Ambrose and Catechetical Instruction

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Source: Translator's Introduction to Ambrose's On the Mysteries and the Treatise on the Sacraments by an Unknown Author, trans. T. Thompson, ed. with Introduction and Notes by J.H. Strawley (New York: Macmillan, 1919).


I. On Catechetical Instruction

The two treatises contained in the present volume, apart from their importance to the student of Christian worship and doctrines, possess this further source of interest, that they illustrate the care of the ancient Church for the adequate instruction of those who were admitted to Christian baptism. Each of them consists of addresses given in Easter week to those who had been baptized on Easter Eve. But they presuppose a longer course of instruction which had been carried on throughout Lent, and to this previous instruction Ambrose refers in the opening words of the treatise On the Mysteries. The origin of this system of instruction goes back to the early days of the Church, and the word “catechumen” applied to one who had attached himself to the Church and was undergoing such instruction has its origin in the New Testament.1 As the Church grew in numbers and influence, and its converts were in most cases adults, increasing importance was attached to this side of its activity. The famous school of Alexandria, of which Pantaenus, Clement, and Origen were the most notable heads, represents that activity in its most splendid and striking form. Under their leadership it attracted the more thoughtful and intelligent classes of converts, and developed into a school of Christian philosophy and learning. But in a simpler form the same kind of instruction was going on throughout the Church, and the discipline and training to which converts were subjected before they were admitted to baptism is reflected not only in the series of Church Orders, which give directions for the preliminaries of baptism, but also in the liturgical books which deal with the ordering of Christian worship. The central act of worship, the Eucharist, was divided into two parts. The missa catechumenorum, consisting of lessons, psalms, homily, and prayers, was open to all, baptized and unbaptized, alike. The missa fidelium, or Eucharist proper, was the special privilege of the baptized. The conversion of the Empire flooded the Church with a number of converts, many of whom were Christian only in name, and were unwilling to take upon themselves the full obligations of the Christian life involved in baptism. Crowds flocked into the ranks of the catechumenate, but many stopped there, and the evil custom became prevalent of postponing as long as possible the reception of baptism. The Emperor Constantine was baptized on his death-bed. Augustine, though admitted to the catechumenate as a boy, is another example of one whose baptism was long deferred. Corresponding to these changed conditions we find that the Church in the fourth century, unable to cope with the great crowd of catechumens, reserved the full and complete instruction to those catechumens who expressed their intention of presenting themselves for baptism. The duration of this instruction, of which in the earlier period we have no clear indications, became generally fixed to the season of Lent, the baptism itself taking place on Easter Eve.1 The importance of this work of instruction was such that leading bishops of the Church engaged in it themselves, and also wrote treatises intended for the guidance of catechists. We have examples of these latter in Augustine’s work de catechizandis rudibus and in the Catechetical Oration of Gregory of Nyssa. The best known example of the actual instruction given is the Catecheses of Cyril of Jerusalem. Other examples may be found among the sermons of Chrysostom, in those of Augustine to candidates for baptism (ad competentes) and to the newly-baptized (ad infantes), and in the addresses of Gaudentius of Brescia to neophytes.

The names of those who expressed their intention of offering themselves for baptism were given in at the beginning of Lent (cp. de Sacram. iii. 2.12), and henceforth they were known as competentes, or at Rome electi, while the corresponding term in the East was οἱ ϕωτιζόμενοι (“those who are being illuminated”). At Milan, during Lent, Ambrose daily instructed the candidates in Christian morals and the elements of religion (de Myst. i. 1), and many of his extant sermons, based upon the books of Scripture read during Lent, are of this character. Thus Ambrose tells us, in the passage just cited, that in Lent the lives of the patriarchs (Genesis) and the precepts of Proverbs were read, and his own sermons On Abraham contain references which show that they were intended for candidates for baptism.1

The services at which these lessons were read and the instructions were given were undoubtedly the missae catechumenorum, of which we find survivals in the later Milanese books, i. e. the Manuale (cent. x) and the Ordo of Beroldus (cent. xii). From these sources we learn that they were held at the third and ninth hours on week-days in Lent, except on Saturday, when the “scrutinies” were held. (See W. C. Bishop, Ch. Quart. Review, lxxii (1911), pp. 56 f.)

Of these “scrutinies,” or examinations of the candidates to test their fitness for baptism, which find a place in the references of Augustine and in the later liturgical books of Rome and Milan, there is no mention in the two treatises contained in this volume. Nor do they refer in express terms to the “delivery of the Creed” (traditio symboli), which formed an important part of the preparation of candidates in the West. Elsewhere, however (Ep. xx. 4. 6), Ambrose tells us that this delivery of the Creed took place on the Sunday before Easter. This ceremony illustrates another feature in the discipline of the early Church, its reserve in imparting the most sacred truths and mysteries of the Christian religion. This reserve, to which in later times was given the name disciplina arcani, was partly due to motives of reverence, and was suggested by Mt. vii. 6. It was also due to the sound educational principle that truth must be conveyed gradually and adapted to the circumstances and apprehension of the hearers.1 At Rome, somewhat later, a like reserve was practised with regard to the delivery and exposition of the Gospels, for at Rome the catechumens were dismissed before the reading of the Gospel at Mass, though this was not the case at Milan. The Lord’s Prayer came under the same reserve, and was delivered and expounded to the candidates, at Rome before baptism, at Milan, if we may regard de Sacram. as evidence, in Easter week.1

Of the whole of this preparatory stage the two treatises included in this volume supply only fragmentary evidence, and of the rites which accompanied it they reveal little or nothing. On the rites of baptism their information is full, and on the lessons read, and the instructions given, in Easter week, when the training of the candidates was completed, they throw a flood of light. It was during this period that the instruction on the Sacraments and the Lord’s Prayer was given. The Catecheses of Cyril of Jerusalem show a similar practice. On the other hand, at Hippo in Africa in the time of Augustine the instruction appears to have been completed in the main before baptism, though Easter week was still devoted to further addresses to the candidates, in which they were exhorted to perseverance. See Aug., Sermons, ccxxiv.-ccxxviii. (ad Infantes).

This practice of postponing instruction on the Sacraments until after Baptism and Communion is justified by Ambrose on two grounds (de Myst. i. 2). (1) To disclose the mysteries to those who were as yet uninitiated would be the betrayal of a sacred trust. (2) It is better to let the light of the mysteries make its own appeal to those who come fresh to them than to introduce them by a discourse.

With the widespread growth of infant baptism this elaborate system of catechetical instruction became unmeaning, and after the sixth century it tended to disappear, though traces of it survived, and the liturgical books, both in the rites of Baptism and the Eucharist, bear clear marks of its influence.


