During the past week the Church universal witnessed the observance of two major feast days that remind us about the virtue of sainthood, reality of mortality and inevitably of death. Additionally, they also point us to life in the earthly realm and life in eternal glory. Here below are two reflections from St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the early Church Fathers, that offer insights into life of saints and inevitability of mortality with its ultimate glory.
All Saint’s Day
The saints are those who are moved by God’s grace to do whatever good they do. Some are married and have intercourse with their spouse sometimes for the sake of having a child and sometimes just for the pleasure of it. They get angry and desire revenge when they are injured but are ready to forgive when asked. They are very attached to their property but will freely give at least a modest amount to the poor. They will not steal from you but are quick to take you to court if you try to steal from them. They are realistic enough to know that God should get the main credit for the good they do. They are humble enough to admit that they are the source of their own evil acts. In this life God loves them for their good acts and gives forgiveness for their evil, and in the next life they will join the ranks of those who will reign with Christ forever.
Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, 3.5.14
All Soul’s Day
Jesus Conquered Death
Jesus came to save us. He died but at the same time he conquered death. He put an end to what we fear so much. He took it on and conquered it. So be of good heart, my friends. What has already taken place in Jesus will also take place in us. Listen to those who have triumphed and now live where death is no more. Hear Paul saying, “When what is mortal has been clothed with what is immortal and when that which will die has been clothed with what cannot die, then the Scripture will come true: ‘Death is destroyed; victory is complete! Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?’
Sermon 233, 3-4
What do Paul and Augustine mean by saying that “Christ has conquered death”? We will still die and we still fear death’s coming. Our victory over death is revealed by our faith which tells us that our present life is like a dot on a line that is eternal. True, we must move from that dot of time into eternity, but through the sacrifice and example of Christ we now know that, like him, we will rise from the grave to an eternal life so bright and joyful that this life pales in comparison. We must all still go through the door of death, but Jesus’ life and death and resurrection now assures us that there is something wonderful waiting for us on the other side of the door.