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The Western Monasticism by Pope Benedict XVI (September 2008)

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In his speech, in the new building of the 'Bernardins', pronounced to the French world of the culture during its journey to France, in September 2008, pope Benedict XVI focused unto the Western monachism. This adress, in the perspective of our site, is throwing an important light upon the monks and Europe. Those were basing their lifes unto two pillars, the one of the culture, the one of the daily work and, as they were looking for God, they did embed themselves into an era and a time, which was the one of the Middle Ages and the one of Europe. A main idea of the Pope was to stress too that the Western monks had as their primary purpose to search for God and that any other purpose was just a byproduct of that quest, reverting a classical point of view, which is to insert the religious history in the temporal one, and replacing it, at the opposite, by the view that the Western monks searched for God first, and found the rest like a bonus only, like a gift of God

As far as culture is concerned, the monks, according to the Pope, did not look for creating or perpetuating a culture, but, at the contrary, to find what had a value -and what had an everlasting duration- God, that is! The cultural work in the monasteries, through reason, did allow to transition from the secondary to the essential, from the secondary things to the basic, important, and reliable ones. The library and the schools, in the monasteries and the abbeys were basic in the life of those, as they were the way to the Word of God. It was about training reason and erudition in the perspective of looking, among word, for the Word! The speech of the communities of monks like a way to speak to God -the prayer- does naturally increases itself through music. As music already was quoted in the Psalms, or like being the song of the Angels close to the throne of God, the Gregorian chant allowed to be in the company of the whole Celestial court -that court being at the origin of the harmony of the world. The Gregorian chant is a music worth of God and, at the same time, a music worth of man. The Word, which the monks are studying is just God who speaks, through human words, and through the history of men. The Roman catholicism thus is not, strictly, a religion of a book, but a religion of the World instead, with this world further entering into the history of men. The work of the medieval theologians, at last, and of the Fathers of the Church was just to let themselves be guided by the dynamical unity of the Sacred Scriptures. That only, like St. Paul had said, is giving the true human freedom, the freedom not of the personal interpretation, but the one which is guided by the Spirit of God. It's that tension between 'link and liberty' which shaped the Western culture. The subjective arbitrary, or the fundamentalist fanatism are absence of link with the Word, and with his author, God and thus they are not the liberty, by the destruction of it, instead

As far as work is concerned, the Jews only -at the contrary of the Greek and Roman worlds- had a culture of working (the rabbis, for example, all had a craftman's work). The pagan world was a world which had been created by a demiurgue who had not authorized himself to create it with his own hands. From the Christian point of view, thus, God himself is working, as he created the world. Work, this way, is a pecular expression of that man is ressembling God. That choice which the Western monks made -of the work- was fundamental -for them, and for Europe too- because that choice leads to the fact that History is then determined by man as those ethical choices are the choices of collaborating with God! Such choices however contain a risk, as to transform the world may eventually bring to destroy it...

Any Christian, like asserted by St. Peter, has to be ready to explain to those asking, what his faith, inside him, consists of. Announcing the Scriptures, in that sense, isn't propaganda but, simply, just announcing men a God who they already know -and they are looking for too- in an intuitive way. Roman catholicism is not a thought, but a fact instead, with God having revealed himself (God is the Word which made himself flesh). Reason however keeps being necessary to welcome such that God who revealed himself as that reason, like the one of the Western monks, is advancing at the heart of the Word self of God, towards Him. Walking on the way of theology is walking on a way where God is meeting man, and reciprocally. Any kind of positivism, at last, which would, at the opposite, focus on the subjectivism, or upon science for solving the question of God, would be a mere failure of humanism! The quest for God and the disponibility to hear Him did found Europe

Website Manager: G. Guichard, site Learning and Knowledge In the Carolingian Times / Erudition et savoir à l'époque carolingienne, Page Editor: G. Guichard. last edited: 12/28/2010. contact us at
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