Character, Authorship, and Date of the Treatise “On the Mysteries” (de Mysteriis)

The treatise On the Mysteries bears the name of St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, who played so large a part in the history of the Western Church in the last quarter of the fourth century. It consists of addresses to the newly-baptized in Easter week. The author expounds the ceremonies connected with Baptism, and illustrates its doctrinal significance from the Old and New Testaments. He next shows the superiority of the Eucharist to the sacraments of the Old Testament, and attributes the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood to the operative power of Christ’s words of institution, finding illustrations of his theme in the miracles of the Old Testament and in the Incarnation. After dwelling on the benefits and fruits of Communion he encourages the newly-baptized to believe in the certainty and power of the new life given in Baptism. At two points Ambrose introduces a mystical commentary on certain chapters of the Song of Songs, which is employed to illustrate the joy of the Church presented to the Bridegroom in all the purity and glory of baptismal grace (vii. 33-41), and again, to show the wonder and joy of the divine feast spread by Christ (ix. 55-58). This use of the Song of Songs Ambrose derived, like so much else in his teaching, from Greek sources. The mystical interpretation of the Song of Songs, which appears to have been the interpretation given to it by those who assigned it a place in the Jewish Canon of Scripture, first found clear expression in the Church in Origen’s commentary on the book. Origen was followed by Methodius in his Banquet of the Virgins, and later on by Gregory of Nyssa. Through Ambrose it passed into the West, and later on found expression in the writings of St. Bernard. To Origen also is due the idea that the imagery of the Song may be applied either to the Church or to the individual soul (de Myst. vii. 37; cf. de Sacram. v. 2. 7 f.). This mystical use of the Song recurs constantly in the writings of Ambrose (see e.g. de Isaac et anima (passim); de Institutione Virginis; de Obitu Valentini, cc. 59 f.).

The authenticity of the treatise On the Mysteries was vigorously contested in the controversy between Catholics and Protestants during the Reformation period. Some of the objections were trivial and dealt with the author’s interpretation of particular passages of Scripture (e.g. Jn. v. 7 in de Myst. iv. 24). Daillé (de Confirmatione, 1659) maintained that Ambrose could not possibly have attributed to the “feet-washing” the sacramental significance given to it in de Myst. vi. 32 (on this see note on the passage). The teaching of the author on the subject of the Eucharist was appealed to in support of the doctrine of Transubstantiation, and this led to the further objection by Protestant writers that such teaching could not possibly have come from Ambrose. This latter objection has been revived in recent times by Loofs,1 who maintains that Ambrose in his genuine works nowhere affirms the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. But it cannot be said that he has made out a convincing case, or that the sharp contrast which he draws between the language of Ambrose in this treatise and in de Fide (iv. 10. 124) and Enarr. in Ps. xxxviii. 25 is justified.2

On the other hand, there are many points of contact between the present treatise and other works of Ambrose. As we have seen, the mystical use of the Song of Songs is found elsewhere in Ambrose, and the sacramental efficacy which the author finds in the “feet-washing” may be paralleled from other writings of Ambrose (see note on de Myst. vi. 32). There are also echoes in the treatise of the two works of Ambrose de Spiritu sancto and de Institutione Virginis.1 In the opening words of the treatise the author refers to the daily sermons which he had preached on “right conduct” during Lent, when the lives of the patriarchs were read. The sermons of Ambrose On Abraham (Book I.) correspond exactly to this description. They were addressed to candidates for baptism, and they deal with questions of conduct. The date of the treatise in that case would be about a.d. 387, to which year the treatise On Abraham is assigned.


Character, Authorship, and Date of the Treatise “On The Sacraments” (de Sacramentis)

The treatise On the Sacraments consists of six sermons delivered to the newly-baptized in Easter week. They deal with Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, the Lord’s Prayer, and Prayer. The work is nearly related to de Mysteriis, which it closely follows, embodying and expanding most of its contents. Its description of the rites of baptism is at times more exact than that of de Mysteriis, and it quotes several of the actual formularies employed, where they are either merely referred to, or passed over, in the earlier work.1 The author supplements the account of the “feet-washing” contained in his source by a statement that it is not practised at Rome, and while expressing his desire to follow in all respects the pattern of the Roman Church, he vindicates in this respect the custom of his own Church (iii. 1. 5-6). On the Eucharist he gives much fuller information than Ambrose. Not only does he refer to the prayers preceding the Canon (iv. 4. 14), but he quotes a considerable portion of the Canon itself, as well as the doxology at the close of the Lord’s Prayer (iv. 5. 21-23; iv. 6. 26-27; vi. 5. 24). The exposition of the Lord’s Prayer in Book V. is not found in de Mysteriis, nor is the description of the parts of prayer (vi. 5. 22 f.), which is modelled on Ambrose, de Inst. Virg. ii. 8-10. With these exceptions the treatise for the most part reproduces the contents of de Myst. But though the author has made free use of the materials of the earlier work, his style is different from that of Ambrose. He frequently introduces his point by a short question, a rhetorical device very sparingly used by Ambrose. He nowhere rises to the spiritual fervour exhibited by Ambrose in de Myst. vi. 29 (with its personal address to our Lord). Moreover, he shows occasionally his independence of the earlier work, rearranging its material, omitting or expanding particular points, and sometimes developing the ideas suggested by a passage of Scripture quoted in his source (cp. e.g. the application of Eccl. ii. 14 in de Myst. vi. 30 and de Sacram. iii. 1. 1). In the treatment of the doctrinal significance of the “feet-washing” he silently corrects the conclusions of Ambrose (de Myst. vi. 32; de Sacram. iii. 1. 7). In his eucharistic teaching he follows Ambrose in his assertion of the operative power of the word of Christ in changing the elements into the body and blood of Christ. But he goes further than Ambrose in his recoil from the materialistic conclusions that might be drawn from this doctrine, and in so doing he falls back on the earlier language which speaks of receiving “the likeness of the death” and “drinking the likeness of the blood,” and comes very near to conceiving of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist as a presence of grace and power only (iv. 4. 20; vi. 1. 3. See further, p. xxxvii below). In the passage iii. 2. 13 f. he may possibly have in view the Pelagian denial of original sin, in which case we have an indication that the author is later than Ambrose. If, further, the reference to the Greek custom of communicating once a year (v. 4. 25) is due to acquaintance with Chrysostom’s homilies (see note, l.c.), we have a further indication of late date. Lastly, it is improbable that Ambrose would have so closely copied an earlier work of his own.

Like de Myst., this treatise came prominently into notice in connexion with the controversies between Catholics and Protestants at the time of the Reformation. Its authenticity was attacked by Bullinger, by Aubertin (whose verdict was “He is the ape of Ambrose”), and by Daillé. Aubertin assigned it to the seventh century, Daillé to the eighth. Doubts were also expressed on the opposite side by Cardinal Bona and the Benedictine editors. Various theories have been propounded as to the authorship. Tillemont’s suggestion of Maximus of Turin has gained little credence. It has been revived in recent times by Schermann (Röm. Quartalschrift, xvii. (1903), 254 f.), who points out that in the oldest MS. of de Sacram. the book follows immediately the Homilies of Maximus. Another theory, advanced by Probst (Lit. des viert. Jahrh., p. 239) and Dom Morin (Revue bénéd. (1894) xi. 343 f.), is that the book was compiled from notes taken by those who had heard the sermons of Ambrose. But this theory fails to explain the peculiar characteristics which distinguish it from the genuine works of Ambrose. The question of authorship therefore remains open.

