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The Mystery of Death

   
Third Edition

Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis
Translated by Fr. Peter A. Chamberas

‹What is that mystery which concerns all humans? How were we given up to decay? And how are we yoked to death?›. So pondered St. John of Damascus, that divine organ of the Church and visionary of God’s mysteries, as long ago as the seventh century. This same question is posed by people of every period, age and educational level. From the time that death entered into the world as a consequence of sin, no one has looked upon death with indifference. And while we all accept that death is the estate of life, we find it impossible to imagine ourselves dead! But whether we comprehend this or not, from the moment we come into this world, we are indeed destined to die. Furthermore, while death comes only once in our lifetime, we fear it every day. And death is inexorable. It comes as a skeleton holding a large sickle—as such it is depicted in the art of painting—to ‹reap› man, not allowing him to take anything with him. And when one of our fellow human beings crosses over to the opposite side, the rest of us remain on this side frightened and bewildered.”
—“FOREWORD”

CONTENTS

FOREWORD
TABLE OF CONTENTS
BIBLIOGRAPHY
THE IMPARTIAL EXTORTIONIST OF THE HUMAN RACE
A shocking problem. The innate fear of death. The greatest mystery of divine wisdom.
SECULAR PHILOSOPHY AND DEATH
An impious degradation of man. Mythical and childish notions. Gravestone inscriptions of the ancient Greeks. «Painful sorrow» and «meditation upon death». Uncertainties and contradictions. Agony and melancholy. Doubt and shallowness.
DEATH ENTERS VIOLENTLY INTO THE WORLD
The blessed life of Adam and Eve. Free will. The first rebellion on earth. The verdict of death was pronounced immediately! Spiritual death. The death of the body—a natural consequence. A universal phenomenon. We alone and no one else! «O, what agony the soul endures»! The separation of soul and body.
PUNISHMENT BECOMES A BLESSING
That we may not sin eternally. Death restrains our pride. The decay of the body is a blessing. A source of sound philosophy. Death opens the arena for martyrdom. God cultivates hope. God’s love for man transforms us for the better.
THE INCARNATION OF THE LOGOS: THE BEGINNING OF THE ABOLITION OF DEATH
Through man, death; Through man, resurrection. The absolute sinlessness of the Lord. The Lord opened for us the road to heaven. Death is annihilated. Preludes to resurrection.
THE CRUCIFIXION: THE ABOLITION OF DEATH
He died «for all and instead of all». He gives life to mankind and to nature. He was crucified where death reigned. «Through death we become deathless».
THE DESCENT OF THE LORD INTO HADES
The victory is extended into Hades. The descent of Christ into Hades. Hades «received a body and encountered God». Christ descended into hades with authority. «A bridge toward new life». «He made a heaven of Hades!»
RESURRECTION—ASCENSION—PENTECOST
Victory is confirmed. Wholeness and illumination unto eternity. Direct and obvious results. «God and mankind have become one race». He gave in return the grace of the Holy Spirit.
DEATH BEFORE AND AFTER CHRIST
Death was fearful before Christ. Death was beyond forbearance deserving great lament. Now «it only bears the name of death». Only the devil is truly dead!
NOT KNOWING THE TIME OF DEATH IS A BLESSING!
The time of death is unknown. Why is the time of death unknown?
THE FEAR OF DEATH
Who fears death?
OVERCOMING THE FEAR OF DEATH
Death is a passage toward eternity. «Shed tears, but remain calm». An attitude toward death which is acceptable to God.
CHRISTIANS PHILOSOPHIZE CREATIVELY ON DEATH
«Be calm, look and see». «Where is man with his many fantasies»? «Observe and sigh». We receive gladness of heart and eternal joy.
THE MEMORY OF DEATH
We should remember death. You shall never sin. A supportive power. The memory of death embraces many virtues.
THE LESSONS FROM THE GRAVES
«Let us go out to the grave». The graves of the Martyrs. «Pray at length over the dead».
THE DEATH OF THE MARTYRS
«To die is better than to live». «Root, source and mother of all good things».
HOW THE FATHERS CONSOLE US
The death of our beloved ones. The grief of spouses. «Should I not grieve over my child?» Has your child died? «Thank God». Blessed is the death of infants.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN EVIL AND A GOOD DEATH
Is a death which is cruel and unjust evil? The death of sinners. The death of the righteous.
CARE FOR THE DEAD AFTER DEATH
Preparation, presentation and procession of the deceased. Didactic symbols.
THE FUNERAL SERVICE
The most dramatic service of our church. The Funeral Psalms—The Amomos. The Funeral Praises—Evlogitaria. Mournings, lamentations, questions, hopes. The Beatitudes and the Biblical Readings. The official recognition and the final greeting. «Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return».
THE ACCOUNTING OF THE SOULS BEFORE THE TOLL-HOUSES
The silent beginning of the future life. He who dies sees «angelic authorities». The accounting of the souls before the toll-houses includes those of both the righteous and the sinners.
THE INTERMEDIATE STATE OF SOULS
The soul exists and acts without the body. Where do the souls live after death? A temporary state of anticipation. How do the souls live there? Those who have fallen asleep are aware of us and pray for us. God reveals our needs to the righteous.
THE SACRED MEMORIALS FOR THE DEAD
Prayers for those who have passed away. The sacred Memorial Services. The Saturdays of the souls and the «kollyva». Are the Memorials beneficial? Good works on behalf of the dead.
THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD
The idea of «Reincarnation» is naive and nonsensical. Is there a Purgatorial Fire? «I expect the resurrection of the dead». The resurrection of the body is required by the justice of God. Be glad when the body is dissolved. The resurrection of the dead.
THE NATURE OF THE RESURRECTED BODY
With new attributes: Incorruptible, glorious, eternal.
THE UNIVERSAL JUDGMENT
There will be a judgment. Who will be the judge? All the nations will be gathered. How will the judgment be given?
THE DEATHLESS DEATH
Is there a hell? What are the punishments of hell? Why hell is eternal?
ETERNAL PARADISE
The future kingdom. Inexpressible and inconceivable beauty. The deification of man. The blessedness of the righteous. The unceasing joy of Paradise. The most desirable life of the righteous. The joyous encounter. The blessedness of the righteous will be eternal.
THE END OF THE WORLD
«Behold, I make all things new» (Rev. 21,5).
INDEX OF SUBJECTS AND PERSONS

Item Number: BKBT322C
Publication Data: Athens, Greece: The Orthodox Brotherhood of Theologians «The Savior», 2011
Format: hardcover
Number of Pages: 592
Dimensions (l × w × h): 21.7 cm × 15.8 cm × 3.8 cm
Additional Information: full-color illustrations, dust jacket

$34.95 (USD)

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