Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Authority and reason can never been in contrast, because they both have the same source in divine wisdom revealed in the Sacred Scripture of God. Therefore without rigorous analysis of the biblical text and openness to conversion true comprehension of what God gifted man is not possible. That summarizes the thoughts of St John Scotus Erigena, a “notable thinker” of Western Christianity, illustrated today in his general audience by Benedict XVI to 15 thousand people present in St Peter’s Square.
Born in Ireland in the early ‘800’s, “we do not know when he left his homeland to cross the channel” to become part of the Carolingian renaissance of the IX century, as a member of the court of Charles the Bald. He died circa 870. Scotus had an intimate knowledge of both the Greek and Latin Patristic culture: Augustine, Ambrose, Gregorius Magnus but also Origin, John Chrysostom and other Church fathers. He had a particular love for the writings of Dionysius, who was an “eminent source of his thought”, so much so “that still today in some passages it is hard to tell which thoughts are Scotus’ and which Dionysius’, whose works he translated from Latin, resulting in their being known”.
His “own theological works did not meet with much success”, because of the decline of the Carolingian era and a “ecclesiastic censure” born of the fact that “at times he comes close to a Pantheistic Vision, even if his intentions were always orthdox”. However in his works there are “stimulating theological and spiritual issues” still valid today.
His writings are important above all for what “is presented as auctoritas” and for highlighting the need to “constantly search for truth”. “He is convinced that authority and reason can never be in contrast with one another” and that “true religion and true philosophy coincide. In this sense, he wrote, ‘any form of authority that is not confirmed by true reason should be considered weak. It is not, in fact, real authority if it does not coincide with that truth discovered in the power of reason, even if it is a recommended authority transmitted for the use of the successors of the Church Fathers’, and he warned: ‘no authority should ever distract you from what helps you understand the persuasion or true rational contemplation. In fact authentic authority never contradicts true reason neither can the latter ever contradict true authority. Both, without doubt, originate from the same source that is divine wisdom’. Therefore – underlined the Pope – we see the courage of reason that results in the certainty that true authority is reasonable, because God is the creator of reason”.
God gave us Scripture which “would not have been necessary, had mankind been without sin”, “we can deduce that God gifted Scripture with pedagogical intent, so man could remember that which the fall had caused him to forget” and that “the Word helps us to remember that which, in the image of God, we carry in our hearts”. From this “we can trace some consequences in interpretation that are still valid today”. “The Word glorifies our partially blind reason” and through it “reason opens up to a safe path towards truth” by being “constantly open to conversion”, because “only thanks to constant purification of the eye, heart and mind can we conquer true comprehension”. “This path brings the intelligent creature to the very portal of the divine mystery” and the “adoring and silent recognition of the mystery reveals itself to be the only path to a real relationship with the truth that is intimate piety and respect for diversity”.
“Theological thought is the most obvious demonstration of an attempt to express the mystery of God that cannot be deciphered”, “the many metaphors” used by Scotus “illustrate his awareness of the inadequacy of the terms we use to speak of these things. Despite this the mystic experience remains” and the “beauty we discover in these texts”. Recalling the affirmations of the Irish Theologian, for whom “we must desire the joy of the truth that is Christ, and nothing more” and “the greatest torment for a rational creature is His absence. These are words – concluded Benedict XVI – that we can make our own and which constitute our hearts deepest desire”.