Tuesday, April 21
The Feast of St. Anselm
Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Saint Anselm was an Italian Benedictine monk, abbot, philosopher and theologian. He was given the title “Father of Scholasticism” for his attempt to analyze and bring to light the truths of faith through reason.
St. Anselm was one of the most important Christian thinkers of the 11th century. He was considered an original and independent thinker, and was admired for his patience, gentleness, and teaching skill. As a philosopher, he discovered and articulated the “ontological argument” and at a theologian, he was known for his doctrine of the atonement.
The ontological argument presented by St. Anselm defined God as “a being than which no greater can be conceived,” and argued if the greatest possible being exists in the mind, it must also exist in reality.
St. Anselm held that faith necessarily precedes reason, but that reason can expand upon faith: “And I do not seek to understand that I may believe but believe that I might understand. For this too I believe since, unless I first believe, I shall not understand.”
St. Anselm’s doctrine of atonement suggests that we owe God a debt of honor: “This is the debt which man and angel owe to God, and no one who pays this debt commits sin; but everyone who does not pay it sins. This is justice, or uprightness of will, which makes a being just or upright in heart, that is, in will; and this is the sole and complete debt of honor which we owe to God, and which God requires of us.” The only way to satisfy the debt was for a being of infinite greatness, acting as a man on behalf of men, to repay the debt of justice owed to God. Essentially, what this means is that the “ransom” that Jesus mentions in the Gospels would be a sacrifice or a debt paid only to God the Father.
Lord my God
A Prayer by St. Anselm of Canterbury
O Lord my God.
Teach my heart this day,
where and how to find You.
You have made me and re–made me,
You have bestowed on me all the good things I possess,
and still I do not know You.
I have not yet done that for which I was made.
Teach me to seek You,
for I cannot seek You unless You teach me,
or find You unless You show Yourself to me.
Let me seek You in my desire;
let me desire You in my seeking;
Let me find You by loving You;
let me love You when I find You.