26 April 2012

Emulating the Seraphim According to Pico della Mirandola

I am pleased to announce that, incredibly, I have a legitimate reason for not having posted in the last two weeks. My old computer began to experience difficulties, and I only just got a replacement (a gift from a Catholic priest friend) which is not yet internet-ready. I did, however, very much hope to get in one more post before the end of April, but I'm afraid it will be rather disappointing.

I would like to post a passage from Giovanni Pico della Mirandola's famous Oration on the Dignity of Man, which I read some years ago but am currently re-reading with my students. I have two different translations: one by A. Robert Caponigri, with an introduction by, surprisingly, Russell Kirk, [1] and one by Elizabeth Livermore Forbes and published in the fascinating anthology, The Renaissance Philosophy of Man, edited by Ernst Cassirer, Paul Oskar Kristeller, and John Herman Randall, Jr. [2] I neglected to really compare the translations, and as I had to photocopy the oration for my students, I chose Forbes's because the type was smaller and I would save paper. It also features helpfully numbered paragraphs.

Anyway, I offer a passage which clearly reflects the influence upon Pico of St Dionysius the Areopagite, as well as leaves aside much of the--to many Christian eyes--syncretism that marks Pico's thinking throughout. It is a startling reminder that while the 18th century may have fostered a largely secular view of the 'Renaissance philosophy of man', perhaps the most characteristic statement of that view is quite obviously anything but.

8. ...The Seraph burns with the fire of love. The Cherub glows with the splendor of intelligence. The Throne stands by the steadfastness of jdgment. Therefore if, in giving ourselves over to the active life, we have after due consideration undertaken the care of the lower beings, we shall be strengthened with the firm stability of Thrones. If, unoccupied by deeds, we pass our time in the leisure of contemplation, considering the Creator in the creature and the creature in the Creator, we shall be all ablaze with Cherubic light. If we long with love for the Creator himself alone, we shall speedily flame up with His consuming fire into a Seraphic likeness. Above the Throne, that is, above the just judge, God sits as Judge of the ages. Above the Cherub, that is, above him who contemplates, God flies, and cherishes him, as it were, in watching over him. For the spirit of the Lord moves upon the waters, the waters, I say which are above the firmament (Gen. 1:2) and which in Job praise the Lord with hymns before dawn. Whoso is a Seraph, that is, a lover, is in God and God in him, nay, rather, God and himself are one. Great is the power of Thrones, which we attain in using judgment, and most high the exaltation of Seraphs, which we attain in loving. [3]

[1] Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man, tr. A. Robert Caponigri (Chicago: Regnery Gateway, 1956).

[2] Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, 'Oration on the Dignity of Man', tr. Elizabeth Livermore Forbes, The Renaissance Philosophy of Man, ed. Ernst Cassirer, Paul Oskar Kristeller, & John Herman Randall, Jr. (Chicago: U of Chicago, 1956).

[3] Ibid., pp. 227-8.

12 April 2012

'Saddened Eyes Beheld a Vision of Joy' - A Homily

The following is a homily that I prepared for Monday, 9 April--Holy Monday on the Orthodox calendar, Bright Monday on the Western, but due to a mix-up had to revise for delivery on 16 April--Orthodox Bright Monday. I was feeling a bit lazy and pressed for time when I started working on it, so unlike most of my homilies it was actually written out from the beginning rather than being composed in notes and then expanded into readable prose later for blogging purposes. I find it much easier to work that way.

I Corinthians 15:1-8
St Luke 24: 13-32​

'O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?'

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The poet T.S. Eliot begins his famous poem 'The Waste Land' with the words, 'April is the cruellest month', [1] and the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, seems to be telling us why when he writes, in his own poem:

For in the wreckage of your April Christ lies slain,
And Christ weeps in the ruins of my spring;... [2]

While almost all of you out there this morning celebrated Easter at your churches yesterday, my family and I still have a week to go. In the Orthodox Church, yesterday was only Palm Sunday, when we celebrate the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem before His Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. In other words, we're still thinking of the cruelty this month, of Christ lying slain. This left me momentarily in a bit of a conundrum about what to speak about today. I didn't feel I could just plunge comfortably into a homily about the Resurrection, but on the other hand, I didn't think I could speak as though the Resurrection was still to come when almost the whole school had already celebrated it.

