Saturday, January 1, 8225

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Thomas Aquinas (Thomas of Aquino) - Pange Lingua

[Part of Tivoli, near Rome and Aquino, Italy]

[Italian movie star Sonia Aquino, b. 1977]

Saint Thomas Aquinas, O.P. (Thomas of Aquin or Aquino; c. 1225 – March 7, 1274) was an Italian Catholic priest in the Dominican Order, a philosopher and theologian in the scholastic tradition, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Universalis and Doctor Communis. He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology, and the father of the Thomistic school of philosophy and theology.

Aquinas is held in the Catholic Church to be the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood (Code of Canon Law, Can. 252, §3). The works for which he is best-known are the Summa Theologica and the Summa Contra Gentiles. One of the 33 Doctors of the Church, he is considered by many Catholics to be the Catholic Church's greatest theologian and philosopher. Consequently, many institutions of learning have been named after him.

Aquinas was born c. 1225 at his father Count Landulph's castle of Roccasecca in the Kingdom of Sicily, in the present-day Regione Lazio. Through his mother, Theodora Countess of Theate, Aquinas was related to the Hohenstaufen dynasty of Holy Roman emperors.[1] Landulf's brother Sinibald was abbot of the original Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino. The family intended for Aquinas to follow his uncle into that position. This would have been a normal career path for a younger son of southern Italian nobility.

At the age of five, Aquinas began his early education at a monastery. When he was 16, he went to the University of Naples, where he studied for six years. Aquinas had come under the influence of the Dominicans, who wished to enlist the ablest young scholars of the age. The Dominicans and the Franciscans represented a revolutionary challenge to the well-established clerical systems of Medieval Europe.

Aquinas's change of heart did not please his family. On the way to Rome, his brothers seized him and took him back to his parents at the castle of San Giovanni. He was held captive for a year so he would renounce his new aspiration. According to Aquinas's earliest biographers, two of his brothers even brought a lady of "ill-repute" to tempt him, but he drove her away. After this, it is said that two angels came down from the heavens and girded his loins, providing Aquinas with a life of chastity. Finally, Pope Innocent IV intervened and Aquinas assumed the habit of St. Dominic in his 17th year.

His superiors saw his great aptitude for theological study. In late 1244, they sent him to the Dominican school in Cologne, where Albertus Magnus was lecturing on philosophy and theology. In 1245, Aquinas accompanied Albertus to the University of Paris, where they remained for three years. During this time, Aquinas threw himself into the controversy between the university and the Friar-Preachers about the liberty of teaching. Aquinas actively resisted the university's speeches and pamphlets. When the Pope was alerted of this dispute, the Dominicans selected Aquinas to defend his order. He did so with great success. He even overcame the arguments of Guillaume de St Amour, the champion of the university, and one of the most celebrated men of the day.

Aquinas then graduated as a bachelor of theology. In 1248, he returned to Cologne, where he was appointed second lecturer and magister studentium. This year marks the beginning of his literary activity and public life.

For several years, Aquinas remained with Albertus Magnus. Aquinas's long association with this great philosopher-theologian was the most important influence in his development. In the end, he became a comprehensive scholar who permanently utilized Aristotle's method.

In 1252, Aquinas went to Paris for his master's degree.

In 1256, Aquinas, along with his friend Bonaventura, began to lecture on theology in Paris and Rome and other Italian towns. From this time on, his life was one of incessant toil. Aquinas continually served in his order, frequently made long and tedious journeys, and constantly advised the reigning pontiff on affairs of state.

In 1259, Aquinas was present at an important meeting of his order at Valenciennes. At the solicitation of Pope Urban IV, he moved to Rome no earlier than late 1261. In 1263, he attended the London meeting of the Dominican order. In 1268, he lectured in Rome and Bologna. Throughout these years, he remained engaged in the public business of the Catholic Church.

From 1269 to 1271, Aquinas was again active in Paris. He lectured to the students, managed the affairs of the Catholic Church, and advised the king, Louis VIII, his kinsman, on affairs of state.[3] In 1272, the provincial chapter at Florence empowered him to begin a new studium generale at a location of his choice. Later, the chief of his order and King Charles II brought him back to the professor's chair at Naples.

All this time, Aquinas preached every day, and he wrote homilies, disputations, and lectures. He also worked diligently on his great literary work, the Summa Theologica. The Catholic Church offered to make him archbishop of Naples and abbot of Monte Cassino, but he refused both.

