St Ambrose of Milan
(Commemorated 7th December)
St Ambrose of Milan was a profoundly inspiring Bishop who was well loved by the people of Milan and by the Byzantine emperors who sought his guidance. He was born in 340AD at Trier and became well-educated, having learnt both Greek and Latin. He was appointed Governor of Milan and ruled with the Christian virtues of love and fair justice, being attributes with which he was raised. He was so loved that he was elected as Bishop by the people of Milan, and was not baptised until after his election! As Bishop St Ambrose wrote prolifically and delivered sermons, letters, hymns, epigrams and other titles in which he covered a range of areas: exegetical, dogmatic, moral, and ascetic. His eloquence, sincerity and way of life won over many, including St Augustine, whom he baptised.
When Emperor Theodosius ignored St Ambrose’s advice and massacred 7,000 Thessalonians for rioting against his soldiers, St Ambrose encouraged the Emperor to repent, stating, “You have met temptation – conquer it. Sin is not removed except by tears and penance. No angel or archangel can remove it; it is God Himself who alone can say: ‘I am with you’; if we have sinned, He does not forgive us unless we do penance. I urge, I ask, I beg, I warn, for my grief is that you, who were a model of unheard-of piety, who had reached the apex of clemency, who would not allow the guilty to be in peril, are not now mourning that so many guiltless have perished.” In response, Emperor Theodosius publicly submitted to penance, presenting himself in the cathedral of Milan bare-headed and dressed in a sackcloth to acknowledge his misdeeds and humbly beg forgiveness. St Ambrose’s many revealing and spiritually uplifting writings are a testament to the hard work of this devoted missionary of God. His Orthodox life and way of thinking is an example and inspiration to all Christians.
Source: Lychnos December 2018 / January 2019