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.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ignorance of the Wrong-Restless Hearts' Final Rest

THE NATURAL LAW IS INTENDED to be man's guide to a natural perfection, and this regardless of time, place, and circumstance.* In particulars, it is a highly flexible law, even if in essentials it is an unchanging and immutable law. Human nature remains the same--whether found in a Greek monk holed up on Mount Athos, a Jewish Wall Street broker in New York City, a Venezuelan beauty queen participating in the Miss Universe pageant, an Arab pilgrim on hajj in Mecca circumabulating counterclockwise the Ka'aba, or a Chinese man floating in his Junk in Hong Kong harbor. The normative guidance the natural law provides, both in general and in particular, as we go from man inchoate (in potentia) to man realized (in actu) is found in the natural law's precepts. "The precepts of the law," Bertke says, "are the lights placed in the labyrinth of life guiding human acts to the right paths and turns. It is of the precepts' nature to guide man to a correct realization of his capacities, to inform him what must be done if he is to arrive at his ultimate end." Bertke, 24. It is the precepts that help us judge aright what is the fitting and right means to our ultimate end.

As commands, the precepts inform and guide the intellect and the will, since both intellect and will are involved in any human act. Though guiding both intellect and will, the precepts principally are commands or norms of reason, not merely arbitrary commands, and by acting in accordance with these precepts of reason we are properly fitted into the great order of the cosmos, in harmony with our own nature and with God's plan for us in any particular time and place:

By following the precepts of the natural law man assumes his correct relations to everything else in the realm of being; order is brought out of the apparent chaos of many conflicting tendencies. The conflict between matter and spirit inherent in the complexity of man's nature, is resolved by obedience to their mandates, and harmony in relation to his prime purpose in [his natural and supernatural] life is obtained.

Bertke, 25.**

The precepts of the natural moral law oblige, and as obligations they impose themselves upon man. But they impose themselves upon man's freedom, seeking not to curb it or frustrate it, but to guide its use properly. So the natural moral law is an obligation in the order of freedom. It is not a restriction on freedom. And it certainly is not a law of physical necessity.

Sts. Thomas, Augustine, and Teresa of Avila
God alone suffices

Though there is a necessity to obey the natural moral law, that necessity is moral, not physical. The necessity is not a necessity of must (as if we have no choice or are compelled to obey it), but is a necessity of ought (since the obligation imposes itself upon our freedom and orders its proper use). The precepts of the natural law are oughts which impose upon themselves as an obligation because they are ordinations of reason, and not merely arbitrary dictats. Since they are based upon reason, the precepts carry their own reason for their obligation. It is self-evident that a life in accord with reason, a life fitted with reality and which promotes our very being and reflects who we are, is superior to a life that is irrational and which is not fitted with reality and contradicts or lessens our being and who we are. We are meant to flourish, our whole being inclines towards its flourishing, and obedience to the precepts of the natural law assures that flourishing, whereas disobedience to those precepts would result in our not flourishing. The obligation is then plain, as it is a matter of simply living right or reasonably instead of living wrong or irrationally. Of being rather than not being.

The precepts can be view under an active mode or a passive mode depending upon if we look at them from the perspective of the one commanding or the one commanded:
In the case of the natural law the active command is an act of the divine intellect; passsively, it is the actual ordination as perceived by the creature.
Bertke, 25.

The passive mode of the natural law (God's command as perceived by us) can be known without knowledge of God, so knowledge of at least the foundational precepts of the natural law can be known self-evidently, without knowledge of God, which knowledge is not self-evident. Similarly, the natural law binds us self-evidently, regardless of whether we have derived from our observation of reality and application of reason (or from Faith) that there is a God who has promulgated such a law.

It is a curious fact that man is a restless creature. No created thing fully satisfies him. Glory, honor, power, wealth, health, pleasure, the development of all natural powers of our soul or the possession of any and all created things do not, it would seem, satisfy.† But it would appear implausible for man to have no end, that he is condemned to be dissatisfied, and so there is implied in man's very restlessness that there is something he ought to seek beyond created things that will satisfy him, that ultimate good for which he yearns, which is God alone, his summum bonum, his finis ultimus, his plenary good, his ultimate end in which he alone finds repose and perfect joy and happiness.

