15 September 2014

A ring given to us by God

In the past, I've sometimes found that one single passage is worth the cost of an entire book, even of an expensive book. I found the same again today as I sat down to read Saint Bonaventure's Commentary on Ecclesiastes.

In his introduction to his Commentary he seeks to explain what King Solomon means when he writes that we should have a contempt for the world. Considering the objection that "to praise a work is to give praise to the worker" and so "either the world was not made by God or it is not to be despised," the Seraphic Doctor makes use of a profound - and useful - analogy:
I reply: It should be said, as Augustine and Hugh hold, that this world is like a ring given by the bridegroom to the soul itself. Now the bride can love the ring given her by her husband in two ways, namely, with a chaste or an adulterous love. The love is chaste when she loves the ring as a memento of her husband and on account of her love for her husband. The love is adulterous when the ring is loved more than the husband, and the husband cannot regard such love as good. For just as there is a twofold love, so too there is a twofold hatred or contempt, because "as soon as one of two things that are opposites is mentioned, the other is implied." Contempt for a ring by treating it as a poor and ugly gift reflects on the husband, but contempt of a ring by regarding it as almost nothing compared to the love of a husband, gives glory to the husband.
That analogy will find its into many homilies and talks in the years to come, I have no doubt. Thanks, Saint Bonaventure!

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