The Six Ages of History and the Renewal of the Human Person: Christian Humanism in Bede’s Gospel Homilies
John P. Bequette in ‘A Companion to Medieval Christian Humanism’, pp. 40-61.
The Venerable Bede (673–735) personified the monastic intellectual culture of the early Middle Ages. His pedagogical works provided the rudiments of a liberal arts education to monks in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria. In his historical and hagiographical writings he narrated the religious history of his native country in the persons of its kings, saints and foreign benefactors such as Gregory the Great. In his exegetical works he devoted himself to preserving the patristic heritage and making it accessible to his brother monks. Bede’s Gospel homilies are the fruit of his exegetical labors. Do to their practical goal of facilitating moral and spiritual formation, Bede’s homilies provide a promising venue for an exploration of Christian humanist themes. They are addressed to a very specific audience: the monastic community at Wearmouth and Jarrow. Situated within this context, they exhibit a consistent preoccupation with spiritual formation, which in turn engages the human person in all his or her faculties: body and soul, memory and affections. In several of his homilies Bede alludes to Augustine’s six ages of history, incorporating them into his vision of monastic formation in such a way that history itself becomes an instrument of this personal formation, consisting in the recovery and restoration of those personal faculties that have been wounded by sin and are now redeemed in Christ.
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