Saturday, March 8, 2014

St. Thomas Aquinas: 8 March 2014

Thomas was born in about 1225 in the Kingdom of Sicily. AS a younger son, his parents placed him in religious life, assuming because of family connections, that he would be abbot some day.   He was placed in Monte Casino Monastery at the age of five, and later studied at the University of Naples after war caused problems for Monte Casino.  After having spent all this time in a Benedictine house, Thomas resolved to become a Dominican.  His parents were very much against this, and the Dominicans attempted to  spirit him away to Paris, but he was kidnapped by his brothers, and held as a prisoner by his mother for two years.  They even sent a prostitute to him to break his resolve, but he kept his resolve and his celibacy, being strengthened by God to resist.  His mother, giving up, arranged to leave a window open so he could “escape” and she could save face. 

He traveled to Naples, then to Rome to meet the head of the Order, and was sent to Paris to study.  He followed his master, Albertus Magnus to Cologne (declining the abbacy of Monte Casino) where he continued his studies.  Because of his quietness and size he was given the name of dumb ox.  In 1525 he returned to Paris to finish his studies and began his writing.  In 1261 he was back in Naples to tutor those unable to attend the University, and was assigned to Rome in a teaching position.  He continued his writing and wrote a new Liturgy for the new feast of Corpus Christi. 

One thousand two hundred and sixty-eight found him once again as regent at the University of Paris, where he had a tumultuous time due to the rising of Averroism.  In 1272 he left Rome and was given permission to found a new school where ever he pleased, which was Naples.  During this time he worked on the third part of Summa Theologica.  During Eucharist at the feast of St. Nicholas, he stopped everything, telling his companions that everything he had done was as straw. 

He did recover somewhat and was called to the second  council of Lyon in 1274.  On the way he was injured and fell ill.  He died on 7 March 1274 while giving commentary on the Song of Songs.His writings have continued to affect the church and guide her in the ensuing centuries.  Thomas was also known for his hymns, “O Saving Victim” and “Now my tongue the Mystery Telling.”  St. Thomas Aquinas was the greatest theologian of the High Middle ages, and is counted by some as the second greatest theologian in Western Christianity. 

Because of the rediscovery of Aristotle’s works, Thomas asserted that reason and faith are in basic harmony.  “Grace is not the denial of nature, but the perfection of it.”  Thomas accomplished this synthesis in his greatest workd, Summa Theologia and Summa Contra Gentiles which continue to influence Christian thought and philosophy today.  He was considered a radical in his time, and some of his thoughts were regarded as heretical by his contemporaries. 

Thomas understood that when God revealed his name to Moshe, “I am who I am” to mean that God is being, the ultimate reality form which everything else derives its being.  The difference between God and the universe, is that God’s essence is to exist, wherefore everything else derives its being from God.  God is reflected in his creation, and therefore can be partially understood through the creation.  Therefore human reason can demonstrate the existence of God.  Distinctive truths about God, though must come through revelation.  It is important to note that much of western philosophy today is based on reflection of his thought. 

Collect:  Lord, as you raised Thomas Aquinus as a theologian in your church, grant wisdom as grace that your church may always have teachers to expound the truth and guide us in faith and knowledge of you, that our faith would not be blind, but based on understanding.  This we ask through our great teacher Yeshuah, who lives and reins with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting.  Amen.  (white)

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