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ambrosius

I was perusing some of the Church Fathers writings when I came across these few paragraphs and thought of sharing them. As readers here know that I’ve attempted to juggleSt. Athanasius’ “someone must die because God cannot contradict himself,” vs. St. Thomas Aquinas’ “Christ’s sacrifice was not necessary but fitting.” It appears that St. Ambrose agrees more with St. Thomas with this regard. It’s also interesting that more or less St. Ambrose confirms that sacrifice of the mass, which is interesting because he’s often the Church Father that Lutherans look to for support of many of their theological developments:

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 sign 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, 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,. 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.” 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.

 Ambrose of Milan, “The Two Books on the Decease of His Brother Satyrus,” in St. Ambrose: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. H. de Romestin, E. de Romestin, and H. T. F. Duckworth, vol. 10, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1896), 180–181.