Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 10: 30.01.24 Death of Brother Book I Pt 2

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Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 10: 30.01.24 Death of Brother Book I Pt 2

TOPIC: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 10 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 30.01.24 Death of Brother Book I Pt 2

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42. That is, then, evidence of no ordinary prudence, which virtue is thus defined by the wise. The first of good things is to know God, and with a pious mind to reverence Him as true and divine, and to delight in that loveable and desirable beauty of the eternal Truth with the whole affection of the mind. And the second consists in deriving from that divine and heavenly source of nature, love towards our neighbours, since even the wise of this world have borrowed from our laws. For they never could have obtained those points for the discipline of men, except from that heavenly fount of the divine law.

43. What, then, shall I say of his reverence in regard to the worship of God? He, before being initiated in the more perfect mysteries, being in danger of shipwreck when the ship that bore him, dashed upon rocky shallows, was being broken up by the waves tossing it hither and thither, fearing not death but lest he should depart this life without the Mystery, asked of those whom he knew to be initiated the divine Sacrament of the faithful; not that he might gaze on secret things with curious eyes, but to obtain aid for his faith. For he caused it to be bound in a napkin, and the napkin round his neck, and so cast himself into the sea, not seeking a plank loosened from the framework of the ship, by floating on which he might be rescued, for he sought the means of faith alone. And so believing that he was sufficiently protected and defended by this, he sought no other aid.

44. One may consider his courage at the same time, for he, when the vessel was breaking up, did not as a shipwrecked man seize a plank, but as a brave man found in himself the support of his courage, nor did his hope fail nor his expectation deceive him. And then, when preserved from the waves and brought safe to land in the port, he first recognized his Leader, to Whom he had committed himself, and at once after either himself rescuing the servants, or seeing that they were rescued, disregarding his goods, and not longing for what was lost, he sought the Church of God, that he might return thanks for his deliverance, and acknowledge the eternal mysteries, declaring that there was no greater duty than thanksgiving. But if not to be grateful to man has been judged like to murder, how enormous a crime is it not to be grateful to God!

45. Now it is the mark of a prudent man to know himself, and, as it has been defined by the wise, to live in accordance with nature. What, then, is so much in accordance with nature as to be grateful to the Creator? Behold this heaven, does it not render thanks to its Creator when He is seen? For "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims His handywork."hyperlink The sea itself when it is quiet and at rest sets forth a representation of the Divine Quiet; when it is stirred up, it shows that the wrath on high is terrible. Do we not all rightly admire the grace of God, when we observe that senseless nature restrains its waves as it were with sense and reason, and that the waves know their own limit? And what shall I say of the earth, which in obedience to the divine command freely supplies food to all living things; and the fields restore what they have received multiplied as it were by accumulating interest, and heaped up.

46. So he who by the guidance of nature had grasped the methods of the divine work in the ardent vigour of his mind, knew that thanks should be paid first of all to the Preserver of all; but inasmuch as he could not repay, he could at least feel grateful. For the essence of this thankfulness is that when it is offered it is felt, and by being felt is offered. So he offered thanks and brought away faith. For he who had felt such protection on the part of the heavenly Mystery wrapped in a napkin, how much did he expect if he received it with his mouth and drew it to the very depth of his bosom? How much more must he have been expecting of that, when received into his breast, which had so benefited him when covered with a napkin?

47. But he was not so eager as to lay aside caution. He called the bishop to him, and esteeming that there can be no true thankfulness except it spring from true faith, he enquired whether he agreed with the Catholic bishops, that is, with the Roman Church?hyperlink And possibly at that place the Church of the district was in schism. For at that time Lucifer had withdrawn from our communion, and although he had been an exile for the faith, and had left inheritors of his own faith,hyperlink yet my brother did not think that there could be true faith in schism. For though schismatics kept the faith towards God, yet they kept it not towards the Church of God, certain of whose limbs they suffered as it were to be divided, and her members to be torn. For since Christ suffered for the Church, and the Church is the body of Christ, it does not seem that faith in Christ is shown by those by whom His Passion is made of none effect, and His body divided.

