What does ‘On Earth As It Is In Heaven’ mean?

Punctuation can often be misleading, especially when translators are faced with punctuating a text which has no punctuation. And so when we read the Lord’s Prayer in the Gospel of Saint Matthew we are perhaps accustomed to reading the first part like this,

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Now, of course, this is perfectly acceptable. But there is a possible mistake that is suggested by the punctuation. To which of the first three petitions does the phrase “on earth as it is in heaven” belong? The punctuation appears to include it in the third petition alone. In other words, it seems to me that many people understand the first three petitions like this:

  1. Hallowed be Thy name.
  2. Thy kingdom come.
  3. Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven.

But fortunately for us who have access to the Catena Aurea we are able to avoid this confined view!

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St. Thomas Aquinas, in his seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of every church father, every church doctor, and even the thoughts of scores of the prominent heretics,  has provided us all a gift of inestimable value by bestowing all of his knowledge on the rest of us in comparatively brief works.

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For example, take this little gem from the Theologian known to history as Pseudo-Chrysostom,

These words, “As in heaven so in earth,” must be taken as common to all three preceding petitions.

In other words, the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer should be understood like this,

  1. Hallowed be Thy name on earth as it is heaven.
  2. Thy kingdom come on earth as it is heaven.
  3. Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven.

Grammarians might argue that the placement of the phrase “on earth as it is heaven” is appositive. It is placed after the three petitions yet is taken to refer to all of them.

Now, what does this phrase mean? What does it mean to say, for example, Thy kingdom come on earth as it is heaven, or Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven?

Well, perhaps you, as I, have always understood it to mean something very clear and obvious like,

‘May your will be done here on planet earth as it is done perfectly by all the saints and angels in heaven’

This of course is a wonderful understanding of the text, and I suppose qualifies as the literal sense. As we all know, every other interpretation of sacred scripture must be rendered in a way that starts from and does not exclude the literal sense. (except of course when the literal meaning of the words cannot possibly be the first intent of the author e.g. “God is my rock” “if your eye offend thee pluck it out”).

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But among other interpretation of this phrase I find one, suggested by Saint Augustine, particularly marvelous,

“by the heaven and the earth we may understand the spirit and the flesh. As the Apostle says, “In my mind I obey the law of God,” [Rom 7:25] we see the will of God done in the spirit. But in that change which is promised to the righteous there, “Let thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth;” that is, as the spirit does not resist God, so let the body not resist the spirit.”

This especially makes sense when we think of Our Lord’s words to His disciples in the garden,

And he cometh to his disciples and findeth them asleep. And he saith to Peter: What? Could you not watch one hour with me? Watch ye: and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

St. Thomas explains this in greater detail in his own brief commentary on The Lord’s Prayer,

Thus, there is an endless strife between the flesh and the spirit, and man is continually being brought lower by sin. The will of God, therefore, is that man be restored to his primal state so that no more would the flesh rebel against the spirit: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification. “Now, this will of God cannot be fulfilled in this life, but it will be fulfilled in the resurrection of the just, when glorified bodies shall arise incorrupt and most perfect: “It is sown a natural body; it shall rise a spiritual body. “In the just the will of God is fulfilled relative to the spirit, which abides in justice and knowledge and perfect life. Therefore, when we say “Thy will be done,” let us pray that His will also may be done regarding the flesh. Thus, the sense of “Thy will be done on earth” is that it may be done “for our flesh,” and “as it is in heaven” means in our spirit. Thus, we take “in heaven” for our spirit, and “on earth” as our flesh.

This is a beautiful interpretation of the phrase ‘on earth as it is heaven’ and reminds us that our bodies really are something of earth. We are dust and unto dust we must return. But by praying the Lord’s Prayer often we prepare our bodies for the life of eternal beatitude when flesh shall no longer war against spirit, and,

The just shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the reeds (Wisdom 3:7).

Posted in Aquinas, Augustine, Catena Aurea, Lord's Prayer | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Three Ways We Should Read Sacred Scripture

In scene two of the third Act of Romeo and Juliet, Friar Laurence cautions Romeo,

Wisely and Slow, they stumble that run fast.

Now, even those who have not read the play can guess that Romeo probably did not take that advice. Youth is impetuous and although St Thomas says,

Man has a natural aptitude for docility even as for other things connected with prudence,

nonetheless in the age of high-performance CPUs, increasing gigahertz, rockets and Aldi checkout lines, the virtue of slowness can be a tough sell!

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Docility is, of course, a virtue which enables us to fulfil our nature as rational animals. From the Latin second conjugation verb doceo, docere, docui, doctum meaning to teach, docility is the virtue of ‘teachability’. If our mission as human beings is to become one day joined with God who is truth itself, then we certainly need to be teachable.

Admittedly, docility is a little out of vogue these days since we are all supposed to be ‘critical thinkers,’ and so we might have to struggle a little more to obtain this virtue than all of those fortunate souls that lived in the docile dark ages.

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But I think everyone instinctively adopts a teachable attitude when confronted with another who is undoubtedly an expert about this or that subject. Americans are especially docile when it comes to listening to medical doctors, or scientists of any shape or size.

So, it goes without saying that if there is one place where we should exhibit docility, it is when we are in the presence of the wise. And I suppose, in an age in which the mathematicization of everything is the prevailing custom, we might even propose a mathematical law concerning our docility.

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Let “D” stand for Docility. Let “W” stand for wisdom and let N stand for some constant of variation. Therefore, our law, stated in words, will be:

A person’s docility should vary directly according to the wisdom of the one in whose presence he happens to be.

Or in other words:

The docility of the listener should vary directly according to the wisdom of the speaker,

This law stated symbolically is:


In concrete terms, this law means that when we are confronted with, say, the words of Aristotle, or Shakespeare, or St Thomas Aquinas, we should be very docile because these three thinkers were very wise!

Everyone intuitively knows this law and, as we said before, we might even say that the law is naturally implanted in us.

But if we should be docile when confronted with the wisdom of human thinkers, then a fortiori, how much more docile ought we to be when confronted with the wisdom of God! Again, an obvious point, although certainly well worth repeating. How much more docile ought we to be when we are reading or hearing Sacred Scripture!

