Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 10: 30.01.25 Death of Brother Bk II Pt 1

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Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 10: 30.01.25 Death of Brother Bk II Pt 1

TOPIC: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 10 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 30.01.25 Death of Brother Bk II Pt 1

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Book II.

On the Belief in the Resurrection.

1. In the former book I indulged my longing to some extent, lest too sharp remedies applied to a burning wound might rather increase than assuage the pain. And as at the same time I often addressed my brother, and had him before my eyes, it was not out of place to let natural feelings have a little play, since they are somewhat satisfied by tears, soothed by weeping, and numbed by a shock. For the outward expression of affection is of a soft and tender nature, it loves nothing extravagant, nothing stern, nothing hard; and patience is proved by enduring rather than by resisting.

2. So, since the death-day might well, lately, by the sad spectacle draw aside the mind of a brother, because it occupied him wholly, now, inasmuch as on the seventh day, the symbol of the future rest, we return to the grave, it is profitable to turn our thoughts somewhat from my brother to a general exhortation addressed to all, and to give our attention to this; so as neither to cling to my brother with all our minds, lest our feelings overcome us, nor forgetting such devotion and desert, to turn wholly away from him; and in truth we should but increase the suffering of our intense grief, if his death were again the subject of to-day's address.

3. Wherefore we propose, dearest brethren, to console ourselves with the common course of nature, and not to think anything hard which awaits all. And therefore we deem that death is not to be mourned over; firstly, because it is common and due to all; next, because it frees us from the miseries of this lie and, lastly, because when in the likeness of sleep we are at rest from the toils of this world, a more lively vigour is shed upon us. What grief is there which the grace of the Resurrection does not console? What sorrow is not excluded by the belief that nothing perishes in death? nay, indeed, that by the hastening of death it comes to pass that much is preserved from perishing. So it will happen, dearest brethren, that in our general exhortation we shall turn our affections to my brother, and shall not seem to have wandered too far from him, if through hope of the Resurrection and the sweetness of future glory even in our discourse he should live again for us.

4. Let us then begin at this point, that we show that the departure of our loved ones should not be mourned by us. For what is more absurd than to deplore as though it were a special misfortune, what one knows is appointed unto all? This were to lift up the mind above the condition of men, not to accept the common law, to reject the fellowship of nature, to be puffed up in a fleshly mind, and not to recognize the measure of the flesh itself. What is more absurd than not to recognize what one is, to pretend to be what one is not? Or what can be a sign of less forethought than to be unable to bear, when it has happened, what one knew was going to happen? Nature herself calls us back, and draws us aside froth sorrow of this sort by a kind of consolation of her own. For what so deep mourning is there, or so bitter grief, in which the mind is not at times relieved? For human nature has this peculiarity, that although men may be in sad circumstances, yet if only they be men, they sometimes turn their thoughts a little away from sadness.

5. It is said, indeed, that there have been certain tribes who mourned at the birth of human beings, and kept festival at their deaths, and this not without reason, for they thought that those who had entered upon this ocean of life should be mourned over, but that they who had escaped from the waves and storms of this world should be accompanied by rejoicing not without good reason. And we too forget the birthdays of the departed, and commemorate with festal solemnity the day on which they died.hyperlink

6. Therefore, in accordance with nature, excessive grief must not be yielded to, test we should seem either to claim for ourselves either an exceptional superiority of nature, or to reject the common lot. For death is alike to all, without difference for the poor, without exception for the rich. And so although through the sin of one alone, yet it passed upon all;hyperlink that we may not refuse to acknowledge Him to be also the Author of death, Whom we do not refuse to acknowledge as the Author of our race; and that, as through one death is ours, so should be also the resurrection; and that we should not refuse the misery, that we may attain to the gift. For, as we read, Christ "is come to save that which was lost,"hyperlink and "to be Lord both of the dead and living."hyperlink In Adam I fell, in Adam I was cast out of Paradise, in Adam I died; how shall the Lord call me back, except He find me in Adam; guilty as I was in him, so now justified in Christ.hyperlink If, then, death be the debt of all, we must be able to endure the payment. But this topic must be reserved for later treatment.

