Suffering & Death

I. Death

A.) The source of our Mortality comes from sin not God.

"Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or obedience, which leads to righteousness . . . for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 6:16,23)

B.) Death is a Tragedy.

"Death is a mystery indeed: for the soul is by violence severed from the body, is separated from the natural connection and composition, by the Divine will. O Marvel. Why have we been given over unto corruption, and why have we been wedded over to death.?" (St. John Damascus: Funeral service)

C.) Humanity was created for communion with God.

"For God created man for incorruption and made him in the image of his own eternity." (Wisdom of Solomon 2:23)

D.) Death is the consequence of our turning away from God Who is Life, our opposition and disobedience to God the source of ALL life.

"Man’s mortality reflects man’s estrangement from God, Who is the only giver of life." (Fr. Florovsky)
"You shall not eat the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die." (Gen 3:2)
"For the transgression of the commandment was making them turn back . . . and as they had at the beginning come into being out of non-existence, so were they now on the way to returning, through corruption to non-existence again. The presence and love of the Word had called them into being, inevitably, therefore when they lost the knowledge of God, they lost existence with it; for it is God alone who exists, evil is non-being, the negation and antithesis of Good." (St. Athanasias, On the incarnation, p. 29-30)

E.) The Passions are countered by applying the opposite:

i.) Counter Ignorance through spiritual knowledge

  • Study Scripture
  • Prayer the key and foundation to the spiritual life
  • Receive guidance from experienced brothers & sisters

ii.) Counter Forgetfulness with remembrance of God

  • Meditating on God’s love and blessings
  • On Christ’s Saving Work
  • Examination of thoughts
  • Attentiveness to God’s will and virtues

iii.) Counter Laziness with zeal and fervor

  • Willingness to carry the cross of Christ through self-denial, practice virtue
  • Strive for purity of heart
  • Cultivate a life of prayer

Passions are transformed through the development of a living faith and communion in the Living God.

II. God’s Response to Evil:

"Evil begins on earth, but it disquiets heaven, and causes the Son of God to descend to earth." (Fr. Florovsky)

1. Evil causes God to suffer in the incarnation, Crucifixion & Resurrection.

"Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned . . . do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again: death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all." (Romans 5:12,6:3,10)
"It was by surrendering to death the body which he had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from every stain, that he forthwith abolished death for his human brethren by the offering of the equivalent." (St. Athanasias, p.35)
"And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger from Satan, to keep me from being too elated." ie. St. Paul: 1 Cor. 12:8

2. Some may suffer for the correction of others ie. Lazarus (Luke 16) & The Rich Man (Luke 19)

3. Some suffer for the Glory of the Son of God ie. The man born blind (John 9:3)

4. Suffering is accepted in the hope of future glory - others may emulate a saintly person who dies for Christ.

a.)  The Martyrs of the Church

"One should furthermore bear in mind that the ways of God’s providence are many, and that they can neither be explained with words nor grasped with the mind. One must note that for those who accept them with thanksgiving the attacks of adversity redound to salvation and definitely become instruments of aid." (St. John Damascus, p.26l-2)

THE EXEMPLAR OF JOB John Chrysostom

The classic example in scripture of tribulation visited on the just man and endured with edifying patience is found in the Book of Job. If any of the Fathers seeks to fortify or comfort any individual or flock in time of bereavement or oppression, Job is the example to which he instinctively turns. For Job was ‘a perfect and upright man, one that feared God and eschewed evil’, and the essential merit of the drama enacted around him is that it faces the problem squarely: by Human calculation the vicissitudes which he suffers are wholly unjust and inappropriate. The Book of Job does not offer any easy solution, but it depicts the saintly fortitude which the man of God exhibits in the bewilderment and humiliation of his lot. John Chrysostom (see above, no 12) has left behind him in his body of writings not only a meditation on Providence but also in the present passage a reflection on false and true assessments of what constitutes real harm and real deprivation. With Boethius he argues that worldly losses constitute no real loss, and adduces Job as the living example of this.