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Nicholas of Cusa and His Age: Intellect and Spirituality. Essays Dedicated to the Memory of F. Edward Cranz, Thomas P. McTighe and Charles Trinkaus.

Thomas M. Izbicki and Christopher M. Bellitto, eds. Nicholas of Cusa and His Age: Intellect and Spirituality. Essays Dedicated to the Memory of F. Edward Cranz, Thomas P. McTighe and Charles Trinkaus.

Studies in the History of Christian Thought 105. Leiden and Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2002. xiv + 282 pp. index. append. bibl. $85. ISBN: 90-04-12557-4.

This most recent collaboration between the medieval historians Thomas Izbicki and Christopher M. Bellitto articulates scholarly dialogue about the apparent incongruity between Nicholas of Cusa's philosophical treatises and his more spiritual reflections. A festschrift for three distinguished Cusanus scholars, F. Edward Cranz, Thomas P. McTighe, and Charles Trinkaus, it is the latest in a line of America Cusanus Society volumes. It is part of Brill's series Studies in the History of Christian Thought, edited by Robert J. Bast.

This creative compilation of essays moves smoothly from a look at Nicholas of Cusa in his intellectual and political context to an analysis of his roles as preacher, bishop, and theologian and, finally, to his practical and intellectual legacy. The collection contains thirteen essays by fourteen different authors. In such a brief review, it is impossible to do justice to each essay and author. Brief comments on the contributions of the essays must suffice.

Wilhelm Dupre's essay opens part 1: Cusanus in Context. A survey of Cusanus's use of the words "spirit" and "mind," this article provides valuable reflection on the lines of convergence between spirituality and the intellect in Cusanus's work. Immediately following the above is an excellent article by Louis Dupre, "Prolegomena to Nicholas of Cusa's Theory of Religious Symbols." It explains the meaning of symbol as an intrinsic participatory relationship between the symbol and the thing it represents. In an otherwise superbly edited collection, this essay might better have been placed in sequence with the later piece on De visione Dei by H. Lawrence Bond. Part 1 is rounded out by solid articles on the Carthusian presence in late medieval spirituality and on the canonical crisis during which Nicholas of Cusa wrote De concordantia catholica.

Part 2, the more lengthy part of the collection, narrows the focus from Nicholas's intellectual and spiritual context to his personal roles as preacher, bishop, and theologian. Lawrence Hundersmarck and Thomas Izbicki offer a clear and detailed analysis of four of Nicholas of Cusa's sermons and their aim of illuminating the mind. Walter Andreas Euler provides some groundbreaking work on the proclamation of Christ in sermons from Cusanus's much later Brixen Period. Clyde Lee Miller's essay on Nicholas of Cusa's 1456 sermon is followed by the first English publication of its translation. Elizabeth Brient adds her voice to Miller's discussion of Eckhart and Cusanus. Bernard McGinn's portrait of Nicholas of Cusa as a theologian in the tradition of Maximus the Confessor, John Scotus Eriugena, and Meister Eckhart is one of the highlights of the volume. It articulates an emerging dialogue regarding the motive for the Incarnation in Cusanus's thought and suggests a way of dealing with questions regarding his orthodoxy. The aforementioned essay on Nicholas of Cusa's magnificent De visione Dei and a creative guided meditation based on that text are found here. Part 2 concludes with Brian A. Pavlac's essay on Cusanus's overuse of excommunication during his tenure as bishop of Brixen. It gives an insightful political context for reading Cusanus's sermons and treatises of the time (1450-64).

The two essays that constitute part 3 present Cusanus's legacy both material (the St. Nicholas Hospital at Kues) and immaterial (the continuity of ideas among Jean Gerson, Cusanus, and Jacques Lefevre D'Etaples). The former essay, by Morimichi Watanabe, is especially noteworthy for its description of the library holdings at the hospital. The latter, by Yelena Matusevich, traces the major links among three relatively contemporaneous mystical theologians. An indispensable bibliography of the literature in English about Nicholas of Cusa is found at the end of the volume.

In sum, the text provides a unique collection of recent essays on an issue of interest not only to Cusanus scholars, but also medievalists, historians, and theologians who seek an integration of theoretical and pastoral concerns. Thus, it brings this unique medieval thinker to a larger audience. A well-rounded picture of Nicholas of Cusa in his various practical and scholarly roles emerges out of the collected articles. The book certainly would stand alone as an introductory text about Nicholas of Cusa. It is also on the cutting edge of specialized Cusanus scholarship because it addresses the integration of his pastoral and theoretical concerns.


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Title Annotation:Reviews
Author:Hudson, Nancy
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2004
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