This ornament is called "Polar Bear Santa," and is a fitting tribute to the saint we honor today - St. Ambrose. St. Ambrose was the Bishop of Milan from 374 to 397. He was a greatly respected theologian and preacher, and is especially remembered for his fight against Arianism, which held that Jesus Christ did not exist eternally with God the Father but was begotten by God at a later time. Therefore, Arianism does not believe in the revelation of the Trinity, 3 persons of equal stature, but holds a derivative view of the Son. Jesus was "like" God the Father, but not "con-substantive" with the Father.
St. Ambrose is also remembered for his preaching against paganism, especially any pagan cults sponsored by the state. Although not as great a threat to Christianity in the 4th century as earlier, enough pagan sects remained active to cause concern to St. Ambrose and others of the time.
St. Ambrose featured prominently in the conversion of another great saint, St. Augustine of Hippo. One could imagine the small bear above could be St. Augustine, lifted and carried along by the older, wiser St. Ambrose. Just as the Polar Bear is carrying a tree, a symbol of St. Ambrose's preaching against paganism, which sought to worship Nature as a god, instead of created by God, we see those same evergreen boughs being carried by the young bear, but changed into the shape of a wreath, an old symbol of victory and immortality. And so, this ornament reminds us that none of us lift ourselves us to glory. Rather, we are always supported by the shoulders, i.e., the work, the prayers, the sacrifices, of those who came before us. It is their lives, their prayers and their inspiration, that bring us closer to God.
In the case of these two saints, this support is obvious. Not only was St. Ambrose declared a Doctor of the Church, but so, too, was St. Augustine. In fact, without St. Ambrose, we may never have had a St. Augustine. It is a good idea, then, to think about whose shoulders we seek, whose approval we cherish. Who do we look to for inspiration? For guidance? For wisdom? And does this guidance lift us up, closer to victory, or merely distract us from it?
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