December 7, 2015

December 7, 2015 – Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor

St. Ambrose
St. Ambrose (340-397) was born in Gaul, a territory that included modern France, Britain, Spain, and part of Africa. He studied in Rome and later became governor of Liguria and Aemelia. While supervising the election of a new bishop of Milan in 374, Ambrose  himself was suddenly acclaimed the bishop [despite being only a catechumen at the time].

Ambrose was ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop on Dec. 7. He wrote extensively on the Scriptures and Fathers, preached a homily every Sunday, resisted the interference of the secular powers with the rights of the Church, opposed heretics and was instrumental in bringing about the conversion of St. Augustine. Ambrose composed numerous hymns, promoted sacred chant and took a great interest in the Liturgy. [Video below.]

[Picture: Detail, Altarpiece of St Ambrose, Alvise Vivarini, c. 1503.]

The Life of St. Ambrose

Around the year 333 Ambrose was born in Trier, Gaul, the child of a noble Roman family. After his father's death he went to Rome, and was appointed consul with residence in Milan. While attempting to settle a dispute between the Arians and Catholics over the choice of a bishop, he himself was chosen. Although only a catechumen, he devoted himself to the study of theology, and gave his possessions to the poor. He was an illustrious preacher whose sermons brought Augustine to the faith.

Candid and fearless no matter how strong the opposition, Ambrose confronted Magnus Maximus, the murderer of the Emperor Gratian. When Maximus refused to do penance, Ambrose excommunicated him. Later he denied Emperor Theodosius entrance into Church for Theodosius' massacre of the inhabitants of Thessalonica. It was on this occasion that allusion was made to [King] David as a murderer and adulterer. Ambrose responded: "You have followed him in sin, now follow him in repentance." Theodosius humbly accepted the penance imposed.

Ambrose was a teacher and inspired composer of hyms as found in the Divine Office. [The hymns attributed to him are masterpieces of religious poetry.] His writings are vibrant with the ancient Christian liturgical spirit, for his life was wholly rooted in mystery and sacrament. We can profit greatly by reading Ambrose's works. He is one of the four great Latin Doctors of the Church.

Adapted excerpt from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

St. Ambrose is the patron of: bee keepers; bees; candlemakers; chandlers; domestic animals; French Commissariat; learning; Milan, Italy; schoolchildren; students; wax melters; wax refiners.

Symbols: Scourge; beehive; tower; dove; cope and mitre; human bones; scroll with staff of music; pen book and pen; cross; chalice; bull; knotted scourge; two scourges; goose; writing tablet and stylus; heart surmounted with flame; scroll with quotation from writings.

Often portrayed as: Bishop holding a church in his hand; beehive; man arguing with a pagan; with Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Jerome and Saint Augustine of Hippo.

Collect Prayer

O God, who made the Bishop Saint Ambrose a teacher of the Catholic faith and a model of apostolic courage, raise up in your Church men after your own heart to govern her with courage and wisdom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Prayer of St. Ambrose [Before Mass]

Lord Jesus Christ,
I approach your banquet table in fear and trembling,
for I am a sinner,
and dare not rely on my own worth,
but only on your goodness and mercy.
I am defiled by many sins in body and soul,
and by my unguarded thoughts and words.
Gracious God of majesty and awe,
I seek your protection,
I look for your healing.
Poor troubled sinner that I am,
I appeal to you, the fountain of all mercy.
I cannot bear your judgment,
but I trust in your salvation.
Lord, I show my wounds to you and uncover my shame before you.
I know my sins are many and great,
and they fill me with fear,
but I hope in your mercies,
for they cannot be numbered.
Lord Jesus Christ, eternal king, God and man,
crucified for mankind,
look upon me with mercy and hear my prayer,
for I trust in you.
Have mercy on me,
full of sorrow and sin,
for the depth of your compassion never ends.
Praise to you, saving sacrfice,
offered on the wood of the cross for me and for all mankind.
Praise to the noble and precious blood,
flowing from the wounds of the my crucified Lord Jesus Christ and washing away the sins of the whole world.
Remember, Lord your creature,
whom you have redeemed with your blood;
I repent my sins,
and I long to put right what I have done. Merciful Father, take away all my offenses and sins;
purify me in body and soul,
and make me worthy to taste the holy of holies.
May your body and blood,
which I intend to receive, although I am unworthy,
be for me the remission of my sins,
the washing away of my guilt,
the end of my evil thoughts,
and the rebirth of my better instincts.
May it incite me to do the works pleasing to you and profitable to my health in body and soul,
and be a firm defense against the wiles of my enemies. Amen.


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