An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


(c. 339-Apr. 4, 397). Bishop and theologian. The son of a Roman governor in Gaul, Ambrose was made governor in Upper Italy in 373. Although he was brought up in a Christian family, he had not been baptized when he became involved in the election of a Bishop of Milan. Ambrose served as mediator between the battling factions of Arians and orthodox Christians. The election was important because the victorious party would control the powerful See of Milan. While he was exhorting the nearly riotous mob to keep the peace and to obey the law, the crowd called out, “Ambrose shall be our bishop!” He protested, but the people persisted. Ambrose was baptized with haste, and subsequently ordained bishop on Dec. 7, 374. He rose rapidly to defend the orthodoxy of the church against Arianism. He introduced antiphonal chanting to enrich the liturgy. He wrote straightforward, practical discourses to educate his people in such matters of doctrine as baptism, the Trinity, the eucharist, and the Person of Christ. His persuasive preaching was an important factor in the conversion of Augustine of Hippo. Ambrose baptized Augustine in 387. Ambrose did not fear to rebuke emperors, including Theodosius, whom he forced to do public penance for the slaughter of several thousand citizens of Thessalonica. Among hymns in The Hymnal 1982 attributed to Ambrose are “The eternal gifts of Christ the King” (233-234), “O Splendor of God's glory bright” (5), “O God, creation's secret force” (14-15), “Now Holy Spirit” (19-20), “O God of truth, O Lord of Might” (21-22), and “Redeemer of the nations come” (55). Ambrose is considered one of the four Fathers of the Western Church. He is commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on Dec. 7.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.