Ambrose selected works 6108
06108 The likeness of the Son to the Father being proved, it is not hard to prove the Son’s eternity, though, indeed, this may be established on the authority of the Prophet Isaiah and St. Jn the Evangelist, by which authority the heretical leaders are shown to be refuted.
54). It is plain, therefore, that the Son is not unlike the Father, and so we may confess the more readily that He is also eternal, seeing that He Who is like the Eternal must needs be eternal. But if we say that the Father is eternal, and yet deny this of the Son, we say that the Son is unlike the Father, for the temporal differeth from the eternal. The Prophet proclaims Him eternal, and the Apostle proclaims Him eternal; the Testaments, Old and New alike, are full of witness to the Son’s eternity.
55. Let us take them, then, in their order. In the Old Testament—to cite one out of a multitude of testimonies—it is written: “Before Me hath there been no other God, and after Me shall there be none.”115 I will not comment on this place, but ask thee straight: “Who speaks these words,—the Father or the Son?” Whichever of the two thou sayest, thou wilt find thyself convinced, or, if a believer, instructed. Who, then, speaks these words, the Father or the Son? If it is the Son, He says, “Before Me hath there been no other God;” if the Father, He says, “After Me shall there be none.” The One hath none before Him, the Other none that comes after; as the Father is known in the Son, so also is the Son known in the Father, for whensoever you speak of the Father, you speak also by implication of His Son, seeing that none is his own father; and when you name the Son, you do also acknowledge His Father, inasmuch as none can be his own son. And so neither can the Son exist without the Father, nor the Father without the Son.116 The Father, therefore, is eternal, and the Son also eternal.
56. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.”117 “Was,” mark you, “with God.” “Was”—see, we have “was” four times over. Where did the blasphemer find it written that He “was not.” Again, John, in another passage—in his Epistle—speaketh of “That which was in the beginning.”118 The extension of the “was” is infinite. Conceive any length of time you will, yet still the Son “was.”119
57. Now in this short passage our fisherman hath barred the way of all heresy. For that which was “in the beginning” is not comprehended in time, is not preceded by any beginning. Let Arius, therefore, hold his peace.120 Moreover, that which was “with God” is not confounded and mingled with Him, but is distinguished by the perfection unblemished which it hath as the Word abiding with God; and so let Sabellius keep silence.121 And “the Word was God,” This Word, therefore, consisteth not in uttered speech, but in the designation of celestial excellence, so that Photinus’ teaching is refuted. Furthermore, by the fact that in the beginning He was with God is proven the indivisible unity of eternal Godhead in Father and Son, to the shame and confusion of Eunomius.122 Lastly, seeing that all things are said to have been made by Him, He is plainly shown to be author of the Old and of the New Testament alike; so that the Manichaean can find no ground for his assaults.123 Thus hath the good fisherman caught them all in one net, to make them powerless to deceive, albeit unprofitable fish to take.
St. Ambrose questions the heretics and exhibits their answer, which is, that the Son existed, indeed, before all time, yet was not co-eternal with the Father, whereat the Saint shows that they represent the Godhead as changeable, and further, that each Person must be believed to be eternal.
58). Tell me, thou heretic,—for the surpassing clemency of the Emperor grants me this indulgence of addressing thee for a short space, not that I desire to confer with thee, or am greedy to hear thy arguments, but because I am willing to exhibit them,—tell me, I say, whether there was ever a time when God Almighty was not the Father, and yet was God. “I say nothing about time,” is thy answer. Well and subtly objected! For if thou bringest time into the dispute, thou wilt condemn thyself, seeing that thou must acknowledge that there was a time when the Son was not, whereas the Son is the ruler and creator of time.124 He cannot have begun to exist after His own work. Thou, therefore, must needs allow Him to be the ruler and maker of His work.
