The man who not only teaches but does what is right
will be counted great in the kingdom of God, alleluia.
Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Anselm, the late eleventh-century Archbishop of Canterbury and Doctor of the Church. Among the many accomplishments of his extraordinary life, St. Anselm helped to bring the patristic age to a close by developing a new mode of Christian theological inquiry. That is to say, the saintly monk and bishop approached the work of Christian theology from an intellectual angle different than that of the Church Fathers. Specifically, Anselm was among the first to apply dialectical philosophical inquiry—a question-and-answer mode of reasoning—to the truths of Christian revelation. In so doing, he began a method of theological investigation that flourished in the Middle Ages and continues to this day.
From the Christian Classics Ethereal Library:
Although born at Aosta in Alpine Italy and educated in Normandy, Anselm became a Benedictine monk, teacher, and abbot at Bec and continued his ecclesiastical career in England. Having been appointed the second Norman archbishop of Canterbury in 1093, Anselm secured the Westminster Agreement of 1107, guaranteeing the (partial) independence of the church from the civil state.
In a series of short works such as De Libertate Arbitrii (On Free Will), De Casu Diaboli (The Fall of the Devil), and the lengthier dialogue Cur Deus Homo (Why God became Man), Anselm propounded a satisfaction theory of the atonement, upon which the incarnation promises relief from the strict demands of divine justice. He defended a notion of the relation between philosophy and theology that, like Augustine’s, emphasized the methodological priority of faith over reason, since truth is to be achieved only through “fides quaerens intellectum” (“faith seeking understanding”). Anselm’s combination of Christianity, neoplatonic metaphysics, and Aristotelean logic in the form of dialectical question-and-answer was an important influence in the development scholasticism during the next several centuries.
As a philosopher, Anselm is most often remembered for his attempts to prove the existence of god: In De Veritate (Of Truth) he argued that all creatures owe their being and value to god as the source of all truth, to whom a life lived well is the highest praise. In the Monologion he described deity as the one most truly good thing, from which all real moral values derive and whose existence is required by the reality of those values.
Most famously, in the Proslogion (Addition), Anselm proposed the famous Ontological Argument, according to which god is understood as “aliquid quod maius non cogitari potest” (“that than which nothing greater can be conceived”). The being so conceived must necessarily exist in reality as well as in thought, he argued, since otherwise it would in fact be possible to conceive something greater—namely, something exactly simliar except that it really does exist. Thus, at least for Anselmian believers guided by a prior faith, God must truly exist as the simple, unified source of all perfections, a reality that excludes corruption, imperfection, and deception of every sort.
you called Saint Anselm
to study and teach the sublime truths oyou have revealed.
Let your gift of faith come to the aid of our understanding
and open our hearts to your truth.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.