St. Silouan the Athonite Mission Parish

Priest Musings

"Why being alive is a blessing!"
by Fr Roberto Ubertino

Why living as if this was your last day on earth is not the good news?

St Athanasius is quoted saying "keeping death always before you". This is not the same thing as saying "live as if today you were going to die and possibly go to hell." At first, the two statements may seem similar but behind them, there are two visions of what life is about; that are in fact mutually exclusive.

A few saints have been given knowledge of the day of their repose. Thus, they would prepare for their death by leaving all their daily activities aside. Clearly, to live as if today you were going to die implies an arrest of all our daily life. Thus if all to be saved had to live this way there would not be science, no learning, no hospitals, and no charitable works, no poetry or art.

God does not give us the knowledge of the day of our death because it does not help us towards His Kingdom. What then does St Athanasius mean by "Keeping death before us"? We are to live each moment, each action, each encounter in this constant expectation and awareness that everything leads to our encounter with Christ. It means, live each moment, not closed in itself, but rather opened in a constant expectation of our encounter with Christ that will be ,but that is also present, in each moment of this life.

Keeping death present engages us fully in this life, in this world and gives hope to all we do. It keeps this life open to eternity and not defined by death.

Theologically, these two phrases represent two different anthropological beliefs one more "Eastern religions" than Orthodox. This vision of earthly existence as essentially an illusion, a place simply to put in time until we can shake of our earthly coil, such philosophies see this life and body as only a tomb for the soul.

The Orthodox faith sees human existence as open, as directed towards an encounter with a personal God who gives meaning to all of the dimension of earthly human existence. Our life defined by its end, by God who waits for us, but who also leads us and now is already present beyond death.

Keeping death ever before us allows us to live fully in the moment and where we are challenged to take nothing of our earthly life as profane. The deep meaning of each event of our earthly life is fully revealed. If it is ultimately about judgement, it is not about primarily about condemnation, but rather the reality of our future death leads and points our life towards this most personal and intimate encounter with the Triune God.

Fr Roberto

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