Saint Ambrose: the Source of an Idea

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in For Whom did Christ Die?

“A certain creditor,” it says, “had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty” [St. Luke 7:41]. 24. Who are those two debtors if not the two peoples, the one from the Jews, the other from the Gentiles, beholden to the Creditor of the heavenly treasure? It says, “The one owed five hundred pence, the other fifty” [St. Luke 7:41]. Extraordinary is that penny on which the King’s image is written, which bears the imprint of the Emperor [cf. St. Mark 12:15-16]. To this Creditor we owe not material wealth, but assays of merits, accounts of virtues, the worth of which is measured by the weight of seriousness, the likeness of righteousness, the sound of confession. Woe is me if I do not have what I have received, truly, because only with difficulty can anyone pay off the whole debt to this Creditor; woe is me if I do not ask, “Remit my debt.” For the Lord would not have taught us so to pray that we ask for our sins to be forgiven [cf. St. Matthew 6:12] if He had not known that some would only with difficulty be worthy debtors [cf. St. Luke 11:4]. 25. But which is the people which owes more if not we by whom more is believed? God’s words were believed by them [cf. Romans 3:2], but His Virgin Birth by us. Ye have the talent [cf. St. Matthew 25:15], the Virgin Birth; ye have the hundredfold fruit of faith [cf. St. Matthew 13:8]. Emmanuel was believed, God with us [cf. St. Matthew 1:23]; the Cross, the Death, the Resurrection of the Lord were believed. Although Christ suffered for all, yet He suffered for us particularly, because He suffered for the Church. Therefore, there is no doubt that he who has received more, owes more [cf. St. Luke 12:48]. And according to me, perhaps he who owed more offended more, but through the Lord’s mercy, the case is changed, so that he who owed more loves more, if he nevertheless attains Grace. For he who gives it back possesses Grace, and he who possesses it repays, insofar as he possesses, for the possession consists in the repayment and the repayment in the possession. 26. And, therefore, since there is nothing which we can worthily repay to God–for what may we repay for the harm to the Flesh He assumed, what for the blows, what for the Cross, the Death, and the Burial? Woe is me if I have not loved! I dare to say that Peter did not repay and thereby loved the more; Paul did not repay–he, indeed, repaid death for death, but did not repay other debts, because he owed much. I hear himself saying, because he did not repay, “Who hath given to Him first, that he might be recompensed again?” [Romans 11:35]. Even if we were to repay cross for Cross, death for Death, do we repay that we possess all things from Him, and by Him, and in Him [cf. Romans 11:36]? Therefore, let us repay love for our debt, charity for the gift, grace for wealth; for he to whom more is given loves more [cf. St. Luke 7:42-43].”

Saint Ambrose of Milan, Exposition of the Holy Gospel According to Saint Luke, trans. Theodosia Tomkinson (Etna: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1998), 201-202.

Credit to Tony and Curt Daniel.

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