Ambrose (337?-397): The Source of an Idea

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in For Whom did Christ Die?


Christ Suffered for the Church:

1) 47. But he was not so eager as to lay aside caution. He called the bishop to him, and esteeming that there can be no true thankfulness except it spring from true faith, he enquired whether he agreed with the Catholic bishops, that is, with the Roman Church? And possibly at that place the Church of the district was in schism. For at that time Lucifer had withdrawn from our communion, and although he had been an exile for the faith, and had left inheritors of his own faith, yet my brother did not think that there could be true faith in schism. For though schismatics kept the faith towards God, yet they kept it not towards the Church of God, certain of whose limbs they suffered as it were to be divided, and her members to be torn. For since Christ suffered for the Church, and the Church is the body of Christ, it does not seem that faith in Christ is shown by those by whom His Passion is made of none effect, and His body divided.  Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:168-169.

Christ Suffered for all:

1) “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.

2) 13. Let these triumphant victims be brought to the place where Christ is the victim. But He upon the altar, Who suffered for all; they beneath the altar, who were redeemed by His Passion. I had destined this place for myself, for it is fitting that the priest should rest there where he has been wont to offer, but I yield the right hand portion to the sacred victims; that place was due to the martyrs. Let us, then, deposit the sacred relics, and lay them up in a worthy resting-place, and let us celebrate the whole day with faithful devotion. Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:438.

3) (9.41) What is more agreeable than the example of holy Joseph? He freed us from the reproach by the mystery of the Lord’s cross. For just as Christ became a curse to destroy the curse of the law1 and became sin2 to take away the sin of the world,3 so He became a reproach to remove the reproach of paganism, but that reproach that is Christ was considered more precious than the treasures of Egypt. Accordingly, Moses left the court of the king Pharao4 and chose the reproach of faith, and before that reproach the seas divided.5 Nephthali himself is a vine spread through the whole world, to dispense to all peoples the richness of a spiritual drink. He is increased, that is, having the name which is above every name,6 who offered Himself to death on behalf of all men, and therefore He hears from the Father, "Return to me." Jacob spoke, and God was heard. Jacob gave a blessing and the Lord reechoed it, saying to His Son, "Return to me," that is, "Return after the passion. Return to your dwelling, return with the trophy,7 return to me, so that the dead may follow you in your resurrection and may rise in like manner by your power and example, that you may become the firstborn from the dead,8 that you may sit at the right hand of the Father." On this account the Son also said, "Hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power."9 Ambrose, “Jacob and the Happy Life,” in Seven Exegetical Works, trans. Michael P. McHugh (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1972), 172. [Underlining mine; footnote values modified; footnote content original.]

1Cf. Gal. 3.1 3.
2Cf. 2 Cor. 5.21.
3Cf. John 1.29.
4Cf. Exod. 2.15
5Cf. Exod. 14.21.
6Cf. Phil. 2.9.
7The trophy is probably the body of Christ. See C. Mohrmann, "A propos de deux mots controverses: tropaeum–nomen," Vigiliae Christianae 8 (1954) 154-73, especially 157-58.
8Cf. Col. 1.18; Apoc. 1.5; 1 Cor. 15.20; Ps. 88 (89).28.
9Matt. 26.64.

4) Let no one hold back out of consideration of his poverty, let no one who does not have money be afraid. Christ does not ask money, but faith, which is more valuable than money. Indeed Peter, who did not have money, bought Him. "Silver and gold I do not have," he said, "but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ arise and walk."1 And the prophet Isaiah says, "All you who are thirsty, come to the water, and you that have no money come, buy, and drink and eat without money and without the price of the wine."2 For He who paid the price of His blood for us did not ask a price from us, because He redeemed us not with gold or silver but with His precious blood.3 Therefore you owe that price with which you have been bought. Even though He does not always demand it, you still owe it. Buy Christ for yourself, then, not with what few men possess, but with what all men possess by nature but few offer on account of fear. What Christ claims from you is His own. He gave His life for all men, He offered His death for all men. Pay on behalf of your Creator what you are going to pay by law. He is not bargained for at a slight price, and not all men see Him readily. Indeed, those virgins in the Gospel whom the bridegroom kept out upon his coming, were left out of doors exactly because they did not buy the oil that was for sale.4 On this account it is said to them, "Go rather to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves."5 Likewise that merchant deserves praise who sold all his goods and bought the pearl.6 Ambrose, “Joseph,” in Seven Exegetical Works, trans. Michael P. McHugh (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1972), 217. [Underlining mine; footnote values modified; footnote content original.]

