Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sentire cum Ecclesia: Albertus Magnus: "De adhaerendo Dei"

Chapter 3: What the perfection of man consist of in this life [Quae sit conformitas perfectionis hominis in hac vita?]

Now the more the mind is concerned about thinking and dealing with what is merely lower and human, the more it is separated from the experience in the intimacy of devotion of what is higher and heavenly [a superioribus et coelestibus per devotionis intima elongatur], while the more fervently the memory, desire and intellect is withdrawn from what is below to what is above, the more perfect will be our prayer, and the purer our contemplation, since the two directions of our interest cannot both be perfect at the same time, being as different as light and darkness. He who cleaves to God is indeed translated into the light, while he who clings to the world is in the dark [Quippe qui Deo adhaeret, versatur in lumine: qui vero mundo adhaeret, in tenebris est]. So the supreme perfection of man in this life is to be so united to God that all his soul with all its faculties and powers are so gathered into the Lord God that he becomes one spirit with him, and remembers nothing except God, is aware of and recognises nothing but God, but with all his desires unified by the joy of love, he rests contentedly in the enjoyment of his Maker alone [et omnes affectiones in amoris gaudio unitae, in sola Conditoris fruitione suaviter quiescant].

Now the image of God as found in the soul consists of these three faculties, namely reason, memory and will, and so long as they are not completely stamped with God, the soul is not yet deiform in accordance with the initial creation of the soul. For the true pattern of the soul is God, with whom it must be imprinted [Imago enim Dei in his tribus potentiis in anima expressa consistit, videlicet, ratione, memoria, et voluntate. Et quamdiu illae ex toto, Deo impressae non sunt, non est anima deiformis juxta primariam animae creationem. Forma nempe animae Deus est, cui debet imprimi], like wax with a seal, and carry the mark of his impress. But this can never be complete until the intellect is perfectly illuminated, according to its capacity, with the knowledge of God, who is perfect truth, until the will is perfectly focused on the love of the perfect good, and until the memory is fully absorbed in turning to and enjoying eternal happiness, and in gladly and contentedly resting in it. And since the glory of the beatitude which is achieved in our heavenly homeland consists in the complete fulfilment of these three faculties, it follows that perfect initiation of them is perfection in this life [Et quia in horum consummata adeptione consistit gloria beatudinis, quae perficietur in patria, liquet quod istorum perfecta inchoatio est perfectio in hac vita].

Albertus' words and way of life remind us of an important Catholic truth, namely, that fervent 'charismatic' devotion to God is not incompatible with plodding, conventional, canonically ordered discipline and obedience in the Church. Only where 'enthusiasm' exceeds the bounds of the will is there a true conflict between one's station in life and in the Church and one's innermost longings for God. Likewise, it must be said, only when "those holding the reins" let their own "three faculties" of the imago Dei--reason, memory, and will--become so detached from God as the object of all worship is there any grounds for feeling like "the Church is just an institution." The Magisterium is the mystical organ that corresponds to our individual reason, the liturgy and devotional traditions are the mystical organ of our individual memory, and the episcopacy is the sacramental organ of individual will. Only when the faithful and the hierarchy see the only center of their reason, memory, and will as the One Flesh of the Eucharist, can they see each other aright. More importantly, only by seeing the world as an altar on which the One Flesh was and is offered to the Father in the Spirit, can any of us see the world aright.

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