The Father of Hymnody
On December 7, 374, Ambrose became bishop of Milan and thereby became a staunch defender of the Faith against the Arians. Ambrose was born into a prominent Christian Roman family around 340 in Trier (which is in modern Germany). His father was the prefect of the region, but when he died about 14 years later, Ambrose’s mother moved the family back to Rome where Ambrose and his brother studied rhetoric and Greek. At a time when the study of Greek was waning in the Western Empire, Ambrose developed a proficiency in Greek that allowed him to read Plato and Homer and other classical works.
His abilities quickly earned him multiple appointments including the position of governor of Milan around the age of 30. This prestigious appointment came from Emperor Valentinian I. In 303, the political center of the Western Empire moved from Rome to Milan such that Ambrose was serving the region of northern Italy which included the imperial court.
In 374, the Arian leaning bishop of Milan died after 20 years of ecclesiastical leadership. The people heatedly debated who should be the successor for bishop. As governor, Ambrose was called to calm the crowds, and in the midst of the assembly, a voice arose calling, “Ambrose for bishop!” The popular governor was quickly acclaimed by both the Arians and the Trinitarians although he had not yet been baptized (according to the custom of the time). Despite his objections, both the church and the state ratified the...
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