Tag Archives: Rachel and Leah

Spirituality and economic work in the Middle Ages: Complementarity, not enmity? Part VI


Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), “Dante’s Vision of Rachel and Leah”; Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Continued from part V

Cuthbert Butler first points out that Gregory picked up Augustine’s teaching that “no one can come to contemplation without having exercised the works of the active life, so that the active life is necessary for all, whereas the contemplative is not necessary[, and thus] . . . optional.” (Butler, 249)

Gregory, in fact, not only asserts that the active life is necessary, but also that it has a chronological priority: it must be exercised before one can come to the contemplative life. In fact, he asserted this frequently:

“The active life is lived first, that afterwards the contemplative may be attained to.”[i]

“Perfectness of practice having been received, we come to contemplation.”[ii]

“Every one that is perfect is first joined to an active life for productiveness, and afterwards united to a contemplative life for rest.”[iii]

“The season for action comes first, for contemplation last. . . . The mind should first spend itself in labour, and afterwards it may be refreshed by contemplation.”[iv]

“We ascend to the heights of contemplation by the steps of the active life.”[v]

“The active life is before the contemplative in time, because by good works we tend to contemplation.”[vi]

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