name= Saint Ambrose
AD337 and 340
4 April AD397
December 7Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. "The Penguin Dictionary of Saints". 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0-140-51312-4.]
Oriental Orthodoxy Roman Catholicism
caption= Saint Ambrose, mosaic in the
basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, Milan
attributes=Beehive, child, whip, bones|patronage=bee keepers; bees; candle makers; domestic animals; French Commissariat; learning; Milan, Italy; students; wax refiners
major_shrine= Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, Milan, where is his body
issues= Saint Ambrose [Known in
Latinand Low Franconianas "Ambrosius", in Italian as "Ambrogio" and in Lombard as "Ambroeus".] (c. 338 – 4 April 397) was a bishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the fourth century. He is counted as one of the four original doctors of the Church.
Ambrose was born into a Roman [ [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01383c.htm Catholic Encyclopedia] ] Christian family between about 337 and 340 and was raised in
Trier. He was the son of a praetorian prefect of Gallia Narbonensis; his mother was a woman of intellect and piety. Ambrose's siblings, Satyrus (who is the subject of Ambrose's "De excessu fratris Satyri") and Marcellina, are also venerated as saints. [http://www.santiebeati.it/dettaglio/90298] There is a legend that as an infant, a swarm of bees settled on his face while he lay in his cradle, leaving behind a drop of honey. His father considered this a sign of his future eloquence and honeyed tongue. For this reason, bees and beehives often appear in the saint's symbology.
After the early death of his father, Ambrose followed his father's career. He was educated in Rome, studying
literature, law, and rhetoric. Praetor Anicius Probusfirst gave him a place in the council and then in about 372 made him consular prefectof Liguriaand Emilia, with headquarters at Milan, which was then beside Rome the second capital in Italy.
Ambrose was a governor in northern Italy before he became the Bishop of Milan. [ [http://www.covenantseminary.edu/worldwide/en/CH310/CH310_T_14.html Covenant Worldwide - Ancient & Medieval Church History ] ] Ambrose never married.
Bishop of Milan
There was a deep conflict in the
diocese of Milanas well as the rest of the Church between the pro-Nicenes and the Subordinationists (often wrongly termed 'Arians'.) In 374, Auxentius, bishop of Milan, died, and the Subordinationists challenged the succession. The prefect went personally to the basilica where the election should take place, to prevent an uproar which was probable in this crisis. His address was interrupted by a call "Ambrose for bishop!" which was taken up by others upon which he was univocally elected bishop.
Ambrose was known to be personally pro-Nicene, but also acceptable to Subordinationists due to the charity shown in theological matters in this regard. At first he energetically refused the office, for which he was in no way prepared: Ambrose was neither baptized nor formally trained in theology. Upon his appointment, St. Ambrose fled to a colleague's home to seek hiding. Upon receiving a letter from the Emperor praising the appropriateness of Rome appointing individuals evidently worthy of holy positions, St. Ambrose's host gave Ambrose up. Within a week, Ambrose was baptized, ordained and duly installed as bishop of
As bishop, he immediately adopted an ascetic lifestyle, apportioned his money to the poor, donating all of his land, making only provision for his sister Marcellina, and committed the care of his family to his brother. Saint Ambrose also wrote a treatise by the name of "The Goodness Of Death".
Ambrose and Subordinationists
According to legend, Ambrose immediately and forcefully stopped
Arianismin Milan. However, the term 'Arian' is falsely used of his opponents, who were actually Subordinationists, rather than followers of the doctrine of Arius. He moved more realistically and deliberately.Fact|date=May 2007 At that time Subordinationism dominated especially among the higher levels of society.Fact|date=October 2007 In his pursuit of the study of theology with Simplician, a presbyterof Rome he was to excel. Using his excellent knowledge of Greek, which was then rare in the West, to his advantage, he studied the Hebrew Bible and Greek authors like Philo, Origen, Athanasius, and Basil of Caesarea, with whom he was also exchanging letters. [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf208.ix.cxcviii.html (See letter of Basil to Ambrose)] He applied this knowledge as preacher, concentrating especially on exegesis of the Old Testament, and his rhetorical abilities impressed Augustine of Hippo, who hitherto had thought poorly of Christian preachers.
In the confrontation with Subordinationists, Ambrose sought to theologically refute their propositions, considered as heretical. The Subordinationists appealed to many high level leaders and clergy in both the Western and Eastern empires. Although the western Emperor Gratian held
orthodoxbelief in the Nicenecreed, the younger Valentinian, who became his colleague in the empire, adhered to the Subordinationist creed. Ambrose did not sway the young prince's position. In the East, Emperor Theodosius Ilikewise professed the Nicenecreed; but there were many adherents of Subordinationism throughout his dominions, especially among the higher clergy.
