St. Ambrose – Bk 2

Introduction.

ssnomenJesusTwelve names of the Son of God are recounted, being distributed into three classes. These names are so many proofs of the eternity not only of the Son, but of the Father also. Furthermore, they are compared with the twelve stones in the High Priest’s breastplate, and their inseparability is shown by a new distribution of them. Returning to the comparison with the High Priest’s breastplate, the writer sets forth the beauty of the woven-work and the precious stones of the mystic raiment, and the hidden meaning of that division into woven-work and precious stones, which being done, he expounds the comparison drawn by him, showing that faith must be woven in with works, and adds a short summary of the same faith, as concerning the Son.

1. Enough has been said, as I think, your sacred Majesty, in the book preceding to show that the Son of God is an eternal being, not diverse from the Father, begotten, not created: we have also proved, from passages of the Scriptures, that God’s true Son is God, and is declared so to be by the evident tokens of His Majesty.

2. Wherefore, albeit what has already been set forth is plentiful even to overflowing for maintaining the Faith— seeing that the greatness of a river is mostly judged of from the manner in which its springs rise and flow forth— still, to the end that our belief may be the plainer to sight, the waters of our spring ought, methinks, to be parted off into three channels. There are, then, firstly, plain tokens declaring essential inherence in the Godhead; secondly, the expressions of the likeness of the Father and the Son; and lastly, those of the undoubtable unity of the Divine Majesty. Now of the first sort are the names begetting, God, Son, The Word; of the second, brightness, expression, mirror, image; and of the third, wisdom, power, truth, life.

3. These tokens so declare the nature of the Son, that by them you may know both that the Father is eternal, and that the Son is not diverse from Him; for the source of generation is He Who is, and as begotten of the Eternal, He is God; coming forth from the Father, He is the Son; from God, He is the Word; He is the radiance of the Father’s glory, the expression of His substance, the counterpart of God, the image of His majesty; the Bounty of Him Who is bountiful, the Wisdom of Him Who is wise, the Power of the Mighty One, the Truth of Him Who is true, the Life of the Living One. In agreement, therefore, stand the attributes of Father and Son, that none may suppose any diversity, or doubt but that they are of one Majesty. For each and all of these names would we furnish examples of their use were we not constrained by a desire to maintain our discourse within bounds.

4. Of these twelve, as of twelve precious stones, is the pillar of our faith built up. For these are the precious stones— sardius, jasper, smaragd, chrysolite, and the rest—woven into the robe of holy Aaron, even of him who bears the likeness of Christ, that is, of the true Priest; stones set in gold, and inscribed with the names of the sons of Israel, twelve stones close joined and fitting one into another, for if any should sunder or separate them, the whole fabric of the faith falls in ruins.

5. This, then, is the foundation of our faith— to know that the Son of God is begotten; if He be not begotten, neither is He the Son. Nor yet is it sufficient to call Him Son, unless you shall also distinguish Him as the Only-begotten Son. If He is a creature, He is not God; if He is not God, He is not the Life; if He is not the Life, then is He not the Truth.

6. The first three tokens, therefore, that is to say, the names generation, Son, Only-begotten, do show that the Son is of God originally and by virtue of His own nature.

7. The three that follow— to wit, the names God, Life, Truth, reveal His Power, whereby He has laid the foundations of, and upheld, the created world. For, as Paul said, in Him we live and move and have our being; Acts 17:28 and therefore, in the first three the Son’s natural right, in the other three the unity of action subsisting between Father and Son is made manifest.

8. The Son of God is also called the image and effulgence and expression [of God], for these names have disclosed the Father’s incomprehensible and unsearchable Majesty dwelling in the Son, and the expression of His likeness in Him. These three names, then, as we see, refer to [the Son’s] likeness [to the Father].

9. We have yet the operations of Power, Wisdom, and Justice left, wherewith, severally, to prove [the Son’s] eternity.

10. This, then, is that robe, adorned with precious stones; this is the amice of the true Priest; this the bridal garment; here is the inspired weaver, who well knew how to weave that work. No common woven work is it, whereof the Lord spoke by His Prophet: Who gave to women their skill in weaving? No common stones again, are they— stones, as we find them called, of filling; for all perfection depends on this condition, that there be nought lacking. They are stones joined together and set in gold— that is, of a spiritual kind; the joining of them by our minds and their setting in convincing argument. Finally Scripture teaches us how far from common are these stones, inasmuch as, while some brought one kind, and others another, of less precious offerings, these the devout princes brought, wearing them upon their shoulders, and made of them the breastplate of judgment, that is, a piece of woven work. Now we have a woven work, when faith and action go together.

11. Let none suppose me to be misguided, in that I made at first a threefold division, each part containing four, and afterwards a fourfold division, each part containing three terms. The beauty of a good thing pleases the more, if it be shown under various aspects. For those are good things, whereof the texture of the priestly robe was the token, that is to say, either the Law, or the Church, which latter has made two garments for her spouse, as it is written — the one of action, the other of spirit, weaving together the threads of faith and works. Thus, in one place, as we read, she makes a groundwork of gold, and afterwards weaves thereon blue, and purple, with scarlet, and white. Again, [as we read] elsewhere, she first makes little flowerets of blue and other colours, and attaches gold, and there is made a single priestly robe, to the end that adornments of diverse grace and beauty, made up of the same bright colours, may gain fresh glory by diversity of arrangement.

12. Moreover (to complete our interpretation of these types), it is certain that by refined gold and silver are designated the oracles of the Lord, whereby our faith stands firm. The oracles of the Lord are pure oracles, silver tried in the fire, refined of dross, purified seven times. Now blue is like the air we breathe and draw in; purple, again, represents the appearance of water; scarlet signifies fire; and white linen, earth, for its origin is in the earth. Of these four elements, again, the human body is composed.

13. Whether, then, you join to faith already present in the soul, bodily acts agreeing thereto; or acts come first, and faith be joined as their companion, presenting them to God— here is the robe of the minister of religion, here the priestly vestment.

14. Faith is profitable, therefore, when her brow is bright with a fair crown of good works. James 2:14-26 This faith— that I may set the matter forth shortly— is contained in the following principles, which cannot be overthrown. If the Son had His origin in nothing, He is not Son; if He is a creature, He is not the Creator; if He was made, He did not make all things; if He needs to learn, He has no foreknowledge; if He is a receiver, He is not perfect; if He progress, He is not God. If He is unlike (the Father) He is not the (Father’s) image; if He is Son by grace, He is not such by nature; if He have no part in the Godhead, He has it in Him to sin. There is none good, but Godhead. Mark 10:18

 

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