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A native of Trèves in Gaul, the great bishop of Milan, champion of orthodoxy against the Arians, teacher of Augustine, master of the art of eloquence, Ambrose is one of the most conspicuous figures in ecclesiastical history. He was born about 340 A.D., consecrated bishop in 374, and died in 397. His character has not escaped the breath of calumny, but all efforts at detraction have failed to remove him from the high estimation history has accorded to him. His reluctance to accept the office of bishop seems to have been sincere, and his integrity in the administration of the office as marked as the simplicity of his life. He was of noble birth and high education. The undoubted author of many hymns, there are many more ascribed to him which he probably did not compose. Duffield says: "The bishop met three great enemies during his career. First appeared Idolatry, championed by Symmachus; then followed Heresy, championed by Justina; and now came Despotism, behind which stood the beloved Theodosius." His bones were deposited in the church of San Ambrogio, the cathedral which stands on the old site in the city of Milan, where a church was built in 387.
Aeterne rerum conditor, Noctem diemque qui regis, Et temporum das tempora, Ut alleves fastidium;
Praeco diei iam sonat,
Hoc excitatus lucifer
Solvit polum caligine,
Hoc omnis errorum chorus
Viam nocendi deserit.
Hoc nauta vires colligit
Creator everlasting, Thou
Now sounds the herald of the morn Who through deep night abides, A sleepless guide for wandering feet, And night from night divides.
Awaked by him, the morning star
From gloom clears all the sky, While error's every host, at this, Their evil courses fly.
The sailor now regains his strength, The sea's wild waves grow tame, As, at this sound, the Church's rock Himself deplored his shame.
Surgamus ergo strenue!
Gallo canente spes redit,
Iesu, labentes respice,
Tu lux refulge sensibus, Mentisque somnum discute, Te nostra vox primum sonet Et ore psallamus tibi.