Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

"[F]or Almighty God, Who desires that all men shall be saved and that none shall perish, approves nothing more highly in us than this: that a man love his fellow man next to his God and do nothing to him which he would not that others should do to himself.

This affection we and you owe to each other in a more peculiar way than to people of other races because we worship and confess the same God though in diverse forms and daily praise and adore Him as the creator and ruler of this world. For, in the words of the Apostle, 'He is our peace who hath made both one.'

This grace granted to you by God is admired and praised by many of the Roman nobility who have learned from us of your benevolence and high qualities.[. . .]

For God knows our true regard for you to his glory and how truly we desire your prosperity and honor, both in this life and in the life to come, and how earnestly we pray both with our lips and with our heart that God Himself, after the long journey of this life, may lead you into the bosom of the most holy patriarch Abraham."

-- From Letter XXI of Pope St. Gregory VII (†1085) to the (Muslim) King of Mauritania:


  1. Hello, TOF

    I don't normally comment, although I am long-time reader of your blog and books. This time, though, I had to: This is an astoundingly poignant quote and an excellent find, especially for this season.

    Thank you. Merry Christmas!

  2. While I fervently pray with Pope St. Gregory for peace and brotherhood, I notice this quotation comes from a couple centuries before the sack of Baghdad and the destruction of the House of Wisdom, which ended the practice of having Christian (and Jewish, Confucian, etc.) scholars studying side by side with Muslim scholars under the benevolent gave of the Caliph. The Mongols ended the Golden Era, and ushered in the current anti-intellectual (at least, anti-Aristotelian) era of Islam. Seeing the comparatively tolerant and open-minded Caliph and all his scholars slaughtered and his library tossed into the rivers seems to have put a stop to that stream of Islam.

    In other words, I'm not sure St. Gregory would have had any basis for the hope expressed in the letter above had he lived a couple centuries later.

    1. Gregory was writing to the King of Mauritania. not the Caliph of Baghdad.
      The House of Wisdom was started and managed by Hunayn ibn Ishaq, who was succeeded by his nephews. They were Nestorian Christians. Their task was to continue the translation efforts the Christians had been making of rendering the Greek works into Syriac by then translating the into Arabic. I have not heard that it was a research institute, let alone that it attracted Chinese sages.
      I have not read that it lasted to the time of the Mongol conquest, let alone the slaughter of the scholars and the river-tossing of the books. A lot of history went down between the 11th and the 13th centuries.
      You will also notice that his letter comes not too long before the sack of Jerusalem by the Franks.

    2. Another little thing that comes in between this letter and the Mongols would be Al-Tahafut al-Falasifah.



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