Ambrose selected works 6208
Christ’s saying, “The Father is greater than I,” is explained in accordance with the principle just established. Other like sayings are expounded in like fashion. Our Lord cannot, as touching His Godhead, be called inferior to the Father.
59). It was due to His humanity, therefore, that our Lord doubted and was sore distressed, and rose from the dead, for that which fell doth also rise again. Again, it was by reason of His humanity that He said those words, which our adversaries use to maliciously turn against Him: “Because the Father is greater than I.”87
60. But when in another passage we read: “I came out from the Father, and am come into the world; again, I leave the world, and go to the Father,”88 how doth He go, except through death, and how comes He, save by rising again? Furthermore, He added, in order to show that He spake concerning His Ascension: “Therefore have I told you before it come to pass, in order that, when it shall have come to pass, ye may believe.”89 For He was speaking of the sufferings and resurrection of His body, and by that resurrection they who before doubted were led to believe—for, indeed, God, Who is always present in every place, passes not from place to place. As it is a man who goes, so it is He Himself Who comes. Furthermore, He says in another place: “Rise, let us go hence.”90 In that, therefore, doth He go and come, which is common to Him and to us.
61. How, indeed, can He be a lesser God when He is perfect and true God? Yet in respect of His humanity He is less—and still you wonder that speaking in the person of a man He called the Father greater than Himself, when in the person of a man He called Himself a worm, and not a man, saying: “But I am a worm, and no man;”91 and again: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter.”92
62. If you pronounce Him less than the Father in this respect, I cannot deny it; nevertheless, to speak in the words of Scripture, He was not begotten inferior, but “made lower,”93 that is, made inferior. And how was He “made lower,” except that, “being in the form of God, He thought it not a prey that He should be equal with God, but emptied Himself;”94 not, indeed, parting with what He was, but taking up what He was not, for “He took the form of a servant.”95
63. Moreover, to the end that we might know Him to have been “made lower,” by taking upon Him a body, David has shown that he is prophesying of a man, saying: “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, but that Thou visitest him? Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels.”96 And in interpreting this same passage the Apostle says: “For we see Jesus, made a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour because that He suffered death. in order that apart from God He might taste death for all.”97
64. Thus, the Son of God was made lower than, not only the Father, but angels also. And if you will turn this to His dishonour; [I ask] is then the Son, in respect of His Godhead, less than His angels who serve Him and minister to Him? Thus, in your purpose to diminish His honour, you run into the blasphemy of exalting the nature of angels above the Son of God. But “the servant is not above his master.”98 Again, angels ministered to Him even after His Incarnation, to the end that you should acknowledge Him to have suffered no loss of majesty by reason of His bodily nature, for God could not submit to any loss of Himself,99 whilst that which He has taken of the Virgin neither adds to nor takes away from His divine power.
65. He, therefore, possessing the fulness of Divinity and glory,100 is not, in respect of His Divinity, inferior. Greater and less are distinctions proper to corporeal existences; one who is greater is so in respect of rank, or qualities, or at any rate of age. These terms lose their meaning when we come to treat of the things of God. He is commonly entitled the greater who instructs and informs another, but it is not the case with God’s Wisdom that it has been built up by teaching received from another, forasmuch as Itself hath laid the foundation of all teaching. But how wisely wrote the Apostle: “In order that apart from God He might taste death for all,”—lest we should suppose the Godhead, not the flesh, to have endured that Passion!
66. If our opponents, then, have found no means to prove [the Father] greater [than the Son], let them not pervert words unto false reports, but seek out their meaning. I ask them, therefore, as touching what do they esteem the Father the greater? If it is because He is the Father, then [I answer] here we have no question of age or of time—the Father is not distinguished by white hairs, nor the Son by youthfulness—and it is on these conditions that the greater dignity of a father depends."101 But “father” and “son” are names, the one of the parent, the other of the child—names which seem to join rather than separate; for dutifulness inspires no loss of personal worth, inasmuch as kinship binds men together, and does not rend them asunder.
