“In preparing to die, we should turn our eyes to God, to whom the path of death leads and directs us. Here we find the beginning of the narrow gate and of the straight path to life [Matt. 7:17]. All must venture forth on this path, for though the gate is quite narrow, the path is not long. Just as an infant is born with peril and pain from the small abode of its mother’s womb into the immense heaven and earth, that is, into this world, so man departs this through the narrow gate of death. And although the heaven and earth in which we dwell at present seem large and wide to us, they are nevertheless as narrow and small in comparison with the future heaven as the mother’s womb is in comparison this our heaven [i.e. sky]. Therefore, the death of the dear saints is called a new birth, and their feast day is known in Latin as natale, that is, the day of their birth. However, the narrow passage of death makes us think of this life as expansive and the life beyond as confined. Therefore, we must believe this and learn a lesson from the physical birth of a child, as Christ declares, “When a woman is in travail she has sorrow; but when she has recovered, she no longer remembers the anguish, since a child is born by her into the world [John 16:21]. So it is that in dying we must bear this anguish and know that a large mansion and joy will follow [John 14:2].”
-Martin Luther, On Preparation for Death (1519), LW 42:99-100
How does Luther’s depiction of death as a new birth into an expansive new reality compare with much of the preaching we hear about death? How do such images prepare us for death?
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