“Whoever is able to accept suffering, whoever is able to die the death granted to Him by the Father, is able to participate in the true, eternal life of Christ. If he cannot, or will not do this, then his life is a living death, for whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it (Lk 17:33)” (Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra, THE WAY OF THE SPIRIT, p 163)
There are all manners of death we experience in this world. Physical death is but one, and that we experience only once. Those following Christ have to die to their passions daily as they take up their crosses to follow Christ. We so much want something or want to do something but we must die to that desire in order to stay on the path to the Kingdom of God. It is a death that we may have to undergo daily and even many times in the course of a day. It is about loving Christ who died for me.
Many a humble person has died a thousand deaths at the abuse of others. Some die daily to avoid destructive conflicts, for the sake of family peace, to preserve marriages, to help a greater cause. We suffer wrong rather than take revenge. We accept a martyrdom called love for the benefit of another – we put others ahead of ourselves. We forgive debts owed to us and sins committed against us for the sake of Christ.
These deaths to self for the sake of others bring to mind the words of Winston Churchill, spoken about politics but can be applied to so many relationships in life: “Politics are almost as exciting as war, and – quite as dangerous … [I]n war, you can only be killed once. But in politics many times.” There are countless positions in life in which one can be killed more than once.
Archimandrite Aimilianos says, “whoever is able to die the death granted to Him by the Father, is able to participate in the true, eternal life of Christ.” I think of this on these many levels of death. If we can accept them, they are all given to us by the Father, chances to die to self, and in doing so we find eternal life in Christ. but it is also true about the one terminal death our bodies experience. Some of us are given disease to suffer, not only in middle age but even when we are young. Others are given long lives, and they find in the end a readiness for death which remains elusive. Some don’t want death no matter when it comes. Some of us will die suddenly unprepared, and some excruciatingly slowly. A few live relatively healthy and long lives enjoying their senior years.
We can, however, always be prepared for it, whenever it comes, realizing it is a gift granted by the Father. We endure it, even it we can’t embrace it because we know who it is from and what it will enable us to participate in – that true life beyond the grave.
As Archimandrite Aimilianos notes, whoever cannot accept the suffering given to them, life becomes a living death. Blessedness is so different than the world says it is.
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth.”
“Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelations 14:13-14)