St Thomas pointed out, our own efforts “count for much towards the attainment of perfect docility.” That is to say, we can and should take certain definite steps to increase and perfect our docility when it comes to the Wisdom of God.

But how? What are these steps?

St. Thomas, as usual, does not leave us in the dark. He says each person,

must carefully, frequently and reverently apply his mind to the teachings of the learned, neither neglecting them through laziness, nor despising them through pride.

In other words, we have here three concrete steps that we ought to take when reading Sacred Scripture:

  1. We should read sacred scripture carefully.
  2. We should read sacred scripture frequently.
  3. We should read sacred scripture with reverence.

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Now, again, I suppose you, my dear reader, might think to yourself, “How obvious! I didn’t need St Thomas to tell me that!”

But perhaps this might seem obvious, especially to lifelong Catholics who attend Mass regularly, because the Church has habituated them to these very three ways of hearing God’s word at every Mass.

Notice that rather than reading entire chapters of the Old or New Testament, the Church has carefully selected relatively brief passages for us to consider. We are not made to gulp down and swallow huge portions at a time, but rather are invited to sip and savor little morsels. And then we are invited to meditate upon these passages with the wise help of one who has considered them and is able to speak about them in his homily.

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The church has carefully arranged the readings that Catholics hear at Mass. Now whether one prefers the annual cyclical arrangement of fewer readings that one hears at Mass in the Extraordinary Form (as I do) or whether one prefers the three year cyclical arrangement of more readings that one hears at Mass celebrated in the Ordinary Form, in any case, I think it may be said that the church has taken great care in the arrangement of these readings!

Extraordinary care has been taken in not only reading passages from the Old and New Testament, but also in pairing the readings in such a way that we can clearly see how the New Testament is a perfect fulfillment of the Old!

Consequently, the ordinary faithful will hear the same scriptures frequently. Whereas Catholics who attend the Ordinary Form will hear the same scriptures at least once every three years, those who attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form, are treated to the same scriptures every year. The church has taken special care that Catholics hear the sacred scriptures frequently!

And finally, what could be more reverent than the way Sacred Scripture is read at Mass. Most Catholics are to sit quietly during the readings, and they stand for the Gospel. In the general Instruction on the Roman Missal we read,

When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel. Therefore, the readings from the Word of God are to be listened to reverently by everyone, for they are an element of the greatest importance in the Liturgy.

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The readings are,

to be pronounced in a loud and clear voice, whether by the Priest or the Deacon, or by a reader, or by everyone, the voice should correspond to the genre of the text itself…

I think it is just another excellent example of how the church always promotes not only moral virtue but also especially intellectual virtue. Docility is foundational to intellectual virtue and Catholics are fortunate to have the opportunity to develop this virtue in three concrete steps every week – by reading carefully, frequently and reverently the word of God.

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Two Reasons Why Things Are Difficult to Understand


As has been thoroughly set forth and expounded by the inimitable philosopher, the late great Duane Berquist, in a beautiful succinct and brilliant paper on this very subject, there are seven times when we need to go wisely and slow in our path towards wisdom, that is in our attempt to increase our understanding, to wit:

  1. where many things must be considered before a judgment can be made
  2. where a thing is difficult to understand
  3. where there is a beginning small in size, but great in its power
  4. where there is knowledge over a road and knowledge of the road to follow
  5. where there is general knowledge and particular knowledge
  6. where there is a word equivocal by reason
  7. where there are the words of a wise man

To date we have discussed two of these times (which are in bold) here.

Today I propose that we tackle the second time that we need to go wisely and slow. We should go wisely and slow when a thing is difficult to understand.

What’s that? Do I hear an objection already?

Gentle Reader: Yes, I object on the ground that what you have proposed is already too obvious. We would prefer that you don’t assault our patience, in your usual way, by explaining the obvious! Why not tell us what your wise friend means by #3, #4 or #5. Those are incomprehensible. Instead you concentrate on the very one that appears to need no explanation at all!

Well, I do understand your concern and it is not my intention to protract this discussion unnecessarily. But there is something about difficulty that may not have occurred to you. Will you hear me out just a little longer?

Gentle Reader: Perhaps for a few more seconds. I hope you will not disappoint.

Thank you. I will try my best. Perhaps you could slip away into the background a bit and allow me to speak without further interruption.

Gentle Reader: I thought this was a discussion.

Well not quite. I admit that I use the word discussion often. But this is partly due to a marketing sense which helps to drive up my readership. Sometimes we need to play to our audience and take its interests into account. Nonetheless, we could probably cover the material that we propose to cover today faster if you were simply to  agree to sit back and take notes silently.

Gentle Reader: I don’t think I can agree to this. I have ideas and questions and I am not going to allow you to simply talk over me or at me without addressing these questions as they come up naturally. What good would that be? Are you interested in teaching me something or do you just want to talk and make speeches based on the borrowed wisdom of your so called wise man?

You leave me with no alternative other than to simply turn you out of the room. I am sorry to do this, but we will simply not be able to make any progress today with your frequent interjections and interruptions.

Gentle Reader: But wait! You can’t do that…. I have the right to….. (click…..dial tone…..)

Now let us return to our discussion. As I was saying before, we should go wisely and slow when there is a thing difficult to understand. The interesting question to consider here is:

‘When is a thing difficult to understand?’ or ‘What is it that makes something difficult?

There are two times when a thing is difficult to understand.

  1. When the difficulty occurs in the thing that we are trying to understand.
  2. When the difficulty occurs in ourselves, that is in our own reason.

Consider the first. Somethings are difficult to understand because there is something about the thing which is just plain difficult to understand. Take ‘motion’ for example.

Motion is difficult to understand. Why? Well simply because motion happens to belong to that class of things which barely exists.


Local motion is a good example. First a thing is here and then it is there and then it is there and then it is there and so on…. How is one able to understand something that is moving? Ordinarily our understanding is based on the fact that something stands still for at least a little while. What does the word understanding mean if there is nothing that stands, or  stands under? Do you see what I mean here?

Understanding is a thing which is based on some kind of rest. And that is why the great Heraclitus should be held up and revered by all thinking people.


It was Heraclitus who pointed out the problem of knowing things which do not rest when he famously uttered those immortal words:

We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not.

