Ambrose of Milan: “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy face?” Wednesday, Oct 5 2016 

ambrose_of_milanHe [the Holy Spirit] does not have a limited and circumscribed power because He is always in all things and everywhere, which assuredly is the property of Divinity and Lordship, for: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof” (Ps. 83:1).

And so, when the Lord appointed His servants the apostles, that we might recognize that the creature was one thing and the grace of the Spirit another, He appointed them to different places, because all could not be everywhere at once.

But He gave the Holy Spirit to all, to shed upon the apostles – though separated – the gift of indivisible grace.

The persons, then, were different, but the accomplishment of the working was in all one, because the Holy Spirit is one of Whom it is said: “Ye shall receive power, even the Holy Spirit coming upon you, and ye shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

The Holy Spirit, then, is uncircumscribed and infinite, Who infused Himself into the minds of the disciples throughout the separate divisions of distant regions, and the remote bounds of the whole world, Whom nothing is able to escape or to deceive.

And therefore holy David says: “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy face” (Ps. 138:7). Of what angel does the Scripture say this? Of what dominion? Of what power? Of what angel do we find the power diffused over many? For angels were sent to few, but the Holy Spirit was poured upon whole peoples.

Who, then, can doubt that that is divine which is shed upon many at once and is not seen; but that that is corporeal which is seen and held by individuals? But in like manner as the Spirit in sanctifying the apostles is not a partaker of human nature; so, too, in  sanctifying angels, dominions, and powers, He has no partnership with creatures.

[…] Since angels come down to men to assist them, it must be understood that the nature of angels is higher as it receives more of the grace of the Spirit, and that the favour awarded to us and to them comes from the same author.

But how great is that grace which makes even the lower nature of the lot of men equal to the gifts received by angels, as the Lord Himself promised, saying: “Ye shall be as the angels in heaven.” Nor is it difficult, for He Who made those angels in the Spirit will by the same grace make men also equal to the angels.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On the Holy Spirit, book 1, chapters 81-84.

Ambrose of Milan: Jonah and Christ Monday, Sep 12 2016 

ambrose_of_milanJust as Jonah was plunged into a deep sleep within the ship, without a thought of being woken up, so did our Lord Jesus Christ, who in the mystery of his death provided the antitype of that Old Testament figure, sleep soundly during his lifetime, as the gospel tells us, in a boat.

And just as Jonah passed three days and nights in the belly of a whale, so did the Son of Man spend three days in the heart of the earth after his death. But after he had raised himself from the dead and roused his body from its sleep for the salvation of all, he visited his disciples.

Christ, then, is the true Jonah, who gave his life for our redemp­tion. For this reason he was taken up on deck and cast overboard into the sea in order to be swallowed up by the whale.

Job had this to say about the whale: He holds in captivity a huge sea monster. And what kind of beast is this meant to be? You will know when you read that our Lord Jesus Christ took captivity captive. Once our adversary and bitter enemy had been subdued, we, who had been under his dominion, began to enjoy our liberty, thanks to Christ.

The prayer itself of holy Jonah throws some light upon the mystery of the Lord’s passion, for he said, I have cried out to the Lord in my affliction, and my voice has reached him from the depths of Sheol – not, you will notice, from the depths of the whale’s belly. For it was into Hades that the Lord went down, not in any whale, so that he might loose those who were detained there from their everlasting bonds.

Now, who was it that offered to the Lord God his sacrifice with praise and thanksgiving if not our great High Priest himself, who made his vows and paid them on behalf of all of us? For he alone could make his sacrifice effective.

Just as Jonah, by being cast into the sea, was able to allay its fury, so did our Lord Jesus Christ, by coming into the world, win it for himself, and through his blood he established it everywhere – in heaven and on earth.

By his coming he redeemed all men and women, and by his deeds he brought them all to love and worship God; he raised the dead and healed the sick, implanting in people’s souls a reverence for God. He it was who offered to the Father a sacrifice of atonement on our behalf, presenting God with an oblation capable of justifying us. He it was who slept and woke again.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Psalm 43, 83-85 (PL 14:1183-1184, 1129-1139);  from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2.

Ambrose of Milan: When can the upright man be alone, since he is always with God? Thursday, Apr 14 2016 

ambrose_of_milanThe prophet David taught us that we should go about in our heart as though in a large house; that we should hold converse with it as with some trusty companion.

