Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Talking It Over: Some Clarification from St. Bernard

One of the readers wrote asking clarification as to why an online hermit declared nothing Catholic hermit's description of temporal Catholic world and mystical Catholic world as "nonsense."

I had mentioned that St. Thomas Aquinas, in fact, had three worlds to describe the schema. Just the other day while reading a Cistercian Study Series book, two other classifications are mentioned in conjunction with St. Bernard's discussion with Abelard.

While one of St. Bernard's favorite typologies is the "Noah-Daniel-Job" triad" to describe his tripartate notion of the Church (not in legal distinction but rather in vocational callings), the discussion also describes St. Bernard's reference to certain types belonging to the "visible Church" compared to the "interior Church." These latter terms are fleshed out by Medieval academician Thomas J. Renna.

As to St. Bernard's triad, Noah represents the prelate, Daniel the contemplative monk, and Job the layperson.  "Bernard's treatment of Noah reveals his high esteem for the active life and the episcopal office. His idea of the earthly church is not so otherworldly that he deems the hierarchical church accidental or secondary. He insists on the need to maintain an orderly church,  the instrument of God's providence and his plan of salvation. While the contemplative life is certainly superior per se to the active, the two states of life are twin manifestations of the church's leadership, and are dependent on each other."

The line between the two is not rigid, but St. Bernard is most concerned with the criteria involved in any shift from one state [world] to another. Does the impulse to change states emanate as a call from God or from self?

"Compared to Bernard, those of Abelard contain little on the life of the church....The blasts against the worldly lives of bishops could be interchanged with those of Bernard. The contemplative life is so far removed (and superior in dignity) from the active life that monks and prelates should keep apart. The monk is characterized by his solitude, chastity, prayer, obedience, abstinence." [The order of characterizations is of value to note.]

"While Bernard places the prelate in the highest rank of the visible church, Abelard tends to stress the intrinsic inferiority of the prelate in the "interior" church. Yet despite this occasional shift of emphasis,  Bernard and Abelard come to the same general conclusion regarding the proper roles of monks and prelate within the ecclesia. The ecclesiologies of the two abbots are joined by their belief in the prophetic mission of the monk."

It is interesting to consider that while the visible church may be a term more limiting than the temporal Catholic world, and the "interior" church is even more limiting than the mystical Catholic world, typologies, triads, dualities--are not "nonsense" unless one wishes to dishonor saints and theologians who have written in depth, describing their schema.

nothing found St. Bernard's typologies of the Noah-Daniel-Job triad to reflect and intersect in certain specifics, the temporal Catholic world (TCW) and mystical Catholic world (MCW) schema of the One Reality.

Amazing what one discovers when delving into the lives of saints, their writings, their dialogues with others, even ones they consider to be heretical, such as St. Bernard considered Abelard. And, of course, the Church has not canonized Abelard, but that is not the point here. Through the two abbot's correspondence and discussion, the "states" or "schema" or "worlds" are utilized as a means to describe typologies within the Church and the spiritual reality.

Not nonsense at all.

Just wanted to stir up the blugs some, with a few facts. Over time, nothing has found further considerations which express the nature of the TCW and MCW as a reality of Church. Fortunately, many others comprehend and grasp, as well as find the distinctions helpful in their vocational callings and living out their charisms to a higher degree. Helps to know oneself and understand one's best utilization in the Church, as well as to understand others in the Body of Christ.

While nothing has emphasized that the one called to the MCW is not superior to one called to the TCW, St. Bernard seems to place emphasis on the "interior" church, or to the "Daniel" type as representative of the contemplative monk [which would equate with the mystical Catholic world]. Again, what struck me was the listing of the contemplative monk's characteristics which began with solitude.

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