1Acts 3.6.
2Isa. 55.1.
3Cf. 1 Peter 1.18-19. References to man as purchased by Christ occur elsewhere in the New Testament; cf. 1 Cor. 6.19-20, 7.23, and Acts 20.28 (of the Church).
4Cf. Matt. 25.1-13.
5Matt. 25.9.
6Cf. Matt. 13.45-46.

Christ delivered up for all men with reference to Romans 8:32:

1) (6.25) But are you afraid of the uncertain twists of life and the plots of the adversary? You have the help of God, you have His great liberality, so great that He did not spare His own Son on your behalf.1 Scripture made use of a beautiful expression to proclaim the holy purpose toward you of God the Father, who offered His Son to death. The Son could not feel death’s bitterness, because He was in the Father; for Himself He gave up nothing, on your behalf He offered everything. In the fullness of His divinity2 He lost nothing, while He redeemed you. Think upon the Father’s love. It is a matter of His goodness that He accepted the danger, so to speak, to His Son, who was going to die, and in a manner drained the sorrowful cup of bereavement, so that the advantage of redemption would not be lost to you. The Lord had such mighty zeal for your salvation that He came close to endangering what was His, while He was gaining you. On account of you He took on our losses, to introduce you to things divine, to consecrate you to the things of heaven. Scripture said, too, in a marvelous fashion, "He has delivered him for us all,"3 to show that God so loves all men that He delivered His most beloved Son for each one. For men, therefore, He has given the gift that is above all gifts; is it possible that He has not given all things in that gift? God, who has given the Author of all things,4 has held back nothing.

(6.26) Therefore, let us not be afraid that anything can be denied us. We ought not have any distrust whatever over the continuance of God’s generosity. So long and continuous has it been, and so abundant, that God first predestined us and then called us. Those whom He called, He also justified; those whom He justified, He also glorified.5 Can He abandon those whom He has honored with His mighty benefits even to the point of their reward? Amid so many benefits from God, ought we to be afraid of certain plots of our accuser? But who would dare to accuse those who, as he sees, have been chosen by the judgment of God? God the Father Himself, who has bestowed His gifts-can He make them void? Can He exile from His paternal love and favor those whom He took up by way of adoption? But fear exists that the judge may be too harsh-think upon Him that you have as your judge. For the Father has given every judgment to Christ.6 Can Christ then condemn you, when He redeemed you from death and offered Himself on your behalf, and when He knows that your life is what was gained by His death? ‘Will He not say, " ‘What profit is there in my blood,’7 if I condemn the man whom I myself have saved?" Moreover, you are thinking of Him as a judge; you are not thinking of Him as an advocate. But can He give a sentence that is very harsh when He prays continually that the grace of reconciliation with the Father be granted us? Ambrose, “Jacob and the Happy Life,” in Seven Exegetical Works, trans. Michael P. McHugh (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1972), 135-136. [Underlining mine; footnote values modified; footnote content original.]

1Cf. Rom. 8.32.
2Cf. Col. 2.9.
3Rom. 8.32.
4Cf. Ibid.
5Cf. Rom. 8.30.
6Cf. John 5.22.
7Ps. 29 (30).10.

Christ came to redeem all:

1) 7. However, it was meet that a new way should be prepared before the face of the new Conqueror–for a Conqueror is always, as it were, taller and greater in person than others; but, forasmuch as the Gates of Righteousness, which are the Gates of the Old and the New Testament, wherewith heaven is opened, are eternal, they are not indeed changed, but raised, for it was not  merely one man but the whole world that entered, in the person of the All-Redeemer. Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:264.

