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Works And Letters Of St Ambrose by St. Ambrose

Chapter VII. Solomon's words, |The Lord created Me,| etc.à

Solomon's words, |The Lord created Me,| etc., mean that Christ's Incarnation was done for the redemption of the Father's creation, as is shown by the Son's own words. That He is the |beginning| may be understood from the visible proofs of His virtuousness, and it is shown how the Lord opened the ways of all virtues, and was their true beginning.

46. Hereby we are brought to understand that the prophecy of the Incarnation, |The Lord created me the beginning of His ways for His works,| means that the Lord Jesus was created of the Virgin for the redeeming of the Father's works. Truly, we cannot doubt that this is spoken of the mystery of the Incarnation, forasmuch as the Lord took upon Him our flesh, in order to save the works of His hands from the slavery of corruption, so that He might, by the sufferings of His own body, overthrow him who had the power of death. For Christ's flesh is for the sake of things created, but His Godhead existed before them, seeing that He is before all things, whilst all things exist together in Him.

47. His Godhead, then, is not by reason of creation, but creation exists because of the Godhead; even as the Apostle showed, saying that all things exist because of the Son of God, for we read as follows: |But it was fitting that He, through Whom and because of Whom are all things, after bringing many sons to glory, should, as Captain of their salvation, be made perfect through suffering.| Has he not plainly declared that the Son of God, Who, by reason of His Godhead, was the Creator of all, did in after time, for the salvation of His people, submit to the taking on of the flesh and the suffering of death?

48. Now for the sake of what works the Lord was |created| of a virgin, He Himself, whilst healing the blind man, has shown, saying: |In Him must I work the works of Him that sent Me.| Furthermore He said in the same Scripture, that we might believe Him to speak of the Incarnation: |As long as I am in this world, I am the Light of this world,| for, so far as He is man, He is in this world for a season, but as God He exists at all times. In another place, too, He says: |Lo, I am with you even unto the end of the world.|

49. Nor is there any room for questioning with respect to |the beginning,| seeing that when, during His earthly life, He was asked, |Who art Thou?| He answered: |The beginning, even as I tell you.| This refers not only to the essential nature of the eternal Godhead, but also to the visible proofs of virtues, for hereby hath He proved Himself the eternal God, in that He is the beginning of all things, and the Author of each several virtue, in that He is the Head of the Church, as it is written: |Because He is the Head of the Body, of the Church; Who is the beginning, first-begotten from the dead.|

50. It is clear, then, that the words |beginning of His ways,| which, as it seems, we must refer to the mystery of the putting on of His body, are a prophecy of the Incarnation. For Christ's purpose in the Incarnation was to pave for us the road to heaven. Mark how He says: |I go up to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.| Then, to give you to know that the Almighty Father appointed His ways to the Son, after the Incarnation, you have in Zechariah the words of the angel speaking to Joshua clothed in filthy garments: |Thus saith the Lord Almighty: If thou wilt walk in My ways and observe My precepts.| What is the meaning of that filthy garb save the putting on of the flesh?

51. Now the ways of the Lord are, we may say, certain courses taken in a good life, guided by Christ, Who says, |I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.| The way, then, is the surpassing power of God, for Christ, is our way, and a good way, too, is He, a way which hath opened the kingdom of heaven to believers. Moreover, the ways of the Lord are straight, as it is written: |Make Thy ways known unto me, O Lord.| Chastity is a way, faith is a way, abstinence is a way. There is, indeed, a way of virtue, and there is a way of wickedness; for it is written: |And see if there be any way of wickedness in me.|

52. Christ, then, is the beginning of our virtue. He is the beginning of purity, Who taught maidens not to look for the embraces of men, but to yield the purity of their bodies and minds to the service of the Holy Spirit rather than to a husband. Christ is the beginning of frugality, for He became poor, though He was rich. Christ is the beginning of patience, for when He was reviled, He reviled not again, when He was struck, He did not strike back. Christ is the beginning of humility, for He took the form of a servant, though in the majesty of His power He was equal with God the Father. From Him each several virtue has taken its origin.

53. For this cause, then, that we might learn these divers virtues, |a Son was given us, Whose beginning was upon His shoulder.| That |beginning| is the Lord's Cross -- the beginning of strong courage, wherewith a way has been opened for the holy martyrs to enter the sufferings of the Holy War.

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