Cassiodorus on Returning to Books

“For learning taken from the ancients in the midst of praising the Lord is not considered tasteless boasting. Furthermore, you make a serious teacher angry if you question him often; but however often you want to return to these books, you will not be rebuked with severity.” Cassiodorus, Institutions of Divine and Secular Learning in The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What It Means to Be An Educated Human Being, ed. Richard M. Gamble. Wilmington 2007, p. 230

Cassiodorus (c.490-c.580) was a noble Roman born around the time of the fall of western Roman Empire.  He sought to preserve both sacred Christian and ancient Roman literature.  This work, Institutions of Divine and Secular Learning, sets forth a curriculum of study for a monastery and its school.  Books serve as teachers who never cease instructing their readers. Cassiodorus continues:

“Therefore, beloved brothers, let us ascend without hesitation to Holy Scripture through the excellent commentaries of the Fathers, as if on the ladder of Jacob’s vision so that, lifted by their thoughts, we are worthy to arrive at full contemplation of the Lord.  For commentary on Scripture is, as it were, Jacob’s ladder, by which the angels ascend and descend [Gen. 28:12]; on which the Lord leans, stretching out his hand to those who are weary, and supports the tired steps of those ascending by granting them contemplation of Him.” Ibid.

 

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