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.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Universal Ethic-Convergences 6-The Development of Christian Tradition

1.4. The development of Christian tradition

26. For the Fathers of the Church the sequi naturam [follow nature] and the sequela Christi [following of Christ] are not opposed. To the contrary, they generally adopted the Stoic idea according to which nature and reason indicated to human beings their moral obligations. To follow nature was to follow the personal Logos, the Word of God. In fact, the doctrine of the natural law supplied a base which biblical morality completed. Moreover, it served to explain how the pagan, independently from biblical revelation, possessed a conception of morality regarded as positive. This is indicated in the view that the teachings of nature corresponded with the teachings of Revelation: "From God come the law of nature and the law of revelation, which are aggregately one."(29) Nevertheless, the Fathers of the Church do not adopt purely and simply the Stoic doctrine, but they modified it and developed it. On the one hand, the anthropology of biblical inspiration sees man as the imago Dei [image of God], the fullness of truth of which was revealed in Christ, and this concept prohibited reducing the human person to a simple element of the cosmos. Called to communion with the living God, humankind transcended the cosmos simply by integrating itself in it. On the other hand, the harmony of nature and of reason was not founded upon the immanent vision of a pantheistic cosmos, but on the common reference to the transcendent wisdom of the Creator. To act in accordance with reason meant to follow the orientation that Christ, as divine Logos, had placed in man through the logoi spermatikoi [seeds of the Word] in the human reason. To act against reason constituted an offense against this orientation. Very significant is the definition of St. Augustine: "The eternal law is the divine reason or the will of God, which commands preservation of the natural order and forbids its disturbance."(30) More precisely, according to St. Augustine, the rules of a straight life and of justice are expressed in the Word of God, which imprints them in the heart of man "in the manner a seal that is impressed upon wax from signet ring without leaving the ring."(31) In addition, in the Fathers the natural law was included within the ambit of salvation history, which distinguished different states of nature (original nature, fallen nature, restored nature), in which the natural law is realized in diverse manners. The patristic doctrine of the natural law was transmitted to the medieval age, together with the related concept of the “right of the people (ius gentium)," according to which there existed, outside the Roman law (ius civile), universal principles of right or law which regulated the relations between all peoples and were obligatory upon all.(32)

27. In the medieval age the doctrine of natural law reached a certain maturity, and took on a “classic” form, which constitutes the background of all the discussions that follow. It was characterized by four elements. In the first place, in conformity with the nature of scholastic thought that sought to obtain truth from wherever it could be found, it assumed the previous reflections on the natural law, pagan or Christian, and attempted to propose a synthesis. In the second place, in conformity with the systematic nature of the scholastic thought, it placed the natural law in a general metaphysical and theological framework. The natural law was understood to be a participation of the rational creature in the divine eternal law, thanks to which he entered in a knowing and free manner in the designs of Providence. The natural law was not considered a completely closed and entire set of moral rules, but a source of constant inspiration, present and operative in the various stages of the economy of salvation. In third place, with the place of conscience in the proper weighing of man's nature, which was in part tied to the rediscovery of Aristotelian thought, the scholastic doctrine of the natural law considered the ethical and political order as an order of reason, a work of human intelligence. It defined for itself an autonomous place, distinct yet not separate, in relation to the order of religious revelation.(33) Lastly, to the eyes of the theologians and of the scholastic jurists, the natural law constituted a point of reference and a criterion in light of which the legitimacy of the positive laws and of particular customs could be assessed.

(29) Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, I, c. 29, 182, 1 [«Sources chrétiennes», 30, 176].

(30) St. Augustine, Contra Faustum, XXII, c. 27 [PL 42, col. 418]: "Lex vero aeterna est ratio divina vel voluntas Dei, ordinem naturalem conservari iubens, perturbari vetans. For example, St. Augustine condemns the lie, because it goes directly against the nature of language and its role in being the sign of thought; cf. Enchiridion, VII, 22 [Corpus christianorum, Latin series, 46, 62]: "Now clearly, language, in its proper function, was developed not as a means whereby men could deceive one another, but as a medium through which a man could communicate his thought to others. Wherefore to use language in order to deceive, and not as it was designed to be used, is a sin." (Albert C. Outler, trans.)(Et utique verba propterea sunt instituta non per quae invicem se homines fallant sed per quae in alterius quisque notitiam cogitationes suas perferat. Verbis ergo uti ad fallaciam, non ad quod instituta sunt, peccatum est.).

(31) St. Augustine, De Trinitate, XIV, XV, 21 [Corpus christianorum, series latina, 50 A, 451]: "Where indeed are these rules written, wherein even the unrighteous recognizes what is righteous, wherein he discerns that he ought to have what he himself has not? Where, then, are they written, unless in the book of that Light which is called Truth? Whence every righteous law is copied and transferred (not by migrating to it, but by being as it were impressed upon it) to the heart of the man that works righteousness; as the impression from a ring passes into the wax, yet does not leave the ring. (Arthur West Haddan, trans.) (Ubinam sunt istae regulae scriptae, ubi quid sit iustum et iniustus agnoscit, ubi cernit habendum esse quod ipse non habet? Ubi ergo scriptae sunt, nisi in libro lucis illius quae veritas dicitur, unde omnis lex iusta describitur et in cor hominis qui operatur iustitiam non migrando sed tamquam imprimendo transfertur, sicut imago ex anulo et in ceram transit et anulum non relinquit?).

32) Cf. Gaius, Institutes, 1. 1 (II sec. d.C.) (ed. J. Reinach, «Collection des universités de France», Paris, 1950, 1): "Quod vero naturalis ratio inter omnes homines constituit, id apud omnes populos peraeque custoditur vocaturque ius gentium, quasi quo iure omnes gentes utuntur. Populus itaque romanus partim suo proprio, partim communi omnium hominum iure utitur."

(33) St. Thomas Aquinas distinguishes clearly the political order whose natural foundation is reason, and the religious and supernatural order founded upon the grace of revelation. He puts himself in opposition to the Muslim and Hebrew medieval philosophers that attributed to revelation an essential political role. Cf. Quaestiones disputatae de veritate, q. 12, a. 3, ad 11: "The society of men, inasmuch as it is ordered to the end of eternal life can preserve itself only with the laws of belief, whose start is prophecy. [...] But since this end is supernatural, or its laws ordered to such end, or prophecy is its foundation, it will be supernatural. Instead, the law by which human society ought to be governed is ordained to the civil good, and it obtains its basis with the principle of natural right placed in man. (Societas hominum secundum quod ordinatur ad finem vitae aeternae, non potest conservari nisi per iustitiam fidei, cuius principium est prophetia [...] Sed cum hic finis sit supernaturalis, et iustitia ad hunc finem ordinata, et prophetia, quae est eius principium, erit supernaturalis. Iustitia vero per quam gubernatur societas humana in ordine ad bonum civile, sufficienter potest haberi per principia iuris naturalis homini indita.)

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