St. Ambrose – Bk 5 – Chapter 19

We adore you O Most Holy Trinity!

We adore you O Most Holy Trinity!

The Saint having turned to God the Father, explains why he does not deride that the Son is inferior to the Father, then he declares it is not for him to measure the Son of God, since it was given to an angel— nay, perhaps even to Christ as man— to measure merely Jerusalem. Arius, he says, has shown himself to be an imitator of Satan. It is a rash thing to hold discussions on the divine Generation. Since so great a sign of human generation has been given by Isaiah, we ought not to make comparisons in divine things. Lastly he shows how carefully we ought to avoid the pride of Arius, by putting before us various examples of Scriptures.

227. To You now, Almighty Father, do I direct my words with tears. I indeed have readily called You inapproachable, incomprehensible, inestimable; but I dared not say Your Son was inferior to Yourself. For when I read that He is the Brightness of Your glory, and the Image of Your Person, Hebrews 1:3 I fear lest, in saying that the Image of Your Person is inferior, I should seem to say that Your Person is inferior, of which the Son is theImage; for the fullness of Your Godhead is wholly in the Son. I have often read, I freely believe, that You and Your Son and the Holy Spirit are boundless, unmeasurable, inestimable, ineffable. And therefore I cannotappraise You so as to weigh You.

228. But be it so, that I desired with a daring and rash spirit to measure You? From whence, I ask, shall I measure You? The prophet saw a line of flax with which the angel measured Jerusalem. An angel was measuring, not Arius. And he was measuring Jerusalem, not God. And perchance even an angel could not measure Jerusalem, for it was a man. Thus it is written: I raised my eyes and saw and beheld a man, and in his hand there was a line of flax. Ezekiel 40:3 He was a man, for a type of the body that was to be assumed was thus shown. He was a man, of whom it was said: There comes a man after me, Whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. John 1:27 Therefore Christ in a type measures Jerusalem. Arius measures God.

229. Even Satan transforms himself into an angel of light; 2 Corinthians 11:14 what wonder then if Arius imitates his Author in taking upon himself what is forbidden? Though his father the devil did it not in his own case, that man with intolerable blasphemy assumes to himself the knowledge of divine secrets and the mysteries of theheavenly Generation. For the devil confessed the true Son of God, Arius denies Him.

230. If, then, I cannot measure You, Almighty Father, can I without blasphemy discuss the secrets of YourGeneration? Can I say there is anything more or less between You and Your Son when He Himself Who was begotten of You, says: All things which the Father has are Mine. John 16:15 Who has made Me a judge and a divider of human affairs? This the Son says, Luke 12:14 and do we claim to make a division and to give judgmentbetween the Father and the Son? A right feeling of duty avoids arbiters even in the division of an inheritance. And shall we become arbiters, to divide between You and Your Son the glory of the uncreated Substance?

231. This generation, it says, is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. Luke 11:29 A sign of the Godhead then is not given, but only of the Incarnation. Thus when about to speak of the Incarnation the prophet says: Ask you a sign. And when the king had said: I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord, the answer was: Behold a Virgin shall conceive. Therefore we cannot see a sign of the Godhead, and do we seek a measure of it? Alas! Woe is me! We impiously dare to discuss Him, to Whom we cannot worthily pray!

232. Let the Arians see to what they do. I have unlawfully compared You, O Father, with Your works in saying that You are greater than all. If greater than Your Son, as Arius maintains, I have judged wickedly. Concerning You first will that judgment be. For no choice can be made except by comparison, nor can anyone be put before another without a decision being first given on Himself.

233. It is not lawful for us to swear by heaven, but it is lawful to judge about God. Yet You have given to Your Son alone judgment over all.

234. John feared to baptize the flesh of the Lord, John forbade Him, saying: I have need to be baptized by You, and You come to me? Matthew 3:4 And shall I bring Christ under my judgment?

235. Moses excuses himself from the Priesthood, Peter is for avoiding the obedience demanded in the Ministry; and does Arius examine even the deep things of God? But Arius is not the Holy Spirit. Nay, it was said even toArius and to all men: Seek not that which is too deep for you. Sirach 3:22

236. Moses is prevented from seeing the face of God; Exodus 33:23 Arius merited to see it in secret. Moses andAaron among His Priests. Moses who appeared with the Lord in glory, that Moses then saw only the back parts ofGod in appearance; Arius beholds God wholly face to face! But no one, it says, can see My face and live.

237. Paul also speaks of inferior beings: We know in part and we prophesy in part. 1 Corinthians 13:9 Arius says:I know God altogether and not in part. Thus Paul is inferior to Arius, and the vessel of election knows in part, but the vessel of perdition knows wholly. I know, he says, a man, whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell, God knows, how he was caught up into Paradise and heard unspeakable words. 2 Corinthians 13:3-4 Paul carried up to the third heaven, knew not himself; Arius rolling in filth, knows God. Paul says of himself: God knows; Arius says of God: I know.

238. But Arius was not caught up to heaven, although he followed him who with accursed boastfulness presumed on what was divine, saying: I will set my throne upon the clouds; I will be like the Most High. Isaiah 14:14 For as he said: I will be like the Most High, so too Arius wishes the Most High Son of God to seem like himself, Whom he does not worship in the eternal glory of His Godhead, but measures by the weakness of the flesh.

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