2) (4.19) Moreover, he represented the Son’s incarnation in a wonderful fashion when he said, "From my seed you have come up to me." For Christ sprouted in the womb of the virgin like a shrub upon the earth; like a flower of good fragrance, He was sent forth in the splendor of new light and came up from His mother’s vitals for the redemption of the entire world. Just so, Isaiah says, "There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse and a flower shall come up out of the root.”1 Ambrose, “Of The Patriarchs,” in Seven Exegetical Works, trans. Michael P. McHugh (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1972), 252. [Underlining mine; footnote values modified; footnote content original.]

1Isa. 11.1.

3) The second entreaty arose because the coming of Christ, awaited eagerly by the wise, and proclaimed by the law, and promised by the prophets, was being postponed. The hearts of the just were burning with a greater impatience for that very reason, because they knew that He would come for the redemption of all men1 yes, of the entirety of men, to open the way of virtue to them in the track of the Gospel, and to point out the paths of good works, even as He Himself said in Proverbs: "The Lord created me, the beginning of his ways."2 Ambrose, “The Prayer of Job and David,” in Seven Exegetical Works, trans. Michael P. McHugh (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1972), 409. [Ellipses original] [Underlining mine; footnote values modified; footnote content original.]

1The lacuna that Schenkl indicates here seems to do little damage to the sense and yet has not been convincingly filled.
2Prov 8.22 (Septuagint).

Christ slain for the salvation of the world:

1) 70. Not without the Father does He work; not without His Father’s Will did He offer Himself for that most holy Passion, the Victim slain for the salvation of the whole world; not without His Father’s Will concurring did He raise the dead to life. For example, when He was at the point to raise Lazarus to life, He lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank Thee, for that Thou hast heard Me. And I knew that Thou dost always hear Me, but for the sake of the multitude that stands round I spoke, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me,” in order that, though speaking agreeably to His assumed character of man, in the flesh,2398 He might still express His oneness with the Father in will and operation, in that the Father hears all and sees all that the Son wills, and therefore also the Father sees the Son’s doings, hears the utterances of His Will, for the Son made no request, and yet said that He had been heard. Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:271,

Christ brings salvation to all men:

The numbness in the side of Jacob’s thigh foreshadowed the cross of Christ, who would bring salvation to all men by spreading the forgiveness of sins throughout the whole world and would give resurrection to the departed by the numbness and torpidity of His own body. Ambrose, “Jacob and the Happy Life,” in Seven Exegetical Works, trans. Michael P. McHugh (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1972), 164. [Underlining mine.]

Sins of the world:

1) 3. Even at that time was it declared in a mystery that the Lord Jesus in His Flesh would, when crucified, do away the sins of the whole world, and not only the deeds of the body, but the desires of the soul. For the flesh of the kid refers to sins of deed, the broth to the enticements of desire as it is written: “For the people lusted an evil lust, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?” That the Angel then stretched forth his staff, and touched the rock, from which fire went out, shows that the Flesh of the Lord, being filled with the Divine Spirit, would burn away all the sins of human frailty. Wherefore, also, the Lord says: “I am come to send fire upon the earth.” Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:93.

2) 101. And so since he was separated from his parents through piety not on account of impiety, he talked with God, he increased in riches, in children, and in favour. Nor was he elated by these things when he met his brother; but humbly bowed down to him, not indeed considering him the pitiless, the furious, the degenerate, but Him Whom he reverenced in him. And so he bowed down seven times, which is the number of remission, for he was not bowing down to man, but to Him Whom he foresaw in the Spirit, as hereafter to come in human flesh to take away the sins of the world. And this mystery is unfolded to you in the answer given to Peter, when he said: “If my brother trespass against me how often shall I forgive him? Until seven times?” You see that remission of sins is a type of that great Sabbath, of that rest of everlasting grace, and therefore is given by contemplation. Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:471-472.

