St. Ambrose – Bk 1 – Chapter 17

St. Ambrose, pray for us.

St. Ambrose, pray for us.

That Christ is very God is proved from the fact that He is God’s own Son, also from His having been begotten and having come forth from God, and further, from the unity of will and operation subsisting in Father and Son. The witness of the apostles and of the centurion— which St. Ambrose sets over against the Arian teaching— is adduced, together with that of Isaiah and St. John.

108. Hence it is that Christ is not only God, but very God indeed— very God of very God, insomuch that He Himself is the Truth. (John 14:6) If, then, we enquire His Name, it is the Truth; if we seek to know His natural rank and dignity, He is so truly the very Son of God, that He is indeed God’s own Son; as it is written, Who spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for our sakes, (Romans 8:32) gave Him up, that is, so far as the flesh was concerned. That He is God’s own Son declares His Godhead; that He is very God shows that He is God’s own Son; His pitifulness is the earnest of His submission, His sacrifice, of our salvation.

109. Lest, however, men should wrest the Scripture, that God gave Him up, the Apostle himself has said in another place, (Galatians 1:3-4) Peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for our sins; and again: (Ephesians 5:2) Even as Christ has loved us, and given Himself for us. If, then, He both was given up by the Father, and gave Himself up of His own accord, it is plain that the working and the will of Father and Son is one.

110. If, then, we enquire into His natural pre-eminence, we find it to consist in being begotten. To deny that the Son of God is begotten [of God] is to deny that He is God’s own Son, and to deny Christ to be God’s own Son is to class Him with the rest of mankind, as no more a Son than any of the rest. If, however, we enquire into the distinctive property of His generation, it is this, that He came forth from God. For while, in our experience, to come out implies something already existent, and that which is said to come out seems to proceed forth from hidden and inward places, we, though it be presented but in short passages, observe the peculiar attribute of the Divine Generation, that the Son does not seem to have come forth out of any place, but as God fromGod, a Son from a Father, nor to have had a beginning in the course of time, having come forth from the Father by being born, as He Himself Who was born said: I came forth from the mouth of the Most High. (Sirach 24:3)

111. But if the Arians acknowledge not the Son’s nature, if they believe not the Scriptures, let them at least believe the mighty works. To whom does the Father say, Let us make man? (Genesis 1:26) save to Him Whom He knew to be His true Son? In Whom, save in one who was true, could He recognize His Image? The son by adoption is not the same as the true Son; nor would the Son say, I and the Father are one, (John 10:30) if He, being Himself not true, were measuring Himself with One Who is true. The Father, therefore, says, Let us make. He Who spoke is true; can He, then, Who made be not true? Shall the honour rendered to Him Who speaks be withheld from Him Who makes?

112. But how, unless the Father knew Him to be His true Son, should He commend to Him His will, for perfect co-operation, and His works, for perfect bringing in out in actuality? Seeing that the Son works the works which the Father does, and that the Son quickens whom He will, as it is written, He is then equal in power and free in respect of His will. And thus is the Unity maintained, forasmuch as God’s power consists in that the Godhead is proper to each Person, and freedom lies not in any difference, but in unity of will.

113. The apostles, being storm-tossed in the sea, as soon as they saw the waters leaping up round their Lord’s feet, and beheld His fearless footsteps on the water, as He walked amid the raging waves of the sea, and the ship, which was beaten upon by the waves, had rest as soon as Christ entered it, and they saw the waves and the winds obeying Him—then, though as yet they did not believe in their hearts they believed Him to be God’s true Son, saying, Truly You are the Son of God. (Matthew 14:33)

114. To the same effect the confession of the centurion, and others who were with him, when the foundations of the world were shaken at the Lord’s Passion,— and this, heretic, you deny. The centurion said, Truly this was the Son of God. (Matthew 27:54) Was said the centurion— Was not says the Arian. The centurion, then, with bloodstained hands, but devout mind, declares both the truth and the eternity of Christ’s generation; and thou, O heretic, deniest its truth, and makest it matter of time! Would that you had imbued your hands rather than your soul! But you, unclean even of hand, and murderous of intent, seekest Christ’s death, so far as in you lies, seeing that you think of Him as mean and weak; nay, and this is a worse sin, you, albeit the Godhead can feel no wound, still would do your diligence to slay in Christ, not His Body, but His Glory.

115. We cannot then doubt that He is very God, Whose true Godhead even executioners believed in and devils confessed. Their testimony we require not now, but it is withal greater than your blasphemies. We have called them in to witness, to put you to the blush, while we have also cited the oracles of God, to the end that you should believe.

116. The Lord proclaims by the mouth of Isaiah: In the mouth of them that serve Me shall a new name be called upon, which shall be blessed over all the earth, and they shall bless the true God, and they who swear upon earth shall swear by the true God. (Isaiah 65:16) These words, I say, Isaiah spoke when he saw God’s Glory, and thus in the Gospel it is plainly said that he saw the Glory of Christ and spoke of Him. (John 12:41)

117. But hear again what John the Evangelist has written in his Epistle, saying: We know that the Son of God has appeared, and has given us discernment, to know the Father, and to be in His true Son Jesus Christ, our Lord. He is very God, and Life Eternal. (1 John 5:20) John calls Him true Son of God and very God. If, then, He be very God, He is surely uncreate, without spot of lying or deceit, having in Himself no confusion, nor unlikeness to His Father.

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