Saturday, June 30, 2012

Originale philosophia

"Another Greek term whose ancient meaning is retained is philosophia.  The Greek Fathers had defined the monk's life as 'philosophy according to Christ' and 'the only true philosophy', or even simply as 'philosophy'.  This term, meaning the practical discernment of the value of things and of the vanity of the world which must be renounced, is applied to those whose whole existence manifests this renunciation.  In the same way, in the monastic Middle Ages as well as in antiquity, philosophia designates, not a theory or a way of knowing, but a lived wisdom, a way of living according to reason.  There are, in effect, two ways of living according to reason.  Either one lives according to worldly wisdom, as taught by the pagan philosophers, and that is the philosophia saecularis or mundialis, or one lives according to Christian wisdom which is not of this world but already of the world to come, and this is the philosophia caelestis or spiritualis or divina.  The philosopher par excellence, and philosophy itself, is Christ:  ipsa philosophia Christus.  He was the Wisdom itself of God incarnate; and the Virgin Mary, in whom was accomplished the mystery of the Incarnation, is called 'the philosophy of Christians'.  They must learn from her:  philosophari in Maria.  Those who had heralded the advent of the Lord Jesus or who have transmitted His message are the philosophers the Christians obey; they speak of philosophia Pauli, and of 'David the philosopher'.

"Now, this integral Christianity, this way of life entirely consecrated to God, this conuersatio caelestis, is indeed realized in monastic life.  That is why the lawgivers and the models of monasticism are considered masters of philosophy.  The cloisters are schools of philosophy, 'gymnasia' where the 'philosophy of St. Benedict' is learned.  St. Bernard is praised because he formed the monks of Clairvaux in the 'disciplines of celestial philosophy', and Adam of Perseigne declares he is committed to the 'Cistercian philosophy'.  To lead a monastic life is simply 'to philosophize'.  Du Cange gives no other medieval equivalent for the word philosophari than:  monachum agere.  The verb philosophari is applied to cenobites living in monasteries as well as to the solitary in his hermit's cell.  In monastic literature well into the twelfth century, the expression christiana philosophia when employed without commentary or explanation very often stands for monastic life itself."

+ Dom Jean Leclercq, O.S.B.
The Love of Learning & the Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture [pp. 100-1]

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