Ambrose selected works 24113

Chapter XIII.

24113 St. Ambrose shows from the Scriptures that the Name of the Three Divine Persons is one, and first the unity of the Name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, inasmuch as each is called Paraclete and Truth.

132). Who, then, would dare to deny the oneness of Name, when he sees the oneness of the working. But why should I maintain the unity of the Name by arguments, when there is the plain testimony of the Divine Voice that the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one? For it is written: “Go, baptize all nations in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”174 He said, “in the Name,” not “in the Names.” So, then, the Name of the Father is not one, that of the Son another, and that of the Holy Spirit another, for God is one; the Names are not more than one, for there are not two Gods, or three Gods.

132. And that He might reveal that the Godhead is one and the Majesty one, because the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one, and the Son did not come in one Name and the Holy Spirit in another, the Lord Himself said: “I am come in My Father’s Name, and ye did not receive Me, if another shall come in his own name ye will receive him.”175

133. And Scripture makes clear that that which is the Father’s Name, the same is also that of the Son, for the Lord said in Exodus: “I will go before thee in My Name, and will call by My Name the Lord before thee.”176 So, then, the Lord said that He would call the Lord by His Name. The Lord, then, is the Name of the Father and of the Son.

134. But since the Name of the Father and of the Son is one, learn that the same is the Name of the Holy Spirit also, since the Holy Spirit came in the Name of the Son, as it is written: “But the Paraclete, even the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He shall teach you all things.”177 But He Who came in the Name of the Son came also certainly in the Name of the Father, for the Name of the Father and of the Son is one. Thus it comes to pass that the Name of the Father and of the Son is also that of the Holy Spirit. For there is no other Name given under heaven wherein we must be saved.178

155. At the same time He showed that the oneness of the Divine Name must be taught, not the difference, since Christ came in the oneness of the Name, but Antichrist will come in his own name, as it is written: “I am come in My Father’s Name, and ye did not receive Me, if another shall come in his own name, ye will receive him.”179

156. We are, then, clearly taught by these passages that there is no difference of Name in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and that that which is the Name of the Father is also the Name of the Son, and likewise that which is the Name of the Son is also that of the Holy Spirit, when the Son also is called Paraclete, as is the Holy Spirit. And therefore does the Lord Jesus say in the Gospel: “I will ask My Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of Truth.”180 And He said well “another,” that you might not suppose that the Son is also the Spirit, for oneness is of the Name, not a Sabellian confusion of the Son and of the Spirit.181

157. So, then, the Son is one Paraclete, the Holy Spirit another Paraclete; for John called the Son a Paraclete, as you find: “If any man sin, we have a Paraclete [Advocate] with the Father, Jesus Christ.”182 So in like manner as there is a oneness of name, so, too, is there a oneness of power, for where the Paraclete Spirit is, there is also the Son.

158. For as the Lord says in this place that the Spirit will be forever with the faithful, so, too, does He elsewhere show that He will Himself be forever with the apostles, saying: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”183 Therefore the Son and the Spirit are one, the Name of the Trinity is one, and the Presence one and indivisible.

159. But as we show that the Son is called the Paraclete, so, too, do we show that the Spirit is called the Truth. Christ is the Truth, the Spirit is the Truth, for you find in John’s epistle: “For the Spirit is Truth.”184 Not only, then, is the Spirit called the Spirit of Truth. but also the Truth, as the Son is also declared to be the Truth, Who says: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”185

Chapter XIV.

24114 Each Person of the Trinity is said in the sacred writings to be Light. The Spirit is designated Fire by Isaiah, a figure of which Fire was seen in the bush by Moses, in the tongues of fire, and in Gideon’s pitchers. And the Godhead of the same Spirit cannot be denied, since His operation is the same as that of the Father and of the Son, and He is also called the light and fire of the Lord’s countenance.

160). But why should I argue that as the Father is light, so, too, the Son is light, and the Holy Spirit is light? Which certainly pertains to the power of God. For God is Light, as John said: “For God is Light, and in Him is no darkness.”186

161. But the Son, too, is Light, because “the Life was the Light of men.”187 And the Evangelist, that he might show that he was speaking of the Son of God, says of Jn the Baptist: “He was not light, but [was sent] to be a witness of the Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into this world.”188 2 So, then, since God is Light, and the Son of God the true Light, without doubt the Son of God is true God.

