Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 1862
In a letter to Irenaeus, possibly a cleric in Milan, Bishop Ambrose of Milan (Italy) replies to his questions concerning the interpretation of the Book of Psalms and Isaiah. Ambrose of Milan, Letter 11 (Maur. 29), written in Milan, AD 374/397.
XI (Maur. 29)
Ambrosius Iraeneo Salutem.
1. Inter legendum cum paululum requievissem animo, quia lucubratione destiteram, versiculum illum me cum coepi volvere, quo vesperi in vigiliis usi fueramus: Ὡραῖος κάλλει παρὰ τοὺς υἱοὺς τῶν ἀνθρώπων. Ὡς ὡραῖοι οἱ πόδες εὐαγγελιζόντων αὐτόν! Et vere nihil speciosius illo summo bono, cuius etiam praedicatio speciosa est nimis, et maxime perseverantis sermonis processus et quaedam apostolicae praedicationis vestigia. Sed illa qui possunt? Quibus donavit deus non solum ut Christum adnuntiarent, sed etiam pro illo paterentur.
In what follows, Ambrose gives a spiritual commentary on the quoted verses, in which he mostly dwells on the profits of the contemplation and knowledge of God.
24. [...] Vale et nos ut filius dilige, quia nos te ut parentes diligimus!
(ed. Faller 1968: 78-92; summary M. Szada)
XI (Maur. 29)
Ambrose to Iraeneus, greetings.
1. After resting my mind a while during my reading, turning from my intensive study, I began thinking of the versicle which we had used at first Vespers : "Thou art beautiful above the sons of men" [Ps 44: 3] and also: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good tidings." [Is 52: 7] Truly, nothing is more beautiful than that Highest Good which is exceedingly beautiful to preach, the setting forth of a continuous discourse, and the footsteps, as It were, of the preaching of the Apostles. Who is capable of this? Those to whom God gave the power not only to announce Christ but also to suffer for Him.
In what follows, Ambrose gives a spiritual commentary to the quoted verses in which he mostly dwells on the profits of the contemplation and knowledge of God.
24. [...] Farewell, son, and love us, because we love you.
(trans. Beyenka 1954: 437-448; in the translation Letter 79)


The allusion to the verse sung during the Vespers suggests that Irenaeus also took part in this liturgical gathering. The fact that Ambrose quotes the verse in Greek and does not translate it into Latin may suggest that Irenaeus understood this language.

Place of event:

  • Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia
  • Milan

About the source:

Author: Ambrose of Milan
Title: Letters, Epistulae
Origin: Milan (Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Ambrose was a bishop of Milan from 374 until his death in 397. We have a collection of his letters organized in three parts. The first one consists of 77 letters organized in ten books most probably by Ambrose himself. He published his letters at some point after the death of Theodosius in 395. From this collection, Book 4 is missing, as are some letters of Books 2 and 4. The second part is the group of letters that survived outside the collection (extra collectionem), and the third is a group of letters concerning the council of Aquileia in 381 (together with the acts of this council). For a detailed discussion on the letters and further reading see Liebeschuetz 2010: 27–48 and Nauroy 2016: 146–160.
The present letter is not dated, and it can be said only that it was written at some point during the episcopacy of Ambrose. Here, Ambrose`s addressee is Iraeneus, who is treated with paternal affection. Irenaeus received several letters from Ambrose and is known only from this correspondence. He is never explicitly called a presbyter (or a cleric), and there is a scholarly discussion as to whether he actually was one (see especially Palanque 1933). Paredi 1968: 498 and Zelzer 1978: 15 argue that Irenaeus was a layman. He is considered a cleric by Mazières 1979 and later by Zelzer 1990: XXI, n. 6. See PCBE, Italie 1, Irenaeus 1.
O. Faller ed., Epistulae et acta, epistularum libri I-VI, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Lationorum 82/1, Wien 1968
Saint Ambrose, Letters, trans. M. M. Beyenka, Washington D.C. 1954
J.H.W.G. Liebeschuetz, Ambrose of Milan: political letters and speeches, Liverpool 2010.
J.-P. Mazières, "Les lettres d’Ambroise de Milan à Irenaeus.”, Pallas. Revue d’études antiques 26 (1979), 103–114.
G. Nauroy, "The Letter Collection of Ambrose of Milan", [in:] Late Antique Letter Collections: A Critical Introduction and Reference Guide, ed. C. Sogno, B.K. Storin, E.J. Watts, Oakland, CA 2016, 146–160.
G. Nauroy, "Édition et organisation du recueil des lettres d’Ambroise de Milan: une architecture cachée ou altérée?", in: La correspondance d'Ambroise de Milan, textes réunis et préparés par A. Canellis, Saint-Étienne 2012, 19-61.
J.-R. Palanque, "Deux correspondants de saint Ambroise: Orontien et Irénée”, Revue des Études Latines 11 (1933), 153–163.
A. Paredi, S. Ambrogio e la sua età, Milano 1960.


Languages used - Greek
Writing activity - Correspondence
Ritual activity - Divine office/Liturgy of the hours
Reverenced by
Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
Education - Theological interest
Devotion - Reading the Bible and devotional literature
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: M. Szada, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER1862,