In this contested state of religious opinion, two leaders of the Subordinationists, bishops Palladius of
Ratiariaand Secundianus of Singidunum, confident of numbers, prevailed upon Gratianto call a general council from all parts of the empire. This request appeared so equitable that he complied without hesitation. However, Ambrose feared the consequences and prevailed upon the emperor to have the matter determined by a council of the Western bishops. Accordingly, a synodcomposed of thirty-two bishops was held at Aquileiain the year 381. Ambrose was elected president and Palladius, being called upon to defend his opinions, declined. A vote was then taken, when Palladius and his associate Secundianus were deposed from the episcopal office.
Nevertheless, the increasing strength of the Subordinationists proved a formidable task for Ambrose. In 386 the emperor and his mother Justina, along with a considerable number of
clergyand laity, especially military, professed the Subordinationist faith. They attempted to turn over two churches in Milan, one in the city, the other in the suburbs, to the Subordinationists. Ambrose refused and was required to answer for his conduct before the council. He went, his eloquence in defense of the Church reportedly overawed the ministers of Emperor Valentinian, so he was permitted to retire without making the surrender of the churches. The day following, when he was performing divine service in the basilica, the prefect of the city came to persuade him to give up at least the Portian church in the suburbs. As he still continued obstinate, the court proceeded to violent measures Fact|date=May 2007: the officers of the household were commanded to prepare the Basilicaand the Portian churches to celebrate divine service upon the arrival of the emperor and his mother at the ensuing festival of Easter.
In spite of Imperial opposition, Bishop Ambrose declared:
Ambrose and emperors
The imperial court was displeased with the religious principles of Ambrose, however his aid was soon solicited by the Emperor. When
Magnus Maximususurped the supreme power in Gaul, and was meditating a descent upon Italy, Valentinian sent Ambrose to dissuade him from the undertaking, and the embassy was successful.
On a second attempt of the same kind Ambrose was again employed; and although he was unsuccessful, it cannot be doubted that, if his advice had been followed, the schemes of the usurper would have proved abortive; but the enemy was permitted to enter
Italy; and Milanwas taken. Justina and her son fled; but Ambrose remained at his post, and did good service to many of the sufferers by causing the plate of the church to be melted for their relief.
Ambrose was equally zealous in combating the attempt made by the upholders of the old state religion to resist the enactments of Christian emperors. The pagan party was led by
Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, consul in 391, who presented to Valentinian IIa forcible but unsuccessful petition praying for the restoration of the Altar of Victoryto its ancient station in the hall of the Roman Senate, the proper support of seven Vestal Virgins, and the regular observance of the other pagan ceremonies.
To this petition Ambrose replied in a letter to Valentinian, arguing that the devoted worshipers of idols had often been forsaken by their deities; that the native valour of the Roman soldiers had gained their victories, and not the pretended influence of pagan
priests; that these idolatrous worshipers requested for themselves what they refused to Christians; that voluntary was more honourable than constrained virginity; that as the Christian ministers declined to receive temporal emoluments, they should also be denied to pagan priests; that it was absurd to suppose that Godwould inflict a famine upon the empire for neglecting to support a religious system contrary to His will as revealed in the Holy Scriptures; that the whole process of nature encouraged innovations, and that all nations had permitted them even in religion; that heathen sacrifices were offensive to Christians; and that it was the duty of a Christian prince to suppress pagan ceremonies. In the epistles of Symmachus and of Ambrose both the petition and the reply are preserved.
To support the logic of his argument, Ambrose halted the celebration of the
Eucharist, essentially holding the Christian community hostage, until Theodosius agreed to abort the investigation without requiring reparations to be made by the bishop. Theodosius I, the emperor of the East, espoused the cause of Justina, and regained the kingdom. Theodosius was threatened with excommunication by Ambrose for the massacre of 7,000 persons at Thessalonica in 390, after the murder of the Roman governor there by rioters. Ambrose told Theodosius to imitate David in his repentance as he had imitated him in guilt - Ambrose readmitted the emperor to the Eucharist only after several months of penance . This incident shows the strong position of a bishop in the Western part of the empire, even when facing a strong emperor - the controversy of John Chrysostomwith a much weaker emperor a few years later in Constantinople led to a crushing defeat of the bishop.