Another example of a thing which is difficult to understand is time. Talk about something which doesn’t stand still, my goodness, time has got to be the most fluid thing there is!


It boggles the mind. The question really should be does time even exist? I think it does…but just barely!

Consider, what part of time exists at any given time? The past does not exist. The future does not exist. Only the present appears to exist and the present is not very long is it?

How long? well about as long as a point is long. And that is not very long!

At any rate, I think it is clear that time is one of those things that is very difficult to understand. Mind you I don’t say it is impossible to understand. But I would assert that it is impossible to understand without reading Aristotle’s 8 Books on Natural Hearing (otherwise known as Physics).

And so the first time when a thing is difficult appears to be when the difficulty occurs in the thing itself.

Now for the second. A thing is also difficult when there is a difficulty due to the weakness of our own reason.

This is evident especially when we consider things above our own reason, like God and His angels.

This accounts very well for the fact that there are very few homilies in our churches concerning the Holy Trinity or the distinction among the heavenly spirits.


Simply because the subject matter is so far above us that our own reason encounters great difficulty in thinking about these things. Immaterial things are tough to think about. It is not that these things barely exist, or have a slim hold on existence, no, quite the contrary!

These things are difficult to understand because there is a deficiency in our own ability to understand.

Nonetheless, it is incumbent upon us to think about them despite their difficulty. In fact, it turns out that God is really the only thing worth thinking about ultimately, The only reason why we should think about anything else is because of the light that these other things might shed upon our understanding of God. Right? Right!

That is the reason why we call Theology the Queen of the Sciences. Every other branch of learning has value or dignity as a handmaiden. And the more another field of thought enables us to think about God, the higher it is in the scale of worthwhileness or dignity.


That, among other things, is what Saint Paul was alluding to when he said,

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

And so we should go wisely and slow when trying to understand difficult things, bearing in mind where the difficulty lies.

We should first attempt to ascertain whether the difficulty is based in the thing or in us.

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The first two places we need to go “wisely and slow”(ly)

 I can tell when a topic is so fascinating that people are just not ready to move on. And you, O fortunate reader, are lucky that I have this gift!

Many would have long since abandoned the interesting topic of the last post and would, no doubt, already have posted three or four or even a dozen other trivial posts, concerning any number of the passing topics de jour, which lose their relevance almost as soon as they are published.

Here at Lionandox.com you will find that when we bring up something of interest we will dwell on it at length. We will savor it. We will sip it and taste it, rolling it around in our mouths like a good wine, allowing the sweet flavors to yield themselves up to our ready and eager intellectual taste buds.

We will not gulp our topics down like some cheap beer.

Quaffing it like some tasteless swill meant only for those who have no ability to distinguish, no sense for subtlety, no idea of gustatory refinement.

Good ideas need to be milked….or perhaps I should say “tapped.” Yes, tapped is a better image. You can be sure that we will do our utmost to tap every ounce of the sweet sap from our Maples! We will not leave a gusher gushing without sticking a bucket under it to catch every drop!

We do not flit from one topic to another in paroxysms of intellectual curiosity- the intellectual malady indicative of our age. Flitting now here now there, up one line of thought, abandoning it, only to pick up another before that too is abandoned according as our feelings, fashion, or impulse directs.

Instead, we will plod wisely and slowly in our attempt to understand. Why?

Because, my good friend, if we run fast we risk stumbling! And further, as you may recall, we need to go wisely and slow precisely when talking about going wisely and slow because these are the words of a wise man. Do you doubt me?

Here again are the seven times that we should go wisely and slow and I invite you to scrutinize #7 carefully:

  1. where many things must be considered before a judgment can be made
  2. where a thing is difficult to understand
  3. where there is a beginning small in size, but great in its power
  4. where there is knowledge over a road and knowledge of the road to follow
  5. where there is general knowledge and particular knowledge
  6. where there is a word equivocal by reason
  7. where there are the words of a wise man

Who is there that doesn’t understand this reason? When a wise man speaks we might easily guess that his words would be wise and weighty. We should listen to the words of the wise with reverence pondering them frequently.

The words of God are the obvious example. One should not read through Scripture quickly- running as it were from one verse to another, barreling through pages and chapters and books as if wisdom could be gained in the manner that the cup is won at the Kentucky Derby!

No! On the contrary, when reading Sacred Scripture far better to take a stylus out and copy just a few words beautifully while contemplating them in peace and quiet for at least a day or two…or a couple a years…or for a lifetime.

Those who are wise have the special capability of saying very much in a few words. That is their secret. Therefore it belongs to the rest of us to spend time unwrapping and unveiling the profundities that the words of the wise undoubtedly contain (in addition to calligraph-ing them).

And so without further ado, without any circumlocution, without wasting any words whatsoever to justify the attempt further, let us examine these seven times when we should go wisely and slow.

Actually I suppose we have already extrapolated on #7 (i.e. where there are the words of a wise man). Quite inadvertently we find ourselves in the awkward position of having explained the last when we meant to start with the first! But you, O compassionate reader, understand that this was necessary. You understand that without explaining the last first you would not even be reading as you are now.

And so let us be done with the seventh reason why we should go wisely and slow and turn our attention to the remaining six beginning with the first. That was fast. Too fast?

And so the first time that we need to consider when to go wisely and slow is:

1. where many things must be considered before a judgment can be made

Now fortunately for us this is quite simple. The best example that I can think of off-hand is of course taken from the great Euclid, about whom too much honor and praise is not able to be bestowed. (May his name be revered by every student everywhere!)

Take Euclid’s presentation of proposition 47 in his first book, the Pythagorean Theorem. Well, as anyone can see who consults the text, Euclid presents the demonstration of this significant mathematical concept after having first demonstrated 46 prior propositions.

In other words, the business of understanding the Pythagorean Theorem is not the affair of an hour or an afternoon or even a day. No …in order to understand it well I would say one needs to spend all the time necessary that it will take to completely understand the 46 prior demonstrations. How long will that take? 46 hours? 23 Hours? 11.5 hours? I don’t know, but I would recommend spreading it out over at least one good month especially if you try this on your own.

The Pythagorean Theorem, mind you, is fairly elementary knowledge for math students even as young as the seventh and eighth grade. And yet we regularly force them to make a judgment about  its truth on the very slimmest grounds….nay even a pretty picture!

