Lazarus, the Rich Man, & Clinging to Life on Earth

Luke 16:19-31     Lazarus and the Richman 

Then the Lord told this parable:  There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.  But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.  So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’  But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.  ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’  Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, ‘for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’  Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’  And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’  But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ 

St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote:

“We surely ought not to think that what is referred  to as “hell” is a place, but a state of life, invisible and incorporeal, to which Scripture teaches us the soul leads.

And from the story of about the rich man and the begger, we learn another teaching which will be very pertinent to our investigation.  It presented the rich man as passionate and flesh-loving and, when he saw the inevitability of his misfortune, he was concerned with what he could have beyond the earth in keeping with his class.  When Abraham told him that no provision  was made for those living their life in the flesh and that this was amply set forth for them in the law and the prophets, the rich man still continued to plead that this unexpected proclamation be reported to the rich by one brought back to life from the dead.”

 I said, “What teaching is there in this?”

St Macrina replied, “While the soul of Lazarus was concentrating on its present existence and not distracted by any of the things he had left behind, the rich man, even after death, clung to the carnal aspect of life which he did not put aside although he was no longer living.  He was still thinking of flesh and blood.  It is clear that he was not yet free from fleshly inclinations from which people of his kind are never separated.”   (The Fathers of The Church: A New Translation, St Gregory of Nyssa: Ascetical Works, p235)

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