Bulgakov on Death  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Sergei Bulgakov (1871-1944) was one of the leading Russian Orthodox theologians of the 20th century.  His multi-volume systematic theology, of which The Bride of the Lamb (Boris Jakim translator, Eerdmans 2002) is the culmination, speaks of many things.  Since the anniversary of his death was recently observed on July 13, let's look at a bit of what he says about death in a Christian context.  Interestingly, it is reported by witnesses that just before his own death his face assumed a beatific expression and shone forth with an unnatural light, a phenomenon interpreted by Orthodox as the Uncreated or Taboric Light, a visible manifestation of God Himself.  The excerpt below is found on pp 359-360.

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This revelation of the spiritual world in death is the greatest joy and an ineffable triumph for all those who, in this life, yearned for this spiritual world from which they had been exiled.  But death is an inexpressible horror, anguish, and torment for those who did not want this spiritual world, did not know it, rejected it.  And here one is confronted with with this greatest of trials, which makes inevitable one's transformation from a corporeal being into a spiritual being.  One who was flesh is forced now to become directly convinced of the existence of his spiritual nature.  However, even after death, a human being does not stop being a human being, forever connected with this world by his corporeality.  But, for the fullness of spiritual-corporeal being and spiritual-psychic being, before death and after death.  The two halves are inseparably linked; they both belong to the life of the same individual, to his unique life that would have been free of this rupture if it had remained apart from this pathological dialectic of life and death, from the schism of the dual-unity.  But this is no longer the case:  to achieve fullness of humanization, a human being must go to the end of himself, not only in mortal life but also in the afterlife state, in order to attain the ripeness that makes him capable of receiving resurrection to eternal life in the fullness of true humanity.  Understood this way, as an essentially necessary part of human life, death is actually an act of continuing life, although life that is affected by "dormition".

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 30, 2015 at Thursday, July 30, 2015 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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