Tag Archive: death


It is through the Holy Spirit that there will be a universal resurrection. I do not mean the resurrection of the bodies at the end (Heb. 9:26), for then the angel will blow the trumpet and the dead bodies will rise (1 Cor. 15:52), but I mean the spiritual regeneration and resurrection of the dead souls that takes place in a spiritual manner every day. This [resurrection] He gives who has died once [for all] and risen (Rom. 6:9f.), and through all and for all those who live in a worthy manner He causes the souls to rise who have died with Him in will and faith and raises them up. This He grants through His all-holy Spirit as He even now bestows on them from henceforth the kingdom of heaven.

~ St. Symeon the New Theologian, The Example and Spirit of Symeon the Pious

Christ is risen! For Orthodox Christians like myself, Pascha (Easter) is more than just a day, it is also a forty day season. For the first week (this past one) we don’t even fast at all! Having just finished with this Renewal Week (or Bright Week), I have been reflecting on a common motif of the Christian spiritual life and how perfectly it describes Christian asceticism: dying and rising with Christ. Continue reading

A Flower in the Desert

For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.

~ St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians 5.4

I don’t usually do this, but I had a bit of poetic inspiration and decided that it wouldn’t hurt to share it here. What follows was actually the end of a longer poem, but the only part worth keeping and sufficient on its own:

In desert nights the soul’s sun shines

and warms and brightens but does not blind.

Deep within such spiritual depths

blooms a beauty that knows not death.

And when my eyes close for their rest,

I’ll sleep without dream, desire, distress.

Though death for a time my body will take,

I’ll continue alive, active, awake.

From Death to Life

691px-Der_Kreislauf_des_Lebens,_Hans_CanonMan’s will, out of cowardice, tends away from suffering, and man, against his own will, remains utterly dominated by the fear of death, and, in his desire to live, clings to his slavery to pleasure.

~ St. Maximus the Confessor, Ad Thalassium 21

I previously mentioned this pointed and insightful saying of St. Maximus in an earlier reflection, but it is one about which I could probably write 100 posts. I have found no more succinct, clear, and comprehensive statement of the human condition. Death, that ultimate evil, that anti-natural state of being, casts a dark shadow over all our actions, though we seldom are conscious of it. We suffer and, out of fear of the direction suffering appears to lead—death—we cling in desperation to fleeting pleasures, which run like water through our hands. And when those pleasures die, as all such pleasure does (as opposed to true joy, which is eternal), we once again suffer, and suffering we fear, and fearing we desire, and desiring we enslave ourselves, against our own will to live, to pleasures that so assuredly pass away. It is a vicious spiral, always increasing the magnitude of the pleasure needed to distract ourselves from our suffering, which, in turn, always increases the magnitude of our suffering once it comes. Continue reading

A pilgrim to the Holy Mountain of Athos asked an old hermit, “Father, how can I attain my salvation?” The venerated holy man replied, “Every day at dusk go to the cemetery and for an hour hurl insults to the dead. Do that for a month and pay attention to everything that happens around you. Then come and report to me.” After a month the pilgrim returned. “Father, I have done what you told me but nothing happened!” The hermit then said, “Go to the cemetery again for another month and sing praises to the dead. Then come and tell me what happened.” After a month the pilgrim returned. “Father, I did what you told me but nothing happened!” The holy father then said, “My son, if you wish to attain your salvation, be like the dead, indifferent to insults and indifferent to praise.”

~ From Inner River, vii
(the epithet on the inside before the TOC)

Ah yes. In the unique manner of monks, we have the recommendation, in addition to always keeping the day of one’s death on one’s mind, to live like the dead, “indifferent to insults and indifferent to praise.” I have written previously on the dangers of praise and the avoidable nature of anger when provoked, and while these are both themes that deserve continued reflection, I would like to primarily focus on something else for this post. Continue reading

Memory Eternal

Be very constant in your prayers for the faithful departed, as if each dead person were a personal friend of yours.

~ Rule of Colmcille 13

Death has a way of straightening out our thoughts and perspective. Despite being a curse and contrary to nature, such tragedy can, nevertheless, be a spiritual blessing. Our enemy seeks to put all evil into our lives, but “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). Continue reading

New Beginnings

Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus: “Can a man live every day as though it were the first day of his religious life?” Abba Silvanus answered: “If a man is a labourer, he can live every day, nay every hour, as though it were the first day or hour of his religious life.”

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers 11.29

Everyone knows the cliche, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” I’m not sure how old it is, but I think that there are a few desert fathers who would caution us not to roll our eyes at it. Importantly, though, rather than using it to try to offer seemingly baseless hope, Abba Silvanus offers a challenging qualifier: “If a man is a labourer….” Indeed, the very fact that Abba Moses questions the possibility of actualizing such an idea indicates that the desert fathers took it on a much deeper level. Continue reading