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.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Universal Ethic-Convergences 5-Sacred Scripture

1.3. The teaching of Sacred Scripture

22. The gift of the Law at Sinai, the center of which is the "Ten Words" or Decalogue, is an essential element of the religious experience of Israel. This Law of the covenant is composed of fundamental ethical precepts. These define the manner in which the elect people should respond by sanctity of life in accordance with the will of God: "It speaks to all the Israelite community telling them: "Be holy, for I, the Lord your God am holy." (Lev. 19:2). But these moral behaviors have value also for other peoples, inasmuch as God takes account of foreign nations that violate justice and right.(20). In fact, God had already established in the person of Noah a covenant with all the human race that involved particularly respect for life.(21). (Gen. 9) More fundamentally, creation itself appears as an act in which God designs the structure of the universe giving it a law. "They [the stars] praise the name of the Lord, because to His command they were created. He made them stable for ever; He fixed a decree that will not pass." (Ps. 148:5-6) Such obedience of the creatures to the law of God is a model for human beings.

23. Together with the texts that address themselves to the story of salvation, with the greater theological theme of the election, of the promise, of the Law and of the covenant, the Bible contains also a literature of wisdom that does not deal directly with the story of the nation of Israel, but interests itself in man’s place in the world. It develops the conviction that there is correct way--"wisdom"--of how to do things, and how to conduct one’s life. The human being should pledge to seek wisdom, and then force himself to put it into practice. This wisdom is not found in history, or in nature, or in everyday life.(22) In such literature, Wisdom is often presented as a divine perfection, sometimes personalized (hypostasisized). She shows herself in surprising ways in creation, of which she is "the creator." (Wis. 7,21). The harmony that reigns between creatures renders her witness. Man participates in diverse ways in such wisdom which comes from God. This participation is a gift of God, one which is necessary to ask for in prayer: "I prayed and I was lavished with prudence; I implored and there came to me the spirit of wisdom." (Wis. 7:7) She is presented as the fruit of obedience to revealed Law. In fact, the Torah is, as it were, the incarnation of Wisdom. "If you desire wisdom, observe the commandments and the Lord will vouchsafe such to you. The fear of the Lord is wisdom and instruction." (Sir. 1:26-27). But wisdom is also the result of a wise observation of nature and of human custom with the end of discovering their inherent intelligibility and their exemplary value.(23)

24. In the fullness of the time, Jesus Christ preached the coming of the Kingdom as a manifestation of the merciful love of God, a love which makes itself present to men personally and asks of them them a conversion and a free response of love. This preaching is not without consequence to ethics, to the way to build the world and human relations. In its moral teaching, of which the Sermon on the Mount is an admirable synthesis, Jesus teaches again for his part the golden rule: "All that you want men to do to you, you also do to them: this in fact is the Law and the Prophets." (Matt. 7:12) (24) This positive precept completes the negative formulation of the same rule in the Old Testament: "Do not do unto others that which you do not want done unto you."(25) (Tob. 4:15)

25. In the beginning of the Letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul, with the intent of demonstrating the universal necessity of the salvation brought by Christ, describes the religious and moral situation common to all mankind. He affirms the possibility of a natural knowledge of God: “Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.”(26) (Rom 1:19-20) But this knowledge is perverted in idolatry. Putting on the same plane both Jew and Gentile, St. Paul affirms the existence of an unwritten moral law, one that is inscribed in their hearts.(27) This law is able to discern good from evil. “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them." (Rom. 2:14-15) Knowledge of the law alone, however, is not enough to lead a righteous life.(28) These texts of St. Paul have had a decisive influence on the Christian reflection relative to the natural law.

(20) Cf. Amos 1-2.

(21) Rabbinical Judaism refers to seven moral imperatives that God gave to Noah on behalf of all men. They are enumerated in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 56): (1) you will not fashion idols; (2) you shall not kill; (3) you shall not steal; (4) you shall not commit adultery; (5) you shall not swear; (6) you shall not eat the meat a live animal; (7) you shall establish tribunals of justice to enforce respect the six previous commandments. While the 613 mitzot of the written Torah and their interpretation in the oral Torah apply only to the Jews, the laws of Noah apply to all men.

