St. Ambrose of Milan (340 – 397)
The Creation of Eve
Woman was made out of the rib of Adam. She was not made of the same earth with which he was formed, in order that we might realize that the physical nature of both man and woman is identical and that there was one source for the propagation of the human race. For that reason, neither was man created together with a woman, nor were two men and two women created at the beginning, but first a man and after that a woman. God willed it that human nature be established as one. Thus, from the very inception of the human stock He eliminated the possibility that many disparate natures should arise…. Reflect on the fact that He did not take a part from Adam’s soul but a rib from his body, that is to say, not soul from a soul, but “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” will this woman be called.
~ Paradise, Chapter 10-11. In Fathers of the Church, Vol. 42, CUA Press, 2010, p. 327,329.
The World Exemplifies the Workings of God
The world is an example of the workings of God, because while we observe the work, the Worker is brought before us.
~ The Six Days of Creation, Book 1.17, Chapter 5. In In Fathers of the Church, Vol. 42, CUA Press, 2010, p. 16.
The Origin of Evil in Nature
God created heaven and earth…. Why then do some say that God created evil, although from principles contrary and opposed nothing whatsoever is generated? Light does not generate death nor does light give birth to darkness….
From what source did nature derive it [evil]? No rational being denies that evil exists in the world… in which accident and death are so frequent. Yet … evil is not a living substance, but a deviation of mind and soul away from the path of true virtue, a deviation which frequently steals upon the souls of the unaware. The greater danger is not, therefore, from what is external to us, but from our own selves. Our adversary is within us, within us in the author of error, locked within our very selves. Look closely on your intentions; explore your disposition of mind and the cupidities of your heart. You yourself are the cause of your wickedness…. Why do you summon an alien nature to furnish an excuse for your sins.
~ The Six Days of Creation, Book 1.30-31, Chapter 8. In In Fathers of the Church, Vol. 42, CUA Press, 2010, p. 30-31.
The Value of Natural Foods
Some may wonder why sustenance for animals was provided before food for man was created. In this manner we ought to take note of the depths of God’s wisdom, in that He does not neglect the least of things. For the Divine Wisdom utters these words in the Gospel: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you of much more value than they?” If these birds have their food through the kindness of God, then no one ought to pride himself on his own industry and natural ability. And no one ought to despise simple and natural food…. The former is the food of the temperate; the rest of foods contribute to delight and luxury. One is common to all living things; the other to a few. Hence, such a fact furnishes us with an example for frugal living, and is a wise injunction that we ought to be content to live on simple herbs, on cheap vegetables and fruits such as nature has presented to us and the generosity of God has offered to us. This sort of food is also wholesome and useful in that it wards off disease and prevents indigestion.
~ The Six Days of Creation,Book III. 28, Chapter 7. In Fathers of the Church, Vol. 42, CUA Press, 2010, p. 88.
Everything in Creation has a Reason and Purpose
Each and every thing which is produced from the earth has its own reason for existence, which, as far as it can, fulfills the general plan for creation. Some things are created for our consumption; other things serve other uses. There is nothing without a purpose; there is nothing superfluous in what germinates from the earth. What you consider useless has use for others; as a matter of fact, it often is useful to you in another way. That which does not serve for food has medicinal qualities, and it often happens that what is harmful to you provides harmless food for birds or wild beasts. Thus starlings feed on the hemlock without any ill effects, since by their physical nature they are immune to its deadly and poisonous sap…. Those who are expert on the nature of hellebore say that it provides food and sustenance to quail and that through a certain natural composition of their bodies, these birds are immune to its harmful effects. The fact is that through medical science this plant frequently serves to preserve the health of the human body, to which it seems to be adverse. As a consequence, what the doctor’s hand converts to the preservation of our health becomes even to a greater degree, through its natural qualities, a means for providing for others….
The Creator therefore is not liable to blame in these matters; actually His bounty is increased inasmuch as what you believed was created to bring danger is designed to bring you health-giving remedies. …
Sheep and goats learn to shun what is harmful and for this they make use of smell. Do they not go so far as to recognize a way of avoiding danger and of protecting their health? Do they not distinguish between what is noxious and what is beneficial? They also discern what herbs may be used as medicine in times of illness.
Therefore, if irrational animals know what herbs may serve as medicine or what methods may bring assistance to them, can man, who is born with the faculty of reason, be ignorant of this? Or is he such a stranger to truth that he cannot perceive what are the uses especially designed for everything?
~ The Six Days of Creation, Book 3.39-41, Chapter 9. 96- 98.
We Better Know Ourselves by Knowing the Creatures
Enter with me into this mighty and wonderful theater of the whole of visible creation. Not slight is the service rendered to strangers by one who watches for their arrival with the intent to conduct them on a tour around the city and to point out to them the more notable monuments. How much more ought you to welcome one who, as I do, conducts you in this assembly by the guiding hand of my discourse through your own native land and who points out to you each and every species and genus, with the desire to show you from all these examples how the Creator of the universe has conferred more abundant benefits on you than on all the rest of His creatures…. While you share with the rest of creatures your corporeal weakness, you possess above and beyond all other creatures a faculty of the soul which in itself has nothing in common with the rest of created things….
