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Archive for December 7th, 2019

He is the only Church father for which we have a portrait, this mosaic

Let us pray…O God, You gave Your servant Ambrose grace to proclaim the Gospel with eloquence and power.  As bishop of the great congregation of Milan, he fearlessly bore reproach for the honor of Your name.  Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellence in preaching fidelity in ministering Your Word that Your people shall be partakers of the divine nature;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

“The Son of God, being about to bring together His Church, first works through his young servant: and so it is well said: the word of the Lord came unto John, etc., so that the Church has its beginning not from man, but from the Word.”(Ambrose on Matthew 3: 1-11, the Season of Advent)

“The Magi come by one way, and return by another. For they who had seen Christ, had come to know Christ; and they returned more truly believing than they came. The way is twofold: one that leads to destruction, and the other that leads to the Kingdom…For here we have no lasting dwelling, as it is written: My soul hath long been a sojourner (Ps. cxix. 6). Let us turn away from Herod- ruler for a while of an earthly power, that we may come to the everlasting dwelling of our heavenly country.   (From an Epiphany Sermon by St. Ambrose)

About St. Ambrose:

Most saint’s days are the day they died and entered into the Presence awaiting our final Easter day, but Bp. Ambrose did not die on this date.  On this day in AD 374, he was baptized, ordained priest and consecrated bishop! How did those 3 events all take place on one day?

Ambrose is the first western Church father to be born, raised and educated not as a pagan but as a Christian. Born in 339 in what is now Trier,France.  His father was Prefect of Gaul, the governor of a large part of Europe.  Ambrose studied the classics and the law at Rome and before he was 33 was named governor of Liguria and Aemilia, with headquarters at Milan, which was that time of the imperial court.  When the  heretical Arian bishop of that city died, Ambrose settled the violence between the Arians and the Catholics.  Both sides insisted that Ambrose become their bishop. The faithful cried out about Amrose, He is worthy! He had not been baptized because the custom at the time was to wait for baptism till late in life so that one might cleansed close to the time of death.  But on this date baptism, ordination and consecration all took place.

He gave away a portion of his family wealth to the poor and was a strict ascetic.

The Empress Justina was jealous of Ambrose’s growing importance.  She demanded that the Bishop give her one of “his” basilicas.   When Ambrose declined a riot broke out and Justina demanded the bishop’s cathedral. This occured during Lent and when Ambrose refused the Empress’ second request fights broke out between the Catholics and the imperial troops.  An edict against the Catholics was promulgated in June 386 and Ambrose was summoned to appear before the Emperor.  he refused to obey the edict. He took refuge in the cathedral with his congregation.  The basilica was surrounded by imperial troops.  Ambrose and the Lord’s people spent the time singing Psalms and the hymns that Ambrose had written.  At length, the imperial court rescinded the edict.

A brilliant young Manichean philosopher, who had a child out of wedlock and who’s Christian mother prayed for his conversion daily, attended Mass  at Milan because of the Ambrose’s preaching.  The man was St. Augustine.   Bp. Ambrose baptized Augustine at Milan at Easter, 397.

In The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Lutheran Church, Ambrose is cited nine time, of which six are quotes in order to demonstrate that salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and not by works, is Catholic  (yes, capital ‘C’!) doctrine, as in this quote from  Ambrose  in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession:  “…let no one glory in his works since no one is justified by his deeds.  But he who is righteous has it as a gift because he was justified after being washed.  It is faith therefore  that frees men through the blood of Christ;  for ‘blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.’ (Ps. 32: 1).”

Ambose died at Milan on Easter Eve, April 4, 397.  One comment:  many in our day want to put a wedge between creed and deed, truth and love, faith and service.  It is not true!  St. Ambrose’s life in Christ Jesus is proof that the fruit of faith (truth, pure doctrine, strictness) is serving the neighbor in love both our daily bread and the Bread of Life.

The Roman Empire was in decline and in that cultural transition Ambrose was noted for his preaching, writing, organizing, administering and hymn writing. Three hymns are attributed to him  in the Lutheran Service Book including the great Advent hymn, Savior of the Nations, Come:

“Savior of the Nations, Come”
1. Savior of the nations, come,
Virgin’s Son, make here Thy home!
Marvel now, O heaven and earth,
That the Lord chose such a birth.

2. Not by human flesh and blood,
By the Spirit of our God,
Was the Word of God made flesh–
Woman’s Offspring, pure and fresh.

3. Wondrous birth! O wondrous Child
Of the Virgin undefiled!
Though by all the world disowned,
Still to be in heaven enthroned.

4. From the Father forth He came
And returneth to the same,
Captive leading death and hell–
High the song of triumph swell!

5. Thou, the Father’s only Son,
Hast o’er sin the victory won.
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be;
When shall we its glories see?

6. Brightly doth Thy manger shine,
Glorious is its light divine.
Let not sin o’ercloud this light;
Ever be our faith thus bright.

7. Praise to God the Father sing,
Praise to God the Son, our King,
Praise to God the Spirit be
Ever and eternally.

(The Lutheran Hymnal Hymn # 95  Text: John 1: 14 Author: St. Ambrose, +397 German version translated by Martin Luther, 1524)

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