7. It is now our purpose to demonstrate that death ought not to cause too heavy grief, because nature itself rejects this. And so they say that there was a law among the Lycians, commanding that men who gave way to grief should be clothed in female apparel, inasmuch as they judged mourning to be soft and effeminate in a man. And it is inconsistent that those who ought to offer their breast to death for the faith, for religion, for their country, for righteous judgment, and the endeavour after virtue, should grieve too bitterly for that in the case of others which, if a fitting cause required, they would seek for themselves. For how can one help shrinking from that in ourselves which one mourns with too little patience when it has happened to others? Put aside your grief, if you can; if you cannot, keep it to yourself.

8. Is, then, all sorrow to be kept within or repressed? Why should not reason rather than time lighten one's sadness? Shall not wisdom better assuage that which the passage of time will obliterate? Further, it seems to me that it is a want of due feeling with regard to the memory of those whose loss we mourn, when we prefer to forget them rather than that our sorrow should be lessened by consolation; and to shrink from the recollection of them, rather than remember them with thankfulness; that we fear the calling to mind of those whose image in our hearts ought to be a delight; that we are rather distrustful than hopeful regarding the acceptance of the departed, and think of those we loved rather as liable to punishment than as heirs of immortality.

9. But you may say: We have lost those whom we used to love. Is not this the common lot of ourselves and the earth and elements, that we cannot keep for ever what has been entrusted to us for a time? The earth groans under the plough, is lashed by rains, struck by tempests, bound by cold, burnt by the sun, that it may bring forth its yearly fruits; and when it has clothed itself with a variety of flowers, it is stripped and spoiled of its own adornment. How many plunderers it has! And it does not complain of the loss of its fruits, to which it gave birth that it might lose them, nor thereafter does it refuse to produce what it remembers will be taken from it.

10. The heavens themselves do not always shine with the globes of twinkling stars, wherewith as with coronets they are adorned. They are not always growing bright with the dawn of light, or ruddy with the rays of the sun; but in constant succession that most pleasing appearance of the world grows dark with the damp chill of night. What is more grateful than the light? what more pleasant than the sun? each of which daily comes to an end; yet we do not take it ill that these have passed away from us, because we expect them to return. Thou art taught in these things what patience thou oughtest to manifest with regard to those who belong to thee. If things above pass away from thee, and cause no grief, why should the passing away of man be mourned?

11. Let, then, grief be patient, let there be that moderation in adversity which is required in prosperity. If it be not seemly to rejoice immoderately, is it seemly so to mourn? For want of moderation in grief or fear of death is no small evil. How many has it driven to the halter, in how many hands has it placed the sword, that they might by that very means demonstrate their madness in not enduring death, and yet seeking it; in adopting that as a remedy which they flee from as an evil. And because they were unable to endure and to suffer what is in agreement with their nature, they fall into that which is contrary to their desire, being separated for ever from those whom they desired to follow. But this is not common, since nature herself restrains although madness drives men on.

12. But it is common with women to make public wailing, as though they feared that their misery might not be known. They affect soiled clothing, as though the feeling of sorrow consisted therein; they moisten their unkempt hair with filth; and lastly, which is done habitually in many places, with their clothing torn and their dress rent in two, they prostitute their modesty in nakedness, as if they were ready to sacrifice that modesty because they have lost that which was its reward. And so wanton eyes are excited, and lust after those naked limbs, which were they not made bare they would not desire. Would that those filthy garments covered the mind rather than the bodily form. Lasciviousness of mind is often hidden under sad clothing, and the unseemly rudeness of dress is used as a covering to hide the secrets of wanton spirits.

13. She mourns for her husband with sufficient devotion who preserves her modesty and does not give up her constancy. The best duties to discharge to the departed are that they live in our memories and continue in our affection. She has not lost her husband who manifests her chastity, nor is she widowed as regards her union who has not changed her husband's name. Nor hast thou lost the heir when thou assistest the joint-heir, but in exchange for a successor in perishable things thou hast a sharer in things eternal. Thou hast one to represent thine heir, pay to the poor what was due to the heir, that there may remain one to survive, not only the old age of father or mother, but thine own life. Thou leavest thy successor all the more, if his share conduce not to luxury in things present, but to the purchasing of things to come.