(22) Wisdom literature interests itself above all in history insofar as there appears in it certain constants relative to the way in which man ought to conduct himself before God. Wise men do not despise the lessons of history and their value in divine revelation (cf. Sir 44-51), but have a conscience alert to the connection between events that are contingent, and those that are not dependent upon historical contingencies. In order to derive the immutable within the mutable, and to act in a responsible way in regard to this effort, wisdom searches for structural principles and laws, rather than particular historical perspectives. By doing this, wisdom literature concentrates on the prototype or protologue, that is to say, on the initial creation and what that implies. In fact the prototype or protologue tends toward describing the coherence that is found behind historical events. It is an a priori condition that strives to give order to all of the possible historical events. Wisdom literature therefore searches to evaluate the conditions that render possible everyday life. History portrays these elements in successive manner, and wisdom goes to the other side of history towards an atemporal description of what constitutes reality at the time of creation, "in the beginning,” when human beings had been created in the image of God.

(23) Cf. Prov. 6:6-9: "Go to the ant, O sluggard, study her ways and learn wisdom; for though she has no chief, no commander or ruler, she procures her food in the summer, stores up her provisions in the harvest. How long, O sluggard, will you rest? when will you rise from your sleep?”

(24) Cf. also Luke 6:31: "Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

(25) Italian translation of the French version of the Bible. Cf. St. Bonaventure, Commentarius in Evangelium Lucae, c. 6, n. 76 ("Opera omnia, VII", ed. Quaracchi, p. 156): “In hoc mandato [Lc. 6:31] est consummatio legis naturalis, cuius una pars negativa ponitur Tobiae quarto et implicatur hic: ‘Quod ab alio oderis tibi fieri, vide ne tu aliquando alteri facias’” [In this commandment (Luke 6:31), the natural law is summarized, which from a negative point of view is stated in the fourth chapter of Tobit and is implied here: ‘Do not do to others what you do not want done to you.’”; (Pseudo-)Bonaventure, Expositio in Psalterium, Ps 57:2 ("Opera omnia, IX", ed. Vivès, p. 227); "Duo sunt mandata naturalia: unum prohibitivum, unde hoc “Quod tibi non vis fieri, alteri ne feceris”; aliud affirmativum, unde in Evangelio “Omnia quaecumque vultis ut faciant vobis homines, eadem facite illis”. Primum de malis removendis, secundum de bonis adipiscendis” [The natural commandments are two: one is prohibitive, ‘That which you do not want done to you, do not do to others’; the other is positive, where in the Gospel it states, ‘Everything that you want that men do unto you, do unto them.’ The first is for removing evil; the second is for increasing good.”]

(26) Cf. Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, c. 2. cf. also Acts 14:16-17: "In past generations he allowed all Gentiles to go their own ways; yet, in bestowing his goodness, he did not leave himself without witness, for he gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filled you with nourishment and gladness for your hearts.”

(27) In Philo of Alexandria one may find the idea according to which Abraham, without the written law, conducts himself already “in accordance with nature” in a life in conformity with the Law. Cf. Philo of Alexandria, De Abrahamo, § 275-276 (Introduction, translation and notes of J. Gorez, “Les œuvres de Philon d’Alexandrie, 20,” Paris, 1966, 132-135): “Moses said: This man fulfilled the divine law, and all the commandments of God (Gen. 26:5), not having been taught to do so by written books, but in accordance with the unwritten law of his nature, being anxious to obey all healthful and salutary impulses.”

(28) Cf. Rom. 7:22-23: “For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind (to nomo tou noos mou) taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”


  1. Thanks for the great service of translating this document, however, footnotes 25-28 are missing.

  2. I've added them. Thanks for noticing.