The theology of death and its relation to the pastoral care of the dying patient
Father Stavros Kofinas
Lecture. Presented at the 3rd Pan-Hellenic Conference of Hospital Psychiatrists Thessalonica, Greece, January 29, 2005
Theology of death, pastoral care for the dying patient, remembrance of death.
This presentation attempts to answer two major questions:
Why do we hesitate to deal with the sick that are in the last stage of their life? Should we be freed from the fear of death? The answer to both questions is based on the theological dimension of death which does not allow us to see the “event” of death as a natural conclusion to life but as a natural consequence of man's separation from God. Such a dimension supports that both the fear of death and the complete acceptance of death gives an unconquerable power to death itself, which relinquishes us from the capability to face death. Accepting death and giving it such an unconquerable power denies the fact that death has been conquered by Christ's crucifixion and resurrection! The pivotal point here is not a doctrine or a mere belief, put that of Christ's love. Whoever reaches out and touches this love is freed of all suffering and grief (Romans 8:38-39). In facing death, Orthodox spirituality offers another way. It recommends that we have “remembrance of death”. “Remembrance of death” means that we die every day (St. Isaac the Syrian) by giving up the ways of “this world” and uniting ourselves with Christ, particularly through liturgical life. Through the “remembrance of death” death is not the end of life but the passage into a new life. This passage though is full of agony that demands special care. It is the agony of faith and the agony of being accepted and loved by God and one's fellow man. These two elements (faith and love) are therefore what constitute the care needed.
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