Remembering Anselm

The calendar today takes us to another sainted Archbishop of Canterbury, the second after the Conquest, Anselm monk of Bec. Wikipedia tells us that is famed as the originator of the ontological argument for the existence of God and of the satisfaction theory of atonement and he arguably launched the whole medieval scholastic movement. But he was not a head without a heart. His Collect goes like this:

Eternal God,who gave great gifts to your servant Anselm

as a pastor and teacher:

grant that we, like him, may desire you with our whole heart

and, so desiring, may seek you

and, seeking, may find you;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.


The wording of the prayer reflects another side of Anselm: a man who also found words to express in prayer the desires of his heart and inner conversation of his mind in a way that has reminded me of Michel Quoist. So here is how Anselm begins, with a prayer, the Proslogion in which that famous argument is explored:

I am not trying, O Lord, to penetrate your loftiness,

for I cannot begin to match my understanding with it,

but I desire in some measure to understand your truth,

which my heart believes and loves.

For I do not seek to understand in order to believe,

but I believe in order to understand.

For this too I believe,

that ‘unless I believe

I shall not understand’.