CSEL v. 73
 Catechetical Homilies on the sacraments and Christian doctrine intended for those preparing for baptism.

 Ambrose Baptizes Augustine, Gozzolini, 1575.






6. You saw there the deacon, you saw the priest, you saw the chief priest [i.e. the bishop]. Consider not the bodily forms, but the grace of the Mysteries. You spoke in the presence of the angels, as it is written: “For the priest’s lips keep knowledge, and they seek the law at his mouth, for he is the angel of the Lord Almighty.”5 There is no place for deception nor for denial. He is an angel who proclaims the kingdom of Christ and eternal life. He is to be esteemed by you not according to his appearance, but according to his office. Consider what he delivered, reflect upon the rule of life he gave you, recognize his position.

vidisti illic levitam, vidisti sacerdotem, vidisti summum sacerdotem. noli considerare corporum figuras, sed ministeriorum gratiam. praesentibus angelis locutus es, sicut scriptum est: quia labia sacerdotis custodiunt scientiam et legem exquirunt ex ore ipsius, quoniam angelus est domini omnipotentis. non est fallere, non est negare: angelus est, qui regnum Christi, qui vitam aeternam adnuntiat, non specie tibi aestimandus, sed munere.

7. You entered, then, that you might discern your adversary, whom you were to renounce as it were to his face, then you turned to the east; for he who renounces the devil turns to Christ, and beholds Him face to face.

quid tradiderit, considera, usum eius expende et statum eius agnosce. ingressus igitur, ut adversarium tuum cerneres, cui renuntiandum in os putaris, ad orientem converteris; qui enim renuntiat diabolo, ad Christum convertitur, illum directo cernit obtutu.



8. What did you see? Water, certainly, but not water alone; you saw the deacons ministering there, and the bishop asking questions and hallowing. First of all, the Apostle taught you that those things are not to be considered “which we see, but the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”6 [...]

quid vidisti? aquas utique, sed non solas: levitas illis ministrantes, summum sacerdotem interrogantem et consecrantem. primum omnium docuit te apostolus non ea contemplanda nobis, quae videntur, sed quae non videntur, quoniam, quae videntur, temporalia sunt, quae autem non videntur, aeterna. 

The Song of Songs




29. After this [baptism], you went up to the priest: consider what followed. Was it not that of which David speaks: “Like the ointment upon the head, which went down to the beard, even Aaron’s beard”?35 This is the ointment of which Solomon, too, says: “Thy Name is ointment poured out, therefore have the maidens loved Thee and drawn Thee.”36 How many souls regenerated this day have loved Thee, Lord Jesus, and have said: “Draw us after Thee, we are running after the odour of Thy garments,”37 that they might drink in the odour of Thy resurrection.

post haec utique ascendisti ad sacerdotem. considera, quid secutum sit. nonne illud, quod ait David: sicut unguentum in capite, quod descendit in barbam, in barbam Aaron? hoc est unguentum, de quo et Salomon ait: unguentum exinanitum est nomen tuum, propterea adulescentulae dilexerunt te et adtraxerunt te. quantae hodie renovatae animae dilexerunt te, domine Iesu, dicentes: adtrahe nos post te, in odorem vestimentorum tuorum curramus, ut odorem resurrectionis haurirent!



34. After this white robes were given to you as a sign that you were putting off the covering of sins, and putting on the chaste veil of innocence, of which the prophet said: “You shall sprinkle me with hyssop and I shall be cleansed, You shall wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow.”41 [...]

accepisti post haec vestimenta candida, ut esse indicio, quod exueris involucrum peccatorum, indueris innocentiae casta velamina, de quibus dixit propheta: asparges me hysopo et mundabor, lavabis me et super nivem dealbabor. [...]

35. The Church, having put on these garments through the layer of regeneration, says in the Song of Songs: “I am black and comely, O daughters of Jerusalem.”44 Black through the frailty of her human condition, comely through the sacrament of faith. And the daughters of Jerusalem beholding these garments say in amazement “Who is this that cometh up made white?”45 She was black, how is she now suddenly made white?

haec vestimenta habens ecclesia, per lavacrum regenerationis adsumpta, dicit in canticis: nigra sum et decora, filiae Hierusalem, nigra per fragilitatem condicionis humanae, decora per gratiam, nigra, quia ex peccatoribus, decora fidei sacramento. haec vestimenta cernentes filiae Hierusalem stupefactae dicunt: quae est haec, quae ascendit dealbata? haec erat nigra, unde nunc subito dealbata?

