Repent in Dust and Ashes (Out of the Corrective Darkness Book 3)
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The Lord Himself wept over Jerusalem, that, inasmuch as it would not weep itself, it might obtain forgiveness through the tears of the Lord. He wills that we should weep in order that we may escape, as you find it in the Gospel : Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves. David wept, and obtained of the divine mercy the removal of the death of the people who were perishing, when of the three things proposed for his choice he selected that in which he might have the most experience of the divine mercy.
Why do you blush to weep for your sins , when God commanded even the prophets to weep for the people? And, lastly, Ezekiel was bidden to weep for Jerusalem, and he took the book, at the beginning of which was written: Lamentation, and melody, and woe, two things sad and one pleasant, for he shall be saved in the future who has wept most in this age. For the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, and the heart of fools in the house of feasting. An exhortation to mourning and confession of sins for Christ is moved by these and the tears of the Church.
Illustration from the story of Lazarus. After showing that the Novatians are the successors of those who planned to kill Lazarus, St. Ambrose argues that the full forgiveness of every sin is signified by the odour of the ointment poured by Mary on the feet of Christ; and further, that the Novatian heretics find their likeness in Judas, who grudged and envied when others rejoiced.
Let us, then, mourn for a time, that we may rejoice for eternity. Let us fear the Lord, let us anticipate Him with the confession of our sins , let us correct our backslidings and amend our faults, lest of us too it be said: Woe is me, my soul , for the godly man is perished from the earth, and there is none among men to correct them.
Why do you fear to confess your sins to our good Lord? Set them forth, He says, that you may be justified. The rewards of justification are set before him who is still guilty of sin , for he is justified who voluntarily confesses his own sin ; and lastly, the just man is his own accuser in the beginning of his speaking. It is not His will that the devil should triumph over you and accuse you when you conceal your sins. Be beforehand with your accuser: if you accuse yourself, you will fear no accuser; if you report yourself, though you were dead you shall live.
Christ will come to your grave, and if He finds there weeping for you Martha the woman of good service, and Mary who carefully heard the Word of God , like holy Church which has chosen the best part, He will be moved with compassion, when at your death He shall see the tears of many and will say: Where have you laid him? In which rank of penitents? I would see him for whom you weep, that he himself may move Me with his tears. I will see if he is already dead to that sin for which forgiveness is entreated. The people will say to Him, Come and see. It means, Let forgiveness of sins come, let the life of the departed come, the resurrection of the dead, let Your kingdom come to this sinner also.
He will come and will command that the stone be taken away which his fall has laid on the shoulders of the sinner.
He could have removed the stone by a word of command, for even inanimate nature is wont to obey the bidding of Christ. He could by the silent power of His working have removed the stone of the sepulchre, at Whose Passion the stones being suddenly removed many sepulchres of the dead were opened, but He bade men remove the stone, in very truth indeed, that the unbelieving might believe what they saw, and see the dead rising again, but in a type that He might give us the power of lightening the burden of sins , the heavy pressure as it were upon the guilty.
Ours it is to remove the burdens, His to raise again, His to bring forth from the tombs those set free from their bands.
So the Lord Jesus , seeing the heavy burden of the sinner, weeps, for the Church alone He suffers not to weep. For with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. If you have confessed at the call of Christ the bars will be broken, and every chain loosed, even the stench of the bodily corruption be grievous. For he had been dead four days and his flesh stank in the tomb; but He Whose flesh saw no corruption was three days in the sepulchre, for He knew no evils of the flesh, which consists of the substances of the four elements.
However great, then, the stench of the dead body may be, it is all done away so soon as the sacred ointment has shed its odour; and the dead rises again, and the command is given to loose his hands who till now was in sin ; the covering is taken from his face which veiled the truth of the grace which he had received. But since he has received forgiveness, the command is given to uncover his face, to lay bare his features. For he whose sin is forgiven has nothing whereof to be ashamed.
For you too are angry and gather a council against the Church , because you see the dead come to life again in the Church , and to be raised again by receiving forgiveness of their sins. And thus, so far as in you, you desire to slay again through envy those who are raised to life. But Jesus does not revoke His benefits, nay, rather He amplifies them by additions of His liberality, He anxiously revisits him who was raised again, and rejoicing in the gift of the restored life, He comes to the feast which His Church has prepared for Him, at which he who had been dead is found as one among those sitting down with Christ.
Then all wonder who look upon him with the pure gaze of the mind , who are free from envy , for such children the Church has. They wonder, as I said, how he who yesterday and the day before lay in the tomb is one of those sitting with the Lord Jesus. Mary herself pours ointment on the feet of the Lord Jesus. The Apostle was the mouth of Christ , for he said, You seek a proof of Christ that speaks in me. What, then, we read concerning Lazarus we ought to believe of every sinner who is converted, who, though he may have been stinking, nevertheless is cleansed by the precious ointment of faith.
For faith has such grace that there where the dead stank the day before, now the whole house is filled with good odour. The house of Corinth stank, when it was written concerning it: It is reported that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not even among the Gentiles.
A good odour began when it was said: If you forgive anything to any one I forgive also.
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For what I also have forgiven, for your sakes have I done it in the person of Christ. Wherefore the Apostle, knowing well that he had shed upon all the ointment of apostolic forgiveness, says: We are a sweet savour of Christ unto God in them that are saved. At the pouring forth, then, of this ointment all rejoice ; Judas alone speaks against it.
