Archive for November, 2007

Anselm redux, Prayer to St. Benedict

attention to earthly things bends my soul away from the knowledge of things above;
earthly love extinguishes in me delight in heavenly things.
The habit of vice has wiped away in me the knowledge of true good.

This is from Anselm again, from his Prayer to St. Nicholas. OK, it’s funny to think of a guy praying to Santa Claus, but Nicholas was actually a third century bishop in the city of Myra. Anyhow, it’s interesting how in these lines Anselm predates the postmodern observation that our beliefs and what we take to be our knowledge often does not correspond to what is objective or to absolute truth, but is rather an imprint left on us by our experiences and our desires. His knowledge of true good he says is wiped away when he habitually sins and delight in and attention to earthly things bends him from true knowledge. The truth is that when we want to continue in sin it blinds us to an understanding of truth and when we do the evil it blinds us to understanding as well. Through a prophet God speaks saying, ‘I will bring distress on mankind, so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the Lord.” What is the meaning of that proverb that ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ and ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge?’ Finally, Isaiah tells the people of Israel ‘We hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight…For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities…

Isn’t it true that in those places where we know we are committing sin if we willfully persist it blinds us to understanding truth.

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