Saturday, December 22, 2012
Saint Ambrose's Letter
An advent letter from Saint Ambrose (born around 340 AD) was printed in my church bulletin. It is as pertinent in our day as it was in Ambrose's time.
Scores of people (including many Christians) don't appreciate the gift of Christ. I know many who celebrate Christmas and Easter, yet do not believe in Christ's divinity. They either think He never existed or that He was merely a nice wise man who taught everyone to be kind. (These latter don't explain why a nice wise man would stir up trouble and claim to be divine, but that's a post for another day.)
Ambrose points out that we should treat everyone with love. This means, even people who don't believe in Christ, family members whom we find annoying, and strangers who cut us off on the road.
Ambrose holds up the Virgin Mary as a person to imitate. Sadly, many Christians today brush the mother of our Lord aside. They think that because she's human, she isn't important. But she embraced God's call and threw herself completely into trusting His plan. She really was the first Christian. Of course we should look to her as a role model!
We'd be wise to behave like Mary and trust God. The Lord sees beyond the surface while we see mere appearances filtered through our own egos. He can use what we think of as unlikely situations and people to achieve His plan. The teenaged atheist sitting across the Christmas table from you this year may in fact be the next great theologian. Just remember, even now, they are a beloved child of God.
Now, here's Saint Ambrose's letter:
My brothers and sisters in Christ,
How beautiful, how awesome it is that our God sent His own Son to dwell among us, as one of us, to heal the breach between human and divine! And how tragic it is when frail humankind fails to appreciate the gift.
In my day, the followers of a man named Arius did not believe in Christ's divinity. They demanded that we hand over two churches for their use, but I refused to do so. In these difficult times, it was even more important for the followers of Christ to stand united. The mystery and gift of the Incarnation is that Christ came for us all. In every age, the language, customs and liturgical practices that separate the faithful are less important than the faith that unites us. While we cannot condone heresy, we must approach all those we meet with the heart of Our Lord, Who treated even sinners and tax collectors as beloved children of God.
The Virgin Mother provides us an example to emulate. She who bore the Savior understands the weight of an uncertain future. She, the humblest of women, found herself called to serve her Lords in a way that seemed impossible. Yet she embraced the call, both the gift of birth and the sacrifice of the Cross. She trusted the sure and certain hope of salvation promised of old. We trust in the equally certain promise of Our Lord's return. For God can use all situations and all people to effect His plan, even those who seem the least likely candidates. Witness myself, a Roman governor nominated as bishop of Milan even before I was baptized!
In times filled with conflict, then, endeavor to embrace the same patience and hope demonstrated by the Virgin in the days before the Nativity. May the peace of Christ dwell always in your hearts.
Your brother in Christ,