Signs of resurrection life

Daily Reading for November 23 • Clement, Bishop of Rome, c. 100

Think of the various ways, dear friends, by which the master points us toward the coming resurrection, by which the Lord Jesus Christ was made the firstfruit when he raised him from the dead. Let us observe, dear friends, how something like resurrection is so often anticipated in the course of nature. Day and night, for example: the night falls asleep, and the day arises; day departs, and night returns. Or consider the planting of crops: How and in what manner does the sowing take place? The sower goes forth and casts into the earth each of the seeds. They fall into the dry and bare ground and decay. Then out of their decay the majesty of God’s providence raises them up, and from being one seed, many grow up and bring forth fruit.

Even more dramatically, recall that remarkable wonder which has been reported in eastern regions in the vicinity of Arabia, of a bird named Phoenix. This bird is said to be a unique species, living perhaps five hundred years. When the time of its dissolution and death arrives, it makes for itself a coffinlike nest of frankincense and myrrh and the other spices, into which, its time being completed, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays, a certain worm is born, which is nourished by the juices of the dead bird and eventually grows wings. Then, when it has grown strong, it takes up that coffinlike nest containing the bones of its parent, and carrying them away, makes its way from the country of Arabia to Egypt, to the city of Heliopolis. There, in broad daylight in the sight of all, it flies to the altar of the sun and deposits them there, and then sets out on its return, which the priests who examine the records think occurs at the end of the five hundredth year.

With all these indications in nature, why should it surprise us that the creator of the universe might bring about the resurrection of those who have served him with holiness in the assurance of a good faith, seeing that he shows to us even by a bird the magnificence of his promise?

From 1 Clement 24.1-26.1, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament II, Mark, edited by Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1998).

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