On Death

Death terminates the activity of living. Alien to any type of activity what so ever, the terror of this profound Sabbath resides in the utter unknowability. Unlike birth, the consequence of inner pregnancy of all life, death negates the existence of life. However, as with the coming into existence of an individual, so, too, the individual's passing out of life presents itself in the world of experience as an irreducible or brute fact in a way that cannot philosophically circumnavigated. Moreover, while life is the carrier medium for expression of the property goodness, death defines the domain of evil.

The power of evil resides in its ability to strip life of its attribute properties, inducing states progressively nearer to approximating, but not actualizing death itself. Such an understanding of evil is reflected in the conversation between God and Satan at the beginning of Job. Satan has full power over all the circumstances of Job's life, but is prohibited from killing him. As such, the power of evil to inflict pain and suffering is bounded only by the release offered by death itself.

For mortal creatures, the rest of death in the grave, St. Isaac of Nineveh explains (Homily 29), is true the Sabbath of God, the Seventh Day, the Six days of life having been provided for the husbandry of creation, whilst the Eight Day is departure from the grave. The ceaseless toil of life is the ascetic cultivation of our humanity. Of the mystery of the Eight Day, words fail.

As Love, God is both creator of all things, and the life giver to all that lives. The activity of living produces the familiar experience that establishes the context for its continuation. A context absent the life-giving activity of God is the domain of Death, a place in which no creative activity is possible, a summation of consequences but absent cause.

The governance of the domain, Death, was given to Satan, as a self-contained gatherer of all power. Living as the negator of activity, life, Satan's power must be stolen from another source. Hence, Satan is limited to being the proximate, not instrumental, cause of any death. Satan murders by single-minded dedication to the production of a godless context.

This perspective is incomplete, as by entering Death in human form while retaining identity as Living God, the categorical domain of death was abolished. The definition of null is categorical in its exclusion of any positive value, regardless of there being potential scalar values for other states of negation. Moreover, Christ instrumentally recreates life in His own dead body: the Resurrection. As a consequence of the Resurrection, not only is the dominion of Death abolished, the grave emptied, but the Eighth Day is initiated.

The evil, godless context, desired by Satan is no longer possible, except the days allotted to others. As such, the strategy of evil is the conquest of living; the tactics defined by the promotion of godlessness, the stages of which are hypocrisy, discouragement, indifference, resignation, cowardliness, disbelief, despondency, and despair. These stages are the battlegrounds of spiritual warfare, the rebellion against the expansive domain of Love by the agents of an ever more constraining hate.

To lack the experience of goodness flowing from creative love, gracelessness, is to perceive, intensely, the nakedness of the soul. The self-motivated effort to restore the dignity of one's nature is pride. Pride demands material from the world of its experience to create an illusion that hides nature. The manipulation of worldly material to satisfy the demands of pride, creating the illusion of grace, is the mastery of demons. In need of worldly scope, the illusion of prosperity, the soul enters on the stage of temptation to sin, that is, action that contradicts love, is presented. Temptations are symptomatic of hypocrisy, the double-minded contradiction that judges virtue, the imitation of God, and vice, the appeasement of the demands of the naked self through deceits, gossip, slander, and lies. To presume to judge is to choose self-mindedness, the contradiction of mindfulness, our framework for appropriating experience in God. While the consuming aim of God is the expression of love, self-mindedness is fixated on mitigating its own needs and irrational urges. Perceiving this, the demons use their mastery to bribe the soul, pacifying and reducing it to slavery. The slavery of passions animate the progression through through these stages to the defeat of life in death, filling daily with the distraction created by self-indulgence (gluttony) and self-satisfaction of desire (lust), creating a defiant, mercenary attitude. Woven into this fabric are transgressions caused by lack of will, inattentiveness, and indolence, ignorance, are the negligences, shortcomings, distortions, or other causes, and the accumulation of memories and experiences that misdirect emotional and intellectual energies into distorted behavior charged with domineering demands, jealousies and destructive rivalry, envy, resentments, anger, and frustrations that are the foundations of the soul's participation in apostasies, either emblematically or in actuality, that Scripture calls fornication, adultery, and murders, the ultimate epitome of which is blasphemy. The result, a fabric deemed daily life.

The construct of daily life imprisons humanity in a state of alienation from God as Love and of delusion about its own nature. As such, daily life can more aptly described as an "anti-life," the negative mirror of its own vitality. As with any mirror image, however, what is preserved are the essential forms and dynamics, a topic, interestingly rarely addressed in classical metaphysics. The result is that the body carries forward with its commission to multiply love. Distorted, the struggle to love becomes a succession of idolatries, empty valuations of objective forms resulting in spiritual exhaustion and devastation, while the authentic impulse to align life with God through love becomes reduced to barter or bribery of performing service x for y.

