Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lacordaire, Conferences

The following is continued from Lacordaire's
"God: Conferences delivered at Notre Dame in Paris"

(series begins here)



I ask then this supreme question, I ask it with you and with all time: what is the principle of things? Catholic doctrine answers us in these three first words of its creed: CREDO IN DEUM PATREM OMNIPOTENTEMI believe in God, the Father Almighty.

Hear its own explanation of this answer.

There is a primordial being: by that alone that it is primordial, it has no beginning, it is eternal, that is to say, infinite in duration; being infinite in duration, it is so also in its perfection; for, if anything were wanting to its perfection, it would not be total being, it would be limited in its existence; it would not exist in itself, it would not be primordial. There is then a being, infinite in duration and perfection. Now the state of perfection involves the personal state, that is to say, the stated of a being possessing consciousness and intelligence of itself, rendering an account to itself of what it is, distinguishing from itself that which is not itself, removing from itself that which is against itself; in a word, of a being who thinks, who wills, who acts, who is free, who is sovereign. The primordial being is then an infinite spirit in a state of personality. Such is Catholic doctrine on the principle of things, the doctrine contained in that short phrase: CREDO IN DEUMI believe in God.

Let us now hear the contrary doctrine, for there is always a contrary doctrine; and you will never find Christianity announcing a dogma without at once meeting with a negation, a negation intended to combat it, but which must serve to prove it. For error is the counterproof of truth, as shadows are the counterproofs of light. Do not wonder than at so prompt an opposition to so manifest a dogma; invite it rather, and listen to the first expression of Rationalism against the first expression of Christianity: CREDO IN NATURAM, MATREM OMNIPOTENTEMI believe in nature, the mother almighty.

You hear then that Rationalism, like Christianity, admits the existence of a principle of things; but for Rationalism, nature is the primordial, necessary, eternal, sovereign being. Now, nature is not unknown to us, and it is evident to us tat nature is in the state of impersonality; that is to say, nature has no consciousness of what it is, it does not possess that intellectual unity by which each of its members should live of the universal life, and the universe of the life of the least blade of grass comprised in its immensity. We are, so to say, immersed in nature, we draw from nature the aliment of our existence; but so far from forming there one single life by common knowledge, we know nothing even of the beings nearest to us. We pass each other by as strangers, and the universe answers to our laborious investigations only by the mute spectacle of its inanimate splendor. Nature is deprived of personality, and this is why Rationalism, which declares that nature is self-existent, defines the principle of things as an infinite force in the state of impersonality.

Such are the two doctrines.

Henri-Dominique Lacordaire
God: Conferences - Notre-Dame in Paris (1871)

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