Ambrose (2)

Ambrose bishop of Milan, was born about 340, at Treves (Augusta Trevirorum), where his father resided as prefect of the Praetorium, among the Gauls. It is said that while he was yet an infant a swarm of bees settled upon his mouth, which his father interpreted as a portent of future greatness. After his father's death his mother took him to Rome, where he received the education of an advocate under Anicius Probus and Symmachus. For some time he pleaded at the bar, and his success, together with his family influence, led to his appointment (about A.D. 370) as consular prefect of Liguria and Emilia, a tract of Northern Italy which extended, as near as can be ascertained, to Bologna. It is said that Anicius Probus, the prefect, when he sent him to his government, did so in these remarkable words, which may well be called prophetic, "Go, then, and act, not as a judge, but as a bishop." Ambrose made Milan his residence; and when Auxentius the bishop died, the people of Milan assembled to elect a successor. This the cruel divisions made in, the Church by the Arian heresy rendered no easy matter; and the contest was carried on between Catholics and Arians with such violence that Ambrose was obliged to proceed himself to the church to exhort the people to make their election quietly and in order. At the close of his speech the whole assembly, Arians and Catholics, with one voice demanded him for their bishop. Believing himself to be unworthy of so high and responsible an office, he tried all means in his power to evade their call, but n vain, and he was at last constrained to yield (A.D. 374). He was yet only a catechumen; he had then to be baptized, and on the eighth day after he was consecrated bishop. He devoted himself to his work with unexampled zeal; gave all his property to the Church and poor, and adopted an ascetic mode of life. He opposed the Arians from the very beginning of his episcopacy, and soon acquired great influence both with the people and the Emperor Valentinian. In 382 he presided at an episcopal synod in Aquileia (summoned by the Emperor Gratian), at which the Arian bishops Palladius and Secundianus were deposed. In 385 he had a severe conflict with Justina (mother of Valentinian II), who demanded the use of at least one church for the Arians; but the people sided with Ambrose, and Justina desisted. In the year 390 he excommunicated the Emperor Theodosius for the massacre at Thessalonica, and did not absolve him till after a penance of eight months and a public humiliation. Ambrose was the principal instructor of Augustine in the Christian faiths He died at Milan, April-4, 397, and is commemorated in the Roman Church as a saint Dec. 7. His writings abound in moral lessons, plentifully interspersed with exhortations to celibacy and the other superstitions of the day. It is also recorded that he performed many astonishing miracles — stories that throw disgrace on an elevated character, which really needed not the aid of imposture to secure respect or even popularity. He has deserved from succeeding generations the equivocal praise that he was the first effectual assertor of those exalted ecclesiastical pretensions so essential to the existence of the Romish system, and so dear to the ambitious ministers of every Church. His services to church music were very great; he was the father of "hymnology" in the Western Church. The writings of the early fathers concur in recording the employment of music as a part of public worship, although no regular ritual was in existence to determine its precise form and use. This appears to have been first supplied by Ambrosius, who instituted that method of singing known by the name of the "cantus Ambrosianus," which is said to have had a reference to the modes of the ancients, especially to that of Ptolemaeus. This is rather matter of conjecture than certainty, although the Eastern origin of Christianity and the practice of the Greek fathers render the supposition probable. The effect of the Ambrosian chant is described in glowing terms by those who heard it in the cathedral of Milan. "The voices," says Augustine, "flowed in at my ears, truth was distilled into my heart, and the affection of piety overflowed in sweet tears of joy." Whether any genuine relics of the music thus described exist at the present time is exceedingly doubtful; the style of singing it may, however, have been preserved; and this is still said to be applied at Milan to compositions of a date comparatively recent (Biog. Dict. Soc. Useful Knowledge). His writings are more numerous than valuable. Ten of the many hymns which are ascribed to him are generally admitted to be genuine, but it is doubtful whether the Ambrosian Hymn or the Te Deum is by him. The best edition of his complete works has been published by the Benedictines under the title, Opera, ad manuscriptos codices Vaticanos, Gallicanos, Belgicos, etc., ad editiones veteres emendata, studio monachorum ordinis Benedicti (Par. 1686-90, 2 vols. fol.; also reprinted without the Indexes, Paris, 1836, 4 vols. large 8vo). The Appendix contains three lives of Ambrose. His writings are arranged as follows in the edition of 1686, 2 vols.: Vol. I contains Hexoemeron, lib. 3; De Paradise; De Cain et Abel; De Noe et Arca; De Abraham; De Isaac et Anima; De Bono Mortis; De Fuga

Soeculi; De Jacob et Vita beata; De Josepho Patriarcha; De Benedictionibus Patriarcharum; De Elia et Jejunio; De Nabuthe Israelita; De Tobia; De Interpollatione Job et David; Apologia Prophetae David; Enarrationes in Psalmos1:35-40, 43i, 45, 47, 48, 49; Expositia in Psalmum 118; Expositio in Lucam. Vol. II contains De Officiis Ministrorum; De Virginibus; De Viduis; De Virginitate; De Institutione Virginis; Exhortatio Virginitatis De Lapsu Virginis; De Mysteriis; De Sacramentis; De Ponitentia; De Fide; De Spiritu Sancto; De Incarnationis Dominicae Sacramento; Frag. A mbrosianum ex Theodoreto desumptum; Epistolae; De excessu Fratris sui Satyri; De Obitu Valentiniani Consolatio; De Obitu Theodosii Oratio; Hymni aliquot Ambrosiani. — Waddington, Ch. Hist. ch. 4; Heinze, Beschr. d. Bucher d. Ambrosius "de officiis" (Weimar, 1790); Michelsen, De Ambrosio fidei vindice (Hann. 1825); Bohringer, Kirche Christi, 1, 3, 1-98.

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