36. The angels, too, were in doubt when Christ arose; the powers of heaven were in doubt when they saw that flesh was ascending into heaven. Then they said: “Who is this King of glory?” And whilst some said “Lift up your gates, O princes, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in.”46 In Isaiah, too, we find that the powers of heaven doubted and said: “Who is this that cometh up from Edom, the redness of His garments is from Bosor, He who is glorious in white apparel?”47

dubitaverunt enim etiam angeli, cum resurgeret Christus dubitaverunt potestates caelorum videntes, quod caro in caelum ascenderet. denique dicebant: quis est iste rex gloriae? et cum alii dicerent: tollite portas, principes vestri, et elevamini, portae aeternales, in introibit rex gloriae, alii dubitabant dicentes: quis est iste rex gloriae? in Esaia quoque habes dubitantes virtutes caelorum dixisse: quis est iste, qui ascendit ex Edom, rubor vestimentorum eius ex Bosor, speciosus in stola candida?



37. But Christ, beholding His Church, for whom He Himself, as you find in the book of the prophet Zechariah, had put on filthy garments, now clothed in white raiment, seeing, that is, a soul pure and washed in the layer of regeneration, says: “Behold, thou art fair, My love, behold thou art fair, thy eyes are like a dove’s,”48 in the likeness of which the Holy Spirit descended from heaven. The eyes are beautiful like those of a dove, because in the likeness of a dove the Holy Spirit descended from heaven.

Christus autem videns ecclesiam suam in vestimentis candidis, - pro qua ipse, ut habes in Zacchariae libro prophetae, sordida vestimenta susceperat -, vel animam regenerationis lavacro mundam atque ablutam dicit: ecce formonsa es, proxima mea, ecce es formonsa, oculi tui sicut columbae. in cuius specie spiritus sanctus descendit de caelo. formonsi oculi, sicut diximus supra, quia sicut columba descendit.

38. And farther on: “Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are shorn, which are come up from the pool, which all bear twins, and none is barren among them, thy lips are as a cord of scarlet.”49 This is no slight praise. First by the pleasing comparison to those that are shorn; for we know that goats both feed in high places without risk, and securely find their food in rugged places, and then when shorn are freed from what is superfluous, The Church is likened to a flock of these, having in itself the many virtues of those souls which through the laver lay aside the superfluity of sins, and offer to Christ the mystic faith and the grace of good living, which speak of the cross of the Lord Jesus.

et infra: dentes tui sicut grex tonsarum, quae ascenderunt de lavacro, quae omnes geminos creant, et infecunda non est in eis; ut resticula coccinea labia tua. non mediocres ista laudatio, primum dulci conparatione tonsarum; capras enim et in altis pasci sine periculo novimus et in praeruptis securas cibum sumere, deinde, cum tondentur, deonerari superfluis. harum gregi conparatur ecclesia, multas in se habens animarum virtutes, quae per lavacrum superflua peccata deponant, quae mysticam fidem et moralem gratiam deferant Christo, quae crucem domini Iesu loquantur.

39. The Church is beautiful in them. So that God the Word says to her: “Thou art all fair, My love, and there is no blemish in thee,” for guilt has been washed away. “Come hither from Lebanon, My spouse, come hither from Lebanon, from the beginning of faith wilt thou pass through and pass on,”50 because, renouncing the world, she passed through things temporal and passed on to Christ. And again, God the Word says to her: “How beautiful and sweet art thou made, O love, in thy delights! Thy stature is become like that of a palm-tree, and thy breasts like bunches of grapes.”51

in his formonsa est ecclesia. unde ad eam verbum deus dicit: tota formonsa es, proxima mea, et repraehensio non est in te, quia culpa demersa est; ades huc a Libano, sponsa, ades huc a Libano; transibis et pertransibis a principio fidei, eo quod renuntians mundo transierit saeculum, pertransierit ad Christum. et iterum dicit ad eam deus verbum: quid pulchra et suavis facta es, caritas, in deliciis tuis? statura tua similis facta est palmae, et ubera tua botryes.

