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The Gates of Death
The Venerable Bede, Priest and Confessor
Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D.
(PL 92, In Lucae Evangelium Expositio, Lib. II, 7, col. 417.)
And there went with him his disciples and a great multitude. And when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was carried out, the only son of his mother.
This dead man, carried forth from the gates of the city, in the sight of many, is a figure of man struck senseless by the fatal wound of his sins. No longer concealing this death of the soul within the chamber of his heart, he brings it forth by the evidence of word and deed to the knowledge of all men; as though bearing it through the gates of his city. And rightly is he spoken of as the only son of his mother: for though assembled together from many persons one is the perfect, immaculate virgin, Mother Church, and each one of the faithful rightly professes himself a son of the Church.  For whoever is called, and initiated in the faith, he is a son. When she teaches others, she is a mother. Was he not moved with a motherís love towards her little ones, who said: My little children, of whom I am in labour again, until Christ be formed in you (Gal. iv. 19)?

The gate of the city through which the dead man was carried out is, I think, any one of the bodily senses. For he who sows discord among brethren (Prov. vi. 19), and he who has spoken iniquity on high (Ps. lxxii. 8), is carried out from the gate of his mouth. And he who looks on a woman, to lust after her (Mt. v. 28) bears the tokens of his death through the gate of his eyes. He who listens to evil tales, to licentious songs, to calumny or detraction, freely opens his ears and makes them the gate of death of his soul. And whoever will not guard his other senses, leaves open a way for death to enter.
Lord Jesus, I beseech Thee, make all the gates of my city, gates of justice, that going in to them, I may give praise to Thy name (Ps. cxvii. 19), and praise to Thy majesty; that visiting it often with Thy heavenly ministers, Thou may meet no evil odour of a dead body carried forth, but that salvation shall possess its walls, and praise its gates (Is. lx. 18).

And she was a widow; and a great multitude of the city was with her.
Every soul which remembers that it has been redeemed by the death of her Lord and Spouse confesses that the Church is a widow. By the divine will a great multitude went with Jesus, and a great multitude was with her, so that at the appearance of this wonder there might be many witnesses; many who would glorify God.

Whom when the Lord had seen, being moved with mercy towards her, he said to her: Weep not.
Do not, He says, weep for him as dead whom in a moment you will see rise again living. Here, mystically, the teaching of Novatian is confuted, who in pride gloried in his own freedom from sin, and sought to make empty the purification from sin of the humbly repentant; denying that the Church, our true Mother, weeping over the spiritual death of the children born to her, should be consoled by the hope that life would again be restored to them.  And fittingly does the Evangelist remind us, that the Lord was first moved with mercy towards the mother, so that He raises her son to life; that in the one case, He might give us an example of compassion to imitate; in the other, build up our faith in His wondrous power.

And he came near and touched the bier. And they that carried it stood still.
The bier on which the dead man was carried signifies the evilly unconcerned conscience of the hopeless sinner. They who bear him to the grave, are the unclean desires which drag a man down to destruction, or the poisonous allurements of flattering associates, who add to his sins, while they enjoy his favours: despising those who sin, they bury them as under a mound of earth. Of these was it said in another place: Let the dead bury their dead (Mt. viii. 22): for the dead do indeed bury their dead, when sinners caress others like themselves with evil favours, overwhelming them by the weight of evil flattery, so that they cannot hope to rise again.

And they that carried it stood still, when the Lord touched the bier; as the conscience, when touched by the fear of heavenly judgement, keeping back the pressing throng of carnal delights, and the multitude that wickedly praise it, returns to itself, and answers in haste the Voice of the Saviour calling it back to life. So fittingly there follows: And he said: Young man, I say to thee, arise. And he that was dead sat up and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother. He sits up who was dead, when the sinner returns to life through compunction of soul. He begins to speak, who shows signs of returning life to all who had encouraged him to sin. He is given back to his mother who, by the decision of the bishop, is returned to the communion of the Church.

And there came a fear upon them all; and they glorified God, saying: A great prophet is risen up among us. The more hopeless the death of a soul recalled to life, the more souls are reformed by its example. Consider the prophet David. Think of Peter the Apostle. The more exalted they were, the greater their fall. And the greater their fall, the greater their joy and gratitude for the mercy that raised them again. And the more loving the Lordís mercy appears in them, the more secure the hope of salvation for all who repent; so that rightly do all present declare, that God hath visited his people. He has visited them not once only, through the Incarnation of His Word; He visits them at all times, by sending His Word into our hearts, to awaken us to life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.