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Cyprian of Carthage on the hope of the Resurrection

April 13, 2012

This passage from Faith and Life: readings compiled from ancient writers comes from a sermon preached by Cyprian during a time of pestilence.  As it must have been a true comfort to the people enduring that plague, so it can be a comfort to anyone in a time of illness and loss.

The Apostle Paul rebukes, reproaches, censures those who sorrow at the departure of their friends. “We would not,” says he, “have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him’.” It is those that have no hope whom he speaks of as sorrowing at the departure of their friends. But we, who live in hope, and believe in God, and are confident that Christ suffered for us and rose again, we who abide in Christ, and rise again through Him and in Him, why do we either ourselves recoil from departing out of this life, or lament and grieve over our friends’ departure, as if they were perished, whereas Christ Himself, our Lord and God, admonishes us by His words, “I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall not die eternally?” If we do believe in Christ, let us put faith in His words and promises; and as we are not to die eternally, let us pass in joyful confidence to Christ, with whom we are both to live and reign for ever. In that we now die, we pass by death into immortality; nor can eternal life follow, unless it has been our portion to depart out of this world. This is not a passing away, but a passing over, and a transit to things eternal after this temporal journey has run its course. Who would not hasten to what was better?  Who would not long to be changed, and made new after Christ’s likeness, and come sooner to the dignity of heavenly glory? For so Paul the apostle proclaims when he says, “Our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change the body of our humility into a conformity to the body of His glory.” That such we shall be, Christ our Lord also promises, when He thus prays the Father for us, that we may be with Him, and may live with Him in the eternal habitations, and be joyful in the realms of heaven; “Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am, and may behold the glory which Thou gavest Me before the world began.”

–St. Cyprian, on the Mortality.

Death “is not a passing away, but a passing over.”

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