Well, maybe it is not a crime to tell someone that a thing is true without giving substantive reasons, especially if, like the Pythagorean Theorem it is very useful, but we really ought to do our best to provide all the reasoning at the earliest possible opportunity. That way, the poor student isn’t in the terrible position of thinking that he knows something which he really is not able to  know.

The truth is that very many things- even things that we might have thought of as fundamental- require many steps for their understanding. That is to say that before we can make any sort of judgment we need to approach many things wisely and slow because of the multitude of steps require in their understanding.

You would like another example?

Take the many skills required by the musician before he is able to play those big pieces that he wants to play. Many violin teachers wont even let their students touch the violin before the first couple of lessons. But aside from this think of all those preliminary skills the musician has to learn! One just doesn’t start playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto on day one!

Take the enthusiastic student of Theology who longs to dive into the heart of things thinking he is going to study the Blessed Trinity after a week or two of introductory remarks.

It only takes a quick look at the very first article in the Summa Theologica of Saint Thomas to realize that even the beginner in the Sacred Science is expected to have acquired more than an acquaintance with mathematics and Astronomy and the major works of Aristotle including his Metaphysics.

Theology is a science that requires many things before judgments can be made.

And so we need to resist the immature thinker who is most prone towards racing and zipping along at breakneck speed thinking that the serious work of understanding is something like speed reading or calculating. He might think something like

 Well…I completed Algebra 1 and 2 before I was out of diapers, in comparison to that Aristotle’s De Anima and his Metaphysics will be a cake walk!

We need to say to him.

Young man, some things cannot be acquired like the big mac meal at McDonald’s.

Some things take years of application before they admit to being understood. If you wish to court Lady Philosophy then go wisely and slow.

Ms 3045 Fol.68V Lady Philosophy Offers to Boethius the Wings That Will Enable His Mind to Fly Aloft Giclee Print

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Seven times to proceed wisely and slow

This past January 22, the philosopher Duane Berquist died. Among his many virtues, Duane Berquist had the distinction of being a wise man.

Readers of lionandox.com might already be familiar with some of Dr. Berquist’s thought to the extent that this blog has not, from time to time, butchered it past recognition. Or to the extent that we have not grossly misrepresented his thinking in a zealous and persistent attempt to adopt and assimilate as much of it as possible.

In turn, I consider it a great honor to re-present it to you my dear readers, with the hope of making it a little more accessible… to those of you….to those among us who did not have the time to sit at his feet lapping up his words as honey from the honey comb.

Of course, I did devote a considerable amount of time lapping up his words like honey from the honeycomb, though not as much time as I would have liked!

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But I suppose sheer fortune…sheer luck provided me with the opportunity to hear a considerable amount of what he said.

And why not me? Everyone deserves a lucky break in life. Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,

some in their wealth, some in the body’s force,

some in their garments though new-fangled ill;

Some in their hawks and hounds, some in their horse!

In my case, I happen to have been fortunate in the wisdom of my connections.

In other words I do not expect Socrates, in obedience to the oracle, to come knocking on my door testing me to see if I am wise. He will not accuse me of claiming to be something that I am not.

Gentle Reader: This seems a little pointless Langley! Is there anything that you would like to share with us other than the fact that you were able to lap up honey from the honeycomb. Is there any other point?

Langley: I am getting to  it. you need to be patient. As a matter of fact, ironically, the point I have to share has to do with ‘going slow.’ We need to slow down sometimes.

Gentle Reader: Good grief!

Langley: Well, as I said in a previous post , there are times that we need to go wisely and slow. Seven times, as a matter of fact! And I now intend to share them with you.

Gentle Reader: Well its about time! Please just list them and spare us the usual pedantry and mindless pablum which constitutes the ordinary fare that is your specialty.

Langley: This makes me uncomfortable.

Gentle Reader: Uncomfortable? How so?

Langley: I don’t think I can just give you a list. You may not understand how very wise it is and peremptorily dismiss it. That would be a shame.  Very often people refuse to think twice about something when it appears either too simple or even too profound.

Gentle Reader: Langley, just give us the list!

Langley: I don’t know if I should. After all, the list is about how we need to sometimes go wisely and slow…and I think this is precisely one of those times.

Gentle Reader: You don’t realize how close I am to clicking myself out of your trivial little blog. I have my finger on the left clicker right now,

Langley: Ok… Ok. Here is the list. But don’t blame me if you don’t understand it completely. Don’t blame me for not mentioning to you why it is appropriate that there are in fact seven times that we should go wisely and slow… and not eight for instance.  You do know that seven is a number signifying wisdom don’t you?

Gentle Reader: The list! The List!!

Langley: Very well. Here it is.

“Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast”

Seven times that we should proceed wisely and slow in the discourse of reason:

  1. where many things must be considered before a judgment can be made
  2. where a thing is difficult to understand
  3. where there is a beginning small in size, but great in its power
  4. where there is knowledge over a road and knowledge of the road to follow
  5. where there is general knowledge and particular knowledge
  6. where there is a word equivocal by reason
  7. where there are the words of a wise man


Gentle Reader: Langley, some of these are obvious. Simple, in fact.

Langley: Yes, but what did you think wisdom was anyway? You probably think that wisdom always means saying something incomprehensible! Wisdom is often just the simple truth…

And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,
And simple truth miscalled simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:

Gentle Reader: And #3, #4, #5 and #6 make no sense.

Langley: What? They make no sense? Why that is more than half of them! Let me try to explain.

Gentle Reader: No I haven’t the time. I need to run.

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Slow down, you move too fast!

The lazy hazy days of summer are here and I can’t think of more appropriate advice to give anyone than that which Friar Laurence gave to Romeo:


O, let us hence; I stand on sudden haste.


Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.

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Sadly for Romeo and Juliet and for their respective families Romeo did not take the advice.

But anyone involved in the pursuit of wisdom- which includes every human being to at least some extent- really should proceed wisely and slow in the pursuit.

Wisdom is a sloooooowwwww pursuit.

No one ever becomes wise in fewer than, say, 45 years….of course there are some notable exceptions….but the exceptions only establish the rule with greater solidity.