162. And you find elsewhere that the Son of God is Light: “The people that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death have seen a great light.”189 But, which is still more clear, it is said: “For with Thee is the fount of Life, and in Thy light we shall see light,”190 which means that with Thee, O God the Father Almighty, Who art the Fount of Life, in Thy Son Who is the Light, we shall see the light of the Holy Spirit. As the Lord Himself shows, saying: “Receive ye the Holy Spirit,”191 and elsewhere: “Virtue went out from Him.”192

163. But who can doubt that the Father is Light, when we read of His Son that He is the Brightness of eternal Light? For of Whom but of the Father is the Son the Brightness, Who both is always with the Father, and always shines, not with unlike but with the same radiance.

164. And Isaiah shows that the Holy Spirit is not only Light but also Fire, saying: “And the light of Israel shall be for a fire.”193 So the prophets called Him a burning Fire, because in those three points we see more intensely the majesty of the Godhead; since to sanctify is of the Godhead, to illuminate is the property of fire and light, and the Godhead is wont to be pointed out or seen in the appearance of fire: “For our God is a consuming Fire,” as Moses said.194

165. For he himself saw the fire in the bush, and had heard God when the voice from the flame of fire came to him saying: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”195 The voice came from the fire, and the voice was in the bush, and the fire did no harm. For the bush was burning but was not consumed, because in that mystery the Lord was showing that He would come to illuminate the thorns of our body, and not to consume those who were in misery, but to alleviate their misery; Who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire, that He might give grace and destroy sin.196 So in the symbol of fire God keeps His intention.

166. In the Ac of the Apostles, also, when the Holy Spirit had descended upon the faithful, the appearance of fire was seen, for you read thus: “And suddenly there was a sound from heaven, as though the Spirit were borne with great vehemence, and it filled all the house where they were sitting, and there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire.”197

167. For the same reason was it that when Gideon was about to overcome the Midianites, he commanded three hundred men to take pitchers, and to hold lighted torches inside the pitchers, and trumpets in their right hands. Our predecessors have preserved the explanation received from the apostles, that the pitchers are our bodies, fashioned of clay, which know not fear if they burn with the fervour of the grace of the Spirit, and bear witness to the passion of the Lord Jesus with a loud confession of the Voice.

168. Who, then, can doubt of the Godhead of the Holy Spirit, since where the grace of the Spirit is, there the manifestation of the Godhead appears. By which evidence we infer not a diversity but the unity of the divine power. For how can there be a severance of power, where the effect of the working in all is one?

169. What, then, is that fire? Not certainly one made up of common twigs, or roaring with the burning of the reeds of the woods, but that fire which improves good deeds like gold, and consumes sins like stubble. This is undoubtedly the Holy Spirit, Who is called both the fire and light of the countenance of God; light as we said above: “The light of Thy countenance has been sealed upon us, O Lord.”198 What is, then, the light that is sealed, but that of the seal of the Spirit, believing in Whom, “ye were sealed,” he says, “with the Holy Spirit of promise.”199

170. And as there is a light of the divine countenance, so, too, does fire shine forth from the countenance of God, for it is written: “A fire shall burn in His sight.”200 For the grace of the day of judgment shines beforehand, that forgiveness may follow to reward the service of the saints. O the great fulness of the Scriptures, which no one can comprehend with human genius! O greatest proof of the Divine Unity For how many things are pointed out in these two verses!

Chapter XV.

24115 The Holy Spirit is Life equally with the Father and the Son, in truth whether the Father be mentioned, with Whom is the Fount of Life, or the Son, that Fount can be none other than the Holy Spirit.

