October 28th, 2007

Temptation in the Tower

From Umbert Eco, The Name of the Rose--
Intent on their work, they seemed to forget that one of their brothers was being anxiously sought throughout the grounds, and that two others had disappeared in frightful circumstances. Here, I said to myself, is the greatness of our order: for centuries and centuries men like these have seen the barbarian hordes burst in, sack their abbeys, plunge kingdoms into chasms of fire, and yet they have gone on cherishing parchments and inks, have continued to read, moving their lips over words that have been handed down through centuries and which they will hand down to the centuries to come. They went on reading and copying as the millennium approached; why should they not continue to do so now?

The day before, Benno had said he would be prepared to sin in order to procure a rare book. He was not lying and not joking. A monk should surely love his books with humility, wishing their good and not the glory of his own curiosity; but what the temptation of adultery is for laymen and the yearning for riches is for secular ecclesiastics, the seduction of knowledge is for monks (183).