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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Ambrosian Hymns

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Under the name of Ambrose, bishop of Milan (q.v.), there exist a number of Latin hymns which are generally ascribed to him; yet they are not all his, the name having been freely given to many formed after the model and pattern of those which he composed, and to some in every way unworthy of him. The hymns really belonging to him, and for which we have the authority of Augustine (Confess, 9, 12; Retractat. 1, 21; De Natura et Gratia, c. 63), are, Deus creator omnium: AEterne rerum Conditor: Jam surgit hora tertia: Veni redemptor gentium (q.v.). Besides these hymns, we find a number of others, as, Rector potens, verax Deus: Rerum Deus tenax vigor: Eterna Christi munera: Jesu corona virginum: Splendor paternav gloris: Jam lucis orto sidere: Te lucas ante termihum: Christe, qui lux ens et dies: O lux beata Trinitas: Aurora lucis rutilat: Nunc Sancte nobis Spiritus: Conditor aime siderum: Jam Christus' astra ascenderat: Deus, tuorum militun: Eterne, Rex altissime, which are all called Ambrosian.

The Benedictine authors attribute only twelve hymns to Ambrose, but even their decision has not remained unchallenged. Cardinal Thomasius, in a preliminary discourse to his Hymnarium (in his Works [Rome, 1747], 2, 351-434), has gathered the evidence in favor of Ambrose being the author of those twelve hymns; and Daniel speaks of Thomasius's works, "Ex illo libro tanquam fonte primario hauriendum est." More recently the question as to the genuineness of Ambrose's hymns has been treated by Biraghi, Inni Sinceri e Carini di S. Ambrogio (Milan, 1862), according to whom eighteen hymns may be ascribed to Ambrose as his own. Archbishop Trench remarked concerning the hymns of Ambrose that, although his almost austere simplicity seems cold and displeasing after the rich sentiment of some later writers, yet we cannot but observe "how truly these poems belong to their time and to the circumstances under which they were produced; how suitably the faith which was in actual conflict with, and was just triumphing over, the powers of this world found its utterance in hymns such as these, wherein is no softness, perhaps little tenderness, but a rock-like firmness the old Roman stoicism transmuted and glorified into that nobler Christian courage which encountered and at length overcame the world." Most of the hymns which we have mentioned have been translated into English by Neale, Chandler, Mercer, and others. (B. P.)

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Ambrosian Hymns'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/a/ambrosian-hymns.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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