48. And so though he retained the deposit of faith, and feared to voyage as debtor of so vast an amount, yet he preferred to cross over to a place where he could make his payment in safety, for he was convinced that the payment of thankfulness to God consists in dispositions and faith, which payment, so soon as he had free access to the Church, he delayed not to make.hyperlink And he both received the grace of God which he longed for, and preserved it when received. Nothing, then, can be wiser than that prudence which distinguishes between divine and human matters.

49. Why should I speak of his well-known eloquence in his forensic duties? What incredible admiration did he excite in the hall of justice of the high prefecture! But I prefer to speak of those things which he esteemed, through consideration of the mysteries of God, to be preferable to human matters.

50. And should any one wish more fully to regard his fortitude, let him consider how often after his shipwreck with invincible disregard of this life he crossed the sea and travelled through widespread regions in his journeys, and at last that at this very time he did not shrink from danger, but met it. Patient under injustice, regardless of cold, would that he had been equally thoughtful in taking precautions. But exactly herein was he blessed, that he, so long as his bodily strength allowed, spent his life fulfilling the work of youth, uninterruptedly carrying out what he wished to do, and paid no attention to his weakness.

51. But in what words can I set forth his simplicity? By this I mean a certain moderation of character and soberness of mind. Pardon me, I beseech you, and attribute it to my grief, if I allow myself to speak somewhat fully about him with whom I am no longer permitted to converse. And certainly it is an advantage for you to see that you have performed this kindly office not led by weak feelings, but by sound judgment; not as impelled by pity for his death, but moved by desire to do honour to his virtues; for every simple soul is blessed. And so great was his simplicity, that, converted as it were into a child, he was conspicuous for the simplicity belonging to that guileless age, for the likeness of perfect virtue, and for reflecting as in a mirror innocence of character. Therefore he entered into the kingdom of heaven, because he believed the word of God, because he, like a child, rejected the artifices of flattery, and chose rather to accept with gentleness the pain of injustice than to avenge himself sharply; he was more ready to listen to complaints than to guile, ready for conciliation, inaccessible to ambition, holy in modesty, so that in him one would rather speak of excess of bashfulness than have to seek for such as is needful.

52. But the foundations of virtue are never in excess, for modesty does not hinder but rather commends the discharge of duty. And so was his face suffused with a certain virginal modesty, showing forth his inward feeling in his countenance, if perchance he had, coming on a sudden, met some female relative, he was as it were bowed down and sunk to the earth, though he was not different in company with men, he seldom lifted up his face, raised his eyes, or spoke; when he did one of these things, it was with a kind of bashful modesty of heart, with which, too, the chastity of his body agreed. For he preserved the gifts of holy baptism inviolate, being pure in body and still more pure in heart; fearing not less the shame of impurity in conversation than in his body; and thinking that no less regard was to be paid to modesty in purity of words than in chastity of body.

53. In fine, he so loved chastity as never to seek a wife, although in him it was not merely the desire of chastity, but also the grace of his love for us. But in a wonderful manner he concealed his feeling as to marriage, and avoided all boastfulness; and so carefully did he conceal his feeling, that even when we pressed it on him, he appeared rather to postpone wedlock than to avoid it. So this was the one point with which he did not trust his brother and sister, not through any doubtful hesitation, but simply through virtuous modesty.

54. Who, then, could refrain from wondering that a man in age between a brother and a sister, the one a virgin, the other a priest, yet in greatness of soul not below either, should so excel in two great gifts, as to reflect the chastity of one vocation and the sanctity of the other, being bound not by profession but by the exercise of virtue. If, then, lust and anger bring forth other vices, I may rightly call chastity and gentleness as it were the parents of virtues; although, as it is the origin of all good things, so too is piety the seed-plot of other virtues.

55. What, then, shall I say of his economy, a kind of continence regarding possessions? For he who takes care of his own does not seek other men's goods, nor is he puffed up by abundance who is contented with his own. For he did not wish to recover anything except his own, and that rather that he might not be cheated than that he might be richer. For he rightly called those who seek other men's goods hawks of money. But if avarice be the root of all evils,hyperlink he who does not seek for money has certainly stripped himself of vices.

