Advent Reflections:  A letter of St. Ambrose

A letter of St. Ambrose

You win the people over with the grace of your words

You have entered upon the office of bishop. Sitting at the helm of the Church, you pilot the ship against the waves. Take firm hold of the rudder of faith so that the severe storms of this world cannot disturb you. The sea is mighty and vast, but do not be afraid, for as Scripture says: he has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters.

The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church’s foundation is unshakeable and firm against the assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbour of salvation for all in distress. Although the Church is tossed about on the sea, it rides easily on rivers, especially those rivers that Scripture speaks of: The rivers have lifted up their voice. These are the rivers flowing from the heart of the man who is given drink by Christ and who receives from the Spirit of God. When these rivers overflow with the grace of the Spirit, they lift up their voices.

There is also a stream which flows down on God’s saints like a torrent. There is also a rushing river giving joy to the heart that is at peace and makes for peace. Whoever has received from the fullness of this river, like John the Evangelist, like Peter and Paul, lifts up his voice. Just as the apostles lifted up their voices and preached the Gospel throughout the world, so those who drink these waters begin to preach the good news of the Lord Jesus.

Drink, then, from Christ, so that your voice may also be heard. Store up in your mind the water that is Christ, the water that praises the Lord. Store up water from many sources, the water that rains down from the clouds of prophecy.

Whoever gathers water from the mountains and leads it to himself or draws it from springs, is himself a source of dew like the clouds. Fill your soul, then, with this water, so that your land may not be dry, but watered by your own springs.
He who reads much and understands much, receives his fill. He who is full, refreshes others. So Scripture says: If the clouds are full, they will pour rain upon the earth.

Therefore, let your words be rivers, clean and limpid, so that in your exhortations you may charm the ears of your people. And by the grace of your words win them over to follow your leadership. Let your sermons be full of understanding. Solomon says: The weapons of the understanding are the lips of the wise; and in another place he says: Let your lips be bound with wisdom. That is, let the meaning of your words shine forth, let understanding blaze out. See that your addresses and expositions do not need to invoke the authority of others, but let your words be their own defence. Let no word escape your lips in vain or be uttered without depth of meaning.

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Prepare our hearts, Lord, by the power of your grace. / When Christ comes, / may he find us worthy / to receive from his hand the bread of / heaven / at the feast of eternal life.

Saint Ambrose proclaimed the coming of Christ, the long-awaited Savior, in troubled times not so different from our own. When others were abandoning the true faith for falsified concepts of Christ, Ambrose remained steadfast and taught his people fidelity by preaching, writing, and creating inspiring hymns still sung today.
– MAGNIFICAT, Dec 7, 2017

Ambrose worked tirelessly to defend orthodox doctrine, especially against the pervasive Arian heresy which denied the divinity of Christ.  St. Ambrose was the saint who introduced Lectio Divina, the practice of prayerfully meditating on the Sacred Scriptures, into the Latin Church.  This informed his eloquent writing, preaching, and teaching, earning him the nickname “honey-tongued doctor.”  Ambrose was the bishop who converted and baptized St. Augustine of Hippo.  He is one of the four original Doctors of the Church.


The first Sunday and week of Advent
In her wisdom, the Catholic Church sets aside the season of Advent as a time for the Christian faithful to refresh, refocus and reexamine.  It is a time we are meant to ask ourselves:  How is the state of my soul?  Am I prepared for the coming of Christ?  As we hear from the Prophet Isaiah in the readings of the first Sunday of Advent, are we like polluted rags, have we all withered like leaves?  Or would that our Lord meet us doing right, that we are mindful of Him in our ways (cf Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7)?

Advent truly is a season of waiting, but one of active waiting.  As St. Paul exhorts us, as he did his brothers and sisters in Corinth, we must keep firm to the end, as we were called to fellowship with God’s son, Jesus Christ (Cor 1:3-9).  Therefore, this anticipation of the Christ Child, the long-awaited Messiah, foretold by the Jewish prophets, whom we will receive on Christmas Day, must be anticipated in a sense of watchfulness, alertness, for we truly do not know when the time will come when the lord of the house is coming (Mk 13:13-37).  So, this Advent, we are reminded again, as in every year:  “Watch!”  And we are invited to prepare our hearts, to open our minds, for the arrival of the Infant Jesus, who from Bethlehem, the City of Bread, will become for us the Bread of Life – thanks be to God!

How will I prepare (how will my family prepare) for the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, The Christ this year?

Let our hearts be open and may He find his rest there, in our hearts, as he rested in the manger with Mary and Joseph.  So it is with hope, faith, peace and joy may we actively participate in Christ’s arrival during this beautiful season of Advent.

Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.

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