Monday, December 9, 2013
The ninth century of the Church
Reveal your light and your faithfulness!
They will lead me,
they will escort me back to your holy hill,
and to the place where you live.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to the God who gives me ecstatic joy,
so that I express my thanks to you, O God, my God, with a harp.
Why are you depressed, O my soul?
Why are you upset?
Wait for God!
For I will again give thanks
to my God for his saving intervention.
Claudius of Turin, 780-827.
We’re into the heart of the Dark Ages now. Vikings raided many of the monasteries in Europe, and a lot of work was lost. There was a minor renaissance under the Frankish Holy Roman Empire, but it seems to have been more civic than religious. Very little theological work was recorded during the 9th century, and the only theologians I’ve been able to track down from that century were John Scotus, and Claudius of Turin. Neither were all that original – John Scotus is best known for being a near-heretic (or total heretic, depending on who you ask), and possibly a pantheist. Claudius of Turin is best remembered from being an iconoclast, who attempted to destroy all artwork in the church in Turin when he became bishop there. I did manage to find this snippet from Claudius, and it will have to do for our look at the 9th century.
I published three books [on Genesis] from the sayings of the holy Fathers concerning the letter and the spirit… For the word came into the world by Mary, clad in flesh; and seeing was not understanding; all saw flesh; knowledge of the divinity was given to a chosen few. So when the Word was shown to men through the lawgiver and the prophets, it was not shown them without suitable vesture. There it is covered by the veil of flesh, here of the letter. The letter appears as flesh; but the spiritual sense within is known as divinity. This what we find in studying Leviticus… Blessed are the eyes which see divine spirit through the letter’s veil.
Prayer from John Scotus eriugena, 8th century
O everlasting essence of things beyond space and time, and yet within them; you transcend yet pervade all things: manifest yourself to us, who feel after you, seeking you in the shadows of our ignorance. Stretch forth your hand to help us, for we cannot come to you without your aid. Reveal yourself to us for we seek nothing but you. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.