171). We have said that the Father is Light, the Son is Light, and the Holy Spirit is Light; let us also learn that the Father is Life, the Son Life, and the Holy Spirit Life. For Jn said: “That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, and which we have seen, and have beheld with our eyes, and our hands have handled concerning the Word of Life; and the Life appeared, and we saw and testify, and declare to you of that Life which was with the Father.”201 He said both Word of Life and Life that he might signify both the Father and the Son to be Life. For what is the Word of Life but the Word of God? And by this phrase both God and the Word of God are shown to be Life. And as it is said the Word of Life, so, too, the Spirit of Life. Therefore, as the Word of Life is Life, so, too, the Spirit of Life is Life.

172. Learn now that as the Father is the Fount of Life, so, too, many have stated that the Son is signified as the Fount of Life;202 so that, he says, with Thee, Almighty God, Thy Son is the Fount of Life. That is the Fount of the Holy Spirit,203 for the Spirit is Life, as the Lord says: “The words which I speak unto you are Spirit and Life,”204 for where the Spirit is, there also is Life; and where Life is, is also the Holy Spirit.

173. Many, however, consider that in this passage the Father only is signified by the Fount. Let them, however, notice what the Scripture relates: “With Thee is the Well of Life.” That is, the Son is with the Father; since the Word was with God, Who was in the beginning, and was with God.

174. But whether in this place one understands the Fount to be the Father or the Son, we certainly do not understand a fount of that water which is created, but the Fount of that divine grace, that is, of the Holy Spirit, for He is the living water. Wherefore the Lord said: “If thou knowest the gift of God, and Who He is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldst have asked Him, and He would have given thee living water.”205

175. This was the water for which the soul of David thirsted. The hart desires the fountain of these waters,206 not thirsting for the poison of serpents. For the water of the grace of the Spirit is living, that it may purify the inner parts of the mind, and wash away every sin of the soul, and purify the transgression of hidden faults.

Chapter XVI.

24116 The Holy Spirit is that large river by which the mystical Jerusalem is watered. It is equal to its Fount, that is, the Father and the Son, as is signified in holy Scripture. St. Ambrose himself thirsts for that water, and warns us that in order to preserve it within us, we must avoid the devil, lust, and heresy, since our vessels are frail, and that broken cisterns must be forsaken, that after the example of the Samaritan woman and of the patriarchs we may find the water of the Lord.

176). But lest perchance any one should speak against as it were the littleness of the Spirit, and from this should endeavour to establish a difference in greatness, arguing that water seems to be but a small part of a Fount, although examples taken from creatures seem by no means suitable for application to the Godhead; yet lest they should judge anything injuriously from this comparison taken from creatures, let them learn that not only is the Holy Spirit called Water, but also a River, as we read: “From his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this He said of the Spirit, Whom they were beginning to receive, who were about to believe in Him.”207

177. So, then, the Holy Spirit is the River, and the abundant River, which according to the Hebrews flowed from Jesus in the lands, as we have received it prophesied by the mouth of Isaiah.208 This is the great River which flows always and never fails. And not only a river, but also one of copious stream and overflowing greatness, as also David said: “The stream of the river makes glad the city of God.”209

178. For neither is that city, the heavenly Jerusalem, watered by the channel of any earthly river, but that Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Fount of Life, by a short draught of Whom we are satiated, seems to flow more abundantly among those celestial Thrones, Dominions and Powers, Angels and Archangels, rushing in the full course of the seven virtues of the Spirit. For if a river rising above its banks overflows, how much more does the Spirit, rising above every creature, when He touches the as it were low-lying fields of our minds, make glad that heavenly nature of the creatures with the larger fertility of His sanctification.

179, And let it not trouble you that either here it is said “rivers,”210 or elsewhere “seven Spirits,”211 for by the sanctification of these seven gifts of the Spirit, as Isaiah said,212 is signified the fulness of all virtue; the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and godliness, and the Spirit of the fear of God. One, then, is the River, but many the channels of the gifts of the Spirit. This River, then, goes forth from the Fount of Life.

180. And here, again, you must not turn aside your thoughts to lower things, because there seems to be some difference between a Fount and a River, and yet the divine Scripture has provided that the weakness of human understanding should not be injured by the lowliness of the language. Set before yourself any river, it springs from its fount, but is of one nature, of one brightness and beauty. And do you assert rightly that the Holy Spirit is of one substance, brightness, and glory with the Son of God and with God the Father. I will sum up all in the oneness of the qualities, and shall not be afraid of any question as to difference of greatness. For in this point also Scripture has provided for us; for the Son of God says: “He that shall drink of the water which I will give him, it shall become in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.”213 This well is clearly the grace of the Spirit, a stream proceeding from the living Fount. The Holy Spirit, then, is also the Fount of eternal life.

