On Receiving vs. Taking – Eucharistic Knowing

I want to continue exploring ideas around the intellectual life and specifically the vocation of Christian theology by looking at The Intellectual Appetite by Paul J. Griffiths. (See my posts on Sertillanges and The Intellectual Life here.)

Whereas The Intellectual Life used the metaphor of questing for Truth to describe the intellectual vocation, Griffiths uses the metaphor of appetite. In the chapter I want to look at, he distinguishes between curiositas as a vice and studiousness as a virtue on the basis of appetite. Curiositas is an appetite “to extinguish all unknowns”, and studiousness is an appetite “to come to love” is known. With studiousness the desire is “to share in” and “to show” what is learned and known. For the studious knowledge is something to be “loved and contemplated”, but for the curious knowledge is something to be attained and to be owned.

The primary motivator for the studious is love. The primary motivator for the curious is hate, specifically hatred for the unknown. Another motivator for the curious is the desire “to control, dominate, or make a private possession of” knowledge (20). But the studious seek to receive rather than take. Receiving vs. taking points to the deepest difference between the two: “But the deepest contrast between curiosity and studiousness has to do with the kind of world the seeker for and professor of each inhabits. The curious inhabit a world of objects, which can be sequestered and possessed; the studious inhabit a world of gifts, given things, which can be known by participation, but which, because of their very natures can never be possessed” (22).

The studious, in other words, treat the world and what can be known like a communicant at the altar. The studious kneel and cup empty hands in order to receive a gift. Such postures train the studious to live in a gifted world and to receive all the world has to offer as such, to treat the world as daily bread. Esther Meek, in her wonderful book Loving to Know, says of the Eucharist that “it is the most effective epistemological therapy and strategy”. Why? Because in offering himself to us in bread and wine, Christ teaches us what all of creation is and how to receive it as well. The Eucharist is “a gracious invasion of the real.” The Eucharist is therefore a school for our appetites that can move us from being the curious to being the studious, from being those that take to those that receive.