Friday, April 04, 2014

Isidoro de Sevilla

Today is the feast day of St. Isidore of Seville, Doctor of the Church. Isidore is an interesting figure, in that he shows the genuine importance of synthesis and summary for both philosophy and theology -- his Etymologiae did more for philosophy and theology than many more original works, just by being a good reference work that could be used for centuries. It still is a very good resource, if you know how to read it; it just requires reading expectations different from what we usually bring to the table.

So one speaks of the vestiges of God, because now God is known by way of mirror, but in the completion is recognized as omnipotent when in the future he is presented face to face for all the chosen, so that they contemplate his beauty, whose vestiges they now strive to comprehend, that is, whom they are said to see by way of mirror. For position and vestment and place and time are not said properly of God, but are said metaphorically by way of similitude; thus 'sitting on the Cherubim' is said with relation to position, and 'abyss like a garment his clothing' is said with relation to vestment, and 'your years are not lacking' is said with relation to time, and 'if I ascend to heaven, you are there' is said with relation to place.

Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae Liber VII, 38-39. Position (situs), vestment (habitus), place (locus), and time (tempus) are all Aristotelian categories; this is certainly not accidental. A vestige (vestigium), of course, is literally a footprint or track or trace; that is, it is something by means of which you track something, as in hunting.

Last year I noted my favorite etymology in the Etymologies, which I can't resist repeating:

That is called hope ("spes") which is a foot going forward ("pes progrediendi"), as in "It is a foot" ("est pes"). Thus also for the contrary desperation: the foot is lacking ("deest pes") there, and there is no ability to go forward, because as long as someone loves sin, he does not hope for glory.

There's really no better way to top that summary of hope: hope is a foot moving forward, spes vocata quod sit pes progrediendi.


  1. Enbrethiliel7:00 AM


    The etymology of "spes" is amazing! I'm so grateful that I studied some Latin in uni and can "see" some of what St. Isidore said.

  2. branemrys12:26 PM

    There's a sort of poetic rightness to it that would be very difficult to improve upon by any more literal account of hope.


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