Day 20 – Devotion to Study and the Pursuit of Wisdom
The cultivation of the mind is an integral element in Augustinian values formation. But study and learning must not be understood as mere bookishness nor the pursuit for academic excellence. The reading of books, research and study were means by which Augustine, even as a young student at Carthage, deepened his own thirst for life. After his conversion, study and learning became the venue of his on-going formation in the Christian life. The life that he shared with his friends at Cassiciacum was, in the description of a scholar, more like an academic seminar rather than a spiritual retreat. Later, when he became Bishop of Hippo, reading and study became, not only his refreshment after a day of administrative work, but also a form of service to the Church of his times and to his contemporaries. Devotion to study must be understood within the perspective of the pursuit of Wisdom.
Wisdom is the capacity to understand the world, the self and others in the light of the Ultimate Reality, God. The pursuit of Wisdom coincides with the search for Truth for which every man longs. This search looks not only to the attainment of truths which are partial, empirical or scientific; nor is it only in individual acts of decision-making that people seek the true good. Their search looks towards an ulterior truth which would explain the meaning of life. And it is therefore a search which can reach its end only in reaching the absolute. For the Christian of Augustine’s days, Wisdom was equated with the Second Person of the Trinity, the Word Incarnate. This insight though ancient is relevant until now. It is in fact the basis for the Christian conviction that the mystery of man and all that it encompasses is illumined by the mystery of Christ, the God-man. In Christ, man encounters the Truth for which he longs.
The Apostle reminds us: “Truth is in Jesus” (Eph. 4:21; Col. 1:15-20). He is the eternal Word in whom all things are created, and he is the incarnate Word who in his entire person reveals the Father (cf. Jn. 1:14.18). What human reason seeks ‘without knowing it’ (cf. Acts 17:23) can be found only through Christ: what is revealed in him is the ‘full truth’ (cf. Jn. 1:14-16) of everything which was created in him and through him and which therefore in him finds its fulfilment. The Augustinian’s devotion to study – whether sacred or profane – finds its place within the context of the mind’s ascent to Truth.