Students in general grow impatient with the advice of Friar Laurence. I don’t blame them. I, too, sometimes find myself wanting answers more quickly than the nature of this or that question allows.

Anyone who has gone skipping through the Summa Theologica attempting to get a fast answer to some abstruse Theological question knows what I mean.

As a matter of fact anyone who has ever picked up the Summa Theologica without having read the major works of Aristotle should know what I mean – although in this case it is more forgivable.

Picking up St. Thomas at any time is probably a good idea, just as long as the humble reader is willing to take many things on faith, admitting his own ignorance rather than having the temerity to find fault with St Thomas.

But strictly speaking one should not read the Summa without having mastered, to some acceptable degree, the works of Aristotle. (i.e. from the Categories straight through the Metaphysics!)

But to the young, to whom a minute can seem an hour and an hour eternity, slow procedure is tantamount to torture!

So I don’t blame any student for indulging in what St Augustine condemns as a sort of curiositas – or to put it more unpleasantly – a perverse desire to know.

What’s more, the fact that students suffer from a ‘disordered desire to know’ is not entirely a fault stemming from their youth.  A fair share of the blame also lies squarely on the shoulders of the parents, teachers and the reigning educational establishment which all conspire with irresistible effectiveness in encouraging disorderly learning.

The ordinary parent is mostly (and understandably) concerned that his child be successful. A parent naturally wants to see his own child succeed in life.

Success is rarely measured in terms of wisdom.

The current prevailing fashion in education places a high value on productivity. The student is praised for his speed, accuracy and efficiency in “problem solving”, which as any Algebra teacher knows, does not require understanding.

As a matter of fact, the attempt to understand often gets in the way.

Why would anyone really want to know the meaning and significance of the terms “sine,” “cosine” and “tangent”?  No Algebra book makes an attempt to explain what “tangent” has to do with a real geometrical tangent. The meaning of these terms simply does not matter if the end one is pursuing is not understanding but productivity.

These days, by the time students have completed middle school they all seem to have received a completely upside down intellectual formation. That is, students now appear to learn everything backwards and in the opposite order that any particular field of learning ought to be learned.

Without having learned Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic they have instead received a complete indoctrination in the atomic theory.

They know about DNA, Quarks, Plasma, Black Holes, Anti Matter and Negative Energy- and all these things before they can even write a complete sentence!

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In Mathematics they are familiar with the Pythagorean Theorem well before taking a single Geometry class.

They can invert ratios, cross multiply and alternate proportions without even being able to say what a proportion is.


Without having taken a single class in what the Greeks used to call “Arithmetike,”  they can talk about “numbers” positive and negative, “e”, “i” and “pi” and even the “square root of 2!”

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They are blissfully unaware of the story of that unfortunate Pythagorean who was buried alive for his discovery of incommensurability.

But to get back to Friar Laurence, he says,

“Wisely and slow”

If we are to learn and obtain any wisdom ourselves, we ought to avoid the temptation to proceed swiftly.

The method of Catholic liberal education is absolutely contrary to the method of the world. The world would have children speed through text books and lessons  and books in the futile attempt to become “current.” Students are supposed to “get up to speed” and gain skill in surfing the waves of data that sweep in from the four corners of the globe with inexhaustible fury. The crown of victory goes to the fastest.

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But to run fast, that is the very characteristic of youth. And unfortunately like Romeo this sort of behavior can lead to very real peril in the physical life but even more disastrously in the life of the mind.

The method of Catholic liberal education is the method born from leisure.

It demands quiet. It demands slow reading, speaking and listening.

It demands lengthy discussion.

It demands orderly procedure.

Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.

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Posted in Aquinas, Augustine, catholic education, education, liberal education, summer vacation, Wisdom | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lord’s Prayer: What Does “Lead Us Not Into Temptation” Mean?

Well… I tried explaining this very thing back in 2017 but as a seasoned teacher, I know the importance of repetition.

More than most, I know that,

“Repetitio est mater memoriae!”

Additionally, (and thankfully!) we classical teachers are an extremely patient sort of people. We relish challenges! In fact we relish the opportunity to engage in contests (“tentationes” in Latin “temptations” in English). We relish opportunities that lead us into discussions of perennial ideas.


Because they come back every year and are worth discussing!

Now among the perennial ideas worth discussing every year stands The Lord’s Prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer is, of course, the perfect prayer. I don’t know that we have to offer any sort of proof for this other than the fact that it is the prayer given by Our Lord Himself. In St. Luke’s Gospel we read,

And it came to pass, that as he was in a certain place praying, when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him: Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.

And he said to them: When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.

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St Luke’s version seems just a little scaled down, and I’m sure there is a good reason for this. Fortunately, though, we have more than one Gospel from which to get the whole story!

St. Matthew records the words of the prayer at greater length!

Thus therefore shall you pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our supersubstantial bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. Amen.

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That this is the perfect prayer is attested to by St Augustine, who said,

if we pray rightly and fittingly, we can say nothing else but what is contained in this prayer of Our Lord.

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Since it has come up in the news recently, I have been thinking particularly of the sixth petition  in the prayer: “And lead us not into temptation.”

It has been suggested that perhaps this particular formation of words in English is the result of a bad or faulty translation.

Well, I suppose those of us who don’t know any Greek or Latin will just have to let the experts tell us what to think when it comes to the translation. Ignorance of the classic languages often results in one having to simply bow in deference to the experts.

Now, I happen to know just enough Greek to make my way around a first or second year Greek textbook, and even to read bits and pieces, fragments, of classical literature. Perhaps a little Xenophon, snippets of Aristotle, a little Herodotus – but better than any of these, I am able to make my way through the New Testament in Greek – although slowly.  Especially when I am reading from a Greek – English interlinear translation!

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When it comes to the Lord’s Prayer, I suppose we have to consider the fact that Our Lord spoke Aramaic. Nonetheless, I think we have to also accept the fact that the only authoritative versions of the prayer were written by the Evangelists in Greek.

As far as I know, there is no official Aramaic text of The Lord’s Prayer.

