Ambrose’s Use of Arcanum: A Friendly Space Both Human and Divine

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In the context of Ambrose's understanding of God's revelation and human knowledge of God, the concept of 'secret' and 'mystery' plays a key part. The paper analyses the term arcanum, one of the words used for this concept, in

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  European Journal o Science nd Theology February 2015 Vo/.11 No.1 105-117 AMBROSE S USE OF ARCANUM A FRIENDLY SPACE BOTH HUMAN AND DIVINE David Voprada Catholic Faculty ofTheology Charles University in Prague Thakurova 3 160 00 Prague 6 Czech Republic (Received 12 March 2014, revised 27 May 2014 Abstract In the context of Ambrose s understanding of God s revelation and human knowledge of God, the concept of secret and mystery plays a key part. The paper analyses the term arcanum one of the words used for this concept, in the corpus of Ambrose s work. The research argues that, for Ambrose, the expression is a meeting place of the Classic and Christian tradition, of religious knowledge and the knowledge confided by friends, of the divine essence and human interior, of the Word-Bridegroom and Church-Bride. The object of this arcanum is Christ of the Nicene faith, God and man and this faith is indispensable for the knowledge of the mystery of God. This understanding of the secret may change our understanding of the disciplina arcani the ancient ecclesiastical custom to keep silence regarding Christian mysteries. Possible inspiration of Ambrose s thought on the subject is suggested both to the world of science and the recent documents of the Catholic Church. Keywords Latin Patristics, mystagogy, anthropology, science, faith 1 Introduction In recent years, the important role of the mystery of Christ and of disciplina arc ani the ancient ecclesiastical custom not to reveal some of the key Christian doctrines to those who have not yet been initiated, has been discussed and studied in the works and thought of Saint Ambrose of Milan (ea. 340-397) [1-3]. Several modest contributions to this research may have come to light also thanks to my own research of this topic, especially in relation to his Commentary on Psalm 118 [ 4, 5]. This concept of secret and hidden mystery , very dear to the Bishop of Milan, is generally acknowledged as a key part of Ambrose s theory of knowledge, but it can also prove to be inspiring even for current fundamental Theology especially regarding the Christian concept of revelation. To describe this mystery , Ambrose employs several tenns, such as occultum secretum or mysterium. Of particular interest is the expression arcanum employed by the Bishop to describe divine knowledge revealed to the faithful *E-mail: voprada@ktf.cuni.cz, phone: +420 220 181 529, fax +420 220 181 234
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