181. You observe, then, from His words that the unity of the divine greatness is pointed out, and that Christ cannot be denied to be a Fount even by heretics, since the Spirit, too, is called a Fount. And as the Spirit is called a river, so, too, the Father said: “Behold, I come down upon you like a river of peace, and like a stream overflowing the glory of the Gentiles.”214 And who can doubt that the Son of God is the River of life, from Whom the streams of eternal life flowed forth?

182. Good, then, is this water, even the grace of the Spirit. Who will give this Fount to my breast? Let it spring up in me, let that which gives eternal life flow upon me. Let that Fount overflow upon us, and not flow away. For Wisdom says: “Drink water out of thine own vessels, and from the founts of thine own wells, and let thy waters flow abroad in thy streets.”215 How shall I keep this water that it flow not forth, that it glide not away? How shall I preserve my vessel, lest any crack of sin penetrating it, should let the water of eternal life exude? Teach us, Lord Jesus, teach us as Thou didst teach Thine apostles, saying: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where rust and moth destroy, and where thieves break through and steal.”216

182. For He intimates that the thief is the unclean spirit, who cannot find entrance into those who walk in the light of good works, but if he has caught any one in the darkness of earthly desires, and in the midst of the enjoyment of earthly pleasures, he spoils them of all the flower of eternal virtue. And therefore the Lord says: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither rust nor moth destroy, and where thieves do not break through and steal. For where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.”

183. Our rust is wantonness, our rust is lust, our rust is luxury, which dim the keen vision of the mind with the filth of vices. Again, our moth is Arius, our moth is Photinus, who rend the holy vesture of the Church with their impiety, and desiring to separate the indivisible unity of the divine power, gnaw the precious veil of faith with sacrilegious tooth. The water is spilt if Arius has imprinted his tooth, it flows away if Photinus has planted his sting in any one’s vessel. We are but of common clay, we quickly feel vices. But no one says to the potter, “Why hast Thou made me thus?”217 For though our vessel be but common, yet one is in honour, another in dishonour.218 Do not then lay open thy pool, dig not with vices and crimes, lest any one say: “He hath opened a pool and digged it, and is fallen into the pit which he made.”219

184. If you seek Jesus, forsake the broken cisterns, for Christ was wont to sit not by a pool but by a well. There that Samaritan roman220 found Him, she who believed, she who wished to draw water. Although you ought to have come in early morning, nevertheless if you come later, even at the sixth hour, you will find Jesus wearied with His journey. He is weary, but it is through thee, because He has long sought thee, thy unbelief has long wearied Him. Yet He is not offended if thou only comest, He asks to drink Who is about to give. But He drinks not the water of a stream flowing by, but thy salvation; He drinks thy good dispositions, He drinks the cup, that is, the Passion which stoned for thy sins, that thou drinking of His sacred blood mightest quench the thirst of this world.

185. So Abraham gained God after he had dug the well.221 So Isaac, while walking by the well, received that wife222 who was coming to him as a type of the Church. Faithful he was at the well, unfaithful at the pool. Lastly, too, Rebecca, as we read, found him who sought her at the well, and the harlots washed themselves in the blood in the pool of Jezebel.223

