Aurelius Ambrosius
M. m. ninan
chapter one
Early life

Ambrose was born into a Roman Christian family about 340 AD and was raised in Gallia Belgica, the capital of which was Augusta Treverorum  .


The Praetorian Prefecture of Gaul (Latin: praefectura praetorio Galliarum) was one of four large prefectures into which the Late Roman Empire was divided. The title Prefect refer  to a Governor or  aMagistrate or the leader of an administrative area . The Codex Theodosianus (Eng. Theodosian Code) was a compilation of the laws of the Roman Empire under the Christian emperors since 312. 


His Mother

His mother was a woman of intellect and piety and a member of the Roman family of Aurelii Symmachi and thus Ambrose was cousin of the orator Q. Aurelius Symmachus.




Quintus Aurelius Symmachus (c. 345 – 402) was a Roman statesman, orator, and man of letters. He held the offices of governor of proconsular Africa in 373, urban prefect of Rome in 384 and 385, and consul in 391. Symmachus sought to preserve the traditional religions of Rome at a time when the aristocracy was converting to Christianity, and led an unsuccessful delegation of protest against Gratian, when he ordered the Altar of Victory removed from the curia, the principal meeting place of the Roman Senate in the Forum Romanum. Two years later he made a famous appeal to Gratian's successor, Valentinian II, in a dispatch that was rebutted by Ambrose, the bishop of Milan.















. "The heart of so great a mystery cannot ever be reached by following one road only." Quintus Aurelius Symmachus (c. 345 – 402) was a Roman statesman, orator, and man of letters; from Augustine, in controversy with St. Ambrose. Quoted by Arnold Toynbee.  


"We gaze up at the same stars, the sky covers us all, the same universe encompasses us. What does it matter what practical system we adopt in our search for the truth?  Not by one avenue only can we arrive at so tremendous a secret." ~ Quintus Aurelius Symmachus


He was the youngest of three children, who included Marcellina and Satyrus also venerated as saints.


















St. Marcellina,
Sister of St. Ambrose 
(c. 327 – 397)


















His sister Marcellina, who was the eldest among the three children, became a nun.  



Even before her father's death she went to Rome, the home of her family, and, before her mother's arrival at the capital with her two sons, had already forsaken the world, elected to live a life of Christian virginity, and devoted herself to the practice of piety and asceticism. She and with another consecrated virgin lived in her mother's house.



On Christmas Day, probably in 353, she received the veil of consecrated virginity from the hand of Pope Liberius. The advice, which the pope addressed to her on this occasion, has been preserved by St. Ambrose (De virginibus, III, i-iii), especially emphasized being the obligations of Christian virgins to preserve virginal purity.


About the year 354 Ambrosius, their father, died, the rest of the family moved to Rome amd joined Marcellina.  The saintly and accomplished widow was greatly assisted in the religious training of her two sons by the example and admonitions of her daughter, Marcellina, who was about ten years older than Ambrose.  While still young, she was given the veil by Pope Liberius the Roman Pontiff, on Christmas Day, 353. She devoted herself to the practice of piety and asceticism.


Later upon St. Ambrose being made Bishop of Milan, he summoned Marcellina to be his assistant. She was responsible for fostering and extending the ascetic life among the maidens of Milan. In 377, St. Ambrose dedicated his writings on virginity to her. It was to Marcellina that Ambrose dedicated his treatise on virginity, Libri III de virginibus ad Marcellinam.  De virginibus, to Marcellina, is considered the first systematic Christian discourse on the topic.






















Marcellina survived St. Ambrose by only a year, dying in 398.  She was originally buried near her brother in the crypt of the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio. In 1722, her relics were rediscovered and eventually translated to a side chapel in the basilica, specially rebuilt as the Chapel of St Marcellina in 1812 according to the neoclassical plans of Luigi Cagnola (d. 1833), who also designed Milan’s Arco della Pace. The 19th century statue depicting Marcellina in prayer is by Camillo Pacetti (d. 1826).She was buried in the crypt under the altar of the Ambrosian Basilica in Milan.



