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On the Raising of the Widow's Son and

the Resurrection of the Dead.

St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor

Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D.

(PL 52, Sermo 103, Col. 487.)

Today the blessed Evangelist as he tells us of the restoration to life through Christ of the only son of a widow who, lying clothed in funeral bands upon the bier of death, and with a multitude following, was on his way to the grave, touches our hearts, moves our souls, and fills our ears with fear and wonder. But let the unbelieving wonder, the Jews be astonished, and let the world fear. But as for us, why should we wonder: we who believe that the dead of every age shall at the voice of Christ rise again from their graves?

The dead, says Isaias, shall rise, and they that are in the tombs shall rise again (xxvi. 19; Sept.). And the words of the Lord are: The hour will come when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live (Jn. v. 25). To this the Apostle adds: In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall rise again incorruptible (I Cor. xv. 52).

What is this trumpet, which declares war against hell, rolls back the stone from the tomb, thunders forth life to the dead, and gives to all as they rise from their graves victory amid light everlasting? What is it? It is that to which the Lord referred above: The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God. Not this the trumpet that from a horn of wood or brass gives forth a mournful bellow, calling to war, but the Voice that comes from the heart of the Father, from the mouth of the Son, the call to life to those that are in heaven and in hell.

And, at the last trumpet. The trumpet that in the beginning called the world from nothing, the same on the last day shall recall the world from death; and that which in the beginning raised man from the slime, the same at the end shall recall him from the dust. Brethren, we believe this: that the trumpet of the divine voice separated light from darkness, brought together this globe, purified the elements, divided the world, raised the firmament on high, made the earth appear, placed a boundary to the sea, submerged the deeps, set all things in order and harmony, and commanded their continuing obedience. And that this world might not be a horrid emptyness, He furnished it with inhabitants and established each in their various places. In the heavens He placed His Angels, who live by the spirit only; on earth the varying kinds of living beings. He set winged creatures to fly in the air, and in the waters creatures both great and small, so that a multitude might dwell there. And in a wondrous way He so united the whole mass of these separate elements that there should be no confusion; yet so that the separateness of each thing might not sunder this unity.

Hence is it that the sequence of day and night is so ordered that labour follows rest and rest comes after labour. Hence also the sun and moon each in turn encompasses the limits of the world, so that the sun with its recurring light may give a greater brightness to the day and the moon with its pale light may not leave the night in total darkness. Hence too the stars in their courses vary in their hour of rising, to mark the time by night and guide the traveller. Hence the seasons that come and go, and begin again to be as they are about to end. Hence seeds put forth, bud, mature, grow old, fade, die and are buried again in the life-giving furrow, and dissolving through corruption, from their salutary death return to life again; from corruption perpetually recurring, their natures are again renewed.

And if brethren, the Voice of God, the trumpet of Christ, through the days, the months, the seasons, the years, calls and recalls, leads forth and leads back, bids to be and bids not to be, gives to death and restores to life, why shall He not do once in us that which He does without ceasing in all other things? Or does the divine power fail only with us: with us for whom alone the Divine Majesty of God has done all that we have said?

Man, if for thee all that God has made, returns from death to life, why should you not live again from death through God? Or does Godís Creation fail in thee alone: for whom every creature daily lives, moves, is changed, renewed? Brethren, this I say, not with any desire to make nothing of the power of the wonders of Christ, but that I may exhort you, that by the example of this one rising from the dead, we may be roused to faith in the resurrection of all men, and may believe that the Cross is the plough of our body, faith its seed, the grave its furrow, dissolution its bud, time its period of waiting; so that when the spring of the Lordís Coming shall smile on us, the full green of our bodies shall rise again in a lifeógiving harvest, that will know no end, no old age, that shall not be bound into bundles, nor suffer the winnowing flail. For leaving our former straw in death, the new fruit of our glorified body shall rise again in the harvest of eternal life.

If at the earthly tears of one widow Christ was so moved that He came to meet her on the way, to dry the tears of grief falling from her eyes, to strike again at death, to bring back a man, to raise a body, to bring back life, to change weeping into joy and change a sorrowful burial into a festival of birth, to give back living to his mother one already lying upon the bier of death, what will He not do, now glowing in His strength, in answer to the unceasing prayer of His Church, to the sweat of blood of His Spouse? For the Church pours forth her tears in unceasing supplication, and through her martyrs a sweat of blood, that Christ meeting her shall restore her only son, the Christian people, whom so many generations bear to death, from the bier of mortality to the everlasting joy of the Heavenly Mother.

But as the time of Christís Birth has come, and the Heavenly Wonder a Virgin was to bring forth now shines forth, and now that, not a star, but the Risen Sun Itself announces the birth of the Divine King, let us hasten all to adore Him, and let us with sacred gifts confess that our God and King has come forth from the Virginal temple. Let us offer gifts; we must offer a public gift to the New Born King; let us offer gifts: for he who does not give, adores in vain. The Magi teach us this, who laden with gold, kindled with incense, sanctified with myrrh, bow down before the cradle of Christ. But what if that which the Magi did, a Christian will not do? What if amid the joy of Christ Newborn, the poor weep, the captive groans, the stranger weeps and the exile laments? The Jewish people ever honoured the sacred festivals with a tenth of what they possessed. What must a Christian think of himself who honours them with not even a hundredth?

Brethren, let no one think I am saying this for the sake of rhetoric, and not with a mind that grieves. I do grieve. I grieve indeed when I read that the Magi filled the cradle of Christ with gold, and see Christians leave the altar of Christís Body bare; and this at a time when the hunger of the poor, the sorrowing multitudes of captives spread far and wide.

Let no man say, ĎI have nothingí; since God asks of you, not what you have not, but what you have. For the two brass mites of the widow were received as acceptable to God. Let us be generous to the Creator, that His creation may be generous to us. Let us help our neighbour in his need, that we may be delivered in our necessities. Let us heap high the altar of God, that He may fill our barns with a plentiful harvest. And if we do not give, let us not complain if we do not receive. May our God Himself give you in abundance His present and His future blessings, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom be all honour and everlasting glory, together the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and throughout all ages and ages.  Amen.