1 (
Jg 6,11,
2 (Jg 6,14,
3 (.
4 (1Co 10,4,
5 (Nb 11,4,
6 (Jg 6,21,
7 S. Lc 12,49).
8 (Jg 6,26,
9 (Is 11,2,
10 S. Jn 8,56.
11 (Jg 6,36,
12 S. Mt 15,24.
13 (Jr 2,13,
14 (Is 5,6,
15 (Ps 72,6 [lxxi.] .
16 (Jos 5,13,
17 S. Lc 10,2).
18 S. Mt 20,28.
19 S. Jn 13,4.
20 S. Jn 13,8.
21 (Ct 5,3,
22 S. Jn 13,13-14.
23 (Gn 18,4,
24 Whence this statement is derived cannot be ascertained. Possibly it is merely an assumption of St. Ambrose founded on his estimate of Gideon’s character.
25 S. Jn 13,7.
26 (Ps 23,2 [xxii.] .
27 (Ps 75,11 [lxxiv.] .
28 “Alia est iniquitas nostra, alia calcanei nostri, in quo Adam dente serpentis est vulneratus et obnoxiam hereditatem successionis humanoe suo vulnere dereliquit, ut omnes illo vulnere claudticemus.” St. Aug). Exp. Psal. 48,6, and St. Ambrose, Enar. in Ps. 48,9: “Unde reor uniquitatem calcanei magis lubricum deliquendi quam reatum aliquem nostri esse delicti.” This lubricum delinquendi, the wound of Adam’s heel, seems to have been understood of concupiscence, which has the nature of sin, and is called sin by St. Paul.
29 (Gn 3,15,
30 S. Lc 10,19.
31 1R 17,9.
32 2R 5,14).
33 Athanaricus, king or judex of the West Goths in Dacia, defeated in 369 by the Emperor Valens. Subsequently, in 380, being defeated by the Huns and some Gothic chiefs, he was forced to take refuge in Constantinople, when he was received with all the honour due to his rank. He died the next year.
34 Damasus of Rome, Peter of Alexandria, Gregory of Constantinople, and St. Ambrose himself. Peter had died by this time, but the fact was probably not yet known at Milan.
35 (Jl 2,28 Jl 2,
36 (Ps 68,9 [lxvii.] .
37 (1Co 12,11,
38 (Ps 119,91 [cxviii.] .
39 (1Co 2,10,
40 S. Jn 15,26).
41 S. Jn 1,3.
42 S. Mt 10,20.
43 (1Co 8,6,
44 (1Co 8,6,
45 (2Co 5,18,
46 S. Jn 10,29).
47 (1Co 8,6,
48 (Rm 5,5,
49 S. Mt 3,11 Lc 4,16 Jn 1,26-27.
50 This passage has given rise to the question whether St. Ambrose taught, as some others certainly did (probably on his authority), that baptism in the Name of Christ alone, without mention of the other Persons, is valid. But it is difficult to believe that St. Ambrose meant more than to refer to the passage in the Ac as implying Christian baptism. He says just below that baptism is not complete unless one confess the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which would seem to imply the full formula, and he would hardly dissent from St. Basil, who distinctly asserts [De Sp. Sanct. XII.] that baptism without mention of the Three Persons is invalid; and St. Augustine [De Bapt. lib. 6,c. 25,47] says that it is more easy to find heretics who reject baptism altogether, than such as omit the fight form. Compare also St. Ambrose on St. Lc 6,67; De Mysteriis, IV. 20; De Sacramentis, II. 5 and 7, especially the latter when he says: In uno nomine …hoc est in nomine Patris et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.
51 (Ac 19,5 ff).
52 (Ac 10,38,
53 (Ac 1,5,
54 (1Co 12,13,
55 (1Co 8,6,
56 (Rm 9,5,
57 (He 1,6,
58 (He 1,14,
59 S. Jn 15,26.
60 (He 2,3-4,