As to date, the presence of the treatise in the St. Gall MS. 188 of the seventh century, shows that it must be earlier than that period. Other indications are supplied by the fact that the treatise presupposes a condition of Church life in which adult baptism was still the rule, and in which baptism was normally celebrated at Easter (see iv. 1. 2, note), while other passages imply that heathenism still flourished (vi. 4. 18; vi. 5. 21). The prayers quoted in iv. 5. 21-23; iv. 6. 26-27 are of an earlier type than the Roman Canon in the Gelasian Sacramentary (see below, pp. xxxii ff.). The writer refers to Arianism (vi. 2. 10; cp. v. 1. 1, note), and possibly to Pelagianism (iii. 2. 13 f.), though the indirect character of this latter reference suggests a date at which the controversy had not yet been fought out. A less certain indication of date is afforded by the character of the Scripture quotations, which present in the Old Testament a form of the Latin Version earlier than the Vulgate (see below, p. xlii). The writer shows respect for the Church of Rome, whose pattern and rule he expresses a desire to follow (iii. 1. 5), though he claims a certain degree of independence in the matter of the usages of his own Church. His attitude in fact suggests a position of affairs like that revealed in the letter of Pope Innocent I to Decentius (416 a.d.), in which the see of Rome was advancing its claims over other churches in the matter of liturgical conformity, no less than in matters of discipline. These indications suggest a date in one of the earlier decades of the fifth century. The affinity of the rites of baptism with those of Milan, the resemblance of the Canon of the Mass to that of the Roman rite, and the author’s attitude to Rome, suggest that he lived in some North Italian district closely associated with Milan on the one hand and Rome on the other. Duchesne (Christian Worship, Eng. tr., p. 177) suggests Ravenna.

The author is acquainted with other works of Ambrose, besides de Mysteriis. He makes use of the language of de Officiis in describing the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit (iii. 2. 9), and his discussion of the parts of prayer is, as we have seen, based on de Institutione Virginis. His treatment of prayer and the Lord’s Prayer suggests that he was acquainted with Origen’s treatise de Oratione. Elsewhere (ii. 6. 17, 19) his teaching echoes that of Greek Church writers (see notes).

The addresses, six in number, appear to have been begun on Tuesday in Easter week and concluded on the following Sunday. At the close of the fourth address (iv. 6. 29) the author expresses his intention to continue his discourses “to-morrow, Saturday, and on Sunday” (crastina die, sabbato, et dominica), where “Saturday” is in apposition to “to-morrow.” But a misunderstanding of the words led to the idea that there were three more sermons to follow. Hence the St. Gall MS. divides the last book into two parts, beginning a new book with vi. 5. 25, obviously an unnatural division. Similarly, some MSS. of de Mysteriis describe that work as Book I. of de Sacramentis, and rearrange the numbering of the books of the latter treatise accordingly; while in one MS., after the present six books of the treatise, there appears, under the heading “Book VII.,” a sermon found in the Appendix of Augustine’s works (Serm. 247; Migne, P. L. xxxviii. 2200), which is attributed to Ivo of Chartres.


The Rites of Baptism and Confirmation

Both treatises contain much valuable information as to the baptismal rites current in the Churches from which they proceed, though of the period before baptism they say little. Reference has already been made to the preparatory instruction and the rites by which it was accompanied. (See Introd. § I.) For a general comparison and discussion of the various Western rites see T. Thompson, Offices of Baptism and Confirmation. Though the two treatises proceed from different Churches, they present, with some slight divergences, the same general type of rite, which exhibits many points of contact with the later Milanese rite, though the latter has been much transformed and rearranged (see Thompson, op. cit., p. 133 f.).

The order and contents of the rite represented in de Mysteriis and de Sacramentis may be summarised as follows—

1. The Effeta or “opening of the ears” took place, as at Rome, on Easter Eve. It was performed by touching the ears and nostrils (there is no mention of the use of saliva or oil), and was based upon the action of our Lord recorded in Mk. vii. 34. It was intended to symbolise the opening of the faculties to the fruitful reception of the Sacraments (de Myst. i. 3, 4; de Sacram. i. 1. 2). Later on, at Rome, this ceremony was connected with the “delivery of the Gospels,” a rite which is not found at Milan.

2. Unction at the font by priest and deacon (de Sacram. i. 2. 4; not mentioned in de Myst.). This, too, is found in the Roman rite, but is not in the later Milanese forms. As it is not mentioned by Ambrose, it is perhaps a feature which the Church of the author of de Sacramentis had derived from Rome. It is found in the Bobbio Missal, which also shows Roman influences. The author of de Sacram. describes it as the anointing of the Christian athlete for “the contest of the world.” At Rome the unction was made on the back and the breast.

3. The renunciations (de Myst. ii. 5-7; iii. 8; de Sacram. i. 2. 5). The account of de Sacram. is fuller and more exact, and shows that the renunciations were twofold, i.e. “Dost thou renounce the devil and his works?”, “Dost thou renounce the world and its pleasures?”, to each of which questions the answer was given “I renounce.” Then follows the admonition “Be mindful of thy words, and never let the contents of thy bond pass from thy memory”—which reappears as a formula in substantially the same words in the later Milanese books (see note). At Rome the renunciations were threefold; in the Gallican books a single renunciation is found. In this respect the later Milanese books remain faithful to the practice exhibited in de Sacramentis.

If we follow the reading suggested by Dom Morin in de Myst. ii. 7 (see note) the renunciation of the devil was accompanied at Milan by the dramatic ceremony of “spitting in his face,” a practice which is found in some Eastern rites, though the evidence for the custom is of much later date than Ambrose.

4. The consecration of the font by the bishop (de Myst. iii. 8, 14; cf. iv. 20; de Sacram. i. 5. 18; ii. 5. 14). According to de Myst. this appears to have followed the renunciations, as Ambrose asserts that the bishop himself put the questions at the renunciation, though de Sacram. implies that this was done by the presbyter.1 Our information as to the details of the consecration is derived almost entirely from de Sacram., which speaks of an exorcism (as in the later Milanese and Gallican forms), and an invocation of the name of the Father and of the presence of the Son and the Holy Spirit (ii. 5. 14). To this latter feature there are no parallels in later forms. In de Myst. (iii. 14) there is added to these details the signing of the water with the Cross. There is no mention of the pouring of chrism into the font, as in the later Milanese and other Western rites.

5. The descent into the font; the baptismal profession and immersions (de Myst. ii. 7, iv. 21, v. 28; de Sacram. ii. 7. 20). From de Myst. ii. 7 we learn that the candidate turned to the east for the baptismal profession. The form of the creed is given very fully in de Sacram. It consisted of three questions, “Dost thou believe in God the Father almighty?”, “Dost thou believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and in His Cross?”, “Dost thou believe also in the Holy Spirit?” To each question the candidate replied, “I believe,” and an immersion followed each of the three responses. The immersion after each question is a feature found in many early rites; but the addition of the words “and His Cross” to the second of the two questions is peculiar to these treatises. In the later Milanese books it has been replaced by the Roman form “who was born and suffered.”

6. Unction of the head with chrism (de Myst. vi. 29, 30; de Sacram. ii. 7. 24). This, too, was performed by the bishop (sacerdos is used by both writers. See note de Myst. ii. 6, de Sacram. i. 1. 2). From de Sacram. iii. 1. 1 we learn that this was performed with chrism (μύρον). The same author quotes the prayer used by the bishop, which resembles fairly closely the prayer found in the Gelasian Sacramentary in connexion with the post-baptismal unction at Rome, where, however, the minister was the presbyter, not, as here, the bishop (see Wilson, Gel. Sacr. p. 86). This unction of the head is interpreted in de Sacram. (iii. 1. 1) as the enrichment ofman’s faculties by divine grace, whereas Ambrose (de Myst. vi. 30) sees in it a consecration of the newly baptized to their place in the priestly body of the Church.