John 1:29 references (sample):

1) Later on, St. John uses the lamb, that taketh away the sins of the world,” as an example; and to teach you plainly the Incarnation of Him, of Whom he had spoken before, he says: “This is He of Whom I said before: After me cometh a Man, Who is made before me,” to wit, of Whom I said that He was “made” as being man, not as being God. However, to show that it was He Who was before the worlds, and none other, that became flesh, lest we should suppose two Sons of God, he adds: “because He was before me.” If the words “was made” had referred to the divine generation, what need was there that the writer should add this, and repeat himself? But, having first said, with regard to the Incarnation only, “After me cometh a Man, Who is made before me,” he added: “because He was before me,” because it was needful to teach the eternity of [Christ’s] Godhead; and this is the reason why St. John acknowledged Christ’s priority, that He, Who is His own Father’s eternal Power, may be presented as on that account duly preferred. Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:252.

2) (3.18) Now the fact that they sprinkled his tunic with the blood of a goat1 seems to have this meaning, that they attacked with false testimony2 and brought into enmity for sin Him who forgives the sins of all men. For us there is a lamb, for them a goat.3 For us the Lamb of God has been killed, who took from us the sins of the world, whereas for them a goat piled up sins and amassed offenses. Ambrose, “Joseph,” in Seven Exegetical Works, trans. Michael P. McHugh (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1972), 200. [Underlining mine; footnote values modified; footnote content original.]

1Cf. Gen. 37.31.
2Cf. Matt. 26.59-61.
3Cf. John 1.19; Exod. 12.4-5.

3) (2.4) Consider another point. “How good is God to Israel, to them that are right in heart!” Is God not good to all men, then? He is certainly good to all, because He is the Savior of all men, especially of the faithful. And so the Lord Jesus came that He might save what was lost;1 He came, indeed, to take away the sin of the world,2 to heal our wounds. But not all men desire the remedy, and many avoid it; else the sore may be stung by the drugs and lose its virulence. For that reason, He heals those that arc willing and does not compel the unwilling. Therefore, those who desire the remedy regain their health. But those who resist the physician3 and do not seek him out, cannot perceive his goodness, for they do not experience it. Now one who is healed is also restored to health, and thus the physician is good to those whom he has restored to health. Accordingly, God is good to those whose sins He has forgiven . But if someone has a sin that is incurable from a sore on his spirit, how can he value the physician as good, when he is avoiding Him? And therefore, as I said earlier, the Apostle aptly explained that God, “who wishes all men to be saved,”4 is good to all men. And the special favor of God’s goodness is reserved most of all for the faithful, who receive the assistance of His good will and of His grace. But also, when the psalmist said, "How good is God to Israel, to them that are right in heart" he conveyed the sentiment of those who do not know how to entertain any other opinion concerning God, except that He is good toward all things and is in all. Ambrose, “The Prayer of Job and David,” in Seven Exegetical Works, trans. Michael P. McHugh (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1972), 371-372.[Underlining mine; footnote values modified; footnote content original.]

1Cf. Luke 19.10.
2Cf. John 1.29 .
3The motif of Christ as physician occurs very frequently in Ambrose. For a listing of the relevant passages, see Gryson 287 n. 157, and add the passing reference to the good physician in The Prayer of Job and David 2.3.10, above. Studies have been done on this theme as it appears, most notably, in Augustine, but none as yet on its use by Ambrose.
41 Tim. 2.4.

Sins of the people:

1) 85. Let us see what follows: “For He did not indeed [straightway] put on Him the nature of angels, but that of Abraham’s seed. And thus was He able to be made like to His brethren in all things throughout, that He might become a compassionate and faithful Prince, a Priest unto God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people; for in that He Himself suffered He is able also to help them that are tempted. Wherefore, brethren most holy, ye who have each his share in a heavenly calling, look upon the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus, regard His faithfulness to His Creator, even as Moses was in his house.” These, then, are the Apostle’s words.

