Death & the Future Life
This section of the site concerns the entire Mystery of Death and the life after death. These
are arguably two of the most important subjects a person can grapple with.
Yet they are also subjects about which most people are very ill-informed. As Dr. Constantine Cavarnos
points out in his excellent summation of this topic:
"The Orthodox Church has a full and very precise
teaching on the questions of the constitution of man, the nature of
the soul, the relationship between the body and the soul, the nature of
death, Paradise and Hell, and the general destiny of man. This teaching
is contained in the writings of the God-bearing Fathers and Teachers of
the Churchmost notably in the writings of the ascetics and mystics,
in the lives of the Saints, and in the Church's Hymnography and Iconography"
(The Future Life According to Orthodox
The purpose of this section of the site is to present the Orthodox Church's profound
and deep understanding of the greatest tragedy to befall mankind: his
estrangement (spiritual death) from God due to his Fall in Paradise, and
the physical death and corruption of the cosmos (Romans 8:19) which followed.
Death is without doubt the most perplexing subject known to man. The wisest
of the secular sages throughout the centuries of human existence have
not been able to unravel, or fully reveal the cause and ultimate meaning of,
this dilemma. Even less have they been able to help man to deal with it
properly. "Only the Christian Faith, which holds fast to the word
of the resurrection, offers a certain, a secure and a sure
hope for victory over death. And this hope is a gift of God"
(The Mystery of Death, p. 114).
We live in a society that worships the body and material possessions
(vanity, hedonism, and materialism) and cares next to nothing for the
soul. Suicide is near its all time highespecially among teenagersbecause
of the tremendous despair that is generated when a soul made in the image
of God is confronted with the meaninglessness and fragmentation of life
without God in the modern world. The Orthodox Church has an answer to
all of these problems, and offers sure hope for those who are at the end
of their rope and may be ready to take their own life. As our Lord once
said, "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul?" (St. Matthew 16:26). If you, dear reader,
are considering suicide, I encourage you to examine carefully the sure
hope that our Lord Jesus Christ can give you in His Holy Church,
His very Body!
Dedicated to Our Lord Christ Jesus
"Who trampled down Death by death, and upon those in the tombs, bestoweth Life."
More on this Icon
We also live in a society in which most people have very confused and false understandings
of the future life. From the popularity of "near-death
experiences" (NDEs), to the typical Hollywood portrayal of bliss
beyond the grave regardless of how one lived their life, most people embrace
a mish-mash of notions about what is in store for them when their soul
parts from their body. These false views of the future life serve to encourage
man in his pride, vanity, and carelessness. Ideas have consequences, and
these ideas have led innumerable souls to eternal peril. The rise of interest
in NDEs over the past decade has not mitigated this problem, as Fr. Seraphim
of Platina notes: "Needless to say, [traditional Orthodox writings
on death] constitute a reading material infinitely more profound and more
profitable than the popular 'after-death' books of our day, which, even
when they are not merely sensational, simply cannot go much below the
spectacular surface of today's experiences for want of a coherent and
true teaching on the whole subject of life after death" (Preface
to The Soul After Death).
For the Orthodox Christian, however, a proper understanding of the future life is essential
to living in a God-pleasing, joyous, and fulfilled manner on earth. Orthodox
understand that Hell is a choice; that
a person's view of the future determines how he or
she lives in the present; and that, as St. Isaac of Syria once said:
"This life has been given to you for repentance; do not waste it
in vain pursuits." Meditation upon one's own death and the Judgment
that awaits him is not something that promotes
morbid introspection, but rather the true repentance that leads to
the fullness of life and joy in Christ. May this soon be your discovery
A Few Words Concerning Orthodox "Death
Literature", by Protopresbyter David Cownie, with Patrick Barnes.
Excerpts from the Evergetinos: Gleanings from
the Desert Fathers on Death and the Future Life.
Death: A Source for Sound
Philosophy, an excerpt from The Mystery of Death.
Christians Philosophize Creatively About
Death, an excerpt from The Mystery of Death.
On the Remembrance of Death,
by St. Ignaty (Brianchaninov).
The Memory of Death.
How beneficial this is for Christians, and how unbelievers cannot understand
Excerpts from the Prologue
From Ochrid: On Death and the Future Life
The Great Wager Between Believers and Unbelievers,
by Photios Kontoglou
Let's Talk About Death, by a Nun of the Orthodox
"The Raven": Demon of Despair, by Presbytera
Juliana Cownie. A very interesting article on Edgar Allen Poe, death,
From what we have written it is clear that the position of all the above on the subject
of death lacks depth and weight. Secular philosophy admits its ignorance
and its awe as it ponders the thick and impenetrable darkness that covers
the life beyond the grave. The existentialists say that death is the end
that reveals our finiteness. But these fashionable philosophers of our
time are not right. Death is not the end; it is the beginning of the true
life that awaits us beyond the grave, if indeed we have begun to live
it here. Christ, "the resurrection and the life" (Jn.
11,25), came, was crucified, resurrected, ascended to heaven and waits
for us there, as He assured us: "I go (to heaven) to prepare
a place for you" (Jn. 14,2). Therefore, death does not reveal
our finiteness; it reveals our infiniteness, our eternity. This is why
the Christian meditates and ponders upon the mystery of death in a way
that is productive, positive and dynamic. For this present life is an
arena in which the great battle is waged for the sake of immortality and
Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis, The Mystery of Death,