The sixth petition of the Lord’s prayer,  “Lead us not into temptation,” is written,

“καὶ μὴ  εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν” 

and in CAPS,


Now if I were to translate this I would render it thus:

and (καὶ) do not (μὴ)  lead in (εἰσενέγκῃς) us (ἡμᾶς) into (εἰς) the trial/temptation (πειρασμόν)

The word “εἰσενέγκῃς” is the aorist subjunctive active of the verb “εἰσφέρω“. Which means  “I lead into, bring in, announce.”

So to translate εἰσενέγκῃς as Do not lead us into is an excellent translation of the Greek -speaking as a tertiary level Greek teacher. And the word “Πειρασμοσ” (peirasmos) is rendered by “experiment,” “trial,” or “temptation.”

Thus the sixth petition of the Lord’s Prayer seems to be excellently translated as Do not lead us into temptation or Lead us not into temptation.

What does this mean?

Well, here we must go to St. Thomas just as the ancient Israelites went to Joseph in Egypt. And,of course, St. Thomas never disappoints. Speaking about the last three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer he says,

We are directed to beatitude accidentally by the removal of obstacles. Now there are three obstacles to our attainment of beatitude. First, there is sin, which directly excludes a man from the kingdom, according to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, etc., shall possess the kingdom of God“; and to this refer the words, “Forgive us our trespasses.”

And here is the crux!

Secondly, there is temptation which hinders us from keeping God’s will, and to this we refer when we say: “And lead us not into temptation,” whereby we do not ask not to be tempted, but not to be conquered by temptation, which is to be led into temptation.

He finishes,

Thirdly, there is the present penal state which is a kind of obstacle to a sufficiency of life, and to this we refer in the words, “Deliver us from evil.”

I must confess that I found it revealing when St Thomas said that when we say lead us not into temptation, “we do not ask not to be tempted.” 

That is precisely what I used to think the prayer meant. Don’t let me be tempted.

Whether Oscar Wilde actually said “I can resist anything but temptation,” I think the sentiment is shared by many. And so we might pray lead us not into temptation!

But, if we reflect further on the word temptation (πειρασμόν- peirasmon) we see that it appears first to mean experiment or attempt or trial and then temptation. In other words suppose we compared ourselves to olympic athletes- what is it that we are practicing for? What are all those long training sessions for? Why all the painstaking exercise and long hours spent listening to coaches? Isn’t it all so that we can compete in a trial? Doesn’t every Olympic athlete want to have an opportunity to prove himself?

In other words the contest or competition is the trial.

The actual race is the trial or experiment of strength and endurance. And such is a temptation.

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Christians are just like athletes. St. Paul is thinking along the same lines when he addresses Timothy,

But be thou vigilant, labour in all things, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil thy ministry. Be sober.

For I am even now ready to be sacrificed: and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord the just judge will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love his coming. Make haste to come to me quickly.

Perhaps the Christian will always avoid the near occasion of sin. But this does not mean that the Christian will pray that God will remove every trial of his strength, every temptation. As a matter of fact, it could be that this is God’s very plan by which he helps souls to gain strength and merit- that is, by allowing for temptations to enter into our paths that, with His grace, we can overcome.

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“Lead us not into temptation” is an excellent way to express these things. Of course God is not the cause of evil. Nonetheless, don’t we pray that God will provide for our spiritual growth in holiness by allowing us to undergo trials that are within our power to overcome?

So how can we express all of these things? What words can we come up with that say:

  1. “Please God, provide us with the contests, trials, and temptations that by your grace we will overcome and grow in your love.”
  2. “Do not let us go untried”
  3. “Let us not fall when we are tempted”

If we were to say, “Do not let us be tempted,” this would be against our own spiritual good.  If we were to say “Let us not fall in temptation,” this would exclude the notion that we ought, as “Christian Athletes” pray for contests of our strength that are proportionate to our ability.

Thus, by the words Lead us not into temptation”, we should understand, “O Lord, let us be tested in the contests of life that You, O Lord, mercifully and lovingly allow to be placed in our paths. But we beg you, Gracious Lord, to not let us perish or fall in those trials.”

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Posted in Aquinas, Augustine, Lord's Prayer, Temptation, The Passion | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Easter 2019! Boeuf en Croute Alleluia!

Easter came a little later this year, but as a good friend likes to remind me, God is seldom early but He is never late! I am not sure how true this is, but it does seem to describe pretty well my own perception of His action in our lives. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if He was early in everything that He does. In fact, isn’t He pretty much the first mover?

But children and liturgical musicians are especially conscious of the duration of Lent and especially the hours and minutes of Holy Week; children because they have a heightened and agonizing anticipation of the joy and magic of Easter morning, liturgical musicians because of the heightened and non-stop pressure of preparing music for every major liturgical event during Holy Week.

Nonetheless, at last Easter came!


After playing the organ for the Easter Vigil and the two Morning Masses, I can’t tell you how much I enjoy coming home for the midday Easter Brunch!


My daughter Cecilia painted the Easter Candle this year.

While I was still playing the organ, Stephanie was able to meet the exhausted patience of our littlest children with an Easter Morning table that was loaded with Easter treats.

Easter Morning Table

Heaven in the eyes of the five-year old child

Unfortunately I missed that, but when I returned home, my eyes were met with this far more appetizing sight (to my way of thinking)! Children imagine heaven as a place with candy, toys and treats, whereas adults like me think of heaven as an eternal banquet.


Heaven in the eyes of the fifty-year old man

Granted that both views probably err (in their respective over emphases on the bodily nature of the reality) nonetheless, I still think my view of eternal bliss is more elevated than that of my five year old son, Francis.


And I am not adverse to having rabbits running around on my Easter banquet table.


Meanwhile, back in the kitchen things are happening. A scene of beauty!


No kitchen has enough counter space for Easter Brunch!

Now this little bowl of goodness is a mixture of apricot suffused with some citrus and is ready to be inserted into the puff pastry.


Actually, this is the pastry that has been stuffed with a creamy cheesy filling.


This is the one with the apricot concoction.


The careful observer will note that this danish is braided differently than the other.

Back in the kitchen, a couple of pans of eggs are being prepared for Eggs Blackstone!


Ordinarily Eggs Blackstone would employ poached eggs. But in my opinion these sunny side up eggs added a little of their own sunshine to what was an otherwise overcast day.

The English muffins topped with tomato and bacon must be the Blackstone part of the dish.