He spoke to himself, and conversed with himself, as these words show: “I said, I will take heed to my ways” (Psalm 38:1).

Solomon his son also said: “Drink water out of thine own vessels, and out of the springs of thy wells” (Prov. 5:15); that is: use thine own counsel.

For: “Counsel in the heart of a man is as deep waters” (Prov. 20:5).

“Let no stranger,” it says, “share it with thee. Let the fountain of thy water be thine own, and rejoice with thy wife who is thine from thy youth. Let the loving hind and pleasant doe converse with thee” (Prov. 5:17-19).

[…] Moses…when silent, was crying out (Ex. 14:16); who, when he stood at ease, was fighting, nay, not merely fighting but triumphing over enemies whom he had not come near.

[…] Moses in his silence spoke, and in his ease laboured hard. And were his labours greater than his times of quiet, who, being in the mount for forty days, received the whole law? (Ex. 24:17). And in that solitude there was One not far away to speak with him.

Whence also David says: “I will hear what the Lord God will say within me” (Ps. 84:18). How much greater a thing is it for God to speak with any one, than for a man to speak with himself!

[…] When can the upright man be alone, since he is always with God? When is he left forsaken who is never separated from Christ?

“Who,” it says, “shall separate us from the love of Christ? I am confident that neither death nor life nor angel shall do so” (Rom. 8:35, 38).

And when can he be deprived of his labour who never can be deprived of his merits, wherein his labour receives its crown? By what places is he limited to whom the whole world of riches is a possession?

By what judgment is he confined who is never blamed by anyone? For he is “as unknown yet well known, as dying and behold he lives, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things” (2 Cor. 6:9ff).

For the upright man regards nothing but what is consistent and virtuous. And so although he seems poor to another, he is rich to himself, for his worth is taken not at the value of the things which are temporal, but of the things which are eternal.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On the Duties of the Clergy, book 3, chapter 1, 1-2,7.

Ambrose of Milan: “Let your face shine on your servant, and teach me your precepts” Monday, Mar 14 2016 

ambrose_of_milanLet your face shine on your servant, and teach me your precepts.

The Lord enlightens his saints and makes his light shine in the hearts of the just….

When you see wisdom in anyone you can be sure that the glory of God has come down and flooded that person’s mind with the light of understanding and knowledge of divine truth.

With Moses, however, it was different: God’s glory affected his body also, causing his face to shine.

[…] Now the face of Moses represents the splendour of the Law; yet this splendour is not to be found in the written letter but in the Law’s spiritual interpretation.

As long as Moses lived, he wore a veil over his face whenever he spoke to the Jewish people. But after his death Jesus, or Joshua, the son of Nun, spoke to the elders and the people without a veil…. Joshua’s glory, however, would be seen in his deeds rather than in his face.

By this the Holy Spirit signified that when Jesus, the true Joshua, came, he would lift the veil from the heart of anyone who turned to him in willingness to listen, and that person would then see his true Saviour with unveiled face.

[…] Through the coming of his Son, God the almighty Father made his light shine into the hearts of the Gentiles, bringing them to see his glory in the face of Christ Jesus.

[St Paul says]: The God who commanded light to shine out of darkness has made his light shine in our hearts, to enlighten us with the knowledge of God’s glory shining in the face of Christ Jesus.

And so when David says to the Lord Jesus: Let your face shine upon your servant, he is expressing his longing to see the face of Christ, so that his mind may be capable of enlightenment.

These words can be taken as referring to the incarnation, for as the Lord himself declared: Many prophets and righteous men have desired to have this vision.

David was not asking for what had been denied to Moses, namely that he might see the face of the incorporeal God with his bodily eyes…. (If Moses…could ask for this direct, unmediated vision, it was because it is inherent in our human nature for our desire to reach out beyond us.)

There was nothing wrong, therefore, in David’s desire to see the face of the Virgin’s Son who was to come; he desired it in order that God’s light might shine in his heart, as it shone in the hearts of the disciples who said: Were not our hearts burning within us when he opened up the Scriptures to us?

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Psalm 118 17:26-29 (CSEL 62:390-392); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday of the Third Week in Lent, Year 2.

Ambrose of Milan: “Where a man’s heart is, there will be his treasure be also” Saturday, Feb 27 2016 

ambrose_of_milanWhere a man’s heart is, there will be his treasure be also, for God does not refuse a good gift to those who ask.