The demonic intention is to maximize the number of people whose daily life is their eternal legacy. A life lived in alienation and misdirection away from God, lacks existential function, purpose, is the result of participation in the reality of God. For a person, a body, to die in a such a state of fundamental emptiness, vanity, as is defined by daily life is the meaning of phrase "blotted out of the Book of Life" and the terrifying specter of radical, existential nullity.

To lift the dead weight of daily life is the motivation of an existential desire to love. In terms of the person, the desire to love creates a view of life from within the tomb of Christ's Incarnation. The image of the tomb is evoked as the desire to love alone is a state of speculative receptivity, and not informed activity. To become engaged, to love, it is necessary for the person to transfigure daily practice through a deliberate effort to negate the negations of passions and transgression: repentance through practices that restrain impulses (fasting), repudiate acquisitive possessiveness (alms), ignore or make unfamiliar objectifications of the living (chastity), expand opportunities for kindness (hospitality), and to strip, to make naked, before God so that, walking the in the Garden, one maybe seen, the injuries treated (prayer).

As valuable as such repentance may be, the insufficiency of striving after a heart, soul, and mind purified of self-will, and of temptations to self-indulgence remains. The insufficiency is clear from the utter terror experienced by the person confronted with accidental tragedy in life. In experiencing tragedy, defined as the revelation of weakness that result in death, the human condition experiences totality of the terror in the satanic construction of daily, as all wealth imagined and imitations gratitude are revealed not merely as fictions, but as an abysmal depth of the very real, authentic poverty and nullity offered in death in and of itself.

The project of repentance is necessary but insufficient without the imitation of gracefulness, through the habitual practice of virtue. The imitation of grace is the property of an attitude of of "silent-gentle-warm-heartedness" (hesychia) while virtue is the property of expressing forms of sober-minded human responsiveness regardless of circumstance. Properties, attributes, and not behaviors as is the case with repentance, are conditions or qualities that accompany, or characterize performance. The acquisition of such properties is akin to physical fitness, not hair color, both of which are the result of applications, the former resulting in fundamental long-term complex, systemic change, the latter fading in the sun and has no merit beyond the entreaties of its own allusion.

The application that is the imitation gracefulness is act of putting on Christ. To be able to put on Christ, however, requires that there be a sunset of daily life, which is the adoption of a death-facing attitude. Without such a sunset, it is not possible to perceive the coming of evening light, nor the lighting of the soul's lamp through the agency of God, the entry of the Bridegroom into the chamber prepared for him in the temple that commended with the acceptance of the labor repentance. Without the coming of Christ, however, the lamp is not lit, the soul waits in expectancy. Expectancy is possible not because daily life continues but because the trauma of daily life produces an inherently unstable condition. The consolation of facing death is the experiencing of compassion and mercies that produce a gratitude; what remains without the experience of compassion, mercy, and gratitude is horror, and the world is horrific.

To overcome the horrific, the only strategy is change of perspective. Only two perspectives are possible, both epitomized in the Cross, and given precise voice in Psalm 21, where it says, "I will declare Thy name unto my brethren..." To call out to God for oneself is deadness, hair coloring. Salvation comes by perceiving the intention of the struggle of the Cross. Job laments his own life and wrestles with God to acknowledge His greatness; Christ declares more openly that to love is to laydown one's life for one's friends, for those who would choose Him over the judgment of evil.

There is very little room for the attachments of sentimentality; such feelings are for those who mourn for others. In facing death squarely, the mourning should be for one's self, for the sins and passions that accreted in the course of daily life. In the face of terror and horror, such work is a difficult choice, but its resolution is grounded in hope, the hope that is received through the compassion of others and the mercy of God, the only lover of mankind. The blessing of such mourning is the reinforcement of the authenticity of self.

The life-bearing nature of compassion is the witness of the Mother of God and has four expressions: courageous receptivity (fidelity), magnification of blessings (praxis), attentive kindness (obedience), and entry into human suffering (companionship). These expressions of compassion, in turn, produce the virtues of joy, sober optimism (hope), love, and warm, cleansing tears. The individual shelters in the life of these four virtues as joy binds the threat of hades, hope displaces the evil consequences, love frees the heart from appearance of death, and warm, effortless tears are the sweet water released from the rock of inner heart undisturbed by the remembrance of things past, bitter judgment. This is the context for the apostolic declaration: "Glory to Thee Who hast showed us the light."

Memory Eternal

Beneath Thy Compassion

Beneath thy compassion, we take refuge, O Virgin Theotokos:
Disdain not our supplications in time of affliction, but do thou deliver us from perils,
O only pure and blessed one.