56. Nor did he ever delight in more carefully prepared feasts or many dishes, except when he invited friends, wishing for what was sufficient for nature, not for superabundance for pleasure's sake. And, indeed, he was not poor in means, but was so in spirit.hyperlink Certainly we ought by no means to doubt of his happiness, who neither as a wealthy man delighted in riches, nor as a poor man thought that what he had was scanty.

57. It remains that, to come to the end of the cardinal virtues, we should notice in him the constituents of justice. For although virtues are related to each other and connected, still as it were a more distinct sketch of each is wanted, and especially of justice. For it being somewhat niggardly towards itself is wholly devoted to what is without, and whatever it has through a certain rigour towards self, being carried away by love for all, it pours forth on its neighbours.

58. But there are many kinds of this virtue. One towards friends, another towards all men, another with respect to the worship of God or the relief of the poor. So what he was towards all, the affection of the people of the province over which he was set shows; who used to say that he was rather their parent than a judge, a kind umpire for loving clients, a steadfast awarder of just law.

59. But what he was with his brother and sister, though all men were embraced in his good-will, our undivided patrimony testifies, and the inheritance neither distributed nor diminished, but preserved. For he said that love was no reason for making a will. This, too, he signified with his last words, when commending those whom he had loved, saying that it was his choice never to marry a wife, that he might not be separated from his brother and sister, and that he would not make a will, lest our feelings should in any point be hurt. Lastly, though begged and entreated by us, he thought that nothing ought to be determined by himself, not, however, forgetting the poor, but only asking that so much should be given to them as should seem just to us.

60. By this alone he gave a sufficient proof of his fear of God, and set an example of religious feeling as regards men. For what he gave to the poor he offered to God, since "he that distributeth to the poor lendeth unto God;"hyperlink and by requiring what was just, he left them not a little, but the whole. For this is the total sum of justice, to sell what one has and give to the pool For he who "hath dispersed, and hath given to the poor, his righteousness endureth for ever."hyperlink So he left us as stewards, not heirs; for the inheritance is to the heirs a matter of question, the stewardship is a duty to the poor.

61. So that one may rightly say that the Holy Spirit has this day told us by the voice of the boy reader: "He that is innocent in his hands and of a clean heart, who hath not lifted up his soul to vanity, nor used deceit unto his neighbour, this is the generation of them that seek the Lord."hyperlink He, then, shall both ascend into the hill of the Lord and dwell in the tabernacle of God; because "he hath walked without spot, he hath worked righteousness, he hath spoken truth, he hath not deceived his neighbour;"hyperlink nor did he lend his money for usury, who always wished [no more than] to retain that which was inherited.

62. Why should I relate that in his piety he went beyond mere justice, when he, having thought that in consideration of my office something ought to be given to the unlawful possessor of our property, declared that I was the author of the bounty, but made over the receipts of his own share to the common fund.

63. These and other matters, which were then a pleasure to me, now sharpen the remembrance of my grief. They abide, however, and always will do so, nor do they ever pass away like a shadow; for the grace of virtue dies not with the body, nor do natural life and merits come to an end at the same time, although the use of natural life does not perish for ever, but rests in a kind of exemption for a time.

64. For one, then, who has performed such good deeds, and is rescued from perils, I shall weep rather from longing for him than for the loss. For the very opportuneness of his death bids us bear in mind that we must follow him rather with grateful veneration than grieve for him, for it is written that private grief should cease in public sorrow. This is said in the prophetical language,hyperlink not only to that one woman, who is figured there, but to each, since it seems to be said to the Church.

65. To me, then, does this message come, and Holy Scripture says: "Dost thou teach this, is it thus that thou instructest the people of God? Knowest thou not that thy example is a danger to others? save that perchance thou complainest that thy prayer is not heard. First of all this is shameless arrogance, to desire to obtain for thyself what thou knowest to have been denied to many, even saints, when thou art aware that God is no respecter of persons?"hyperlink For although God is merciful, yet if He always heard all, He would appear to act no longer of His own free will, but by a kind of necessity. Then, since all ask, if He were to hear all, no one would die. For how much dost thou daily pray? Is, then, God's appointment to be made void in consideration of thee? Why, then, dost thou lament that is sometimes not obtained, which thou knowest cannot always be obtained?

