The Gift Comes First: An Insight of Josef Pieper

Dr. Robert Hickson

2 February 2022

Feast of Candlemas

The Presentation of Jesus and the Purification of Mary

Anthony S. Fraser (b. Candlemas1949 – d. 28 August 2014)

Epigraphs

***

To my dear friend, Bob, in our common loyalty to the Holy Faith. Gratefully, Bro. Francis, M.I.C.M.” (This inscription was to Dr. Maluf’s own very fine 2000 book, COSMOLOGY: Philosophia Perennis Volume III, which has an invited Introduction by Dr. Robert Hickson, U.S. Air Force Academy, 9 January 2000, as found on pages xxi-xxvii.)

***

“The inmost significance of the exaggerated value which is set upon hard work appears to be this: man seems to mistrust everything that is effortless; he can only enjoy, with good conscience, what he has acquired with toil and trouble; he refuses to have anything as a gift.” (Josef Pieper, Leisure the Basis of Culture, with an Introduction by T.S. Eliot (New York: Pantheon Books, Inc., 1952, 1963), citation at and to pages 32-33).

***

When Brother Francis Maluf and I first met together in the mid-1990s in Richmond, New Hampshire at the Saint Benedict Center, he glowed with a rooted admiration for Professor Josef Pieper. (When I told Brother Francis Maluf that I had known Dr. Pieper personally since 1974—and about how we met memorably in Spain and long afterwards—Dr. Maluf (b. 19 July 1913 – d. 5 September 2009) was then even very happy! Josef Pieper was to die on 6 November 1997, having been born on 4 May 1904.)

Therefore, when I was later invited to write an Introduction to Dr. Maluf’s book, Cosmology, I selected one of Dr. Pieper’s own profound passages—with his allusions to St. Thomas Aquinas—and one which Brother Francis has also so fittingly cherished:

We have only to think for a moment how much this Christian understanding of life depends upon the exercise of “Grace”; let us recall that the Holy Spirit of God is Himself called a “gift” in a special sense; that the great teachers of Christianity say that the premise of God’s justice is His love; that everything gained and everything claimed follows upon something given, and comes after something gratuitous and unearned; that in the beginning there is always a gift – we have only to think of all this for a moment in order to see what a chasm separates the tradition of the Christian West and that other view. (p. 33 of the second of two Epigraphs above; and the second page on the COSMOLOGY-Introduction, p. xxii.)

We may now better see and savor our need (and our life) of Gratitude. As in Eucharistia.

–Finis–

© 2022 Robert D. Hickson

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