My daughter Anna prepared her incomparable Hollandaise sauce


The finished product!


Fruit of some sort is an Easter Brunch staple. This year in addition to other ordinary fruit platter features, ours included papaya and figs!


At last!


Stephanie prepared smoothies for the kids and I prepared Mimosas for the adults.



As we have mentioned in years past, the one challenge of having an Easter Brunch is that one needs to somehow get everything cleared away and prepared for Easter dinner. Additionally, one needs to prepare one’s appetite for it. I did this by taking a three mile walk with Gracie, Frannie, and Peter. When we returned, I took a two hour nap and arrived back on the scene.

While I was napping, the chefs and kitchen help were tiding things over with some cheeses, fig spread, a little hard salami paired with a semi- dry Riesling.


Cecilia set the table, and I carefully extracted the cork from the 2016 bottle of Syrah from Owen Roe  winery. My dear brother in law, Carl, had given me this bottle back in September which I had carefully preserved for the occasion.

The wine itself is aptly and magically called Ex Umbris. And on the back of the bottle there is this enigmatic Latin inscription:

Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem

My read on this is that the wine is nothing more than an emblem for man’s life on this earth as he passes through – a stranger and sojourner- to his eternal home!

Since the winemaker is an old friend from college, and since I have now finished this exquisite bottle, I feel compelled to rekindle our old friendship as soon as possible. To that end, I include the wine maker’s notes in full!

Winemaker Notes

The color of deep eggplant, this beautiful bold Syrah will keep our Ex Umbris fans wanting more! If the nose filled with dark chocolate, hazelnut and caramel aromas isn’t enough, the robust plum, black cherry, licorice and hints of tobacco will surely please any palate.Pair with blackened, grilled ribeye, a juicy leg of lamb or your family slow-cooker stew.

This Syrah will age and is still quite youthful with gripping tannins and layers of dusty earth. We recommend decanting and enjoying with a hearty meal and holding onto a few bottles to open in a few years.

You can see the image of this bottle at the end of the table in front of my plate 



Now for dinner, Stephanie prepared Boeuf en Croute which is a sort of the French version of Beef Wellington. Here you can see how she lovingly wrapped the two large beef roasts in a beautiful special dough.


Meanwhile, she prepared Tuscan Roasted Potatoes and Lemon! I’ve never had this dish before, and as you can see, the dish includes a fairly generous amount of lemon.


After baking to a light golden brown, this dish absorbs the lemon, and it was as much as I could to keep from eating the supple tender lemon peels themselves.


As the all important third component to the meal, the part without which one might wonder if the rule of two and three had been properly observed, the chef prepared Roasted Asparagus with Garlic, Rosemary,  and Goat Cheese!


Meanwhile, the flaky crust of the Boeuf en Croute had turned golden brown and we took it out of the oven to sit and re-absorb all of its juices.


Lucy and Gracie prepared armies of these buttery Croissant rolls.


Perfect! But I do need to resharpen my carving knife.


Here again is that unassuming bottle of Ex Umbris.


Lucy’s plate.


And, if this was not already enough …. there is yet an entire Boeuf en Croute left over!


Happy Easter!

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Posted in beauty, breakfast, Dinner, Easter, Ex Umbris, Feasts, Fine Arts | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tiny Catholic School Sues City to Protect Civil Rights and Religious Freedom

The Lord does work in mysterious ways!

When I founded The Lyceum in 2003, along with a couple of other teachers, a handful of adventurous students and their daring parents, none of us ever envisioned that our small school would ever be involved in a serious battle to “protect civil rights” and  “religious freedom.” Back in 2003, we thought that the only battle we would have to wage was with the intellectual customs of the day that frowned upon teaching things like Latin and Greek, Euclid and Homer, the Great Books of the Western World, and the Catholic Faith.

We knew it would be a hard sell to persuade parents and students to attend a school which prized the teachings of ancient authors like Aeschylus, Aristotle and Aquinas and simultaneously proposed to make singing sacred polyphony mandatory.

But now, sixteen years later, confronted with a local law masquerading as an “anti-discrimination ordinance,” our little school is fighting for the simple right to exist. Now, the school has a bigger challenge than simply recruiting students who want a classical liberal education.

Essentially, the ordinance would make it illegal for The Lyceum to operate as a Catholic school in a number of ways but particularly, by curtailing its right to hire Catholic teachers and recruit students who espouse and embrace the Church’s teachings concerning human sexuality and marriage.  Here is a summary of the ordinance.

And here is an illuminating video presentation of the challenge that the school faces:

Ahhh, those were the days when making the case for studying dead languages  was our biggest challenge! Now, the school is forced to defend fundamental civil rights and religious freedom.

Fortunately, our little school is led by a strong, principled, and intrepid headmaster and a wise Board of Trustees. Thankfully, it also has the help of an incredible legal team, The Alliance Defending Freedom!

I suppose if the Lyceum’s battle with city hall is reminiscent of David’s battle with Goliath, at least The Lyceum has the Alliance Defending Freedom as its slingshot! Nonetheless, God always seems to use the weak things of the world to accomplish His work. As Saint Paul says in Corinthians

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men…But the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the strong.”

I just finished reading Herodotus’ account of the Battle of Thermopylae with my ninth grade students. This was the famous battle in which 300 Spartan Hoplites famously held back two and a half million soldiers of the ‘barbarian’ King Xerxes. Ultimately, though vastly outnumbered, the Greeks prevailed for the cause of freedom! Those 300 Greeks preserved democracy and freedom for the entire western world.

Though our little school is tiny, though it may be insignificant in the view of the city, though the city’s coffers and resources are relatively legion, nonetheless may God, too, choose the weak things of the world to confound the strong. May our school prevail if for no other reason than to preserve the right for schools, such as ours, everywhere to maintain their religious liberty and Catholic identity.

Posted in aeschylus, catholic education, Herodotus, Religious Freedom | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

The Prodigal Son and The Prodigal Mind: Our Lord’s Parable for Educators

Our Lord’s parable about the man who had two sons, upon the younger of whom tradition has bestowed the sobriquet ‘prodigal,’  provides an excellent lesson for parents everywhere who are concerned about the education of their children.

