Sunday, April 22, 2007

St Anselm, the Church and Freedom

These notes are what I remember of Abbot Anselm Atkinson´s excellent homily yesterday on the feast of St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, and patron of our Abbot Visitor.

St. Anselm was not only a noted theologian but also, as Archbishop of Canterbury, deeply involved with the growing conflict between Church and state, and was quoted as having said, ´God loves nothing so much as the freedom of His Church´. It was this conflict that not many years after his death claimed the life of St. Thomas Beckett who succeeded him as archbishop.

St. Anselm was also quoted as saying, shortly before his death, that he wished to have just a little more time to work out some theological question. It seems absurd, given that he was on the verge of the beatific vision. But it expresses the reality that to the end of his life, he remained a monk, for the sadness he expresses here is a reflection of the joy he has in hearing and meditating on the Word of God, in imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It is worth noting that St. Benedict, when referring to times for reading, never says that the monks are obliged to do this, that they must do their reading. Rather, he says that at certain times, his monks are ´free´ for reading. It is with this in mind that we see the total integration of the life of St. Anselm, who in spite of his worldly tasks remained a monk to the end. ´God loves nothing so much as the freedom of His Church´ means not simply freedom from state control, but the freedom to ponder God´s glory revealed in His Word.

May our communities be places where there is ever more freedom for the Word of God, that God´s glory and love may shine forth from them into the world.

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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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