It should be noted that, as a Dominican Friar, Aquinas was supposed to participate in the mortification process. He did not; a remarkable thing considering how devoted to his faith he was known to be. At his canonization trial, it became evident he did not practice such rites. "The forty-two witnesses at the canonization trial had little to report concerning extraordinary acts of penance, sensational deeds, and mortifications...they could only repeat unanimously, again and again: Thomas had been a pure person, humble, simple, peace-loving, given to contemplation, moderate, a lover of poetry". These endearing qualities helped him in his beatification. The witnesses praised Thomas for his rational thought.

It is reported in Chesterton's book that Aquinas placed his essay concerning the Eucharist at the bottom of the cross. The friars there claimed to see the image of Jesus descending upon it, and a voice was heard to say, "Thomas, thou hast written well concerning the sacrament of My Body.”On one occasion, monks claimed to have found him levitating. The twentieth century Catholic writer/convert G.K. Chesterton describes these and other stories in his work on Aquinas, The Dumb Ox, a title based on early impressions that Aquinas was not proficient in speech. Chesterton quotes Albertus Magnus' refutation of these impressions: "You call him 'a dumb ox,' but I declare before you that he will yet bellow so loud in doctrine that his voice will resound through the whole world."

Aquinas had a dark complexion, large head and receding hairline, and he was of large stature. His manners showed his breeding, for people described him as refined, affable and lovable. In arguments, he maintained self-control and won over his opponents by his personality and great learning. His tastes were simple. He impressed his associates with his power of memory. When absorbed in thought, he often forgot his surroundings, but he was able to express his thoughts systematically, clearly and simply. Because of his keen grasp of his materials, Aquinas does not make the reader his companion in the search for truth; rather, he teaches authoritatively. On the other hand, he felt dissatisfied by the insufficiency of his works as compared to the divine revelations he had received.

He is said to have spoken on the morning of December 6, 1273, his last words: "Such secrets have been revealed to me that all I have written now appears of little value."

In 1270, the bishop of Paris issued an edict condemning a number of teachings then current at the university, which derived from Aristotle or from Arabic philosophers such as Averroes. The teachings of Thomas were among those targeted. This condemnation gave rise to an investigation in Paris, in response to which the Dominican order prudently moved Thomas to Italy. Eventually, in 1277 (three years after Thomas's death), the bishop of Paris issued another, more detailed edict in which he condemned a series of Thomas's theses as heretical, and excommunicated Thomas posthumously. The bishop of Oxford issued a similar condemnation a few months later. These condemnations echoed the orthodox Augustinian theology of the day, which considered human reason inadequate to understand the will of God.

The 1277 condemnation "has often been depicted as the most dramatic and significant doctrinal censure in the history of the University of Paris, and a landmark in the history of medieval philosophy and theology."

In fact, it took many years for Thomas's reputation to recover from this censure.

In January 1274, Pope Gregory X directed Thomas to attend the Second Council of Lyons. Aquinas's task was to investigate and, if possible, settle the differences between the Greek and Latin churches. Far from healthy, he undertook the journey. On the way, he stopped at the castle of a niece and there became seriously ill. Aquinas desired to end his days in a monastery. However, he was unable to reach a house of the Dominicans, so he was taken to the Cistercian monastery of Fossa Nuova. After a lingering illness of seven weeks, Aquinas died on March 7, 1274.

In The Divine Comedy, Dante sees the glorified spirit of Aquinas in the Heaven of the Sun with the other great exemplars of religious wisdom. Dante also asserts that Aquinas died by poisoning, on the order of Charles of Anjou (Purg. xx. 69). Villani (ix. 218) cites this belief, and the Anonimo Fiorentino describes the crime and its motive. But the historian Muratori reproduces the account made by one of Aquinas's friends, and this version of the story gives no hint of foul play.

Fifty years after Thomas's death, Pope John XXII, seated in Avignon, pronounced Thomas a saint of the Catholic church.

Thomas's theology had begun its rise to prestige. Two centuries later, in 1567, Pope Pius V ranked the festival of St. Thomas Aquinas with those of the four great Latin fathers: Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory. However, in the same period the Council of Trent would still turn to Duns Scotus before Thomas, as a source of arguments in defence of the Catholic Church. It was not until the First Vatican Council that Thomas was elevated to the preeminent status of "teacher of the church" which he enjoys today.