67. If, then, they cannot make the order of nature a support for any questioning, let them now believe the witness [of Scripture]. Now the Evangelist testifies that the Son is not lower [than the Father] by reason of being the Son; nay, he even declares that, in being the Son, He is equal, saying, “For the Jews sought to kill Him for this cause, that not only did He break the Sabbath, but even called God His own Father, making Himself equal to God.”102
68. This is not what the Jews said—it is the Evangelist who testifies that, in calling Himself God’s own Son, He made Himself equal to God, for the Jews are not presented as saying, “For this cause we sought to kill Him;” the Evangelist, speaking for himself, says, “For the Jews sought to kill Him for this cause.”103 Moreover, he has discovered the cause, [in saying] that the Jews were stirred with desire to slay Him because, when as God He broke the Sabbath, and also claimed God as His own Father, He ascribed to Himself not only the majesty of divine authority in breaking the Sabbath, but also, in speaking of His Father, the right appertaining to eternal equality.
69. Most fitting was the answer which the Son of God made to these Jews, proving Himself the Son and equal of God. “Whatsoever things,” He said, “the Father hath done, the Son doeth also in like wise.”104 The Son, therefore, is both entitled and proved the equal of the Father—a true equality, which both excludes difference of Godhead, and discovers, together with the Son, the Father also, to Whom the Son is equal; for there is no equality where there is difference, nor again where there is but one person, inasmuch as none is by himself equal to himself. Thus hath the Evangelist shown why it is fitting that Christ should call Himself the Son of God, that is, make Himself equal with God.
70. Hence the Apostle, following this revelation, hath said: “He thought it not a prey that He should be equal with God.”105 For that which a man has not he seeks to carry off as a prey. Equality with the Father, therefore, which, as God and Lord, He possessed in His own substance, He had not as a spoil wrongfully seized. Wherefore the Apostle added [the words]: “He took the form of a servant.” Now surely a servant is the opposite of an equal. Equal, therefore, is the Son, in the form of God, but inferior in taking upon Him of the flesh and in His sufferings as a man. For how could the same nature be both lower and equal? And how, if [the Son] be inferior, can He do the same things, in like manner, as the Father doeth? How, indeed, can there be sameness of operation with diversity of power? Can the inferior ever work such effects as the greater, or can there be unity of operation where there is diversity of substance?
71. Admit, therefore, that Christ, as touching His Godhead, cannot be called inferior [to the Father].106 Christ speaks to Abraham: “By Myself have I sworn.”107 Now the Apostle shows that He Who swears by Himself cannot be lower than any. Thus he saith, “When God rewarded Abraham with His promise, He swore by Himself, forasmuch as He had none other that was greater, saying, Surely with blessing will I bless thee, and with multiplying will I multiply thee.”108 Christ had, therefore, none greater, and for that cause sware He by Himself. Moreover, the Apostle has rightly added, “for men swear by one greater than themselves,” forasmuch as men have one who is greater than themselves, but God hath none.
72. Otherwise, if our adversaries will understand this passage as referred to the Father, then the rest of the record does not agree with it. For the Father did not appear to Abraham, nor did Abraham wash the feet of God the Father, but the feet of Him in Whom is the image of the man that shall be.109 Moreover, the Son of God saith, “Abraham saw My day, and rejoiced.”110 It is He, therefore, Who sware by Himself, [and] Whom Abraham saw.
73. And how, indeed, hath He any greater than Himself Who is one with the Father in Godhead?111 Where there is unity, there is no dissimilarity, whereas between greater and less there is a distinction. The teaching, therefore, of the instance from Scripture before us, with regard to the Father and the Son, is that neither is the Father greater, nor hath the Son any that is above Him, inasmuch as in Father and Son there is no difference of Godhead parting them, but one majesty.
06209 The objection that the Son, being sent by the Father, is, in that regard at least, inferior, is met by the answer that He was also sent by the Spirit, Who is yet not considered greater than the Son. Furthermore, the Spirit, in His turn, is sent by the Father to the Son, in order that Their unity in action might be shown forth. It is our duty, therefore, carefully to distinguish what utterances are to be fitly ascribed to Christ as God, and what to be ascribed to Him as man.
74). I Have no fears in the matter of that commonly advanced objection, that Christ is inferior because He was sent. For even if He be inferior, yet this is not so proved;112 on the other hand, His equal title to honour is in truth proved. Since all honour the Son as they honour the Father,113 it is certain that the Son is not, in so far as being sent, inferior.
