July 21, 2011

Quaerere Deum - to seek God

The wisdom of St. Benedict directs us away from putting one's identity into productivity alone.  Although he values work, he knows it is not enough to be a good worker.  In his view, being accomplished, effective, and competent - these are all admirable qualities, but none of them by themselves get to what is most important. In fact, in his vision, such qualities, if not ordered to a greater purpose, can even lead to an unhappy life.  He proposes instead that the principle purpose, the noble pursuit by which we come to taste eternal beatitude even in this life, is quaerere Deum, to seek God.

This proposal rests on the truth about human dignity.  The dignity of men and women, the dignity of all human life, transcends this world.  This is why it must be carefully protected and nurtured.  The dignity of the human being does not rest in functionality - for being human is greater than the sum total of human functions.  It does not rest in our achievements because the true goodness of humanity surpasses the totality of all its achievements which have been, are or will ever be.   The mystery of human dignity is hidden from us, greater than we will ever understand.  Our spirits stretch out to Someone all of creation reflects in a seeming unlimited and excessive manner.  At the same time, by holy paradox, the magnitude of all created beings spanning from one end of the cosmos to the other barely hints at only the faintest shadow of the Uncreated Power in which alone our hearts can rest. God's loving and tender desire for friendship with each of us is the source and summit of all human dignity.  It is with this great love that we who are but mud are fashioned in His image and likeness.  And, it is our dignity which compels us to yearn for Him who yearns for us.

How do we seek God?  The only way to find God is by the love of Christ.  His love is accessed by humbly going to the Cross in faith constantly.  Since the Cross reveals pure love, we must continually renounce everything in our lives which opposes pure love.  Since it is through the Cross that the love of Christ flows into us, we must strive to lovingly offer anything that God permits to test and purify our love.  Since it is on the Cross that humanity is able to offer acceptable praise to God, we must pick up our own and follow our crucified God.  It is along these lines that St. Benedict counsels nihil amori Christi praeponere - prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

Commenting on this Benedictine wisdom, Pope Benedict explains, "Holiness consists of this, a sound proposal for every Christian that has become a real and urgent pastoral need or our time, when we feel the need to anchor life and history to sound spiritual references."  Cited in Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI, ed. Rev. Peter John Cameron, O.P., San Francisco: Magnificat/Ignatius Press (2006) 222.