Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, Teacher of the Faith, 397
We have heard with our ears, O God, our forebears have told us, all that you did in their days, in time of old; how with your hand you drove out nations and planted us in, and broke the power of peoples and set us free. For not by their own sword did our ancestors take the land nor did their own arm save them, But your right hand, your arm, and the light of your countenance, because you were gracious to them.
You are my King and my God, who commanded salvation for Jacob. Through you we drove back our adversaries; through your name we trod down our foes. For I did not trust in my bow; it was not my own sword that saved me; It was you that saved us from our enemies and put our adversaries to shame. We gloried in God all the day long, and were ever praising your name. But now you have rejected us and brought us to shame and go not out with our armies. You have made us turn our backs on our enemies, and our enemies have despoiled us.
You have made us like sheep to be slaughtered, and have scattered us among the nations.
You have sold your people for a pittance and made no profit on their sale.
You have made us the taunt of our neighbours, the scorn and derision of those that are round about us.
You have made us a byword among the nations; among the peoples they wag their heads.
My confusion is daily before me, and shame has covered my face, at the taunts of the slanderer and reviler, at the sight of the enemy and avenger. All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you and have not played false to your covenant. Our hearts have not turned back, nor our steps gone out of your way, yet you have crushed us in the haunt of jackals, and covered us with the shadow of death. If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to any strange god, will not God search it out?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.But for your sake are we killed all the day long, and are counted as sheep for the slaughter.
Rise up! Why sleep, O Lord? Awake, and do not reject us for ever. Why do you hide your face and forget our grief and oppression? Our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly cleaves to the earth. Rise up, O Lord, to help us and redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.
Oh, rebellious children, says the Lord, who carry out a plan, but not mine; who make an alliance, but against my will, adding sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt without asking for my counsel, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh, and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt; therefore the protection of Pharaoh shall become your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt your humiliation. For though his officials are at Zoan and his envoys reach Hanes, everyone comes to shame through a people that cannot profit them, that brings neither help nor profit, but shame and disgrace.
An oracle concerning the animals of the Negeb.
Through a land of trouble and distress, of lioness and roaring lion, of viper and flying serpent, they carry their riches on the backs of donkeys, and their treasures on the humps of camels, to a people that cannot profit them. For Egypt’s help is worthless and empty, therefore I have called her, ‘Rahab who sits still.’
Go now, write it before them on a tablet, and inscribe it in a book, so that it may be for the time to come as a witness for ever. For they are a rebellious people, faithless children,
children who will not hear the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘Do not see’; and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.’ Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel: Because you reject this word, and put your trust in oppression and deceit, and rely on them; therefore this iniquity shall become for you like a break in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose crash comes suddenly, in an instant; its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a sherd is found for taking fire from the hearth, or dipping water out of the cistern.
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you refused and said, ‘No! We will flee upon horses’ - therefore you shall flee! and, ‘We will ride upon swift steeds’ - therefore your pursuers shall be swift! A thousand shall flee at the threat of one, at the threat of five you shall flee, until you are left like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain, like a signal on a hill.
Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.
At that time Herod the ruler heard reports about Jesus; and he said to his servants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he has been raised from the dead, and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’ For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been telling him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’ Though Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded him as a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and she pleased Herod so much that he promised on oath to grant her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.’ The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. The head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother. His disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went and told Jesus.
God of hosts,
who called Ambrose from the governor's throne to be a bishop in your Church and an intrepid champion of your faithful people:
mercifully grant that, as he did not fear to rebuke rulers, so we, with like courage, may contend for the faith we have received;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.