61 (1Co 15,24,
62 S. Jn 3,8.
63 (Col 1,16).
64 (Col 1,16, Col 1,17,
65 (Ps 33,6 [xxxii.] .
66 S. Mt 12,32.
67 S. Mt 12,32.
68 (He 1,1-2,
69 (Gn 3,17,
70 (Gn 18,22-23,
71 (Gn 28,17,
72 (2P 1,21,
73 S. Jn 20,22.
74 S. Mt 28,19.
75 (Ps 51,11 [l.] .
76 (Ps 139,7 [cxxxviii.] ).
77 (1Co 12,3,
78 (Rm 8,9,
79 (Rm 8,11,
80 (Rm 8,2,
81 S. Jn 14,16-17.
82 S. Jn 20,22.
83 (Ac 5,3,
84 (Ac 5,9,
85 S. Mt 10,20.
86 S. Lc 12,11-12.
87 (1Co 12,13,
88 (Ga 4,6, Ga 4,7,
89 (Rm 8,19 Rm 8,21,
90 De Fid. III. 3).
91 S. Mt 7,11.
92 S. Lc 11,13.
93 (Ps 68,18 [lxvii.] .
94 (Is 9,6,
95 (Rm 5,5,
96 (1Co 7,22,
97 (Ps 14,3 [xiii.] .
98 (Ga 5,22,
99 S. Mt 7,17.
100 S. Jn 16,15.
101 (Ep 5,8,
102 (Ps 143,10 [cxlii.] ).
103 S. Mt 28,19.
104 (Lv 19,2 Lv 19,
105 (1Jn 5,8,
106 (Ep 1,13, Ep 1,14,
107 (Ps 4,6-7).
108 (Ps 24,1 [xxiii.] .
109 (Ac 1,8,
110 (Ps 139,7 [cxxviii.] .
111 (Jl 2,28,
112 S. Lc 1,28.
113 (Jr 23,24,
114 S. Lc 4,1.
115 (Sg 1,7).
116 (Ac 4,31,
117 S. Lc 1,35.
118 S. Jn 5,4.
119 (Is 44,3,
120 (Col 1,9,
121 (Ep 5,18,
122 (Ac 11,17,
123 (Is 42,1,
124 (Is 61,1,
125 (Jl 2,28 Jl 2,
126 (Ph 2,6).
127 S. Jn 1,33.
128 (Rm 5,5,
129 (Ct 1,3,
130 (Ps 76,1 [lxxv.] .
131 (1Jn 3,24,
132 (He 9,13-14).
133 (Ps 45,8 [xliv.] .
134 (Ac 10,37-38,
135 (Ps 4,7,
136 (2Co 2,15,
137 S. Lc 4,18.
138 S. Jn 4,24.
139 (Lm 4,20,
140 (Ps 119,120 [cxviii.] ).
141 (1P 2,24,
142 (Is 53,5,
143 (2Co 5,21,
144 (Is 6,7,
145 (Za 3,2-3,
146 Ibid. 4.
147 (Is 6,6,
148 S. Jn 15,26.
149 S. Jn 3,8.
150 Ibid. 16,28.
151 (Qo 24,5,
152 S. Jn 1,1.
153 Ibid. 14,10.
154 De Fide, V. 7.
155 (Gn 11,7,
156 S. Jn 14,23.
157 S. Jn 14,23.
158 (1Co 12,3,
159 S. Mt 11,25).
160 (Rm 1,7,
161 (Ga 5,22,
162 (Za 12,10,
163 (Ac 2,38,
164 (2Co 13,14,
165 S. Jn 14,21.
166 (Ep 5,2,
167 S. Jn 3,16.
168 (Rm 8,32,
169 (Ga 2,20,
170 S. Mt 4,1.
171 (Ga 5,22,
172 (1Jn 1,3,
173 (2Co 13,14).
174 S. Mt 28,19.
175 S. Jn 5,43.
176 (Ex 33,19,
177 S. Jn 14,26.
178 (Ac 4,12,
179 S. Jn 5,43.
180 S. Jn 14,16.
181 The Sabellians, anxious to maintain the Unity of God, denied the distinction of Persons, identifying the Father and the Son. See D. Chr. B. III. 568, and Blunt, Dict. of Sects, etc., sub voc.
182 (1Jn 2,1,
183 S. Mt 28,20.
184 (1Jn 5,7,
185 S. Jn 14,6.
186 (1Jn 1,5).
187 S. Jn 1,8.
188 S. Jn 1,9.
189 (Is 9,2,
190 (Ps 36,9 [xxxv.] .
191 S. Jn 20,22.
192 S. Lc 6,19.
193 (Is 10,17,
194 (Dt 4,24,
195 (Ex 3,6,
196 S. Mt 3,11.
197 (Ac 2,2-3,
198 (Ps 4,6,
199 (Ep 1,13,
200 (Ps 50,3[xlix.]).
201 (1Jn 1,1-2,
202 (Ps 36,9[xxxv.].
203 In these words St. Ambrose appears plainly to set forth the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son, though he admits that some consider the Father to be the Fount of Life, but he argues even in this case the Son was with Him.
204 S. Jn 6,64.
205 S. Jn 4,10.
206 (Ps 42,3[xli.].
207 (Jn 7,38-39,
208 (Is 66,12,
209 (Ps 46,4[xlv.]).
210 S. Jn 7,38.
211 (Ap 5,6,
212 (Is 11,2,
213 S. Jn 4,14.
214 (Is 66,12,
215 (Pr 5,15-16,
216 S. Mt 6,19.
217 (Rm 9,20,
218 (Rm 9,21,
219 (Ps 7,15,
220 S. Jn 4,6).
221 (Gn 21,30,
222 (Gn 24,62,
223 1R 22,36.

