Through death we are born into a new life, but facing the reality of a loved one no longer physically with us takes time and support.
Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.576 The saying is sure: if we have died with him, we will also live with him.577 What is essentially new about Christian death is this: through Baptism, the Christian has already "died with Christ" sacramentally, in order to live a new life; and if we die in Christ's grace, physical death completes this "dying with Christ" and so completes our incorporation into him in his redeeming act:
It is better for me to die in Christ Jesus than to reign over the ends of the earth. Him it is I seek - who died for us. Him it is I desire - who rose for us. I am on the point of giving birth. . . . Let me receive pure light; when I shall have arrived there, then shall I be a man. 578
In death, God calls man to himself. Therefore the Christian can experience a desire for death like St. Paul's: "My desire is to depart and be with Christ.”579 He can transform his own death into an act of obedience and love towards the Father, after the example of Christ:580
- My earthly desire has been crucified;…there is living water in me, water that murmurs and says within me: Come to the Father.581
- I want to see God and, in order to see him, I must die.582
- I am not dying; I am entering life.583
The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church:584
Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.585
576 - Phil 1:21.
577 2 - Tim 2:11.
578 - St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom.,6,1-2:Apostolic Fathers,II/2,217-220.
579 - Phil 1:23.
580 - Cf. Lk 23:46.
581 - St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom.,6,1-2:Apostolic Fathers,II/2,223-224.
582 - St. Teresa of Avila, Life, chap. 1.
583 - St. Therese of Lisieux, The Last Conversations.
584 - Cf. 1 Thess 4:13-14.
585 - Roman Missal, Preface of Christian Death I.