14. But we long for those whom we have lost. For two things specially pain us: either the longing for those we have lost, which I experience in my own case; or that we think them deprived of the sweetness of life, and snatched away from the fruits of their toil. For there is a tender movement of love, which suddenly kindles the affection, so as to have the effect rather of soothing than of hindering the pain; inasmuch as it seems a dutiful thing to longfor what one has lost, and so under an appearance of virtue weakness increases.

15. But why dost thou think that she who has sent her beloved to foreign parts, and because of military service, or of undertaking some office, or has discovered that for the purpose of commerce he has crossed the sea, ought to be more patient than thou who art left, not because of some chance decision or desire of money, but by the law of nature? But, you say, the hope of regaining him is shut out. As though the return of any one were certain! And oftentimes doubt wearies the mind more where the fear of danger is strong; and it is more burdensome to fear lest something should happen than to bear what one already knows has happened. For the one increases the amount of fear, the other looks forward to the end of its grief.

16. But masters have the right to transfer their slaves whithersoever they determine. Has not God this right? It is not granted to us to look for their return, but it is granted us to follow those gone before. And certainly the usual shortness of life seems neither to have deprived them of much who have gone before, nor to delay very long him who remains.

17. But if one cannot mitigate one's grief, does it not seem unbecoming to wish that because of our longing the whole course of things should be upset? The longings of lovers are certainly more intense, and yet they are tempered by regard to what is necessary; and though they grieve at being forsaken they are not wont to mourn, rather being deserted they blush at loving too hastily. And so patience in regret is all the more manifested.

18. But what shall I say of those who think that the departed are deprived of the sweetness of life? There can be no real sweetness in the midst of the bitternesses and pains of this life, which are caused either by the infirmity of the body itself, or by the discomfort of things happening from without. For we are always anxious and in suspense as to our wishes for happier circumstances; we waver in uncertainty, our hope setting before us doubtful things for certain, inconvenient for satisfactory, things that will fail for what is firm, and we have neither any strength in our will nor certainty in our wishes. But if anything happens against our wish, we think we are lost, and are rather broken down by pain at adversity than cheered by the enjoyment of prosperity. What good, then, are they deprived of who are rather freed from troubles?

19. Good health, I doubt not, is more beneficial to us than bad health is hurtful. Riches bring more delights than poverty annoyance, the satisfaction in children's love is greater than the sorrow at their loss, and youth is more pleasant than old age is sad. How often is the attainment of one's wishes a weariness, and what one has longed for a regret; so that one grieves at having obtained what one was not afraid of obtaining. But what fatherland, what pleasures, can compensate for exile and the bitterness of other penalties? For even when we have these, the pleasure is weakened either by the disinclination to use or by the fear of losing them.

20. But suppose that some one remains unharmed, free from grief, in uninterrupted enjoyment of the pleasures of the whole course of man's life, what comfort can the soul attain to, enclosed in the bonds of a body of such a kind, and restrained by the narrow limits of the limbs? If our flesh shrinks from prison, if it abhors everything which denies it the power of roaming about; when it seems, indeed, to be always going forth, with its little powers of hearing or seeing what is beyond itself, how much more does our soul desire to escape from that prison-house of the body, which, being free with movement like the air, goes whither we know not, and comes whence we know not.

21. We know, however, that it survives the body, and that being set free from the bars of the body, it sees with clear gaze those things which before, dwelling in the body, it could not see. And we are able to judge of this by the instance of those who have visions of things absent and even heavenly in sleep (whose minds, when the body is as it were buried in sleep, rise to higher things and relate them to the body). So, then, if death frees us from the miseries of this world, it is certainly no evil, inasmuch as it restores liberty and excludes suffering.

22. At this point the right place occurs for arguing that death is not an evil, because it is the refuge from all miseries and all evils, a safe harbour of security, and a haven of rest. For what adversity is there which we do not experience in this life? What storms and tempests do we not suffer? by what discomforts are we not harassed? whose merits are spared?

23. The holy patriarch Israel fled from his country, was exiled from his father, relatives, and home,hyperlink he mourned over the shame of his daughterhyperlink and the death of his son, he endured famine, when dead he lost his own grave, for he entreated that his bones should be translated,hyperlink a lest even in death he should find rest.