59. “I do not say,” answerest thou, “that the Son existed not before time;” but when I call Him “Son,” I declare that His Father existed before Him, for, as you say, father exists before son."125 But what means this? Thou deniest that time was before the Son, and yet thou wilt have it that something preceded the existence of the Son—some creature of time,—and thou showest certain stages of generation intervening, whereby thou dost give us to understand that the generation from the Father was a process in time. For if He began to be a Father, then, in the first instance, He was God, and afterwards He became a Father. How, then, is God unchangeable?126 For if He was first God, and then the Father, surely He has undergone change by reason of the added and later act of generation.
60. But may God preserve us from this madness; for it was but to confute the impiety of the heretics that we brought in this question. The devout spirit affirms a generation that is not in time, and so declares Father and Son to be co-eternal, and does not maintain that God has ever suffered change.
61. Let Father and Son, therefore, be associated in worship, even as They are associated in Godhead; let not blasphemy put asunder those whom the close bond of generation hath joined together. Let us honour the Son, that we may honour the Father also, as it is written in the Gospel.127 The Son’s eternity is the adornment of the Father’s majesty. If the Son hath not been from everlasting, then the Father hath suffered change; but the Son is from all eternity, therefore hath the Father never changed, for He is always unchangeable. And thus we see that they who would deny the Son’s eternity would teach that the Father is mutable.
06110 Christ’s eternity being proved from the Apostle’s teaching, St. Ambrose admonishes us that the Divine Generation is not to be thought of after the fashion of human procreation, nor to be too curiously pried into. With the difficulties thence arising he refuses to deal, saying that whats ever terms, taken from our knowledge of body, are used in speaking of this Divine Generation, must be understood with a spiritual meaning.
65). Hear now another argument, showing clearly the eternity of the Son. The Apostle says that God’s Power and Godhead are eternal, and that Christ is the Power of God—for it is written that Christ is “the Power of God and the Wisdom of God.”128 If, then, Christ is the Power of God, it follows that, forasmuch as God’s Power is eternal, Christ also is eternal.
63. Thou canst not, then, heretic, build up a false doctrine from the custom of human procreation, nor yet gather the wherewithal for such work from our discourse, for we cannot compass the greatness of infinite Godhead, “of Whose greatness there is no end,”129 in our straitened speech. If thou shouldst seek to give an account of a man’s birth, thou must needs point to a time. But the Divine Generation is above all things; it reaches far and wide, it rises high above all thought and feeling. For it is written: “No man cometh to the Father, save by Me.”130 Whatsoever, therefore, thou dost conceive concerning the Father—yea, be it even His eternity—thou canst not conceive aught concerning Him save by the Son’s aid, nor can any understanding ascend to the Father save through the Son. “This is My dearly-beloved Son,”131 the Father saith. “Is” mark you—He Who is, what He is, forever. Hence also David is moved to say: “O Lord, Thy Word abideth for ever in heaven,”132 —for what abideth fails neither in existence nor in eternity.
64. Dost thou ask me how He is a Son, if He have not a Father existing before Him? I ask of thee, in turn, when, or how, thinkest thou that the Son was begotten. For me the knowledge of the mystery of His generation is more than I can attain to,133 —the mind fails, the voice is dumb—ay, and not mine alone, but the angels’ also. It is above Powers, above Angels, above Cherubim, Seraphim, and all that has feeling and thought, for it is written: “The peace of Christ, which passeth all understanding.”134 If the peace of Christ passes all understanding, how can so wondrous a generation but be above all understanding?
65. Do thou, then (like the angels), cover thy face with thy hands,135 for it is not given thee to look into surpassing mysteries! We are suffered to know that the Son is begotten, not to dispute upon the manner of His begetting. I cannot deny the one; the other I fear to search into, for if Paul says that the words which he heard when caught up into the third heaven might not be uttered,136 how can we explain the secret of this generation from and of the Father, which we can neither hear nor attain to with our understanding?
