The Greeks – Aristotle no less than Plato – as well as the great medieval thinkers, held that not only the physical, sensuous perception, but equally man’s spiritual and intellectual knowledge, included an element of pure, receptive contemplation, or as Heraclitus says, “listening to the essence of things“.
The Middle Ages drew a distinction between the understanding as ratio and the understanding as intellectus. Ratio is the power of discursive, logical thought, of searching and of examination, of abstraction, of definition and drawing conclusions. Intellectus, on the other hand, is the name for the understanding in so far as it is the capacity of simplex intellectus, of that simple vision to which truth offers itself like a landscape to the eye. The faculty of mind, man’s knowledge, is both of these things in one, according to antiquity and the Middle Ages, simultaneously ratio and intellectus; and the process of knowing is the action of the two together.
There is no need to waste words showing that not everything is useless which cannot be brought under the definition of the useful …
In the Middle Ages, [this] view prevailed. “It is necessary for the perfection of human society“, Aquinas writes, “that there should be men who devote their lives to contemplation“ – nota bene, necessary not only for the good of the individual who so devotes himself, but for the good of human society. No one thinking in terms of “intellectual worker“ could have said that.
[L]eisure does not exist for the sake of work – however much strength it may give a man to work; the point of leisure is not to be a restorative, a pick-me-up, whether mental or physical, and though it gives new strength, mentally and physically, and spiritually to, that is not the point.
The point and the justification of leisure or not that the functionary should function faultlessly and without a breakdown, but that the functionary should continue to be a man – and that means that he should not be wholly absorbed in the clear-cut milieu of his strictly limited function; the point is also that he should retain the faculty of grasping the world as a whole and realizing his full potentialities as an entity meant to reach Wholeness.
Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, pages 28, 40-41, 49-50.
Use your “social distancing” time to get the house spic’n’span, to watch some worthy movies, to read some worthy books. But it’s Lent: fast a little, pray more, give time and/or money to those in greater need — and don’t forget to take some time for sheer contemplation. There’s a lot to contemplate.
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Secularism, I submit, is above all a negation of worship. I stress:—not of God’s existence, not of some kind of transcendence and therefore of some kind of religion. If secularism in theological terms is a heresy, it is primarily a heresy about man. It is the negation of man as a worshiping being, as homo adorans: the one for whom worship is the essential act which both “posits” his humanity and fulfills it.
Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, Appendix 1
[O]nce you say you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
then such light as you have made
in your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you.
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness,
And they will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach ….
Wendell Berry, Do Not Be Ashamed
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