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On the Gospel
St. Ambrose, Pope and Doctor
Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D.
(PL 60, col. 1572.)

[Introduction: In the exposition of the preceding verse 19, the holy bishop speaks of the Blessed Virgin, in words which form a suitable prelude to his exposisiton of today's gospel.  In this verse the Evangelist says of her: But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.  The sermon begins from his comment upon verse 19.]

Let us learn chastity in all things from the Holy Virgin, who no less contained in word as in person, reflected in the quiet of her heart upon the proofs of her faith.   If Mary learns from the Shepherds, why will you not learn from the priests?  If Mary kept silence before the Apostles had taught, why, now that they have spoken, do you wish to teach rather than learn?  Learn also, that vice belongs to the person, not to the sex; for sex is holy.  Mary received no command to teach, yet she has left us an example.

And so the Child was circumcised.  Who is this Child, unless He of Whom it was said: a Child is born to us, a son is given to us (Is. ix. 6.).  He was made under the Law, that He might redeem those Who were under the Law (Gal. iv. 4, 5).  To present Him to the Lord.  What it means to be presented to the Lord in Jerusalem I would explain but that I have already spoken of it in the commentary on Isaias.  For He was circumcised with the vices  (Gal. v. 24.), and is judged worthy to be looked upon by the Lord: the eyes of the Lord are upon the just (Ps. 33. 16).  You see how every practice of the Old Law was a figure of that to come; for circumcision was a sign of the forgiveness of our sins.

But since by reason of a certain base inclination to sin, the fragility of the human body and soul is enfolded in a never ending maze of evil, the cleansing from all guilt, that shall be at the time of the resurrection, was prefigured by the circumcision on the eighth day.  This was because of the saying:  Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.  By the words of the Law the Child of a Virgin was promised.  And He was holy, because immaculate.  Then, that it was He that was signified in the Law, the words that were spoken by the angel make clear:  The Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

He alone of all that are born of woman is Holy:  the Lord Jesus Who, in the immaculate newness of His Birth, has received no contagion of our earthly corruption; nor has He put off his celestial might.  For if we adhere to the letter: how would every male be holy, since it is plain that there have been many who were very wicked?  Was Achab holy?  Were the false prophets holy whom, at the prayer of Elias, the Avenger of offence against heaven consumed by fire?  But He is Holy Whom the sacred precepts of the divine law presignified in the figure of the Mystery that was to come; in that He alone would open the hidden womb, of unblemished fruitfulness, of the Holy Virgin Church, so as to bring to life the people of God.

He alone therefore opened the womb, for Himself.  Nor is that a wonder in Him Who had said to the prophet: Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee: and before thou comest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee (Jer. i. 6).  He who sanctified another's womb, that a prophet might be born, He it is Who opened the womb of His own Mother, that He might come forth Immaculate.  Amen.