Wisdom from my fathers: Cyprian On the Mortality

It disturbs some that this mortality is common to us with others; and yet what is there in this world which is not common to us with others, so long as this flesh of ours still remains, according to the law of our first birth, common to us with them? So long as we are here in the world, we are associated with the human race in fleshly equality, but are separated in spirit. Therefore until this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal receive immortality, and the Spirit lead us to God the Father, whatsoever are the disadvantages of the flesh are common to us with the human race. Thus, when the earth is barren with an unproductive harvest, famine makes no distinction; thus, when with the invasion of an enemy any city is taken, captivity at once desolates all; and when the serene clouds withhold the rain, the drought is alike to all; and when the jagged rocks rend the ship, the shipwreck is common without exception to all that sail in her; and the disease of the eyes, and the attack of fevers, and the feebleness of all the limbs is common to us with others, so long as this common flesh of ours is borne by us in the world.

Unless the battle has preceded, there cannot be a victory: when there shall have been, in the onset of battle, the victory, then also the crown is given to the victors. For the helmsman is recognized in the tempest; in the warfare the soldier is proved. It is a wanton display when there is no danger. Struggle in adversity is the trial of the truth.

Why, then, do we pray and ask that the kingdom of heaven may come, if the captivity of earth delights us.

There is no advantage in setting forth virtue by our words, and destroying the truth by our deeds.

We regard paradise as our country—we already begin to consider the patriarchs as our parents: why do we not hasten and run, that we may behold our country, that we may greet our parents?

The preceding words are all from the treatise On the Mortality by Cyprian of Carthage. The occasion of the treatise was an outbreak of a plague. The treatise offers good medicine to one of the ills of the Western church: the idea that God wants you to be, and even promises you will be, healthy and prosperous. Cyprian demonstrates the Scriptural, theological, and logical reasons such thinking must be abandoned.

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