Codex Per·Fidem - De Simplicite

De Simplicite

I must confess that, in spite of my pretense of poetic genius, I am at heart a simple man. In my writings you will find very few words longer than two syllables. Even this article is not too long. This is not to say I am stupid, just that I prefer simplicity. I find comfort in it, and as we shall see, much more.

Scientia et Mens

As a simple man, I realize that there is much that I do not know. And what I do know, I do not understand. I find myself awed by a sunrise. Now, I know it really isn't a sunrise. It is the rotation of the Earth that makes the Sun appear to rise. I know that the Sun is a star, like all the others. It is only special because it is near. I know that modern science can time the sunrise to the minute (a good thing for me, it lets me know when to wake up to see the sunrise). All these things I know. But do I actually understand the sunrise? No. That's why I find it so fascinating.

Science tends to take the wonder and excitement of the universe away from us. The more we think we know about something, the less interesting it becomes. But if we have the humility to admit that we are simple and therefore we may know but do not understand, then we discover the mystery of the universe. It is like listening to a song for the first time. A song you have heard a hundred times before can be boring. You know the words. You know the melody. It becomes tired. The beauty and the meaning are lost. I'm not saying we should forget that we have heard the song before. Rather we should admit that we heard it, but never listened to it.

Per Fidem Inlustror

Since we know but do not understand, we seek enlightenment. Our knowledge leaves us cold and incomplete. The universe seems to lack meaning and purpose. We seek answers. It is faith that enlightens us. I am a simple man, and I have a simple faith. God created man in an act of love. It is God's Love that brings us reconciliation (oops, there's a big word) with Him. This Love is Christ. If we come into God's Love, we begin to look at the world with new eyes. Some would say that now we look at the world with a child's eyes. In the sense that we look with wonder at creation, this is true. But really we now look at the world with more mature eyes ("when I became a man, I put away childish things.") It is at this point that we begin to understand that we do not understand.

Knowledge does not complete us. Without faith, knowledge is empty and foolish. Consider this quote from Isaiah, “I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself and spreading out the earth all alone, causing the omens of boasters to fail, making fools out of diviners, causing wise men to draw back and turning their knowledge into foolishness.” (Isaiah 44:24&25 NASB) You see, knowledge of the world around us is not enough if we do not realize that there is a greater meaning to the universe. Since we find that knowledge fails us and doesn't give us what we need, we take a leap of faith.

We progress from a child who looks at the world, amazed by what he sees and wants to learn, to a teenager who thinks he knows everything, to an adult who is learning how to appreciate the beauty that surrounds him. We let faith teach us the mysteries of creation. We begin to understand. I use words like "learning" and "begin" because the lesson is never over. We begin to understand that creation is a metaphor intended to teach us about God, ourselves, and our relationship with God. And then we see the beauty of it all. Beauty that is seen by faith, not by knowledge. St. Anselm of Canterbury was swept up in this beauty and mystery, and that led him to proclaim, "I believe so that I may understand." The universe was created by God. A true understanding of the universe comes only through faith in God.

Radix Sapientiae

It is simplicity that takes the first step to understanding. It is simplicity that chooses to not get bogged down with knowledge, but to seek a greater understanding. Simplicity teaches us why the early Christians pointed their churches to the East to capture the rays of the rising Sun (this is why the East is referred to as the Orient, because churches were oriented in that direction). We see symbols, or rather parables, all around us. These parables give us direction. They tell us how to live a good life. But only through faith do we realize that they are symbols at all. Jesus prayed to His Father, “Father, I praise you, Lord of Heaven and earth, because You hid these things from the wise and educated, and revealed them to infants. ” (Matt 11:25) Simplicity leads to faith. Faith is the completion of knowledge and understanding. We are wise to the extent that we understand. Therefore, simplicity is the root of wisdom. Wisdom to see the underlying meaning of things. To see the seamless whole, the interconnectedness (another big word, I think I made this one up), of creation. Wisdom to see that if you want to live a happy life, you have to be able to love the rainy days just as much as the sunny days, because both are beautiful. In this way, we can know and understand, and appreciate the beauty of creation.

Lord, I am not trying to make my way to your height,
for my understanding is in no way equal to that,
but I do desire to understand a little of your truth
which my heart already believes and loves.
I do not seek to understand so that I may believe,
but I believe so that I may understand;
and what is more,
I believe that unless I do believe I shall not understand.

The Proslogion
of Saint Anselm

Quoted from The Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm
Published by Penguin Classics
Translated by Sister Benedicta Ward


© Copyright 2004, Jason E. Heath
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