The key to Anselm's thought is his insight that the Being and therefore knowledge of God is of another order than the created order. Consequently, since the human person is the unique creation made in the image and likeness of God in the created order, the experience of the self as act of self transcendence - which is the activation of the order of God Himself as supreme Self-Transcendence - gives one a knowledge of God within the created order. This is the meaning of Anselm's teaching that the knowledge of God is greater than anything that can be thought conceptually. The point epistemologically - according to Anselm - is that God is known experientially in consciousness by the act of self-transcendence. What is an act of self-transcendence? Work done for God and others as service; prayer; always love, etc. Sokolowski clarifies this in Anselm by adding: having created the world, God is not more; having not created the world, He would not be less.
St. Anselm: Theologian, Teacher, Pastor
A Life Marked By "Love of Truth and the Constant Thirst for God"
Dear brothers and sisters,
The many initiatives, promoted especially by the Diocese of Aosta for this happy anniversary, have reflected the interest that this Medieval thinker continues to awaken. He is also known as Anselm of Bec and Anselm of Canterbury because of the cities with which he was connected. Who is this personage to which three localities, distant from one another and situated in three different nations --
St. Anselm was born in 1033 (or the beginning of 1034) in Aosta, the firstborn of a noble family. His father was a crude man, dedicated to the pleasures of life and a spendthrift of his goods; his mother, on the other hand, was a woman of superior customs and profound religiosity (cf. Eadmero, Vita s. Anselmi, PL 159, col 49). It was his mother who took care of the first human and religious formation of her son, whom she later entrusted to the Benedictines of a priory of Aosta. Anselm, who from his childhood -- as his biographer recounts -- imagined the dwelling of the good God to be among the high and snow clad summits of the Alps, dreamed one night that he was invited to this splendid palace by God himself, who entertained him affably for a good while and at the end offered him to eat "a very white bread" (ibid., col 51).
This dream left him the conviction of being called to fulfill a high mission. At the age of 15, he asked to be admitted to the Benedictine Order, but his father opposed him with all his authority and did not even give in when his son, gravely ill, and sensing he was close to death, implored the religious habit as his last consolation. After his cure and the premature passing of his mother, Anselm went through a period of moral dissipation: He neglected his studies, overwhelmed by earthly passions; he was deaf to God's call. He returned home and began to travel in
After three years, arriving in
When Lanfranc became abbot of
Anselm got involved immediately in an energetic struggle for the liberty of the Church, upholding with courage the independence of the spiritual power in respect of the temporal. He defended the Church from undue interference by political authorities, especially Kings William the Red and Henry I, finding courage and support in the Roman Pontiff, to whom Anselm always demonstrated a courageous and cordial adherence. In 1103 this fidelity cost him the bitterness of exile from his
This holy archbishop who inspired so much admiration from those around him, wherever he went, dedicated the last years of his life above all to the moral formation of the clergy and the spiritual pursuit of theological arguments. He died on April 21, 1109, supported by the words of the Gospel proclaimed in the Holy Mass that day: "You are those who have continued with me in my trials; as my Father appointed a kingdom for me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom ..." (Luke 22:28-30). The dream of that mysterious banquet, which he had as a child, precisely at the beginning of his spiritual journey, thus found its realization. Jesus, who had invited him to sit at his table, received St. Anselm, at his death, in the eternal kingdom of the Father.
"God, I implore you, I want to know you, to love you and to be able to enjoy you. And if in this life I am not capable of it fully, that at least I might progress each day until I attain its fullness" (Proslogion, chapter 14). This prayer enables us to understand the mystical soul of this great saint of the Medieval Age, founder of Scholastic Theology, to whom Christian tradition has given the title of "magnificent doctor," because he cultivated an intense desire to deepen his understanding of divine mysteries, fully aware, however, that the journey in search of God is never ended, at least on this earth. The clarity and logical rigor of his thought always had as their objective "to raise the mind to the contemplation of God" (Ivi, Proemium). He states clearly that whoever attempts to theologize cannot just count on his intelligence, but must cultivate at the same time a profound experience of faith. According to St. Anselm, the activity of a theologian, therefore, develops in three stages: faith, free gift of God that must be received with humility; experience, which consists in the incarnation of the word of God in one's daily life; and lastly true knowledge, which is never the fruit of aseptic thoughts, but of a contemplative intuition. Hence, his famous words continue to be very useful also today for a healthy theological research and for anyone who wishes to go deeper in the truths of the faith: "I do not presume, Lord, to penetrate in your profundity, because I cannot even from afar confront my intellect with it; but I wish to understand, at least to a certain point, your truth, which my heart believes and loves. I do not seek to understand to believe, but I believe in order to understand" (Ivi, 1).
Dear brothers and sisters, may the love of truth and the constant thirst for God, which marked the whole life of St. Anselm, be a stimulus for every Christian to seek without ever tiring an ever more profound union with Christ, Way, Truth and Life. In addition, may the courageous zeal that distinguished his pastoral action, and procured for him misunderstandings, bitterness and finally exile, be an encouragement for pastors, for consecrated persons and for all the faithful to love the Church of Christ, to pray, work and suffer for her, without every abandoning or betraying her. May the Virgin Mother of God, for whom Anselm nourished a tender filial devotion, obtain this grace for us. "Mary, my heart wants to love you," wrote St. Anselm, "my tongue wants to praise you ardently."