AMBROSE 385 AMBROSE says St. Augustine, "who speak the truth, and speak it well, judiciously, pointedly, and with beauty and power of expression" (De doct. christ., iv, 21). His Daily Likk. — Through the door of his cham- ber, wide open the livelong day, and crossed un- announced by all, of whatever estate, who had any sort of busines-s with him, we catch a clear glimpse of his daily life. In the promiscuous throng of his visitors, the high olhcial who seeks his advice upon some weighty affair of state is elbowed by some anxious questioner who wishes to have his doubts removed, or some repentant sinner who comes to make a secret confession of his offences, certain that the Saint "would reveal his sins to none but Clod alone" (Paulinus, Vita, xxxix). lie ate but spar- ingly, dining only on Saturdays and Sundays, and festivals of the more celebrated martyrs. His long nocturnal vigils were sf>ent in prayer, in attending to his vast correspondence, and m penning down the thoughts that had occurred to him during the day in his oft-interrupted readings. His indefatigable industry and methodical habits explain how so busy a man found time to compose so many valuable books. Every day, he tells us, he offered up the Holy Sacrifice for his people (pro quibus ego nuolidie inslaiiro !<acri ficium ) . Every Sunday his eloquent discourses drew immense crowds to the Basilica. One favourite topic of his was the excellence of virginity, and so successful was he in persuading maidens to adopt the religious profession that many a mother refused to permit her daughters to listen to his worfls. The saint was forced to refute the charge that he was depopulating the empire, by quaintly appealing to the young men as to whether any of them experienced any dilliculty in finding wives. He contends, and the experience of ages sustains his contention (Dc Virg. , vii) that the popu- lation increases in direct proportion to the esteem in which virginity is held. llis sermons, as was to be expected, were intensely practical, replete with pithy rules of conduct which have remained as nousehold words among Christians. In his method of biblical interpretation all the personages of Holy Writ, from Adam down, stand out before the people as living beings, bearing each his distinct message from God for the instruction of the present genera- tion. He did not write his sermons, but spoke them from the abundance of his heart; and from notes taken during their delivery he compiled almost all the treatises of his that are e.xtant. Ambrose and the .-Vrians. — It was but natural that a prelate so high-minded, so affable, so kind to the poor, so completely devoting his great gifts to the service of Christ and of humanity, should soon win the enthusiastic love of his people. Rarely, if ever, has a Christian bishop Ijccn so universally popular, in the Ix'st sense of tliat much abused term, as Ambrose of Milan. This popularity, conjoined with his intrepidity, was the secret of his success in routing enthroned iniquity. The heretical Em- press Justina and her barbarian advisers would many a time fain have silenced him by exile or assassination, but, like Herod in the case of the Baptist, they "feared the multitude". His heroic struggles against the aggressions of the .secular power have immortalized him as the model and forerunner of future Hlldebrands, Iteckets, and other cham- pions of religious liberty. The elder Valentinian died suddenly in .'J7.5, the year following the conse- cration of .-Vnibrose, leaving his Arian brother Valens to scourge the East, and his oldest son, Grjitian, to rule the provinces formerly presided oer by Ambrosius, with no provision for the goernment of Italy. The armv seized the reins and proclaimed em- peror the son of Valentinian by his second wife. Jus- tina, a boy four years old. Gratian good-naturedly acquiesced, and assigned to his half-brother the sovereignty of Italy, Illyricum, and Africa. Justina had prudently concealed her Arian views during the lifetime of her ortliodo.x husband, but now, al^etted by a powerful and mainly (Jothic faction at court, proclaimed her determination to rear her child in that heresy, and once more attempt to Arianize the West. This of necessity brought her into direct collision with the Bishop of Milan, who had quenched the last embers of Arianism in his diocese. That heresy had never been popular among the common people; it owed its artificial vitality to the intrigues of courtiers and sovereigns. As a preliminary to the impending contest, Ambrose, at the re<iuest of Gratian, who was about to lead an army to the relief of V'alens, and wished to have at hand an antidote against tJriental sophist rv, wrote his noble work, "be Tide ad Gratianum Augustum ", afterwards ex- panded, and extant in five books. The first passage at arms between Ambrose and the Empress was on the occasion of an episcopal election at Sirmium, the capital of Illyricum, and at the time the resi- dence of Justina. Notwithstanding her efforts, Am- brose was successful in securing the election of a Catholic bishop. He followed up this victory by procuring, at the Council of Aquileia (381), over which ho presided, the deposition of the only remain- ing Arianizing prelates of the West. Palladius and Secundianiis, Ixitli Illyrians. The battle royal be- tween Ambrose and the Empress, in the years :i.S.5, 386, has been grai)hi(ally described by Cardinal New- man in his "Historical Sketches". The question at issue was the surrender of one of the basilicas to the Arians for public worship. Throughout the long struggle .mbroso displayed in an eminent degree all the qualities of a great leader. His intrepidity in the moments of personal danger was equalled only by his admirable moderation; for, at certain critical stages of the drama one word from him would have hurled the Empress and her son from their throne. That word was never sfioken. An enduring result of this great struggle with despotism Wiis the rapid development during its course of the ecclesiastical chant, of which Ambrose laid the foundation. Vn- able to overcome the fortitude of the Bishop and the spirit of the people, the court finally desisted from its efforts. Ere long it was forced to call upon Ambrose to exert hini.self to save the imperilled throne. Already he had lx?en sent on an embassy to the court of the usurper, Maximus, who in the year 383 had defeated and slain Gratian, and now ruled in his place. Largely through his efforts an understanding liad l>een roa(he<l between .Maximus and Theodosius, whom Gratian had ap|X)inted to rule the East. It provided that Maximus should content himself with his present possessions and respect the territorj' of Valentinian II. Three years later Maximus deter- mined to cross the Alps. The tyrant received .m- broso unfaourablv and, on the pica, verj- honourable to the Saint, that he refused to hold communion with the bishops who had compassed the death of I'ris- cillian (the first instance of capital punishment in- flicted for heresy by a Christian prince) drsmis.-ied him summarily from his court. Shortly after. Maximus invaded Italy. Valentinian and his molhei fled to Theodosius, who took up their cause, defeated the usurper, and put him to death. At this time Justina died, and Valentinian, by the advice of Theodosius, abjured Arianism and placed him.«elf under the guidance of Ambrose, to whom he became sincerely attached. It was during the prolonged stay of TheodosiiLS in the West that one of the most remarkable epi.sodes in the history of the Church took place: the public penance inflicted by the Bi.shop and submitted to by the Emperor. The long- received storj', .set afoot by the distant Theodoret, which extols the Saint's firmness at the expense
Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/427
This page needs to be proofread.