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“Love has its own nail and its own sword”. Ambrose of Milan

St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (340-397)

St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (340-397)

HT: http://nunraw.blogspot.com/2013/03/night-office-comment.html

From a commentary on psalm 118 by Saint Ambrose (Sermo 15, 37-40: PL 15, 1497-1498)

As a member of the body of Christ, the Christian shares in the sufferings and death of Christ, and thus contributes to the Church’s growth to full maturity and to its final glorification with Christ

Those who love the decrees of the Lord crucify their lower nature. They know that once their former self has been nailed with Christ to the cross they have overcome the immoderate demands of the flesh. Crucify the impulses of corrupt nature, then, and you will cut off sin at its source.

There is a spiritual nail by which our lower nature can be fastened to the Lord’s cross. This nail is the fear of God and of his , judgments. Drive it home, and you will bring the desires of the flesh into subjection. If your lower nature rejects the nails of

holy fear, God will surely say: My Spirit shall not remain in these men and women, since they are mere flesh. No, the Spirit of God will not remain in us, unless for fear of him we nail our unregenerate selves to the cross.

We are pierced through by these nails when we die with Christ in order to rise with him, when we bear the death of our Lord Jesus Christ in our own body, when we become worthy to hear Jesus saying to us: Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, jealousy as relentless as the grave.

Fasten this sign of the Crucified upon your breast and your heart, fasten it upon your arm, so that in all your actions you may be dead to sin. Do not be dismayed by the hardness of the nails, it is no more than the severity of love. Do not complain of their unbreakable firmness; love also is strong as death. It is love that puts to death all our sins and failings, love that deals their death blow. In a word, by loving the Lord’s commandments we die to sin and to deeds of shame. God is love; his word is love, that word which is all-powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, penetrating to the point where soul is divided from spirit or joints from marrow. Our soul and our flesh must be transfixed by the nails of love, and then we ourselves can say: I am wounded by love. Love has its own nail and its own sword with which to pierce the human soul; happy are they who are wounded by them.

Let us willingly expose ourselves to these wounds; if we succumb to them, we shall not taste everlasting death. Let us take up our Lord’s cross, the cross on which our unregenerate selves must be crucified and sin destroyed. Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me, says the Lord, is not worthy of me. Only those are worthy of Christ who, out of reverence for him, crucify their sinful nature. There is a fear that pierces our flesh, the reverent fear that is followed by love, a love that accompanies Christ to the tomb, unwilling to be parted from him. It keeps him company in death, it is buried with him in the tomb, and it rises with him from the dead.


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