December 8, 2008

Ambrose / Immaculate Conception

Yesterday, Dec 7, was Ambrose's calendar day. He was trained in rhetoric and the law, was a governor, and became Bishop of Milan in 374. He was a great preacher and lecturer. It was he who converted Augustine, showing him that a person of intelligence could find the Christian faith totally satisfying. When baptizing people, he first washed their feet, which was not customary.

The one thing that sticks out to me is that Augustine was amazed at Ambrose reading silently to himself. The history of the written language is fascinating. We just think it's been forever as currently is, but originally, everything had been oral. Homer and Plato were the first persons to have things written (prior to that only history of kings and kingdoms and laws were written - like on papyrus and in clay). They were uncomfortable with their writing. And still it was not read silently. It boggles my mind. They say we're returning to a more oral society with the media today. I think we've got a good mix.

Ambrose lived at the time Arianism was strong. In his locality he set up separation of church and state since the state was made up of many Arian/pagan people. Ambrose is one of the Fathers of the church. He wrote many commentaries on scripture, and books on the Trinity. Since Arianism did not believe in the deity of Jesus, Ambrose was a strong contender for the Nicene Creed and it's wording - even promoting devotion to Mary as Jesus' virgin mother. Ambrose also championed congregational singing and composed a number of hymns. The singing in his church was written about by people.

Ambrose also introduced allegorical interpratation of scripture to the west. He admitted a literal sense, but sought everywhere a deeper mystical meaning that he converted into practical instruction for Christian life. Ambrose also broke away from a strong legalism, and Augustine, his pupil carried on writing about grace.

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. You'd think of Jesus and the Incarnation, but no, it's what's believed of Mary's conception. It seems that Mary's parents did not 'couple' in 'human mire' - taking no pleasure in the act and not conceived with the taint of original sin. Thus a fit vessel for God's son to be hatched in. It's been a hotly debated thing for years.

We've come a long way baby! I don't know how many people still think of sex in marriage as dirty and evil. If God did not like our humanness, why did he choose to enter history as a seed in a womb and go through the birth process and be laid in an animal feed trough, needing to be nursed and burped and diapers changed, and announce his birth first to the lowest of society, dirty shepherds! There's such joy in sex as the Sacrament of Marriage!

My thoughts remember the picture on the Sistine Chapel where God stretches out his hand to Adam, calling him out of the dirt of the earth, kissing into him his breath of Life. How beautifully humanity is created. And God stretches out his arms to those who wait for his touch.
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