The Destruction of Death
Fr. Hector Firoglanis
Death does not discriminate according to age, gender, socioeconomic status, nationality, ethnicity, religious affiliation and political affiliation. It is the universal enemy of humankind — the common denominator for all living beings. Death is so intricately woven into the DNA of all living organisms, that we even call it a "natural" part of life. Humans, however, were not created for death, but for immortality. Humanity, and by extension all creation, was created to live in eternal communion and union with God.
But with the misuse of human freedom, disobedience of God's commandments, and lack of repentance, we read in the Book of Genesis and other sacred texts about our alienation from God and the Fall of humankind — and subsequently the tragic assault of death and corruption over our fallen human nature. We not only read about it, but we experience these painful consequences of the Fall every day of our lives.
The Fall of humanity is by far the greatest of all tragedies in the history of humankind...which is why Holy Pascha is the greatest triumph and life changing event in the history of the created world. The victory of life over death is a mystery beautifully described by St. John Chrysostom in his Catechetical Homily, delivered in Orthodox Churches throughout the world on Pascha night:
Let no one fear death, for the Savior's death has set us free. He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He descended into Hades and took Hades captive! He embittered it when it tasted His flesh! And anticipating this, Isaiah exclaimed: "Hades was embittered when it encountered Thee in the lower regions." It was embittered, for it was abolished! It was embittered, for it was mocked! It was embittered, for it was purged! It was embittered, for it was de-spoiled! It was embittered, for it was bound in chains! It took a body and came upon God! It took earth and encountered Heaven! It took what it saw, but crumbled before what it had not seen! O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown! Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns! Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
When talking about death, we must not treat it as though it is a natural part of life — a part of God's original plan for humanity — or that it is something to be explored and understood. Rather, as Fr. Alexander Schmemann says, "Christ is Life. And only if Christ is Life is death what Christianity proclaims it to be, namely the enemy to be destroyed and not a mystery to be explained."
Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs He has granted life.