Among the believing Orthodox Christians, the last dramatic years of a global pandemic have intensified thoughts about life after death, towards relatives and friends who have passed away. These are questions that excite people from other Christian denominations as well as non-Christian religions, so we offer a series of materials based on the Orthodox view on the subject and following mainly the book of the author of the late 19th century monk Mitrofan, “Afterlife. How our dead live and how we will live after death “, republished in Russian by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Kiev in 1992.
In his introduction, the monk Mitrofan shares the following:
For the grieving heart of mankind, whose living string was constantly touched by the formidable “death”, to put on the mind the concept of “life”, and replace the imaginary non-existence with the living consciousness of being, and express itself according to the inner voice of the grieving heart in the way it mysteriously, heartbroken, whispered to the cold mind : “where is he – she now ?, what is now with him – with her ?, he – her is gone? .. What is he – she doing?
The heart, confident in the spirit of man in immortality, did not doubt that the deceased, the deceased, live (according to the testimony of the history of religions).
But, not content with this, the heart of humanity at all stages of its religious and moral development has been asking the mind since ancient times: “How do they live?.., do our dead live beyond the grave as they lived on earth, or not?..”
The spirit of man, overshadowed by the fall, comforting the heart, answered: “they do not live” or “they live the same way as on earth.” For example, all paganism… And even the Jews asked Jesus Christ about the same thing, to which they received an answer from the Lord the Knower of Hearts. The decisive, primordial answer to the question of the human heart is that even beyond the grave our dead live like angels. For a heartbroken heart after the death of a loved one, healing is required for a broken heart, embarrassed by the fact that an expensive object has not become. And suddenly it (the heart), which lives by faith, hope and love, hears that the mourned, as if no longer existing. АLIVE and LIVE!!. Enough … and the sad heart again became easy! ..
Definition of death
As mysteriously and incomprehensibly for the mind is the union of the soul with the body in the womb of the mother, so again the separation of the soul from the body is equally mysterious.
It is commanded by God that every person should be ready for death at every hour. As the common destiny of mankind, as an execution for sins, as an execution, and therefore death is terrible for both the righteous and the sinner. The action of the sacrament of death is the same for the righteous and the sinner. Commanding to be ready for death, the Holy Spirit reveals the circumstances under which the transition to the afterlife is made for both the righteous and the sinner. The death of the first is red, and the second is fierce. The very reality of these words was revealed to some Saints for our edification.
According to the teaching of our Orthodox Church, “death is the separation of the soul from the body”, after which the soul remains alone with itself, and the body is buried in the earth and there it decomposes into its constituent parts (elements). This last fate of man on earth is death, about which St. The Scripture testifies thus: “and the dust shall return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7).
The Universality of Mortal Law
The law of death is common to all mankind. Death is inevitable for everyone and everyone. The Word of God testifies to the universality of the mortal law: “Which of the people has lived and has not seen death”? (Ps. 89:49).
“It is appointed for men to die one day” (Heb. 9:27).
“In Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
Death comes to a person when he has reached the limit of life, which is predetermined for him by the righteous judgment of God for the accomplishment of the work destined for him; the limit in which everything that is useful to a person is provided; therefore, death is beneficial to man.
And we are commanded for everything to give thanks to the Providence of God; therefore: glory to Thee, God, who built everything for our benefit … May Thy Name, O Lord, be blessed from now to eternity. St. Anthony the Great, penetrating into the depths of God’s judgments, once turned to God with the following prayer: “Lord! why do some die young, while others live to a ripe old age? And there was an answer from God: “Anthony, pay attention to yourself! otherwise these are the judgments of God, and it is no use for you to test them ”(Supplementary Tale of the Holy Father).
The soul is assigned by God to go through three states that make up its eternal life: in the womb, on earth and beyond the grave. Why then be horrified, when everything is the will of God, and we are the Lord?
We did not prepare for our first birth on earth and remember nothing of our first state; let us now prepare for the second birth, for the afterlife and eternal life. We have manuals on how to prepare, and we already know what will happen beyond the grave.
Here is what Chrysostom writes about death: “Death is terrible and terrible for those who do not know the highest wisdom, for those who do not know the afterlife, for those who consider death to be the annihilation of being, of course, for such death is terrible, its very name is murderous. But we, who by the grace of God have seen His obscure and secret wisdom, and who consider death a transmigration, should not tremble, but rejoice and be of good cheer, because we are leaving corruptible life and moving on to another life, endless and incomparably better (Conversations 83. Interpretation of John ).
Cause of death
The Word of God testifies that God did not create death, but created man for incorruption (Wisdom 2:23), but “through the envy of the devil death entered the world” (ibid., 24), hence sin.
If Eve had not entered into an alliance with the devil, had not been deceived by his seduction, had not departed from communion with God, then there would have been no sin. Self-will, disobedience was the cause of the death of the soul. “Righteousness is immortal, but unrighteousness causes death” (Wisdom 1:13-16) – these words of Solomon, which determine the meaning and origin of the phenomenon of death on earth, at the same time serve as evidence of the immortality of man, for Solomon says that only the foolish see in death is the end, the cessation of being (ibid., 3:2–4). Therefore, man is endowed with immortality.
The interrupted communion of the soul with God constitutes death for it.
Unnaturalness and necessity of death
From St. The Scriptures (Wisdom 1:13) show that death is unnatural for human nature, therefore, life is natural for a person.
But with the fall, ever since man turns his love to the forbidden, love for eternity has been replaced by love for the material, the temporal, the soul has betrayed itself. She is all in a sick state and loves and is attached to what does not correspond to her nature.
God did not create man for him to offend his Creator by violating His holy will. The desire of God is the eternal bliss of man, as evidenced by the very nature of man, constantly desiring and striving only for the pleasant in life, and hating and constantly desiring to avoid everything unpleasant, from death. So, blessed eternal life is the destiny of man, and sin is an unnatural phenomenon; death is a consequence of sin and is unnatural to human nature; Man is created immortal both in body and soul.
Punishment, when it is just, is ultimately good, the suppression of evil; so is death good for a man. After the fall of man, our Church teaches, death was necessary as a means to keep evil from spreading further. If Adam had remained immortal in body even after the fall, then evil would have been immortal, and there would have been no hope of salvation for man. To prevent Hell from becoming eternal with the immortality of man, it was for this purpose that Adam, after his sin, was forbidden to eat the fruit of the tree of life (Gen. 3:22,23).
Now that the power of death has been destroyed by the death of Christ the Savior on the cross, those who believe in Him are redeemed and justified from original sin. The root of evil in human nature lies in the very conception of the flesh, and, consequently, in the union that binds the body to the soul. He can be exterminated only with the rupture of this union. Hence the conclusion: no matter how much a person purifies himself on earth, and no matter how much he perfects himself in holiness, he cannot completely destroy the root of evil in himself and reach such a state that he is not burdened by the body and does not sigh with the Apostle Paul: “I am a poor man. who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).
(to be continued)
Source: Afterlife. How our dead live and how we will live after death / Monk Mitrofan – Kiev. Ed. Ukrainian Orthodox Church. 1992. – 336 p. (in Russian)