66. But if you will constrain me to the rule of human generation, that you may be allowed to say that the Father existed before the Son, then consider whether instances, taken from the generation of earthly creatures, are suitable to show forth the Divine Generation.137 If we speak according to what is customary amongst men, you cannot deny that, in man, the changes in the father’s existence happen before those in the son’s. The father is the first to grow, to enter old age, to grieve, to weep. If, then, the son is after him in time, he is older in experience than the son. If the child comes to be born, the parent escapes not the shame of begetting.138
67. Why take such delight in that rack of questioning?139 You hear the name of the Son of God; abolish it, then, or acknowledge His true nature. You hear speak of the womb—acknowledge the truth of undoubted begetting.140 Of His heart—know that here is God’s word.141 Of H is right hand—confess His power.142 Of His face—acknowledge His wisdom.143 These words are not to be understood, when we speak of God, as when we speak of bodies. The generation of the Son is incomprehensible, the Father begets impassibly,144 and yet of Himself and in ages inconceivably remote hath very God begotten very God. The Father loves the Son,145 and you anxiously examine His Person; the Father is well. pleased in Him,146 you, joining the Jews, look upon Him with an evil eye; the Father knows the Son,147 and you join the heathen in reviling Him.148
06111 It cannot be proved from Scripture that the Father existed before the Son, nor yet can arguments taken from human reproduction avail to this end, since they bring in absurdities without end. To dare to affirm that Christ began to exist in the course of time is the height of blasphemy.
68). You ask me whether it is possible that He Who is the Father should not be prior in existence. I ask you to tell me when the Father existed, the Son as yet being not; prove this, gather it from argument or evidence of Scripture. If you lean upon arguments, you have doubtless been taught that God’s power is eternal. Again, you have read the Scripture that saith: “O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto Me, there shall be no new God in thee, neither shalt thou worship a strange God.”149 The first of these commands betokens [the Son’s] eternity, the second His possession of an identical nature, so that we can neither believe Him to have come into existence after the Father, nor suppose Him the Son of another Divinity. For if He existed not always with the Father, He is a “new” [God]; if He is not of one Divinity with the Father, He is a “strange” [God]. But He is not after the Father, for He is not “a new God;” nor is He “a strange God,” for He is begotten of the Father, and because, as it is written, He is “God above all, blessed for ever.”150
69. But if the Arians believe Him to be a strange God, why do they worship Him, when it is written: “Thou shalt worship no strange God”? Else, if they do not worship the Son, let them confess thereto, and the case is at an end,—that they deceive no one by their professions of religion. This, then, we see, is the witness of the Scriptures. If you have any others to produce, it will be your business to do so.
70. Let us now go further, and gather the truth in conclusion from arguments. For although arguments usually give place, even to human evidence,151 still, heretic, argue as thou wilt. “Experience teaches us,” you say, “that the being which generates is prior to that which is generated.” I answer: Follow our customary experience through all its departments, and if the rest agree herewith, I oppose not your claim that your point be granted; but if there be no such agreement, how can you claim assent on this one point, when in all the rest you lack support? Seeing, then, that you call for what is customary, it comes about that the Son, when He was begotten of the Father, was a little child. You have seen Him an infant, crying in the cradle. As the years passed, He has gone forward from strength to strength—for if He was weak with the weakness of things begotten, He must also have fallen under the weakness, not only of birth, but of life also.
71. But perchance you run to such a pitch of folly as not to flinch from asserting these things of the Son of God, measuring Him, as you do, by the rule of human infirmity. What, then, if, while you cannot refuse Him the name of God, you are bent to prove Him, by reason of weakness, to be a man? What if, whilst you examine the Person of the Son, you are calling the Father in question, and whilst you hastily pass sentence upon the Former, you include the Latter in the same condemnation!