But a bit of reflection reminded me that this was not as big a problem as it seemed. For one thing, Christ's entry into Jerusalem, and our Palm Sunday celebration, are already looking ahead towards the Cross and the Resurrection. The Lord's Entry is a triumphal procession, such as that a Roman emperor might have made after defeating a terrible enemy, and Christ is openly proclaimed as King. For Christ is the King of Glory, and the enemies He has defeated are Death, Sin, and the Devil. The poets Eliot and Merton know this as well as you and I, but an ancient Byzantine hymn says it better than they could:

O immortal Lord, Thou hast bound hell, slain death, and raised the world: therefore the children, carrying palms, sing praise to Thee as Victor, O Christ, and they cry aloud to Thee this day: 'Hosanna to the Son of David! For no more', say they, 'shall the little children be slain because of Mary's Child; but Thou alone art crucified for all, both young and old. No more shall the sword be drawn against us, for Thy side is pierced by a spear. With great rejoicing, then, we cry: Blessed art Thou that comest to call back Adam.' [3]

According to the Synoptic Gospels, the people laid their clothes on the ground before the Lord as He rode forth on the donkey. The clothes being trampled could be read as the mortality of the Old Man, which we are to take off to be clothed with Christ the New Man (Rom 6:6), and the poor, humble beast on which the Lord is mounted might be the ignominious but Precious Cross, 'unto the Jews a stumblingblock and unto the Greeks foolishness' (I Cor 1:23). Furthermore, we recall that the very same crowd that welcomed Christ as their Saviour, shouting 'Hosanna!', would shortly be shouting 'Crucify Him!'

​So already, those of us who celebrated Palm Sunday were shown an image of the Crucifixion. But as I have suggested, even this image of the Crucifixion is not one of defeat, and the element of triumph, of victory, glory, and honour, is present already in the entry into Jerusalem as well as in the Crucifixion itself. For it is by His own death that the Lord has trampled upon Death, for He was not taken and put to this death against His will. He willingly underwent Crucifixion when He said, 'Not My will, but Thine be done' (Lk 22:42). The old Anglo-Saxon poem, 'The Dream of the Rood', speaks of Christ stripping like a warrior before battle, and mounting the Cross like a war-horse, and while we know that this is not 'historically' accurate, it is most definitely 'theologically' true. In other words, the Crucifixion is also an image of the coming Resurrection. [4]

But both the Entry into Jerusalem and the Crucifixion itself left the Disciples confused, didn't they? In St John's Gospel, having quoted the prophecy in Zachariah 9:9 about Israel's King coming to her 'meek, and seated upon a donkey', the account of the triumphal entry tells us, 'These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things unto Him' (Jn 12:16). In other words, they did not recognise the significance of what was taking place before their very eyes. Much less did they recognise it at the Crucifixion itself, nor even when they first heard the news of the empty tomb from the Myrrh-bearing women. 'But when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of Him'. When did this happen?

In today's Gospel, we discover the nature of the disciples' misunderstanding as well as the means of their understanding. Two disciples, one named Cleopas and the other traditionally identified as St Luke himself, are walking to Emmaus, when they meet Jesus on the road. It is a meeting that inspired part of Eliot's 'Waste Land', where he writes, 'Who is the third who walks always beside you?' (360) For so complete is the Disciples' misunderstanding, their inability to recognise what is before their eyes, that they do not even recognise the risen Lord Himself--'But their eyes were holden that they should not know Him' (Lk 24:16). In response to His question about why they are sad, the disciples tell Him about 'Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and have crucified Him. But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel' (Lk 24:19-21).

In other words, the disciples believed that because Christ had been crucified, it could not be He that was to deliver Israel. As Bl Theophylact writes, 'the people expected, incorrectly, that Christ would be their savior and redeemer from the temporal afflictions that beset them, and from the yoke of slavery to the Romans. And they hoped that He would rule as king over an earthly kingdom'. [5] They thought that the Crucifixion meant that He could not redeem them, not realising that it was precisely BY the Crucifixion that He DID redeem them. Bl Theophylact exhorts us, 'You, O reader, consider how entering into glory comes by means of suffering.' [6]

So what did Christ do? He responded, 'O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself' (Lk 24:25-26). In other words, He told them that it was by His suffering that He was glorified, and began to expound the Scriptures to them. He proclaimed the Word to them, and having proclaimed the Word, 'He took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight' (Lk 24:30-31). Notice that the first verse I just quoted consists of precisely the same words that were used when Christ instituted the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper.

