St. Ambrose turned Jesus into an emperor.

Saturday, 12/7/13

St. Ambrose, born in 340, was a catechumen as a boy in Milan. Then, while his sister became a nun, Ambrose stopped short of baptism. At thirty he became the governor of northern Italy, and that had him in daily attendance on the emperor of the west.

At that time the emperor in Constantinople was an Arian, and throughout the Roman Empire there were more Arians than true Christians. In  1350 an Arian named  Auxentius, was made bishop of Milan. Over the next twenty-four years Auxentius saw to it that people regarded Jesus as no more than a good man. At his death in 374 the emperor of the west ordered Ambrose to gather the leading people of Milan to find if they could decide on a new bishop who would be acceptable to both the Christians and the Arians.

As the big open debate was going on, a child called out, “Let Ambrose be our bishop.” Surprisingly, everyone agreed to that. They saw to it that Ambrose was baptized the following day, then, ordained a bishop a few days later.

Ambrose, with excellent advisors, set out to be a worthy bishop; and he found the  biggest difficulty facing him was that of undoing the harm done by Auxentius. He had to find a way to get people to fully respect Jesus as the Son of God. That had him hitting on a most unusual plan. He began demanding that people show the same reverence for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament that they did for the Emperor. When they came into the presence of the Blessed Sacrament they would have to kneel, treating Jesus like an emperor. Only fine linen and gold could touch the Eucharist.

His scheme worked. People took to treating Jesus like an emperor.

However, there was a drawback. Up to that time there had been no Christian altars. For the Eucharist they had still been on the floor around a low table, the way it had been at the Last Supper. As the one presiding gave them the Eucharist they imagined Jesus at their side, urging them to join him as one offering to the Father.

After Ambrose changed things, Jesus became like the emperor in a great audience hall. Instead of imagining him whispering to them, they now heard an usher commanding them to “Bow! Bow! Bow!”    

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