72. If the Divine Generation has been subject to the limits of time,—if we suppose this, borrowing from the custom of human generation, then it follows, further, that the Father bare the Son in a bodily womb, and laboured under the burden whilst ten months sped their courses. But how can generation, as it commonly takes place, be brought about without the help of the other sex? You see that the common order of generation was not the commencement, and you think that the courses of generation, which are ruled by certain necessities whereunto bodies are subject, have always prevailed. You require the customary course, I ask for difference of sex: you demand the supposition of time, I that of order: you enquire into the end, I into the beginning. Now surely it is the end that depends on the beginning, not the beginning on the end.
73. “Everything,” say you, "that is begotten has a beginning, and therefore because the Son is the Son, He has a beginning, and came first into existence within limits of time. Let this be taken as the word of their own mouth; as for myself, I confess that the Son is begotten, but the rest of their declaration makes me shudder. Man, dost thou confess God, and diminish His honour by such slander? From this madness may God deliver us.
Further objections to the Godhead of the Son are met by the same answer—to wit, that they may equally be urged against the Father also. The Father, then, being in no way confined by time, place, or anything else created, no such limitation is to be imposed upon the Son, Whose marvellous generation is not only of the Father, but of the Virgin also, and therefore, since in His generation of the Father no distinction of sex, or the like, was involved, neither was it in His generation of the Virgin.
74). The next objection is this: “If the Son has not those properties which all sons have, He is no Son.” May Father, Son, and Holy Spirit pardon me, for I would propound the question in all devoutness. Surely the Father is, and abides for ever: created things, too, are as God hath ordained them. Is there any one, then, amongst these creatures which is not subject to the limitations of place, time, or the fact of having been created, or to some originating cause or creator,152 Surely, none. What, then?Is there any one of them whereof the Father stands in need? So to say were blasphemy. Cease, then, to apply to the Godhead what is proper only to created existences, or, if you insist upon forcing the comparison, bethink you whither your wickedness leads. God forbid that we should even behold the end thereof).
75. We maintain the answer given by piety. God is Almighty, and therefore God the Father needs none of those things, for in Him there is no changing, nor any place for such help as we need, we whose weakness is supported by means of things of this kind. But He Who is Almighty, plainly He is uncreate, and not confined to any place, and surpasses time. Before God was not anything—nay, even to speak about anything being before God is a grave sin. If, then, you grant that in the nature of God the Father there is nought that implies a being sustained, because He is God, it follows that nothing of this sort can be supposed to exist in the Son of God, nothing that connotes a beginning, or growth, forasmuch as He is “very God of very God.”153
76. Seeing, then, that we find not the customary order prevailing, be content, Arian, to believe in a miraculous generation of the Son. Be content, I say, and if you believe me not, at least have respect unto the voice of God saying, “To whom have ye esteemed Me to be like?”154 and again: “God is not like a man that He should repent.”155 If, indeed, God works mysteriously, seeing that He doth not work any work, or fashion anything, or bring it to completion, by labor of hands, or in any course of days, “for He spake, and they were made; He gave the word and they were created,”156 why should we not believe that He Whom we acknowledge as a Creator, mysteriously working, discerning it in His works, also begat His Son in a mysterious manner? Surely it is fitting that He should be regarded as having begotten the Son in a special and mysterious way. Let Him Who hath the grace of majesty unrivalled likewise have the glory of mysterious generation.
77. Not only Christ’s generation of the Father, but His birth also of the Virgin, demands our wonder. You say that the former is like unto the manner wherein we men are conceived. I will show—nay more, I will compel you yourself to confess, that the latter also hath no likeness to the manner of our birth. Tell me how it was that He was born of Mary, with what law did His conception in a Virgin’s womb agree, how there could be any birth without the seed of a man, how a maiden could become great with child, how she became a mother before experience of such intercourse as is between wives and husbands. There was no [visible] cause,—and yet a son was begotten. How, then, came about this birth, under a new law?