For the Lord both suffered and died that He might redeem us from death. This is manifest from the most excellent value from His death, which is sufficient for the absolution of the sinner, and his restoration to fresh grace ; so that all may come and wonder at his sitting at table with Christ, and may praise God , saying: Let us eat and feast, for he was dead and is alive again, had perished and is found. This is his answer: They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick. In urging repentance St.
What Does the Bible Say About Reprentance?
Ambrose turns to his own case, expressing the wish that he could wash our Lord's feet like the woman in the Gospel, which is a great pattern of penitence, though such as cannot attain to it find acceptance. He prays for himself, especially that he may sorrow with sinners, who are better than himself. Those for whom Christ died are not to be contemned. Show, then, your wound to the Physician that He may heal it. Though you show it not, He knows it, but waits to hear your voice. Do away your scars by tears. Thus did that woman in the Gospel , and wiped out the stench of her sin ; thus did she wash away her fault, when washing the feet of Jesus with her tears.
Would that You, Lord Jesus , might reserve for me the washing off from Your feet of the stains contracted since You walk in me! O that You might offer to me to cleanse the pollution which I by my deeds have caused on Your steps! But whence can I obtain living water, wherewith I may wash Your feet? Whence is it that You should say to me: His sins which are many are forgiven, because he loved much?
I confess that I owe more, and that more has been forgiven me who have been called to the priesthood from the tumult and strife of the law courts and the dread of public administration; and therefore I fear that I may be found ungrateful, if I, to whom more has been forgiven, love less. But all are not able to equal that woman , who was deservedly preferred even to Simon, who was giving the feast to the Lord; who gave a lesson to all who desire to gain forgiveness, by kissing the feet of Christ , washing them with her tears, wiping them with her hair, and anointing them with ointment.
In a kiss is the sign of love , and therefore the Lord Jesus says: Let her kiss Me with the kisses of her mouth.
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In the ointment, too, is set forth the savour of a good conversation. David was a king, yet he said: Every night will I wash my bed, I will water my couch with tears. And therefore he obtained such a favour, as that of his house the Virgin should be chosen, who by her child-bearing should bring forth Christ for us. Therefore is this woman also praised in the Gospel. Nevertheless if we are unable to equal her, the Lord Jesus knows also how to aid the weak, when there is no one who can prepare the feast, or bring the ointment, or carry with her a spring of living water.
He comes Himself to the sepulchre. Would that You would vouchsafe to come to this sepulchre of mine, O Lord Jesus, that You would wash me with Your tears, since in my hardened eyes I possess not such tears as to be able to wash away my offense. If You shall weep for me I shall be saved; if I am worthy of Your tears I shall cleanse the stench of all my offenses; if I am worthy that You weep but a little, You will call me out of the tomb of this body and will say: Come forth, that my meditations may not be kept pent up in the narrow limits of this body, but may go forth to Christ , and move in the light, that I may think no more on works of darkness but on works of light.
For he who thinks on sins endeavours to shut himself up within his own consciousness. Call forth, then, Your servant. Although bound with the chain of my sins I have my feet fastened and my hands tied; being now buried in dead thoughts and works, yet at Your call I shall go forth free, and shall be found one of those sitting at Your feast, and Your house shall be filled with precious ointment. If You have vouchsafed to redeem any one, You will preserve him.
For it shall be said, See, he was not brought up in the bosom of the Church , nor trained from childhood, but hurried from the judgment-seat, brought away from the vanities of this world, growing accustomed to the singing of the choir instead of the shout of the crier, but he continues in the priesthood not by his own strength, but by the grace of Christ , and sits among the guests at the heavenly table.
Preserve, O Lord, Your work, guard the gift which You have given even to him who shrank from it. For I knew that I was not worthy to be called a bishop , because I had devoted myself to this world, but by Your grace I am what I am. And I am indeed the least of all bishops , and the lowest in merit; yet since I too have undertaken some labour for Your holy Church, watch over this fruit, and let not him whom when lost You called to the priesthood , to be lost when a priest.
And first grant that I may know how with inmost affection to mourn with those who sin ; for this is a very great virtue , since it is written: And you shall not rejoice over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction, and speak not proudly in the day of their trouble. Perchance a maiden may have fallen, deceived and hurried away by those occasions which are the sources of sins. Well, we who are older sin , too.
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In us, too, the law of this flesh wars against the law of our mind , and makes us captives of sin , so that we do what we would not. Her youth is an excuse for her, I now have none, for she ought to learn, we ought to teach. So that Tamar has been more righteous than I. We inveigh against some one's covetousness , let us call to mind whether we ourselves have never done anything covetously ; and if we have, since covetousness is the root of all evils , and is working in our bodies like a serpent secretly under the earth, let each of us say: Tamar has been more righteous than I.
If we have been seriously moved against any one, a layman may act hastily for a smaller matter than a bishop. Let us ponder that with ourselves and say, He who is reproved for quick temper is more righteous than I.
For if we thus speak, we guard ourselves against this, that the Lord Jesus or one of His disciples should say to us: You behold the mote in your brother's eye, but behold not the beam which is in your own eye. You hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of your own eye, and then shall you see to cast out the mote out of your brother's eye. Let us, then, not be ashamed to say that our fault is more serious than that of him whom we think we must reprove, for this is what Judah did who reprimanded Tamar, and remembering his own fault said: Tamar is more righteous than I.
In which saying there is a deep mystery and a moral precept; and therefore is his offense not reckoned to him, because he accused himself before he was accused by others.