7. The washing of the feet (de Myst. vi. 31-33; de Sacram. iii. 1. 4-7). From de Sacram. it appears that the washing was begun by the bishop and completed by the presbyters. The author is aware that the rite was not practised by the Roman Church. It was current, however, in Africa, Spain, Gaul, and Ireland. It is mentioned in a canon of the Council of Elvira (c. 48) at the beginning of the fourth century, and is found in the service books of Gallican and Irish origin (Missale Gothicum, Miss. Gallicanum vetus, Bobbio and Stowe Missals), as well as in the later Ambrosian rite, represented in the Manuale Ambrosianum and Beroldus.

To this ceremony Ambrose (de Myst. vi. 32) appears to assign the same sacramental efficacy with regard to inherited sin as he assigns to baptism with regard to actual sin. The author of de Sacramentis silently corrects this teaching by affirming that all sins are washed away in baptism. He sees, however, in the rite a means of sanctification and a lesson in humility. Augustine (Ep. lv. (ad Januar.) 33) was faced with the danger of attaching to the rite an exaggerated value, and replied that the ceremony was a type of humility, but formed no part of the sacrament of baptism.

8. The vesting with white robes (de Myst. vii. 34; alluded to in de Sacram. iv. 2. 5-6; v. 3. 14 familia candidata). This custom is found both in East and West during the fourth century. It appears in the earlier Roman rite (John the Deacon), in Spain in the Liber Ordinum (which contains much ancient material), in the Missale Gothicum and the Bobbio Missal. The memory of the custom survives in the Roman books in the titles of some of the prayers for Easter week and its octave (e.g. totius albae orationes (Gelasian Sacr., Wilson, p. 91); feria ii. in albas, die dominico post albas (Gregorian Sacr., Wilson (H. B. S.), pp. 60, 65)).

9. The “spiritual seal” (de Myst. vii. 41-42; de Sacram. iii. 2. 8-10; vi. 2. 6-8). To this rite de Sacram. also gives the title perfectio, as being the “completion” of baptism. Both writers speak of it as “a signing,”1 and connect with it the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit. The evidence of de Myst. alone might lead us to suppose that the “spiritual seal” is identical with the unction of vi. 29, and that Ambrose is led to speak of it as “the spiritual seal”because of the order in which the “seal” is mentioned in the Song of Songs which he is expounding (see vii. 41); but the evidence of de Sacramentis shows that the two are plainly distinct. While the significance of the rite is plainly the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit (and hence it may be said to correspond to the rite of “Confirmation”) the connexion of the rite with the preceding unction after baptism is not clearly indicated, nor is its outward form described. One view is that the unction after baptism marked the beginning of the rite of confirmation, which was completed by the subsequent “signing” or “seal” (cf. Dom de Puniet, art. “Confirmation” in Cabrol, Dict. d’ de lit. chrét., col. 2532). On the other hand, the author of de Sacram. (iii. 1. 1) after referring to the unction and explaining its significance, concludes: “This is called regeneration,” thus seeming to connect it with the preceding rite of baptism.

As to the outward form of the rite, there is no mention of unction or the laying on of hands, but only of a “signing.” Nor is Ambrose more explicit in de Spir. s. i. 6. 72, where, referring to the “spiritual seal,” he says, “though we are signed on the body outwardly, in reality we are signed in heart.” At Rome, in the time of Pope Innocent I. (about a.d. 416), the rite took the form of an unction on the forehead made with chrism by the bishop, while the previous unction after baptism was assigned to the priest. The Ambrosian sacramentaries of the ninth and tenth centuries exhibit only one unction after baptism (for the later history at Milan see Thompson, op. cit. p. 137). As both de Myst. and de Sacram. rehearse in full the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit when speaking of the rite, it might be inferred that a prayer was used resembling that in the Roman order of confirmation (Wilson, Gelasian Sacramentary, p. 87), but there is no allusion to such a prayer in the later Manuale Ambrosianum nor in Beroldus (cf. Thompson, op. cit. p. 138).

10. The procession to the altar followed upon the completion of the rites described above (de Myst. viii. 43; de Sacram. iii. 2. 13; iv. 2. 5, 7; iv. 3. 8). Both writers refer in this connexion to Psalms xliii. and xxiii., which may have been sung as introductory chants (though the use of Psalm xliii. in the preparatory portion of the Roman Mass (and of the Ambrosian) is of later origin).1 From Ambrose (in Psalm cxviii. prol. 2) it would appear that, though the newly-baptized communicated along with the faithful, they did not take part in the people’s offering of bread and wine before the octave of Easter.

During Easter week the instructions on the sacraments were given. In the later Ambrosian books mention is made of missae pro baptizatis, which were celebrated during the week-days of Easter week, and were distinct from the missae attended by the general body of the faithful. These latter were celebrated in a different church and at a later hour. But beyond references to the lessons read at the services at which the instructions were given, the present treatises throw no light on the character of the services in Easter week.


The Lessons from the Scriptures

There are several references to the lessons from Scripture read in Church in both treatises. In the case of de Sacram. especially these are often quite explicit, and from them and the less clearly defined statements in de Myst. we can form some idea of their order and contents. Their evidence shows that certain books were already assigned to particular seasons, and that the beginnings of a fixed course of lessons for the more important seasons of the Church had already been made. It will be sufficient here briefly to indicate the facts and to adduce parallels with the later system of lessons exhibited in the Manuale Ambrosianum of the tenth century, noting any approximations already made in the two treatises to this later system. Such parallels can only yield results of varying and unequal value. In some cases they point to a real connexion between the earlier and the later practice. Others are merely interesting “attestations,” while others again (e. g. some of those cited under III.) are of interest as showing the kind of teaching which was associated with the passages and led to their finding a place in the Milanese cycle of lessons.

I. In de Myst. i. 1, Ambrose speaks of lessons from the lives of the patriarchs and from Proverbs as being read during Lent. This corresponds to the later Milanese practice found in the Manuale, in which lessons from Genesis and Proverbs were read at the missae catechumenorum at the third and ninth hours each week-day in Lent, except Saturdays.1 From Ambrose, Ep. xx. 14, 25 we learn that in Holy Week it was the established custom to read lessons from the books of Job and Jonah,2 and both books find a place in the course of lessons prescribed in the Manuale for the first four days of Holy Week.3 From de Myst. vi. 31 (cf. de Sacram. iii. 1. 4) it would appear that John xiii. 4 f. was read at the time of the washing of the feet of the newly-baptized (in the Manuale it is appointed for the mass of the newly-baptized on Saturday in Easter week). For the services of Easter week, at which the addresses in de Sacram. were given, the author supplies the following facts. In the second address (ii. 2. 3; cf. de Myst. iv. 22) he speaks of John v. 4 f. as being read “yesterday.” In the same book (ii. 7. 23) he refers to Rom. vi. 3 as being read in “the lesson for the day” (in lectione praesenti). In the third address (iii. 2. 8) he alludes to the “spiritual seal” of which they had heard in the lesson for the day. The reference is to 2 Cor. i. 21 f., as is shown by the parallel section de Myst. vii. 42, where that passage is spoken of as having been read “in the lesson from the Apostle” (apostolica lectione). In the sixth address (vi. 2. 9) the passage 1 Cor. xii. 4 f. is said to have been read “the day before yesterday” (nudius tertius).

