Mystery of Death

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Translated from the Greek by Fr. Peter Chamberas

Mystery of Death

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Translated from the Greek by Fr. Peter Chamberas

A superb volume of Orthodox spirituality that examines crucial issues.

“What is that mystery which concerns all humans? How were we given up to decay? And how are we yoked to death?” So pondered St. John of Damascus, that divine organ of the Church and visionary of God's mysteries, as long ago as the seventh century.

This same question is posed by people of every period, age and educational level. From the time that death entered into the world as a consequence of sin, no one has looked upon death with indifference. And while we all accept that death is the estate of life, we find it impossible to imagine ourselves dead! But whether we comprehend this or not, from the moment we come into this world, we are indeed destined to die.

Furthermore, while death comes only once in our lifetime, we fear it every day. And death is inexorable. It comes as a skeleton holding a large sickle - as such it is depicted in the art of painting - to ‘reap’ man, not allowing him to take anything with him. And when one of our fellow human beings crosses over to the opposite side, the rest of us remain on this side frightened and bewildered.

St. Augustine, who in his early life grieved over the death of a dear friend, confessed: “My bereavement for this harsh loss plunged my soul into a fearful darkness. Everything around me was dead. I asked my soul why it was so bereaved and broken, but it was unable to answer me”. Truly, when death snatches someone, the questions jump up one after another; we remain silent and overcome by great pain, for a veil of mystery covers this subject.

From the beginning, of course, man has attempted to give an answer to the problem.

The various religions offer some answer to the problem of death. However, the fears of man about death, and the problems related to it, are best resolved by the Orthodox Christian view of its mystery. Both Roman Catholic and Protestant theology in general have been intensely influenced by contemporary ideas, which may account for their rather indefinite, unclear and even negative views on this important subject.

Orthodox Christians, however, who maintain the wholeness and soundness of ‘the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3), are fully confident that the death and resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, completely conquered the devil, dissolved the dominion of Hades and abolished death. Orthodox Christians further believe that death is a passage from this present life to the future eternal. When our brother or sister leaves us, we feel deeply that he or she has departed from this life, but lives on in another life. This is why an Orthodox Christian will peacefully accept the tragedy of death.

Faithful to holy Orthodoxy this book attempts, in a spirit of discipleship and fervent supplication to the Holy Spirit, to delve as much as possible into the sacred spiritual teaching of our Church. At the same time the writers have sought the guidance of the holy Fathers, who were enlightened by the light of knowledge, who delved into the depths of the Spirit, and who examined with God the things of God. Even though the God-bearing Fathers do not attempt a systematic exposition on the subject of the mystery of death, they nonetheless answer virtually all our questions. They are able to do this because, as with all the major issues of Faith, they deal with it without vain curiosity or over-officious meddling. When St. John Chrysostom spoke about doubting Thomas (John 20:19-29), he said: “That the Lord entered when the doors were shut to where the disciples were gathered, I have been taught by the Sacred Scripture. But (how) He entered, I have not yet learned. That which I have not received, I do not even dare to mention. I praise the Lord who entered, but do not curiously examine the manner of entry. I marvel at the accomplished miracle, but do not seek to explain precisely and in every detail how it happened. For I am a hearer of the miracles of the Lord and not an arbiter of divine activities”.

In this very same spirit the Fathers speak about the mystery of death. With divine Revelation and the Apostolic Tradition as the sources and with the God-bearing Fathers to lead by the hand, this book examines the following questions:
• How death entered violently into the world;
• How God transformed the punishment into a blessing;
• How Christ the God-Man conquered death completely, and
• How from the moment He was risen from the dead we, too, received a foretaste of the age of resurrection.
• How to philosophize positively about death;
• What is meant by the accounting of the souls before the toll-houses;
• Where do the souls of those who sleep until the Second Coming go after death, and
• How do they live there.
• How we, who are still "strangers and exiles on the earth" (Heb. 11, 13), can help with our prayers and memorials those who are asleep; and
• How they in turn are aware of us and help us.
• How will the resurrection of the dead come about?
• What will the nature of the resurrected bodies be?
• How will the universal judgment take place?
• Is there eternal hell?
• What is the nature of eternal Paradise and how will the world come to an end and be renewed?

This difficult work has been undertaken with much fervent prayer.

Colour dust jacket, 150 x 214mm, 592 pages, hardcover.

Additional Information

Author N.P. Vassiliadis,
Pages 592
Cover Hard
Width (mm) 150
Height (mm) 214

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