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Christian Saints

St. Ambrose


        St. Ambrose (339-397 A.D.), one of the Four Doctors of the Western Church (the others are St. Augustine, St. Gregory the Great and St. Jerome), was born in Trier; his father was a Prefect of Gaul. In 370 he became governor of Aemilia and Liguria at Milan. In 373 Ambrose was named Bishop of Milan, the capital at the time of Western Empire. Legend says that while he was speaking at the assembly that was to elect a new bishop, a child cried out “Ambrose, be our bishop!” and Ambrose was elected despite his own protests - he was not even baptized at the time. But Ambrose took the choice of the people very seriously: he was baptized within a week and took private lessons to study the Scriptures and theological writings of the time, and became a prominent protagonist of Christianity in the West.
As Milan was the administrative capital of the Western Empire, Ambrose gradually became an influential politician -
he imposed his authority even on the great Theodosius himself.
His principal works are on the Sacraments and on the Office of Ministers, catechetical instructions and the Commentary on Luke's Gospel. He was also active in preserving the cultural inheritance of antiquity, encouraging monasticism and the cults of the martyrs.
In art Ambrose is depicted in episcopal vestments, carrying a mitre and crozier; often he has the following symbols: a beehive (Legend recounts how bees deposited the honey of theological knowledge on his lips while he slept in his cradle), a book, a three-tailed whip, and St. Luke's ox (allusion to his Commentaries on St. Luke's Gospel).
Feastday: 7 December.

Recommended reading:
The Book of Saints: The Lives of the Saints According to the Liturgical Calendar by George Angelini, Victor Hoagland (Editor). Regina Press, Malhame & Company, 1986.
Ambrose: Church and State in the Late Roman World by John Moorhead. Longman, 1999.
Ambrose of Milan: Church and Court in a Christian Capital (The Transformation of the Classical Heritage, No 22) by Neil B. McLynn. University of California Press, 1994.
Church and State in the Teaching of Saint Ambrose by M. Joseph Costelloe (Translator). Catholic Univ of Amer Pr, 1969.

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