VOLUME 7 ISSUE 2 FALL 2021

5 2 S p i r i t ua l i t y S t u d i e s 7 - 2 Fa l l 2 0 2 1 2.2 Reading as Allegory of the Canons of St. Victor Spirituality linked to this rhetorical, allegorical motif of Aure- lius Augustine was represented by the canonical school of St. Victor. According to some authors (Illich 1993, 20), this school was seen as a source of a great intellectual revolution based on diligent study. It is represented mainly by Master Hugh (†1141), its spiritual father and teacher, who introduced in - teresting incitements associated with reading. This idea can also be found in the agenda of other authors of this school – Richard or Andrew of St. Victor (Walker Bynum 1973, 4–5). This school unambiguously develops Augustine’s discern - ment of signs into proper ( unambiguous ) and figurative ( am- biguous ), moving spiritual signs from the level of rhetoric to the level of reading. Similarly to Aurelius Augustine, who used signs for the better identification of meaning in rheto - ric, Hugh uses them in his opera as a journey towards more diligent searching and the finding of wisdom through read - ing. He believes that reading is “ the pursuit of wisdom ” (Hugh of St. Victor 2012, 84). A good student “ listens to everyone with pleasure, reads everything, does not despise any document, any person, any doctrine… because there is no text that would not bring pleasure if it is read at the right time and in the right way ” (Hugh of St. Victor 2012, 128). He describes reading as an unobstructed journey across a country. It is a wandering from page to page, and each of them is different. During the jour- ney across the country one gets to know new horizons and it is the same with reading – every page unveils new conti - nents. Hugh interprets this theory based on etymology. He is convinced that the meaning of the Latin word pagina , “page”, is also related to line (Lat. pagus ), and the roots of a vine are implanted in those lines. He believed that reading (Lat. legere ) is derived from the Latin word lignum –“wood” that is usually picked up in the forest to build a fire – and that read - ing can also be interpreted as a picking – looking for wood to build the fire, picking the letters and sounds that create words where wisdom is hidden. In this sense it is like work in a vineyard to which God invites the laborers (Mt 20:4). On the other hand, there is also passivity, divine otium (Lat. “the opposite of action”). It is a journey towards light that flashes through the pages of the book (Illich 1993, 54). Hugh advises the reader to expose himself to the light shining from the lines of the book and to let its light shape him. By reading he means particularly silent reading that was rather rare. Scriptorium from the era of Hugh of St. Victor was noisy, and transcriptions were associated with reading out loud. Both Hugh and Richard, however, associate the act of reading with silent, attentive focus on something that represents a subject of meditation (Dillard 2014, 205). Therefore, reading is the beginning of meditation – a deep reflection (McWhorter 2012, 112). In meditation, the collect - ed fruits are assorted, and the mind starts to focus on the essential. Meditation is followed by contemplation , where the whole spiritual act concludes. The result of contemplation is described by Hugh and Richard as a sweetness for the soul . Reading allows us to pick the sweetest fruits and taste their sweetness in contemplation. For Hugh, study and contempla- tion are something similar – the collecting and interpreting of signs and the tasting of Wisdom. The particularity of this approach, from reading to contem- plation, is special exactly for the school of St. Victor, which was inspired by St. Augustine. This spirituality indefinitely influenced the lectio divina (Lat. “divine reading”), which has been used in the Church ever since.

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