Monday, November 3, 2008

Anthropos

Here's as an addendum to a few previous posts, particularly this one and this one.

The old Greeks had a word for man: anthropos; it meant "the looker up." Man was not meant to crawl (literally or figuratively) or conduct himself like the animals; his lot was to be upstanding and noble-minded.

God gave us physical bodies and spiritual souls, each with its own needs, desires, and appetities. The body requires rest and nourishment, for example, while the soul is sustained by truth, beauty, and goodness. One cannot safely neglect the needs of either. At the same time, the two are not equal -- in fact, they have a hierarchical relationship: the soul is more important and noble. That means when the two conflict, the needs of the soul take precedent.

It takes most people a lifetime of effort to condition themselves to consistently keep that proper hierarchy in place. It's tough to stumble upward; the ascent to better things requires deliberate and repeated effort.

"Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline: think on these things." - Philippians iv:8

My Douay-Rheims includes a commentary on this excerpt from the epistle of St. Paul:

For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true...
Here the apostle enumerates general precepts of morality, which Christians ought to practise.

Whatsoever things are true...
In words, in promises, in lawful oaths, etc., he commands rectitude of mind, and sincerity of heart.

Whatsoever modest...
By these words he prescribes gravity in manners, modesty in dress, and decency in conversation.

Whatsoever just...
That is, in dealing with others, in buying or selling, in trade or business, to be fair and honest.

Whatsoever holy...
By these words may be understood, that those who are in a religious state professed, or in holy orders, should lead a life of sanctity and chastity, according to the vows they make; but these words being also applied to those in the world, indicate the virtuous life they are bound by the divine commandments to follow.

Whatsoever lovely...
That is, to practise those good offices in society, that procure us the esteem and good will of our neighbours.

Whatsoever of good fame...
That is, that by our conduct and behaviour we should edify our neighbors, and give them good example by our actions.

If there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline...
That those in error, by seeing the morality and good discipline of the true religion, may be converted.

And finally, the apostle commands, not only the Philippians, but all Christians, to think on these things...
That is, to make it their study and concern that the peace of God might be with them.

Mundus vult decipi.