December 7 marks the day when we commemorate one of the great early church fathers and Doctors of the Church, Saint Ambrose of Milan. A powerhouse in his own time, he combated the early church heresies of Arianism and Docetism, however, his fight with Arianism would last nearly his entire life.
Many Catholics know about St. Ambrose through another early church father and Doctor, St. Augustine of Hippo, who he baptized in A.D. 387 It was the great sermons of St. Ambrose that began to bring Augustine to Christianity, and of course the prayers over twenty-five years by St. Monica, Augustine’s mother. I firmly believe that If we didn’t have St. Ambrose, we may never have had St. Augustine.
He is known as the patron of bees, beekeepers, and candlemakers, but also known as the Patron of the Veneration of Mary. In his writings on Our Lady, we see some of the first significant Marian doctrine to hit the Christian West. He took to the Eastern traditions to learn about Mary because so much of what we have in regards to her role comes originally from the East.
For Saint Ambrose, his Marian teachings stem from Mary’s Perpetual Virginity. He was astounded by how she consecrated herself to God. It is from here that all his writings develop. Below are seven quotes from his different writings focusing on the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“The first impulse to learn in inspired by the nobility of the teacher. Now, who could be nobler than the Mother of God? Who more splendid than she, whom Splendor chose? Who more chaste than she, who gave birth to a body without bodily contact? What should I say, then, about all her other virtues? She was a virgin, not only in body but in her mind as well, and never mixed the sincerity of her affections with duplicity.
“He is the Son of man because the Virgin is a human creature. That which is born of flesh is flesh; that which is born of a human being is called man.”
“Such an incredible and unheard-of birth needed to be announced to her before it could be believed. A virgin giving birth is the sign of a divine mystery, not a human one. And so he says, ‘Let this be a sign for you: Behold, the virgin shall conceive in her womb and bear a son’ (Is. 7:14). Mary had read this passage; therefore, she believed that the prophecy would come true, but she could not have read about how it would happen.”
“What was the reason for the Incarnation? It has to be this: the flesh that had sinned had to be redeemed by the same flesh.”
“She does not appear to have doubted the event [the Annunciation] but asked how it would take place. Clearly, if she asked it would happen, she must have believed in its fulfillment. Thus she merited to hear the words, ‘Blessed are you, because you have believed’ (Lk. 1:45).”
“His mother stood before the Cross, and, while the men fled, she remained undaunted . . . She did not fear the torturers . . . His Mother offered herself to his persecutors.
Well [does the Gospel say]: married but a virgin; because she is the type of the Church, which is also married but remains immaculate. The Virgin [Church] conceived us by the Holy Spirit and, as a virgin, gave birth to us without pain. And perhaps this is why holy Mary, married to one man [Joseph], is made fruitful by another [the Holy Spirit], to show that the individual churches are filled with the Spirit and with grace, even as they are united to the person of a temporal priest.”
As you read these quotes, always remember the great saints of the past that fought with great conviction and fortitude through their rhetoric to defend the Incarnation and the role of Our Lady in the Church. Most especially pray for those individuals that deny her role and importance in the Life of Christ. Pray for all Bishops, that they, like St. Ambrose, can have the fortitude and strength to provide us solid orthodox teachings and not confusion, chaos, and scandal.