66. "Thou fool," it says, "above all women, seest thou not our mourning, and what hath happened to us, how that Sion our mother is saddened with all sadness, and humbled with humbling. Mourn now also very sore, since we all mourn, and be sad since we all are sad, and thou art grieved for a brother. Ask the earth and she shall tell thee that it is she which ought to mourn, outliving so many that grow upon her. And out of her," it says, "were all born in the beginning, and out of her shall others come, and, behold, they walk almost all into destruction, and a multitude of them is utterly rooted out. Who, then, ought to make more mourning than she that hath lost so great a multitude, and not thou, which art sorry but for one?"hyperlink

67. Let, then, the common mourning swallow up ours and cut off the bitterness of our private sorrow. For we ought not to grieve for those whom we see to be set free, and we bear in mind that so many holy souls are not without a purpose at this time loosed from the chains of the body. For we see, as if by God's decree, such reverend widows dying so closely at one time, that it seems to be a sort of setting out on a journey, not a sinking in death, lest their chastity in which they have served God their full time should be exposed to peril. What groans, what mourning, does so bitter a recollection stir up in me! And if I had no leisure for mourning, yet in my own personal grief, in the loss of the very flower of so much merit, the common lot of nature consoled me; and my grief in consideration of one alone veiled the bitterness of the public funeral by the show of piety at home.

68. I seek again, then, O sacred Scripture, thy consolations, for it delights me to dwell on thy precepts and on thy sentences. How far more easy is it for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tittle of the law to fail! But let us now listen to what is written: "Now," it says, "keep thy sorrow to thyself, and bear with a good courage the things which have befallen thee. For if thou shalt acknowledge the determination of God to be just, thou shalt both receive thy son in time, and shalt be praised among women."hyperlink If this is said to a woman, how much more to a priest! If such words are said of a son it is certainly not unfitting that they should be uttered also concerning the loss of a brother; though if he had been my son I could never have loved him more. For as in the death of children, the lost labour and the pain borne to no purpose seem to increase the sorrow; so, too, in the case of brothers the habits of intercourse and joint occupations inflame the bitterness of grief.

69. But, lo! I hear the Scripture saying: "Do not continue this discourse, but allow thyself to be persuaded. For how great are the misfortunes of Sion! Be comforted in regard of the sorrow of Jerusalem. For thou seest that our holy places are polluted and the name that was called upon us is almost profaned, they that are ours have suffered shame, our priests are burnt, our Levites gone into captivity, our wives are polluted, our virgins suffer violence, our righteous men are carried away, our little ones given up, our young men brought in bondage, and our strong men become weak. And, which is the greatest of all, the seal of Sion hast lost her glory, since now she is delivered into the hands of them that hate us. Do thou, then, shake off thy great heaviness, and put from thee the multitude of sorrows, that the Mighty may be merciful to thee again, and the Highest shall give thee rest by easing thy labours."hyperlink

70. So, then, my tears shall cease, for one must yield to healthful remedies, since there ought to be some difference between believers and unbelievers. Let them, therefore, weep who cannot have the hope of the resurrection, of which not the sentence of God but the strictness of the faith deprives them. Let there be this difference between the servants of Christ and the worshippers of idols, that the latter weep for their friends, whom they suppose to have perished for ever; that they should never cease from tears, and gain no rest from sorrow, who think that the dead have no rest. But from us, for whom death is the end not of our nature but of this life only, since our nature itself is restored to a better state, let the advent of death wipe away all tears.

71. And certainly if they have ever found any consolation who have thought that death is the end of sensation and the failing of our nature, how much more must we find it so to whom the consciousness of good done brings the promise of better rewards! The heathen have their consolation, because they think that death is a cessation of all evils, and as they are without the fruit of life, so, too, they think that they have escaped all the feeling and pain of those severe and constant sufferings which we have to endure in this life. We, however, as we are better supported by our rewards, so, too, ought we to he more patient through our consolation, for they seem to be not lost but sent before, whom death is not going to swallow up, but eternity to receive.