Do you see what happened? He gave them the Liturgy of the Word or of the 'Catechumens', who are instructed in the Scriptures, and then He gave them the Liturgy of the Sacrament or of the 'Faithful', who partake of the Eucharist, and it is through this two-fold celebration of the divine mysteries that ​their eyes were opened and 'they said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?"' At last, 'Jesus was glorified, and they remembered'. Of course, it was in His suffering, death, and Resurrection that He was glorified, but the Disciples were not able to see this until He reminded them of the Scriptures that had foretold all of this, and then served them Holy Communion. In the words of St Augustine:

It was for our sake that He didn't want to be recognised anywhere but there, because weren't going to see Him in the flesh, and yet we were going to eat His flesh. So if you're a believer, any of you, if you're not called a Christian for nothing, if you don't come to church pointlessly, if you listen to the Word of God in fear and hope, you may take comfort in the breaking of bread. The Lord's absence is not an absence. Have faith, and the one you cannot see is with you. [7]

It is only the Church that gathers together to hear the Word and celebrate the Sacrament that truly knows WHO Christ is, that is able to see in the midst of a savage beating and a shameful death, in the midst of an extreme condescension, the Maker of all the universe lifted up, glorified, and defeating the evils that have plagued us since the Fall of our Forefather in Paradise. According to one of the hymns of St Ephrem the Syrian:

When the disciples' eyes
were held closed,
bread too was the key
whereby their eyes were opened
to recognise the omniscient:
saddened eyes beheld
a vision of joy
and were instantly filled with happiness. [8]

In the light of the Resurrection, and only in this light, we are able at last to see the true meaning of all of the events of Christ's life, of all of the words that He spoke, of all the Old Testament Scriptures, and of all of human history for that matter, and it is ultimately as St Ephrem says, 'a vision of joy'. We couldn't celebrate the Entry into Jerusalem, or the Crucifixion, if it we didn't already know the Resurrection followed them, and if our eyes had not been opened by the grace of God of which we partake in Word and Sacrament. But in the wake of this experience, we see that He has made all things new (Rev 21:5), and we are 'instantly filled with happiness'. As G.K. Chesterton has written:

On the third day the friends of Christ coming at day-break to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn. [9]

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] T.S. Eliot, The Complete Poems & Plays 1909-1950 (NY: Harcourt, 1971), p. 37.

[2] Thomas Merton, Selected Poems of Thomas Merton, enlarged ed. (NY: New Directions, 1967), p. 13.

[3] Ikos of the Canon at Matins for Palm Sunday; Mother Mary & Archimandrite Kallistos [Ware], tr., The Lenten Triodion (South Canaan, PA: St Tikhon's Seminary, 1994), p. 499.

[4] I'll add a reference and perhaps quote a line or two soon just to improve the post a bit.

​[5] Bl Theophylact, The Explanation by Bl Theophylact of the Holy Gospel According to St Luke, tr. Fr Christopher Stade (House Springs, MO: Chrysostom, 1997), p. 320.

[6] Ibid., p. 322.

[7] From Sermon 235; qtd. from Arthur A. Just, Jr., ed., Luke, Vol. III of Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2003), p. 378.

[8] St Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns on Paradise, tr. Sebastian Brock (Crestwood, NY: SVS, 1990), p. 183.

[9] G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (SF: Ignatius, 2008), p. 213.