24. Holy Joseph experienced the hatred of his brethren,hyperlink the guile of those who envied him, the service of slavery, the mastership of merchantmen, the wantonness of his mistress, the ignorance of her husband, and the misery of prison.hyperlink

25. Holy David lost two sons; the one incestuous,hyperlink the other a parricide.hyperlink To have had them was a disgrace, to have lost them a grief. And he lost a third, the infant whom he loved. Him he wept for while still alive, but did not long for when dead. For so we read, that, while the child was sick, David entreated the Lord for him, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and when the elders came near to raise him from the earth, he would neither rise nor eat. But when he heard that the child was dead, he changed his clothes, worshipped God, and took food. When this seemed strange to his servants, he answered that he had rightly fasted and wept while the child was alive, because he justly thought that God might have mercy, and it could not be doubted that He could preserve the life of one alive Who could give life to the departed, but now, when death had taken place, why should he fast, for he could not now bring back him that was dead, and recall him who was lifeless. "I," said he, "shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."hyperlink

26. O greatest consolation for him who mourns! O true judgment of a wise man! O wonderful wisdom of one who is a bond-man! that none should take it ill that anything adverse has happened to him, or complain that he is afflicted contrary to his deserts. For who art thou who beforehand proclaimest thy deserts? Why desirest thou to anticipate Him Who takes cognizance of all? Why dost thou snatch away the verdict from Him Who is going to judge? This is permitted not even to the saints, nor has it ever been done by the saints with impunity. David confesses that he was scourged for this in his psalm: "Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world, they have obtained riches. Therefore I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands among the innocent; and I was scourged all the day long, and my accusationhyperlink came every morning."hyperlink

27. Peter also, though full of faith and devotion, yet because, not yet conscious of our common weakness, he had presumptuously said to the Lord, "I will lay down my life for Thy sake,"hyperlink fell into the trial of his presumption before the cock crowed thrice.hyperlink Although, indeed, that trial was a lesson for our salvation, that we might learn not to think little of the weakness of the flesh, lest through thus thinking little of it we should be tempted. If Peter was tempted, who can presume? who can maintain that he cannot be tempted? And without doubt for our sakes was Peter tempted, so that, the proving of the temptation did not take place in a stronger than he,hyperlink but that in him we should learn how, resisting in temptations, although tried even by care for our lives, we might yet overcome the sting of the temptation with tears of patience.

28. But that same David, that the difference of his actions may not perhaps disturb those who cling to the words of Scripture; that same David, I say, who had not wept for the innocent infant, wept for the parricide when dead. For at the last, when he was wailing and mourning, he said, "O my son Absalom, my son Absalom! Who will grant me to die for thee!"hyperlink But not only is Absalom the parricide wept over, Amnon is wept over; not only is the incestuous wept over, but is even avenged; the one by the scorn of the kingdom, the other by the exile of his brothers. The wicked is wept over, not the innocent. What is the cause? What is the reason? There is no little deliberation with the prudent and confirmation of results with the wise; for there is great consistency of prudence in so great a difference of actions, but the belief is one. He wept for those who were dead, but did not think that he ought to weep for the dead infant, for he thought that they were lost to him, but hoped that the latter would rise again.

29. But concerning the Resurrection more will be said later on; let us now return to our immediate subject. We have set forth that even holy men have without any consideration for their merits, suffered many and heavy things in this world, together with toil and misery. So David, entering into himself, says: "Remember; Lord, that we are dust; as for man, his days are but as grass;"hyperlink and in another place: "Man is like to vanity, his days pass away as a shadow."hyperlink For what is more wretched than we, who are sent into this life as it were plundered and naked, with frail bodies, deceitful hearts, weak minds, anxious in respect of cares, slothful as to labour, prone to pleasures.

