Tag Archives: Blessed John Duns Scotus

Blessed John Scotus

Scotus plate of beatificationBlessed John Duns Scotus is liturgically remembered today but because it is Sunday his memorial is skipped this year. Sad really. As you know, Blessed John was born in Scotland in 1266, studied and taught in London and Paris and spent the end of his life in Cologne having died in 1308. His sarcophagus in the Minoritenkirche. At Scotus’s sarcophagus is the plate showing us that he was declared to be “blessed” when John Paul II visited Cologne.

Blessed John is widely known as the high point of medieval philosophy. Martin Heideggers did his second doctorate  to teach in the university (the “Habilitationsschrift”), on a topic from the philosophy of John Duns Scotus. The modern era of philosophy is credited for being full of errors, especially for the errors of modernity (the univocity of being). Blessed John seems to be at the heart of the controversy.

Philosophically, I remember Scotus for two things: 1.) his exposition on the Blessed Virgin Mary and 2.) haecceitas.

It was his work, the year before his death, on the Virgin Mary that led the Church under Pope Pius IX to define the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

On this second point develops a theory of haecceitas, or this-ness –the metaphysical cause of individual being. Haecceitas speaks to what makes this rhubarb (or cat or dog or human being) different from that other plant (or car or dog or human being). This metaphysical cause was picked up by Jesuit Father Gerard Manly Hopkins in his poetry.

At any rate, Blessed John’s philosophy is not what he’s liturgically remembered for, it is his holiness of life. Let us pray that Blessed John Duns Scotus mediates for us before the Throne of Grace.

Blessed John Duns Scotus

The memory of one of the great Franciscan theologians is venerated today, Blessed John Duns Scotus (1266 – 1308). His bones rest in Cologne but he hails from the Scotland. Known to the theological world as the Doctor Subtilis, one of his claims to fame was his advocacy of the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Pope Pius IX used Scotus’ theology in helping to frame what we believed in terms of  the Immaculate Conception of Mary in 1854.

One of the Scholastics, John taught in the school of thought of the Augustinian-Franciscan tradition, who also had a rich appreciation for the works of Aquinas, Aristotle and the Muslim philosophers.

Church clearly thinks well of Scotus and his Franciscan heritage of dependance on the goodness and beauty of God, the value of learning and the reverence for mystery. As the Preface for the Mass offered in his name, the Church prays to God the Father that Scotus be “… acclaimed [as teaching] the universal primacy of your Son, the masterpiece and perfect manifestation of your eternal love enfleshed in Christ the New Adam, the King of all creation” that in his teaching we learn “… to praise Mary, conceived without sin, untarnished and resplendent in her immaculate beauty, your intended Model for creating us in dignity and goodness.”

Blessed John Duns Scotus

The Preface for the Mass of Blessed John Duns Scotus

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Father, all-powerful and everliving God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
You give the Church great joy as she celebrates the memory of John Duns Scotus, in whom the spirit and ideals of our seraphic father Francis burned brightly and came to light and life.
You led him to see that virtue was of greater value than learning, and taught him the pre-eminence of love over all worldly knowledge.
You chose him to be the subtle unravler of reality, enabling his sharp mind to penetrate more deeply into the mystery  of the depths of your love for us.
He acclaimed the universal primacy of your Son, the masterpiece and perfect manifestation of your eternal love enfleshed in Christ the New Adam, the King of all creation.
You taught him to praise Mary, conceived without sin, untarnished and resplendent in her immaculate beauty, your intended Model for creating us in dignity and goodness.
You instruct us by his teaching and by the holiness of his life, and give protection in answer to his prayers. Therefore, with the angels and all the saints we join in their unending hymn of praise.

The essence and undivided nature of charity by John Duns Scotus


The second reading in the Office of Readings from today’s liturgical memorial [even though it is Sunday in 2009 and Sunday takes precedence over saints’ memorials] of Blessed John Duns Scotus bears posting here. What appears to be vague really is dead-on in thinking about charity and justice. Emphasis mine.

Charity is defined as the habit by which God becomes the object of our love. However, God could become the object of a kind of private love, such as that of a lover intolerant of any other lovers besides himself (as for example in the case of a jealous man in love with a woman). But a habit of this kind would be both inordinate and imperfect.

It would be inordinate because God, the good of all, does not want to be the private good of any one person, not does right reason allow one person to appropriate to himself this common good. It follows that a love that tends to regard this common good exclusively as its own property, neither to be loved nor possessed by any other, is an inordinate love.
It would also be imperfect because a person who loves perfectly wants his beloved to be loved. Therefore God, in infusing the habit of charity by which the soul tends towards Him in an orderly and perfect way, gives a habit by which He is loved as the common good to be co-loved by others as well. And thus this habit which is of God, leads an individual to want God to be held dear and to be loved also by others.
Therefore, just as this habit leads a person to love God in Himself in an orderly and perfect way, so also it leads him to want God to be loved not only by the person himself but also by anyone else whose friendship is pleasing to Him.
It is clear from this how the habit of charity must be single and undivided, because it does not concern itself in the first instance with a plurality of objects, but with God alone as the primary object and as the first good. Secondarily it then wants God to be loved and to possessed in love by everyone else to the utmost of his power, because it is in this that a perfect and orderly love of God consists. And in willing this, I love both myself and my neighbor in charity, willing, that is, for both of us the desire and the possession of God in Himself through love.
Hence it is evident that it is by one and the same act that I want God and that I want you to want God. And in this my love is a love of charity, because out this love I desire a good for you which is due to you in justice.
For this reason, my neighbor is not to be regarded as a second object of charity but rather as an object that is entirely incidental, because he is someone who is capable of co-loving the Beloved with me in a perfect and orderly way; and I love him precisely so that he can become a co-lover. In this I love him as it were incidentally, not for himself, but because of the object which I want to be co-loved by him. And in wanting that object to be co-loved by him, I implicitly want what is good for him because it is due to him in justice.

Blessed John Duns Scotus

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The learned will shine like the brilliance of the firmament, and those who train many in the way of justice will sparkle like the stars for all eternity. Heavenly Father, You filled John Duns Scotus with wisdom, and through his life and teaching gave us a witness of Your Incarnate love. May we come to understand more deeply what he taught so that we may live in ever growing charity.

Prayer for the Canonization of
Blessed John Duns Scotus
O Most High, Almightily and gracious Lord, Who exalts the humble and confounds the proud of heart, grant us the great joy of seeing Blessed John Duns Scotus canonized. He honored Your Son with the most sublime praises; he was the first to successfully defend the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary; he lived in heroic obedience to the Holy Father, to the Church and to the Seraphic Order. O most holy Father, God of infinite love, hear, we beseech You, our humble prayer, thorough the merits of Your Only-Begotten Son and His Mother, the Gate of Heaven and Spouse of the Holy Spirit.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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