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The Love of Learning and the Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture [Paperback]

Jean Leclercq

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Book Description

Jan. 15 1982 Fordham University Press
The Love of Learning and the Desire for God is composed of a series of lectures given to young monks at the Institute of Monastic Studies at Sant'Anselmo in Rome during the winter of 1955-56.

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Review

"One of the most remarkable general studies in this field."

About the Author

Jean Leclercq, OSB (1911-1993) also known as Dom Jean Leclercq was a Benedictine monk, and author of a classic study on Lectio Divina and the history of intermonastic dialogue.

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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic study April 22 2009
By Terra Australia Incognita - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Dom Leclercq's study of Benedictine monastic spirituality remains a classic. In fact Pope Benedict XVI has quoted from it extensively in his various addresses on monasticism and European culture.

Originally written as a series of conferences for young monks, the book starts by exploring the two foundational documents of Benedictine spirituality - the Rule of St Benedict and the Life of the saint by St Gregory the Great. From there it traces the development of the monastic commitment to learning and prayer through the middle ages, with particular emphasis on St Bernard.

It is beautifully written, and full of spiritual gems.

A must read for any serious student of monasticism.
25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sacred Learning and Reviving the Love for God Feb. 16 2008
By Didaskalex - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Read the acts of Sts. Anthony, Macarius, Pachomius..., the Egyptian Monks, of those who lived in the Holy Land or in the Thebaid. ...implant in the darkness of the West and in the cold of Gaul the light of the East and the ancient fervor of Egyptian religious life." Jean Leclerq, Ancient traditional Spirituality

Latin Monastic Tradition:
Two of the most influential in Spirituality as Evagrius Ponticus, and John Cassian who established the first European monasteries according to the Pachomian ideal, and wrote the first Monastic manuals, the institutes and the Conferences. "If Benedict created the institutional frame of Latin monasticism, then Cassian helped define its inner life, its mystical aspirations," wrote Wm. Harmless, Desert Christians.
The Benedictine rule of Saint Benedict of Nursia (6th century), formed the basis of life in most monastic communities until the twelve century. The schema faded out until St. Bernard of Cleurvaux restored it to its original zenith. Among the principal monastic orders that evolved in the Middle Ages were the Carthusians in the eleventh century and the Cistercians in the twelfth; the Mendicant orders, or Friars, Dominicans, Franciscans, and Carmelites arose in the 13th century.

Theognosis, Learning Spirituality:
Theognosis, the knowing of God, has always been a means for a unity in love which transcends all knowledge. This ultimate end is union with God or, partaking in the nature of God, the theosis of church Fathers Ireneus and Athanasius. The eastern tradition whose masters were Origen, Evagrius, and Dionysius, the pseudo Areopagite, has never made a definite distinction between mysticism and theology; between personal experience of the divine mysteries. In a certain sense all theology is mystical, inasmuch as it shows forth the divine mystery of revelation. On the other hand, mysticism is frequently opposed to theology as an unutterable mystery which surpasses our understanding faculties to any perception of sense or of intelligence, to be lived rather than known. We should, look for a profound change, an inner transformation of spirit, enabling us to experience it mystically, far from being mutually opposed, theology and mysticism support and completement each other.

Leclercq presents his Study:
Having declaring himself, a supporter of twelfth-century monastic theology, Dom Leclercq presents his book in ten chapters, grouped in three sections, addressing its formation, sources and its fruits. Right from the beginning, in a concise introduction, Dom Leclercq presents a distinction between monasticism and scholasticism, such distinction is radically clear in the three parts of his study of the monastic Culture. Roman Catholic Monasticism reached its apex in the twelfth century when, an often quoted, scathing condemnation of Byzantine monasticism was launched by Eustathius, bishop of Thessalonica. In Leclercq's eye twelfth-century Latin monasticism reached its apex in Bernard of Clairvaux. Most theological interest, is devoted to the 13th century, whose writers were scholastics, academics of ecclesiastic background. Leclercq keeps isolating monastic from scholastic theology, whose target was to acquire knowledge, pursuing a venue of objective analysis of his inquiry. The monastic, were just eager to know God, in subjective means of his own existence and within Scripture, earning Leclercq support within the two groups. Scholastic theology that stemmed from the University of Paris was debated orally before it was written. Monastic theology, based on patristic writings was literate from the start.

