Ambrose expressed himself prominently as a public figure, fiercely promoting Roman Christianity against Arianism and paganism.
76 Facts About Ambrose
Ambrose left a substantial collection of writings, of which the best known include the ethical commentary De officiis ministrorum, and the exegetical Exameron.
Ambrose was serving as the Roman governor of Aemilia-Liguria in Milan when he was unexpectedly made Bishop of Milan in 374 by popular acclamation.
Tradition credits Ambrose with developing an antiphonal chant, known as Ambrosian chant, and for composing the "Te Deum" hymn, though modern scholars now reject both of these attributions.
Ambrose is considered a saint by the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion, and various Lutheran denominations, and venerated as the patron saint of Milan and beekeepers.
Legends about Ambrose had spread through the empire long before his biography was written, making it difficult for modern historians to understand his true character and fairly place his behavior within the context of antiquity.
Ambrose was born into a Roman Christian family in the year 339.
Ambrose himself wrote that he was 53 years old in his letter number 49, which has been dated to 392.
Ambrose's father is said to have considered this a sign of his future eloquence and honeyed tongue.
Ambrose's siblings were Satyrus, the subject of Ambrose's De excessu fratris Satyri, and Marcellina, who made a profession of virginity sometime between 352 and 355; Pope Liberius himself conferred the veil upon her.
Ambrose then followed in his father's footsteps and entered public service.
Ambrose went to the church where the election was to take place to prevent an uproar which seemed probable in this crisis.
Ambrose, though known to be Nicene Christian in belief, was considered acceptable to Arians due to the charity he had shown concerning their beliefs.
At first he energetically refused the office of bishop, for which he felt he was in no way prepared: Ambrose was a relatively new Christian who was not yet baptized nor formally trained in theology.
Ambrose sought to refute Arian propositions theologically, but Ambrose did not sway the young prince's position.
However, Ambrose feared the consequences and prevailed upon the emperor to have the matter determined by a council of the Western bishops.
Ambrose was elected president and Palladius, being called upon to defend his opinions, declined.
Ambrose struggled with Arianism for over half of his term in the episcopate.
Ecclesiastical unity was important to the church, but it was no less important to the state, and as a Roman, Ambrose felt strongly about that.
Orthodox Christianity was determining how to define itself as it faced multiple challenges on both a theological and a practical level, and Ambrose exercised crucial influence at a crucial time.
Ambrose had good relations and varying levels of influence with the Roman emperors Gratian, Valentinian II and Theodosius I, but exactly how much influence, what kind of influence, and in what ways, when, has been debated in the scholarship of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
In that interaction, Sozomen relates that, in the last year of Gratian's reign, Ambrose crashed Gratian's private hunting-party in order to appeal on behalf of a pagan senator sentenced to die.
Gratian's devotion did lead Ambrose to write a large number of books and letters of theology and spiritual commentary dedicated to the emperor.
Ambrose adds that Gratian's actions were determined by the constraints of the system as much as "by his own initiatives or Ambrose's influence".
Gratian took steps to investigate by writing to Ambrose and asking him to explain his faith.
Ambrose was asked to justify his own position, but in the end, he did all three.
Ambrose had not yet become the "conscience" of kings he would in the later 380s, but he did speak out against reinstating the Altar of Victory.
Ambrose now applied this ancient legal principle to the Christian churches, seeing the bishop, as a divine representative, as guardian of his god's property.
Subsequently, while Ambrose was performing the Liturgy of the Hours in the basilica, the prefect of the city came to persuade him to give it up to the Arians.
In 386, Justina and Valentinian II received the Arian bishop Auxentius the younger, and Ambrose was again ordered to hand over a church in Milan for Arian usage.
When Magnus Maximus usurped power in Gaul and was considering a descent upon Italy, Valentinian sent Ambrose to dissuade him, and the embassy was successful.
Justina and her son fled, but Ambrose remained, and had the plate of the church melted for the relief of the poor.
Ambrose was away from court during the events at Thessalonica, but after being informed of them, he wrote Theodosius a letter.
Wolf Liebeschuetz says "Theodosius duly complied and came to church without his imperial robes, until Christmas, when Ambrose openly admitted him to communion".
The twenty-first century view is that Ambrose was "not a power behind the throne".
Cameron says there is no evidence that Ambrose was a significant influence on the emperor.
The view of a pious Theodosius submitting meekly to the authority of the church, represented by Ambrose, is part of the myth that evolved within a generation of their deaths.
In 1960, Neil B McLynn wrote a complex study of Ambrose that focused on his politics and intended to "demonstrate that Ambrose viewed community as a means to acquire personal political power".
