Instead of avoiding the topic, St. Ambrose believed Christians should embrace death and think about it daily.
Why do we so often avoid the topic of death, especially our own death? It is a question we should honestly ask ourselves, especially if we have a difficulty accepting death as our fate.
St. Ambrose, far from avoiding the topic, embraces death and encourages Christians to think about it daily. He writes about it in a letter featured for the Memorial of All Souls in the Office of Readings.
What does “Christ” mean but to die in the body, and receive the breath of life? Let us then die with Christ, to live with Christ. We should have a daily familiarity with death, a daily desire for death.
This may seem strange, but he is not talking about a reckless, unhealthy desire to end our life on earth. It is instead a desire for total union with Christ, which can only be achieved through death.
St. Ambrose continues and explains why death should be a source of joy.
Death is then no cause for mourning, for it is the cause of mankind’s salvation. Death is not something to be avoided, for the Son of God did not think it beneath his dignity, nor did he seek to escape it. Death was not part of nature; it became part of nature. God did not decree death from the beginning; he prescribed it as a remedy.< Thus [Jesus’] death is life for all. We are sealed with the sign of his death; when we pray we preach his death; when we offer sacrifice we proclaim his death. His death is victory; his death is a sacred sign; each year his death is celebrated with solemnity by the whole world.
It was through Jesus’ death that we are born into new life, and it is through our own physical death that we are brought into eternal life.
St. Ambrose’ letter concludes with a reflection from King David about how he desires to enter to courts of God, something we should all desire on a daily basis.
Above all else, holy David prayed that he might see and gaze on this: One thing I have asked of the Lord, this I shall pray for: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, and to see how gracious is the Lord.