30. Not to be born is then by far the best, according to Solomon's sentence. For they also who have seemed to themselves to excel most in philosophy have followed him. For he, before these philosophers in time, but later than many of our writers, spoke thus in Ecclesiastes: "And I praised all the departed, which are already dead, more than the living, who are yet alive. And better than both they is he who hath not yet been born, and who hath not seen this evil work which hath been done under the sun. And I saw all travail, and all the good of this labour, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. And, indeed, this is vanity and vexation of spirit."hyperlink

31. And who said this but he who asked for and obtained wisdom, to know how the world was made, and the power of the elements, the course of the year, and the dispositions of stars, to be acquainted with the natures of living creatures, the furies of wild beasts, and the violence of winds, and to understand the thoughts of man!hyperlink How, then, should mortal matters be hidden from him, from whom heavenly things were not hidden? He who penetrated the thoughts of the woman who was claiming the child of another, who by the inspiration of divine grace knew the natures of living creatures which he did not share; could he err or say what was untrue with regard to the circumstances of that nature, which he found in his own personal experience?

32. But Solomon was not the only person who felt this, though he alone gave expression to it. He had read the words of holy Job: "Let the day perish wherein I was born."hyperlink Job had recognized that to be born is the beginning of all woes, and therefore wished that the day on which he was born might perish, so that the origin of all troubles might be removed, and wished that the day of his birth might perish that he might receive the day of resurrection. For Solomon had heard his father's saying: "Lord, make me to know mine end, and the number of my days, that I may know what is lacking unto me."hyperlink For David knew that what is perfect cannot be grasped here, and therefore hastened on to those things which are to come. For now we know in part, and understand in part, but then it will be possible for that which is perfect to be grasped, when not the shadow but the reality of the Divine Majesty and eternity shall begin to shine so as to be gazed upon by us with unveiled face.hyperlink

33. But no one would hasten to the end, except he were fleeing from the discomfort of this life. And so David also explained why he hastened to the end, when he said: "Behold Thou hast made my days old, and my being is as nothing before Thee, surely all things are vanity, even every man that liveth."hyperlink Why, then, do we hesitate to flee from vanity? Or why does it please us to be troubled to no purpose in this world, to lay up treasures, and not know for what heir we are gathering them? Let us pray that troubles be removed from us, that we be taken out of this foolish world, that we may be free from our daily pilgrimage, and return to that country and our natural home. For on this earth we are strangers and foreigners; we have to return thither whence we have come down, we must strive and pray not perfunctorily but earnestly to be delivered from the guile and wickedness of men full of words. And he who knew the remedy groaned that his sojourn was prolonged, and that he must dwell with the unjust and sinners.hyperlink What shall I do, who both am sinful and know not the remedy?

34. Jeremiah also bewails his birth in these words: "Woe is me, my mother! Why hast thou borne me a man of contention in all the earth? I have not benefited others, nor has any one benefited me, my strength hath failed."hyperlink If, then, holy men shrink from life whose life, though profitable to us, is esteemed unprofitable to themselves; what ought we to do who am not able to profit others, and who feel that it, like money borrowed at interest, grows more heavily weighted every day with an increasing mass of sins?

35. "I die daily,"hyperlink says the Apostle. Better certainly is this saying than theirs who said that meditation on death was true philosophy, for they praised the study, he exercised the practice of death. And they acted for themselves only, but Paul, himself perfect, died not for his own weakness but for ours. But what is meditation on death but a kind of separation of body and soul, for death itself is defined as nothing else than the separation of body and soul? But this is in accordance with common opinion.

36. But according to the Scriptures we have been taught that death is threefold.hyperlink One death is when we die to sin, but live to God. Blessed, then, is that death which, escaping from sin, and devoted to God, separates us from what is mortal and consecrates us to Him Who is immortal. Another death is the departure from this life, as the patriareh Abraham died, and the patriarch David, and were buried with their fathers; when the soul is set free from the bonds of the body. The third death is that of which it is said: "Leave the dead to bury their own dead."hyperlink In that death not only the flesh but also the soul dies, for "the soul that sinneth, it shall die."hyperlink For it dies to the Lord, through the weakness not of nature but of guilt. But this death is not the discharge from this life, but a fall through error.