So because God is good and especially good to those who serve him, we must cling to him and be with him with all our soul and with all our heart and with all our strength.

This we must do if we are to be in his light, and see his glory, and enjoy the grace of heavenly joy.

To this happi­ness we must lift our minds, we must be in God, and live in him and cling to him, for he is beyond all human thought and understanding and he dwells in endless peace and tran­quillity.

This peace passes all understanding, passes all perception.

This is the good which permeates everything. All of us live in it, depend on it. It has nothing above itself, but is divine.

No one is good but God alone, because the good is divine and the divine is good. So the psalmist says, When you open your hand all creatures are filled with good­ness.

Through God’s goodness all the truly good things are given to us, and among them is no mixture of evil. These are the good things that scripture promises to the faithful in the words, You shall eat the good of the land.

We are dead with Christ; in our bodies we carry the death of Christ, so that the life of Christ also may be manifested in us.

We do not live any longer our own life, but the life of Christ, the life of innocence, chastity, simplicity, and of every virtue.

We have risen with Christ; we must live in Christ; we must ascend in Christ, so that the serpent can ­no longer find our heel on earth to wound.

We must flee from here. You can flee in your mind, even though you are still held back in the body.

You can be both ­here and you can be present with the Lord if in your soul you cling to him, if in all your thoughts you walk after him, if in faith and not in outward appearance merely you follow his ways, if you fly to him; he is our refuge and our strength.

[…] We must flee like deer running to the fountains of water. The thirst which David felt, let our soul too feel.

Who is that fountain? David said, For with you is the fountain of life. My soul must say to the fountain, When shall I come and behold your face? For the fountain is God.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Flight from the World 6.36, 7.44, 8.45, 9.52 from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday of the Third Week in Lent, Year 1.

Ambrose of Milan: In magnifying the image of God, the soul has a share in its greatness and is exalted Tuesday, Dec 22 2015 

ambrose_of_milanElizabeth heard Mary’s greeting the child leapt in her womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Notice the contrast and the choice of words. Elizabeth is the first to hear Mary’s voice, but John is the first to be aware of grace.

She hears with the ears of the body, but he leaps for joy at the meaning of the mystery.

She is aware of Mary’s presence, but he is aware of the Lord’s: a woman aware of a woman’s presence, the forerunner aware of the pledge of our salvation.

The women speak of the grace they have received while the children are active in secret, unfolding the mystery of love with the help of their mothers, who prophesy by the spirit of their sons.

The child leaps I the womb; the mother is filled with the Holy Spirit, but not before her son.

Once the son has been filled with the Holy Spirit, he fills his mother with the same Spirit. John leaps for joy, and the spirit of Mary rejoices in her turn.

When John leaps for joy Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, but we know that though Mary’s spirit rejoices, she does not need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Her son, who is beyond our understanding, is active in his mother in a way beyond our understanding.

Elizabeth is filled with the Holly Spirit after conceiving John, while Mary is filled with the Holy Spirit before conceiving the Lord.

Elizabeth says: Blessed are you because you have believed.

You also are blessed because you have heard and believed. A soul that believes both conceives and brings forth the Word of God and acknowledges his works.


Let Mary’s soul be in each of you to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let her spirit be in each to rejoice in the Lord.

Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ in faith. Every soul receives the Word of God if only it keeps chaste, remaining pure and free from sin, its modesty undefiled.

The soul that succeeds in this proclaims the greatness of the Lord, just as Mary’s soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior.

In another place we read: Magnify the Lord with me. The Lord is magnified, not because the human voice can add anything to God but because he is magnified within us.

Christ is the image of God, and if the soul does what is right and holy, it magnifies that image of God, in whose likeness it was created and, in magnifying the image of God, the soul has a share in its greatness and is exalted.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397):  Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel (Book. 2, 19.22-23. 26-27: CCL 14, 39-42) @ Crossroads Initiative.

Ambrose of Milan: This is the true fortitude of Christ’s warrior Saturday, Dec 5 2015 

ambrose_of_milanRightly is that called fortitude, when a man conquers himself, restrains his anger, yields and gives way to no allurements, is not put out by misfortunes, nor gets elated by good success, and does not get carried away by every varying change as by some chance wind.

[…] Fortitude of the mind can be regarded in two ways. First, as it counts all externals as very unimportant, and looks on them as rather superfluous and to be despised than to be sought after.

