Monday, December 7, 2009

Memorial of St. Ambrose, bishop and doctor of the Church

(Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 5:17-26)

St. Augustine’s biographer Peter Brown makes an interesting note about St. Ambrose appropriate for Advent. Brown writes that Ambrose would frequently mention kissing in his homilies. According to Brown, Ambrose thought that the love poetry from the Song of Songs, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” refers to the Church greeting Christ when he comes at the end of time. Evidently, after such a long wait the Church desires to be smothered with the love of her master.

It was not that Ambrose was a sensualist – anything but. He was a spiritual man who championed virginity and thought that the soul longed to cast away the body so that it might fly to God. Ambrose was also learned and wise. He was raised a patrician and served as a provincial governor before the clergy and laity of Milan elected him bishop. Since he was not yet baptized at the time, he had to receive the sacraments of initiation before being ordained and consecrated bishop. Once a bishop, he defended the Church against the jealous competitors of the imperial court.

Perhaps more than anything, Ambrose was the consummate man of the Church. A fine scholar, a great preacher, a capable administrator, and a saintly character, St. Ambrose epitomizes all that the Church needs to be to lead people on the way to the Lord.