Monday, July 02, 2007


Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church
St. Anselm, the famous Archbishop of Canterbury, was a Benedictine monk, who fought intrepidly for the faith and liberty of the Church. He is one of the greatest philosophers and mystics of the eleventh century. He died on 21 April in 1109.
As Dr Ludwig Ott summarises it in his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:
"St. Anselm of Canterbury in his dialogue: 'Cur Deus Homo' has speculatively penetrated and built up to a systematic theory of Redemption the idea of the vicarious atonement of Christ which is based in Scripture and tradition. While the Fathers, in the explanation of Christ's work of sanctification, proceed more from the contemplation of the consequences of the Redemption, and therefore stress the negative side of the Redemption, namely, the ransoming from the slavery of sin and of the devil, St. Anselm proceeds from the contemplation of the guilt of sin. This, as an insult offered to God, is infinite, and therefore demands an infinite expiation. Such expiation, however, can be achieved by a Divine Person only. To be capable of thus representing mankind, this person must be, at the same time, man and God."
The Catechism of the Council of Trent (The Roman Catechism) has this to say on the doctrine of the atonement:
"The pastor should teach that all these inestimable and divine blessings flow to us from the Passion of Christ. First, indeed, because the satisfaction which Jesus Christ has in an admirable manner made to God the Father for our sins is full and complete. The price which he paid for our ransom was not only adequate and equal to our debts, but far exceeded them. Again, it (the Passion of Christ) was a sacrifice most acceptable to God, for when offered by His Son on the altar of the cross, it entirely appeased the wrath and indignation of the Father."
I have chosen St. Anselm as my patron and (pseudonym) here as it my conviction that a renewed understanding of the Catholic doctrine of the atonement, so admirably ennunciated by St. Anselm, is imperative to regaining a proper understanding of the sacrificial and propitiatory nature of the Mass, which is indeed nothing other than the re-presentation of that self-same atoning sacrifice. I am further convinced, with then-Cardinal Ratzinger, "that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy." In short, understanding the atonement will help us to understand the sacrificial nature of the Mass, which will lead us back to the traditional rite of Mass which so well expressed that sacrificial nature, which in turn will bolster the faith and hence the morals of the Catholic people. Of course there is much more to be said here, especially as regards the assertion that the Traditional Latin Mass will bolster the faith and morals of the Catholic people. But I have gone on long enough for now. Perhaps another post. Sancte Anselme, ora pro nobis!

1 comment:

Georges said...

I converted to Christ after I read St Anselm's Cur Deus homo on the 14th of February 1993. It's still my favourite theological book.