St. Ambrose became the bishop of Milan 1,638 years ago today.
Like St. Nicholas, St. Ambrose found himself called upon to affirm the Catholic faith in the divinity of the Son of God, because the Arians had developed a strong following in Milan.
Let’s listen in for a moment on the dialogue.
St. Ambrose explains the question with such simple eloquence that we will immediately grasp the fundamental significance of the doctrine of the Trinity for anyone who wants to practice the religion of Jesus of Nazareth:
[from Chapter 9 of Exposition of the Christian Faith:]
Tell me, Arian—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 your answer.
Well and subtly objected! For if you bring time into the dispute, you will condemn yourself, seeing that you must acknowledge that there was a time when the Son was not, whereas the Son is the ruler and creator of time. He cannot have begun to exist after His own work. You, therefore, must needs allow Him to be the ruler and maker of His work.
I do not say, you answer, 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.
But what does this mean? You deny that time was before the Son, and yet you will have it that something preceded the existence of the Son—some creature of time—and you show 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? 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.
But may God preserve us from this madness…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.
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 has joined together. Let us honor the Son, that we may honor the Father also, as it is written in the Gospel (John 5:23).
The Son’s eternity is the adornment of the Father’s majesty. If the Son has not been from everlasting, then the Father has suffered change; but the Son is from all eternity, therefore has 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.
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