Memory Eternal, A Teaching Unit on Bereavement (Lesson Two: How death began & the purpose of our lives now)

Lesson 2: The Purpose of Death: How death began & the purpose of our lives now

“…for in whatever day you eat from it, you shall die by death.” 
– Gen 2:16

Beginning of Death

Adam and Eve ate the fruit because they wanted something apart from God and they gained separation from God – which is death. The fall brought death into the world and along with it: sin, work, hunger, weariness, sorrow, sickness and other tragedies.

God did not leave us in our sinful state but turned the fall into a blessing.

The Incarnation changed death forever. God became man and destroyed death. God has taken the tragedy of the fall and turned it into a blessing.

Death as mercy: We have an eternal nature within a mortal body

Is death is “normal” and “natural” and “necessary”? On its surface death certainly is all of these things. But when one looks at the original order of things, prior to the fall of man in the garden, death did not exist and was not God’s intention. Man lived in paradise. Because of man’s disobedience to God, death came into the world. Death, from that time forward, was the enemy of mankind and could not be defeated…until Christ trampled down death. Defeated death. In this sense, death is not normal nor natural and certainly was not necessary. However, after the fall, death has been the norm and is necessary as part of our eternal journey with and toward God.

So why does Christ weep when he sees Lazarus? I think for two reasons: 1) Christ was fully human and Lazarus was His friend and he loved him. Humans weep when we lose a loved one. We see Christ being human and struggling with a fully human emotion. 2) Christ was fully God and as God he wept at the fall of man and misery of death that man brought into the world. Of course, when Christ raises Lazarus it is a type or model of Christ defeating death and a foreshadowing of His own resurrection to come. Jesus shows us that death has no power over us. Only the flesh is defeated, and then only for a time. The life that is in us, which is Christ Himself, is not defeated because He trampled down death by His own death.

Questions:

  1. What caused death?
  2. What did the fall bring into the world?
  3. How is death conquered?

Source: O Death Where is Thy Sting? By Fr. Alexander Schmemann and “Jesus Wept” by Gregory Wynot

 

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