Deus Crucifixus


The purpose of Christianity is not to help people by reconciling them with death but to reveal the Truth about life and death in order that people may be saved by this Truth.  … Christianity is not reconciliation with death.  It is the revelation of death, and it reveals death because it is the revelation of Life.  Christ is this Life.  And only if Christ is Life is death what Christianity proclaims it to be, namely the enemy to be destroyed, and not a ‘mystery’ to be explained.  Religion and secularism, by explaining death, give it a ‘status,’ a rationale, make it ‘normal.’  Only Christianity proclaims it to be abnormal and, therefore, truly horrible.  At the grave of Lazarus Christ wept, and when His own hour to die approached, ‘he began to be sore amazed and very heavy.’  In the light of Christ, this world, this life are lost and beyond mere ‘help,’ not because there is fear of death in them, but because they have accepted and normalized death.  To accept God’s world as a cosmic cemetery which is to be abolished and replaced by an ‘other world’ which looks like a cemetery (‘eternal rest’) and to call this religion, to live in a cosmic cemetery and to ‘dispose’ every day of thousands of corpses and to get excited about a ‘just society’ and to be happy! – this is the fall of man.  It is not the immorality or the crimes of man that reveal him as a fallen being; it is his ‘positive idea’ – religious or secular – and his satisfaction with this ideal.  This fall, however, can be truly revealed only by Christ, because only in Christ is the fullness of life revealed to us, and death, therefore, becomes ‘awful,’ the very fall from life, the enemy.  It is this world (and not any ‘other world’), it is this life (and not some ‘other life’) that were given to man to be a sacrament of the divine presence, given as communion with God, and it is only through this world, this life, by ‘transforming’ them into communion with God that man was to be.  The horror of death is, therefore, not in its being the ‘end’ and not in physical destruction.  By being separation from the world and life, it is separation from God.  The dead cannot glorify God.  It is, in other words, when Christ reveals Life to us that we can hear the Christian message about death as the enemy of God.  It is when Life weeps at the grave of the friend, when it contemplates the horror of death, that the victory over death begins.

– Fr. Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World (H/T Fr. Ted’s Blog)