The Meaning of Death in Christianity – Whatever the biological definition of death, it always remains for us the moment when the impossibility of communicating with the deceased is unalterable. One can no longer talk to the dead, act with them, or harmonize with them. No one can find or catch them. Or only a shadow can be caught: we represent them, their image remains in our memories, but how vague these memories are! Worst of all, their existence is entirely dependent on us and our wobbly memory. At best, the deceased may seem free from the vulgarities that degrade him, but that person is no longer the person we know. Death is the end of a personal relationship. Death puts an end to the relationship between people. However, we realize that we do not love the person we love enough, that we can love them more and that we should have loved them at the very moment that person dies. Death – on first impression – reifies the person we love. He first transforms it into a lifeless cadaver and then into a blurred image in the memories of the survivors. This is the ugly side of death: a person becomes something he is not, an object he never was (except in moments of sleep or fainting).
The Meaning of Death in Christianity
The person who dies and becomes an object is the individual himself, as it is, what is expressed in Greek logos: that is, language, reason, meaning, definition, concept, etc. It is this logos that creates a unique individual from a human being and distinguishes him from others, but also connects him to a species by making him a part. The death of an animal comes as little shock to us: this death seems to us a completely natural consequence of its animal life. In this death, the animal surrenders only to the law of its kind. In the animal world, death touches a living being as the smallest indivisible part of a species left untouched by death. But in the human world this is not so. There is something irreplaceable in every person. In the death of each individual, what dies is, in a way, all humanity itself. So the terrible quality of all death can be felt, for death strikes all humanity in every human being.
The concept of death in Christianity is not based on a philosophy. Death is the meeting with an absolutely conceived God. Death is like access to God, and to speak of death as a Christian term should take the death of Christ, not death in general terms, as the starting point. Because “the person who is a Christian among the Christians is the Messiah” (Saint Augustine). The death of Christ is the only death in Christianity. To ask the meaning of death in Christianity is to contemplate the death of Christ.
The first remarkable, even unique, feature of Jesus’ death is that it was freely chosen: “No one can take my soul from me; I give it of my own accord” (John 10:18). There can be no talk of suicide here, because Christ is acting in a spirit of obedience. This obedience is by no means a forced surrender, but a sign of complete consent and absolute freedom. The more Christ obeys the Father, the more free he becomes. Christ did not need to die to be saved. There are no barriers that must be removed in order to be free. He already has his own freedom. This freedom corresponds to the freedom of the Father who sent Him. So his death is not a salvation either. Christ does not die to be saved, but by his own death he frees people from the influence of death.
Another especially is that the death of Christ is a gift. “There is no greater love in any man than to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). When Christ dies, he gives his life. Giving his life for Him is not only self-sacrifice, but also conveying his own way of life, His way of living in the Trinity – He who receives everything from the Father and offers himself to the Father. What is conveyed is precisely the capacity for self-surrender that constitutes the unique aspect in your personality. It offers the most authentic thing in itself, namely its access to the Father. At death, Christ is purified of human nature. Nothing remains for him but his relationship with the Father. But he does not abandon the Father. In perfect obedience, he abandons himself. In Christ’s death all meaning is ruthlessly reduced to the humility of choosing the Father’s will over his own. Christ teaches us that to be human is not to be a well-defined part of a world enslaved to sin, but to have the same qualities as Jesus Christ, namely, the capacity to give oneself by dying like Him.
Christ establishes his total dependence as a human being at his own death. Being purified from human nature and reduced to obedience, as man he experiences in the Trinity what is the mutual surrender of divine matter from one uknum to another.