Ambrose's influence upon Theodosius is credited with eliciting the enactment of the "Theodosian decrees" of 391 (see entry
In 392, after the death of
Valentinian IIand the acclamation of Eugenius, Ambrose supplicated the emperor for the pardon of those who had supported Eugenius after Theodosius was eventually victorious. Soon after acquiring the undisputed possession of the Roman empire, Theodosius died at Milan in 395, and two years later ( April 4, 397) Ambrose also died. He was succeeded as bishop of Milan by Simplician. Ambrose's body may still be viewed in the church of S. Ambrogio in Milan, where it has been continuously venerated — along with the bodies identified in his time as being those of Sts. Gervase and Protase— and is one of the oldest extant bodies of historical personages known outside Egypt.Fact|date=March 2008
Many circumstances in the history of Ambrose are characteristic of the general spirit of the times. The chief causes of his victory over his opponents were his great popularity and the reverence paid to the episcopal character at that period. But it must also be noted that he used several indirect means to obtain and support his authority with the people.
He was liberal to the poor; it was his custom to comment severely in his preaching on the public characters of his times; and he introduced popular reforms in the order and manner of public worship. It is alleged, too, that at a time when the influence of Ambrose required vigorous support, he was admonished in a dream to search for, and found under the pavement of the church, the remains of two
martyrs, Gervasiusand Protasius. The saints, although they would have had to have been hundreds of years old, looked as if they had just died. The applause of the people was mingled with the derision of the court party.
Ambrose ranks with Augustine,
Jerome, and Gregory the Great, as one of the LatinDoctors of the Church. Theologians compare him with Hilary, who they claim fell short of Ambrose's administrative excellence but demonstrated greater theological ability. He succeeded as a theologian despite his juridical training and his comparatively late handling of Biblicaland doctrinalsubjects. His spiritual successor, Augustine, whose conversion was helped by Ambrose's sermons, owes more to him than to any writer except PaulFact|date=June 2007.
Ambrose was a Christian universalist; he believed that all people would eventually achieve salvation.J.W. Hanson. "Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine Of The Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years". " [http://hellbusters.8m.com/upd18.html Chapter 18 Additional Authorities] ". Boston and Chicago Universalist Publishing House. 1899.] He argued:
Our Savior has appointed two kinds of resurrection in the Apocalypse. 'Blessed is he that hath part in the first resurrection,' for such come to grace without the judgment. As for those who do not come to the first, but are reserved unto the second resurrection, these shall be disciplined until their appointed times, between the first and the second resurrection. [" [http://www.tentmaker.org/Quotes/churchfathersquotes.htm The Church Fathers on Universalism] ". at "Tentmaker.org". Accessed Dec. 5, 2007.]
Ambrose's intense episcopal consciousness furthered the growing
doctrineof the Church and its sacerdotalministry, while the prevalent asceticismof the day, continuing the Stoic and Ciceronian training of his youth, enabled him to promulgate a lofty standard of Christian ethics. Thus we have the "De officiis ministrorum", "De viduis", "De virginitate" and "De paenitentia".
The powerful mariology of Ambrose of Milan influenced contemporary Popes like
Pope Damasusand Siriciusand later, Pope Leo the Great. His student Augustine and the Council of Ephesuswere equally under his spell. Central to Ambrose is the virginityof Mary and her role as Mother of God.
* The virgin birth is worthy of God. Which human birth would have been more worthy of God, than the one, in which the Immaculate Son of God maintained the purity of his immaculate origin while becoming human? [Ambrose of Milan CSEL 64, 139]
* We confess, that Christ the Lord was born from a virgin, and therefore we reject the natural order of things. Because not from a man she conceived but from the Holy Spirit. [Ambrose of Milan, De Mysteriis, 59, PG 16, 410]
* Christ is not divided but one. If we adore him as the Son of God, we do not deny his birth from the virgin... But nobody shall extend this to Mary. Mary was the temple of God but not God in the temple. Therefore only the one who was in the temple can be worshipped. [Ambrose of Milan, De Spiritu Sancto, III, 11,79-80 [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf210.iv.ii.iv.xi.html?highlight=mary,was,the,temple,of,god,but,not,in#highlight] ]
* Yes, truly blessed for having surpassed the priest (Zechariah). While the priest denied, the Virgin rectified the error. No wonder that the Lord, wishing to rescue the world, began his work with Mary. Thus she, through whom salvation was being prepared for all people, would be the first to receive the promised fruit of salvation. [Ambrose of Milan, Expositio in Lucam 2, 17; PL 15, 1640]
virginityas superior to marriage and saw Mary as the model of virginity ["De virginibus" (On Virgins); "De virginitate"] He is allegded to have founded an institution for virgins in Rome.
