Friday, July 23, 2010

A Christian's Death (?)

Today in Vadstena, Sweden, my friends in the Society of St. Birgitta have been celebrating her heavenly birthday with a High Mass, the prayer offices, a "formal lecture" by Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig (the Papal Nuncio to the Nordic lands) entitled The Reason for Christian Hope in a Joyful Future, and have concluded with their grand procession into the Vadstena Klosterkyrka (Abbey Church).

If I could afford to go to Sweden every summer, I'd be there for that and I expect that it, along with the entire week of the SSB's General Chapter, would have lifted my spirit from some of the angst of being in the ELCA these days. (Oh, well -- next year in Vadstena!).

All this as a way of introducing this reflection of death by Martin Luther that appeared as the fourth reading in For All the Saints for the Monday of the week of Pentecost 7 in year 2 (or a week ago Monday):
At birth a child comes forth amid pain and danger, from the narrow dwelling of the mother's womb, into the broad light of day. In a similar way a man goes through the narrow gate of death when he departs this life. And though heaven and earth under which we now live appear so wide, so vast, yet, in comparison with the heaven that shall be, it is far narrower and much smaller than is the womb in comparison with the broad expanse of heaven. That is why the death of saints is called a new birth, and their festivals birthdays.

A woman, when she is in travail, has sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembers no more the anguish for joy that a man is born into the world. Likewise in death. We wrestle in anguish, yet know that hereafter we shall come forth into a wide, open space, and into eternal joy.

When I feel the dread of death, I say, "O death, you have nothing to do with me, because I have another death which kills my death. And the death which kills is stronger than that which is killed."

God appointed death to be the destroyer of death. It is evidence for God's surpassing goodness, that after death has entered, [Gen. 3:19] it is not permitted to hurt us ultimately, but is taken captive at the outset, and made to be the punishment and death of sin.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Luther meditation in FATS is yet another reason to love the Orthodox Paschal Troparion:

Christ is Risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death,
and upon those in the tombs,
bestowing life.