78. If, then, the common order of human generation was not found in the case of the Virgin Mary, how can you demand that God the Father should beget in such wise as you were begotten in? Surely the common order is determined by difference of sex; for this is implanted in the nature of our flesh, but where flesh is not, how can you expect to find the infirmity of flesh? No man calls in question one who is better than he is: to believe is enjoined upon you, without permission to question. For it is written, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”157 Language is vain to set forth, not only the generation of the Son, but even the works of God, for it is written: “All His works are executed in faithfulness;”158 His works, then, are done in faithfulness, but not His generation? Ay, we call in question that which we see not, we who are bidden to believe rather than enquire of that we see.
06113 Discussion of the Divine Generation is continued. St. Ambrose illustrates its method by the same example as that employed by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The duty of believing what is revealed is shown by the example of Nebuchadnezzar and St. Peter. By the vision granted to St. Peter was shown the Son’s Eternity and Godhead—the Apostle, then, must be believed in preference to the teachers of philosophy, whose authority was everywhere falling into discredit. The Arians, on the other hand, are shown to be like unto the heathen.
79). It will be asked: “In what sort was the Son begotten?” As one who is for ever, as the Word, as the brightness of eternal light,159 for brightness takes effect in the instant of its coming into existence. Which example is the Apostle’s, not mine. Think not, then, that there was ever a moment of time when God was without wisdom, any more than that there was ever a time when light was without radiance. Judge not, Arian, divine things by human, but believe the divine where thou findest not the human.
80. The heathen king saw in the fire, together with the three Hebrew children, the form of a fourth, like as of an angel,160 and because he thought that this angel excelled all angels, he judged Him to be the Son of God, Whom he had not read of, but in Whom he believed. Abraham, also, saw Three, and adored One.161
81. Peter, when he saw Moses and Elias on the mountain, with the Son of God, was not deceived as to their nature and glory. For he enquired, not of them, but of Christ, what he ought to do, inasmuch as though he prepared to do homage to all three, yet he waited for the command of one. But since he ignorantly thought that for three persons three tabernacles should be set up, he was corrected by the sovereign voice of God the Father, saying, “This is My dearly beloved Son: hear ye Him.”162 That is to say: “Why dost thou join thy fellow-servants in equality with thy Lord?” “This is My Son.” Not “Moses is My Son,” nor “Elias is My Son,” but “This is My Son.” The Apostle was not dull to understand the rebuke; he fell on his face, brought low by the Father’s voice and the glorious beauty of the Son, but he was raised up by the Son, Whose wont it is to raise up them that are fallen.163 Then he saw one only,164 the Son of God alone, for the servants had withdrawn, that He might be seen to be Lord alone, Who alone was entitled Son.
82. What, then, was the purpose of that vision, which signified not that Christ and His servants were equal, but betokened a mystery, save that it should be made plain to us that the Law and the Prophets, in agreement with the Gospel, revealed as eternal the Son of God, Whom they had heralded. When we, therefore, hear of the Son coming forth of the womb, the Word from the heart, let us believe that the Son was not fashioned with hands but begotten of the Father, not the work of a craftsman but the offspring of a parent.
83. He, therefore, Who said, “This is My Son,” said not, “This is a creature of time,” nor “This being is of My creation, My making, My servant,” but “This is My Son, Whom ye see glorified.” This is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, Who appeared to Moses in the bush,165 concerning Whom Moses saith, “He Who is hath sent me.” It was not the Father Who spake to Moses in the bush or in the desert, but the Son. It was of this Moses that Stephen said, “This is He Who was in the church, in the wilderness, with the Angel.”166 This, then, is He Who gave the Law, Who spake with Moses, saying, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” This, then, is the God of the patriarchs, this is the God of the prophets.
