The God of Inaccessible Light

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“Truly, Lord, this is the inaccessible light in which You dwell. For truly there is nothing else which can penetrate through it so that is might discover You there.” (Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogion, ch. 15)

Over the past few weeks I’ve highlighted a few nuggets from Anselm’s Proslogion. This first 7 chapters are probably the best known from the work, but here, before ending the series on Anselm, I want to highlight a few other parts of the work that are either helpful, interesting, or edifying for us. Throughout the remaining 19 chapters, Anselm reminds us of a few important things.

  1. God is just and merciful. In chapters 8-12, Anselm reminds us that God is just and merciful, reflecting on the marvel of salvation in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While justice and mercy may strike us as being at odds with each other, Anselm notes their connection. “Truly, if You are merciful because You are supremely good, and if You are supremely good only in so far as you are supremely just, truly then You are merciful precisely because You are supremely just.”
  1. God is above and beyond our ability to grasp. In chapters 14-16, he grapples with the difficulty of God’s seeming hiddenness from us. He asks, “Why, O Lord God, does my soul not experience You if it has found You?” Perhaps we’ve all struggled with this and asked this question before. Anselm reminds us of our finitude and God’s infinity and, thus, the limits on our ability to behold Him.
  1. God is the source of every true good. Chapter 18 deals with a technical and rather difficult issue in theology—the simplicity of God. But as he prays along the way, he reminds us: “What are You, Lord, what are You; what shall my heart understand You to be? You are, assuredly, life, You are wisdom, You are truth, You are goodness, You are blessedness, You are eternity, and You are every true good.”
  1. God is fullness of joy. Anselm closes the Proslogion with a simple prayer. “God of truth, I ask that I may receive so that my ‘joy may be complete’. Until then let my mind meditate on it, let my tongue speak of it, let my heart love it, let my mouth preach it. Let my soul hunger for it, let my flesh thirst for it, my whole being desire it, until I enter into the ‘joy of the Lord’ (Matt. 25:21) who is God, Three in One, blessed forever. Amen’ (Rom. 1:25)”

Whether you agree with his ideas or not, Anselm is a great example of faith seeking understanding. He is thoughtful about his faith without losing sight of what is most important—loving God with all his being.

For those interested in reading the Proslogion, I suggest this version. Or for a nice online version you might try this one.

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2 responses

  1. I especially related to this post as I sometimes have my doubts, not necessarily about my faith, but about my enthusiasm and inability to express it. It worries me sometimes as I see it coming out in these much younger women.

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