08 April 2012

The 'Problem of Problems' or 'No Problem at All': The Grace & Free Will Post

Although it's the only blow-by-blow theological commentary on Lord of the Rings that I'm aware of, I find myself constantly annoyed by Fleming Rutledge's The Battle for Middle-earth: Tolkien's Divine Design in The Lord of the Rings. There are the constant comparisons with the films (Rutledge seems unusually concerned about the casting, and even in one case, the costumes), there are the constant references to things that seem foreign to Tolkien (the CEO of the Herman Miller Company, Protestant hymns and prayers), and, most of all, the heavy-handed predestinationalism that is Rutledge's fundamental interpretive lens. He even has the gall to pen the following footnote:

There are technical names for these two differing interpretations of humanity's relation to God. In oversimplified terms, the position emphasizing the human decision ('free will') is called Pelagianism or Arminianism (semi-Pelagianism), after a British monk named Pelagius and a seventeenth-century Protestant called Jacobus Arminius. The other position, which gives priority to the divine will, was held by the apostle Paul. It is called Augustinianism after its defender Augustine of Hippo. Pelagianism is officially a heresy, but it has always been pervasive in the Church, never more so than in America where Free Will is a sacred doctrine. [1]

Of course, anticipating that it will be pointed out that Tolkien himself speaks of 'free will', Rutledge has already told us that the author 'underestimates the consistency of his own narrative', and 'has illustrated the dilemma of the bound will much more powerfully than he himself realized', managing to 'seem more "Protestant" than most Protestants'. [2] It would be wonderful to hear Tolkien's reaction to this!

But I'm afraid that to the extent that all of this is the case, that is, to the extent Tolkien really does illustrate 'the dilemma of the bound will' (nevermind the extent to which he realises it), it is likely because there is nothing specifically Protestant about the will being 'bound' or specifically Catholic about it being 'free'. Is it not both? Does any traditional Christian really believe that fallen human beings act without any sort of constraint or influence upon their wills? Does any believe that human beings are merely robots, being saved or damned merely due to God's 'programming' and without any personal moral responsibility whatsoever?

I recall last summer how much I appreciated it when I read the following passage in N.T. Wright's What Saint Paul Really Said:

Classically, this doctrine [of justification] ever since Augustine has been concerned with warding off some version or other of the Pelagian heresy. Different people have meant different things by that heresy, and the sharp-eyed have spotted it, sometimes, even in those who thought they were opposing it root and branch. I must insist, right away, that if you come upon anyone who genuinely thinks that they can fulfill Pelagius' programme, in whichever form or variation you like, you should gently but firmly set them right. There is simply no way that human beings can make themselves fit for the presence or salvation of God. What is more, I know of no serious theologian, Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox, who thinks otherwise; indeed, one of the best expositions of the Augustinian or Lutheran or Calvinist doctrine of justification I have ever heard was given by a Jesuit, Father Edward Yarnold, in an ecumenical meeting. If Pelagius survives at all today, it is at the level of popular secular moralism, which is in any case becoming harder and harder to find in the Western world. [3]

In this light, surely any reasonable person can see how much it begs the question simply to assert that St Paul is the firm opponent of anything that might be called 'Pelagianism', 'semi-Pelagianism', or 'Arminianism', or that St Augustine was purely and simply the defender of St Paul's theology. Nevertheless, this claim continues to be asserted–even the editor of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture volume on Romans insists that of the Fathers, 'Only Augustine (354-430) was prepared to accept the logical consequences of Paul's teaching on this matter [of grace and free ​will], and this led to his famous quarrel with Pelagius.' [4]

Really? Only St Augustine actually accepted St Paul's teaching? Or perhaps only St Augustine, in his zeal to correct Pelagius, levelled out the paradox of grace and free will that all of the other Fathers saw, even in St Paul himself? Fr Georges Florovsky, for instance, has quoted one of my favourite passages from Romans–chapter 12, verse 2: 'Be not conformed to this age but be transformed by the renewing of the mind in order to prove [that you may prove] what [is] that good and well-pleasing and perfect will of God' (words in brackets are Florovsky's)–commenting:

Taken by itself and out of context this language could be misinterpreted as Pelagian, for here it is man who is transforming the mind, man who is commanded to activate the spiritual life. Such an interpretation is, of course, incorrect but it reveals what one can do to the totality of the theological thought of St Paul if one does not understand the balance, if one does not understand that his view is profoundly synergistic. Synergism does not mean that two energies are equal. Rather it means that there are two wills–one, the will of God which precedes, accompanies, and completes all that is good, positive, spiritual and redemptive, one that has willed that man have a spiritual will, a spiritual participation in the redemptive process; the other is the will of man which must respond, cooperate, 'co-suffer'. [5]

The funny thing is, of course, that even the demons understand this. As Screwtape writes:

