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Ambrose Bishops And Spirituality Notes

History Notes > Augustine and the Last Days of Rome: 370-450 Notes

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Ambrose, Bishops and Spiritual Power Background information on Ambrose??????Born to a Christian senatorial family in Rome. Ambrose has a liberal education. Father was praetorian prefect in Gaul Worked as a assessor (legal advisor) to Petronius Probus. In 373-3, Ambrose was appointed consularis of Piedmont and Lombardy. Arianism in the Roman Empire By 370, Arianism still divided the empire o Auxentius was bishop in Milan for almost 20 years 374 o Ambrose is appointed bishop to raucous reception. Justina and Valentinian Controversy (386) Do they just want to get rid of Ambrose?
o In 383
? Ambrose was sent as envoy to Magnus Maximus (383) urging him not to invade Italy. 4 letters dealing with the controversy o Ep. 75
? To Valentinian II
? About being required to hold a debate with Auxentius, a Homoian bishop; Ambrose argues laymen and emperors have no legal right to adjudicate ? the issue should be judged by the people in Church.
? He has been asked to go into exile, and to hand over a basilica. o Ep. 75 A.
? Against Auxentius
? Delivered to a Milan basilica congregation, while it is surrounded by soldiers. Ambrose refuses to hand over the basilica to the Arians.
? Refers to law (23 January 386) threatening death to those preventing Homoian assembly.
? Reference made to an arbitration with Auxentius. o Ep. 76
? An open letter to his sister Marcellina
? Ambrose refuses to hand over the basilica or pacify the people.
? He refers to the edicts and an accusation that he is actually a 'usurper'; an accusation made against Ambrose of treason. Dating is key here Liebeschuetz o 1. January 386 edict o 2. Ep 75 a - gives this sermon first. o 3. Ep. 75 - sends this letter to Valentinian II o 4. Ep. 76 - refers to a different siege to the one in 75 and 75 a. Mclynn o Ep. 76 - composed first in Easter 386 o Ep. 75 & Ep. 75 A were composed afterwards.


Epistle 72: Ambrose to Valentinian II

Basic argument: if altar is restored to the senate chamber, it will incense Christian senators. Threatens that if restored, Valentinian will not find a bishop in the Milan church. Ambrose can be aggressive because he served as ambassador to the usurper Maximus, and perhaps saved his reign.?????????

'you serve almighty God and the holy faith' o It is your duty to prevent restoration of Altar to pagan deities and provide money for 'impious sacrifices'. (4) o Pagans who spilled our blood and massacred us ? now they want money and privileges
? i.e. exemption from the munera civila.
? Ambrose says these were used to trap Christians into practicing apostasy. (5) o Abolish the privileges!
(6) o Paganism is mere superstition and if Symmachus can show such zeal for superstition, than surely Valentinian can show zeal for the True Faith. (7) (8) o Do not let their [so-called Christians' meaningless words win over your mind'
? Clearly there are some Christians who are supporting the Altar coming back, maybe even opposed to Ambrose. o 'The whole Christian is at risk'.
? Makes clear Senate is composed by majority by Christians. (10) Reinstatement of Altar is an act of sacrilege. o The Christian senators are not comfortable with the reinstatement proposal. (11) Suggests Christian senators were present, but didn't vote because of reasons of conscience. (12) Reminds Valentinian that his embassy to Maximus persuaded him not to invade Italy in

382. (13) If you come to Church 'when you get there you will find no bishop, or you find one who will resist you'. (14) Your gifts on the Altar of Christ will be rejected. o How is it fair that the Vestal Virgins get privileges, while those 'consecrated to God lack your privileges'?
(15) o What would Gratian say?
? 'you've abolished my decrees: a far more painful weapon piercing my body'. (16) o What would Valentinian I say?

?(17) o

Apparently that he did not collaborate with pagans - nobody reported there was an Altar in the Roman senate house, nor should pagans offer sacrifice in council shared by Christians and pagans alike.

Ambrose says Valentinian would thus wrong God, his father and brother.
? 'Take the action, I beg you, that you know will advance your salvation with God'.

Epistle 73: Ambrose to Symmachus (384)???????

(2) Pagans may be 'reflecting a glitter of shining eloquence', they might give off a rich and grandiose sound, but they are ultimately defending irreligion. (3) On Hannibal o Symmachus argues that worshipping the gods prevented Hannibal from seizing Rome, o But didn't Hannibal worship the same gods, and get to the outskirts of Rome?
(7) Rome asks 'why do you stain me every day with the useless blood of harmless herds?' o In short,
? It is the strength of warriors and not the sacrifice of animals that made Rome great. (8) Destroys Symmachus' argument that 'so great a secret cannot be reached by a single truth'. o In reality, there is only one God and he is Truth and this is the only form of it. (11) The pagans 'never did us a...favour' when they ordered Christians to be butchered and killed. (13) Christians were denied the right to inherit from private individuals o Yet know, the pagan priests are incensed because they've missed their public food allowance. (14) Compare the two cases. o You want to c

Epistula 75A: Ambrose to his congregation, 'Against Auxentius'.??