40. And the Church answers Him, “Who will give Thee to me, my Brother, that didst suck the breasts of my mother? If I find Thee without, I will kiss Thee, and indeed they will not despise me. I will take Thee, and bring Thee into the house of my mother; and into the secret chamber of her that conceived me. Thou shalt teach me.”52 You see how, delighted with the gifts of grace, she longs to attain to the innermost mysteries, and to consecrate all her affections to Christ. She still seeks, she still stirs up His love, and asks of the daughters of Jerusalem to stir it up for her, and desires that by their beauty, which is that of faithful souls, her spouse may be incited to ever richer love for her.

cui respondet ecclesia: quis dabit te, frater, mihi lactantem ubera matris meae? inveniens te foris osculabor te, et quidem non spernent me. adsumam te et inducam te in domum matris meae et in secretum eius, quae concepit me. docebis me. vides, quemadmodum delectata munere gratiarum ad interiora cupis mysteria pervenire et omnes sensus suos consecrare Christo? adhuc quaerit, adhuc suscitat caritatem et suscitari eam sibi poscit a filiabus Hierusalem, quarum gratia, hoc est animarum fidelium, sponsum in amorem sui uberiorem desiderat provocari.

41. So that the Lord Jesus Himself, invited by such eager love and by the beauty of comeliness and grace, since now no offences pollute the baptized, says to the Church: “Place Me as a seal upon thy heart, as a signet upon thine arm;”53 that is, thou art comely, My beloved, thou art all fair, nothing is wanting to thee. Place Me as a seal upon thine heart, that thy faith may shine forth in the fulness of the sacrament. Let thy works also shine and set forth the image of God in the Whose image thou wast made. Let no persecution lessen thy love, which many waters cannot quench, nor many rivers drown.

unde dominus Iesus et ipse invitatus tantae studio caritatis, pulchritudine decoris et gratiae, quod nulla iam in ablutis delicta sorderent, dicit ad ecclesiam: pone me ut signaculum in cor tuum, ut sigillum in brachium tuum, hoc est: 'decora es, proxima mea, tota formonsa es, nihil tibi deest. pone me ut signaculum in cor tuum, quo fides tua pleno fulgeat sacramento. opera quoque tua luceant et imaginem dei praeferant, ad cuius imaginem facta es. caritas tua nulla persecutione minuatur, quam multa aqua excludere et flumina inundare non possint'.

and the SONG of SONGS




54. The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: “This is My Body.”70 Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks.

ipse clamat dominus Iesus: hoc est corpus meum. ante benedictionem verborum caelestium alia species nominatur, post consecrationem corpus significatur. ipse dicit sanguinem suum. ante consecrationem aliud dicitur, post consecrationem sanguis nuncupatur. et tu dicis 'amen', hoc est 'verum est'. quod os loquitur, mens interna fateatur; quod sermo sonat, adfectus sentiat.

55. Christ, then, feeds His Church with these sacraments, by means of which the substance of the soul is strengthened, and seeing the continual progress of her grace, He rightly says to her: “How comely are thy breasts, my sister, my spouse, how comely they are made by wine, and the smell of thy garments is above all spices. A dropping honeycomb are thy lips, my spouse, honey and milk are under thy tongue, and the smell of thy garments is as the smell of Lebanon. A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed.”71 By which He signifies that the mystery ought to remain sealed up with you, that it be not violated by the deeds of an evil life, and pollution of chastity, that it be not made known to thou, for whom it is not fitting, nor by garrulous talkativeness it be spread abroad amongst unbelievers. Your guardianship of the faith ought therefore to be good, that integrity of life and silence may endure unblemished.

his igitur sacramentis pascit ecclesiam suam Christus, quibus animae firmatur substantia, merito que videns profectum eius gratiae continentem dicit ad eam: quam decora facta sunt ubera tua, soror mea sponsa, quam decora facta sunt a vino, et odor vestimentorum tuorum super omnia aromata. favum distillant labia tua, o sponsa, mel et lac sub lingua tua et odor vestimentorum tuorum sicut odor Libani. hortus clusus soror mea sponsa, hortus clusus, fons signatus. quo significat signatum debere apud te mysterium manere, ne violetur operibus malae vitae atque adulterio castitatis, ne divulgetur, quibus non convenit, ne garrula loquacitate dispergatur in perfidos. bona debet ergo fidei tuae esse custodia, ut intemerata vitae ac silentii integritas perseveret.