Saint Satyrus of Milan
rother of St. Ambrose





Saint Satyrus of Milan (Italian: San Satiro) was the older brother of Ambrose. He was a lawyer by profession who also became a prefect of one of the Roman Provinces. On the unexpected appointment of Ambrose to the episcopate, Satyrus resigned his prefecture job, in order to help his brother in his profession. He took over all matters that were non-ecclesiaticalfunctions and relieved him from temporal cares, and assumed administration of the secular affairs of the archdiocese.


He died unexpectedly at Milan in 378 and was eulogised by his brother with the funeral sermon, On the Death of a Brother (De excessu fratris Satyri), the church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro in Milan refers to him.

After the early death of his father, Ambrose went to Rome, where he studied literature, law, and rhetoric.


He followed in his father's footsteps and entered public service.  In 365 at about the age of 26,  Ambrose and his brother became lawyers at the court of Sirmium (in the modern day Republic of Serbia), which was the headquarters and administrative offices of the praetorian prefect.  Ambrose distinguished himself in court, and came under the favor of the praetorian prefect, Anicius Probus.  Probus made Ambrose a member of his council.  About 370, they both were appointed to governorships, with Ambrose going to Milan.  Praetorian Prefect Sextus, Claudius Petronius Probus first gave him a place in the council as the secretary of the Governor and then in about 372 made him Governor of Liguria and Emilia, with headquarters at Milan, which was then (beside Rome) the second capital in Italy.  "Go", said the prefect, with unconscious prophecy, "conduct thyself not as a judge, but as bishop"


He was a judge of the first order.  He was also a member of the Senate, and he supervised a large number of public servants.  He was beloved by the people. 





Ambrose was the Governor of Aemilia-Liguria (372-374) in northern Italy until 374, when he became the Bishop of Milan. He was a very popular political figure, and since he was the Governor in the effective capital in the Roman West, he was a recognizable figure in the court of Valentinian I.



Chapter two

Ambrose, Bishop of Milan


He might well have remained in a governor had not dramatic events overtaken him. Ambrose had his official residence in Milan, where he was also a catechumen in the church.

[In ecclesiology, a catechumen is a person receiving instruction from a catechist in the principles of the Christian religion with a view to baptism and joining as a full communican of he church]


In those early period of Christian history, baptism was not conferred onto everyone, even if they were born in a christian family for fear of Infilteration by enemies of the Church.  Church has only been out of persecution and did not attained the freedom as we do have now. Every catechumen was to prove himself before being accepted into the church.  He was only a catechumen preparing for baptism and confirmation. He has to go through a period of study in Catechism before even given baptism. It required a complete change in life.


The Church in Milan had been controlled by an Arian bishops from the east for a long time.  When the bishop of the city of Milan, a pro-Arian named Auxentius died, the election of a new bishop was hotly contested by the Arian and Nicene parties  and they were there to elect a new bishop within the church. The contest became so violent that Governor Ambrose was summoned to the church where the election was taking place because of a possible riot.  He began a conciliatory discourse in the interest of peace and moderation.  His words were sweet, mild and wise that everyone decided to make Ambrose bishop, even though he had only been Christian a short time. Suddenly his speech was interrupted by a voice (according to Paulinus, the voice of an infant) crying, "Ambrose, Bishop". The cry was instantly repeated by the entire assembly - both the Arians and the Niceans, and Ambrose, was thus unanimously pronounced elected. This pleased the other bishops of the province since they had been unable to solve the problem themselves.The Arians thought that since Ambrose was a lawyer and many Arians were involved with government, he would side with them. He had kept aloof from all theological controversies as he was only a catechumen. 


