Monday, April 25, 2011

Death, descent into hell, resurrection

Christ is risen from the dead. The Easter day is passed, but not our celebration, which is extended to every week of the year, starting all over again from the dies dominica, vulgarly called in English "day of the sun", Sunday.

What is the meaning of Easter, and its announcement of the resurrection? Does it exempt us from thinking of the days before, of the death and descent into hell that preceded it? Surely not.

I'd say, the meaning of that announcement is: don't be afraid of facing death. But to face death we have.

How about if I reformulated it in: don't be afraid of loving?

I could legitimately asked what fear of loving has to do with fear of death.

The answer might go deeply into God's mystery. Because the question would turn with it into another, odd one: is there death in God?

Fear of death is the main cause of the fear of loving. Why? Because there is no true love without a dying. He who is afraid of dying, cannot really love. And is condemned to death.

We don't really know what death is. We watch people being born and dying, and we have been told that, as it happens to them, so it happened and will happen to us. But what is it that so happens is outside our experience.

As far as death is concerned, we should say that it is the future as an "x", the future as unknown. Isn't it this way with love? It doesn't depend on me, but on the beloved one, who can return it or not. If, then, to face the future is to face death, so it is also with love.

Let's call death without further ado fear of dying: to oppose our resistance to dying, wanting to make ourselves sure of what is going to come, by embracing past present and future in a knowledge that spares us the danger of loving.

Eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge and you will be like God, said the serpent to tempt Adam and Eve. Indeed they acquired knowledge, but not of God. They were instead exiled from Him, and death entered into their lives.

Had they relied on God, they would have come to know him as he is, and as Jesus Christ showed him to be: a personal love exchange, perennial mutual giving of one's life to the beloved.

Hence that odd question I mentioned. I remember my surprise when I found it put in a most prominent Catholic theologian. Of course there is no death in God, in the way I defined. But surely there is dying for love.

By descending into hell, Christ could absorb human death into his love dying, and pull the dead out of it in his resurrection.


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