Rectors Reflections

A Writer from Long Ago

On 7th December, the Church remembers St Ambrose of Milan, a Christian bishop and writer who lived back in the 4th Century. As well as being a writer, he was an administrator and a diplomat. He had a strong sense that it was the Church’s duty to hold the secular authorities to account. He even imposed public penance on Emperor Theodosius for having punished a riot in Thessalonica by a massacre of its citizens.

Ambrose combined decided opinions with a gift for language. For example, Ambrose thought it better to remain unmarried, as he regarded virginity as a crowning virtue. But how could society continue, if people didn’t get married, have children, and so raise the next generation? Apparently, some families were reluctant to let their daughters of marriageable age attend Ambrose’s sermons, in case he persuaded them not to get married at all!

Looking at the life and opinions of someone who lived in a different time and culture can help us as we face the challenges and questions of our own day. It is not that we will necessarily agree with what Ambrose said or thought. Life has moved on since the 4th Century! But the life and thought of someone from the past can raise questions for us today and help us to examine our own assumptions.

For example, in our Country today most Church leaders would probably not see it as their role to hold the Government to account. And most preachers would probably shy away from direct instruction on questions of sexual ethics and family life. Some people might say that the Church has lost its confidence and its courage. But others might say that the Church has re-discovered its humility and compassion.

I’m wondering to myself:  would anyone ever be reluctant to come to listen to one of my sermons, not because they considered it irrelevant or boring, but because they thought it would be dangerous?

I think it is good for us to be challenged in our assumptions and our thinking, because without challenge, we do not really understand why we believe what we do believe. And without challenge, we do not grow in our understanding of the truth - the truth about ourselves, and the truth about our world.

Fr Jason