As we have seen (§ iii. p. xx), the addresses contained in de Sacram. began on Tuesday in Easter week, and ended on the following Sunday. The following table shows the lessons read on the first four days, and the corresponding days on which the same chapters appear in the system of lessons found in the Manuale.

de Sacram. Manuale Ambros.
(ed. Magistretti)
John v. (the paralytic) Tuesday Tuesday
(mass for newly-baptized).
Rom. vi. 4 f. Wednesday Monday
(mass for people).
2 Cor. i. 21 f. Thursday
(cf. de Myst. vii. 42)
1 Cor. xii. Friday Feast of Pentecost.

II. Three other lessons referred to in these treatises as read in Church, though the day is not indicated, find a place in the Manuale in connexion with the services of Lent or Easter week.

Manuale Ambros.
John ix. (the man born blind) iiird S. in Lent
(de Sacram. iii. 2. 11) (hence known as Dominica de Caeco).
Gen. xiv. (Melchizedek) Friday in Easter week
(de Myst. viii. 45) (mass for people).
2 Kings v. (Naaman) Tuesday in Easter week
(de Myst. iii. 16) (mass for people).

III. The following passages, commented on or alluded to, in illustration of the baptismal rites in these treatises, though not referred to as actually read in Church, find a place among the lessons contained in the Manuale.

Manuale Ambros.
Gen. i. Easter Vigil.
(de Myst. iii. 9, de Sacram. iii. 1. 3)
Gen. vi., vii. (Noah) 1st Tuesday in Lent
(de Myst. iii. 10, de Sacram. i. 6. 23) Easter Eve (missa catechumenorum at third hour).
Exodus xiv. (the Red Sea) Easter Vigil.
(de Sacram. i. 6. 20 f.; cf. de Myst. ix. 51)
Exodus xv. (Song of Moses) Easter Vigil.
(de Myst. iii. 12)
2 Kings vi. (the axe-head) Wednesday in Easter week
(de Sacram. ii. 4. 11; cf. iv. 4. 18; de Myst. ix. 51) (mass for people)
Isaiah xi. (the sevenfold gifts) Vigil of Pentecost.
(de Myst. vii. 42, de Sacram. iii. 2. 8)
John iii. 5 (the new birth) Easter Vigil
(de Myst. iv. 20) (mass for newly-baptized)
John vi. (the bread of life) Thursday and Friday in Easter week
(de Sacram. vi. 1. 2-4)
(mass for newly-baptized).
1 Cor. x. 2 f. (Israel in the wilderness) Wednesday in Easter week
(mass for people).
(de Myst. iii. 12 f., viii. 49; de Sacram. i. 6. 20)
1 Tim. ii. Saturday in Easter week
(de Sacram. vi. 3. 11; 5. 21-22) (mass for people).

The Liturgy

The interest of de Sacramentis is not limited to the light which it throws upon the baptismal rites of the Church from which it proceeds. It also supplies us with a series of prayers used in the Liturgy (see iv. 5. 21-23; 26, 27), which, when read consecutively, will be seen to exhibit a general correspondence in order and contents with those of the Canon of the Roman Mass found in the Gelasian Sacramentary. According to Mr. E. Bishop (J. Th. St. iv. 568 f.), the text of the Canon represented in the Vatican MS. of the Gelasian Sacramentary is really “Gregorian,” but for all practical purposes it may be held to represent the text current at Rome in the sixth century. When compared with this latter the prayers of de Sacram. are shown to contain much of the substance of the prayers Quam oblationem, Qui pridie, Unde et memores, Supra quae, and Supplices te, with some omissions, and, in the case of the last two prayers, with some transposition of order. There are many exact parallels of language, but also striking divergences.

1. The prayer (iv. 5. 21) corresponding to Quam oblationem (but beginning, “Make for us this oblation” (Fac nobis hanc oblationem)) contains, like that prayer, a petition that the oblation may be made “approved, ratified, reasonable, and acceptable,” but whereas the Gelasian form goes on, “that it may become to us the body and blood of thy dearly beloved Son,” de Sacram. has, “because it is the figure of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2. The commemoration of the institution (iv. 5. 21-23) begins, like the Gelasian form, with the words, “Who the day before he suffered” (Qui pridie quam pateretur), as distinct from the Eastern and Mozarabic forms, which follow 1 Cor. xi. 23. The actual recital of the institution shews many divergences from the Gelasian form (though parallels may be found to many of them in Eastern rites and the Ambrosian Sacramentary of Biasca (cent. x.)) and it lacks some of the characteristic features of the later Roman form.

3. The Anamnesis, corresponding to Unde et memores, is shorter than the Gelasian form, and exhibits some notable differences of wording, including the phrases “reasonable offering,” “unbloody offering” (see notes).

4. In place of Supra quae and Supplices te, in de Sacram. there is one prayer, in which the order of the contents of these two prayers is reversed, the reference to the gifts of Abel and the sacrifices of Abraham and Melchizedek following, instead of preceding, the prayer for the reception of the oblation “on the altar on high.” In this latter petition in place of the single angel, by whose hands it is asked in the Gelasian prayer that the oblation may be received on the altar on high, we find the plural “angels,” a feature which again has a parallel in some Eastern sources.1

What is the origin of these prayers? Are they, as Duchesne suggests,2 an adaptation of the Roman Canon to the use of some North Italian Church, where the Roman and Milanese uses were combined? Or are they an older form of the Roman Canon itself? As we have seen, the earliest text of that Canon is found in the Vatican MS. of the Gelasian Sacramentary, and that text is really “Gregorian.” The earlier Leonine Sacramentary fails us here. We know of certain changes in the Canon made in the period between the date of de Sacram. and the date of the text found in the Gelasian Sacramentary.3 Dom R. H. Connolly has recently pointed out in the Downside Review (Oct. 1917, pp. 58 f.) that a Post secreta prayer in the Missale Gothicum contains a continuous extract from the Anamnesis of the Canon in a form which follows that of de Sacram. almost word for word (Missale Goth., ed. Bannister (H.B.S.), p. 138, No. 527). This suggests that the compiler of the prayer knew the Canon in a form different from that of the Gelasian Sacramentary, while the constant use made of Roman prayers in the Missale Gothicum lends support to the view that it is here quoting from some Roman source. Other traces of readings which occur in de Sacram. are found in the Stowe Missal and the Missale Francorum, both of which contain the Roman Canon. In both these books we find the addition et petimus after the words supplices te rogamus, and the words in sublimi altario tuo (for in sublime altare tuum of Gel.). Both readings occur in de Sacram. (with altari for altario). Another parallel with the text of the prayers in de Sacram. adduced by Dom Connolly is found in a rubric of the Gelasian Sacramentary after the Hanc igitur for Thursday in Holy Week (Wilson, p. 67), where in place of the Gregorian text, in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas, we find in sanctis manibus suis, as in de Sacram.

Lastly, M. Batiffol (Eucharistie, 5lème éd., pp. 357 f.) has called attention to a Post pridie prayer in the Mozarabic Liber Ordinum (ed. Férotin, pp. 321-322) where, amid many echoes of the Roman Canon, we find a version of the Quam oblationem which in one important respect resembles the corresponding prayer in de Sacram. While the latter runs:

Make for us this oblation approved, ratified, reasonable, and acceptable, seeing that it is the figure of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the Mozarabic prayer is as follows:

Whose oblation (quorum oblationem) do thou deign to bless, ratify, and make reasonable, which is (quae est) the image and likeness (imago et similitudo) of the body and blood of Jesus Christ thy Son, our redeemer.