Book II.


24200 The Three Persons of the Godhead were not unknown to the judges of old nor to Moses, for the equality of the Son with the Father, as well as of the Three Persons amongst Themselves, is laid down both elsewhere and by him. Samson also enjoyed the assistance of the Holy Spirit, his history is touched upon and shown to be in some points typical of the Church and her mysteries. When the Holy Spirit left Samson he fell into various calamities, and St. Ambrose explains the spiritual significance of his shorn locks.

1). Even in reading the first book of the ancient history it is made clear both that the sevenfold grace of the Spirit shone forth in the judges themselves of the Jews, and that the mysteries of the heavenly sacraments were made known by the Spirit, of Whose eternity Moses was not ignorant. Then, too, at the very beginning of the world, and indeed before its beginning, he conjoined Him with God, Whom he knew to be eternal before the beginning of the world. For if any one takes good heed he will recognize in the beginning both the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. For of the Father it is written: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”1 Of the Spirit it is said: “The Spirit was borne upon the waters.”2 And well in the beginning of creation is there set forth the figure of baptism whereby the creature had to be purified. And of the Son we read that He it is Who divided light from darkness, for there is one God the Father Who speaks, and one God the Son Who acts.

2. But, again, that you may not think that there was assumption in the bidding of Him Who spoke, or inferiority on the part of Him Who carried out the bidding, the Father’ acknowledges the Son as equal to Himself in the execution of the work, saying: “Let Us make man after Our image and likeness.”3 For the common image and the working and the likeness can signify nothing but the oneness of the same Majesty.

3. But that we may more fully recognize the equality of the Father and the Son, as the Father spoke, the Son made, so, too, the Father works and the Son speaks. The Father works, as it is written: “My Father worketh hitherto.”4 You find it said to the Son: “Say the word and he shall be healed.”5 And the Son says to the Father: “I will that where I am, they too shall be with Me.”6 The Father did what the Son said.

4. But neither was Abraham ignorant of the Holy Spirit; he saw Three and worshipped One, for there is one God, one Lord, and one Spirit. And so there is a oneness of honour, because there is a oneness of power.

5. And why should i speak of all one by one? Samson, born by the divine promise, had the Spirit accompanying him, for we read: “The Lord blessed him, and the Spirit of the Lord began to be with him in the camp.”7 And so foreshadowing the future mystery, he demanded a wife of the aliens, which, as it is written, his father and mother knew not of, because it was from the Lord. And rightly was he esteemed stronger than others, because the Spirit of the Lord guided him, under Whose guidance he alone put to flight the people of the aliens, and at another time inaccessible to the bite of the lion, he, unconquerable in his strength, tore him asunder with his hands. Would that he had been as careful to preserve grace, as strong to overcome the beast!

6. And perhaps this was not only a prodigy of valour, but also a mystery of wisdom, an utterance of prophecy. For it does not seem to have been without a purpose that, as he was going to his marriage, a roaring lion met him, which he tore asunder with his hands, in whose body, when about to enjoy the wished-for wedlock, he found a swarm of bees, and took honey from its mouth, which he gave to his father and mother to eat. The people of the Gentiles which believed had honey, the people which was before savage is now the people of Christ.