37. Spiritual death, then, is one thing, natural death another, a third the death of punishment. But that which is natural is not also penal, for the Lord did not inflict death as a penalty, but as a remedy. And to Adam when he sinned, one thing was appointed as a penalty, another for a remedy, when it was said: "Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I had commanded thee that of it alone thou shouldst not eat, cursed is the ground in thy labor; in sorrow shalt thou eat its fruit all the days of thy life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread, till thou return to the earth from which thou wast taken."hyperlink

38. Here you have the days of rest from penalties, for they contain the punishment decreed against the thorns of tiffs life, the cares of the world, and the pleasures of riches which shut out the Word. Death is given for a remedy, because it is the end of evils. For God said not, "Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of the woman thou shalt return to the earth," for this would have been a penal sentence, as this one is, "The earth under curse shall bring forth thorns and thistles to thee;" but He said: "In sweat shall thou eat thy bread until thou return to the earth." You see that death is rather the goal of our penalties, by which an end is put to the course of this life.

39. So, then, death is not only not an evil, but is even a good thing. So that it is sought as a good, as it is written: "Men shall seek death and shall not find it."hyperlink They will seek it who shall say to the mountains: "Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us."hyperlink That soul, too, shall seek it which has sinned. That rich man lying in hell shall seek it, who wishes that his tongue should be cooled with the finger of Lazarus.hyperlink

40. We see, then, that this death is a gain and life a penalty, so that Paul says: "To me to live is Christ and to die is gain."hyperlink What is Christ but the death of the body, the breath of life? And so let us die with Him, that we may live with Him. Let there then be in us as it were a daily practice and inclination to dying, that by this separation from bodily desires, of which we have spoken, our soul may learn to withdraw itself, and, as it were placed on high, when earthly lusts cannot approach and attach it to themselves, may take upon herself the likeness of death, that she incur not the penalty of death. For the law of the flesh wars against the law of the mind, and makes it over to the law of error, as the Apostle has made known to us, saying: "For I see a law of the flesh in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity in the law of sin."hyperlink We are all attached, we all feel this; but we are not all delivered. And so a miserable man am I, unless I seek the remedy.

41. But what remedy? "Who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord."hyperlink We have a physician, let us use the remedy. Our remedy is the grace of Christ, and the body of death is our body. Let us therefore be as strangers to our body, lest we be strangers to Christ. Though we are in the body, let us not follow the things which are of the body, let us not reject the rightful claims of nature, but desire before all the gifts of grace: "For to be dissolved and to be with Christ is far better; yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sakes."hyperlink

42. But this need is not the case of all, Lord Jesus; it is not so with me, who am profitable to none; for to me death is a gain, that I may sin no more. To die is gain to me, who, in the very treatise in which I comfort others, am incited as it were by an intense impulse to the longing for my lost brother, since it suffers me not to forget him. Now I love him more, and long for him more intensely. I long for him when I speak, I long for him when I read again what I have written, and I think that I am more impelled to write this, that I may not ever be without the recollection of him. And in this I am not acting contrary to Scripture, but I am of the same mind with Scripture, that I may grieve with more patience, and long with greater intensity.

43. Thou hast caused me, my brother, not to fear death, and I only would that my life might die with thine! This Balaam wished for as the greatest good for himself, when, inspired by the spirit of prophecy, he said: "Let my soul die in the souls of the righteous, and let my seed be like the seed of them."hyperlink And in truth he wished this according to the spirit of prophecy, for as he saw the rising of Christ, so also he saw His triumph, he saw His death, but saw also in Him the everlasting resurrection of men, and therefore feared not to die as he was to rise again. Let not then my soul die in sin, nor admit sin into itself, but let it die in the soul of the righteous, that it may receive his righteousness. Then, too, he who dies in Christ. is made a partaker of His grace in the Font.

44. Death is not, then, an object of dread, nor bitter to those in need, nor too bitter to the rich, nor unkind to the old, nor a mark of cowardice to the brave, nor everlasting to the faithful nor unexpected to the wise. For how many have consecrated their life by the renown of their death alone, how many have been ashamed to live, and have found death a gain! We have read how often by the death of one great nations have been delivered; the armies of the enemy have been put to flight by the death of the general, who had been unable to conquer them when alive.

