Christ is risen!
And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60)
The Protomartyr Stephen shows his embrace of the Christian faith in forgiving those who were stoning him to death. Stephen doesn’t curse his persecutors, nor does he threaten them with damnation, he does not even blame them for his death, nor does He ask God to punish them for the sake of justice.
Orthodox theologian Vigen Guroian comments on the nature of a Christian death, at least for those who have time to prepare for it and are not swept away by a sudden and unprepared for demise.
In our act of dying, God beckons us one last time to relinquish all of our earthly loves and place them on the heavenly altar of his enduring love. If we redirect these loves toward God, as Christ did, then these loves needn’t end in death, for God will raise them with us into eternal life. (LIFE’S LIVING TOWARD DYING, p 40)
Our ‘loves’ become eternal when we through our prayers place them on God’s altar. It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
Life is a gift from God, given to us so that we might learn to love God and neighbor.
The opposite of death is not life; Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. (Archimandrite Meletios Webber, BREAD & WATER, WINE & OIL, p 24)
In Christ, our death becomes a birth into a new, eternal life. We die with Christ in our baptism in order to enter into the eternal life in Christ. There is no opposite to this life for it is eternal.
Into Your hands, O Lord, do I commend my spirit. Bless me. Have mercy on me. Grant me eternal life. (Orthodox prayer)