Sunday, May 11, 2008

Recta Sapere

Father Zuhlsdorf has a post that makes an interesting link between a collect and Boethius:

LITERAL TRANSLATION:
O God, who taught the hearts of the faithful
by the light of the Holy Spirit,
grant to us, in the same Spirit,
to know the things that are right,
and to rejoice always in His consolation.

What leaps to my mind, steeped in the literature of late antiquity, is the connection of wisdom, inherent in the phrase recta sapere, with consolation. There was a genre of consolation literature in classical times and late antiquity into the medieval period. This was part of the province of philosophy (“love of wisdom”). This literature was used as a moral medication for the soul. In the famous work of the imprisoned Boethius (+525) before his execution, the Consolation of Philosophy, Lady Wisdom, Philosophy, comes to the author in his cell and diagnoses the true nature of his sickness of sadness. She does this in a dialogue, so that Boethius can understand things rightly (like our recta sapere), and therefore be consoled. Lady Wisdom descended so as to raise Boethius up to God. This is our pattern too, both in creation and in our renewal when we have sinned. Two weeks ago in these pages I told you how the Collect show influences of the ancient philosophical concept of that all creation proceeds from God (exitus) in and then turns (conversion) to thus take determinate form and return again to God (reditus). These prayers of late antiquity are echoes of these ancient philosophical concepts. We can’t read them without knowing these things.

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