why should we look at it as a gift from God? The obvious answer is that death is the only pathway to the Kingdom of God. It is in death that we are reborn into His eternal kingdom. Of course it is not only by dying that we will enter, we must also have a soul that longs for God with love and a life where we have continually strove to do His will. This does not mean we will be perfect or sinless as only Christ is sinless, but that we must be striving for that perfection because we love God with our whole heart.

We can look at the way Christ faced death to understand the nature of this path. First, remember how Christ suffered on His way to the Cross? By this He wanted us to know that the path is not easy and is often filled with pain and great difficulty. Secondly, think about how we demonstrate our faithfulness through our endurance of pain and difficulty. Third, the best news of all, the basis of the Gospel, be assured that there is hope for us in our resurrection. Christ shows us that if we are faithful, death is only a transition from this worldly life to a life in His kingdom.

It’s important to remember that the aim of our life is not wealth, happiness, well being. Hopefully we will receive these gifts, but the aim is to become united with Him through our obedience and death. Our life is also a gift given to us so we can purify our soul and develop this true love of God while we experience the wonders and beauties of His creation.

The fathers also teach us that one way to assure we live a pure life is to remember every day the reality of our eventual death. Not in a morbid or negative way, but in a hopeful way, seeing the reality of our coming life in His kingdom reached through death.

With this view we will find that many of the desires that give us a stressful life are not really all that important in this bigger picture. Reflect on how you see the aim of your life.  How do you see the reality of your death. Can you see it as something positive?

When we lose a loved one as they move along the path to union with God, we find it difficult to accept and feel the great loss of their presence. This too is normal as even Christ wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus. Sorrow is to be expected and we can remind ourselves that our loss is the gain of the one who has fallen asleep in the Lord. We say they have fallen asleep as death is not really death but a transformation of life.

6 comments:

  1. Hello Fr Dn Joiner - Can you please provide a link or recommend further reading about the Church Fathers discussing death as a gift from God?

    Thank you in advance.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Here is a quote from Saint Porphyrios
    Death is a bridge that brings us to Christ. As soon as we close our eyes, we’ll open them in eternity. We’ll be brought before Christ. In the next life we’ll experience the Grace of God more intensely.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello Fr Dn Joiner-
    Thank you for your reply. The quote helps me understand the message I believe you are trying to convey but I am having a problem calling death a gift from God when reading what the scriptures has to say about death.

    Just before the quote of Saint Porphyrios he says “But whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” That is a quote from Romans 14:8.

    Saint Porphyrios writings on his illness and suffering reminds me of what Saint Paul wrote in Philippians chapter 1 where in verse 21 he writes “ For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

    Saint Porphyrios says death is a bridge and Saint Paul calls death gain. The reason is because the gift of God is his Son or as Saint Paul wrote in Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    We find in in Hebrews 9:27 “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” In Genesis 3:19 “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

    These are certainties.

    A gift is something someone gives another of their own free will and without expecting anything in return.

    My understanding from Saint Paul is that death for a Christian is gain and according to Saint Porphyrios a bridge bring us to Christ, which I accept and agree. However, to say death is a gift from God isn’t something I am willing to accept at this time without further references.

    Was there an agreement by the Church Fathers at one of the counsel meeting that death is a gift from God?

    Thanks again

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think the way you think of it as a bridge or a gain fulfills the idea of a gift. It comes from God's will as He is the creator of all. Everything God does is done from His free will and without any expectation of something in return. This is the basic idea of love. Death then is all of these things. If you don't feel comfortable with the word gift I think your understanding about death as a bridge and gain is sufficient.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Here I link to article but in Greek
    http://www.pigizois.net/tefxi_filadia/101_150/129.htm

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dear Father, I just found out your blog. Thank you. Please continue.

    ReplyDelete