Why [God] leaves room for their free will is the problem of problems, the secret behind the Enemy's nonsense about "Love". How it does so is no problem at all; for the Enemy does not foresee the humans making their free contributions in a future, but sees them doing so in His unbounded Now. And obviously to watch a man doing something is not to make him do it. [6]

Addendum: As it has been some time since I read Ralph Wood's excellent The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth, I had forgotten that Wood too mentions this issue in Tolkien's work. He writes:

Tolkien is close to Paul and Augustine and their long train of followers who argue that real freedom is the liberty to choose and do the good, and that to do evil is to act unfreely, to exercise an enslaved will. These theologians all insist that God's grace enables our right response to it. For this venerable theological tradition, it is better to say that we are the product of the gifts we have graciously received rather than the sum of the decisions we have bravely made. [7]

It certainly sounds here as though Wood is trying to make the same point that Fleming Rutledge has so strongly emphasised. But perhaps it's just because I've met him a couple of times, read some of his other work, seen him speak, and just generally like the guy, but I'm inclined to note that Wood has put all of this much more carefully than Rutledge has. While he refers to the Augustinian approach as a 'venerable theological tradition', he does not say that all else is heresy, or that all of the other Fathers have balked at following St Paul. He says 'it is better to say' rather than 'we must say'.

This is not surprising when one considers, of course, that the context of Wood's comments is an analysis of the moral conflict between vices and virtues in the work. How can one speak of virtue at all if our choices are not really ours at all? Thus, notably, we find Wood later on striking a rather different chord:

God is utterly unlike Melkor and Sauron because he never coerces. We are never forced but always drawn to faith, as God grants us freedom from sin's compulsion. We are invited and persuaded to this act of total entrustment through the witness to the Gospel made by the church. [8]

Furthermore, I note later on that Wood strikes a very un-Augustinian chord indeed when he actually uses the word 'synergism' (à la Fr Florovsky) to describe the relationship between the divine will and those of the characters: 'The synergism of the holy and the human–as the divine and the hobbitic prove to be complimentary rather than contradictory–is disclosed most plainly when Frodo first encounters the Ring-wraiths.' [9] So, naturally, I find Wood to be an ally rather than an opponent on this question.

[1] Fleming Rutledge, The Battle for Middle-earth: Tolkien's Divine Design in The Lord of the Rings (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), pp. 67-8, n. 28.

[2] Ibid., p. 11.

[3] N.T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), p. 116.

[4] Gerald Bray, 'Introduction to Romans', Romans, Vol. VI of Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, ed. Gerald Bray (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1998), p. xix.

[5] Protopresbyter Georges Florovsky, 'The Ascetic Ideal & the New Testament: Reflections on the Critique of the Theology of the Reformation', Byzantine Ascetic & Spiritual Fathers, Vol. 10 in The Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, ed. Richard S. Haugh, tr. Raymond Miller, Anne-Marie Dollinger-Labriolle, & Helmut Wilhelm Schmiedel (Vaduz, Liechtenstein: Büchervertriebsanstalt, 1987), p. 34.

[6] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters with Screwtape Proposes a Toast (NY: Harper, 2001), p. 150.

[7] Ralph C. Wood, The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2003), p. 70.

[8] Ibid., p. 119.

[9] Ibid., p. 122-3.

03 April 2012

Ways of Knowing in St Dionysius, Aquinas, & Lewis

I'm not sure why I didn't post about this a long time ago, but a friend interested in patristic/Orthodox epistemology got me to thinking about it again and I thought the time had come. Back before our Greek sojourn (so, ten years ago or so now), when I was reading through the Corpus Dionysiacum, I became fascinated with the following passage from the Divine Names 7.2:

The intelligent and intelligible powers of the angelic minds draw from Wisdom their simple and blessed conceptions. They do not draw together their knowledge of God from fragments nor from bouts of perception or of discursive reasoning. And at the same time, they are not limited to perception and reason. Being free from all burden of matter and multiplicity, they think the thoughts of the divine realm intelligently, immaterially, and in a single act. Theirs is an intelligent power and energy, glittering in an unmixed and undefiled purity, and it surveys the divine conceptions in an indivisible, immaterial, and godlike oneness. They become shaped as close as possible to the transcendently wise mind and reason of God, and this happens through the workings of the divine Wisdom.

