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Catechism of the Catholic Church

II. DYING IN CHRIST JESUS

1005 To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must "be away from the body and at home with the Lord." 564 In that "departure" which is death the soul is separated from the body. 565 It will be reunited with the body on the day of resurrection of the dead. 566

Death

1006 "It is in regard to death that man's condition is most shrouded in doubt." 567 In a sense bodily death is natural, but for faith it is in fact "the wages of sin." 568 For those who die in Christ's grace it is a participation in the death of the Lord, so that they can also share his Resurrection. 569

1007 Death is the end of earthly life. Our lives are measured by time, in the course of which we change, grow old and, as with all living beings on earth, death seems like the normal end of life. That aspect of death lends urgency to our lives: remembering our mortality helps us realize that we have only a limited time in which to bring our lives to fulfillment:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, . . . before the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. 570

1008 Death is a consequence of sin. The Church's Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man's sin. 571 Even though man's nature is mortal God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin. 572 "Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned" is thus "the last enemy" of man left to be conquered. 573

1009 Death is transformed by Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition. Yet, despite his anguish as he faced death, he accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to his Father's will. 574 The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing. 575

The meaning of Christian death

1010 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 (eis) 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

1011 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

1012 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

1013 Death is the end of man's earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When "the single course of our earthly life" is completed, 586 we shall not return to other earthly lives: "It is appointed for men to die once." 587 There is no "reincarnation" after death.

1014 The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death. In the ancient litany of the saints, for instance, she has us pray: "From a sudden and unforeseen death, deliver us, O Lord"; 588 to ask the Mother of God to intercede for us "at the hour of our death" in the Hail Mary; and to entrust ourselves to St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death.

Every action of yours, every thought, should be those of one who expects to die before the day is out. Death would have no great terrors for you if you had a quiet conscience .... Then why not keep clear of sin instead of running away from death? If you aren't fit to face death today, it's very unlikely you will be tomorrow .... 589

Praised are you, my Lord, for our sister bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe on those who will die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they who will be found
in your most holy will,
for the second death will not harm them. 590

IN BRIEF:

1015 "The flesh is the hinge of salvation" (Tertullian, De res. 8, 2: PL 2, 852). We believe in God who is creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem the flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh.

1016 By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. Just as Christ is risen and lives for ever, so all of us will rise at the last day.

1017 "We believe in the true resurrection of this flesh that we now possess" (Council of Lyons II: DS 854). We sow a corruptible body in the tomb, but he raises up an incorruptible body, a "spiritual body" (cf. 1 Cor 15:42-44).

1018 As a consequence of original sin, man must suffer "bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned" (GS § 18).

1019 Jesus, the Son of God, freely suffered death for us in complete and free submission to the will of God, his Father. By his death he has conquered death, and so opened the possibility of salvation to all men.

Notes:

564 2 Cor 5:8.

565 Cf. Phil 1:23.

566 Cf. Paul VI, CPG § 28.

567 GS 18.

568 Rom 6:23; cf. Gen 2:17.

569 Cf. Rom 6:3-9; Phil 3:10-11.

570 Eccl 12:1, 7.

571 Cf. Gen 2:17; 3:3; 3:19; Wis 1:13; Rom 5:12; 6:23; DS 1511.

572 Cf. Wis 2:23-24.

573 GS 18 § 2; cf. I Cor 15:26.

574 Cf. Mk 14:33-34; Heb 5:7-8.

575 Cf. Rom 5:19-21.

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. I Thess 4:13-14.

585 Roman Missal, Preface of Christian Death I.

586 LG 48 § 3.

587 Heb 9:27.

588 Roman Missal, Litany of the saints.

589 The Imitation of Christ, 1, 23, 1.

590 St. Francis of Assisi, Canticle of the Creatures.

English Translation of the Cathechism of the Catholic Church for the United States of America © 1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

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