Sources of Monastic Culture:
Leclercq definition of the sources of monastic culture, in four headings: devotion to heaven, sacred learning, ancient traditional spirituality, and liberal studies. Defining that experience which "induces the desire to reach the culmination of this experience," Medieval monastic culture depended on two sources, textual literary sources absorbed in meditative reading, and experience. Summarizing the content of monastic culture her pronounced in two words: grammar and spirituality. The most important of the themes which kept the monks faithful to the vision of Gregory, was their devotion to heaven, clearly traced in their writings under the topics of the heavenly Jerusalem of which the monastery is a mundane icon, to which is attached the Old Testament concepts of Temple and Tabernacle, mediaeval monks were fond of dwelling on Christ's ascension and of his Transfiguration, similar to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Dom Jean Leclercq:
"Dom Jean Leclercq, OSB, a monk of Clairvaux Abbey in Luxemburg, died on October 27, 1993 in his monastery. For more than sixty years he resolutely used his great erudition for the service of the future of monasticism. He united together a confidence in monastic tradition which he knew so well and a great hope in contemporary humanity, its bold research and its spiritual possibilities which frequently remained unexplored. He was remarkable in the fact that, without holding any particular official place in the monastic order, yet his influence was definitive in many areas." Fr. de Bethune, In Memoriam

A Concise Review:
The book is what the subtitle proclaims it to be: a study of monastic culture, in medieval Europe. The reader who is foreign to the main outlines of monastic history is advised to read "Seek Learning and Revive the Love for God." To read a prologue to the subject and a full review click on the Guides listed below this review.

Evolution of the Monastic Ideal from the Earliest Times Down to the
Desert Christians: An Introduction to the Literature of Early Monasticism
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More about learning April 1 2011
By John K. Kehoe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Learning is one of my passions. Over the years I have seen a number of references to Leclercq's book and then I read it. In the Middle Ages (Eleventh century and beyond) learning happened in two social contexts: monastery and school. Leclercq focuses on the monastery, where the monks learned in order to praise God and live devout lives. To pray they had be be able to read the scriptures and other texts - both Christian and classical. What they read and prayed about prompted them to write their own expositions. The more famous of these are ones by Bernard of Clairvaux, Anselm and a few others. In general, the monks had little interest in abstract or conceptual learning; they left this to those teaching at the schools. Overall, Leclercq clearly and thoughtfully describes the learning at the monasteries, which influence later Western thought. The Middle Ages were not as "dark" as we sometimes think they were.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Guide to Monastic Culture Aug. 21 2010
By David G. Robinson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Back in university in the late 1970's, I took a course at the University of Washington titled "The Bible in Early and Medieval Literature and Culture". This book was one of the main textbooks. Thirty years later, I still open Leclercq's work to gain greater insight into the development of monastic culture. Leclercq died in October 1993, but not before leaving us with a treasure trove of writings on monastic life, lectio divina, and other subjects. "Love of Learning" is not casual reading, but intended for the serious student of history, especially anyone fascinated by monastic life, and the development of various forms of monasticism. As a Benedictine monk, Leclercq's hero of course is St. Benedict to whom he devotes many pages of insight, especially the development of Benedictine spirituality over the centuries after Benedict. That is where he has been of great help for my studies in the spread of Benedictine spirituality, and the influence of Benedictine culture upon western Europe and contemporary life. It is not by accident that Benedict is consider the Patron Saint of Europe. Through the spread of Benedictine abbeys across the landscape of Europe, from Portugul to Poland, from Sweden to Sicily, Benedictine life touched the lives of millions of Europeans in those centuries often known as "the dark ages", with Benedictine monks bringing literacy, health, agriculture, orchards, vineyards, industry, artistry, preservation of ancient manuscripts including the Bible, calligraphy, liturgy, modesty, humility, and stability to villages, towns and cities across a continent. No small feat! If you are interested in knowing more about Benedictine spirituality, look at these two recently published books on the subject, intended for nonmonstics: Ancient Paths: Discover Christian Formation the Benedictine Way; and The Busy Family's Guide to Spirituality: Practical Lessons for Modern Living From the Monastic Tradition.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief review Nov. 2 2013
By Eric McLuhan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Dispels the notion that there was a "Dark age" prior to either the first or second medieval renaissances. This essential account of monasticism to the present time shows that pre-Christian literature was kept alive and studied closely in the monasteries as a necessary adjunct to Scriptural learning and interpretation. Most readable.

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