In keeping with the theme of the recent election, we today present part of Denis the Carthusian’s Enarratio on the sixth chapter of the book of Wisdom, wherein the sacred author exhorts princes to wisdom. An unexpected but lovely tidbit is Denis’ brief reference to Gelasian dyarchy, on which the good Pater Edmund Waldstein’s essay is highly recommended.
Wisdom is better than strength, and a wise man is better than a strong man. Hear therefore, ye kings, and understand: learn, ye that are judges of the ends of the earth. Give ear, you that rule the people, and that please yourselves in multitudes of nations: For power is given you by the Lord, and strength by the most High, who will examine your works, and search out your thoughts: Because being ministers of his kingdom, you have not judged rightly, nor kept the law of justice, nor walked according to the will of God. Horribly and speedily will he appear to you: for a most severe judgment shall be for them that bear rule. For to him that is little, mercy is granted: but the mighty shall be mightily tormented. For God will not except any man’s person, neither will he stand in awe of any man’s greatness: for he made the little and the great, and he hath equally care of all. But a greater punishment is ready for the more mighty. To you, therefore, O kings, are these my words, that you may learn wisdom, and not fall from it. For they that have kept just things justly, shall be justified: and they that have learned these things, shall find what to answer. Covet ye therefore my words, and love them, and you shall have instruction.
Elucidation of the sixth Chapter: Hear therefore, ye kings, and understand.
The author here admonishes to the desire and love of wisdom: and because this is most of all necessary for those who rule, he addresses them first. Hear therefore, ye kings, and understand: that is, since so horrendous a condemnation threatens the wicked, wisdom is also better than corporeal power; therefore hear with the ears of the body, and understand what is heard with the ears of the mind; learn the things which I shall say, ye that are judges of the ends of the earth, that is, of men dwelling everywhere on the earth, that you might be able to teach others also. For each man is held to know, and most diligently ought to learn those things which pertain to his state and position: so far as according to the exigence of his vocation, he may walk worthily for God; and he who is constituted in some office, let him carry that out in a satisfactory manner. Give ear, that is, of the heart and the body, through diligent listening, you that rule [continetis], that is, you who hold subjects to yourselves, and preserve them in one polity, law, or observance, or restrain them from transgressions, multitudes of men. Indeed, those who are subjected to the same superior, by comparison to it are one body, one collection, one community, and they are compared to it as members to head. And you that please yourselves in multitudes of nations, that is, you who have pleasure in your primacy or presidency over the crowds of subjects. But to be thus pleased is something of elation, ambition, insipience, and vainglory, since Gregory says: “Howsoever many times any ruler is pleased to be placed over men, so many times does he fall into the sin of apostasy.” And indeed, such a one thinks his office to be of the highest rank, and the dignity and elevation of himself, and not as a burden and a servitude: neither does he ponder the severity of the divine judgment, nor his own insufficiency. But to be delighted in the fruit of the office, or the worthy execution thereof, or in the office on account of fruits of this sort, and this only in the Lord, reckoning every good to Him with humble thanks, is not illicit.
Finally, in these words, by “kings,” “judges,” and “princes,” are to be understood the primates of both laws; namely, governors so much spiritual as secular; indeed, and chiefly those who are spiritual, whose dignity is much greater, and who are obliged to greater perfection. These two laws, are the two swords, and two eyes, and two great luminaries in the very body of the Church; but as the sun is greater and more brilliant than the moon, so the more excellent and luminous is the spiritual power than the secular. And just as the sun illuminates the moon, so the spiritual has to teach and direct the secular, as the soul does the body. Read the rest of this entry »