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.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Theologia Corporis 2 - Homo Solus

HOMO SOLUS AUT DEUS AUT DAEMON, "Man alone is either God or a demon," goes the Latin saying, quoted among others by Robert Burton in his Anatomy of Melancholy, which is an obvious borrowing from Aristotle's Politics where the Greek philosopher says that a man who lives alone--that is outside the Greek city-state, the polis--is either a god or a beast. Politics, 1253a 28-29. Aristotle, with his notion of man as a political animal, clearly refers to man's social tendencies, an observation true enough as far as it goes.

But there is a deeper, more fundamental way in which man is alone and yet not meant to be alone. And for this we must go away from Athens and go to Jerusalem, away from the philosophers to the prophets. We must begin at the beginning, that is we must turn to Genesis.

These are God the Trinity's own words, to the Jew the words of Yahweh, words which the Jews to their everlasting merit have preserved and bequeathed to us: "Non est bonum esse hominem solum . . . ." (Gen. 2:18) It is not good that man (אָדָם, ’adam) be alone . . . . It is significant to John Paul II that the Hebrew distinctions between male and female, i.e., אִישׁ, ’ish=male and אִשָּׁה, ’isha= female, arise only after the woman is created by God. Therefore, in his discussion on the Theology of the Body, John Paul II notes that the "original solitude" referred to by God in Genesis 2:18 refers to "the solitude of 'man' as such and not only to that of the male." [5.2, 147] The solitude referred to here, which is found only in the second account of creation (i.e., the Yahwist account), therefore, is not only the solitude of man (male) without a man (female), but, but also the solitude of man fundamentally. Thus Pope John Paul II:
It seems, therefore, on the basis of the whole context, that this solitude has two meanings: one deriving from man's very nature, that is from his humanity . . . , and the other deriving from the relationship between male and female, and in some way, this is evident on the basis of the first meaning.
[5.2, 147]

The issue of "original solitude," which chronologically existed before man's created division into male and female, is therefore a fundamental anthropological issue, more basic than gender. It is an issue chronologically prior to the separation of man into male and female, but also prior in an "existential sense." [5.3, 148]

Pope John Paul II finds man's solitude linked to his consciousness of being superior to all other living creatures on earth, a consciousness that is brought home to him when God "tests" man, that is, leads him into self-knowledge, by having him name all other creatures. [5.4, 148] In identifying and naming all other living beings (animalia), man comes to grips with two truths. He learns what he is not, but he also learns what he is.

As all animals march before him, man finds no other creatures like him; he finds himself, despite sharing some features with animals (a "body among bodies," [6.3, 152] his proximate genus), a creature sui generis, a unique being, dissimilar from all other animals, and therefore, in a manner of speaking, alone. There is a quality, a specific differentia, an "invisible" quality that distinguishes the "visible" qualities [7.4, 155-56] that man has vis-à-vis the animals. This quality comes from man's ability, before God, to know the visible world and with it to know the distinctiveness of his own being, the invisible soul; that is, man is conscious of both knowledge and self-knowledge, that he is, and he is aware that he is. In Aristotle's words he is aware of himself as a zoon noetikon, the animal rationale, the rational animal (and not Desmond Morris's "naked ape"; man's uniqueness is not in his lack of hirsuteness). In distinguishing himself thus from the world of living beings, man in his subjectivity "at the same time affirms himself in the visible world as a 'person.'" [5.6, 150] "In fact, in relatively few sentences, the ancient text sketches man as a person with the subjectivity characterizing the person." [6.1, 151] Added to this unique mix is the "aspect of choice and self-determination" of which man is made aware upon God's commandment regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Therefore, the "concept of original solitude includes both self-consciousness and self-determination." [6.1, 151] This "deep meaning of man's original solitude" must be fathomed so that one can understand man's "primeval covenant with God," that which arises from his created situation, that is, from his condition as an image of God, the imago Dei. [6.1, 151] Thus, at the same time that man becomes aware of his original solitude, he also becomes aware of the way out of the solitude, he becomes aware that he is called to communion with God, to be a "partner of the Absolute." [6.2, 151]
Man is "alone": this is to say that through his own humanity, through what he is, he is at the same time set into a unique, exclusive, and unrepeatable relationship with God himself.
[6, 2, 151]

The anthropological definition that man acquires for himself by comparing himself with the animals, approaches therefore the theological definition that is found within the very Trinitarian mystery of God ("let us make man in our own image and our likeness," Gen. 1:26). Man's uniqueness, which prevails upon him in distinguishing himself as more than a "body among bodies," also makes him aware that he is, for all that uniqueness, still a "body among bodies." And so man's solitude, his awareness of his uniqueness from all other visible beings, also allows him to discover something which modern man, infected by Cartesian dualism, has discarded. And that is the "meaning of his own bodiliness," a body through which he is to "cultivate the earth" and "subdue it. " (Gen. 2:5; 1:28). [6.4, 153] At the same time aware of its complex structure, man becomes aware of the "relation between soul and body." [7.1, 153] John Paul II summarizes:
Man is a subject not only by his self-consciousness and by self-determination, but also based on his own body. The structure of this body is such that it permits him to be the author of genuinely human activity. In this activity, the body expresses the person. It is thus, in all its materiality ("he formed man with dust of the ground"), penetrable and transparent, as it were, in such a way as to make it clear who man is (and what he ought to be) thanks to the structure of his consciousness and self-determination. On this rests the fundamental precept of the meaning of one's own body, which one cannot fail to discovery when analyzing man's original solitude.
[7.2, 154]

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