86. You see what it is in respect whereof the writer calls Him created: “In so far as He took upon Him the seed of Abraham;” plainly asserting the begetting of a body. How, indeed, but in His body did He expiate the sins of the people? In what did He suffer, save in His body–even as we said above: “Christ having suffered in the flesh”? In what is He a priest, save in that which He took to Himself from the priestly nation? Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:255-256

Christ died for all:

1) 19. So we see how grave a matter it is to deprive another, with whom we ought rather to suffer, of anything, or to act unfairly or injuriously towards one to whom we ought to give a share in our services. This is a true law of nature, which binds us to show all kindly feeling, so that we should all of us in turn help one another, as parts of one body, and should never think of depriving another of anything, seeing it is against the law of nature even to abstain from giving help. We are born in such a way that limb combines with limb, and one works with another, and all assist each other in mutual service. But if one fails in its duty, the rest are hindered. If, for instance, the hand tears out the eye, has it not hindered the use of its work? If it were to wound the foot, how many actions would it not prevent? But how much worse is it for the whole man to be drawn aside from his duty than for one of the members only! If the whole body is injured in one member, so also is the whole community of the human race disturbed in one man. The nature of mankind is injured, as also is the society of the holy Church, which rises into one united body, bound together in oneness of faith and love. Christ the Lord, also, who died for all, will grieve that the price of His blood was paid in vain. Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:70.

Redemption of the people:

1) 4. Then the man, instructed and foreknowing what was to be, observes the heavenly mysteries, and therefore, according to the warning, slew the bullock destined by his father to idols, and himself offered to God another bullock seven years old. By doing which he most plainly showed that after the coming of the Lord all Gentile sacrifices should be done away, and that only the sacrifice of the Lord’s passion should be offered for the redemption of the people. For that bullock was, in a type, Christ, in Whom, as Esaias said, dwelt the fulness of the seven gifts of the Spirit. This bullock Abraham also offered when he saw the day of the Lord and was glad. He it is Who was offered at one time in the type of a kid, at another in that of a sheep, at another in that of a bullock. Of a kid, because He is a sacrifice for sin; of a sheep, because He is an unresisting victim; of a bullock, because He is a victim without blemish. Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:93-94.

Redemption of Creation:

1) [chapter title:] Solomon’s words, “The Lord created Me,” etc., mean that Christ’s Incarnation was done for the redemption of the Father’s creation, as is shown by the Son’s own words. That He is the “beginning” may be understood from the visible proofs of His virtuousness, and it is shown how the Lord opened the ways of all virtues, and was their true beginning.  Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:249.

Redeemer of the world:

1) 86. For it is of the Lord to fill all things, Who says: “I fill heaven and earth.” If, then, it is the Lord Who fills heaven and earth, Who can judge the Holy Spirit to be without a share in the dominion and divine power, seeing that He has filled the world, and what is beyond the whole world, filled Jesus the Redeemer of the whole world? For it is written: “But Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, departed from Jordan.” Who, then, except one who possessed the same fulness could fill Him Who fills all things? Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:104.

2) 13. You hear that our fathers were under the cloud, and that a kindly cloud, which cooled the heat of carnal passions. That kindly cloud overshadows those whom the Holy Spirit visits. At last it came upon the Virgin Mary, and the Power of the Highest overshadowed her, when she conceived Redemption for the race of men. And that miracle was wrought in a figure through Moses. If, then, the Spirit was in the figure, is He not present in the reality, since Scripture says to us: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:318-319.

Universal redemption:

1) 230. In our writings this is put somewhat more plainly. For David says: “The Lord reigns, He is clothed with splendor.” And the Apostle says: “Walk honestly as in the day.” The Greek text has ευσχημoνως–and this really means: with good clothing, with a good appearance. When God made the first man, He created him with a good figure, with limbs well set, and gave him a very noble appearance. He had not given him remission of sins. But afterwards He, Who came in the form of a servant, and in the likeness of man, renewed him with His Spirit, and poured His grace into his heart, and put on Himself the splendor of the redemption of the human race. Therefore the Prophet said: “The Lord reigns, He is clothed with splendor.” And again he says: “A hymn beseems Thee, O God, in Sion.”324 That is: It is right and good to fear Thee, to love Thee, to pray to Thee, to honor Thee, for it is written: “Let all things be done decently and in order.” But we can also fear, love, ask, honor men; yet the hymn especially is addressed to God. This seemliness which we offer to God we may believe to be far better than other things. It befits also a woman to pray in an orderly dress, but it especially beseems her to pray covered, and to pray giving promise of purity together with a good conversation. Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:37-38.