Subsequent studies of how Ambrose handled his episcopal responsibilities, his Nicene theology and his dealings with the Arians in his episcopate, his pastoral care, his commitment to community, and his personal asceticism, have mitigated this view.
All of Ambrose' writings are works of advocacy of his religion, and even his political views and actions were closely related to his religion.
Ambrose was rarely, if ever, concerned about simply recording what had happened; he did not write to reveal his inner thoughts and struggles; he wrote to advocate for his God.
In spite of an abiding spirituality, Ambrose had a generally straightforward manner, and a practical rather than a speculative tendency in his thinking.
The bishops of this era had heavy administrative responsibilities, and Ambrose was sometimes occupied with imperial affairs, but he still fulfilled his primary responsibility to care for the well-being of his flock.
Ambrose preached and celebrated the Eucharist multiple times a week, sometimes daily, dealt directly with the needs of the poor, as well as widows and orphans, "virgins", and his own clergy.
Ambrose replied to letters personally, practiced hospitality, and made himself available to the people.
Ambrose had the ability to maintain good relationships with all kinds of people.
Local church practices varied quite a bit from place to place at this time, and as the bishop, Ambrose could have required that everyone adapt to his way of doing things.
Brown says Ambrose "had the makings of a faction fighter".
Ambrose wrote to the emperor arguing against this, basing his argument on two assertions: first, if the bishop obeyed the order, it would be a betrayal of his faith.
Ambrose, referring to a prior incident where Magnus Maximus issued an edict censuring Christians in Rome for burning down a Jewish synagogue, warned Theodosius that the people in turn exclaimed "the emperor has become a Jew", implying Theodosius would receive the same lack of support from the people.
McLynn argues that Ambrose failed to win the emperor's sympathy and was mostly excluded from his counsels thereafter.
Ambrose used Josephus, Maccabees, and other Jewish sources for his writings.
Ambrose tended to write negatively of all non-Nicenes as if they were all one category.
When Gratian ordered the Altar of Victory to be removed, it roused the aristocracy of Rome to send a delegation to the emperor to appeal the decision, but Pope Damasus I got the Christian senators to petition against it, and Ambrose blocked the delegates from getting an audience with the emperor.
Ambrose held up the example of Valentinian's brother, Gratian, reminding Valentinian that the commandment of God must take precedence.
In 389, Ambrose intervened against a pagan senatorial delegation who wished to see the emperor Theodosius I Although Theodosius refused their requests, he was irritated at the bishop's presumption and refused to see him for several days.
Later, Ambrose wrote a letter to the emperor Eugenius complaining that some gifts the latter had bestowed on pagan senators could be used for funding pagan cults.
Ambrose succeeded as a theologian despite his juridical training and his comparatively late handling of biblical and doctrinal subjects.
Ambrose displayed a kind of liturgical flexibility that kept in mind that liturgy was a tool to serve people in worshiping God, and ought not to become a rigid entity that is invariable from place to place.
One interpretation of Ambrose's writings is that he was a Christian universalist.
Several other works by Ambrose clearly teach the mainstream view of salvation.
Ambrose asserts that avarice leads to a breakdown in this mutuality, therefore avarice leads to a breakdown in society itself.
Ambrose was not just interested in the church but was interested in the condition of contemporary Italian society.
Ambrose considered the poor not a distinct group of outsiders, but a part of a united people to be stood with in solidarity.
Ambrose defines justice as providing for the poor whom he describes as our "brothers and sisters" because they "share our common humanity".
Central to Ambrose is the virginity of Mary and her role as Mother of God.
Ambrose viewed celibacy as superior to marriage and saw Mary as the model of virginity.
When [Ambrose] read, his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still.
Ambrose's writings extend past literature and into music, where he was an important innovator in early Christian hymnography.
Ambrose's contributions include the "successful invention of Christian Latin hymnody", while the hymnologist Guido Maria Dreves designated him to be "The Father of church hymnody".
Ambrose was not the first to write Latin hymns; the Bishop Hilary of Poitiers had done so a few decades before.
Ambrose is traditionally credited but not actually known to have composed any of the repertory of Ambrosian chant known simply as "antiphonal chant", a method of chanting where one side of the choir alternately responds to the other.
Ambrose's best known work is probably De officiis ministrorum, while the Exameron and De obitu Theodosii are among his most noted works.
The history of the editions of the works of St Ambrose is a long one.
The latest edition of the writings of St Ambrose is that of Paolo Angelo Ballerini in six folio volumes.
Several of Ambrose's works have recently been published in the bilingual Latin-German Fontes Christiani series.