45. By the death of martyrs religion has been defended, faith increased, the Church strengthened; the dead have conquered, the persecutors have been overcome. And so we celebrate the death of those of whose lives we are ignorant. So, too, David rejoiced in prophecy at the departure of his own soul, saying: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."hyperlink He esteemed death better than life. The death itself of the martyrs is the prize of their life. And again, by the death of those at variance hatred is put an end to.

46. Why should more be said? By the death of One the world was redeemed. For Christ, had He Willed, need not have died, but He neither thought that death should be shunned as though there were any cowardice in it, nor could He have saved us better than by dying. And so His death is the life of all. We are signed with the signhyperlink of His death, we show forth His death when we pray; when we offer the Sacrifice we declare His death, for His death is victory, His death is our mystery, His death is the yearly recurring solemnity of the world. What now should we say concerning His death, since we prove by this Divine Example that death alone found immortality, and that death itself redeemed itself. Death, then, is not to be mourned over, for it is the cause of salvation for all; death is not to be shunned, for the Son of God did not think it unworthy of Him, and did not shun it. The order of nature is not to be loosed, for what is common to all cannot admit of exception in individuals.

47. And, indeed, death was no part of man's nature, but became natural; for God did not institute death at first, but gave it as a remedy. Let us then take heed that it do not seem to be the opposite. For if death is a good, why is it written that "God made not death,hyperlink but by the malice of men death entered into the world"? For of a truth death was no necessary part of the divine operation, since for those who were placed in paradise a continual succession of all good things streamed forth; but because of transgression the life of man, condemned to lengthened labour, began to be wretched with intolerable groaning; so that it was fitting that an end should be set to the evils, and that death should restore what life had lost. For immortality, unless grace breathed upon it, would be rather a burden than an advantage.

48. And if one consider accurately, it is not the death of our being, but of evil, for being continues, it is evil that perishes. That which has been rises again; would that as it is now free from sinning, so it were without former guilt! But this very thing is a proof that it is not the death of being, that we shall be the same persons as we were. And so we shall either pay the penalty of our sins, or attain to the reward of our good deeds. For the same being will rise again, now more honourable for having paid the tax of death. And then "the dead who are in Christ shall rise first; then, too, we who are alive," it is said, "shall together with them be caught up in the clouds into the air to meet the Lord, and so we shall always be with the Lord."hyperlink They first, but those that are alive second. They with Jesus, those that are alive through Jesus. To them life will be sweeter after rest, and though the living will have a delightful gain, yet they will be without experience of the remedy.

49. There is, then, nothing for us to fear in death, nothing for us to mourn, whether life which was received from nature be rendered up to her again, or whether it be sacrificed to some duty which claims it, and this will be either an act of religion or the exercise of some virtue. And no one ever wished to remain as at present. This has been supposed to have been promised to John, but it is not the truth. We hold fast to the words, and deduce the meaning from them. He himself in his own writinghyperlink denies that there was a promise that he should not die, that no one from that instance might yield to an empty hope. But if to wish for this would be an extravagant hope, how much more extravagant were it to grieve without rule for what has happened according to rule!

50. The heathen mostly console themselves with the thought, either of the common misery, or of the law of nature, or of the immortality of the soul. And would that their utterances were consistent, and that they did not transmit the wretched soul into a number of ludicrous monstrosities and figures! But what ought we to do, whose reward is the resurrection, though many, not being able to deny the greatness of this gift, refuse to believe in it? And for this reason will we maintain it, not by one casual argument only, but by as many as we are able.

51. All things, indeed, are believed to be, either because of experience, or on grounds of reason, or from similar instances, or because it is fitting that they be, and each of these supports our belief. Experience teaches us that we are moved; reason, that which moves us must be considered the property of another power; similar instances show that the field has borne crops, and therefore we expect that it will continue to bear them. Fitness, because even where we do not think that there will be results, yet we believe that it is by no means fitting to give up the works of virtue.

52. Each, then, is supported by each. But belief in the resurrection is inferred most clearly on three grounds, in which all are included. These are reason, analogy from universal example, and the evidence of what has happened, since many have risen. Reason is clear. For since the whole course of our life consists in the union of body and soul, and the resurrection brings with it either the reward of good works, or the punishment of wicked ones, it is necessary that the body, whose actions are weighed, rise again. For how shall the soul be summoned to judgment without the body, when account has to be rendered of the companionship of itself and the body?

