Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Ember Wednesday in the First Week of Lent. The Lesson is taken from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew

Chap. 12, 38-50

At that time: Certain of the Scribes and Pharisees answered Jesus, saying: Master, we would see a sign from thee.  And so on, and that which followeth.

A Homily by St. Ambrose the Bishop

After the Lord had passed condemnation on unbelieving Jewry, he proceeded to declare the mystery of the Church, which same he plainly set forth in two figures; first, that of the repentant Ninevites; then, that of the queen of the south.  Like that queen, the Church cometh from the uttermost parts of the earth, to stand in the presence of the wisdom of the true Solomon, the Prince of Peace.  A queen is she, a queen of one indivisible realm, wrought into one body out of all nations, howsoever diverse or distant.

Wherefore this is the great mystery of Christ and his Church, a mystery now seen to be more excellent in the fulness of truth, than it seemed to be in the ancient type.  For then they had in Solomon only a foreshadowing of him who was to come, but now we have Christ in his own body.  And the Church is made to stand upright in his presence by reason of two things, by innocence of sin, and by repentance of sin.  To wash away sin through repentance is the work of the Prince of Peace; to eschew it, that of his wisdom.

As for the sign which the Lord gave them, to wit, the Prophet Jonah, the same was a figure of the Lord's sufferings, and also a witness to the gravity of those sins which Jewry had committed.  At the same time, we see in these words of the Lord a declaration at once both of his power and of his love; for, by turning our eyes on the Ninevites, he sheweth us a way of escape, even whilst he setteth before us the horror of what will otherwise be our punishment.  Whence Jewry was shewn that it has no occasion for despair if it would but repent. 

From Lenten Instructions From the Roman Breviary by Brother Hermenegild TOSF