72. My tears shall therefore cease, or if they cannot cease, I will weep for thee, my brother, in the common sorrow, and will hide my private groaning in the public grief. For how can my tears wholly cease, since they break forth at every utterance of thy name, or when my very habitual actions arouse thy memory, or when my affection pictures thy likeness, or when recollection renews my grief. For how canst thou be absent who art again made present in so many occupations? Thou art present, I say, and art always brought before me, and with my whole mind and soul do I embrace thee, gaze upon thee, address thee, kiss thee; I grasp thee whether in the gloomy night or in the clear light, when thou vouch-safest to revisit and console me sorrowing. And now the very nights which used to seem irksome in thy lifetime, because they denied us the power of looking on each other; and sleep itself, lately, the odious interrupter of our converse, have commenced to be sweet, because they restore thee to me. They, then, are not wretched but blessed whose mutual presence fails not, whose care for each other is not lessened, whose mutual esteem is increased. For sleep is a likeness and image of death.

73. But if, in the quiet of night, our souls still cleaving to the chains of the body, and as it were bound within the prison bars of the limbs, yet are able to see higher and separate things, how much more do they see these, when in their pure and heavenly senses they suffer from no hindrances of bodily weakness. And so when, as a certain evening was drawing on, I was complaining that thou didst not revisit me when at rest, thou wast wholly present always. So that, as I lay with my limbs bathed in sleep, while I was [in mind] awake for thee, thou wast alive to me, I could say, "What is death, my brother?" For certainly thou wast not separated from me for a single moment, for thou wast so present with me everywhere, that enjoyment of each other, which we were unable to have in the intercourse of this life, is now always and everywhere with us. For at that time certainly all things could not be present, for neither did our physical constitution allow it, nor could the sight of each other, nor the sweetness of our bodily embraces at all times and in all places be enjoyed. But the pictures in our souls were always present with us, even when we were not together, and these have not come to an end, but constantly come back to us, and the greater the longing the greater abundance have we of them.

74. So, then, I hold thee, my brother, and neither death nor time shall tear thee from me. Tears themselves are sweet, and weeping itself a pleasure, for by these the eagerness of the soul is assuaged, and affection being eased is quieted. For neither can I be without thee, nor ever forget thee, or think of thee without tears. O bitter days, which show that our union is broken! O nights worthy of tears, which have lost for me so good a sharer of my rest, so inseparable a companion! What sufferings would ye cause me, unless the likeness of him present offered itself to me, unless the visions of my soul represented him whom my bodily sight shows me no more!

75. Now, now, O brother, dearest to my soul, although thou art gone by too early a death, happy at least art thou, who dost not endure these sorrows, and art not compelled to mourn the loss of a brother, separation from whom thou couldst not long endure, but didst quickly return and visit him again. But if then thou didst hasten to banish the weariness of my loneliness, to lighten the sadness of thy brother's mind, how much more often oughtest thou now to revisit my afflicted soul, and thyself lighten the sorrow which has its origin from thee!

76. But the exercise of my office now bids me rest awhile, and attention to my priestly duties draws my mind away; but what will happen to my holy sister, who though she moderates her affection by the fear of God, yet again kindles the grief itself of the affection by the zeal of her devotion? Prostrate on the ground, embracing her brother's tomb, wearied with toilsome walking, sad in spirit, day and night she renews her grief. For though she often breaks off her weeping by speech, she renews it in prayer; and although in her knowledge of her Scriptures she excels those who bring consolation, she makes up for her desire of weeping by the constancy of her prayers, renewing the abundance of her tears then chiefly, when no one can interrupt her. So thou hast that which thou mayest pity, not what thou mayest blame, for to weep in prayer is a sign of virtue. And although that be a common thing with virgins, whose softer sex and more tender affection abound in tears at the sight of the common weakness, even without the feeling of family grief, yet when there is a greater cause for sorrowing, no limit is set to that sorrow.