53. Rising again is the lot of all, but there is a difficulty in believing this, because it is not due to our deserts, but is the gift of God. The first argument for the resurrection is the course of the world, and the condition of all things, the series of generations, the changes in the way of succession, the setting and rising of constellations, the ending of day and night, and their daily succession coming as it were again to life. And no other reason can exist for the fertile temperament of this earth, but that the divine order restores by the dews of night as much of that moisture from which all earthly things are produced, as the heat of the sun dries up by day. Why should I speak of the fruits of the earth? Do they not seem to die when they fall, to rise again when they grow green once more? That which is sown rises again, that which is dead rises again, and they are formed once more into the same classes and kinds as before. The earth first gave back these fruits, in these first our nature found the pattern of the resurrection.

54. Why doubt that body shall rise again from body? Grain is sown, grain comes up again: fruit is sown, fruit comes up again; but the grain is clothed with blossom and husk. "And this mortal must put on immortality, and this corruptible must put on incorruption."hyperlink The blossom of the resurrection is immortality, the blossom of the resurrection is incorruption. For what is more fruitful than perpetual rest? what supplied with richer store than everlasting security? Here is that abundant fruit, by whose increase man's nature shoots forth more abundantly after death.


1 Not only the Martyrs and Saints, but ordinary Christians, are meant here, for these used to be commemorated with special prayers and offerings of the Holy Eucharist on their behalf, especially on the anniversaries of their deaths.

2 Rom. v. 12.

3 S. Luke xix. 10.

4 Rom. xiv. 9.

5 S. Aug. De Pec. Orig. c. 41.

6 Gen. xxviii. 5.

7 Gen. xxxiv. 2.

8 Gen. xlix. 29.

9 Gen. xxxvii. 4 ff.

10 Gen. xxxix. 12 ff.

11 2 Sam. xiii. 29.

12 2 Sam. xviii. 14.

13 2 Sam. xii. 18 ff.

14 St. Ambrose has index meus in matutinum; some mss. vindex; the Roman Psalter, judex; the Vulgate, nearer the Hebrew, Castigatio; LXX. elegxoj.

15 Ps. lxxiii. [lxxii.] 12ff.

16 S. John xiii. 37.

17 S. Luke xxii. 60, Luke xxii. 61.

18 "Atque haud dubie pro nobis tentatus est Petrus, ut in fortiore non esset tentamenti periculum." A difficult passage, and the meaning of it seems to be, that had a stronger than St. Peter been tried, and had overcome, we should net have had the warning against presumption, and the help of the example of one like ourselves.

19 2 Sam. [2 Kings] xviii. 33 [LXX.].

20 Ps. ciii. [cii.] 15.

21 Ps. cxliv. [cxliii.] 4.

22 Eccles. iv. 2 ff.

23 Wisd. vii. 7, Wisd. vii. 17 ff.

24 Job iii. 3.

25 Ps. xxxix. [xl.] 4.

26 1 Cor. xiii. 12.

27 Ps. xxxix. [xxxviii.] 5 [LXX.].

28 Ps. cxx. [cxix.] 5.

29 Jer. xv. 10 [LXX.].

30 1 Cor. xv. 31.

31 Cf. S. Ambr. de Bono Mortis, c. 9, and In Luc. vii. 35.

32 S. Matt. viii. 22.

33 Ezek. xviii. 4.

34 Gen. iii. 17 ff. [LXX.].

35 Rev. ix. 6.

36 S. Luke xxiii. 30.

37 S. Luke xvi. 24.

38 Phil. i. 21.

39 Rom. vii. 23.

40 Rom. vii. 24, Rom. vii. 25.

41 Phil. i. 23, Phil. i. 24.

42 Num. xxiii. 10 [LXX.].

43 Ps. cxvi. [cxv.] 15.

44 The reference of course is to the sign of the Cross, which, as we know from various authorities, the early Christians constantly used, at rising, lying down, going in or out, at prayers, etc., etc.

45 Wisd. i. 13 ff.

46 1 Thess. iv. 16, 1 Thess. iv. 17.

47 S. John xxi. 23.

48 1 Cor. xv. 53.