Font of Life : Ambrose, Augustine, and the Mystery of Baptism
Overview - No two men were more influential in the early Church than Ambrose, the powerful Bishop of Milan, and Augustine, the philosopher from provincial Africa who would write The Confessions and The City of God. Different in background, they were also extraordinarily different in personality. Read more...
More About Font of Life by Garry Wills
No two men were more influential in the early Church than Ambrose, the powerful Bishop of Milan, and Augustine, the philosopher from provincial Africa who would write The Confessions and The City of God. Different in background, they were also extraordinarily different in personality. In Font of Life, Garry Wills explores the remarkable moment when their lives intersected at one of the most important, yet rarely visited, sites in the Christian world. Hidden under the piazza of the Duomo in Milan lies part of the foundations of a fourth-century cathedral where, at dawn on Easter of 387, Augustine and a group of people seeking baptism gathered after an all-night vigil. Ambrose himself performed the sacrament and the catechumens were greeted by their fellows in the faith, which included Augustine's mother Monnica. Though the occasion had deep significance for the participants, this little cluster of devotees was unaware that they were creating the future of the Western church. Ambrose would go on to forge new liturgies, new forms of church music, and new chains of churches; Augustine would return to Africa to become Bishop of Hippo and one of the most influential writers of Christianity. Garry Wills uses the ancient baptistry to chronicle a pivotal chapter in the history of the Church, highlighting the often uncomfortable relationship between the two church fathers and exploring the mystery and meanings of the sacrament of baptism. In addition, he brings long overdue attention to an unjustly neglected landmark of early Christianity.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
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In his latest book, prolific author and historian Wills (Lincoln at Gettysburg) takes the reader beneath Milan’s famed cathedral to the “font of life,” the baptistry where Ambrose baptized Augustine in 387 C.E. He explores the historical moment during which the two famous and highly influential Christians met, dramatically bringing to life this critical time in the history of Christianity. Painting a backdrop of heresies and tense clashes with Roman emperors, Wills provides a captivating and rich description of Ambrose’s baptismal rite and theology. He then compares these to Augustine’s own baptismal rite and theology, analyzing to what extent Ambrose might have influenced the future bishop of Hippo. Wills compellingly argues that despite their encounter in Milan, in which Ambrose initiated Augustine into the Christian community, the two men differed greatly both in personality and theology. Their respective baptismal rites were influenced largely by the heresies they wished to disprove and condemn, not by one another. A well-researched and fascinating historical look at Ambrose, Augustine, and the sacrament of baptism. Agent: Andrew Wylie. (Apr.)