7. Nor is the riddle without mystery, which he set forth to his companions: “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.”8 And there was a mystery up to the point of the three days in which its answer was sought in vain, which could not be made known except by the faith of the Church, on the seventh day, the time of the Law being completed, after the Passion of the Lord. For thus you find that the apostles did not understand, “because Jesus was not yet glorified.”9

8. “What,” answer they, “is sweeter than honey, and what is stronger than a lion?” To which he replied: “If ye had not farmed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle.”10 O divine mystery! O manifest sacrament! we have escaped from the slayer, we have overcome the strong one. The food of life is now there, where before was the hunger of a miserable death. Dangers are changed into safety, bitterness into sweetness. Grace came forth from the offence, power from weakness, and life from death.

9. There are, however, who think on the other hand that the wedlock could not have been established unless the lion of the tribe of Judah had been slain; and so in His body, that is, the Church, bees were found who store up the honey of wisdom, because after the Passion of the Lord the apostles believed more fully. This lion, then, Samson as a Jew slew, but in it he found honey, as in the figure of the heritage which was to be redeemed, that the remnant might be saved according to the election of grace.11

10. “And the Spirit of the Lord,” it is said, “came upon him, and he went down to Ascalon, and smote thirty men of them.”12 For he could not fail to carry off the victory who saw the mysteries. And so in the garments they receive the reward of wisdom, the badge of intercourse, who resolve and answer the riddle.

11. Here, again, other mysteries come up, in that his wife is taken away, and for this foxes set fire to the sheaves of the aliens. For their own cunning often deceives those who contend against divine mysteries. Wherefore it is said again in the Song of Songs: “Take us the little foxes which destroy the vineyards, that our vineyards may flourish.”13 He said well “little,” because the larger could not destroy the vineyards, though to the strong even the devil is weak.

12. So, then, he (to sum up the story briefly, for the consideration of the whole passage is reserved for its own season) was unconquered so long as he kept the grace of the Spirit, as was the people of God chosen by the Lord, that Nazarite under the Law. Samson, then, was unconquered, and so invincible as to be able to smite a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass;14 so full of heavenly grace that when thirsty he found even water in the jawbone of an ass, whether you consider this as a miracle, or turn it to a mystery, because in the humility of the people of the Gentiles there would be both rest and triumph according to that which is written: “He that smiteth thee on the cheek, turn to him also the other.”15 For by this endurance of injuries, which the sacrament of baptism teaches, we triumph over the stings of auger, that having passed through death we may attain to the rest of the resurrection.

13. Is that, then, Samson who broke ropes twisted with thongs, and new cords like weak threads? Is that Samson who did not feel the bonds of his hair fastened to the beam, so long as he had the grace of the Spirit? He, I say, after the Spirit of God departed from him, was greatly changed from that Samson Who returned clothed in the spoils of the aliens, but fallen from his greatness on the knees of a woman, caressed and deceived, is shorn of his hair.16

14. Was, then, the hair of his head of such importance that, so long as it remained, his strength should endure unconquered, but when his head was shorn the man should suddenly lose all his strength? It is not so, nor may we think that the hair of his head has such power. There is the hair of religion and faith; the hair of the Nazarite perfect in the Law, consecrated in sparingness and abstinence, with which she (a type of the Church), who poured ointment on the feet of the Lord, wiped the feet of the heavenly Word, for then she knew Christ also after the flesh. That hair it is of which it is said: “Thy hair is as flocks of goats,”17 growing on that head of which it is said: “The head of the man is Christ,”18 and in another place: “His head is as fine gold, and his locks like black pine-trees.”19

15. And so, also, in the Gospel our Lord, pointing out that some hairs are seen and known, says: “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered,”20 implying, indeed, acts of spiritual virtues, for God does not take care for our hair. Though, indeed, it is not absurd to believe that literally, seeing that according to His divine Majesty nothing can be hidden from Him.

16. But what does it profit me, if God Himself knows all my hairs? That rather abounds and profits me, if the watchful witness of good works reward me with the gift of eternal life. And, in fine, Samson himself, declaring that these hairs are not mystical, says: “If I be shorn my strength will depart from me.”21 So much concerning the mystery, let us now consider the order of the passage.

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