Monday, December 7, 2009
St Ambrose Feast Day
St Ambrose was born around 339 in what is now Trier, Germany. He was born to a wealthy Roman family and came to the City of Rome after the death of his father. He rose through the administrative authority of the empire and eventually ended up in Milan. After the death of the Bishop of Milan, Ambrose was elected Bishop.
In my opinion, a turning point in Church history is illustrated by one of the actions of Ambrose. At that time, Emperor Theodosius was involved in a military campaign that lead the the murder of 7,000 civilians in Macedonia. Ambrose wrote a letter to the Emperor and threatened to excommunicate him unless he publicly repented as well as do his penance in front of the citizenry. To everyone's surprise, Theodosius did just that.
This is the first example that I am aware of where the authority of the Church extended to the leaders of the empire. The Church had the power to bring a ruler, literally, to his knees. After Theodosius' death, the empire slowly fell apart, leaving only one institution, the Church, left to pick up the pieces.