Setting the scene: the Firefly ship containing Captain Mal and his crew is out of gas. That is, the ship sustained an explosion which knocked out its power and its life-support, and everyone is rapidly running out of oxygen. In a short time, if they remain aboard the ship, they will all die. Mal therefore orders them into the two shuttles, and sends them out in opposite directions in the dim hope that they will find help. He chooses to remain on board the Firefly in case someone passing by responds to the distress call which was sent out. The crew, knowing the long odds against anyone responding in time, realizes that this choice of Mal’s to remain on board is a death-sentence. One of them, Inara, says to him, “This isn’t the ancient sea—you don’t have to go down with the ship. Mal, you don’t have to die alone.” Mal looks at her at says, “Everybody dies alone.”
In Mal’s bittersweet riposte, we hear the ancient voice of mankind, labouring long and sorrowfully, the sad wisdom of a doomed race. Mal speaks here with noble and courageous resignation in the face of the inevitable. Mal is mankind, adrift in a tumultuous world, sure of little, except the truth that everybody dies, and everybody dies alone. But Mal, for all his courage and nobility, has forgotten one thing. He has forgotten Pascha.
Pascha reveals that we do not have to die alone, but that Christ our Lord, triumphant over death, is now the Lord of both the dead and the of living (Rom. 14:9). A long tradition in the Church speaks of angels escorting the soul to its destination, a journey of joy for the saved whose hope is to “depart and to be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23). Monastic literature is replete with stories of monks who at the moment of death stepped from the seen into the unseen world—not alone, but into a realm populated with spiritual powers. One short example may suffice. It is said that when Abba Sourous died and delivered up his soul “at once the angels received it, and choirs of martyrs led it up to heaven, while the other monks looked on and heard the hymns”. Abba Sourous did not die alone. By His death, Christ brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel (2 Tim. 1:10), and Abba Sourous died attended by a multitude of angels and saints.
In a way truer than she knew, Inara was right. Mal, you don’t have to die alone. None of us do. Christ has risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.