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I have a hunch that the ‘parable of the prodigal son’ will always be on everybody’s top ten parable list partly because the parable is especially close to our own experience.

Actually, every time I return from Costco with one of those prodigious carts overflowing with all of my favorite foods and those terrific thick slices of steak…and a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon…. I have to confess my empathy for the prodigal son.

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And then, of course, after a certain number of days have passed, inevitably the temporary joy that I received for having instantiated the words of Saint Paul, when he said “whose God is their belly” ….that joy is turned to ashes when I am confronted with the ‘Citi Card’ statement at the end of the month.

My guess is, most people don’t have to search very far for an example of someone they know, whether a near relative or otherwise, who provides a close match to the younger son in the parable.

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The older more serious brother (played by Humphrey Bogart) remonstrating with his wayward younger brother (played by William Holden) in Sabrina

But even if one does not have a brother or sister that might fit the description, there isn’t a person anywhere who cannot relate to the very obvious parallel between the behavior of the prodigal son and his own behavior whenever he turns from God’s grace and follows his passions.

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Nonetheless, what, you might ask, does this parable offer to parents with regard to the education of their children? Or even, what does the parable have to offer for students and educators everywhere?

Well for starters, consider first how the parable begins,

A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father: Father, give me the portion of substance that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his substance.

Notice that the son requests the portion of his “substance” that belongs to him. (The Latin reads “da mihi portionem substantiæ“).  Unfortunately, as happens all too often, this is rendered into English prose by translators who choose to make it more understandable (according to their way of thinking) by words that narrow the signification.  And so what most Catholics will hear on the Fourth Sunday of Lent is,

A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them.

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I say this is an unfortunate translation because, while it preserves one very clear and most obvious signification, it, nonetheless, makes other significations more difficult.

For example, Saint Augustine understands “substance” as something much more than mere property or worldly inheritance,

the younger seeks that the part of the substance which fell to him should be given him by his father. Hence it follows, And the younger of them said to his father, Give me the portion of goods [portionem substantiae] which falls to me; just as the soul delighted with its own power seeks that which belongs to it, to live, to understand, to remember, to excel in quickness of intellect, all which are the gifts of God, but it has received them in its own power by free will. Hence it follows, And he divided to them his substance.

and another commentator confirms this reading of substance saying,

The substance of man is the capacity of reason which is accompanied by free will.

Thus we are understanding the son as an image of the soul which rightfully seeks “that which belongs to it.” The soul of man seeks “to live,” and “to understand” and to do by its own power. The intellectual soul is, after all the precise way that man is said to have been created in the image and likeness of God.

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So there is nothing wrong with the younger son’s request; there is nothing wrong with the soul seeking ‘its substance,’ that is the powers that belong to it.

But the parable continues ,

The younger son, gathering all together, went abroad into a far country: and there wasted his substance, living riotously. And after he had spent all, there came a mighty famine in that country; and he began to be in want.

This is where the trouble is. It was not in the asking for his substance but in the squandering of it that we have a problem. Saint Augustine explains how the soul squanders its substance:

Whoever wishes to be so like to God as to ascribe his strength to Him, let him not depart from Him, but rather cleave to Him that he may preserve the likeness and image in which he was made. But if he perversely wishes to imitate God, that as God has no one by whom He is governed, so should he desire to exercise his own power as to live under no rules, what remains for him but that having lost all heat he should grow cold and senseless, and, departing from truth, vanish away.

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Thus the older brother represents the soul that cleaves to God whereas the younger brother turns away perversely, and wishes to imitate God precisely insofar “as God has no one by whom he is governed.

In other words, the younger son represents the soul that wishes to exercise its intellectual life, its abilities to reason and calculate, its abilities to imagine and remember, to articulate and communicate, all in a manner that is not subordinate to the knowledge of God.

To pursue the intellectual life in a disordered way, or rather, to engage in intellectual pursuits in a way that is cut off or divorced or ordered to some other end so as to exclude God, is to squander one’s intellectual substance.

Imagine, if you can, a school, college or university in which there is a multiplicity of courses, various departments of learning, a diversity of intellectual pursuits, but in which there is not a central coordinating science to which all the sciences, arts and disciplines are ordered as an end.

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Are there really any schools which propose such a thing? Could there really be a school in which religion is not taught? Could there actually be a college or university in which Theology is not considered explicitly the final goal of every human intellectual endeavor?

Such an institution would be like a many-limbed animal with no head!

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Impossible! Such a school, college or university would be nothing other than a place of institutionalized intellectual riot! Who in his right mind would tolerate such a thing!

Saint Augustine continues interpreting the parable,

…the soul of man chose of its free will to take with it a certain power of its nature, and to desert Him by whom it was created, trusting in its own strength, which it wastes the more rapidly as it has abandoned Him who gave it. Hence it follows, And there wasted his substance in riotous living

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This is the very image of life at the modern university is it not? And I don’t mean an image of campus life or life in the dormitory. The riotous lifestyle that characterizes the modern college or university campus is only emblematic of the far more serious riot- namely the  riot that is the intellectual state of affairs at such colleges and universities.

An intellectual riot might be described as a disordered search for truth – which amounts to nothing more than an inversion of truth. Instead of the pursuit of truth for its own sake – or better, for the sake of knowing God- truth is pursued for the sake of power and the manipulation of nature, or for some other utilitarian end.

But just as squandering ones resources leads to a dearth of food, so intellectual riot leads to intellectual famine. St. Augustine says,

And when he had spent all, there arose a great famine in that land. The famine is the want of the word of truth.

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I stretched forth my hands to thee: my soul is as earth without water unto thee. (Psalm 143)

Saint Ambrose adds, that when there is a departure from the word of God the mind is incapable of being satisfied:

For he who departs from the word of God is hungry, because man does not live on bread alone, but on every word of God. And he who departs from his treasures is in want. Therefore began he to be in want and to suffer hunger, because nothing satisfies a prodigal mind.

But when the younger son returned home to his father, then it was that he could be satisfied. Likewise when the mind returns ‘home,’ when it sees all that it sees in relation to God Himself, who is Truth, then can it, too, be satisfied.

Posted in Ambrose, Augustine, Catena Aurea, college, education, liberal education, soul, truth for its own sake | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments