Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 1915
Bishop Ambrose of Milan (Italy) in a letter to Irenaeus, possibly a cleric in Milan, replies on his question why God provided manna in the past and does not provide it in the present. Ambrose of Milan, Letter 54 (Maur. 64), written in Milan, AD 374/397.
LIIII (Maur. 64)
Ambrosius Irenaeo.
1. Quaeris a me, cur dominus deus manna pluerit populo patrum et nunc non pluat. Si cognoscis pluit et cottidie pluit de caelo manna servientibus sibi. Et corporeum quidem illud manna hodie plerisque in locis invenitur, sed nunc non est tanti res miraculi, quia venit "quod perfectum est" [1 Cor. 13:10] Perfectum autem "panis de caelo" [John 6:50] corpus ex virgine, de quo satis evangelium te docet: quanto praestantoria haec superioribus! Illud enim "manna", hoc est panem illum "qui manucaverunt mortui sunt, hunc" autem "panem" qui "manducaverit vivet in aeternum" [John 6:49-51.58].
In what follows, Ambrose continues his exegetical commentary using the work of Philo "De fuga et inventione". In chapter 5 he quotes the Bible in Greek.
8. [...] Vale, fili, et nos dilige, ut facis, quoniam nos te diligimus.
(ed. Zelzer 1990: 72-76; summary M. Szada)
LIIII (Maur. 64)
Ambrose to Irenaeus, greetings.
1. You asked me why the Lord God does not now rain down manna as He did on our fathers' people. If you reflect, you will realize that He does, even daily, rain down manna from heaven upon His servants. In fact, a corporeal manna is found today in many places, but it is not now a matter of such great wonder, because that which is perfect has come [1 Cor 13:10]. That which is perfect, is the Bread from heaven, the Body from a virgin, of which the Gospel tells us with sufficiency. How much more excellent this is than what went before! Those who ate that manna, or bread, are dead, but he who eats this Bread will live forever [John 6:49-51.58]
In what follows, Ambrose continues his exegetical commentary using the work of Philo "De fuga et inventione". In chapter 5 he quotes the Bible in Greek.
8. [...] Farewell, and love us, because we also love you.
(trans. Beyenka 1954: 432-435; in the translation Letter 77)


The present letter is not dated and it can only be said that it was written at some point during the episcopacy of Ambrose. Ambrose's addresee, Iraeneus, is treated with paternal affection. Irenaeus received several letters from Ambrose and is known only from this correspondence. He is never explicitely called a presbyter (or a cleric) and there is a scholarly discussion whether he actually was one - see especially Palanque 1933. That Irenaeus was a layman is claimed by Paredi 1968: 498 and Zelzer 1978: 15. He is considered a cleric by Mazières 1979 and later by Zelzer 1990: XXI, n. 6. See PCBE, Italie 1, Irenaeus 1.

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.
M. Zelzer ed., Epistulae et acta, epistularum libri VII-VIIII, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Lationorum 82/2, Wien 1990
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
Functions within the Church - Urban presbyter
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, ER1915,