75. Regard not, therefore, the narrow bounds of human language, but the plain meaning of the words, and believe facts accomplished. Bethink you that our Lord Jesus Christ said in Isaiah that He had been sent by the Spirit.114 Is the Son, therefore, less than the Spirit because He was sent by the Spirit? Thus you have the record, that the Son declares Himself sent by the Father and His Spirit. “I am the beginning,” He saith,115 “and I live for ever, and My hand hath laid the foundations of the earth, My right hand hath made the heaven to stand abidingly;”116 and further on: “I have spoken, and I have called; I have brought him, and have made his way to prosper. Draw ye near to Me, and hear these things: not in secret have I spoken from the beginning. When they were made, I was there: and now hath the Lord and His Spirit sent Me.”117 Here, indeed, He Who made the heaven and the earth Himself saith that He is sent by the Lord and His Spirit. Ye see, then, that the poverty of language takes not from the honour of His mission. He, then, is sent by the Father; by the Spirit also is He sent.
76. And that you may gather that there is no separating difference of majesty, the Son in turn sends the Spirit, even as He Himself hath said: “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send you from My Father—the Spirit of truth, who cometh forth from My Father.”118 That this same Comforter is also to be sent by the Father He has already taught, saying, “But the Comforter, that Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name.”119 Behold their unity, inasmuch as whom God the Father sends, the Son sends also, and Whom the Father sends, the Spirit sends also. Else, if the Arians will not admit that the Son was sent, because we read that the Son is the right hand of the Father, then they themselves will confess with respect to the Father, what they deny concerning the Son, unless perchance they discover for themselves either another Father or another Son.
77. A truce, then, to vain wranglings over words, for the kingdom of God, as it is written, consisteth not in persuasive words, but in power plainly shown forth. Let us take heed to the distinction of the Godhead from the flesh. In each there speaks one and the same Son of God, for each nature is present in Him; yet while it is the same Person Who speaks, He speaks not always in the same manner. Behold in Him, now the glory of God, now the affections of man. As God He speaks the things of God, because He is the Word; as man He speaks the things of man, because He speaks in my nature.
78. “This is the living bread, which came down from heaven.”120 This bread is His flesh, even as He Himself said: “This bread which I will give is My flesh.”121 This is He Who came down from heaven, this is He Whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into this world. Even the letter itself teaches us that not the Godhead but the flesh needed sanctification, for the Lord Himself said, “And I sanctify Myself for them,”122 in order that thou mayest acknowledge that He is both sanctified in the flesh for us, and sanctifies by virtue of His Divinity.
79. This is the same One Whom the Father sent, but “born of a woman, born under the law,”123 as the Apostle hath said. This is He Who saith: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; wherefore He hath anointed Me, to bring good tidings to the poor hath He sent Me:”124 This is He Who saith: My doctrine is not Mine, but His, Who sent Me. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself."125 Doctrine that is of God, then, is one thing; doctrine that is of man, another; and so when the Jews, regarding Him as man, called in question His teaching,126 and said, “How knoweth this man letters, having never learnt?” Jesus answered and said, “My doctrine is not Mine,” for, in teaching without elegance of letters, He seems to teach not as man, but rather as God, having not learned, but devised His doctrine.
80. For He hath found and devised all the way of discipline, as we read above, inasmuch as of the Son of God it hath been said: “This is our God, and none other shall be accounted of in comparison with Him, Who hath found all the way of discipline. After these things He was seen on earth, and conversed with men.”127 How, then, could He, as divine, not have His own doctrine—He Who hath found all the way of discipline before He was seen on earth? Or how is He inferior, of Whom it is said, “None shall be accounted of in comparison with Him”? Surely He is entitled incomparable, in comparison of Whom none other can be accounted of—yet so that He cannot be accounted of before the Father. Now if men suppose that the Father is spoken of, they shall not escape running into the blasphemy of Sabellius, of ascribing the assumption of human nature to the Father.
81. Let us proceed with what follows. “He who speaketh of himself, seeketh his own glory.”128 See the unity wherein Father and Son are plainly revealed.129 He who speaks cannot but be; yet that which He speaks cannot be solely from Him, for in Him all that is, is naturally derived from the Father.
82. What now is the meaning of the words “seeketh his own glory”? That is, not a glory in which the Father has no part—for indeed the Word of God is His glory. Again, our Lord saith: “that they may see My glory.”130 But that glory of the Word is also the glory of the Father, even as it is written: “The Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.”131 In regard of His Godhead, therefore, the Son of God so hath His own glory, that the glory of Father and Son is one: He is not, therefore, inferior in splendour, for the glory is one, nor lower in Godhead, for the fulness of the Godhead is in Christ.132
83. How, then, you ask, is it written, “Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son?”133 He Who saith these words needs to be glorified, say you. Thus far you have eyes to see; the remainder of the Scripture you have not read, for it proceeds: “that Thy Son may glorify Thee.” Hath ever the Father need of any, in that He is to be glorified by the Son?