[Some may say] How long are we to learn of other living creatures while we do not know ourselves? Tell me what is to be for my benefit, that I may know myself. That is a just complaint. However, the order which Scripture laid down must however be retained. We cannot fully know ourselves without first knowing the nature of all living creatures.
~ The Six Days of Creation, Book VI.2-3, Chapter 1. In Fathers of the Church, Vol. 42, CUA Press, 2010, p. 228-229.
Made in the Image of God
The image of God is virtue, not infirmity. The image of God is wisdom. The image of God is He alone who has said, “I and the Father are one,” thus possessing the likeness of the Father so as to have a unity of divinity and of plentitude.
~ The Six Days of Creation, Book VI. 41, Chapter 9.In Fathers of the Church, Vol. 42, CUA Press, 2010, p. 254.
The Nature of God in Creation
God is of an uncompounded nature; nothing can be added to Him, and that alone which is divine has He in His nature; filling all things, yet nowhere Himself confounded with aught; penetrating all things, yet Himself nowhere to be penetrated; present in all His fullness at one and the same moment, in heaven, in earth, in the deepest depth of the sea; to sight invisible, by speech not to be declared; by feeling not to be measured; to be followed by faith; to be adorned with devotion; so that whatsoever title excels in depth of spiritual import, in setting forth glory and honor, in exalting power, this you may know to belong of right to God.
~ Of the Christian Faith, Book 1, Chapter. 16, Section 106. In The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. X. Eerdmans, 1989, p.218.
The Holy Spirit is the Creator
Who can doubt that the Holy Spirit gives life to all things? Since both He, as the Father and the Son, is the Creator of all things; and the Almighty Father is understood to have done nothing without the Holy Spirit; and since also in the beginning of creation the Spirit moved upon the water.
So when the Spirit was moving upon the water, the creation was without grace; but after this world, being created, underwent the operation of the Spirit, it gained all the beauty of that grace, wherewith the world is illuminated. And because the grace of the universe cannot abide without the Holy Spirit the prophet declared when he said “Thou will take away Thy Spirit, and they will fail and be turned again into dust. Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be made, and Thou wilt renew all the face of the earth.” Not only, then, did he teach that no creature can stand without the Holy Spirit, but also that the Spirit is the Creator of the whole creation.
And who can deny that the creation of the earth is the work of the Holy Spirit, Whose work it is that creation is renewed? For if they desire to deny that it was created by the Spirit, since they cannot deny that it must be renewed by the Spirit, they who desire to sever the Persons must maintain that the operation of the Holy Spirit is superior to that of the Father and the Son, which is far from the truth; for there is no doubt that the restored earth is better than it was created. Or if at first, without the operation of the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son made the earth, but the operation of the Holy Spirit was joined on afterwards, it will seem that that which was made required His aid, which was then added. But far be it from any one to think this, namely, that the divine work should be believed to have a change in the Creator, an error brought in by Manicheus.
~ Of the Holy Spirit, Book II. 5. 32-34.In The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. X. Eerdmans, 1989, p. 118-119.
St. Ambrose is one of the four great fathers of the West and the teacher of Augustine. He was born in Treves (modern Trier, Germany) on the Roman frontier. He became governor of Northern Italy, residing in Milan, and there was influenced by the local Christians to became a catechumen. From catechumen he became priest, and then with great reluctance he accepted election as bishop of Milan. He took the Gospel literally and one of his first acts was to divest himself and the entire diocese of Milan of all extraneous possessions and to give them to the poor. He found great strength and inspiration in his rigorous application of Christ’s commands and began to hear Christ’s word within. With amazing eloquence, he cried out against the inequity between the status of the rich few and the numerous poor. He emphasized that creation and its resources were for all people. His pastoral emphasis was the independence of the Church from secular authority. Other-worldliness was a constant theme of his teaching.
God Rests in Redeemed Humanity, Not Nature
I give thanks to our Lord God, who made a work of such a nature that he could find rest therein. He made the heavens. I do not read that He rested. He made the earth. I do not read that he rested. He made the sun, moon and stars. I do not read that He found rest there. But I do read that He made the human person and then found rest in one whose sins He would remit.
~ The Six Days of Creation, Book IV.76, Chapter 10. In Fathers of the Church, Vol. 42, CUA Press, 2010, p. 282.
The Private Usurpation of Nature
Nature has poured forth all things for the common use of all men. And God has ordained that all things should be produced that there might be food in common for all. Nature created common rights, but usurpation has transformed them into private rights.
~ On the Duties of the Clergy, Book I.132. In The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol X, Eerdmans, 1989, p. 23.
The Faithful Replication of Species
In the pine cone nature seems to express an image of itself; it preserves its peculiar properties which it received from that divine and celestial command and it repeats in the succession and order of the years its generation until the end of time is fulfilled….
~ The Six Days of Creation, Book III.78, Chapter 16. In Fathers of the Church, Vol. 42, CUA Press, 2010, p. 119-120.
