St Ambrose (feast day 7th December) is one of the saints of St Chrysostom’s stained glass windows. His window is high in the apse of the church above the altar.
Born in Gaul in 340 Ambrose became Bishop of Milan in 374, by popular acclamation. Though a Christian he hadn’t been baptised and so was baptised and ordained on the same day (7th December). Ambrose began by sharing his wealth with the needy of his diocese. He spoke and taught with great authority, helping people understand the beauty and simplicity of the faith. He was largely responsible for the conversion of St Augustine to Christian faith.
Ambrose reformed the worship of his areas and encouraged a high standard in music in the church. His standards were not just for choirs, but for all the people. He is believed to be the first writer of Christian hymns which rhyme.
Reform, and repair, are necessary in the Church and indeed they are necessities of our lives. Ambrose’s example reminds us that reform is not innovation but rather a restating of basic original truths, re-‘forming’ them. So much of wonder and beauty has been passed to us in our heritage. It is a joy of the Christian to delight in the treasures received – the stories of our faith, the music, the traditions – all of which shape, strengthen and inspire.
Hold fast to the rudder of faith, that you may not be shaken by the heavy storms of this world. The sea, indeed is vast and deep, but do not fear. (from the Letters of Ambrose)
Come, very Sun of heaven’s love,
in lasting radiance from above,
and pour the Holy Spirit’s ray
on all we think or do today.
(From Splendor paternae, St Ambrose)