|17th Century Bulgarian Icon of St. Athanasius|
That death has been dissolved, and the cross has become victory over it, and it is no longer strong but is itself truly dead, no mean proof but an evident surety is that it is despised by all Christ's disciples, and everyone tramples on it, and no longer fears it, but with the sign of the cross and faith in Christ tread it under foot as something dead. Of old, before the divine sojourn of the Savior, all used to weep for those dying as if they were perishing. But since the Savior's raising the body, no longer is death fearsome, but all believers in Christ tread on it as nothing, and would rather choose to die than deny their faith in Christ. For they really know that when they die they are not destroyed, but both live and become incorruptible through the resurrection. And that devil, who formerly exulted wickedly in death, "it pangs having been loosed" (Acts 2.24), only he remains truly dead. And the proof of this is that human beings, before believing in Christ, view death as fearsome and are terrified at it. But when they come to faith in him and to his teaching, they so despise death that they eagerly rush to it and become witnesses to the resurrection over it effected by the Savior. For even while they are still young in stature they hasted to die, and not only men but also women practice for it with exercises...For as when a tyrant has been defeated by a legitimate king and bound hand and foot, all those that then pass by mock him, hitting and reviling him, no longer fearing his fury and barbarity because of the victorious king; in this way death also having been conquered and placarded by the Savior on the cross, and bound hand and foot, all those in Christ who pass by trample on him [death], and witnessing to Christ they mock death, jeering at him, and saying what was written above, "O death, where is your victory? O hell, where is your sting?" (1 Cor 15.55).
Excerpt from On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius (p.108-109).