"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Friday, April 18, 2014

Sermons from the Saints: St.Ambrose, Dying with Christ

Sermons from the Saints: St.Ambrose, Dying with Christ

Let us die with Christ, to live with Christ

We see that death is gain, life is loss. Paul says: For me life is Christ, and death a gain. What does “Christ” mean but to die in the body, and receive the breath of life? Let us then die with Christ, to live with Christ. We should have a daily familiarity with death, a daily desire for death. By this kind of detachment our soul must learn to free itself from the desires of the body. It must soar above earthly lusts to a place where they cannot come near, to hold it fast. It must take on the likeness of death, to avoid the punishment of death. The law of our fallen nature is at war with the law of our reason and subjects the law of reason to the law of error. What is the remedy? Who will set me free from this dead body? The grace of God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
We have a doctor to heal us; let us use the remedy he prescribes. The remedy is the grace of Christ, the dead body our own. Let us then be exiles from our body, so as not to be exiles from Christ. Though we are still in the body, let us not give ourselves to the things of the body. We must not reject the natural rights of the body, but we must desire before all else the gifts of grace.

What more need be said? It was by the death of one man that the world was redeemed. Christ did not need to die if he did not want to, but he did not look on death as something to be despised, something to be avoided, and he could have found no better means to save us than by dying. Thus his death is life for all. We are sealed with the sign of his death; when we pray we preach his death; when we offer sacrifice we proclaim his death. His death is victory; his death is a sacred sigh; each year his death is celebrated with solemnity by the whole world.
What more should we say about his death since we use this divine example to prove that it was death alone that won freedom from death, and death itself was its own redeemer? Death is then no cause for mourning, for it is the cause of mankind’s salvation. Death is not something to be avoided, for the Son of God did not think it beneath his dignity, nor did he seek to escape it.
Death was not part of nature; it became part of nature. God did not decree death from the beginning; he prescribed it as a remedy. Human life was condemned because of sin to unremitting labor and unbearable sorrow and so began to experience the burden of wretchedness. There had to be a limit to its evils; death had to restore what life had forfeited. Without the assistance of grace, immortality is more of a burden than a blessing.
The soul has to turn away from the aimless paths of this life, from the defilement of an earthly body; it must reach out to those assemblies in heaven (though it is given only to the saints to be admitted to them) to sing the praises of God. We learn from Scripture how God’s praise is sung to the music of the harp: Great and wonderful are your deeds, Lord God Almighty; just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not revere and glorify your nature? You alone are holy; all nations will come and worship before you. The soul must also desire to witness your nuptials, Jesus, and to see your bride escorted from earthly to heavenly realities, as all rejoice and sing: All flesh will come before you. No longer will the bride be held in subjection to this passing world but will be made one with the spirit
Above all else; holy David prayed that he might see and gaze on this: One thing I have asked of the Lord, this I shall pray for: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, and to see how gracious is the Lord. 
Source: The Liturgy of the Hours – Office of Readings 

Saint Ambrose (340-397) was born in Trier, Germany, the son of the praetorian prefect of Gaul. He was taken back to Rome at the death of his father and became a lawyer. He was known for his compelling oratory and learning. He was appointed assessor to Probus, the praetorian prefect of Italy, and appointed governor of Liguria by Emperor Valentinian in 372 at age 32. Two years later, he went to Milan to quiet the turmoil between the Arians and Catholics at the death of the presiding bishop. When Ambrose appeared there he was baptized and immediately consecrated bishop of Milan. He gave away all his possessions and began a serious study of Sacred Scripture, theology and the great Christian writers. He began to live a life of great austerity and soon became the most eloquent preacher of his day. He was acclaimed as the most formidable Catholic opponent of Arianism in the West.
He became advisor to Emperor Gratian and in 379 and persuaded him to outlaw Arianism in the West. Ambrose denounced a massacre of some seven thousand people in Thessalonica by Emperor Theodosius I, refusing him the sacraments until he performed a severe public penance – which Theodosius did. Ambrose died in Milan on April 4, 397 at the age of 57. He was one of the great figures of early Christianity and was responsible for the rise of Christianity in the West as the Roman Empire was dying. He wrote profusely on the Bible, theology, asceticism and wrote numerous homilies, psalms and hymns. It was Ambrose who brought St. Augustine, who revered him, back to his Catholic faith and baptized him in 397. He was declared a Doctor of the Church and is considered the exemplar of what a bishop should be; holy, learned, courageous, patient, and immovable when necessary for the faith.

Short Meditation for Good Friday

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