Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wisdom from…

GREGORY THE GREAT (540–604): Slothfulness in Idle Words

Those given to talkativeness should be made to realize how great is their plunge from rectitude when they fall into using a flood of words. For the human mind is like water: when enclosed it raises itself to higher levels, seeking the heights from which it descended; but when released it loses itself, being uselessly dispersed through the lower levels. For all the words wasted when the censorship of silence is relaxed are like so many streams carrying the mind [nous/νοῦς] away from itself. The result is that it becomes incapable of returning within to knowledge of itself: it is so dissipated by talkativeness that it cannot enter the secret place of deeper thoughts. By not enclosing itself within the defenses of watchfulness [viz., nepsis; link], it lays itself completely open to the blows of the enemy who lies in wait for it.

Very often slothfulness in guarding against idle words proves to be our downfall, for little by little we come to utter harmful ones. At first we enjoy talking about other peoples' affairs; then through detraction we belittle the lives of those we discuss; and finally we break out into open slander. Under this provocation quarrels arise, hatred is kindled, and peace of heart is destroyed. This is why James says: Let everyone be swift to hear, but slow to speak, and why Truth himself warns us that on the Day of Judgment people will have to render an account for every idle word they have spoken.
(Pastoral Care, pars III, XIV: PL 77, 72-74.)

Gregory was bishop of Rome from 590 to 604, and left examples of his preaching to the Roman people. His Book of Pastoral Rule became the textbook of medieval bishops.

ST. AUGUSTINE: O Beauty, So Ancient and So New

Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new, too late have I loved you. You have called to me, and have cried out, and have shattered my deafness. You have blazed forth with light and have put my blindness to flight! You have sent forth fragrance, and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant after you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst after you. You have touched me, and I have burned for your peace.
-- Confessions 10, 27

Dare we understand this piety in any less than a radically tactile, sacramental, Eucharistic way? Augustine had, by his own creed as a Catholic bishop, quite astoundingly smelled, tasted, and touched His Lord, albeit under the form of bread and wine.

Prayer. My faith, O Lord, which you gave me through the humanity of your Son, calls upon you.
-- Confessions 1, 1


[1] From what we have said it is further apparent that God is eternal.

[2] Everything that begins to be or ceases to be does so through motion or change. Since, however, we have shown that God is absolutely immutable, He is eternal, lacking all beginning or end.

[3] Again [Amplius]. Those beings alone are measured by time that are moved. For time, as is made clear in Physics IV [11], is “the number of motion.” But God, as has been proved, is absolutely without motion, and is consequently not measured by time. There is, therefore, no before and after in Him; He does not have being after non-being, nor non-being after being, nor can any succession be found in His being. For none of these characteristics can be understood without time. God, therefore, is without beginning and end, having His whole being at once. In this consists the nature of eternity […totum esse suum simul habens. In quo ratio aeternitatis consistit].

[4] What is more, if it were true that there was a time when He existed after not existing, then He must have been brought by someone from non-being to being. Not by Himself, since what does not exist cannot act [Non a seipso: quia quod non est non potest aliquid agere]. If by another, then this other is prior to God. But we have shown that God is the first cause. Hence, He did not begin to be, nor consequently will He cease to be, for that which has been everlastingly has the power to be everlastingly [quia quod semper fuit, habet virtutem semper essendi]. God is, therefore, eternal.

[5] We find in the world, furthermore, certain beings, those namely that are subject to generation and corruption, which can be and [can-]not-be. But what can be has a cause because, since it is equally related to two contraries, namely, being and non-being, it must be owing to some cause that being accrues to it. Now, as we have proved by the reasoning of Aristotle, one cannot proceed to infinity among causes [cf. SCG I, xiii]. We must therefore posit something that is a necessary being. Every necessary being, however, either has the cause of its necessity in an outside source or, if it does not, it is necessary through itself. But one cannot proceed to infinity among necessary beings the cause of whose necessity lies in an outside source. We must therefore posit a first necessary being, which is necessary through itself. This is God, since, as we have shown, He is the first cause. God, therefore, is eternal, since whatever is necessary through itself is eternal.

[6] From the everlastingness of time, likewise, Aristotle shows the everlastingness of motion [Physics VIII, 1], from which he further shows the everlastingness of the moving substance [VIII, 6]. Now, the first moving substance is God. God is therefore everlasting [Prima autem substantia movens Deus est. Est igitur sempiternus]. If we deny the everlastingness of time and motion, we are still able to prove the everlastingness of the moving substance. For, if motion had a beginning, it must have done so through some moving cause. If this moving cause began, it did so through the action of some cause. Hence, either one will proceed to infinity, or he will arrive at a moving cause that had no beginning.

[7] To this truth divine authority offers witness [Huic autem veritati divina auctoritas testimonium perhibet]. The Psalmist says: “But You, Lord, endure forever”; and he goes on to say: “But You art always the selfsame: and Your years shall not fail” (Ps. 101:13, 28).
(SCG, I, xv)


Just as it is an impious effrontery to attribute to our own will the holy works which the Spirit inspires us to perform, so it is brazen-faced impiety to want to attribute our lack of cooperation to a failure of grace or of heavenly aid. The Holy Spirit proclaims everywhere that we bring about our own perdition. He desires nothing more intensely than that we allow that fire to be enkindled in our heart which the Savior brought down to this world. The sacred text also tells us clearly that God does not want anyone to be lost, but wills that all should be saved. [cf. 1 Tm 2:4] Our Savior came into this world that all may become His adopted brothers and sisters.
(T.L.G. Book 4, Ch. 5; O. IV, p. 228)


WOMEN have been set free to be Bacchantes. They have been set free to be virgin martyrs; they have been set free to be witches. Do not ask them now to sink so low as the higher culture.
('All Things Considered.')

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