Conquest of the Old Tyrant

Imagine that we are standing on the top of a cliff. We look down, and we don’t see the base of the cliff. The space below us is shrouded in mist. Does this cliff even have a base? Or does it go on forever? We don’t know. And now let us imagine that (for whatever reason) we know that someday we must jump off this cliff. We must jump into the unknown space beyond the cliff.

That would be terrifying. But this cliff has a name. We call it “death.” And throughout human history, every person has had no choice but to stand at the top of this cliff, and then to jump into the unknown space beyond the cliff.

So death can feel a little terrifying. In fact, death is the reason why tyrants have their power, i.e., because they can threaten people with death. So death itself is the ultimate tyrant. Death is a tyrant, not so much because everyone must endure death, but rather, because nobody ever returns from death. In some sense, Lazarus returned from death, but even he did not conquer death, since he too was destined to take another plunge off the cliff. No one ever truly conquers death.

No one, that is, until that first Easter morning.

That first Easter morning, Christ came face to face with the old tyrant. Christ fought the tyrant. Christ won, and death lost.

This is why it is so wonderful to read St. Paul’s mocking of death in 1-Corinthians 15:55: “Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?”

It is as if Paul is saying something like this. “Oh death, we used to fear you. You were the ultimate tyrant. But now you’ve been beaten by Christ. You have lost. Oh death, you thought that the clock was ticking on us, and that our days are numbered. Oh no, death. The clock is not ticking on us; rather, the clock is ticking on you. Your days are numbered. Alleluia!”

In baptism, we were conformed to the resurrection of Christ, and therefore, we were conformed to Christ’s victory over death. So, if we persevere in the grace of baptism, the hour of our death will not be a submission to the old tyrant. We will die, but death will have no power over us, since we belong to Christ who conquered death.

Rev. Br. Patrick Rooney, O.P. | Meet the Brothers in Formation HERE