84. It is of the Son, therefore, that we read, thy mind understandeth the reading, let thy tongue make confession. Away with arguments, where faith is required; now let dialectic hold her peace, even in the midst of her schools. I ask not what it is that philosophers say, but I would know what they do. They sit desolate in their schools. See the victory of faith over argument. They who dispute subtly are forsaken daily by their fellows; they who with simplicity believe are daily increased. Not philosophers but fishermen, not masters of dialectic but tax-gatherers, now find credence. The one sort, through pleasures and luxuries, have bound the world’s burden upon themselves; the other, by fasting and mortification, have cast it off, and so doth sorrow now begin to win over more followers than pleasure.
85. Let us now see how far Arians and pagans do differ. The latter call upon gods, who are different in sex and unequal in power; the former affirm a Trinity where there is likewise inequality of power and diversity of Godhead. The pagans assert that their Gods began to exist once upon a time; the Arians lyingly declare that Christ began to exist in the course of time. Have they not all dyed their impiety in the vats of philosophy? But indeed the pagans do extol that which they worship,167 the Arians maintain that the Son of God, Who is God, is a creature.
06114 That the Son of God is not a created being is proved by the following arguments: (1) That He commanded not that the Gospel should be preached to Himself; (2) that a created being is given over unto vanity; (3) that the Son has created all things; (4) that we read of Him as begotten; and (5) that the difference of generation and adoption has always been understood in those places where both natures—the divine and the human—are declared to co-exist in Him. All of which testimony is confirmed by the Apostle’s interpretation.
86). It is now made plain, as I believe, your sacred Majesty, that the Lord Jesus is neither unlike the Father, nor one that began to exist in course of time. We have yet to confute another blasphemy, and to show that the Son of God is not a created being. Herein is the quickening168 word that we read as our help, for we have heard the passage read where the Lord saith: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to all creation.”169 He Who saith “all creation” excepts nothing. How, then, do they stand who call Christ a “creature”? If He were a creature, could He have commanded that the Gospel should be preached to Himself? It is not, therefore, a creature, but the Creator, Who commits to His disciples the work of teaching created beings.
87. Christ, then, is no created being; for “created beings are,” as the Apostle hath said, “given over to vanity.”170 Is Christ given over unto vanity? Again, “creation”—according to the same Apostle—“groans and travails together even until now.” What, then? Doth Christ take any part in this groaning and travailing—He Who hath set us miserable mourners free from death? “Creation,” saith the Apostle, “shall be set free from the slavery of corruption.”171 We see, then, that between creation and its Lord there is a vast difference, for creation is enslaved, but “the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”172
88. Who was it that led first into this error, of declaring Him Who created and made all things to be a creature? Did the Lord, I would ask, create Himself? We read that “all things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made.”173 This being so, did He make Himself? We reaD—and who shall deny?—that in wisdom hath God made all things.174 If so, how can we suppose that wisdom was made in itself?
89. We read that the Son is begotten, inasmuch as the Father saith: “I brought thee forth from the womb before the morning star”175 We read of the “first-born” Son,176 of the “only-begotten”177 —first-born, because there is none before Him; only-begotten, because there is none after Him. Again, we read: “Who shall declare His generation?”178 “Generation,” mark you, not “creation.” What argument can be brought to meet testimonies so great and mighty as these?
90. Moreover, God’s Son discovers the difference between generation and grace when He says: “I go up to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.”179 He did not say, “I go up to our Father,” but “I go up to My Father and your Father.” This distinction is the sign of a difference, inasmuch as He Who is Christ’s Father is our Creator.
91. Furthermore He said, “to My God and your God,” because although He and the Father are One, and the Father is His Father by possession of the same nature, whilst God began to be our Father through the office of the Son, not by virtue of nature, but of grace—still He seems to point us here to the existence in Christ of both natures, Godhead and Manhood,—Godhead of His Father, Manhood of His Mother, the former being before all things, the latter derived from the Virgin. For the first, speaking as the Son, He called God His Father, and afterward, speaking as man, named Him as God.