2) 16. There is also a certain water which we put into the basin of our soul, water from the fleece and from the Book of Judges; water, too, from the Book of Psalms. It is the water of the message from heaven. Let, then, this water, O Lord Jesus, come into my soul, into my flesh, that through the moisture of this rain809 the valleys of our minds and the fields of our hearts may grow green. May the drops from Thee come upon me, shedding forth grace and immortality. Wash the steps of my mind that I may not sin again. Wash the heel810 of my soul, that I may be able to efface the curse, that I feel not the serpent’s bite on the foot of my soul, but, as Thou Thyself hast bidden those who follow Thee, may tread on serpents and scorpions with uninjured foot. Thou hast redeemed the world, redeem the soul of a single sinner. Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:95.

3) 17. This is the special excellence of Thy loving-kindness, wherewith Thou hast redeemed the whole world one by one. Elijah was sent to one widow; Elisha cleansed one; Thou, O Lord Jesus, hast at this day cleansed a thousand. How many in the city of Rome, how many at Alexandria, how many at Antioch, how many also at Constantinople! For even Constantinople has received the word of God, and has received evident proofs of Thy judgment. For so long as she cherished the Arians’ poison in her bosom, disquieted by neighbouring wars, she echoed with hostile arms around. Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:96.

4) 46. Why should more be said? By the death of One the world was redeemed. For Christ, had He willed, need not have died, but He neither thought that death should be shunned as though there were any cowardice in it, nor could He have saved us better than by dying. And so His death is the life of all. We are signed with the sign of His death, we show forth His death when we pray; when we offer the Sacrifice we declare His death, for His death is victory, His death is our mystery, His death is the yearly recurring solemnity of the world. What now should we say concerning His death, since we prove by this Divine Example that death alone found immortality, and that death itself redeemed itself. Death, then, is not to be mourned over, for it is the cause of salvation for all; death is not to be shunned, for the Son of God did not think it unworthy of Him, and did not shun it. The order of nature is not to be loosed, for what is common to all cannot admit of exception in individuals. Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:18-181.

5) [Chapter title:] We are told that Christ was only “made” so far as regards the flesh. For the redemption of mankind He needed no means of aid, even as He needed none in order to His Resurrection, whereas others, in order to raise the dead, had need of recourse to prayer. Even when Christ prayed, the prayer was offered by Him in His capacity as human; whilst He must be accounted divine from the fact that He commanded (that such and such things should be done). On this point the devil’s testimony is truer than the Arians’ arguments. The discussion concludes with an explanation of the reason why the title of “mighty” is given to the Son of Man. Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:246.

6) 104. And so He needed no helper. For He needed none when He made the world, so as to need none when He would redeem it. No legate, no messenger, but the Lord Himself made it whole. “He spake and it was done.” The Lord Himself made it whole, Himself in every part, because all things were by Him. For who should help Him in Whom all things were created and by Whom all things consist?1611 Who should help Him Who makes all things in a moment, and raises the dead at the last trump? The “last,” not as though He could not raise them at the first, or the second, or the third, but an order is observed, not that a difficulty may be at last overcome, but that the prescribed number be accomplished. Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:191.

7) 127. A harlot saw this; and she who in the destruction of the city lost all hope of any means of safety, because her faith had conquered, bound a scarlet thread in her window, and thus uplifted a sign of her faith and the banner of the Lord’s Passion; so that the semblance of the mystic blood, which should redeem the world, might be in memory. So, without, the name of Joshua was a sign of victory to those who fought; within, the semblance of the Lord’s Passion was a sign of salvation to those in danger. Wherefore, because Rahab understood the heavenly mystery, the Lord says in the Psalm: “I will be mindful of Rahab and Babylon that know Me.” Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:300.