In face of this evidence, and the attitude of the writer to the usages of the Roman Church (iii. 1. 5), the view that the Canon of de Sacram. is the Roman Canon of the fifth century has much to commend it.

Other interesting features of the liturgy described in de Sacram. are the reference in iv. 4. 14 to the “praises” and “prayers” which preceded the Canon; the form in which the concluding words of the recital of the institution (based on 1 Cor. xi. 25, 26) are given (iv. 6. 26); and the presence of the doxology at the close of the Lord’s Prayer, and not at the close of the Canon as in the Ambrosian Sacramentary of Biasca and the Gelasian Sacramentary (de Sacram. vi. 5. 24). On these see the notes on the passages in question. Lastly, the author refers to the words of administration, “The body of Christ,” and to the Amen with which the communicant responded to them (iv. 5. 25).


Eucharistic Doctrine

The two treatises de Mysteriis and de Sacramentis have played an important part in the Eucharistic controversies of the Western Church. This is due to their pronounced teaching on the conversion of the elements into the body and blood of Christ, and the emphasis which they lay upon the words of institution as effecting this “consecration” or “change.” In both respects they mark an epoch in the history of the Western doctrine on the subject, and they have profoundly influenced later teaching. There is nothing parallel to their language in any Western writer before their time. The conception of a “conversion” of the elements into the body and blood of Christ was probably derived by Ambrose, as was so much else in his theology, from Greek sources. It appears for the first time (apart from some anticipations of it in Gnostic writers) in the Catecheses of Cyril of Jerusalem, and was elaborated with a special theory of his own by Gregory of Nyssa (Or. Cat. c. 37), with whose language Ambrose exhibits occasional parallels.1 Hitherto in the West, side by side with the tendency in popular teaching to identify the elements with the body and blood of Christ, we find, as in Tertullian, the bread spoken of as the “figure” (figura) of the body of Christ, or as “representing” (repraesentare)2 His body, though such language has a more definite sense than the corresponding English words, and suggests the idea of exhibiting or making present the sacred realities of which they speak, as when Cyprian speaks of the blood of Christ as “shewn forth” in the cup.3 Similar language is found in Jerome and Ambrosiaster. This stage of reflection is exhibited in the prayers of de Sacram. (iv. 5. 21), which speak of the oblation as “the figure (figura) of the body and blood of Christ,” and refer to it in mystical language as “this holy bread and cup of eternal life.” Nor was such language peculiar to the West. It finds a parallel in many Eastern sources during the fourth century, and it survives in the Liturgy of St. Basil,4 which (in the words introducing the Invocation) speaks of “offering the types (ἀντίτυπα) of the holy body and blood of Thy Christ.” Augustine is in the same line of tradition as Tertullian and Cyprian, though he advances upon their teaching and develops a theory of sacraments characterized by the distinction between the visible sign and the invisible reality.

But in Cyril of Jerusalem in the East (a.d. 347) and in Ambrose in the West, a new terminology appears, and the consecration of the Eucharist is represented as effecting a mysterious change in the elements by which they become the body and blood of Christ. Cyril of Jerusalem had already appealed to the miracle of Cana as affording a parallel to this change.1 By Ambrose such teaching is much developed. With him the consecration, effected by the words of Christ recited by the priest, is a miraculous act of God, to which parallels may be found in the miracles of Moses, Joshua, Elisha, and in the Virgin Birth, as well as in the act of creation itself. The word of Christ “which was able to make out of nothing that which was not,” is capable of “changing things which exist into that which they were not” (de Myst. ix. 51, 52). The author of de Sacramentis (iv. 4. 15-18) uses similar language. Like Ambrose, he appeals to the original act of creation, to the Virgin birth, to the crossing of the Red Sea, the waters of Marah, and the incident of Elisha making the axe-head to swim.

Ambrose does not hesitate to speak of the change effected as a “change of nature.”2 But a closer examination of his language shows that he has not clearly thought out all the implications of such teaching. Occasionally he falls back into the language still current in the West, as when he says that the flesh of Christ, which was crucified and buried, was certainly real flesh, and that therefore the Eucharist “is truly a sacrament of that flesh” (ix. 53), nor does he clearly face the question, to which the Schoolmen of later days paid so much attention, what becomes of the bread. On the other hand, he conceives of the body of Christ as a “spiritual body,” “the body of a divine Spirit, because Christ is Spirit,” and therefore capable of becoming “the ‘spiritual food’ of our souls” (de Myst. ix. 58).

The author of de Sacramentis shows a similar hesitation, when faced with the implications involved in this teaching of a miraculous change effected in the elements by consecration. Though he does not affirm so clearly as Ambrose the spiritual character of the Eucharistic food, he is alive to the materialistic conclusions which may be drawn from his teaching, and in this connexion speaks of receiving “the likeness of the death” and “drinking the likeness of the precious blood” (iv. 4. 20), or again he refers to the sacrament as being received “in a likeness” (in similitudinem), though this likeness bestows the “grace and virtue” of the reality (vi. 1. 3). Here again, as in Ambrose above, we see how naturally the older language current in the West reasserts itself. (See further, Introd. p. xviii, above.)

The train of thought opened up by Ambrose and his successor, the author of de Sacram., exercised a profound influence on later Western teaching. It encountered a rival influence in the more spiritualizing teaching of St. Augustine. In the Eucharistic controversies of the ninth century aroused by the “conversion” doctrine of Paschasius Radbert, and again in the controversies of the eleventh century, in which Berengar combated the growing belief in Transubstantiation, the rival schools of opinion appealed to the teaching of Ambrose and of de Sacramentis, as well as to that of Augustine, and attempted to harmonize their language in the fuller and more explicit treatment which was given to the subject during the period. Both treatises are appealed to as authorities by Ratramn (cent. ix.) in his opposition to Paschasius, by Berengar and his opponents Lanfranc and Witmund of Aversa (cent. xi.) and by Alger of Liège (cent. xii.). The teaching of Ambrose is the starting-point of those who maintain the identity of the elements with the body and blood of Christ in virtue of the conversion miraculously effected by consecration—the teaching finally formulated in the doctrine of Transubstantiation at the Council of the Lateran in 1216. Augustine is the authority appealed to by those who distinguished the visible sign from the invisible reality, and who tended to maintain a spiritual presence of power and efficacy—a view which passes in its more extreme forms into a purely figurative or commemorative idea of the sacrament.

A second feature in the Eucharistic teaching of de Myst. and de Sacram. is the emphasis which they lay upon the words of institution as effecting the consecration of the Sacrament. Speculation as to the “moment of consecration” in the Eucharist received an impulse from the very definite teaching of Cyril of Jerusalem. In his Catecheses he attributes the consecration to the operation of the Holy Spirit, Who is invoked in the Eucharistic prayer to “make (ποιεɩ̂ν) the bread the body of Christ, and the wine His blood”; and he adds, “for whatsoever the Holy Spirit touches is sanctified and changed.”1 How unfixed, however, were the conceptions of the “form” of consecration even in the latter part of the fourth century in the East is shown by Chrysostom, who sometimes attributes the consecration to the operation of the Holy Spirit, and elsewhere to the efficacy of the words of institution, recited afresh by the priest at every Eucharist.2 In Ambrose, however, and in the author of de Sacramentis, we find clear expression given to the view that it is the words of Christ “This is my body,” “this is my blood,” recited by the priest, which effect the consecration of the sacrament. The whole course of their argument rests upon the operative power of this word to “change the natures” of the sacramental elements into realities of a higher order. While in the East the teaching found in Cyril of Jerusalem became formulated later on in the doctrine that the Holy Spirit, invoked by the prayer of the priest, is the operative power which effects the sacramental mystery, the teaching found in Ambrose and de Sacramentis is the starting-point of the development which led to the later Western view that the “form” of the Sacrament is the recital of the words of Christ.

