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21.4.08

Feast of St. Anselm


Manuscript of opening of Anselm's Monologion,
with illumination of St. Anselm in his pallium
April 21 is the feast of a favorite saint, Anselm of Canterbury, not least because he is the patron of a certain beloved Benedictine abbey in Northeast. He was an Italian, born in Aosta in 1033, and received a calling to the monastic life when he was still a young man. His father prevented him from joining a monastery, after which Anselm fell into a life of dissolution and wandering, abandoning the vocation of monastic learning for a time. Fleeing his father's severity, Anselm set out on foot across the Alps, wandering north all the way to Normandy. He was taken in as a student and later a monk at the Abbey of Bec, where he finally found a mentor in the scholar Lanfranc, who was the prior. Anselm was to succeed Lanfranc in many positions, first as prior (and eventually abbot) at Bec and later as Archbishop of Canterbury in England.

Anselm is often cited as the founder of the Scholastic movement of philosophy and was in later years given the rank of Doctor of the Church for his theological and philosophical writings, especially the treatise quoted below. He staunchly opposed the interference of the state in church affairs but just as staunchly opposed the crusades as wars sponsored wrongly by the church. He died in peace on April 21, 1109.
Excerpt from Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man, completed in 1098), Book II, ch. 13
But tell me whether, in this likeness to men which he ought to have, he will inherit also our ignorance, as he does our other infirmities? [...] For why will he not be like them in their ignorance, as he is in their mortality?

That union of humanity with the Divine person will not be effected except in accordance with the highest wisdom; and, therefore, God will not take anything belonging to man which is only useless, but even a hindrance to the work which that man must accomplish. For ignorance is in no respect useful, but very prejudicial. How can he perform works, so many and so great, without the highest wisdom? Or, how will men believe him if they find him ignorant? And if he be ignorant, what will it avail him? If nothing is loved except as it is known, and there be no good thing which he does not love, then there can be no good thing of which be is ignorant. But no one perfectly understands good, save he who can distinguish it from evil; and no one can make this distinction who does not know what evil is. Therefore, as he of whom we are speaking perfectly comprehends what is good, so there can be no evil with which he is unacquainted. Therefore must he have all knowledge, though he do not openly show it in his intercourse with men.

In his more mature Years, this should seem to he as you say; but, in infancy, as it will not be a fit time to discover wisdom, so there will be no need, and therefore no propriety, in his having it.

Did not I say that the incarnation will be made in wisdom? But God will in wisdom assume that mortality, which he makes use of so widely, because for so great an object. But he could not wisely assume ignorance, for this is never useful, but always injurious, except when an evil will is deterred from acting, on account of it. But, in him an evil desire never existed. For if ignorance did no harm in any other respect, yet does it in this, that it takes away the good of knowing. And to answer your question in a word: that man, from the essential nature of his being, will be always full of God; and, therefore, will never want the power, the firmness or the wisdom of God.
See also these Other Works by St. Anselm of Canterbury.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Saint Anselm's 900th "Birthday" this Tuesday, April 21, 2009.
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Saint-Anselm-of-Canterbury/123351415614