Orthodox Byzantine Chants
Holy Mount Athos
Word for Stavros, the confectioner:
`Have you heard about the blessed deacon Avacum? When the Turks took him tied up to Velingrad to hang him on a pole, that one, who was a trooper from Bosnia was singing: The Serb belongs to Christ, death, embrace me!`
These words are in the spirit of Apostle Paul who wrote to the Christians from Philippi:
I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.(Philippians 1, 23-24)
The apostle speaks about death only as a resettlement from this life to the afterlife and rejoices more about the heavenly life than about the earthly one.
I have recently asked a healthy elder what he wanted the most in this world from God .
That one putting his hand on his chest, answered:
`Death and only death!`
`And do you believe in the afterlife?`
`That’s why I prefer death, because I believe in it`, answered the old man.
The unbelievers tremble when they think about death because they consider that death is the absolute disappearance of life. Many Christians are afraid of death because they consider they did not finish their duties in this world, they did not settle their children at their right places or they did not finish what they started. Even some holy people had fear of death. When the angels come down to take saint Sisoe, that angel in body was begging them to leave him a bit more in this life, to repent and prepare himself for the afterlife. Thus the saints were not afraid of death but of the Judgment of God that follows after it.
Without faith in the heavenly life, fear becomes a rope around the neck and death pulls the doomed by it. For the Christian life is nothing else than the wind of death, wind that blows away his ash and mortifies it. If the unbeliever thought logically till the end he would have to admit the fact that in reality life does not exist. For this reason death is his only faith, the only eternal power, the only God.
For us the Christians, death means the graduation of a school, the sign of having been issued a military record, the bridge we cross to return to our homeland.
Death in its essence is nothing for those who believe in Christ. The Savior himself said to Martha:
I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. (John 11, 25-26).
In whom shall we believe if not in Christ, brother Stavros ? You cannot believe in people, not even when they tell you their name and even less when they say: I will pay you tomorrow and much less when they speak about profound and high things.
Apart of the Son of God nobody else knows anything, neither about death nor about what expects us after death. He knew them and revealed them to us and showed us everything cause:
Death has been swallowed up in victory. (I Corinthians, 15, 54), according to the word of apostle Paul. Therefore why would we be afraid of death when it has been defeated by Christ’s Resurrection?
The fear of death does not affect those who are united with Christ, with the Vanquisher of death and the Giver of the gift.
But a conscious and legitimate fear expects us, a fear that was felt even by the souls of the saints when they faced death. This is not the fear of death, but the fear of not being prepared for the afterlife, a fear relating to the impurity of the soul, because the impure ones shall not see God not in the true life nor in the Kingdom of heaven.
The First Law of God, Nikolai Velimirovici, Egumenița Publishing House – 2011