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Posted December 5, 2009

Pope says contemplation, pursuit of understanding
are keys to theology

By Sarah Delaney
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although there are different approaches to the study of the Scriptures, theology is rooted in contemplation based on faith and the pursuit of understanding, Pope Benedict XVI said at his weekly general audience.

Illustrating the lives and teachings of two 12th-century theologians from the St. Victor monastery in Paris, the pope spoke Nov. 25 about the different ways Christian thinkers have sought truth from the Bible.

Hugh of St. Victor, who was a respected teacher at the abbey until his death in 1141, emphasized the importance of the literal or historical sense of the Scriptures "as the basis of theology's effort to unite faith and reason in understanding God's saving plan," the pope said.

His student, Richard of St. Victor, "stressed the allegorical sense of the Scriptures" as a means to present spiritual teachings to the faithful, the pope said.

Their examples "remind us that theology is grounded in the contemplation born of faith and the pursuit of understanding," Pope Benedict said.

Hugh was above all a teacher and believed that theology was based on a "loving study" of the Bible, because "to know God, one must begin with that which God himself wished to reveal through the Scriptures," the pope said.

Hugh also gave particular attention to the sacraments in his treatise "On the Sacraments of the Christian Faith," the pope said. In it Hugh described a sacrament as a "corporal or material element" that is able to represent "an invisible and spiritual grace," Pope Benedict explained.

Richard, who came from Scotland and who was prior of the abbey from 1162 until his death in 1173, realized the importance of a literal study of the Bible, "but, unlike his teacher, he favored the symbolic, allegorical sense," the pope said.

Richard proposed a spiritual path by practicing virtue and learning to "discipline and order feelings and emotions through the use of reason," the pope said. Once a person has reached equilibrium through a dialogue between faith and reason, he is ready to pursue contemplation, the pope said, explaining Richard's teachings.

Both of these "outstanding theologians" wrote about and taught the importance of the concept of the Trinity, the pope said. Richard, in his treatise "On the Trinity," explains that "Father and Son find themselves in an eternal exchange of love, happiness and goodness, which requires the presence of a third person, the Holy Spirit," the pope said.

Understanding the Trinity should inspire men and women today in their own human relationships, the pope said.

"Think how the world would change if -- in families, in parishes and in other communities -- relationships were made following the example of the three divine persons," he said. "Everyone would live not only with others, but for others and in others."

The pope delivered his talk in the packed Paul VI audience hall.