In his Encyclical of August 4, 1879, Pope Leo XIII stated that Aquinas's theology was a definitive exposition of Catholic doctrine. Thus, he directed the clergy to take the teachings of Aquinas as the basis of their theological positions. Leo XIII also decreed that all Catholic seminaries and universities must teach Aquinas's doctrines, and where Aquinas did not speak on a topic, the teachers were "urged to teach conclusions that were reconcilable with his thinking." In 1880, Aquinas was declared patron of all Catholic educational establishments.
In a monastery at Naples, near the cathedral of St. Januarius, a cell in which he supposedly lived is still shown to visitors. His remains were placed in the Church of the Jacobins in Toulouse in 1369. Between 1789 and 1974, they were held in Saint Sernin basilica of Toulouse. In 1974, they were returned to the Church of the Jacobins, where they have remained ever since.

The Roman Catholic Church today celebrates his feast on January 28, the date of publication of the Summa. Before the revision of the Roman calendar in 1969 the feast was observed on March 7, the day of his death. The March 7 date is still used today for the traditional Latin Mass, a first class feast day in schools.


Pange Lingua is a hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) for the Feast of Corpus Christi (now called the Solemnity of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ). It is also sung on Holy Thursday, during the procession from the church to the place where the Blessed Sacrament is kept until Good Friday. The last two stanzas, called separately Tantum Ergo, are sung at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The hymn expresses the doctrine of transubstantiation, in which, according to the Catholic faith, the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ.

The opening words recall another famous Latin sequence, by Venantius Fortunatus. It begins "Pange, lingua, gloriosi / Lauream certaminis", and is used at Matins during Passiontide in the Divine Office. It is the middle section of the hymn "Vexilla Regis prodeunt", with the first section sung at Vespers and the third, "Lustra sex," sung at Lauds. All three parts are chanted during the Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday.

The Latin text of Pange Lingua sung to its traditional melody, which is a mode iii Gregorian chant.

Pange, lingua, gloriosi
Corporis mysterium,
Sanguinisque pretiosi,
quem in mundi pretium
fructus ventris generosi
Rex effudit Gentium.
Nobis datus, nobis natus
ex intacta Virgine,
et in mundo conversatus,
sparso verbi semine,
sui moras incolatus
miro clausit ordine.
In supremae nocte coenae
recumbens cum fratribus
observata lege plene
cibis in legalibus,
cibum turbae duodenae
se dat suis manibus.
Verbum caro, panem verum
verbo carnem efficit:
fitque sanguis Christi merum,
et si sensus deficit,
ad firmandum cor sincerum
sola fides sufficit.
Tantum ergo Sacramentum
veneremur cernui:
et antiquum documentum
novo cedat ritui:
praestet fides supplementum
sensuum defectui.
Genitori, Genitoque
laus et jubilatio,
salus, honor, virtus quoque
sit et benedictio:
Procedenti ab utroque
compar sit laudatio.
Amen. Alleluja.

Sing, my tongue, the Savior's glory,
of His flesh the mystery sing;
of the Blood, all price exceeding,
shed by our immortal King,
destined, for the world's redemption,
from a noble womb to spring.
Of a pure and spotless Virgin
born for us on earth below,
He, as Man, with man conversing,
stayed, the seeds of truth to sow;
then He closed in solemn order
wondrously His life of woe.
On the night of that Last Supper,
seated with His chosen band,
He the Pascal victim eating,
first fulfills the Law's command;
then as Food to His Apostles
gives Himself with His own hand.
Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature
by His word to Flesh He turns;
wine into His Blood He changes;
what though sense no change discerns?
Only be the heart in earnest,
faith her lesson quickly learns.
Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail;
Lo! o'er ancient forms departing,
newer rites of grace prevail;
faith for all defects supplying,
where the feeble senses fail.
To the everlasting Father,
and the Son who reigns on high,
with the Holy Ghost proceeding
forth from Each eternally,
be salvation, honor, blessing,
might and endless majesty.
Amen. Alleluia.

There are two plainchant settings of the Pange Lingua hymn. The better known is a Phrygian mode tune from the Roman liturgy, and the other is from the Mozarabic liturgy from Spain.

The Roman tune was originally part of the Gallican Rite.

[8225 Bernville Cowhorn / 8225 Aquinas / 8221 Alfonso X]