56. For which reason, too, the Church, guarding the depth of the heavenly mysteries, repels the furious storms of wind, and calls to her the sweetness of the grace of spring, and knowing that her garden cannot displease Christ, invites the Bridegroom, saying: “Arise, O north wind, and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, and let my ointments flow down. Let my Brother come down to His garden, and eat the fruit of His trees.”72 For it has good trees and fruitful, which have dipped their roots in the water of the sacred spring, and with fresh growth have shot forth into good fruits, so as now not to be cut with the axe of the prophet, but to abound with the fruitfulness of the Gospel.

unde et ecclesia altitudinem servans mysteriorum caelestium reicit a se graviores venti procellas et invitat vernantis gratiae suavitatem; et sciens, quod hortus suum Christo displicere non possit, ipsum advocat sponsum dicens: exsurge, aquilo, et veni, auster, perfla hortum meum et defluant unguenta mea. descendat frater meus in hortum suum et edat fructum pomiferarum suarum. bonas enim arbores et fructiferas habet, quae radices suas tincxerint sacri 'fontis inriguo' et in bonos fructus novae fecunditatis germine pullulaverint, ut iam non prophetica caedantur securi, sed evangelica ubertate fundantur.

57. Lastly, the Lord also, delighted with their fertility, answers: “I have entered into My garden, My sister, My spouse; I have gathered My myrrh with My spices, I have eaten My meat with My honey, I have drunk My drink with My milk.”73 Understand, you faithful, why He spoke of meat and drink. And there is no doubt that He Himself eats and drinks in us, as you have read that He says that in our persons He is in prison.74

denique fertilitate earum etiam dominus delectatus respondet: ingressus sum in hortum meum, soror mea sponsa. vindemiavi myrram meam cum unguentis meis, manducavi cibum meum cum melle meo, bibi potum meum cum lacte meo. quare 'cibum' et 'potum' dixerim, fidelis, intellege! illud autem non dubium, quod in nobis et ipse manducat et bibit, sicut in nobis legisti quia et in carcere esse se dicit.

58. Wherefore, too, the Church, beholding so great grace, exhorts her sons and her friends to come together to the sacraments, saying: “Eat, my friends, and drink and be inebriated, my brother.”75 What we eat and what we drink the Holy Spirit has elsewhere made plain by the prophet, saying, “Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man that hopes in Him.”76 In that sacrament is Christ, because it is the Body of Christ, it is therefore not bodily food but spiritual. Whence the Apostle says of its type: “Our fathers ate spiritual food and drank spiritual drink,”77 for the Body of God is a spiritual body; the Body of Christ is the Body of the Divine Spirit, for the Spirit is Christ, as we read: “The Spirit before our face is Christ the Lord.”78 And in the Epistle of Peter we read: “Christ died for us.”79 Lastly, that food strengthens our heart, and that drink “maketh glad the heart of man,”80 as the prophet has recorded.

unde et ecclesia videns tantam gratiam hortatur filios suos, hortatur proximos, ut ad sacramenta concurrant dicens: edite, proximi mei, et bibite et inebriamini, fratres mei. quid edamus, quid bibamus, alibi tibi per prophetam spiritus sanctus expressit dicens: gustate et videte, quoniam suavis et dominus: beatus vir, qui confidit in eo. in illo sacramento Christus est, quia corpus est Christi. non ergo corporalis esca, sed spiritalis est. unde et apostolus de typo eius ait: quia patres nostri escam spiritalem manducaverunt et potum spiritalem biberunt; corpus enim dei corpus est spiritale, corpus Christi corpus est divini spiritus, quia spiritus Christus, ut legimus: spiritus ante faciem nostram Christus dominus. et in Petri epistola habemus: et Christus pro vobis mortuus est. denique cor nostrum esca ista confirmat et potus iste 'laetificat cor hominis', ut propheta memoravit.


