Milan, Ancient but Not Easy to Pray

Duomo Milano columns.jpg

You step into a giant forest of marble, when you enter the cathedral of Milan.

St. Bartholomew Milan

Then I found myself next to the famous statue of St. Bartholomew, flayed alive for the faith.

St. Charles Borromeo lies in the crypt, under the high altar.

They don’t make it easy to pray in the Duomo Milano. Large parts of the church lie behind impenetrable barricades. Couldn’t even find the Blessed Sacrament.

But across town, the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio has the great Father of the Church, entombed with two martyrs to whom he was devoted, Sts. Gervase and Protase.

Ambrose made them the patrons of Milan, as narrated in St. Augustine’s Confessions. (St. Ambrose baptized St. Augustine.) After Ambrose died, they re-interred the martyrs with him, since he had become the city’s perennial patron.

St. Ambrose

The martyrs are vested as St. Ambrose’s deacons. They lie beneath this mosaic:

Basilica Ambrogio mosaic.jpg

The Eloquent Ambrose + GS Notes 2

St. Ambrose became the bishop of Milan 1,638 years ago today.

st ambrose catedra petriLike 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.

…ALSO: Click here for Advent Talks, Week 2 Handout

St. Ambrose on Our Lady

1,637 years ago tomorrow, St. Ambrose was ordained a priest and bishop and consecrated the Patriarch of Milan.

St. Ambrose’s preaching and holiness moved St. Augustine to seek baptism.

These two are the pre-eminent Latin-speaking Fathers of the Church. In the Vatican Basilica, the Bernini statue which holds the relic of St. Peter’s chair depicts St. Ambrose as one of the four saints who hold the throne aloft.

St. Ambrose was ordained the day before the anniversary of the Blessed Mother’s conception. Probably not a co-incidence.

Here is how St. Ambrose explained to his people why it is so important to honor the Mother of God.

What is greater than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose? …She was humble in heart, grave in speech, prudent in mind, sparing of words, studious in reading, resting her hope not on uncertain riches, but on the prayer of the poor, intent on work, modest in discourse.

She wanted to seek not man but God as the judge of her thoughts, to injure no one, to have goodwill towards all, to honor her elders, not to envy her equals, to avoid boastfulness, to follow reason, to love virtue.

…When did she pain her parents even by a look? When did she disagree with her neighbors? When did she despise the lowly? When did she avoid the needy? There was nothing gloomy in her eyes, nothing forward in her words, nothing unseemly in her acts, there was not a silly movement, nor unrestrained step, nor was her voice petulant.

The very appearance of her outward being was the image of her soul. For a well-ordered house ought to be recognized on the threshold, and should show at the very first entrance that no darkness is hidden within, as our soul hindered by no restraints of the body may shine abroad like a lamp placed within.

The first duty we have in our service to Christ is to honor His immaculate mother.

When Sts. Joachim and Anne embraced each other on December 8 and conceived their daughter, the Creator–always full of surprises–brought the Garden of Eden back to the earth.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary enfolds us like an undying garden of innocence, purity, and truth. May we live in this garden always.