The authors of de Mysteriis and de Sacramentis, though they deal so fully with the nature of the Eucharistic gift, do not dwell at all upon the conception of the Eucharist as a sacrifice, though Ambrose in other works develops this aspect at some length. But in the prayers quoted in de Sacram., we have an interesting indication of the kind of language in which this idea found expression in the liturgical forms of the period. It is marked by a primitive simplicity. The oblation is spoken of as “a reasonable offering,” “an unbloody offering”—phrases common in early Christian writings—and it is compared to the gifts of Abel and the sacrifices of Abraham and Melchizedek. The sacrifice, in fact, is conceived of as commemorative and eucharistic, rather than as propitiatory. The Eucharist is the “thank-offering” of priest and people alike. The language of the Roman Canon, when studied by itself, and apart from later glosses and interpretations, exhibits much the same conception, and the long continuance at Rome, and in the West, of the practice of the people making their offerings of bread and wine served to perpetuate this conception, which is reflected in so many of the Secreta prayers in the later Roman service books.


The Biblical Text

The quotations from the New Testament found in de Mysteriis appear to agree fairly closely on the whole with the text exhibited in the Latin Version of Jerome (the Vulgate), especially in St. Paul’s Epistles. There is, however, a considerable number of Old Latin readings, and especially of readings found in the Irish group of Vulgate MSS. Of the other readings found in de Mysteriis some appear in other writings of Ambrose and in the works of other Latin Fathers; while others again seem to be due to citations from memory, or free quotations which paraphrase the passages referred to.

The New Testament text exhibited in de Sacramentis presents much the same features as that of de Mysteriis, and agrees on the whole with the Vulgate, with an intermixture of Old Latin readings, and a certain number of free quotations due to lapse of memory or loose citation.

Among the Old Latin readings found in these treatises are the following:

de Myst. iii. 13 = John i. 17 (gratia autem).
de Myst. iv. 24 = John i. 33 (“descending from heaven”).
de Myst. iii. 8 = John x. 38 (si mihi non creditis vel operibus credite).
de Myst. vi. 31 = John xiii. 8 (“if I wash not thy feet”).
de Sacram. iii. 1. 4
de Sacram. iii. 1. 6. = John xiii. 9 (non solum . . . sed etiam).
de Sacram. iii. 1. 7. = John xiii. 10 (qui lavit non necesse habet).
de Myst. vi. 33 = John xiii. 14 (“how much more ought ye to wash”).
de Myst. viii. 44 = 1 Cor. ii. 9 (diligentibus).
de Sacram. iv. 2. 25
de Sacram. vi. 2. 9 = 1 Cor. xii. 4 (ministeriorum).
de Myst. iv. 25 = Phil. ii. 7 (specie inventus ut homo; frequent in Ambrose, but also occurring in the Old Latin speculum (m.)).

In the version of the Lord’s Prayer found in de Sacram. v. 4. 18 we find the clause, “Suffer us not to be led into temptation” (ne nos patiaris induci in tentationem). This is probably due to Tertullian (de Or. 8), from whom it passed to Cyprian, the African Old Latin, and some MSS. of the Vulgate. The same author (v. 4. 29) shows acquaintance with another reading in the same clause (“temptation which we are not able to bear”), which is quoted by Jerome, Hilary, and Ps. Augustine, Serm. lxxiv.

The citation of the insertion in John v. 4 in de Myst. iv. 22 and de Sacram. ii. 2. 3 exhibits several readings which find support in one or other group of Vulgate MSS. Both have “qui prior descendisset,” languore, and tenebatur. The word natatorium in de Myst. corresponds to natatoria of some Vulgate MSS. Similarly the readings in John xiii. 8 (“thou wilt have no part with me”), and John xiii. 10 (“needeth not save to wash his feet”) are found in some Vulgate MSS.

A certain number of readings in both treatises find support in the works of Ambrose, e. g. 1 Cor. x. 4 (omission of “spiritual” before “rock”), de Myst. viii. 49 (so some MSS. in de Sacram. v. 1. 3); 1 Cor. x. 11 (facta sunt for contingebant), de Sacram. i. 6. 20; Eph. v. 18 (“holy Spirit”), de Sacram. v. 3. 17; 1 John v. 7 (the order “water, blood, spirit”), de Myst. iv. 20; Col. iv. 3 (aperiatur mihi ostium verbi), de Sacram. v. 3. 17. The reading in Mt. x. 16 (quoted de Myst. iv. 25), “astuti sicut serpentes,” is found in Augustine (de Doctr. Chr. ii. 16. 24).

In the Old Testament both writers depend upon the Latin Versions made from the Septuagint. Jerome’s work on the Old Testament occupied roughly the years 390-405 a.d. The greater part of it was based on the Hebrew, and when published it gained acceptance slowly. This explains the fact that the Old Testament quotations in these treatises shew constant agreement with the Greek Bible where they diverge from the Vulgate. On the other hand, the quotations from the Psalms are in constant agreement with the Vulgate. The reason for this is that the Vulgate Psalter represents Jerome’s second revision of the Psalter,1 which was based on the Greek Versions, and which his later version from the Hebrew failed to supplant in general favour. Where the readings in passages taken from the Psalms diverge from the Vulgate they are generally found to be nearer to those of the Septuagint, e. g. in the quotation of Psalm xxiii. (de Myst. viii. 43, de Sacram. v. 3. 13) both writers read in verse 1 pascit for regit. In verse 5 of the same psalm de Myst. has “thy” cup (though some MSS. read “my,” as in de Sacram. and Vulgate). Similarly in de Sacram. v. 3. 16 the reading “ex Aegypto” (Psalm lxxx. 8 (lxxix. 9)) is nearer to the Septuagint than the Vulgate.

The text of the Song of Songs, for the Old Latin Version of which we have little evidence beyond the copious references in the writings of Ambrose, and a few verses from Jerome, Augustine, and others, presents the same general features as the other Old Testament citations. Its divergences from the readings of the Vulgate are generally explained by reference to the Greek Bible, though in some cases the renderings are due to the use of a different Latin word to represent the same underlying text. The quotation of Cant. viii. 2 in de Myst. vii. 40 appears to be a conflation of two readings, combining elements which are found separately in the Septuagint and the Vulgate. If the quotation stood alone it might be thought that the words, “there thou shalt teach me” (ibi docebis me), had been introduced into the text from the Vulgate, but the words are found also in Ambrose, Exp. in Ps. cxviii. 19. 25, which shows that the reading was current in the time of Ambrose, who died before the completion of Jerome’s revision of the Song of Songs.