Each Thing in Creation has Its Own Purpose
Each and every thing which is produced from the earth has its own reason for existence, which as far as it can fulfills the general plan of creation. Some things are created for our consumption; other things serve other purposes. There is nothing without a purpose; there is nothing superfluous in what generates from the earth. What you may consider useless has other purposes…. The Creator, therefore, is not liable for blame on these matters; and actually His bounty is increased thereby, inasmuch as what you believed was created to bring danger to you is designed to bring you health-giving remedies.
~ The Six Days of Creation III.40. In Fathers of the Church, Vol. 42, CUA Press, 2010, p. 97.
The Elements of Creation are Free Gifts to All
Although you may lack money, you are not therefore devoid of grace. Although your house is not commodious, your possessions are not limited. For the sky is open and the expanse of the world is free. The elements have been granted to all for their common use. Rich and poor alike enjoy the splendid ornaments of the universe.
~ The Six Days of Creation III.III.40. In Fathers of the Church, Vol. 42, CUA Press, 2010, p. 265.
The Wisdom of God’s Plan of Creation
And perhaps some may wonder why sustenance for animals was provided before food for man was created. In this matter we ought to take note of the depths of God’s wisdom in that He does not neglect the least of things. For the divine wisdom utters these words in the Gospel: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of much more value than they?” If these have been given food through the kindness of God, then no one ought to pride himself on his own industry and natural ability. And one ought to give simple and natural foods precedence over the rest.
~ The Six Days of Creation III.28, Chapter 7.In Fathers of the Church, Vol. 42, CUA Press, 2010, p. 87.
Ambrose reminds us that we must be very careful in discussing the “place” of Paradise and its nature. ” On approaching this subject I seem to be possessed by an unusual eagerness in my quest to clarify the facts about Paradise, its place, and its nature to those who are desirous of this knowledge. This is all the more remarkable since the Apostle did not know whether he was in the body or out of the body, yet he says that he “was caught up to the third heaven” (II Cor. 12:2). And again he says: I know such a man– whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows–that he was caught up into paradise and heard secret words that man may not repeat” (II Cor. 12:3-5)…. If Paradise, then, is of such a nature that Paul alone, or one like Paul, could scarcely see it while alive, and still was unable to remember whether he saw it in the body or out of the body, and moreover, heard words that he was forbidden to reveal– if this be true, how will it be possible for us to declare the position of Paradise which we have not been able to see, and even if we had succeeded in seeing it, we would be forbidden to share this information with others? And again, since Paul shrank from exalting himself by reason of the sublimity of the revelation, how much more ought we to strive not to be too anxious to disclose that which leads to danger by its very revelation! The subject of Paradise should not, therefore, be treated lightly.
~ Paradise, Chapter 1. In Fathers of the Church, Vol. 42, CUA Press, 2010, p. 287-288.
Why Paradise Existed on Earth
Take note that God placed man (in Paradise), not in respect to the image of God, but in respect to the body of man. The incorporeal does not exist in a place. He placed man in Paradise, just as He placed the sun in heaven.
~ Paradise, Chapter 1. In Fathers of the Church, Vol. 42, CUA Press, 2010, p. 289.
The Beasts of the Field
The beasts of the field and the birds of the air which were brought to Adam are our irrational senses, because beasts and animals represent the diverse passions of the body, whether of the more violent kind or even of the more temperate…. God granted to you the power of being able to discern by the application of sober logic the species of each and every object, in order that you may be induced to form a judgement on all of them. God called them all to your attention, so that you might realize that your mind is superior to all of them.
~ Paradise, Chapter 11. In Fathers of the Church, Vol. 42, CUA Press, 2010, p. 329-330.
The Nature of the Holy Spirit in Creation
Gentile writers have pointed out that the Spirit within nourishes heaven and earth, and even the glittering orbs of moon and stars. They do not deny that the strength of creatures exists through the Spirit. But you would think that they refer to a Spirit produced of the air. If they declared a Spirit of the air to be the Author of all things, do we doubt that the Spirit of God is the Creator of all things?
~ Of the Holy Spirit, Book II, 5, 36. In The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. X. Eerdmans, 1989, p. 119.
The Originating Cause of Creation
The causes of the beginnings of all things are in seeds. And the Apostle of the Gentiles has said that the human body is a seed. And so in succession after sowing there is the substance needful for the resurrection. But even if there were no substance and no cause, who could think it difficult for God to create man anew whence He will and as He wills. Who commanded the world to come into being out of no matter and no substance? Look at the heavens, behold the earth. Whence are the fires of the stars? Whence the orb and rays of the sun? Whence the globe of the moon? Whence the mountain heights or the woodland groves? Whence are the air diffused around, and the waters, whether enclosed or poured abroad? But if God made all these things out of nothing, for “He spake and they were made, He commanded and they were created” (Ps. 147:5), why should we wonder that that which has been should be brought to life again, since we see produced that which had not been.
~ On Belief in the Resurrection, Book II, Nr. 64, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second series, Vol. X, A. Cleveland Coxe translation, 1888, Eerdmans Printing, Co., 1989, p. 184.