“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Friday, December 25, 2009

“The true master of death accepts that he must die.” – Albus Dumbledore

But then, “a long time later, or maybe no time at all, it came to him that he must exist, must be more than disembodied thought,” (DH ch. 35), for he was thinking. Harry find himself in an ethereal realm that bears a resemblance to the London train station, King’s Cross. Dumbledore appears, and in the ensuing conversation, Harry discovers the key to Voldemort’s defeat. He is given the choice to return from death and finish the battle with Voldemort, which he accepts. When he returns, he plays dead, allowing the Death Eaters to subject him to humiliation as they parade his body down to Hogwarts. Hagrid carries him, amidst the “jeers and shrieks of laughter.” Despair reigns as Harry Potter, the boy who lived, lies dead for all to see. And then, in that sudden, eucatastrophic turn of the tide which is the mark of all great stories, Harry reveals himself, “their leader and their symbol, their savior and their guide” (DH ch. 36), and duels the Dark Lord to the death. As the sun rises red and gold (evoking the imagery of the phoenix, the “resurrection bird”), Harry and Voldemort clash wands, and Voldemort meets his end.

The last enemy is destroyed…but only because Harry was willing to give himself unto death.* Death is destroyed…by death. Dumbledore offers perhaps the best summary of this theme in his conversation with Harry at “King’s Cross”:

“You [Harry] are the true master of death, because the true master does not seek to run away from Death. He accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying.” – Albus Dumbledore
Harry “accepted, even embraced, the possibility of death, something Lord Voldemort has never been able to do” (DH ch. 35). This idea, and the imagery and phrases used to communicate it throughout the books, are strikingly similar to statements made by Jesus in the Gospels, and by Paul in his epistles:
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Jesus (Matthew 16:24-25)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – Jesus (John 12:24)

“Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” – Jesus (John 11:25)

“What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” – Paul (1 Corinthians 15:36)
“The true master of death accepts that he must die.” It is the same idea, and a distinctly Christian idea: from death itself comes new life, victory over death. What seemed to be total defeat is turned suddenly to victory; hopelessness and despair are transformed into life and joy (see “The Eucatastrophe”). The last quote above is from 1 Corinthians 15, Paul’s great chapter on the resurrection. It is in this same passage that the phrase “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” is found (1 Corinthians 15:26). The chapter ends with the glorious declaration that “Death is swallowed up in victory” (15:54). Death is swallowed up in victory! This is what happened in Harry Potter, and it is what happens in the (true) story that Christianity tells, for just as Harry defeated his enemy and mastered death by dying, so also Christ “partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14), and in this beautiful parallel Harry is most definitely a Christ figure. See Whoever Loses His Life Will Find It,” “Death Destroyed by Death.”

*According to Dumbledore, “on the whole,” Harry did not die. But that he meant to die made all the difference (DH ch. 35).

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