06210 The objection taken on the ground of the Son’s obedience is disproved, and the unity of power, Godhead, and operation in the Trinity set forth, Christ’s obedience to His mother, to whom He certainly cannot be called inferior, is noticed.
84). In like manner our adversaries commonly make a difficulty of the Son’s obedience, forasmuch as it is written: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient even unto death.”134 The writer has not only told us that the Son was obedient even unto death, but also first shown that He was man, in order that we might understand that obedience unto death was the part not of His Godhead but of His Incarnation, whereby He took upon Himself both the functions and the names belonging to our nature.
85. Thus we have learnt that the power of the Trinity is one, as we are taught both in and after the Passion itself: for the Son suffers through His body, which is the earnest of it; the Holy Spirit is poured upon the apostles: into the Father’s hands the spirit is commended; furthermore, God is with a mighty voice proclaimed the Father. We have learnt that there is one form, one likeness, one sanctification, of the Father and of the Son, one activity, one glory, finally, one Godhead.
86. There is, therefore, but one only God, for it is written: “Thou shall worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shall thou serve.”135 One God, not in the sense that the Father and the Son are the same Person, as the ungodly Sabellius affirms—but forasmuch as there is one Godhead of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. But where there is one Godhead, there is one will, one purpose.
87. Again, that thou mayest know that the Father is, and the Son is, and that the work of the Father and of the Son is one, follow the saying of the Apostle: “Now may God Himself, and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ direct our way unto you.”136 Both Father and Son are named, but there is unity of direction,137 because unity of power. So also in another place we read: “Now may our Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, and God and our Father, Who hath loved us, and given us eternal consolation, and good hope in grace, console and strengthen your hearts.”138 How perfect a unity it is that the Apostle presents to us, insomuch that the fount of consolation is not many, but one. Let doubt be dumb, then, or, if it will not be overcome by reason, let the thought of our Lord’s gracious kindliness bend it.
88. Let us call to mind how kindly our Lord hath dealt with us, in that He taught us not only faith but manners also. For, having taken His place in the form of man, He was subject to Joseph and Mary.139 Was He less than all mankind, then, because He was subject? The part of dutifulness is one, that of sovereignty is another, but dutifulness doth not exclude sovereignty. Wherein, then, was He subject to the Father’s law? In His body, surely, wherein He was subject to His mother.
06211 The purpose and healing effects of the Incarnation. The profitableness of faith, whereby we know that Christ bore all infirmities for our sakes,—Christ, Whose Godhead revealed Itself in His Passion; whence we understand that the mission of the Son of God entailed no subservience, which belief we need not fear lest it displease the Father, Who declares Himself to be well pleased in His Son.
89). Let us likewise deal kindly, let us persuade our adversaries of that which is to their profit, “let us worship and lament before the Lord our Maker.”140 For we would not overthrow, but rather heal; we lay no ambush for them, but warn them as in duty bound. Kindliness often bends those whom neither force nor argument will avail to overcome. Again, our Lord cured with oil and wine the man who, going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among thieves; having forborne to treat him with the harsh remedies of the Law or the sternness of Prophecy.
90. To Him, therefore, let all come who would be made whole. Let them receive the medicine which He hath brought down from His Father and made in heaven, preparing it of the juices of those celestial fruits that wither not. This is of no earthly growth, for nature nowhere possesseth this compound. Of wondrous purpose took He our flesh, to the end that He might show that the law of the flesh had been subjected to the law of the mind. He was incarnate, that He, the Teacher of men, might overcome as man.
91. Of what profit would it have been to me, had He, as God, bared the arm of His power, and only displayed His Godhead inviolate? Why should He take human nature upon Him, but to suffer Himself to be tempted under the conditions of my nature and my weakness? It was right that He should be tempted, that He should suffer with me, to the end that I might know how to conquer when tempted, how to escape when hard pressed. He overcame by force of continence, of contempt of riches, of faith; He trampled upon ambition, fled from intemperance, bade wantonness be far from Him.
