St. Ambrose – Bk 3 – Chapter 17

steph2An objection based on St. Stephen’s vision of the Lord standing is disposed of, and from the prayers of the same saint, addressed to the Son of God, the equality of the Son with the Father is shown.

137. There is just one place, in which Stephen has said that he saw the Lord Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Acts 7:55 Learn now the import of these words, that you may not use them to raise a question upon. Why (you would ask) do we read every where else of the Son as sitting at the right hand of God, but in one place of His standing? He sits as Judge of quick and dead; He stands as His people’s Advocate. He stood, then, as a Priest, while He was offering to His Father the sacrifice of a good martyr; He stood, as the Umpire, to bestow, as it were, upon a good wrestler the prize of so mighty a contest.

138. Receive also the Spirit of God, that you may discern those things, even as Stephen received the Spirit; and you may say, as the martyr said: Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. Acts 7:55 He who has the heavens opened to him, sees Jesus at the right hand ofGod: he whose soul’s eye is closed, sees not Jesus at the right hand of God. Let us, then, confess Jesus at God’s right hand, that to us also the heavens may be opened. They who confess otherwise close the gates of heaven against themselves.

139. But if any urge in objection that the Son was standing, let them show upon this passage that the Father was seated, for though Stephen said that the Son of Man was standing, still he did not further say here that the Father was sitting.

140. Howbeit, to make it more abundantly clear and known that the standing implied no dishonour, but rather sovereignty, Stephen prayed to the Son, being desirous to commend himself the more to the Father, saying: Lord Jesu, receive my spirit. Acts 7:58 Again, to show that the sovereignty of the Father and of the Son is one and the same, he prayed again, saying, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. Acts 7:51 These are the words that the Lord, in His own Passion, speaks to the Father, as the Son of Man— these the words of Stephen’s prayer, in his own martyrdom to the Son of God. When the same grace is sought of both the Father and the Son, the same power is affirmed of each.

141. Otherwise, if our opponents will have it that Stephen addressed himself to the Father, let them consider what, on their own showing, they affirm. We indeed are unmoved by their arguments; howbeit, let them, to whom the letter and sequence is all important, take notice that the first petition is addressed to the Son. Now we, even on their understanding of the passage, prove from it the unity of the Father’s and the Son’s majesty; for when the Son is addressed in prayer as well as the Father, the equality which the prayer assigns points to unity in action. But if they will not allow that the Son was addressed with the title Lord, we see that they do indeed seek to deny that He is Lord.

142. Seeing, however, that so great a martyr’s crown has been brought forth, let us abate the eagerness of disputation, and bring today’s discourse to a close. Let us sing the praises of the holy martyr, as is fitting always after a mighty conflict— the martyr bleeding indeed from the enemy’s blows, but rewarded with the crown bestowed by Christ.

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