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Saint Ambrose - On the Holy Spirit

Saint Ambrose - On the Holy Spirit

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Published by Miguel Vas
Treatise by Saint Ambrose on the Holy Spirit
Treatise by Saint Ambrose on the Holy Spirit

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Published by: Miguel Vas on Jul 28, 2013
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Saint AmbroseOn the Holy SpiritBook IIntroduction
The three books on theHoly Spiritare, as St. Ambrose says himself, asequel to those on the Faith, and the two treatises together have beensometimes quoted as if one, with the title,
De Trinitate
. But we seefrom Gratian's letter to St. Ambrose, and from the reply, that each treatiseis separate, and the
De Spiritu Sancto
was written some years later, a.d.381.In the first book St. Ambrose commences by allegorizing the historyof Gideon and the fleece, seeing in the drying of the fleece and themoistening of the threshing-floor a type of theHoly SpiritleavingtheJewsand being poured out on theGentiles.Passing to his more immediate subject, he proves that theHoly Spiritis above thewhole Creation and istrulyGod,alleging as a special argument that thesinagainst theHoly Spiritcan never be forgiven, here or hereafter. He shows how theHoly Spiritis in Scripture called theSpirit of God;that He spoke by theprophetsandapostles;that He sanctifies men, and is typified by the mystical ointment spoken of in Scripture. Next,St.Ambrose treats of His oneness with the other two Persons of the Holy Trinity, and shows that His mission in no way detracts from thisoneness, but that there is in all the Divine Persons a perfect unity of peace,love,and othervirtues.  The second book commences with a treatment of the history of Samson inthe same way as that of Gideon in Book I. Samson always succeeded so longas theHoly Spiritwas with him, but fell into misfortune so soon as he wasforsaken. It is shown that the power of theHoly Spiritis the same as that of the Father and theSon,and that there is an agreement in design andworking, and in vivifying man. He is Creator and therefore to be worshipped,and He worked with the Father and theSonin founding theChurch,and in conclusion isprovedthe unity of operation in the Three Persons.The third book continues the same argument, showing that the missionof prophetsandapostles,and even of the Son Himself, is to be referred to theSpirit,yet without any subjection on the part of theSon, seeing that the Spirit also receives His mission from the Father and theSon. 
 
The Godhead of theHoly Spiritis next taken up andproved,when occasion is taken also to show that there are not three Gods or three Lords, for theThree Divine Persons are one inholinessand nature; and the work isconcluded with a summary of some of the principal arguments.There can be but littledoubtthat this is the work, and St. Ambrose theauthor, bitterly attacked by St. Jerome; the whole passage may be read inthe
 Apology 
of Rufinus, p. 470, in vol. iii. of this series. St. Ambrose iscompared to a daw decked in another bird's plumage, and charged withwriting bad things in Latin taken fromgoodthings in Greek, andSt. Jerome even took the trouble to translate a work of St. Didymus ontheHoly Spirit(from the preface to which the above extracts are taken), inorder that those who did notknowGreekmight, St. Jerome hoped, recognizethe plagiarisms.Rufinus vigorously defends St. Ambrose, and, pointing out manyinconsistencies in his opponent, says: The saintly Ambrose wrote his book ontheHoly Spiritnot in words only but with his own blood, forhe offered his life-blood to his persecutors, and shed it within himself,though God preserved his life for future labours.Thetruthis that St. Ambrose being a good Greek scholar, and havingundertaken to write on theHoly Spirit,studied what others had writtenbefore him, and made use of what had been urged by SS. Basil, Didymus,and others. The opinion of the great St. Augustineconcerning this treatisemay be set against that of St. Jerome. St. Ambrose when treating of thedeep subject of theHoly Spirit,and showing that He is equal with the Fatherand theSon,yet makes use of a simple style of discourse; inasmuch as hissubject required no the embellishments of language, butproofsto movethe minds of his readers.
The book
 The choice of Gideon was a figure of our Lord's Incarnation, thesacrificeof akid, of the satisfaction forsinsin the body of Christ; that of the bullock, of the abolition of profanerites;and in the three hundred soldiers wasa type of the future redemption through the cross. The seeking of various signs by Gideon was also amystery,for by the dryness andmoistening of the fleece was signified the falling away of theJewsand thecalling of theGentiles,by the water received in a basin the washing of theapostles'feet. St. Ambrosepraysthat his own pollution may be washed away, and praises the loving-kindness of Christ.The same water sent forth
 
by theSon of Godeffects marvellous conversions; it cannot, however, besent by any other, since it is the pouring forth of theHoly Spirit,Who issubject to no external power.1. When Jerubbaal, as we read, was beating out wheat 
 under anoak, he received a message from God in order that he might bring thepeople of God from the power of strangers into liberty. Nor is it a matter of wonder if he was chosen forgrace,seeing that even then, being appointedunder the shadow of theholycross and of the adorable Wisdom inthepredestinedmysteryof the futureIncarnation, he was bringing forth the visible grains of the fruitful grain from their hiding places, and was[mystically] separating the electof thesaintsfrom the refuse of the empty chaff. For these elect, as though trained with the rod of truth,laying asidethe superfluities of the old man together with hisdeeds,are gathered intheChurchas in a winepress. For theChurchis the winepress of  theeternalf ountain, since from her wells forth the juice of the heavenly Vine.2. And Gideon, moved by that message, when he heard that, thoughthousands of the people failed, God would deliver His own from theirenemies by means of one man, 
 offered a kid, and according to theword of the Angel, laid its flesh and the unleavened cakes upon the rock,and poured the broth upon them. And as soon as the Angel touched themwith the end of the staff which he bore, fire burst forth out of the rock, andso thesacrificewhich he was offering was consumed. 
 By which itseems clear that that rock was a figure of the Body of Christ,for it iswritten: They drank of that rock that followed them, and that rockwas Christ.
Which certainly refers not to His Godhead, but to HisFlesh, which watered the hearts of the thirsting people with the perpetualstream of His Blood.3. Even at that time was it declared in amysterythat the Lord Jesus in HisFlesh would, when crucified, do away thesinsof the whole world, and notonly thedeedsof the body, but the desires of thesoul.For the flesh of the kid refers tosinsof deed, the broth to the enticements of desire as it iswritten: For the people lusted anevillust,and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? 
 That theAngel then stretched forth his staff, and touchedthe rock, from which fire went out, 
 shows that the Flesh of the Lord,being filled with the Divine Spirit, would burn away allthesinsof humanfrailty. Wherefore, also, the Lord says: I have come to send fire upon the earth. 
 4. Then the man, instructed and foreknowing what was to be, observesthe heavenlymysteries,and therefore, according to the warning,slew thebullock destined by his father toidols,and himself offered to God another

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