Secondly, as it strives after those things which are the highest, and all things in which one can see anything moral (or as the Greeks call it, πρέπον), with all the powers of the mind.

For what can be more noble than to train your mind so as not to place a high value on riches and pleasures and honours, nor to waste all your care on these?

When your mind is thus disposed, you must consider how all that is virtuous and seemly must be placed before everything else.

And you must so fix your mind upon that, that if aught happens which may break your spirit, whether loss of property, or the reception of fewer honours, or the disparagement of unbelievers, you may not feel it, as though you were above such things; nay, so that even dangers which menace your safety, if undertaken at the call of justice, may not trouble you.

This is the true fortitude which Christ’s warrior has, who receives not the crown unless he strives lawfully (2 Tim. 2:5). Or does that call to fortitude seem to you but a poor one: “Tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience, and experience, hope”? (Rom. 5:3-4). See how many a contest there is, yet but one crown!

[…] Think how St Paul teaches those who enter upon their duties in the Church that they ought to have contempt for all earthly things: “If, then, ye be dead with Christ from the elements of this world, why do ye act as though living in the world?” (Col. 2:20-21).

And further: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, not those things which are on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2). And again: “Mortify, therefore, your members which are on the earth” (Col. 3:5).

This, indeed, is meant for all the faithful. But you, especially, my son, he urges to despise riches and to avoid profane and old wives fables—allowing nothing but this: “Exercise thyself unto godliness, for bodily exercise profiteth a little, but godliness is profitable unto all things” (1 Tim. 4:8).

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On the Duties of the Clergy, book 1, chapter 36, 181-184.

Ambrose of Milan: The holy patriarch offered sacrifice in the secret recesses of his heart to the Trinity Monday, Oct 5 2015 

ambrose_of_milan‘Then he [Abraham] set out on his journey and on the third day came to a place which God had indicated to him’ (Gen. 22:4).

Abraham’s purpose needed the quality of continuity and perpetuity, for time is tripartite, taking in, as it does, the past, the present, and the future.

By this we are admonished that there should not be any trace of forgetfulness of the beneficence of God whether in the past, present, or future.

We should, rather, be steadfast in the recollection of His grace and in our compliance with His command.

Another reason for this reference to time lies in the fact that the person who performs a sacrifice ought to put his trust in the brilliant light of the Trinity.

For him whose sacrifice is grounded in faith has ever around him the light of day. For him there is no night.

So in Exodus Moses says: ‘We will go three days’ journey to sacrifice unto the Lord our God’ (2 Exod. 3:18).

Elsewhere, too, when God appeared to Abraham by the oak of Mamre, we are told that ‘Abraham raised his eyes and saw three men standing at a distance from him.

As soon as he saw them he ran to the entrance of the tent door to meet them and bowed down to the earth and said: My Lord, if I have found favor with you’ (Gen. 18:2, 3).

He beholds three and one he adores. He offers three measures of fine flour (cf. Gen. 18:6).

Although God is immeasurable, He nevertheless holds the measure of all things, as it is written: ‘Who hath measured the waters in his hand and weighed the heavens with his palm and the bulk of the earth in the hollow of his hand? (Isa. 40:12).

The holy patriarch, therefore, offered sacrifice in the secret recesses of his heart to the Trinity made perfect in each of the Persons.

This is the spiritual meaning of the measures of fine flour. This is the measure of fine flour mentioned in the Gospel which was ground by the woman who ‘will be taken’. ‘One will be taken; the other will be left’ (Matt. 24:41).

The Church ‘will be taken’; the Synagogue ‘will be left’, or the man of good conscience will be taken and the man of bad conscience, left.

That you may know that Abraham believed in Christ, we read; ‘Abraham saw my day and was glad’ (John 8:56).

He who believes in Christ believes, too, in the Father, and who believes in the Father believes, too, in the Son and Holy Spirit.

There were three measures, therefore, and one substance of fine flour. This means that there was one sacrifice which was offered to the Blessed Trinity.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): Cain and Abel, book 1, chapter 8, 29-30, in St Ambrose: Hexameron, Paradise, and Cain and Abel, tr. John J. Savage, Catholic Univeristy of America Press, 1961, pp. 386-388.