I answer that, It is impossible for any created good to constitute man's happiness. For happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether; else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object of the will, i.e. of man's appetite, is the universal good; just as the object of the intellect is the universal true. Hence it is evident that naught can lull man's will, save the universal good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone; because every creature has goodness by participation. Wherefore God alone can satisfy the will of man, according to the words of Psalm 102:5: "Who satisfieth thy desire with good things." Therefore God alone constitutes man's happiness.

Respondeo dicendum quod impossibile est beatitudinem hominis esse in aliquo bono creato. Beatitudo enim est bonum perfectum, quod totaliter quietat appetitum, alioquin non esset ultimus finis, si adhuc restaret aliquid appetendum. Obiectum autem voluntatis, quae est appetitus humanus, est universale bonum; sicut obiectum intellectus est universale verum. Ex quo patet quod nihil potest quietare voluntatem hominis, nisi bonum universale. Quod non invenitur in aliquo creato, sed solum in Deo, quia omnis creatura habet bonitatem participatam. Unde solus Deus voluntatem hominis implere potest; secundum quod dicitur in Psalmo CII, qui replet in bonis desiderium tuum. In solo igitur Deo beatitudo hominis consistit.

S.T. IaIIae, q. 2, a. 8.

This spiritual inquietude and its satisfaction is classically rendered by St. Augustine in his Confessions: fecisti nos, domine, ad te, et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te. You have made us Lord for you, and our heart is restless until it rests in you. St. Thomas succinctly stated: Deus solus satiat.†† The mystic, St. Theresa of Avila put it wonderfully well in her "Bookmark": Solo Dios basta! Only God suffices.
Nada te turbe,
nada te espante;
todo se pasa,
Dios no se muda.
La pacientia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene nada la falta:
solo Dios basta.

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
*We say natural perfection, not supernatural perfection, which, without thereby deprecating his natural perfection, is what man's ultimate calling. We know, not through nature, but through revelation, however, that the natural law also has a tutorial or preparatorial task, as the natural perfection is fulfilled or perfected by the gift of Grace. While compliance with the natural law is necessary for salvation, it is not sufficient for salvation. Moreover, man's perfection is, as we know through revelation, found ultimately in a union with God, a participation in God's very being, a gift and destiny which is wholly supernatural.
**Again, this harmony will not be achieved without grace, given man's current state of disharmony, his Fallenness. Nature, while not entirely corrupted by man's Fall, is a
natura corrupta or natural lapsa, and is not a natura integra, and the only means to overcome the corrupt or lapsed nature and obtain a measure of its original integrity is through the natural law and through habitual supernatural grace. In this life, however, that integrity is never fully restored, even after sanctifying grace, and full integrity awaits us only after death and resurrection of the body in glorified form.
***E.g., S.T. IaIIae, q. 98, art. 6, ad 2: "A law should not be given save to the people, since it is a general precept." q. 90, art. 2, c. "Consequently, since the law is chiefly ordained to the common good, any other precept in regard to some individual work, must needs be devoid of the nature of a law, save in so far as it regards the common good." The law or precept, however, is also concerned with particularities: "A command denotes an application of a law to matters regulated by the law. Now the order to the common good, at which the law aims, is applicable to particular ends. And in this way commands are given even concerning particular matters." q. 90, art. 2, ad 1.

†This is beautifully analyzed by St. Thomas in his "treatise on happiness," found in the Summa Theologiae, to which, because of its length, the reader is referred. S.T. IaIIae, q. 2 (English); S.T IaIIae, q. 2 (Latin).
"Deus enim solus satiat, et in infinitum excedit: et inde est quod non quiescit nisi in Deo, Augustinus, in I Conf.: fecisti nos, domine, ad te, et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te." St. Thomas, In Symbolum Apostolorum, a. 12.

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