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Friday, April 22, 2011

Defeating Death by Death

I don't usually post primarily religious messages on this blog. Not really its focus, even though I am a Christian, and I do write Christian based fiction. But being this is the biggest Christian feast of the year, known mainly as Easter, but more directly known as Pascha in the Orthodox Church, I hoped my readers could indulge me a little. If you are not interested or Christian, it won't hurt my feelings if you stop reading now and move onto something else. But I pray you'll read on.

Pascha is the English transliteration of the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word for "Passover." Thus it harkens back to the same link that St. John in his gospel makes, that Christ is our Passover Lamb, except as we sing in the Resurrection services, this is a new Passover, the fulfillment of the Passover, in that Christ has caused death to passover those who come to Him.

And this is what has always been understood that Christ accomplished on that day. He died in order to defeat death. He entered Hades to free those held in bondage to death, awaiting the final judgment and after that, Hell. Until Christ came, they had no option other than Hell.

So as where death entered the world through one man, Adam, death is defeated and overcome by Christ. So that St. Paul can say, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" Because Christ through defeating death with His divine life, has opened up the gates of Paradise to not only the thief, but to all who come to Him in humble repentance and love Him in word and deed. Sin and its consequences are destroyed by Christ's death and resurrection. He reigns victoriously, so that we can all have life if we chose to reach out to Him for it.

This is the reason that the resurrection is the cause of our rejoicing. For as St. Paul said, if Christ had not risen from the dead, we would all still be held in bondage to our sin and death. For if He had not risen from the dead, it would have meant death won. Christ would have been swallowed up in death as all before had been, and death would still reign over man with no hope of release from its prison.

The resurrection then gives us the basis for hope. For without life, there is no hope. And we were all born dead in our sins. The body lived, but the soul remained dead. Destined only to the fires of Hell. In that route, there is no hope. Only the expectation of pain, death, and eternal suffering.

But He did defeat death. He did rise from the dead. His life did swallow up death, instead of death swallowing up Him. And because He is the fulfillment of the Passover, because His life caused death to passover those who abide in Him who partake of His Passover meal, we can have life; death no longer has any hold over us.

This is why the Orthodox sing on Pascha/Easter, "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life."

May you relive Christ's victory over death this weekend in whatever tradition you participate in. May you remember what He accomplished in our behalf, and most importantly, may it give you the hope to really live in this life as Christ would have us live it. For now we have hope. Hope that death doesn't have to be the final destiny. It can now passover us if we are in Him and He in us. And through death, we can find our own resurrection in Him.

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