8) 17. Thou, Lord Jesus, hast redeemed the world in one moment of time: shall Auxentius in one moment slay, as far as he can, so many peoples, some by the sword, others by sacrilege? He seeks my basilica with bloody lips and gory hands. Him to-day’s chapter answers well: “But unto the wicked said God: Wherefore dost thou declare My righteousness?”3483 That is, there is no union between peace and madness, there is no union between Christ and Belial. You remember also that we read to-day of Naboth, a holy man who owned his own vineyard, being urged on the king’s request to give it up. When the king after rooting up the vines intended to plant common herbs, he answered him: “God forbid that I should give up the inheritance of my fathers.”3485 The king was grieved, because what belonged by right to another had been refused him on fair grounds, but had been unfairly got by a woman’s device. Naboth defended his vines with his own blood. And if he did not give up his vineyard, shall we give up the Church of Christ?  Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:431-433.

9) 110. Nor was Mary below what was becoming the mother of Christ. When the apostles fled, she stood at the Cross, and with pious eyes beheld her Son’s wounds, for she did not look for the death of her Offspring, but the salvation of the world. Or perchance, because that “royal hall” knew that the redemption of the world would be through the death of her Son, she thought that by her death also she might add something to the public weal. But Jesus did not need a helper for the redemption of all, Who saved all without a helper. Wherefore also He says: “I am become like a man without help, free among the dead.” He received indeed the affection of His mother, but sought not another’s help. Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:473.

10) Moreover, the dying of Christ is the forgiveness of sins, the abolition of faults; the forgetting of error, the taking on of grace. What more can I say about the good which is death, except that it is death which has redeemed the world? Ambrose, “Death as a Good,” in Seven Exegetical Works, trans. Michael P. McHugh (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1972), 82. [Underlining mine.]

Universal Reconciliation:

1) This Melchizedek, then, have we received as a priest of God made upon the model of Christ, but the one we regard as the type, the other as the original. Now a type is a shadow of the truth, and we have accepted the royalty of the one in the name of a single city, but that of the other as shown in the reconciliation of the whole world; for it is written: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself;”(3) that is to say, [in Christ was] eternal Godhead: or, if the Father is in the Son, even as the Son is in the Father, then Their unity in both nature(4) and operation is plainly not denied.  Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:255.

Of general interest:

John 3:16:

1) 128. Nor do we read only of the peace and grace of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but also, faithful Emperor, of the love and communion. For of love it has been said: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God.”[5]  We have heard of the love of the Father. The same love which is the Father’s is also the Son’s. For He Himself said: “He that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him,”[6] And what is the love of the Son, but that He offered Himself for us, and redeemed us with His own blood.[7] But the same love is in the Father, for it is written: “God so loved the world, that He gave His Only-begotten Son.”  St. Ambrose, On the Holy Spirit, To the Emporer Gratian, Book I, Chapt XII Sect 128.

129. So, then, the Father gave the Son, and the Son gave Himself. Love is preserved and due affection is not wronged, for affection is not wronged where there is no distress in the giving up. He gave one Who was willing, He gave One Who offered Himself, the Father did not give the Son to punishment but to grace. If you enquire into the merit of the deed, enquire into the description of the affection. The vessel of election shows plainly the unity of this divine love, because both the Father gave the Son and the Son gave Himself. The Father gave, Who “spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us all.”[1] And of the Son he also says: “Who gave Himself for me.”[2] “Gave Himself,” he says. If it be of grace, what do I find fault with. If it be that He suffered wrong, I owe the more. Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:110.


1) 1. IF 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. Ambrose, “Select Works and Letters,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 10:329.

[Some spelling modernized, underlining mine.]

credit to Joshua

This entry was posted on Sunday, June 15th, 2008 at 7:05 am and is filed under For Whom did Christ Die?. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One comment


I have extensively updated the Ambrose file. I have retained the original, but included a lot more. Btw, new URL too.

June 15th, 2009 at 2:50 pm

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