Word Incarnate supplements my earlier reflection on Death with this sober post:
Death hasn’t always been a blessed passage from earthly life to heavenly, though we may have more or less assumed it to be so if we’ve been nurtured with Christian hope all our lives. Without the redemption wrought through the indescribable sufferings of Christ, death would still be (at least) every bit as horrible as any gifted Russian writer could describe it. Yet even today death carries this horror, this threat, for those who do not believe in Christ (or at least in the God of Abraham). Death as such is the absolute negation of everything that is good and beautiful, holy and joyful and blessed. Death is the great Spoiler of all human hopes, the “Last Enemy.” It is the direct consequence of sin. So let no one tell you we don’t need to be forgiven, we don’t need to be redeemed, we don’t need a Savior. No amount of meditation or enlightenment is going to deliver us from all-devouring death. Only Christ. There is no other Savior, for no one else has descended into the realm of death and robbed it of its power, transformed it from ultimate destruction to a passage to eternal life.
This wasn’t easy. Even Christ had to look death in the face. Having become man, He had emptied Himself of his divine immunity to death. He knew its horror in his very bones. He sensed its inexorable power. As He hung in agony on the Cross, that black veil enshrouded Him, suffocating Him, threatening to dismantle his humanity particle by particle, to cut Him off from the very Source of life—and even He, the Beloved Son, was compelled to cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet He summoned the strength to commend his failing spirit into the hands of his Father. Thus, in one final surge of truth and life and undying divine love, the horrible, primordial power of death was shattered, and the entire universe shook off its ancient bondage as the Master declared: “It is finished.”