77. The means of consolation, then, are wanting since excuses abound. For thou canst not forbid that which thou teachest, especially when she attributes her tears to devotion, not to sorrow, and conceals the course of the common grief for fear of shame. Console her, therefore, thou who canst approach her soul, and penetrate her mind. Let her perceive that thou art present, feel that thou art not departed, that having enjoyed his consolation of whose merit she is assured, she may learn not to grieve heavily for him, who warned her that he was not to be mourned for.

78. But why should I delay thee, brother, why should I wait that my address should die and as it were be buried with thee? Although the sight and form of thy lifeless body, and its remaining comeliness and figure abiding here, comfort the eyes, I delay no longer, let us go on to the tomb. But first, before the people I utter the last farewell, declare peace to thee, and pay the last kiss. Go before us to that home, common and waiting for all, and certainly now longed for by me beyond others. Prepare a common dwelling for him with whom thou hast dwelt, and as here we have had all things in common, so there, too, let us know no divided rights.

79. Do not, I pray thee, long put off him who is desirous of thee, expect him who is hastening after thee, help him who is hurrying, and if I seem to thee to delay too long, summon me. For we have not ever been long separated from each other, but thou wast always wont to return. Nor since thou canst not return again, I will go to thee; it is just that I should repay the kindness and take my turn. Never was there much difference in the condition of our life; whether health or sickness, it was common to both, so that if one sickened the other fell ill, and when one began to recover, the other, too, was convalescent. How have we lost our rights? This time, too, we had our sickness in common, how is it that death was not ours in common?

80. And now to Thee, Almighty God, I commend this guileless soul, to Thee I offer my sacrifice; accept favourably and mercifully the gift of a brother, the offering of a priest. I offer beforehand these first libations of myself. I come to Thee with this pledge, a pledge not of money but of life, cause me not to remain too long a debtor of such an amount. It is not the ordinary interest of a brother's love, nor the common course of nature, which is increased by such an amount of virtue. I can bear it, if I shall be soon compelled to pay it.


17 Ps. xix. [xviii.] 1.

18 At this time there was no doubt concerning the faith of the Roman Church, as there would have been later under Liberius and Honorius. Consequently Satyrus instances it, as being the chief and best known see.

19 Lucifer was Bishop of Cagliari in Sardinia. At the synod of Aries, a.d. 353, he had strenuously resisted the condemnation of St. Athanasius, though it was urged by the Emperor Constantius, maintaining that the Nicene faith was opposed in the person of Athanasius. Against the synod of Milan, a.d. 355, he was equally resolute in defence of the belief of Nicaea, for which the emperor banished him to Syria. But when the synod of Alexandria, a.d. 362, determined on the restoration of certain Arians after repentance, he withdrew from Catholic Communion.

20 It is plain from various passages that Satyrus, when he undertook his voyage to Africa, was only a catechumen, i.e. not yet baptized. Many holy men postponed baptism, not out of contempt or carelessness, but through fear, in all the dangers of the period, of losing baptismal grace, sin after baptism and grace received being then estimated at its true awfulness. Satyrus having been, as he believed, saved from death by the Holy Eucharist, determined to be at once baptized, so soon as he could find a Catholic bishop. It must be noted that the Fathers condemn nothing more severely than postponing baptism, in order to continue in sin.

21 1 Tim. vi. 10.

22 S. Matt. v. 3.

23 Prov. xix. 17.

24 Ps. cxii. [cxi.] 9.

25 Ps. xxiv. [xxiii.] 4, Ps. xxiv. [xxiii.] 6.

26 Ps. xv. [xiv.] 2, Ps. xv. [xiv.] 3.

27 2 [4] Esdr. x. 6. In the Vulgate, as in the older Latin Version used by St. Ambrose, there are four books of Esdras, the first and second answering respectively to the Anlican books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Esdras iii. and iv. are counted apocryphal, but are quoted as canonical by St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and the third Council of Carthage.

28 Acts x. 34.

29 2 [4] Esdr. x. 6-11.

30 2 [4] Esdr. x. 15, 2 [4] Esdr. x. 16.

31 2 [4] Esdr. x. 20-24.