Ambrose didn’t want the position and tried to run away and hide himself. He never wanted to be a bishop, so when he saw what was happening he ran away and went into hiding. When the emperor heard this, he declared severe penalties on anyone who would hide Ambrose.  So he was forced to come out. The emperor decided that Ambrose would be a good choice and compelled him to accept the episcopate.


But Ambrose defended as much as he might, and alway the people cried: Ambrose! Then for to make the people cease, he went out of the church, and went up on a scaffold, and made the people to be beaten, against the usage and custom, for to let them, that they should name him no more. But yet they left not for all that, but the people said: "Thy sin be upon us."


Then he being sore troubled, went home, and allowed prostitutes to enter openly into his house in view of everyone, hoping that if he tarnished his name they will cease to make him their bishop. But for all that they cried as they did before and said: "Thy sins be upon us."


Ambrose saw that these last acts were futile,  tried to flee from the city - not once, but twice.  On his first attempt to leave, the people captured him. He then put off his decision about a month by seeking the emperor’s approval.  The other bishops of the province were only too glad to have this controversial decision taken out of their hands. When he appealed to the emperor to overturn the decision on the basis that he hadn't even been baptized, the emperor answered that he was happy that he chose governors fit for the episcopal office.  While awaiting the emperor’s decision, he tried to escape again, hid in the house of a friend who was a senator.  But, when the emperor’s message arrived –approving Ambrose– the friend turned Ambrose over to the authorities. Only then did Ambrose recognize that it was God’s will. . And the emperor was overjoyed, because that the judge that he had sent for the provinces was chosen to be their bishop, and also he was glad because his word - which he pronounced unknowingly turned out to be a fulfilled prophecy.  The emperor said to have said  to Ambrose when he sent him as governor: "Go, said he, and abide not there as a judge but as a bishop." 


Once he accepted the position, his life took a total turn around.  He changed his life, giving his property to the poor and putting himself under the instruction of Theologian named Simplician (who became Archbishop of Milan 387 to 400 AD after Ambrose) to learn Scripture and theology. Simplician beeing a Trinitarian and an opponent of Arianism probably made him a strong anti-Arian.  He studied Greek Theology, with a marked preference for St. Athanasius and St. Cyril of Jerusalem,(who were both pro-Nicean) and learned to comment on the Bible through the works of Origen.


St. Athanasius and St.Cyril both argued that Jesus is the incarnation of the eternal Son of the eternal Father — that both Father and Son are equally and both were always God. They were both Anti-Arius and Anti-Nestorius.


Ambrose was baptized on November 30, 374 at the age of 40.   He completed the other necessary preliminary degrees of the procedure required by the bishop he was consecrated bishop on Sunday December 7, 374.                       


Having the strong conviction of Trinity and Marian title of Theotokos (Mother of God) profession of Roman Catholic faith Ambrose used his lawyerly skills to fight the Arians and the Nestorians who were considered as heretics by the Roman Catholic Church. He diligently fought against these heresies and, in 379, persuaded the emperor, Gratian, to outlaw Arianism in the West.


Four years later, however, Emperor Gratian was killed and the new emperor, Valentinian II, ordered that all previously Arian churches be turned over to the Arians. But Ambrose successfully resisted this attempt.


When pagan Goths invaded the empire and took captives, Ambrose gave all the money he had to ransom them. He also gathered all the gold vessels in the Church and gave them over to the captors. He was always more concerned for souls than for power and riches. Even though he had been wealthy, he often reproached the rich for ignoring the poor, reminding them that God provided the earth and its resources as common property for all, and that all people had the same rights over nature. He further told them that it was not from their own stores that they gave to beggars, but from a portion of the beggar’s own that they were restoring to these poor people.


Ambrose continued his valiant battles against heresy, paganism and sin, always upholding Church teachings and God’s laws. He died in Milan on April 4, 397. He was one of the great figures of Christianity and more than anyone else was responsible for the rise of Christianity in the West as the Roman Empire was dying.




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