« PreviousContinue »
century and at Milan, for the greater number of the baptized were adults, whereas in the fifth century, when the churches were fighting Pelagianism, the baptizing of infants prevailed. Besides, the listeners live among pagans (inter gentiles), who up to that time dominate public life. None of the Christian sects except Arianism is mentioned, although the speaker depicts the dangers of their age in vivid colors. In The Sacraments the same rite of nox paschalis is treated as is discussed in The Mysteries, and this is Milanese.
6. Although certain familiar Ambrosian expressions are lacking, a great many of them are present. (Fr. Faller lists them at great length on pp. 25-26).
Fr. Faller sums up his view of the matter by saying: 'He who knows Ambrose, after a more careful reading of the work On the Sacraments, cannot do otherwise than find Ambrose in every corner, if I may say so, of its manner of speech.'
Although indications generally in The Mysteries and The Sacraments point to 390 or 391 as the date of composition, it is quite certain that both works were written before the year 392, that is, before the composition of De institutione virginis ad Eusebium, in which (5.39) is contained a certain imitation of a passage (7.36) of the De mysteriis.
THE SACRAMENTS: I
APPROACH A SERMON on the sacraments which you have received, whose scope should not have been
presented to you before. For in the Christian man faith is first. Thus, even in Rome they are called 'the faithful who have been baptized, and our father Abraham was justified by faith, not by works. So you have received baptism, you have believed. Surely it is unfitting that I consider anything else; for you would not have been called to grace if Christ had not judged you worthy of His grace.
(2) What have we done on the Sabbath? 'The opening,' of course. These mysteries of the opening were celebrated when the priest touched your ears and nostrils. What does this signify? In the Gospel, our Lord Jesus Christ, when the deaf and dumb man was presented to Him, touched his ears and his mouth: the ears, because he was deaf; the mouth, because he was dumb. And He said: 'Effetha.'1 This is a Hebrew word, which in Latin means Adaperire (Open). Therefore, the priest has touched your ears, that your ears may be opened to the sermon and exhortation of the priest. (3) But you say to me: 'Why the nostrils?” In the one case, because he was dumb, He touched the mouth in order that, since he was unable to speak the heavenly sacraments, he might receive the power of speech from Christ; and in the other case, because the person was a man! In this case, because women are being baptized, and there is not the same purity on the part of the servant as with the Lord—for, since One pardons sins, and sins are forgiven for the other, what comparison can there be?-thus, because of the grace of the work and of the favor, the bishop does not touch the mouth but the nostrils. Why the nostrils? In order that you may receive the good odor of eternal piety, that you may say: 'We are the good odor of Christ," just as the holy Apostle said, and that there may be in you the full fragrance of faith and devotion.
1 Mark 7.34.
(4) We have come to the font; you have entered; you have been anointed. Consider whom you have seen, what you have said; consider; repeat carefully. A Levite? meets you; a priest meets you; you are anointed as an athlete of Christ, as if to contend in the contest of this world. You have professed the struggles of your contest. He who contends has what he hopes for; where there is a struggle, there is a crown. You contend in the world, but you are crowned by Christ. And for the struggles of the world you are crowned, for, although the reward is in heaven, the merit for the reward is established here.
2 Cf. 2 Cor. 2.15.
(5) When you were asked: 'Do you renounce the devil and his works?'—what did you reply? ‘I do renounce.’ ‘Do you renounce the world and its pleasures??—what did you reply? 'I do renounce.”? Be mindful of your words, and never let the sequence of your bond be broken. If you give a man surety, you are held responsible, so that you may receive his money; you are held bound, and the lender binds you if you resist. If you refuse, you go to a judge and there you will be convicted by your own bond.
(6) Consider where you promised, or to whom you promised. You saw the Levite, but he is the minister of Christ. You saw him minister before the altar. Therefore, your surety is held, not on earth, but in heaven. Consider where you receive the heavenly sacraments. If the body of Christ is here, here, too, are the angels established. “Wheresoever the body shall be, there shall the eagles also be," you have read in the Gospel. Wheresoever the body shall be, there shall the eagles also be, who are accustomed to fly so as to escape the earthly and to seek the heavenly. Why do I say this? Because men, too, are angels, whoever announce Christ and seem to be received into the place of angels.
(7) How? Observe: John the Baptist was born of a man and a woman. Yet give heed, because he himself also is an angel: 'Behold, I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.'' Observe again. Malachias the Prophet says: 'For the lips of the priest shall keep knowledge and they shall seek the law at his mouth: because he is the an of the Lord of hosts. These words are spoken for this
2 From the liturgy of baptism.