Church Education Trust



AMBROSE (339 - 397).

Ambrose came from a noble Roman family, which had long been Christian. His father had held high military office in Gaul, and Ambrose himself was appointed governor of the Roman province of Aeinilia - Liguri. He was consecrated Bishop of Milan in 373 under most unusual circumstances.

Being now 34 years of age and not yet baptised, he was charged with the task of keeping order at an election meeting. During the meeting a child's voice called out,"Ambrose for bishop." This was interpreted as divine guidance, and Ambrose was forthwith baptised and consecrated bishop.

Ambrose proved himself a great defender of the faith and championed the cause of the Catholic creed against Arianism. On matters of principle Ambrose was one of the most resolute, courageous and unbending men of all time; nothing could move him when he was set on a course of action he believed to be right.

When in 385, the Empress Justina demanded that one of the churches in Milan should be reserved for the use of Arians, Ambrose resisted the demand. The Arians were numerous in Milan and the majority of the troops were adherents of Arianism. The sending of troops however and the outbreak of a riot still found Ambrose resolute and eventually Justina gave way.

He was also prepared to resist and reprove the Emperor Theodosius himself. In 390 the people of Thessalonica revolted and murdered the military commander and several officers. Theodosius was roused to anger and ordered a massacre of the rebels. Ambrose wrote him a letter of rebuke and the Emperor did public penance and yielded to his reproof. He ruled his diocese with the firmness of a secular governor of the best type, being a born ruler of men and an able administrator.

His writings are thoroughly practical and fully in line with the orthodox position. His force of character and personality greatly impressed Theodosius. He was an eloquenr preacher and his spiritual power won Augustine. Ambrose was also a writerof hymns and some of his hymns still survive in translation. He died on Good Friday, 397.

JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (347 - 407).

Chrysostom was an outstanding scholar and one of the greatest orators of all time. Born at Antioch in 347, he was brought up as a Christian by his widowed mother. He was baptised in 370 and decided to give up his intention of being an advocate, a career which promised great worldly success. In 374 he retired for four years into a monastic community.

After living as a hermit for two more years, he then returned to Antioch and was ordained a presbyter. During his ministry in Antioch he gained a great reputation as a preacher by his remarkable eloquence; he also wrote commentaries on the Scriptures for preaching purposes. In 397 he was appointed Bishop of Constantinople.

Here he incurred the hatred of the Eurpress Eudoxia and was banished. After suffering privations and hardships he died in 407 with his favourite doxology on his lips, "Glory to God for all things. Amen." Chrysostom was zealous for mislsionary work and sent missionaries to the Goths.

In his diocese he set himself to raise the whole standard of clerical life and deposed some of his unworthy clergy and excommunicated others. He was a stern preacher of righteousness, a clear exponent of the Scriptures and, having a thorough knowledge of the Bible himself, constantly exhorted his hearers to read and study the Scriptures. "This he says, "is the cause of all our evils, not knowing the Scriptures." Chrysostom had little sympathy with luxury and wealth, urged liberality to the poor and attacked the fashionable vices of the day.

JEROME (347 - 420).

Jerome was rather a mixed character, a brilliant scholar who did much valuable work for the church by his translation work and writings, a man inspired by a great zeal for what he believed to be the highest ideals in life, who was able to infuse into noble ladies of a frivolous aristocracy a genuine love of sacred study, yet one who delighted in controversy, carried on his controversies with considerable literary violence, was inclined to be hasty and capable of quite an unchristian spirit towards his opponents.

He was born in Dalmatia and spent his youth in Rome. He fell into bad ways, but was converted early and baptised. He developed a liking for literature, for the study of the Bible and for an ascetic life. After visiting Gaul, settled at Aquileia in 370 and in 374 went East. In 382 he was in Rome again and was commissioned by Damasus, the Bishop of Rome, to revise the Latin New Testament.

In 385 he returned to the East and finally settled at Bethlehem, where he spent the rest of his life. He built a monastery, collected a library, expounded the Scriptures and began translating the Hebrew Bible into Latin. A stream of literature issued from his cell, including commentaries on various books of the Bible.

But his chief title to fame is in his production of the "Vulgate", the Latin translation of the Bible. This became the standard Latin version of the Scriptures. Jerome exercised a great influence over ladies of the aristocracy. In Rome the house of Paula became the centre of a great ascetic movement; and when Jerome settled in Bethlehem, Paula ruled the neighbouring nunnery. Jerome defended monasticism, celibacy and virginity with great enthusiasm.

< back to previous page >

©2008 Church Education Trust