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July 11th, 2014 by Joel Watts

St. Ambrose of Milan on the Trinity

And that you may understand it to be said as a mystery and not in reference to the bare number that two are better than one, he adds a mystical saying, A threefold cord is not quickly broken*. For that which is threefold and uncompounded cannot be broken. Thus the Trinity, being of an uncompounded nature, cannot be dissolved; for God is, whatever He is, one and simple and uncompounded; and what He is that He continues to be, and is not brought into subjection.

Ambrose of Milan, The Letters of S. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (trans. H. Walford; A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church; London; Oxford; Cambridge: Oxford; James Parker and Co.; Rivingtons, 1881), 464.

March 11th, 2014 by Joel Watts

Abraham as Allegory for the Mind (St. Ambrose

Saint Ambrose as a Doctor of the Church. Detai...

Saint Ambrose as a Doctor of the Church. Detail from the manneristic frescos by Carlo Urbino on the ceiling of the altar chapel in the Cappella di sant’Aquilino in the Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore in Milan, Italy. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, May 18 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Abraham represents the mind. In fact Abraham signifies passage. Therefore, in order that the mind, which in Adam had allowed itself to run to pleasure and to bodily attractions, should turn toward the ideal form of virtue, a wise man has been proposed to us as an example to imitate. Actually Abraham in Hebrew signifies “father,” in the sense that the mind, with the authority, the judgment and the solicitude of a father, governs the entire person. This mind then was in Haran, that is, in caverns, subject to the different passions. For this reason it is told, “Go from your country,” that is, from your body. From this land went forth the one whose homeland is in the heavens. ON ABRAHAM 2.1–2. 1

I am preaching on Genesis 12.1–4 next Sunday, so I am studying the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Here, Ambrose presents a highly allegorized version of Abraham. A century after him, Caesarius of Arles would carry this vision on. It is interesting to see Ambrose give Abraham almost a philosophical (Platonic?) flare. Note the use of “caverns” as the place to leave.

  1. Mark Sheridan, ed., Genesis 12–50 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 2.
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