Ambrose of Milan: “God will not forever cut off His mercy from generation to generation, nor will He forget to be merciful” Friday, Sep 11 2015 

ambrose_of_milan[St Ambrose is addressing the question of those who deny Christ in the face of persecution.]

Although what has been said sufficiently shows how inclined the Lord Jesus is to mercy, let Him further instruct us with His own words…:

“Every one, therefore, who shall confess Me before men, him will I also confess before My Father, Who is in heaven, but he who shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father, Who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32, 33).

Where He says that He will confess, He will confess “everyone.” Where He speaks of denying, He does not speak of denying “everyone.”

For, whereas in the former clause He says “everyone who shall confess Me, him will I confess,” we should expect that in the following clause He would also say “everyone who shall deny Me.”

But in order that He might not appear to deny every one, He concludes: “But he who shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny.”

He promises favour to everyone, but He does not threaten the penalty to everyone. He makes more of that which is merciful. He makes less of what is penal.

[…]  “Everyone,” He says, “who shall confess Me,” that is to say, of whatever age, of whatever condition he may be, who shall confess Me, he shall have Me as the Rewarder of his confession. As the expression is “everyone,” no one who shall confess is excluded from the reward.

But it is not said in like manner, “Everyone who shall deny shall be denied,” for it is possible that a man overcome by torture may deny God in word, and yet worship Him in his heart.

Is the case the same with him who denies voluntarily, and with him whom torture, not his own will, has led to denial? How unfit were it, since with men credit is given for endurance in a struggle, that one should assert that it had no value with God!

For often in this world’s athletic contests the public crown together with the victors even the vanquished whose conduct has been approved, especially if perchance they have seen that they lost the victory by some trick or fraud.

And shall Christ suffer His athletes, whom He has seen to yield for a moment to severe torments, to remain without forgiveness?  Shall not He take account of their toil, Who will not cast off for ever even those whom He casts off? For David says: “God will not cast off forever” (Ps. 76:7).

[…] David says: “God will not forever cut off His mercy from generation to generation, nor will He forget to be merciful” (Ps. 76:8, 9).

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Repentance, book 1, chapter 4, 15-20.

Ambrose of Milan: The Lord Jesus refreshes, and does not shut out nor cast off Friday, Jul 10 2015 

ambrose_of_milanIf the highest end of virtue is that which aims at the advancement of most, gentleness is the most lovely of all, which does not hurt even those whom it condemns, and usually renders those whom it condemns worthy of absolution.

Moreover, it is the only virtue which has led to the increase of the Church which the Lord sought at the price of His own Blood, imitating the lovingkindness of heaven, and aiming at the redemption of all, seeks this end with a gentleness which the ears of men can endure, in presence of which their hearts do not sink, nor their spirits quail.

For he who endeavours to amend the faults of human weakness ought to bear this very weakness on his own shoulders, let it weigh upon himself, not cast it off.

For we read that the Shepherd in the Gospel (Luke 15:5) carried the weary sheep, and did not cast it off. And Solomon says: “Be not overmuch righteous” (Eccles. 7:17); for restraint should temper righteousness.

For how shall he offer himself to you for healing whom you despise, who thinks that he will be an object of contempt, not of compassion, to his physician?

Therefore had the Lord Jesus compassion upon us in order to call us to Himself, not frighten us away. He came in meekness, He came in humility, and so He said: “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you” (Matt. 11:28).

So, then, the Lord Jesus refreshes, and does not shut out nor cast off, and fitly chose such disciples as should be interpreters of the Lord’s will, as should gather together and not drive away the people of God.

Whence it is clear that they are [St Ambrose is speaking of the Novatianists] not to be counted amongst the disciples of Christ, who think that harsh and proud opinions should be followed rather than such as are gentle and meek; persons who, while they themselves seek God’s mercy, deny it to others….

What can show more pride than this, since the Scripture says: “No one is free from sin, not even an infant of a day old” (Job 14:4 [LXX]).  And David cries out: “Cleanse me from my sin” (Ps. 50:2).

Are they more holy than David, of whose family Christ vouchsafed to be born in the mystery of the Incarnation, whose descendant is that heavenly Hall which received the world’s Redeemer in her virgin womb?

For what is more harsh than to inflict a penance which they do not relax, and by refusing pardon to take away the incentive to penance and repentance? Now no one can repent to good purpose unless he hopes for mercy.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Repentance, book 1, chapter 1, 1-4.

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