The Cross is the only instrument for crossing over from death to life. “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”(1) Everyone who follows a Christian life must accept that the cross comes first – then the Heavenly Kingdom. Who was first into the Heavenly Kingdom? It was the thief on the right. But he too had to first use the cross to pass through death to life.
To achieve life through the cross, one must achieve death to this world. This, by itself, is self-evident – but the death we seek is not in the world, but TO the world. “For man to follow the Lord he has to first pursue the intentional death – the denial of Self-Want.”(2) Father Matta El Maskeen is not indicating that intentional death is in reference to suicide. Though this can consume someone into think this way, it is not the intent of this passage, for suicide has no place in a Christian life as it is a clear statement that the one committing the act is without Hope. This is not Christian at all.
What Father Matta is referring to is the complete mastery of our self-will internally – through our heart and mind. For the body is completely incapable of doing anything without the heart and/or mind driving it forward. Could it walk without the mind giving it instruction? No. Can it strike another without the rage of the heart propelling it? No. To achieve an intentional death we need a dispassionate disconnect from the body’s wants, desires and pursuits. Simply put we need to unplug our minds and heart from the body. To practice and train our own self-will, to co-mingle with the Will of God, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, to grant us the power to begin our intentional death to this world. To remove any influence this world has over us. To be free of this world’s attempts at drawing us further into the world. By the use of fasting (denial of any desire be it food, material possession, self joy, or anything that draws us away from the divinity of God), we are able to hone this skill of intentional death.
Unintentional death, that is physical death of our body in this world, is easy as we truly have no control over the when or even the how. But to gain internal death to the world – and all its influences is hard. And here my beloved brethren, is the “daily cross”(3) the Lord Jesus Christ is speaking about. To deny ourselves daily and to take up the struggle against this world, against the ever-present burning desires of our flesh – to deny all this and follow Him through the Cross.
And Glory Be to God, Amen.
1. Luke 14:27
2. Father Matta El Meskeen: Death to Death: 1971
3. Luke 9:23