Grieving with St. Ambrose
December 7th marks the memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. This year is the first I have ever noticed that this giant's feast day falls right between St. Nicholas, the heretic-puncher, chimney-climber, consumer of cookies and milk and the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (my FAVORITE feast day)!
The timing, as always with God, is incredible. While Wednesday's readings spoke of a time when "every tear will be wiped away," I find myself amid a number of friends who are grieving deeply this week. The holidays are a difficult time for anyone who has lost someone, however to lose someone in December is a special type of grief. In my own ongoing grieving process it was the words of St. Ambrose that brought me comfort and hope. So in honor of my dear friends who have experienced such loss this week, here is a little of St. Ambrose's own personal grief and wisdom for you.
Enjoy the loans entrusted to you,
St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, spiritual father to St. Augustine, had two siblings: his elder sister Marcellina (a nun) and his brother Satyrus (a lay person) who managed Ambrose’s secular affairs. Satyrus died suddenly in 379 A.D. Here are some of St. Ambrose’s words about his deceased brother:
To this must be added that I cannot be ungrateful to God; for I must rather rejoice that I had such a brother than grieve that I had lost a brother, for the former is a gift, the latter a debt to be paid. And so, as long as I might, I enjoyed the loan entrusted to me, now He Who deposited the pledge had taken it back… the larger the amount of the loan, so much the more gratitude is due for the use of the capital.
But in Book Two, he focuses his grief on a study of the Resurrection. Here are some highlights and quotes (emphasis my own):
Death is a remedy: The Lord did not inflect death as a penalty, but as a remedy… because it is the end of evils…. 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 of 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 while 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.
Belief in the Resurrection is based in Reason, Analogy, and Evidence: 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… 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 than death.
Jesus Resurrected for US, not for Himself: For if He rose not for us, He certainly rose not at all, for He had no need to rise for Himself. The universe rose again in Him, the heaven rose again in Him, the earth rose again in Him, for there shall be a new heaven and a new earth. But where was the necessity of a resurrection for Him who the claims of death held not? For though He died as man, yet was He free in hell itself.
Please join me in praying for all who are grieving right now, and please add a few particular prayers for this little family.