“The good news is that we can save you. The bad news is that we’ll have to kill you first.”
I recently saw a movie (I think it was Mission Impossible III), in which the “bad guys” would torment those they captured by inserting a mini bomb into their brain. The only way to disarm this mini bomb once it had been activated was to run an electric current through the body of the victim strong enough to fry the circuit board of the mini bomb. The downside of this procedure was that it would also stop the heartbeat of the victim. However, the same defibrillator that stopped the heart and disarmed the mini bomb in the victim’s brain, could be used again, and with a little luck and dramatic tension, start the heart up again.
One of the prayers for Kneeling Vespers contains the line, “Who gives life through hope of resurrection unto them that are wounded with the sting of death.” The sting of death is something like a time bomb planted in us.
The good news is that we can be saved. The bad news is that we will have to pass through death to conquer death.
In St. Paul’s discussion of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, he makes the point that it is only after our corruptible bodies are sown into the earth that we will be clothed with the bodies of incorruption, and then death itself, the last enemy, will be destroyed. But this passing through death to resurrection is not merely something that takes place when we die–i.e. our hearts stop beating. Death and resurrection are something Christians are called to experience daily. Daily we put off the Old Man and are clothed with the New Man–if we want.
Ah, there’s the rub.
It’s a frightening thing to face death; but if you do it a lot, you get used to it. There is a sweetness, the Fathers of the Church teach us, to the resurrected life that can be tasted even before the resurrection of our bodies. St. Paul called it the fragrance of death and of life. As we die daily to our selfish, fear-based wants, desires and “needs”, we experience the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, meekness, goodness, self control. A foretaste of the resurrection, the fragrance of life.