Human souls also possess reason and with it they circle in discourse around the truth of things. Because of the fragmentary and varied nature of their many activities they are on a lower level than the unified intelligences. Nevertheless, on account of the manner in which they are capable of concentrating the many into the one, they too, in their own fashion and as far as they can, are worthy of conceptions like those of the angles. Our sense perceptions also can properly be described as echoes of wisdom, and even the intelligence of demons, to the extent that it is intelligence, comes from it, though we could more accurately describe this as a falling away from wisdom, since demonic intelligence stupidly has no idea how to obtain what it really wants and indeed does not want it. [1]

I was reminded of this distinction between 'intelligence' and 'discursive reason' around the same time when I read one of Victor Watts's notes on Boethius's De consolatione 5.pr4: [2]

'Intelligence' (Latin intelligentia) in this passage bears a technical sense related to the two faculties which the rational soul was supposed to exercise, 'intellect' (intellectus) and 'reason' (ratio). 'Intellect' here means 'understanding' and is that imperfect faculty in corporeal man which corresponds to the perfect 'intelligence' of incorporeal angels: its relation to 'reason' is explained by St Thomas Aquinas (Ia, lxxxix, art. 8) as follows (quoted from The Discarded Image, p. 157): 'intellect (intelligere) is the simple (i.e., indivisible, uncompounded) grasp of an intelligible truth, whereas reasoning (ratiocinari) is the progression towards an intelligible truth by going from one understood point to another. The difference between them is thus like the difference between rest and motion or between possession and acquisition.' [3]

Watts then continues quoting C.S. Lewis's own words from the same passage in Discarded Image:

We are enjoying intellectus when we 'just see' a self-evident truth; we are exercising ratio when we proceed step by step to prove a truth which is not self-evident. A cognitive life in which all truth can be simply 'seen' would be the life of an intelligentia, an angel. A life of unmitigated ratio where nothing was simply 'seen' and all had to be proved, would presumably be impossible; for nothing can be proved if nothing is self-evident. Man's mental life is spent in laboriously connecting those frequent, but momentary, flashes of intelligentia which constitute intellectus. [4]

Although I can't comment on what common sources St Dionysius and Boethius might have drawn on for this distinction (except to suppose they must have been Platonic), it is of course not the least bit surprising that there is such a striking similarity between the Dionysian passage and that from Thomas Aquinas. Even someone so ignorant of Aquinas as I am well-appraised of the latter's ​indebtedness to the former throughout his work. My question is, assuming an Orthodox interpretation of St Dionysius--like that of Bishop-elect Alexander (Golitzin)--can Aquinas be found to have departed from his Master in his conception of intelligentia/intellectus? For me it's hard to see how such a doctrine can be supported apart from the robust conception of the 'divine energeia of the Holy Trinity' developed by St Gregory Palamas but, according to Fr Alexander, 'already present in the Areopagite'. [5] Certainly, in Lewis's explanation this type of knowledge sounds much more 'intellectual' in our modern sense than it does in St Dionysius. Anyway, I realise I'm departing from my area of expertise by even raising such a profoundly theological issue, but I felt that the juxtaposition of these texts rather demanded it! More importantly, I've recently found the distinction to be a useful one in the course of discussion with a friend who has from time to time posed questions about the ultimate nature of faith itself.

[1] St Dionysius the Areopagite, The Complete Works, trans. Colm Luibheid (NY: Paulist, 1987), pp. 106-7 .

[2] The passage from Boethius actually provides an interesting description of the difference between intelligentia and ratio as well: 'Reason transcends imagination, too, and with a universal consideration reflects upon the species inherent in individual instances. But there exists the more exalted eye of intelligence which passes beyond the sphere of the universe to behold the simple form itself with the pure vision of the mind' (Victor Watts, tr., The Consolation of Philosophy, by Boethius, rev. ed. [London: Penguin, 1999], p. 126).

[3] Ibid., p. 126, n. 5. I haven't yet tried to look through my own various translations of selections from Aquinas to find this passage. To tell the truth, I'm a little bit daunted by the prospect of finding any particular passage in him at all.

[4] C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval & Renaissance Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge U, 2002), p. 157.