Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Golden Rule in the Medieval Church, Part 1

WE WILL NOW LEAVE THE EARLY CHURCH and focus on some of the references to the Golden Rule in the medieval Church. Our first reference to the medieval Church will be to Atto of Vercelli. Atto of Vercelli (924/25-960/61 A.D.) was a learned French monk who was appointed bishop of Vercelli, Italy in 945. Born into a noble family, he served for a time as Grand Chancellor to King Lothaire II of France. He acquired a reputation for knowledge in theology and canon law. Here, in this excerpt from a work explicating the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, the notable bishop/theologian and canonist ties in the natural law with the Golden Rule, and he makes it part and parcel of the "law of the heart" referred to by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans. Atto adopts the Golden Rule in both its negative and affirmative forms.

Medieval Bishop in Ivory

It [St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans] continues: "For with the Gentiles, who do not have the law, naturally do the things the law requires," etc. These words mean that the Gentiles naturally do the precepts of the law, [and so] have not been deprived of that promise spoken of by the prophet of the Lord who said: "This is a sign, which is given to the house of Jacob: after those days, I will give my laws in their hearts, and in their insides I will inscribe it" (Jer. 21:33; Heb. 8:10). This same Apostle elsewhere says: "You also, branches of a wild olive tree, are grafted into a good olive tree." (Rom. 11:17). Many of course link the word of the prophet with the word of the apostle. For of this they say: One said that in their insides is written, and here the apostle, points out and says, the work of the law is written in their heart. And now this the Apostle called the natural law, which God with his own finger wrote in the heart. This is the law which is contained in the precepts of the written law, that is to say, do not murder, etc. This is the law which gives notice of the existence of one God [quae unius Dei habet notitiam], and which is next to the grace of the Gospel [et quae propinqua est gratiae Evangelii]. That is to say, that which you do not wish, do not do to others. And the Lord in the Gospel said: That which you wish men to do to you, the same you do do them (Matth. 8:12).

Sequitur: Cum enim gentes, quae legem non habent, naturaliter, quae legis sunt faciunt, etc. His verbis oestendit, quia gentes, naturaliter, praecepta legis faciendo, non privabuntur illa promissione, qua per prophetam Dominus loquitur, dicens: Hoc est testamentum, quod statuam domui Jacob: post dies illos, dabo leges meas in corda eorum, et visceribus eorum superscribam illa (Jer. XXI, 33; Hebr. VIII, 10). Hinc et idem Apostolus alibi dicit: Tu autem, cum esses oleaster, insertur es in bonam olivam (Rom. XI, 17). Multum quippe conveniunt verba prophetae dictis apostolicis. Illic enim dicitur: In visceribus eorum superscribum eas: et hic Apostolus de lege naturali loquitur, quam Deus unicuique digito suo scribit in corde. Haec est lex, quae scriptae legis praecepta in se continet, scilicet, non occides, etc. Haec est lex, quae unius Deis habet notitiam, et quae propinqua est gratiae Evangelii. Scilicet, quod tibi non vis, alii no facias. Et Dominus in Evangelio dicit: Quaecumque vultis ut faciant vobis homines, eadem et vos facite illis (Matth. VII, 12).
Atto of Vercelli, Exp. epist. s. Pauli. epist. ad. Rom. 134 PL.

Our next reference will be to the redoubtable St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), famous, of course, for the ontological proof of the existence of God and his formula of faith seeking understanding (fides quaerens intellectum), among many other things. The medieval Archbishop of Canterbury refers to the negative formulation of the Golden Rule in the Book of Tobit to affirm that the natural law is what is written in the soul of every human being, and that it consists in not doing that which we do not want others to do to us. It follows that we must not insist that others do something which we would not be disposed to do.

Medieval Bishop in Ivory

According to St. Anselm, the natural law may be completely encapsulated into this Golden Rule, which he calls elsewhere law of the mind, the Lex mentis, since that is the manner in which it is known. But St. Anselm insists that the natural law is not the only law that must be followed. God wills also that all men follow the divine injunctions of the New Law and the laws of the Church. These, like the natural law, are divinely instituted as well, and are parallel means or institutions with the natural law, established by the will of God. This is the insight of St. Anselm's (or Pseudo-Anselm's)* Liber de Voluntate Dei or On the Will of God.
It is said therefore that the will of God must be accepted in its multiplicity: that he who opposes himself to it is thereafter without any difficulty laid bare. Accordingly, the will of God ought to be accepted in whatever manner it is revealed, whether Scripture or equivalently in the omnipotence of his foreknowledge and the wise origination of the disposal of all things. Whence it is said: All things that he wishes, the Lord effects (Ps. 113:3), that is, that which God from eternity has ordained to make, in nothing remains unfulfilled. Now we must accept the will of God (al. nomen rerum), according to that very certain state of the mercy of God; that there, God wills that all may be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), that is to say, he wills to make saints that all may be saved, since that which he wills, he also disposes; but nobody says prayers in the Church to schismatics, heretics, Jews, or Gentiles as if to the saints. By divine institution, it is not proper to call these as according with the Will of God. God therefore is able to provide for two institutions, one in the divine precepts of the Scriptures, and in the natural law which is ingrafted in every man, and which is: that which you do not want done to yourself, do not to unto others (Tobit 4:16), etc. Whoever does not obey this [the natural law], does not follow the will of God. Yet one who does not follow the precepts of the divine Scriptures, and the right observations of the Church, does not merit being named as acting in God's will; to deviate from the will of God calls for punishment; with such from the order of foreknowledge in no wise is it one strong enough to derail.

Dicendum est igitur voluntatem Dei multipliciter accipi: ut quidquid postea opponatur, sine omni difficultate opulentius aperiatur. Voluntas itaque Dei accipitur aliquando in Scripturis, aequipollens omnipotentis suae praescientiae et orginationi sagaciter omnia disponenti. Unde dicitur: Omnia quaecumque voluit Dominus fecti (Psal. CXIII, 3), hoc est, quidquid Deus ab aeterno facturum se ordinavit, nihil inexpletum reliquit. Accipitur etiam Dei voluntas (al. nomen rerum), secundum quemdam affectum misericordiae Dei: ut ibi: Vult Deus omnes salvos fieri (I Tim. II, 4), quod est dicere, facit sanctos velle ut omnes salvi fiant, quod ipse tamen vult, hoc est ipse disposuit; sed nienter fiunt in Ecclesia orationes a sanctis pro schismaticis et haereticis, Judaeis quoque et gentilibus. Institutio divina, Dei voluntas non improprie appellatur. Dei autem institutio due dividi potest, in pracepeta divinarum Scripturarum, et in legem naturalem: quaecumque homini insita est naturalis, quae est: Quod tibi fieri nolueris, alteris ne feceris (Tob. IV, 16), etcetera. Cui quicumque obviat, Dei voluntatem non serva. Pracepta etiam divinarum Scripturarum, et rectae observationes Eccelsiarum, voluntas Dei non immerito appellantur quibus quicumque observanter non acquiescit, a Dei voluntate deviare penitus dicitur; cum tame ab ordine praescientieae ejus nullatenus valeat exorbitare.
Chap. ii PL 158.

*Scholars appear to doubt that this work is Anselm's work, and the author is referred to as Pseudo-Anselm.

The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell

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