* [http://www.monachos.net/library/Patristics_Master_List%2C_Page_1#A_-_Documents_in_the_Monachos_Library Writings of St. Ambrose including "On beliefs in Resurrection" and "On the Holy Spirit"] In matters of
exegesishe is, like Hilary, an Alexandrian. In dogmahe follows Basil of Caesareaand other Greek authors, but nevertheless gives a distinctly Western cast to the speculations of which he treats. This is particularly manifest in the weightier emphasis which he lays upon human sinand divine grace, and in the place which he assigns to faithin the individual Christian life.
* "De fide ad Gratianum Augustum" (On Faith, to Gratian Augustus)
* "De officiis" (On the Offices of Ministers, an important ecclesiastical handbook)
* "De Spiritu Sancto" (On the Holy Ghost)
* "De incarnationis Dominicae sacramento" (On the Sacrament of the Incarnation of the Lord)
* "De mysteriis" (On the Mysteries)
* "Expositio evangelii secundum Lucam" (Commentary on the Gospel according to Luke)
* Ethical works: "De bono mortis" (Death as a Good); "De fuga saeculi" (Flight From the World); "De institutione virginis et sanctae Mariae virginitate perpetua ad Eusebium" (On the Birth of the Virgin and the Perpetual Virginity of Mary); "De Nabuthae" (On Naboth); "De paenitentia" (On Repentance); "De paradiso" (On Paradise); "De sacramentis" (On the Sacraments); "De viduis" (On Widows); "De virginibus" (On Virgins); "De virginitate" (On Virginity); "Exhortatio virginitatis" (Exhortation to Virginity); "De sacramento regenerationis sive de philosophia" (On the Sacrament of Rebirth, or, On Philosophy [fragments] )
* Homiletic commentaries on the
Old Testament: the " Hexaemeron" (Six Days of Creation); "De Helia et ieiunio" (On Elijah and Fasting); "De Iacob et vita beata" (On Jacob and the Happy Life); "De Abraham"; "De Cain et Abel"; "De Ioseph" (Joseph); "De Isaac vel anima" (On Isaac, or The Soul); "De Noe" (Noah); "De interpellatione Iob et David" (On the Prayer of Job and David); "De patriarchis" (On the Patriarchs); "De Tobia" (Tobit); "Explanatio psalmorum" (Explanation of the Psalms); "Explanatio symboli" (Commentary on the Symbol).
* "De obitu Theodosii"; "De obitu Valentiniani"; "De excessu fratris Satyri" (funeral orations)
* 91 letters
* A collection of hymns
* Fragments of sermons
Ambrosiaster" or the "pseudo-Ambrose" is a brief commentary on Paul's "Epistles", which was long attributed to Ambrose.
Ambrose is traditionally credited but not actually known to have composed any of the repertory of
Ambrosian chantalso known simply as " chant, a method of chanting, or one side of the choir alternately responding to the other, much as the later pope St. Gregory I the Greatis not known to have composed any Gregorian chant, the plainsongor " Romish chant. However, Ambrosian chant was named in his honor due to his contributions to the music of the Church; he is credited with introducing hymnodyfrom the Eastern Church into the West. Catching the impulse from Hilary and confirmed in it by the success of Arian psalmody, Ambrose composed several original hymns as well, four of which still survive, along with music which may not have changed too much from the original melodies. Each of these hymns has eight four-line stanzas and is written in strict iambic dimeter (that is 2 x 2 iambs).Marked by dignified simplicity, they served as a fruitful model for later times.
*"Deus Creator Omnium"
*"Aeterne rerum conditor"
*"Jam surgit hora tertia"
*"Jam Christus astra ascendante"
*"Veni redemptor gentium" (a
* [http://www.geocities.com/hashanayobel/christwrit/hymns.htm Text of some Ambrosian Hymns]
In his writings, Ambrose refers only to the performance of
antiphonal psalms, in which solo singing of psalm verses alternated with a congregational refrain called an "antiphon".
St. Ambrose was also traditionally credited with composing the hymn "
Te Deum", which he is said to have composed when he baptised Saint Augustine, his celebrated convert.
Ambrose and reading
Ambrose is the subject of a curious anecdote in Augustine's "Confessions" which bears on the history of reading:
This is a celebrated passage in modern scholarly discussion. The practice of reading to oneself without vocalizing the text was less common in antiquity than it has since become. In a culture that set a high value on oratory and public performances of all kinds, in which the production of books was very labor-intensive, the majority of the population was illiterate, and where those with the leisure to enjoy literary works also had slaves to read for them, written texts were more likely to be seen as scripts for recitation than as vehicles of silent reflection. However, there is also abundant evidence that silent reading did occur in antiquity and that it was not usually regarded as freakish.