93. This medicine Peter beheld, and left His nets, that is to say, the instruments and security of gain, renouncing the lust of the flesh as a leaky ship, that receives the bilge, as it were, of multitudinous passions. Truly a mighty remedy, that not only removed the scar of an old wound, but even cut the root and source of passion. O Faith, richer than all treasure-houses; O excellent remedy, healing our wounds and sins!
93. Let us bethink ourselves of the profitableness of right belief. It is profitable to me to know that for my sake Christ bore my infirmities, submitted to the affections of my body, that for me, that is to say, for every man, He was made sin, and a curse,141 that for me and in me was He humbled and made subject, that for me He is the Lamb, the Vine, the Rock,142 the Servant, the Son of an handmaid,143 knowing not the day of judgment, for my sake ignorant of the day and the hour.144
94. For how could He, Who hath made days and times, be ignorant of the day? How could He not know the day, Who hath declared both the season of Judgment to come, and the cause?145 A curse, then, He was made not in respect of His Godhead, but of His flesh; for it is written: “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”146 In and after the flesh, therefore, He hung, and for this cause He, Who bore our curses, became a curse.147 He wept that thou, man, mightest not weep long. He endured insult, that thou mightest not grieve over the wrong done to thee.148
95. A glorious remedy—to have consolation of Christ! For He bore these things with surpassing patience for our sakes—and we forsooth cannot bear them with common patience for the glory of His Name! Who may not learn to forgive, when assailed, seeing that Christ, even on the Cross, prayed,—yea, for them that persecuted Him? See you not that those weaknesses, as you please to call them, of Christ’s are your strength?149 Why question Him in the matter of remedies for us? His tears wash us, His weeping cleanses us,—and there is strength in this doubt, at least, that if you begin to doubt, you will despair. The greater the insult, the greater is the gratitude due.
96. Even in the very hour of mockery and insult, acknowledge His Godhead. He hung upon the Cross, and all the elements did Him homage.150 The sun withdrew his rays, the daylight vanished, darkness came down and covered the land, the earth trembled; yet He Who hung there trembled not. What was it that these signs betokened, but reverence for the Creator? That He hangs upon the Cross—this, thou Arian, thou regardest; that He gives the kingdom of God—this, thou regardest not. That He tasted of death, thou readest, but that He also invited the robber into paradise,151 to this thou givest no heed. Thou dost gaze at the women weeping by the tomb, but not upon the angels keeping watch by it.152 What He said, thou readest: what He did, thou dost not read. Thou sayest that the Lord said to the Canaanitish woman: “I am not sent, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,”153 thou dost not say that He did what He was besought by her to do.
97. Thou shouldst hereby understand that His being “sent” means not that He was compelled, at the command of another, but that He acted, of free will, according to His own judgment, otherwise thou dost accuse Him of despising His Father. For if, according to thine expounding, Christ had come into Jewry, as one executing the Father’s commands, to relieve the inhabitants of Jewry, and none besides, and yet before that was accomplished, set free the Canaanitish woman’s daughter from her complaint, surely He was not only the executor of another’s instruction, but was free to exercise His own judgment. But where there is freedom to act as one will, there can be no transgressing the terms of one’s mission.
98. Fear not that the Son’s act displeased the Father, seeing that the Son Himself saith: “Whatsoever things are His good pleasure, I do always,” and “The works that I do, He Himself doeth.”154 How, then, could the Father be displeased with that which He Himself did through the Son? For it is One God, Who, as it is written, “hath justified circumcision in consequence of faith, and uncircumcision through faith.”155
99. Read all the Scriptures, mark all diligently, you will then find that Christ so manifested Himself that God might be discerned in man. Misunderstand not maliciously the Son’s exultation in the Father, when you hear the Father declaring His pleasure in the Son.
06212 Do the Catholics or the Arians take the better course to assure themselves of the favour of Christ as their Judge? An objection grounded on Ps 110,1 is disposed of, it being shown that when the Son is invited by the Father to sit at His right hand, no subjection is intended to be signified—nor yet any preferment, in that the Son sits at the Father’s right hand. The truth of the Trinity of Persons in God, and of the Unity of their Nature, is shown to be proved by the angelic Trisagion.
100). Howbeit, if our adversaries cannot be turned by kindness, let us summon them before the Judge. To what Judge, then, shall we go? Surely to Him Who hath the Judgment. To the Father, then? Nay, but “the Father judgeth no man, for He hath given all judgment to the Son.”156 He hath given, that is to say, not as of largess, but in the act of generation. See, then, how unwilling He was that thou shouldst dishonour His Son—even so that He gave Him to be thy Judge.
