DESTROYING DEATH BY DEATH
“Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship, the holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One! We venerate Your Cross, O Christ, and Your Holy Resurrection we praise and glorify; for You are our God, and we know no other than You; we call on Your name. Come, all you faithful, let us venerate Christ’s Holy Resurrection! For, behold, through the Cross joy has come into all the world. Let us ever bless the Lord, praising HisResurrection. By enduring the Cross for us, He destroyed death by death!” (Byzantine Paschal Hymn, sung weekly at Sunday matins)
In our church-services, we often hear this phrase, that Christ “trampled” or “destroyed death by death.” What does this mean? It means that He took the most unpleasant, the most difficult part of our existence, which is death, and walked right through it. He didn’t avoid it. Just like He didn’t avoid the other parts of being human, like feeling hunger, enduring poverty, grief, fatigue, and so on. Death is “destroyed” by Him walking through it, because it can’t “hold” Him, Who is not only human, but also divine. And He takes away the “sting” of death for all of us, who share in His victory, through communion with Him. The difficult parts of our existence, including death, are now life-giving, in Him. The previously-dark and difficult now leads to growth and new life. This is not a merely abstract dogmatic concept; it is something I see at work every day, when I walk through difficulties in Him and with Him, rather than avoiding them.
So my Lord shows me the path of the cross, which leads to victory, in Him. It is not through avoidance or escape from my human existence, which includes hardship, difficulty, and ultimately death. The light-filled path of the cross is about walking through it all; walking through life on life’s terms, in Christ and with Christ. He brings new light to the whole picture of our human journey, on which we no longer walk in darkness. “Through the Cross joy has come into all the world. Let us ever bless the Lord, praising His Resurrection.” Amen!