On Spiritual Brothers – In Memoriam

Fr. Matthew Baker, beatae memoriae, was fond of speaking about the need for spiritual brothers. This brief word from St. Ambrose of Milan on the loss of his own brother also sums up the loss of such a spiritual brother. If you are able, please consider a gift to support his widow and their six children.

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We have brought hither, dearest brethren, my sacrifice, a sacrifice undefiled, a sacrifice well pleasing to God, my lord and brother …

To this must be added that I cannot be ungrateful to God; for I must rather rejoice that I had such a brother than grieve that I had lost a brother, for the former is a gift, the latter a debt to be paid. And so, as long as I might, I enjoyed the loan entrusted to me, now He Who deposited the pledge has taken it back. …

It is a great mystery of divine love, that not even in Christ was exception made of the death of the body; and although He was the Lord of nature, He refused not the law of the flesh which He had taken upon Him. It is necessary for me to die, for Him it was not necessary. … What is a greater consolation to us than that according to the flesh Christ also died? Or why should I weep too violently for my brother, knowing as I do that that divine love could not die.

For why should I weep for you, my most loving brother, who wast thus torn from me that you might be the brother of all? For I have not lost but changed my intercourse with you; before we were inseparable in the body, now we are undivided in affection; for you remain with me, and ever wilt remain. … I was never wholly engrossed in myself, but the greater part of each of us was in the other, yet we were each of us in Christ, in Whom is the whole sum of all, and the portion of each severally. …

But we have not incurred any grievous sin by our tears. Not all weeping proceeds from unbelief or weakness. … Tears, then, are marks of devotion, not producers of grief. I confess, then, that I too wept, but the Lord also wept. … He wept for all in weeping for one, I will weep for you in all, my brother.

Now, now, O brother, dearest to my soul, although you are gone by too early a death, happy at least are you, who dost not endure these sorrows, and art not compelled to mourn the loss of a brother …

– St. Ambrose, On the Death of Satyrus

8 comments:

  1. Though I’ve seen Fr Matthew’s name at one point or another on O&H’s blog, I don’t think I was ever quite aware of his work or how unique he was. But I’ve shed tears today for his family and in sorrow at the apparent cumulative loss Orthodoxy in America has just suffered. Thanks for finding this wonderful bit from St Ambrose.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Nathaniel. We’ve all lost a good friend and inspiration, and I only hope we can begin to find a way to preserve his memory for future generations.

  3. This passage was heart-rending to read, but I am grateful you have shared it. Thank you. If I may be so bold: it appears that some editing was done, but some left undone: St. Ambrose, in this translation, addresses his brother with the pronoun “you” but the verb forms (“wast,” “wilt,” “art”) go with the old singular pronouns “thou,” “thee,” etc. A small matter, of course, but the sort of thing Fr. Matthew would have paid attention to (though he would not have corrected it in a comment like this, so forgive me for being uncouth.)

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