101. Let us see, then, before the judgment which hath the better cause, thou or I? Surely it is the care of a prudent party to a suit to gain first the favourable regard of the judge. Thou dost honour man,—dost thou not honour God? Which of the two, I ask, wins the favour of the magistrate—respect or contempt? Suppose that I am in error—as I certainly am not: is Christ displeased with the honour shown Him? We are all sinners—who, then, will deserve forgiveness, he who renders worship, or he who displays insolence?
102. If reasoning move thee not, at least let the plain aspect of the judgment move thee! Raise thine eyes to the Judge, see Who it is that is seated, with Whom He is seated, and where. Christ sitteth at the right hand of the Father. If with thine eyes thou canst not perceive this, hear the words of the prophet: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand.”157 The Son, therefore, sitteth at the right hand of the Father. Tell me now, thou who holdest that the things of God are to be judged of from the things of this world—say whether thou thinkest Him Who sits at the right hand to be lower? Is it any dishonour to the Father that He sits at the Son’s left hand? The Father honours the Son, and thou makest it to be insult! The Father would have this invitation to be a sign of love and esteem, and thou wouldst make it an overlord’s command! Christ hath risen from the dead, and sitteth at the right hand of God.
103. “But,” you object, “the Father said.” Good, hear now a passage where the Father doth not speak, and the Son prophesies: “Hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power.”158 This He said with regard to taking back to Himself His body—to Him159 the Father said: “Sit Thou at My right hand.” If indeed you ask of the eternal abode of the Godhead, He said—when Pilate asked Him whether He were the King of the Jews—“For this I was born.”160 And so indeed the Apostle shows that it is good for us to believe that Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, not by command, nor of any boon, but as God’s most dearly beloved Son. For it is written for you: “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God; savour the things that are above.”161 This is to savour the things that be above—to believe that Christ, in His sitting, does not obey as one who receives a command, but is honoured as the well-beloved Son. It is with regard, then, to Christ’s Body that the Father saith: “Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.”
104. If, again, you seek to pervert the sense of these words, “I will make Thine enemies Thy footstool,” I answer that the Father also bringeth to the Son such as the Son raiseth up and quickeneth. For “No man,” saith Christ, “can come to Me, except the Father, Which hath sent Me, draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”162 And you say that the Son of God is subject by reason of weakness—the Son, to Whom the Father bringeth men that He may raise them up in the last day. Seemeth this in your eyes to be subjection, I pray you, where the kingdom is prepared for the Father, and the Father bringeth to the Son and there is no place for perversion of words, since the Son giveth the kingdom to the Father, and none is preferred before Him?163 For inasmuch as the Father rendereth to the Son, and the Son, again, to the Father, here are plain proofs of love and regard: seeing that They so render, the One to the Other, that neither He Who receiveth obtaineth as it were what was another’s, nor He That rendereth loseth.
105. Moreover, the sitting at the right hand is no preferment, nor doth that at the left hand betoken dishonour, for there are no degrees in the Godhead, Which is bound by no limits of space or time, which are the weights and measures of our puny human minds. There is no difference of love, nothing that divideth the Unity.
106. But wherefore roam so far afield? Thou hast looked upon all around thee, thou hast seen the Judge, thou hast remarked the angels proclaiming Him). They praise, and thou revilest Him! Dominations and powers fall down before Him—thou speakest evil of His Name! All His Saints adore Him, but the Son of God adores not, nor the Holy Spirit. The seraphim say: “Holy, Holy, Holy!”164
107. What meaneth this threefold utterance of the same name “Holy”? If thrice repeated, why is it but one act of praise? If one act of praise, why a threefold repetition? Why the threefold repetition, unless that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one in holiness? The seraph spake the name, not once, lest he should exclude the Son; not twice, lest he should pass by the Holy Spirit; not four times, lest he should conjoin created beings [in the praise of the Creator]. Furthermore, to show that the Godhead of the Trinity is One, he, after the threefold “Holy,” added in the singular number “the Lord God of Sabaoth.” Holy, therefore, is the Father, holy the Son, holy likewise the Spirit of God, and therefore is the Trinity adored, but adores not, and is praised, but praises not. As for me, I will rather believe as the seraphim, and adore after the manner of all the principalities and powers of heaven.
Ambrose selected works 6208