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387

AMBROSE 387 AMBROSE nor liking for philosophico-dogniatic speculations. In all iiis writings he follows some practical purpose, ileiice lie is often content to reproduce what has been already treatc<l, to turn over for another harvest a field already worked. He often draws abundantly from the ideas of some earlier writer, Christian or pagan, but adapts these thoughts with tact and in- teliipence to the larger public of his time and his people. In formal |>erfection his writings leave some- thing to be desired; a fact that need not surprise us vvlien we recall the demands on the time of such a busy man. His diction abounds in unconscious reminiscences of classical writers, Greek and Roman. He is especiidly conversant with the writings of Ver- fil. His style is in every way peculiar and personal, t is never wanting in a certain dignified reserve; when it appears more carefully studied than is usual with him, its characteristics are energetic brevity and bold originaUty. Those of his writings that are homiletic in origin and form betray naturally the great oratorical gifts of .mbrose; in them he rises occasionally to a noble height of poetical inspiration. His hymns are a suflicient evidence of the sure ma.s- tery that he possessed over the Latin language." (Hardcnhewer, Les o^res de lY-glise, Paris, 1898, 73(i-7;57; cf. Pruner, Die Theologie des heil. Ain- bro.sius, Eichstadt, 18G1.) For convenience sake his extant writings may be divided into four classes: exegetical, dogmatic, a.scetico-moral, and occasional. The excgctic;vl writings, or scripture-commentaries deal witli the story of Creation, the Old Testament figures of ('ain and .Vbel, Noe, .Vbrahanj and the patrianhs. IMias, Tobias, David and the Psalms, and otlicr ,sul)jocts. Of his discourses on the New Testa- ment only the lengthy commentary on St. Luke has reached us (Expositio in Lucam). He is not the au- thor of the admirable commentary on the thirteen Epistles of St. Paul known as " Ambrosiaster". Alto- gether these Scripture commentaries make up more than one half of the writings of .mbrosc. He de- liglits in the allegorico-mystical interpretation of Scripture, i. e. while admitting the natural or literal sense he .seeks everj'vvhere a deeper mystic meaning that he converts into practical instruction for Chris- tian life. In this, says St. Jerome (Kp. xli) "he was a disciple of Origen, but after the modifications in that master's manner due to St. Hippolytus of Rome and St. H.a.sil the (ireat". He was also influenced in this direction by the Jewish writer Philo to such an extent that the mucli corrupteil text of the latter can often be successfully corrected from the echoes and reminiscences met with in the works of .mbro.se. It is to be noted, however, that in his use of non- Christian writers the great Doctor never abandons a strictly Christian attitude (cf. Kellner, Der heilige Ambrosius als Erkliirer des Alten Testaraentes, Ratisbon, 189.3). The most influential of his ascetico-mor.al writings is the work on the duties of Christian ecclesiastics (De odiciis niinistrorum). It is a manual of Chris- tian morality, and in its order and disposition follows closely the homonymous work of Cicero. "Never- theless", .says Dr. Hardenhewer, "the antithesis between the philosophical morality of the pagan and the morality of the Christian ecclesiastic is acute and striking. In liis exhortations, particdarly, Ambro.-ie betrays an irresistible spiritual power" (cf. R. Thamin, Saint .mbroise ct la morale chr(5- tienne au miatriOme siecle, Paris, 189.")). He wrote several works on virginity, or rather published a number of his discourses on that virtue, the most im- portant of which is the treatise "On Virgins" ad- ilresscd to his sister Marcellina, herself a virgin con- secrated to the divine service. St. Jerome .says (Ep. xxii) that he w.as the most eloquent and exhaustive of all the exponents of virginity, and this juilgment expresses yet the opinion of the Church. The gen- I.— 25 uineness of the touching little work "On the Fail of a Consecrated Virgin (De lapsu virginis conse- crataO has been called in question, but without suf- ficient rea.son. Dom Cierniain Morin maintains that it is a real homily of .Vmbrose, but like so many more of his so-called " books", owes its actual form tc some one of his auditors. His dogmatic writings deal mostly with the divinity of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Ghost, also with the Christian sacraments. ,t the request of the young Emperor Gratian (375- 3S3) he c()m[)osed a defence of the true divinity of Jesus Clirist against the .rians, and another on the true divinity of the Holy Ghost against the .Mace- donians; also a work on the Incarnation of Our Lord. His work "On Penance" was written in refutation of the rigoristic tenets of the Novatians an<l abounds in useful evidences of the power of the Church to forgive sins, the necessity of confession and the meritorious character of good works. A special work on Baptism (De Sacramento regenerationis), often (pioted by St. Augustine, has perished. We possess yet, however, his excellent treatise (De Mys- teriis) on Baptism, Confirmation, and the Blessed Eu- charist (P. L., XVI, -4 17-lGl.'), addre.s.sed to the newly- baptized. Its genuineness has been called in doubt by opponents of Catholic teaching concerning the Eucharist, but without any good reason. It is highly probable that the work on the sacraments (De Sacramentis, ibid.) is identical with the preced- ing work; only, says Bardenhewer, "indiscreetly pubhshed by some hearer of Ambrose". Its ei- dences to the sacrificial character of the Mass, and to the antiquity of the Roman Canon of the Mass are too well known to need more than a mention; some of them may easily be seen in any edition of the Roman Breviary (cf. Probst, Die Liturgic des vierten Jahrhunderts und deren Reform, Milnster, 1893, 232-239). The correspondence of .Ambrose includes but a few confidential or personal letters; most of his letters are oflicial notes, memorials on public affairs, reports of councils held, and the like. Their his- torical value is, however, of the first order, and they exhibit him as a Roman ailministrator and statesman second to none in Church or State. If his personal letters are unimportant, his remaining discourscsare of a very high order. His work on the death (378) of his brother Satyrus (De excessu fratris sui Satyri) contains his funeral sermon on this brother, one of the earliest of Christian panegj-rics and a model of the con.solatory discourses that were henceforth to take the place of the cold and inept declamations of the Stoics. His funeral discourses on Valentinian II (392), and Theodosius the Great (39.3) are considered models of rhetorical composition; (cf. Villem.ain, De IV'loquence chrC'ticnne. Paris, ed. 1S9I); they are also nistorical documents of much importance. Such, also, are his discourse against the Arian intru- der, Auxentius (Contra Auxentium de basilicis tra- dendis) and his two discourses on the finding of the bodies of the Milanese martjTS Ger'asius and Protasius. Not a few works have been falsely attributed to St. Ambrose; most of them are found in the Benedic- tine edition of his WTitings (reprinted in Migne) and are di.scussed in the manuals of patrologj- (e. g. Bar- denhewer). Some of his genuine works appear to have been lost, e. g. the already mentioned work on baptism. St. Augustine (Ep. 31. 8) is loud in his praise of a (now lost) work of Ambrose written against those who as.sertoa an intellectual dependency of Je.sus Christ on Plato. It is not improbalilc lliat he is really the author of the Latin translation and para- phra.se of Josephus (De Brllo Judaico). known in the Middle Ages as Hegesippus or Egcsippus, a dis- tortion of the Greek name of the origmal author (' I (JcrrjTro!) . Monimsen denies (1890) his authorship of the famous Roman law text known as the " Lex