92. Everywhere, indeed, we have witness in the Scriptures to show that Christ, in naming God as His God, does so as man. “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”180 And again: “From My mother’s womb Thou art My God.”181 In the former place He suffers as a man; in the latter it is a man who is brought forth from his mother’s womb. And so when He says, “From My mother’s womb Thou art My God,” He means that He Who was always His Father is His God from the moment when He was brought forth from His Mother’s womb.
93. Seeing, then, that we read in the Gospel, in the Apostle, in the Prophets, of Christ as begotten, how dare the Arians to say that He was created or made? But, indeed, they ought to have bethought them, where they have read of Him as created, where as made. For it has been plainly shown that the Son of God is begotten of God, born of God—let them, then, consider with care where they have read that He was made, seeing that He was not made God, but born as God, the Son of God; afterward, however, He was, according to the flesh, made man of Mary.
94. “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law.”182 “His Son,” observe, not as one of many, not as His in common with another, but His own, and in saying “His Son,” the Apostle showed that it is of the Son’s nature that His generation is eternal. Him the Apostle has affirmed to have been afterwards “made” of a woman, in order that the making might be understood not of the Godhead, but of the putting on of a body—“made of a woman,” then, by taking on of flesh; “made under the Law” through observance of the Law. Howbeit, the former, the spiritual generation is before the Law was, the latter is after the Law.
06115 An explanation of Ac 2,36 and Pr 8,22, which are shown to refer properly to Christ’s manhood alone.
95. To no purpose, then, is the heretics’ customary citation of the Scripture, that “God made Him both Lord and Christ.” Let these ignorant persons read the whole passage, and understand it. For thus it is written. “God made this Jesus, Whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ.”183 It was not the Godhead, but the flesh, that was crucified. This, indeed, was possible, because the flesh allowed of being crucified. It follows not, then, that the Son of God is a created being.
96. Let us despatch, then, that passage also, which they do use to misrepresent,—let them learn what is the sense of the words, “The Lord created Me.”184 It is not “the Father created,” but “the Lord created Me.” The flesh acknowledgeth its Lord, praise declareth the Father: our created nature confesseth the first, loveth, knoweth the latter. Who, then, cannot but perceive that these words announce the Incarnation? Thus the Son speaketh of Himself as created in respect of that wherein he witnesseth to Himself as being man, when He says, “Why seek ye to kill Me, a man, Who have told you the truth?” He speaketh of His Manhood, wherein He was crucified, and died, and was buried.
97. Furthermore, there is no doubt but that the writer set down as past that which was to come; for this is the usage of prophecy, that things to come are spoken of as though they were already present or past. For example, in the twenty-first185 psalm you have read: “Fat bulls (of Bashan) have beset me,” and again:186 “They parted My garments among them.” This the Evangelist showeth to have been spoken prophetically of the time of the Passion, for to God the things that are to come are present, and for Him Who foreknoweth all things, they are as though they were past and over; as it is written, “Who hath made the things that are to be.”187
98. It is no wonder that He should declare His place to have been set fast before all worlds, seeing that the Scripture tells us that He was foreordained before the times and ages. The following passage discovers how the words in question present themselves as a true prophecy of the Incarnation: “Wisdom hath built her an house, and set up seven pillars to support it, and she hath slain her victims. She hath mingled her wine in the bowl, and made ready her table, and sent her servants, calling men together with a mighty voice of proclamation, saying: ‘He who is simple, let him turn in to me.’”188 Do we not see, in the Gospel, that all these things were fulfilled after the Incarnation, in that Christ disclosed the mysteries of the Holy Supper, sent forth His apostles, and cried with a loud voice, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink.”189 That which followeth, then, answereth to that which went before, and we behold the whole story of the Incarnation set forth in brief by prophecy.
99. Many other passages might readily be seen to be prophecies of this sort concerning the Incarnation, but I will not delay over books, lest the treatise appear too wordy).
Ambrose selected works 6108