The earliest printed texts of the works of Ambrose appeared between the years 1474 and 1506. Among these the edition of Amerbach (Basle, 1492) claims chief notice. These earlier texts were superseded by the edition of Erasmus, published at Basle in four volumes at Froben’s press in 1527. This was followed in turn by the editions of Costerius (published by Episcopius at Basle), and that of Gillot (Paris, 1568). By the desire of Popes Pius IV and Pius V a fresh edition was undertaken, and was begun by the monk Felix de Montalto (surnamed Peretti), who afterwards became Pope Sixtus V. This was the famous Roman edition, which was published in five volumes between the years 1580-1585, and superseded all previous editions. In the latter part of the seventeenth century the Benedictines of St. Maur, to whom students owe so much for their labours on the MSS. and texts of the Fathers, produced a fresh edition, based on a considerable number of MSS., in two folio volumes, published at Paris (J. du Frische and N. le Nou[Editor: illegible letter]y), 1686-1690. This was reprinted at Venice in 1748-1751, and again in 1781-1782. A further reprint appeared in Migne’s Patrologia Latina (vols. xiv.-xvii.), published at Paris in 1845, and again in 1866 and 1880-1882. Both de Mysteriis and de Sacramentis are included in vol. xvi. of this work. Another edition, founded on that of the Benedictines, but not displaying the same care or critical acumen, appeared at Milan in six volumes in 1875-1883, under the editorship of P. A. Ballerini. An edition of the works of Ambrose is in course of publication in the Vienna Corpus scriptorum eccl. latinorum, but the volumes published do not include the two treatises translated in the present volume.

An English translation of selected works and letters of Ambrose was published by H. de Romestin in vol. x of the Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Parker, Oxford and New York, 1896). It includes de Mysteriis, but not de Sacramentis.

[1 ]The word κατηχεɩ̂ν (“to instruct”) is found in Lk. i. 4; Acts xviii. 25; 1 Cor. xiv. 19; Gal. vi. 6. From it are derived the words catechism, catechise.

[1 ]Easter and the season between Easter and Pentecost were recognized times for baptism in the days of Tertullian (de Bapt., 19). In the East the Epiphany was also commonly set apart for this purpose, and there are traces of the same custom in Gaul and Spain. See W. C. Bishop in Journ. of Theol. Studies (1909) pp. 127 f. On the connexion between the preparation for baptism and the forty days of Lent see Thompson, Offices of Baptism and Conf. pp. 19 f., and Brightman in Essays on Early Church and Ministry (ed. Swete), pp. 340 f.

[1 ]See de Abraham. I. 4, 25: viri, maxime qui ad gratiam domini tenditis; 7.59: qui ad gratiam baptismatis tenditis; cf. 9. 89.

[1 ]Both principles are stated by Ambrose, Exp. in Luc. vi. 105.

[1 ]On the practice at Rome and in Africa see T. Thompson, Offices of Baptism and Confirmation, pp. 112 f.

[1 ]Loofs, art. “Abendmahl” in Hauck-Hertzog, Realencyklopädie; also Leitfaden z. Studium der Dogmengesch., pp. 470 f.

[2 ]In the passage de Fide l.c. Ambrose says: “As often as we receive the sacraments, which by the mystery of the sacred prayer are transformed (transfigurantur) into the flesh and the blood, we proclaim the Lord’s death.” Here transfigurare appears to be a synonym of convertere, mutare, which are used in de Myst. to describe the “change” of the elements. Loofs would qualify this language by reference to the second passage cited above from the Commentary on Ps. xxxviii, where Ambrose speaks of the offering of the body of Christ on earth (in the Eucharist) as a “symbol” (imago) of a heavenly reality.

[1 ]Cf. de Myst. vii. 35, de Spir. s. ii. 10. 112; de Myst. vii. 41, 42, de Spir. s. i. 6. 71, 72; de Myst. lx. 51, de Spir. s. iii. 4. 22; de Myst. vii. 37, de Inst. Virg. i. 4; de Myst. vii. 40, de Inst. Virg. i. 5; de Myst. vii. 41, de Inst. Virg. xvii. 113.

[1 ]Cf. e.g. de Myst. ii. 5, de Sacr. i. 2; de Myst. iii. 8, de Sacr. i. 5. 18, ii. 5. 14; de Myst. v. 28, de Sacr. ii. 7. 20; de Myst. vi. 29, de Sacr. ii. 7. 24; de Myst. vii. 41, 42, de Sacr. iii. 2. 8, 10; vi. 2. 6-8.

[1 ]For the order see de Myst. iii. 8. “What sawest thou? . . . the high priest questioning and consecrating.” In de Sacram. i. 2. 4 (the unction before baptism) the only ministers mentioned are “levite” and “presbyter.” The next section begins, without any reference to a change of subject, “When he asked thee Dost thou renounce the devil and all his works?” . . etc.

[1 ]The words used of it in de Myst. vii. 42 are: “God the Father hath sealed thee, Christ the Lord hath confirmed thee, and hath given the earnest of the Spirit in thy heart.” This is based on 2 Cor. i. 21, 22.

[1 ]The treatise de Lapsu Virginis, which, though not probably the work of Ambrose, has been thought by Dom Morin to be based on addresses by Ambrose (Revue bénéd. (1897) xiv. 196) speaks of lights borne by the neophytes (v. 19).

[1 ]For details see footnotes to the services in Lent in Magistretti’s edition of the Manuale, and on these missae catechumenorum see W. C. Bishop, Ch. Quart. Review, lxxii. (1911), pp. 56 f.

[2 ]The words of Ambrose are: audistis . . . librum Job legi, qui solemni munere est decursus et tempore (§ 14) . . . Sequenti die lectus est de more liber Jonae (§ 25).

[3 ]Ambrose speaks of the book of Job as read on the Monday, Jonah (apparently) on the Wednesday. In the Manuale Job is read, along with Tobit, on the first three week-days in Holy Week, and the lesson from Jonah is on Maundy Thursday.

[1 ]Liturgy of St. Mark (Brightman, LEW. 129. 20 f.; Coptic ibid. 171. 2 f.).

[2 ]Christian Worship (Eng. tr.), p. 177.

[3 ]The additions: sanctum sacrificium, immaculatam hostiam (attributed to Pope Leo); diesque nostros . . . jubeas grege numerari (attributed to Pope Gregory). See Liber Pontificalis (ed. Duchesne), pp. 239, 312.

[1 ]With the phrases in Ambrose, naturam convertere, naturas mutare, cp. Greg. Nyss. Or. Cat. 37, μεταστοιχείωσας τωˆν ϕαινο· μένων τὴν ϕύσιν, and with the use of species in de Myst. 52 (ut species mutet elementorum) compare the use of ε[Editor: illegible character]δος in Gregory, l.c.

[2 ]adv. Marc. iii. 19, i. 14.

[3 ]Ep. lxiii. 2, cp. ibid. 11, 13.

[4 ]See Brightman, Lit. E. & W. 329. 23 f.

[1 ]Cat. xxii. 2.

[2 ]Notice the phrases naturam mutare, naturam convertere, praeter naturam, which are of constant occurrence in de Myst. ix. 51-53. In de Fide iv. 10. 124 Ambrose uses the word transfigurare to denote this “change.”

[1 ]Cat. xxiii. 7.

[2 ]de Sacerd. iii. 4, in coen. appellat. 3; de Prod. Iud. i. 6.

[1 ]From its early currency in Gaul this revision is generally known as the Gallican Psalter.