Monday, January 28, 2008

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The childlike question is asked, "who's the smartest/wisest man in history?". Some think Albert Einstein, who pointed to thermonuclear bombs. Solomon, whose vast concubinage, brought the worship of new false religions into his Kingdom, which fell in two upon his death.

I am a Thomist. Aquinas brought greek philosophy and methods into christian thought most fruitfully. The foremost of all theologians, the man who in open, come all debates, on any subject, at the university of Paris, was the winner.

He was also a poet. His favorite subject was the Eucharist. His poems became hymns, Panis angelicus, O salutarius Hostia, Tantum ergo and Adoro te
devote, latens Deitas. A quatrain taken from the last, written c.1264, impressed me a long time ago.

Pie pellicane Jesu Domine,
Me immundum munda tuo sanguine,
Cujus una stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.

This has many translations, even in english, I found this one in a missal. I am not sure if this is the one I first read. I typed a copy and placed it in the typewriter case. Later, I could not find it, perhaps someone used the machine and tidied the case. The metaphor of Jesus as pelican strikes others too. In a mediæval art history class,
back at Ohio University, we had a discussion on christian iconography. I did not know the religious background of my comrades, but they all seem quite surprised and taken with that mental and spiritual conception. A few of them, took it as their project and made a stained glass window, which they presented to Professor Marilyn Hunt. I would have liked to have a photograph of it.

O loving Pelican, Jesus Lord,
cleanse me, unclean, in Thy Blood,
one drop of which hath power to save
the whole world from all its sin.

Christ as Pelican, the Eucharistic Succour struck me deeply.

Others reading Saint Thomas also found gems. Monsignor Ronald Knox, in 1925, found a limerick embedded in an Aquinas selection withtin the Breviary. One often thinks of a limerick as a short, funny, sometimes bawdy poem. In Thomas there is innocence.

Sit vitiorum meorum evacuatio
Concupiscentae et libidinis exterminatio,
Caritatis et patientiae,
Humilitatis et obedientiae,
Omniumque virtutum augmentatio.

Let my viciousness be emptied,
Desire and lust banished,
Charity and patience,
Humility and obedience,
And all the virtues increased.

In the Summa, Thomas in unpoetic, extremely clear, point by point, by counterpoint explains, in crystalline logic and syllogism, many of the most important concepts of thought: Quinque via (5 proofs of God), just and unjust wars, just and unjust laws and many other matters. So much genius, and so much humility.

Student's Prayer

Creator of all things, true source of Light and Wisdom, lofty source of all Being, graciously let a ray of Your Brilliance penetrate into the darkness of my understanding and take from me the double darkness in which I have been born, sin and ignorance.

Give me a sharp sense of understanding, a retentive memory, and the ability to grasp things correctly and fundamentally. Grant me the talent of being exact in my explanations, and the ability to express myself with thoroughness and charm.

Point out the beginning, direct the progress, help in the completion.

Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen. ― St. Thomas Aquinas
*noto bene. 100th post

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