After a long hiatus I must force myself to slow down and commit this passage to my memory-crutch, my “Mordor-gadget”.
The best thing I read today is from the Carmen de Ingratis, or the “Poem On the Enemies of Grace”, by Prosper of Aquitaine. Prosper was writing during the dissolution of the Roman Empire in the West, and this song was written about twenty years before the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields in which Attila was defeated. In this poem Prosper addresses the Pelagians, or the followers of Pelagius, whose position, simply put, was that man can do good by his own free will, without grace. Grace, then, was understood as a supernatural power and a free gift of God, which could not be earned, whereby God made possible for a person altruistic behavior.
“at vero omnipotens hominem cum gratia salvat,
ipsa suum consummat opus, cui tempus agendi
semper adest quae gesta velit; non moribus illi
fit mora, non causis anceps suspenditur ullis;
nec quod sola potest cura officioque ministri
exsequitur, famulisve vicem committit agendi,
qui quamvis multa admoveant mandata vocantis
pulsant, non intrant animas. Deus ergo sepultos
suscitat et solvit peccati compede vinctos.
ille obscuratis dat cordibus intellectum;
ille ex iniustis iustos facit, indit amorem
quo redametur amans, et amor quem conserit ipse est.
hunc itaque affectum quo sumunt mortua vitam,
quo tenebrae fiunt lumen, quo immunda nitescunt,
quo stulti sapere incipiunt aegrique valescunt,
nemo alii dat, nemo sibi…
“But when indeed almighty Grace saves man,
She finishes the job, whose time is hers
And always has her way; her character
Brooks no delay; no cause suspends her doubtful;
And doesn’t pursue by dutiful minister
What care alone can get, nor trusts to those
Who though they ply commandments of the Caller
They knock, but do not enter souls. God, then,
The dead revives, sin’s prisoners unbinds.
He gives to darkened hearts the understanding;
He just from unjust makes, endows with love
Whence lover’s loved, and is the love he sows.
Yes, this affection whence things dead draw life,
Whence shadows are made light, the unclean shine,
The foolish come to know, the sick grow strong,
None gives another, none himself…”
The thing I always wonder in these debates is, why don’t they differentiate between the rational will which accepts or rejects propositions consciously, which faculty the adult person has, and the will which identifies propositions credible in themselves, which even the insane or the infants must have.
In other words, if it is possible for an insane person or an infant to accept salvation and go to heaven, as the Latin Fathers argued in favor of infant baptism, then the two following must also be possible:
•that the infant or insane person must also be capable of rejecting salvation, and go to Hell, and
•that the infant or insane person accepts or rejects salvation with some faculty other than the intellect, which ex hypothesi he does not have.
In other words, the act of faith must not be an act of the intellect which makes decisions about things like sensible reality. The “will” which accepts or rejects salvation must be a sort of sixth sense. I have not found the Latin Fathers, in all their debates on the powers of the will (voluntas or arbitrium), define the will in this way.
Thanks, dear reader, should you ever find me, for being the gadfly of my discipline.