Fast Facts on St. Anselm of Caterbury
- Lived: 1033-1109
- Calling: Bishop in England
- Remembered for: Works in philosophy and theology, particularly for an ontological argument for God’s existence and meditations on the incarnation and the atonement.
In reading St. Anselm’s The Proslogian over the last ten years of my life I have found myself returning to several of his prayers in my devotional moorings. These prayers continue to hold influence in my life. The prayers of chapter one in particular have pushed me forward towards God in a really good way. Here is a sampling.
UP now, slight man! flee, for a little while, thy occupations; hide thyself, for a time, from thy disturbing thoughts. Cast aside, now, thy burdensome cares, and put away thy toilsome business. Yield room for some little time to God; and rest for a little time in him. Enter the inner chamber of thy mind; shut out all thoughts save that of God, and such as can aid thee in seeking him; close thy door and seek him. Speak now, my whole heart! speak now to God, saying, I seek thy face; thy face, Lord, will I seek (). And come thou now, O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how it may seek thee, where and how it may find thee.
Maybe its my background in amateur wrestling that makes me love talk like that. Get up little man! His calls to himself to get up and get to prayer and deep meditation before God have both convicted me and encouraged me deeply. Anselm’s prayers are particularly helpful for those who either love or hate theological reflection. Anselm serves as a great example to us in that we can indeed think deep thoughts about God, yet maintain a burning heart for God. The doing of theology, philosophy and categories of biblical doctrine can be pursued, yes should be pursued, with a pious zeal for God.
Having a zeal which is according to the knowledge of God is indeed a biblical concept. By the negative way we find this idea in Romans 10 where Paul speaks of Israel having a zeal which is NOT according to knowledge. As one who loves theology I need to learn to neither lose God in the books nor give way to a non-thinking piety. The former grows dry and cold while the latter stops short of the hard work of integrating gospel thinking throughout all of life. To cease doing this hard work of theological integration or to lose a rich love for Jesus in the gospel will leave God’s people disconnected from his mission in the world. We will be steeped in an irrelevant ignorance or not walk in the spiritual vitality from which Paul could say “be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
Anselm shows me that both “head” and “heart” matter in our love for God. Afterall, was it not Jesus who taught us to love God with all that we are?
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Yes, all that we are was made by him and for him. So let us have both mind and heart drawn upward and be set ablaze by our communion with God. Afterall, the prayer above is proceeding a work in philosophical theology; a matter that hardly seemed boring to the old archbishop of Canterbury.