The Orthodox teaching on death.
The death of our loved ones brings the fact of our mortality into focus as well as our hope in the resurrection of the dead.
St. Theodore the Studite writes,
“Are you not afraid of death, which we shall all face in a little while? How are we to look on the fearsome angels, as they come to take us from the body? How are we to journey on that long and unending road, if we have not obtained the necessities for the journey?
Many find it difficult to talk about death and there is the danger if we ignore this fact of our departure from this life that we will be ill-equipped when inevitably we will confront it. We ought not to live our lives in denial and neglect to prepare ourselves and our loved ones for that time when we must leave this world for the heavenly realm. Our anticipation of that dread hour should inform the way in which we use our God-given time. How we end of our earthly life, with what hope and faith, is determined by how we live today. How we live here for our given number of years determines for all eternity our state in the life to come. Our consideration of this vital question and the way in which we are free to order our lives and overcome death in accordance with the Gospel of Christ undoubtedly helps us not to be at a loss when death confronts us and those near us.
Christ speaks to us saying: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11, 25-26)
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14,6).
“Christ reveals to us clearly that the way we reach the Father is forever established through the Son. Jesus is the truth because He is the unique revelation of the Father, who is the goal of our journey through life. Christ is the life, the uncreated eternal life manifest in the flesh, so that we might live. Because of this, No one comes to the Father except through Christ.” (Orthodox Study Bible)
God became a human being in order to meet and destroy death, as man and God in the same Person of Christ. In Christ death has been trampled down and destroyed. We celebrate this victory of life over death every Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, and at Pascha when we sing “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life!”
“The Resurrection of Christ is the foundation or the crown of our Orthodox Christian Faith. The Resurrection of Christ is the first, most important, great truth, with the proclamation of which the Apostles began their preaching of the Gospel after the descent of the Holy Spirit. Just as by the death of Christ on the Cross, our Redemption was accomplished, so by His Resurrection eternal life was given to us. Therefore, the Resurrection of Christ is the object of the Church’s constant triumph, its unceasing rejoicing, which reaches its summit in the Feast of the Holy Christian Pascha–“Today all creation is glad and rejoices, for Christ has risen!” (Canon of Pascha, Canticle 9). (Fr Michael Pomazansky)
St. Paul wrote to the Romans saying, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (6, 3-5).
All who die to sin by confession and repentance and are alive to God through faith and participation in Holy Communion and generally in the life of the Church have passed from death to life before they leave this world. Death has no hold over them.
All this does not mean that we should not grieve when we lose a loved one. It means though that we should not grieve “as others do who have no hope” (1Thess 4,13).