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The marvel is, not that men have failed to know Christ, but that they have not listened to the words of the Scriptures. Christ, indeed, was not known, even of angels, save by revelation, nor again, by His forerunner. Follows a description of Christ’s triumphal ascent into heaven, and the excellence of its glory over the assumption of certain prophets. Lastly, from exposition of the conversation with angels upon this occasion, the omnipotence of the Son is proved, as against the Arians.
1. On consideration, your Majesty, of the reason wherefore men have so far gone astray, or that many—alas!—should follow diverse ways of belief concerning the Son of God, the marvel seems to be, not at all that human knowledge has been baffled in dealing with superhuman things, but that it has not submitted to the authority of the Scriptures.
2. What reason, indeed, is there to wonder, if by their worldly wisdom men failed to comprehend the mystery of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in Whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden,23302330 Col. ii. 3. that mystery of which not even angels have been able to take knowledge, save by revelation?
2633. For who could by force of imagination, and not by faith, follow the Lord Jesus, now descending from the highest heaven to the shades below, now rising again from Hades to the heavenly places; in a moment self-emptied, that He might dwell amongst us, and yet never made less than He was, the Son being ever in the Father and the Father in the Son?
4. Even Christ’s forerunner, though only in so far as representing the synagogue,23312331 St. Ambrose perhaps meant that John Baptist had, for a space, lost the prophetic Light, when he doubted, and sent disciples to enquire of Jesus. The darkness of the dungeon had drawn a cloud over the prisoner’s soul, and for a time he was in the state described by Isaiah ix. 1, walking in darkness and the shadow of death, the state of the people of Israel (represented by the synagogue) at the time of our Lord’s Advent. See S. Matt. iv. 12–16. doubted concerning Him, even he who was appointed to go before the face of the Lord, and at last sending messengers, enquired: “Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?”23322332 S. Matt. xi. 3.
5. Angels, too, stood spellbound in wonder at the heavenly mystery. And so, when the Lord rose again, and the heights of heaven could not bear the glory of His rising from the dead, Who of late, so far as regarded His flesh, had been confined in the narrow bounds of a sepulchre, even the heavenly hosts doubted and were amazed.
6. For a Conqueror came, adorned with wondrous spoils, the Lord was in His holy Temple, before Him went angels and archangels, marvelling at the prey wrested from death, and though they knew that nothing can be added to God from the flesh, because all things are lower than God, nevertheless, beholding the trophy of the Cross, whereof “the government was upon His shoulder,” and the spoils borne by the everlasting Conqueror, they, as if the gates could not afford passage for Him Who had gone forth from them, though indeed they can never o’erspan His greatness—they sought some broader and more lofty passage for Him on His return—so entirely had He remained undiminished by His self-emptying.
7. However, it was meet that a new way should be prepared before the face of the new Conqueror—for a Conqueror is always, as it were, taller and greater in person than others; but, forasmuch as the Gates of Righteousness, which are the Gates of the Old and the New Testament, wherewith heaven is opened, are eternal, they are not indeed changed, but raised, for it was not merely one man but the whole world that entered, in the person of the All-Redeemer.
8. Enoch had been translated, Elias caught up, but the servant is not above his Master. For “No man hath ascended into heaven, but He Who came down from heaven;”23332333 S. John iii. 13. and even of Moses, though his corpse was never seen on earth, we do nowhere read as of one abiding in celestial glory, unless it was after that the Lord, by the earnest of His own Resurrection, burst the bonds of hell and exalted the souls of the godly. Enoch, then, was translated, and Elias caught up; both as servants, both in the body, but not after resurrection from the dead, nor with the spoils of death and the triumphal train of the Cross, had they been seen of angels.
9. And therefore [the angels] descrying the approach of the Lord of all, first and only Vanquisher of Death, bade their princes that the gates should be lifted up, saying in adoration, “Lift up the gates, such as are princes amongst you, and be ye lifted up, O everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in.”23342334 Ps. xxiv. 7. St. Ambrose follows the LXX.
10. Yet there were still, even amongst the hosts of heaven, some that were amazed, overcome with astonishment at such pomp and glory as they had never yet beheld, and therefore they asked: “Who is the King of glory?”23352335 Ps. xxiv. 8. Howbeit, seeing that the angels (as well as ourselves) acquire their knowledge step by step, and are capable of advancement, they certainly must display differences of power and understanding, for God alone is above and beyond the limits imposed by gradual advance, possessing, as He does, every perfection from everlasting.
11. Others, again,—those, to wit, who had been present at His rising again, those who had seen or who already recognized Him,—made reply: “It is the Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.”
12. Then, again, sang the multitude of angels, in triumphal chorus: “Lift up the gates, O ye that are their princes, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in.”
13. And back again came the challenge of them that stood astonished: “Who is that King of glory? For we saw Him having neither form nor comeliness;23362336 Isa. liii. 2. if then it be not He, who is that King of glory?”
14. Whereto answer they which know: “The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of glory.” Therefore, the Lord of Hosts, He is the Son. How then do the Arians call Him fallible, Whom we believe to be Lord of Hosts, even as we believe of the Father? How can they draw distinctions between 264the sovereign powers of Each, when we have found the Son, even as also the Father, entitled “Lord of Saboath”? For, in this very passage, the reading in many copies is: “The Lord of Sabaoth, He is the King of glory.” Now the translators have, for the “Lord of Sabaoth,” rendered in some places “the Lord of Hosts,” in others “the Lord the King,” and in others “the Lord Omnipotent.” Therefore, since He Who ascended is the Son, and, again, He Who ascended is the Lord of Sabaoth, it surely follows that the Son of God is omnipotent!
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