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Monday, 18 February 2013

The Benedictine Doctors of the Church; Part 33 Anselm

Of course, one of our ladies who is one of the newest Doctors of the Church and a Benedictine, Hildegard, I covered posts ago. The great Benedictine Doctors include SS. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, Bede the Venerable, Peter Damian, Gregory the Great, and the reformer of the Benedictine Order, Bernard of Clairvaux.

So, although the Franciscans claim they have the most, I count more Benedictines. However, you all might be surprised as to who is a Doctor of the Church and who is not. Remember, they have had to been great writers and/or preachers as well as holy. (Also, please remember that their writings are not infallible. Some people think the writings of the mystics are infallible. Nope. Only the Pope's writings from the Chair of Peter and Canons from the Councils, as approved by the Pope, are infallible.)

Benedictines 6, Franciscans 4 (sounds like an American Catholic high-school football score.)
Seriously, I shall be spending most of the week, if not longer, on these illustrious men.

Because I am in England at this time, I shall start with the two great Doctors, Anselm and Bede. I have not paid any attention to chronology, so it does not matter this week, either.

Before I begin, I want to state that the Doctors of Church are a gift to the Church and to us individually.

We cannot afford to ignore these gifts to the Church.

So, as a summary, the Doctors covered so far have been Hildegard, Therese, Teresa, Catherine, John of Avila, Albert, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Anthony of Padua, Lawrence of Brindisi, and Francis de Sales. Please follow the tags at the bottom for the entire series.

For Anselm, (1033-1109) I am not going to get into the argument about God as "maximal perfection". although that might help some people follow his thinking about God. I have actually taught the Proslogion and Monologion in the past and do not want to deal with those texts on this blog.

What is important in his works are those sermons and devotions which will help us in our journey towards perfection.

This section uses much of the same language of John of the Cross and Bonaventure, regarding the Bridegroom, Who is Christ.

VI from The Devotions of St. Anselm

That we are one in Christ, and one Christ with Christ Himself.
CONSIDER also more yet more deeply in how close an union thou art joined with Him. Hear what the Lord Himself prayeth to the Father for them that are His: I will, saith He, that as Thou and I are one, so they also may be one in Us. I am (that is) Thy Son by nature; I pray that they may be Thy sons and My brethren by grace. How great a dignity is it for a Christian man, so to grow in Christ that he himself may be called in a sense Christ.

Anselm has an interesting take on this imagery, making Christ both the Bride and the Bridegroom, that is , that the Body of Christ, the Church is the Bride. This is a combination of other mystical and Biblical images

This also that faithful steward of God’s house hold the Church perceived when he said: All we that are Christians in Christ are one Christ. Nor should we wonder thereat, when we consider that He is the head and we His body; He the bridegroom and He also the bride; in Himself the bridegroom, but the bride in the holy souls whom He hath bound to Himself in the bonds of an everlasting love. As upon a bridegroom, saith He, hath He set a crown upon Me, and as a bride hath He adorned me with ornaments. 
Here, then, O my soul, here do thou consider His benefits towards thee, be thou inflamed with the love of Him, let the fire that is in thee break out into longing after the blessedness of beholding Him. 
And here, Anselm reflects the poetry of Bernard of Clairvaux.
Cry out boldly in the words of the faithful bride, Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth. Let all delight which is not in Him depart from my mind, let no pleasure, no consolation of this present life comfort me, while His blessed presence is denied to me. Let Him embrace me with the arms of His love, let Him kiss me with the heavenly sweetness of His mouth, let Him speak to me with that ineffable eloquence wherewith He revealeth His secrets to the Angels. 

May the Bridegroom and the Bride enjoy such mutual interchange of discourse, that I may open my whole heart to Him and He reveal to me the secrets of His sweetness. Thus, O my soul, refreshed by these and such like meditations and full of the passion of a holy longing, do thou strive to follow Thy Bridegroom and say unto Him, Draw me after Thee; we will run after the odour of Thine ointments.

The person must run after Christ is this pursuit of holiness.
Speak to Him and speak as a loyal spouse not with the sound of words that passeth away but with a longing of heart that fainteth not; so speak that thou mayest be heard, so desire to be drawn by Him that thou mayest follow. Say therefore to thy Redeemer and Saviour, Draw me after Thee. Let not the sweetness of this world but let thy sweetness of Thy most blessed love draw me.
I know this is hard for some people, but the pursuit of God is like a love relationship-one approaches the lover and he approaches the beloved in a back and forth giving and receiving until there is completion. This relationship becomes more and more intimate in the Unitive State.

Draw me, for Thou hast drawn me heretofore; hold me fast, for Thou hast laid hold upon me.Thou hast drawn me to Thee by redeeming me; draw me by saving me. Thou hast drawn me by pitying me; draw me by blessing me. Thou hast laid hold on me by appearing among men, made man for us; hold me fast as Thou sittest on Thy throne in heaven, exalted above the Angels.

How wonderful is it that it is the King of the Universe that is the Bridegroom.
God is also King as well as Love, in the language of the Song of Songs. Anselm is right in the mystical tradition of the great Bernard of Clairvaux. This overlapping of language is not merely a cultural style, but the reality of the heart's seeking after God.

That is Thy word, that is Thy promise. Thou hast promised, saying: And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me. Draw therefore now in Thy mighty exaltation him whom Thou didst draw to Thee in Thy merciful humiliation. Thou hast gone up on high; let me believe it: Thou reignest over all things; let me acknowledge it. Do I not acknowledge that Thou reignest? Surely I acknowledge it, and give Thee thanks. But do Thou grant that I may acknowledge with the acknowledgement of a perfect love that which I acknowledge by a devout faith concerning Thee. Bind the desires of my heart to Thee with the indissoluble bonds of love, since the first-fruits of my spirit are already with Thee. Vouchsafe that we, whom Thy love in redeeming us did knit to Thee, may have fellowship with Thee in the unity of the same love. For Thou hast loved me, Thou didst give Thyself for me; may therefore my heart and mind be with Thee continually in heaven, and Thy protection with me continually on earth. 
Help him when he burneth with longing after Thy love, to whom Thou didst show love when he despised it. Give to him when he asketh to whom Thou givest Thyself when he knew Thee not. Receive him when he returneth to Thee, O Thou who didst call him back to Thee when he fled from Thee. I will love Thee that I may be loved of Thee; nay rather, because I am loved of Thee, I will love Thee more and more that I may be loved the more. May my thoughts be knit to Thee, may my heart be wholly made one with Thee, where our nature, which Thou hast in mercy taken upon Thyself, reigneth with Thee in bliss.  
Again, these passages reveal the loving, warm, and holy heart and mind of Anselm. I hope some of  you are surprised at the depth of this holy man's love for Christ.
Grant that I may cleave to Thee without parting, worship Thee without wearying, serve Thee without failing, faithfully seek Thee, happily find Thee, for ever possess Thee.
Addressing God in these words, O my soul, do thou kindle thyself, do thou burn, do thou break forth into flames, and strive to become wholly on fire with longing after Him.

To be continued..............