Naomi is an instance of a widow receiving back from her daughter-in-law the fruits of her own good training, and is a token that necessary support will never fail the good widow. And if her life appears sad, she is happy, since the promises of the Lord are made to her. St. Ambrose then touches upon the benefits of weeping.
33. Does the widow Naomi seem to you of small account, who supported her widowhood on the gleanings from another’s harvest, and who, when heavy with age, was supported by her daughter-in-law?44 Ruth ii. 2. It is a great benefit both for the support and for the advantage of widows, that they so train their daughters-in-law as to have in them a support in full old age, and, as it were, payment for their teaching and reward for their training. For to her who has well taught and well instructed her daughter-in-law a Ruth will never be wanting who will prefer the widowed life of her mother-in-law to her father’s house, and if her husband also be dead, will not leave her, will support her in need, comfort her in sorrow, and not leave her if sent away; for good instruction will never know want. So that Naomi, deprived of her husband and her two sons, having lost the offspring of her fruitfulness, lost not the reward of her pious care, for she found both a comfort in sorrow and a support in poverty.
34. You see, then, holy women, how fruitful a widow is in the offspring of virtues, and the results of her own merits, which cannot come to an end. A good widow, then, knows no want, and if she be weary through age, in extreme poverty, yet she has as a rule the reward of the training she has given. Though the nearest to herself have failed, she finds those not so near akin to cherish their mother, revere their parent, and by the trifling gifts for her support desire to gain the fruit of their own kindness, for richly are gifts to a widow repaid. She asks food and pays back treasures.
35. But she seems to spend sad days, and to pass her time in tears. And she is the more blessed in this, for by a little weeping she purchases for herself everlasting joys, and at the cost of a few moments gains eternity. To such it is well said: “Blessed are ye that weep, for ye shall laugh.”45 S. Luke vi. 21. Who then would prefer the deceitful appearances of present joys to the pleasure of future freedom from anxiety? Does he seem to us an insignificant authority, the elect forefather of the Lord after the flesh, who ate ashes as it were bread, and mingled his drink with weeping,46 Ps. cii. [ci.] 9. and by his tears at night gained for himself the joy of redemption in the morning? Whence did he gain that great joy except that he greatly wept, and, as it were, at the price of his tears obtained the grace of future glory for himself.
36. The widow has, then, this excellent recommendation, that while she mourns her husband she also weeps for the world, and the redeeming tears are ready, which shed for the dead will benefit the living. The weeping of the eyes is fitted to the sadness of the mind, it arouses pity, lessens labour, relieves grief, and preserves modesty, and she no longer seems to herself so wretched, finding comfort in tears which are the pay of love and proofs of pious memory.
In Noemi exemplum viduae ex nuru ad virtutem abs se instituta fructum capientis ob oculos ponitur. Hinc colligitur numquam defutura bonae viduae necessaria subsidia. Quod si tristior videatur illius vita, tunc beatiorem illam esse, cum ipsi a Domino gaudia sint promissa: quo loco nonnulla de lacrymarum utilitate disputantur.
33. An vero mediocris tibi vidua illa videtur 0244D Noemi, quae viduitatem suam messis manipulis sustentabat alienae, quam aevo gravem alebat nurus (Ruth II, 2 et seq.)? Nam hoc quoque et ad subsidium et ad gratiam proficit viduarum, ut ita instituant nurus suas, quo possint in his maturae habere subsidium senectutis; et quasi stipendium magisterii, mercedem quoque suae capere disciplinae. 195 Etenim quae bene instituerit, bene erudierit nurum 0245A suam, Ruth ei deesse non poterit, quae viduitatem socrus paternae domui praeferat: et si vir quoque ejus mortuus fuerit, non relinquat tamen, alat inopem, soletur moerentem, nec dimissa discedat: nescit enim egere optima disciplina. Sic illa Noemi duobus destituta filiis et marito, quae fructus fecunditatis amiserat, pietatis emolumenta non perdidit; nam et solatium moeroris, et subsidium paupertatis invenit (Ruth I, 5).
34. Videtis igitur, sanctae feminae, quam fecunda sit vidua prole virtutum, meritorumque suorum sobole, quae perire non possit. Bona igitur vidua egere non novit: et si fessae fuerit aetatis, et supremae paupertatis, eruditionis tamen suae solet habere mercedem. Etsi proximi defuerint, invenit tamen extraneos 0245B qui matrem colant, revereantur parentem, parvisque alimentorum sumptibus mercedem cupiant suae commendationis acquirere; plus enim viduae rependunt merita. Nam cibos quaerit, sumptus impendit.
35. Sed tristes videtur ducere dies, et lacrymis tempus exigere. Hoc beatior, quod perpetua sibi gaudia exiguis fletibus emit, parvisque momentis tempora acquirit aeterna. Quibus bene dicitur: Beatae tristes, ipsae enim ridebitis (Luc. VI, 21). Quis igitur falsas praesentium imagines gaudiorum, futurae securitatis praeferat voluptati? An despicabilis nobis auctor videtur, ille Dominici corporis auctor electus, qui cinerem sicut panem manducabat, et potum cum fletu miscebat, et vespertinis lacrymis matutinae sibi laetitiam 0245C redemptionis acquirebat (Psal. CI, 10)? Unde igitur plurimum gaudere meruit, nisi quia plurimum flevit, et tamquam lacrymarum pretio suarum futurae sibi gloriae gratiam comparavit?
36. Habet igitur vidua bonam commendationis materiam, ut dum virum luget, fleat saeculum: ac in promptu sint lacrymae redemptrices, dum impenduntur mortuis, viventibus profuturae. Paratus est moestitudini animae fletus oculorum: misericordiam conciliat, laborem minuit, dolorem ablevat, servat pudorem; nec jam misera sibi videtur, quae consolationem in lacrymis habet, in quibus sunt charitatis stipendia et pietatis officia.