Cyprian of Carthage: Immortality

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For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 1 Corinthians 15:53

“It disturbs some that the power of this disease attacks our people equally with the heathens, as if the Christian believed for this purpose, that he [or she] might have the enjoyment of the world and this life free from the contact of ills; and not as one who undergoes all adverse things here and is reserved for future joy.

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.

Moreover, if the Christian know and keep fast under what condition and what law he has believed, he will be aware that he must suffer more than others in the world, since he must struggle more with the attacks of the devil.”

Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, writing during the plague in North Africa (c. 251) in Treatise VII, On the Mortality, 8-9, in Treatises in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, Volume 5 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1899) 470-471.

As I continue to read the words of Bishop Cyprian to the people, he reminds them that disease and trouble will affect all people. Whether a person follows Christ or not, does not make he or she immune from disease or difficulty. The same is true for COVID-19.

But the bishop reminds us of the good news. The generous gift of life in Christ gives us hope of the resurrection. Mortal Christians will someday receive immortality. But while we wait for that day, the bishop keenly reminds us, we should be prepared to suffer attacks from the devil.

That’s right, Christians also face the temptations. How are you tempted today? Related to compassion and generosity, don’t let fear cause you to hoard or hide. That’s what the evil one wants. Follow leading of the Spirit and keep living generously and loving your neighbor as yourself.