2 This “opening” was a symbolical act, as is explained in the next section. The celebrant moistened his finger with spittle, wherewith he then touched the ear of the catechumen, saying, “Epphatha.”

3 S. Mark vii. 34.

4 “Holy of holies,” a figurative name given to the baptistery. Comp. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Cat. Lect. XIX. 11; and with this whole treatise the last four Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem in this series, Vol. VII. p. 144 ff.

5 Mal. ii. 7.

6 1 Cor. v. 18.

7 Rom. i. 20.

8 S. John x. 38.

9 Gen. i. 2.

10 Ps. xxxiii. [xxxii.] 6.

11 Gen. vi. 3.

12 Gen. vii. 1 ff.

13 1 Cor. x. 1, 1 Cor. x. 2.

14 Ex. xv. 10.

15 S. Luke i. 35.

16 S. John i. 17.

17 Ex. xv. 23 ff.

18 2 [4] Kings v. 1 ff.

19 1 Cor. ii. 9.

20 1 John v. 7.

21 S. John iii. 5.

22 2 [4] Kings v. 14.

23 S. John v. 4.

24 Jer. xv. 18.

25 S. John i. 33.

26 S. John i. 32.

27 S. Matt. x. 16.

28 Phil. ii. 8.

29 S. John v. 37.

30 S. Matt. iii. 17.

31 Ps. xxix. [xxviii.] 3.

32 Judg. vi. 21.

33 1 [3] Kings xviii. 38.

34 S. Matt. xviii. 20.

35 Ps. cxxxiii. [cxxxii.] 2.

36 Cant. i. 2.

37 Cant. i. 3.

38 Eccles. ii. 14.

39 S. John xiii. 8.

40 S. John xiii. 9, John xiii. 10.

41 Ps. li. [l.] 9.

42 Ex. xii. 22.

43 Isa. i. 18.

44 Cant. i. 48.

45 Cant. viii. 5.

46 Ps. xxiv. [xxiii.] 8, Ps. xxiv. [xxiii.] 9.

47 Isa. lxiii. 1.

48 Cant. iv. 1.

49 Cant. iv. 2, Cant. iv. 3.

50 Cant. iv. 7, Cant. iv. 8.

51 Cant. vii. 6, Cant. vii. 7.

52 Cant. viii. 1, Cant. viii. 2.

53 Cant. viii. 6.

54 Isa. xi. 2.

55 2 Cor. v. 5.

56 This passage evidently refers to confirmation, and to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit received therein. In the Early Church as in the Eastern Church to the present day, confirmation was administered immediately after baptism.

57 Ps. xliii. [xlii.] 4.

58 Ps. xxiii. [xxii.] 1–5. After being baptized and confirmed in the baptistery, which was detached from the church, the newly “enlightened” were led in solemn procession into the church to be present at the celebration of the Mysteries, and to receive their first communion.

59 Ex. xvi. 13.

60 1 Cor. ii. 9.

61 Ps. lxxxviii. [lxxxvii.] 25.

62 1 Cor. x. 4.

63 Ex. iv. 3, Ex. iv. 4.

64 Ex. vii. 20 ff.

65 Ex. xiv. 21 ff.

66 Josh. iii. 16.

67 Ex. xvii. 6.

68 Ex. xv. 25.

69 Ps. iii. 5.

70 S. Matt. xxvi. 26.

71 Cant. iv. 10 ff.

72 Cant. iv. 15; Cant. v. 1.

73 Cant. v. 1.

74 S. Matt. xxv. 36.

75 Cant. v. 1.

76 Ps. xxxiv. [xxxiii.] 9.

77 1 Cor. x. 3.

78 Lam. iv. 20.

79 1 Pet. ii. 21.

80 Ps. civ. [ciii.] 15.

81 S. Matt. i. 18.




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