Event or State of Being?
Keraza Magazine issue 15-16 April 25, 2014
Death is an event that occurs at some point in a person's life to announce the end of this life, "And a time to die" (Ecclesiastes 3:2). This event is beyond a person's will; the train of life simply stopped suddenly, compelling the soul out unwillingly, "No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, and no one has power in the day of death" (Ecclesiastes 8:8). Actually, death is not simply a life event; it is an essential part of life. It is an event and a state of being simultaneously. If an event repeats with each unit of time, then it becomes a state of being.
Do not our members bear the irrefutable evidence of death and life coexisting in us? Each moment, one cell in our members dies so that another is born. Furthermore, from the moment of its inception, each one of these cells carries its plan of death. Any members that do not experience the death of its cells would not experience their life. Eventually, death comes at an appointed time, drawing the curtain on this sequential series of death and life. That is, the event of death comes along to end this state of death-life cycles. Comprehending this, St. Paul said, "So then death is working in us" (2 Corinthians 4:12). Psychologists understood this same truth, and so acknowledged two main instincts that work in a human since birth: the death instinct (which produces all decomposition and disintegration), and the life instinct (which gave birth to all integration). Contemporary philosophers also grasped this, and so coined their famous slogan, "Living to die".
Truth be told, death was not in God's intentions, nor in His Economy since the beginning, nor was it part of His creation, but it was introduced to humanity by sin: "God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things that they might exist...and the dominion of Hades is not on earth...But ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death" (Wisdom 1:13-16 RSV). Thus, since death entered the world by the envy of Satan, death and life became joint and knitted just as the tares crowd the wheat until the time of harvest (Matthew 13:25-30).
Resurrection also is an event and a state of being simultaneously. A Christian does not await a certain date in time when time will end, The Day of Resurrection, to enjoy the resurrection and eternal life; one lives resurrection on earth as an existential state of being and as an inseparable component of the new being. In the old being, the experiences of death and pain determined a person's actions and reactions. One ate, drank, slept, worked, married, and even loved out of fear of death and pain avoidance. However, on the new person (who is united to the living God) the impact of death is ineffective, akin to a venomless viper. This new person knows perfectly well that if one does not live the state of the resurrection, bearing the new identity here on earth, one will not live it in eternity. And so, all of one's efforts would be, not to live, but rather that Christ risen from the dead lives within (Galatians 2:20), so that whatever one does, weather in word or in deed, everything is done in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17).
May you be in a state of resurrection always united in your new person with Christ who has risen in you and for you.
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States