Death as a Dead Thing (Athanasius)

In one section of On the Incarnation by Athanasius (b. 297) he talks about the victory we have in Christ over death.  This is a nice meditation that reminds us of the truth that death cannot separate us from Christ.

For of the destruction of death, and of the cross having become the victory over it, and of its no longer having any power but being truly dead, this is no slight proof but a very certain index; namely, that by all the disciples of Christ it is contemned, and they all make an attack against it, and no longer fear it, but by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ trample upon it as a dead thing.

For formerly, before the Divine sojourn of the Savior, even to saints themselves death was terrible, and all mourned those who died as perishing (Cf. Job 18:14; Ps. 55:4, 88:10 ff., 89:47 f.; Isa. 38:18). But now that the Savior has raised His body, no longer is death terrible, but all who believe in Christ trample on it as naught, and choose rather to die than to deny their faith in Christ. For they know full well that when they die they do not perish, but indeed live, and become incorruptible through the resurrection.

For as, when a tyrant has been utterly vanquished by a true emperor, and is bound hand and foot, all who pass by jeer at him, smiting and abusing him, no longer fearing his rage and cruelty, because of the victorious emperor; so also death having been conquered and branded as infamous by the Savior on the cross, and bound hand and foot, all in Christ who pass through trample on it, and as witnesses to Christ deride death, scoffing at it, and saying the words written against it above: ‘Where, Death, is thy victory? where, Hades, thy sting?’ (Hos. 13:14).

Athanasius of Alexandria, Athanasius: On the Incarnation of the Word of God, trans. T. Herbert Bindley, Second Edition Revised (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1903), 91–93.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

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