Ambrose and celibacy
Ambrose is yet again the subject of a curious anecdote in Augustine's "Confessions" which bears on the history of celibacy:
Not until the fifth century in the West did celibacy come to be widely regarded as a requirement for all higher ranks of clergy; even then, and for long afterward, the rule was not generally enforced. To make celibacy a condition for full Christian profession by one who did not expect to take holy orders was even more extreme.
* "Hexameron, De paradiso, De Cain, De Noe, De Abraham, De Isaac, De bono mortis" – ed.
C. Schenkl1896, Vol. 32/1
* "De Iacob, De Ioseph, De patriarchis, De fuga saeculi, De interpellatione Iob et David, De apologia prophetae David, De Helia, De Nabuthae, De Tobia" – ed. C. Schenkl 1897, Vol. 32/2
* "Expositio evangelii secundum Lucam" – ed. C. Schenkl 1902, Vol. 32/4 · Expositio de psalmo CXVIII – ed.
M. Petschenig1913, Vol. 62; editio altera supplementis aucta – cur. M. Zelzer1999
* "Explanatio super psalmos XII" – ed. M. Petschenig 1919, Vol. 64; editio altera supplementis aucta – cur. M. Zelzer 1999
* "Explanatio symboli, De sacramentis, De mysteriis, De paenitentia, De excessu fratris Satyri, De obitu Valentiniani, De obitu Theodosii – ed.
Otto Faller1955, Vol. 73
* "De fide ad Gratianum Augustum" – ed.
Otto Faller1962, Vol. 78
* "De spiritu sancto, De incarnationis dominicae sacramento" – ed.
Otto Faller1964, Vol. 79
* "Epistulae et acta – ed."
Otto Faller(Vol. 82/1: lib. 1-6, 1968); Otto Faller, M. Zelzer( Vol. 82/2: lib. 7-9, 1982); M. Zelzer( Vol. 82/3: lib. 10, epp. extra collectionem. gesta concilii Aquileiensis, 1990); Indices et addenda – comp. M. Zelzer, 1996, Vol. 82/4
Several of Ambrose's works have recently been published in the bilingual Latin-German Fontes Christiani series (currently edited by Brepols).
Several religious brotherhoods which have sprung up in and around Milan at various times since the 14th century have been called Ambrosians. Their connection to Ambrose is tenuous-->
Ambrosian Liturgy and Rite.
*St. Ambrose Basilica,
St. Ambrose University, Davenport, Iowa
Ambrose University College
* [http://www.monachos.net/library/Patristics_Master_List%2C_Page_1#A_-_Documents_in_the_Monachos_Library Writings of St. Ambrose]
* [http://www.catholiclibrary.com/content/view/8575/5822/ Official Catholic Encyclopedia Live Article on St. Ambrose]
* [http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/fathers/ambrose_letters_00_intro.htm Early Christian writings: Letters of St. Ambrose of Milan]
* [http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF2-10/TOC.htm Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Works of Ambrose of Milan]
* [http://www.fh-augsburg.de/~harsch/amb_hy00.html Hymni Ambrosii (latin)]
* [http://www.earlychurch.org.uk/ambrose.php EarlyChurch.org.uk] Extensive bibliography
* [http://www.intratext.com/Catalogo/Autori/AUT12.HTM Ambrose's works] : text, concordances and frequency list
* [http://oll.libertyfund.org/Home3/AuthorBioPage.php?recordID=0011 Ambrose] at "The Online Library of Liberty"
* [http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/20_40_0339-0397-_Ambrosius_Mediolanensis,_Sanctus.html Opera Omnia]
* [http://OrderofSaintAmbrose.googlepages.com The Most Honorable Order of Saint Ambrose] An order of chivalry that claims the Saint as patron.
*Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. "The Penguin Dictionary of Saints". 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0-140-51312-4.
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01383c.htm Saint Ambrose] at the
* [http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/sainta07.htm Patron Saints: Ambrose]
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Ambrose, Saint; Ambrosius; Ambrogio; Ambroeus;
SHORT DESCRIPTION=bishop of Milan, one of the four original
doctors of the Church
DATE OF BIRTH= between
AD337 and 340
PLACE OF BIRTH=
DATE OF DEATH=
4 April AD397
PLACE OF DEATH=
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