(1) 'But you could have noticed the instructions that I sent back' o This is referring to his refusal to go into voluntary exile and not about the summons to debate in the consistory. (2) 'resistance I know nothing about. I shall be able to lament, to weep, to groan: when I face arms, soldiers, Goths, even my tears are weapons'. o

????????????(3) Again, Ambrose makes the point that in ecclesiastical matters, secular powers have no right to adjudicate. (4) 'The soldiers all around us, the clashing of weapons by which the church is hemmed in do not frighten my faith'. o Is this Ambrose's liberal education coming in here? Rhetorical, emotive language?
(5) Ambrose won't surrender 'anything from the temple of God, which I had received to keep safe'. (6) 'I know, brethren, that such wounds [tests of temptation from the Devil] which we receive for Christ, are no wounds, seeing that by them life is not destroyed, but extended.' The man who is 'not held back by the inclinations of the flesh' cannot fear death or any tests put before him. (7) 'For our Lord Jesus is omnipotent. That is what we believe'. o A reference to the Homoians who did not believe in the Trinity, claiming Jesus at one point did not exist and at any rate, he was subordinate to God. (8) 'The Saviour ordered that the foal of an ass should be brought to him by the apostles, and instructed them that if anybody objected they were to say: The Lord has need of it.'1 o If God wants Ambrose to be a martyr, he himself must be ready ? the congregation which has been protecting him should allow to go, just as the people approached for a foal by the apostles at Jerusalem were told to give it, because the Lord needed it. o Clearly,
? Ambrose is trying to make himself into a martyr. (10) 'Human vigilance is of no avail'. Know that a servant of Christ is not fortified by bodyguard but 'by the Providence of the Lord'. After all o Didn't a blind man open the doors of the basilica, making a 'mockery of your watch'? And yet, we were all still protected. (11) (12) 'Let the apostle Peter also provide an example of each situation'. o Ambrose refers back to his notion that God may either demand or postpone martyrdom. (13) Peter o Wanted to take martyrdom eagerly, but waited until Christ appeared before him. (14) In short, it is not up to the material forces of Milan when Ambrose will be martyred, but up to the Lord's will. (15)

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?????????Ambrose is going to the martyrs tombs and even the imperial residence, without being hurt. o They might ask him to leave
? Indeed, one Euthymius is waiting to grab him ('prepared a carriage for me') (16) Ambrose says he's not afraid o Everywhere they're after him thanks to Auxentius' 'evil' plans.
? Be careful, the only law this can realistically be is that of 16.1.4 - the death penalty for those who prevented Homoian worship. (17) Auxentius will destroy 'many peoples as are within his power, some by the sword, and others by sacrilege'. o He asks for the basilica, but as a sinner, he has no right to invoke God's law. o Naboth
? Refused to hand over his vineyard when asked by a King driven by a woman's trick.
? The parallel is interesting - is this Justina?
(18) If Naboth wouldn't hand over the vineyard, who is Ambrose to hand over the inheritance of Christ?
'let the emperor act as is proper for an emperor. It is better that he should take away my life than my faith'. o Notion that spiritual law is greater than material considerations passed by the emperor. o Ambrose will not give up his faith ? allusion to Naboth. (19) 'the praises of Christ have always been the scourge of the unbelievers. And today whenever Christ is being praised the heretics say that sedition is being stirred up, the heretics say that with these words one becomes liable to the death penalty.' o Emphasis:
? The distinction between the 'heretic' Homoian and the believers of Christ and his divinity. (20) Arians 'cannot tolerate praise of Christ. They see children singing the glory of Christ...
mock their tender age, so full of faith'. o Yet if they are silent, the 'stones will cry out'. (21) Christ 'does not allow people who sell seats in his temple' o Indeed, 'for what do the seats stand for if not offices of honour?'
? Suggestion that Auxentius had been selling church-office ? he is guilty of simony. (22) Auxentius is a 'single monster with two names' i.e. Mercurinus. o No real evidence to validate this claim.
? John Matthews says Auxentius is most definitely Auxentius of Durostorum. (23) A vivid demonization of Auxentius

o???????He 'will take his soul inscribed in blood, even if he does not take a letter written in ink'.

(24) The man is 'covered with blood and gore'. o The point being he has no right to debate with Ambrose. (25) (26) '[Auxentius is certain] that you know your faith...he shuns examination by you, and has chosen pagans to be his arbitrators, some four or five, if indeed he has chosen any'. o 'if indeed he has chosen any'
? Not sure how much Ambrose knows about them. Are they pagan?
The pagans have already 'given their verdict on Auxentius, whom they have not believed, though he has been putting his case to them day after day'. (27) Auxentius has acted sinfully 'for choosing pagans' ? he has disobeyed 1 Cor.6.1 o Clearly,
? The Jews are not men of God, so why are they being brought into judge. Again, the primacy of divine law over human law is made: o 'It is that people which judges in whose heart there resides a law that is divine and not human, written not with ink but with the spirit of the living God, not inscribed on paper but stamped on the heart'2 (29) Auxentius o Again demonised ? 'sets out to arouse hostility of the emperor against me'. o Raises that last year (Easter 385) Ambrose was summoned to the emperor who wanted to seize the basilica; he went and was intimidated by the sight of the imperial court'
? Ambrose being a little dishonest. More likely Auxentius' argument was that Ambrose, by going to the emperor, had a set a precedent for church matters to be adjudicated by the imperial court. In reality, Ambrose says: o 'the people found out that I had made for the palace...they surged they threw themselves at the general'. o He says
? That he placated the people with a long speech 'to give a pledge that nobody would invade the basilica.
? Implicit of the Ambrose's popularity in Milan. Something he wants to remind his congregation of (who are probably petrified and hence, the speech, and the notion of timed martyrdom - it is in God's hands of Providence that we live or die) OR, to remind the emperor what will happen if he goes again. Now in 386, 'they [the emperor's court] want to revive that ill-will'. (30) 'Ought not the emperor be given one basilica to attend in state, and does Ambrose want to have more power than the emperor, that he refuses him the opportunity of appearing in the state'. o Criticisms of Ambrose.
? He is trying to seize power for himself.

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