By St. Ambrose of Milan
Book I: Chapter I
Elected to the episcopacy while still a layman, by the common acclaim of the citizens of Milan, St. Ambrose took his duties and those of his clergy with great seriousness and exacting. We’ll be publishing a section of his work “On The Duties Of Clergy” every Monday for awhile. Read and enjoy.
1. I think I shall not seem to be taking too much on myself, if, in the midst of my children, I yield to my desire to teach, seeing that the master of humility himself has said:
“Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” (Psalm 34)
Wherein one may observe both the humility and the grace of his reverence for God. For in saying “the fear of the Lord,” which seems to be common to all, he has described the chief mark of reverence for God. As, however, fear itself is the beginning of wisdom and the source of blessedness—for they that fear the Lord are blessed (Psalm 62) –he has plainly marked himself out as the teacher for instruction in wisdom, and the guide to the attainment of blessedness.
2. We therefore, being anxious to imitate his reverence for God, and not without justification in dispensing grace, deliver to you as to children those things which the Spirit of Wisdom has imparted to him, and which have been made clear to us through him, and learnt by sight and by example. For we can no longer now escape from the duty of teaching which the needs of the priesthood have laid upon us, though we tried to avoid it:
“For God gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” (Eph. 4:11)
3. I do not therefore claim for myself the glory of the apostles (for who can do this save those whom the Son of God Himself has chosen?); nor the grace of the prophets, nor the virtue of the evangelists, nor the cautious care of the pastors. I only desire to attain to that care and diligence in the sacred writings, which the Apostle has placed last amongst the duties of the saints; (1 Cor. 12:10) and this very thing I desire, so that, in the endeavor to teach, I may be able to learn. For one is the true Master, Who alone has not learnt, what He taught all; but men learn before they teach, and receive from Him what they may hand on to others.
4. But not even this was the case with me. For I was carried off from the judgment seat, and the garb of office, to enter on the priesthood, and began to teach you, what I myself had not yet learned. So it happened that I began to teach before I began to learn.
Therefore I must learn and teach at the same time, since I had no leisure to learn before.