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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Saint Ambrose and bees: Honey and stings

(Photo by Jon Sullivan) 
It is said that when Saint Ambrose (born Aurelius Ambrosius - and one of the four original Church Doctors) was an infant, "a swarm of bees settled on his face while he lay in his cradle, leaving behind a drop of honey."  Wikipedia reports that his father (the Roman praetorian prefect of Gaul) took this to be a foreshadowing of Ambrose's "future eloquence and honeyed

However, a honeyed tongue can also sting.  James 3:8 (NIV) calls the tongue "a restless evil, full of deadly poison."  James 3:9 (NIV) goes on to explain:  "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God's likeness."

Although no doubt saintly in matters concerning his own understanding of Christianity (having declared to perceived Arian enemies:  If you demand my person, I am ready to submit: carry me to prison or to death, I will not resist; but I will never betray the church of Christ…), Ambrose was equally staunch (but not particularly saintly-sounding) concerning the Jews and the Pagans.

Regarding the Jews, his stinging tongue put forth statements like these (regarding the destruction of a synagogue by a persecuting mob of monks):  What real wrong is there in destroying a synagogue, a 'home of perfidy, a home of impiety'…  Pagans fared no better from Ambrose's tongue-lashings.  Under
his influence, they were persecuted by Roman emperors Gratian, Valentinian II and Theodosius I.

Nevertheless, Saint Ambrose also practiced blessed silence.  In his Confessions, Augustine wrote:  When
[Ambrose] read, his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still.   


Copyright January 13, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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