Reflecting back from last weeks feast celebrations in the Holy mass, I was confused on what to discuss. I mean after all, on Monday we celebrated the feast of the Conversion of Saul to Saint Paul. However, all Christian denominations are fairly familiar with his sacred encounter with the Crucified,Risen and Ascended Lord Jesus in the Book of The Acts of the Apostles Chapter 9, but how familiar are we with Thomas Aquinas' encounter with the same Crucified, Resurrected and Ascended Lord? We know he wrote the unfinished work "Summa Theologica" but do we all know why it was left unfinished? One day during Holy mass a few of Aquinas Dominican Brothers enter into the church and witness Aquinas elevating in ecstasy 1 cubit from the ground and the vision of Jesus coming forth from a crucifix stating to Thomas Aquinas; "Thomas you have written well of me....." This had an everlasting affect on Aquinas . He was a somewhat young and vibrant man in his forties when this event occurred but never recovered from the emotional and spiritual encounter with our Lord, he could write no further because he felt after seeing the vision of the Lord, his writings were reduced to a mere "Straw" and obviously nothing compared to the full glory of our God. So lets back up and investigate some of the things he did for mankind most people in the West have no idea, especially most people in the United States. After listening to Fr Mitch Pacwa this past Friday night on EWTN, I feel he gave me more in site I want to share.
The image above comes from the Vatican and is a work from the famous Renaissance painter of the 16th century, Raphael. The two men are images of Plato on the left holding his Timaeus and Aristotle on the right holding his Ethics taken from the famous painting ;"The School of Athens". One may ask, "What does Aristotle and Plato have to do with Christianity"? St Thomas Aquinas can assist us with the question. Both of these great Greek philosophers laid the foundation of Western philosophy to our Western theology. In the 4th Century AD, The great Theologian St Augustine brought to the Christian world the philosophical influence of Plato and Aquinas brought the West the philosophy of Aristotle. Aristotle philosophy had not entered into Western theology before Aquinas but what is the significance? Before this introduction, "Reason" into our "Faith" had not fully developed until Aquinas filled in the missing length that brought the complete understanding and relationship existing between "Faith and Reason" i.e., Jesus Christ the Logos and Word Incarnate as the fulfilment of our faith and the manifestation of our reason. Unfortunately, some of us have not captured the need for reason and satisfied with "Faith Alone". This has limitations and when an individual will apply "Reason" to their Christian belief, one may experience the fullness and Beauty of Truth in Christ Jesus. Faith alone veils the mind, soul, and heart by reducing the harmony existing with Reason. Internal faith, hope, love, and peace begin to fertilize the seed of the soil in mans soul when we allow the Spirit of Harmony and Unity to unveil the fullness of Truth.
In the 13th century, the 7 liberal arts taught by Plato and Aristotle were brought into Christianity. Created from the Liberal Arts was the creation of the Universities in the West. St Thomas Aquinas is responsible for the growth of the Universities into Western Civilization. What are the 7 Liberal Arts? The Quadrivium ( mathematics, astronomy, music, geometry ) and the Trivium ( rhetoric, logic, grammar). To Aquinas and the medieval minds of the universities of Paris, Bologna, Oxford, and the Cathedral school of Chartres, the 7 liberal Arts bring us to the Wisdom of God combined with the 7 sacraments of the Church, bring us to the fullness of our faith together, to return mankind to "The image and Likeness" of the Trinity (Genesis 1:26).
This is what St Thomas Aquinas did for mankind and Western Civilization. A return to the 7 sacraments and the 7 Liberal Arts are the answer to our moral confusion in the 21st Century. The medieval mind was brighter and more holy than 21st century secular culture. We have left the Wisdom of God! do we understand from sacred scripture what the first thing God created? Wisdom! so listen to the Spirit of the Lord in the following passages;
"The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first before the beginning of the earth....before he made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep.... (Proverbs 8:22-31)
We owe so much to St Thomas Aquinas and what he did for mankind in his teachings in Philosophy and Theology in the creation of the Universities by the Roman Catholic Church. Shortly after his encounter with Jesus in the 13th century at the age of 49, Aquinas past on to our Lord after receiving the sacraments, but at bedside, his final words of Wisdom in Beauty and Truth needs to be shared:
"If in this world there may be any knowledge of this Sacrament (Eucharist) stronger than that of faith, I wish now to use it affirming that I firmly believe and know for certain that Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, Son of God and Son of the Virgin Mary, is in this Sacrament (Eucharist).....I receive Thee, the price of my redemption, for Whose love I have watched, studied, and laboured. Thee have I preached; Thee have I taught. Never have I said anything against Thee: if anything was not well said, that is to be attributed to my ignorance. Neither do I wish to be obstinate in my opinions, but if I have written anything erroneous concerning this Sacrament (Eucharist) or any other matters, I submit all to the judgement and correction of the Holy Roman Church, in whose obedience I now pass from this life."
Peace of Christ be with you!