VATICAN CITY, 10 JUN 2009 (VIS) - At his general audience, held this morning in St. Peter's Square, the Pope turned his attention to John Scotus Erigena, "an outstanding philosopher of the Christian West", who was born in Ireland at the beginning of the ninth century and died around the year 870.
Scotus, who moved to France where he established himself at the court of the French King Charles the Bald, "possessed a profound patristic culture, both Greek and Latin", explained the Holy Father. "He was particularly interested in St. Maximus Confessor, and especially in Dionysius the Areopagite ... whom he described as the 'divine author' par excellence and hence used his works as the main source for his own thought. He translated Dionysius into Latin, and the great theologians of the Middle Ages such as St. Bonaventure knew the Areopagite's works through this translation. He dedicated his entire life to studying and developing Dionysius' ideas".
"Truth to tell", the Pope went on, "John Scotus' theological labours did not meet with much success. Not only did the end of the Carolingian period lead to his works being forgotten, but censorship by the ecclesiastical authorities cast a shadow over his figure. Scotus represented a radical Platonism which at times seemed to approach a pantheistic view of life, although his personal and subjective intentions were always orthodox".
Among the works of this Irish theologian, "his treatise 'De Divisione Naturae' and his 'Commentary on the Celestial Hierarchy of St. Dionysius' are particularly worthy of mention", said the Pope.
Scotus "develops certain stimulating theological and spiritual ideas which could indicate interesting avenues for further study, even for modern theologians", said Benedict XVI referring in this context to Scotus's views "about the need to use appropriate discernment on what is presented as 'auctoritas vera', and about the commitment to continue searching for truth until attaining some experience of it in silent adoration of God".
For Scotus, Scripture "was given by God ... so that man could remember everything that was engraved on his heart from the moment of his creation 'in the image and likeness of God', and that original sin had caused him to forget. ... Indeed, thanks to Scripture our rational nature can be introduced to the secrets of true and pure contemplation of God. ... The word of Holy Scripture purifies our somewhat-blind reason and helps us to return to the memory of what we, as the image of God, carry in our souls, marred, unfortunately, by sin".
This, the Pope went on, leads to "certain hermeneutic consequences which even today can show us the road to follow in order to interpret the Scriptures correctly. What is important is discovering the meaning hidden in the sacred text, and this requires a particular form of inner discipline thanks to which reason can open the sure way towards truth. This exercise consists in cultivating a constant readiness to conversion".
"Silent and adoring recognition of the mystery, which culminates in unifying communion, is therefore the only way to achieve a relationship with the truth that is both the most intimate and the most scrupulously respectful of alterity", said the Holy Father
He completed his catechesis by noting how, in the final analysis, "all John Scotus' theology clearly shows his attempt to express the ineffable God, on the exclusive basis of the mystery of the Word made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth".
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