Thomas Aquinas: “Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb” Tuesday, Mar 25 2014 

Thomas_Aquinas_in_Stained_GlassEve sought the fruit of the tree (of good and evil), but she did not find in it that which she sought. Everything Eve desired, however, was given to the Blessed Virgin.

Eve sought that which the devil falsely promised her, namely, that she and Adam would be as gods, knowing good and evil. “You shall be,” says this liar, “as gods” (Gen 3:5). But he lied, because “he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44).

Eve was not made like God after having eaten of the fruit, but rather she was unlike God in that by her sin she withdrew from God and was driven out of paradise.

The Blessed Virgin, however, and all Christians found in the Fruit of her womb Him whereby we are all united to God and are made like to Him: “When He shall appear, we shall be like to Him, because we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn 3:2).

Eve looked for pleasure in the fruit of the tree because it was good to eat. But she did not find this pleasure in it, and, on the contrary, she at once discovered she was naked and was stricken with sorrow. In the Fruit of the Blessed Virgin we find sweetness and salvation: “He who eats My flesh… has eternal life” (Jn 6:55).

The fruit which Eve desired was beautiful to look upon, but that Fruit of the Blessed Virgin is far more beautiful, for the Angels desire to look upon Him: “You are beautiful above the sons of men” (Ps 44:3). He is the splendor of the glory of the Father.

Eve, therefore, looked in vain for that which she sought in the fruit of the tree, just as the sinner is disappointed in his sins. We must seek in the Fruit of the womb of the Virgin Mary whatsoever we desire.

This is He who is the Fruit blessed by God, who has filled Him with every grace, which in turn is poured out upon us who adore Him: “Blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with spiritual blessings in Christ” (Eph 1:3).

He, too, is revered by the Angels: “Benediction and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving, honor and power and strength, to our God” (Rev 7:12). And He is glorified by men: “Every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11).

The Blessed Virgin is indeed blessed, but far more blessed is the Fruit of her womb: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Ps 117:26).

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): On the Angelic Salutation.

Thomas Aquinas: The Word of God Moves Our Hearts, Weighed Down by Earthly Things, and Sets Them on Fire Tuesday, Apr 30 2013 

Thomas_Aquinas_in_Stained_GlassI am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you (John 15:1-3)

Just like a vine, although it seems to be of small account, nevertheless surpasses all trees in the sweetness of its fruit, so Christ, although he seemed to be despised by the world because he was poor, and seemed of small account and was publicly disgraced, nevertheless produced the sweetest fruit: “His fruit was sweet to my taste” (Song 2:3).

And so Christ is a vine producing a wine which interiorly intoxicates us: a wine of sorrow for sin: “You have given us to drink the wine of sorrow” (Ps 60:3); and a wine which strengthens us, that is, which restores us: “My blood is drink indeed” (6:55).

[…] He says, and my Father is the vinedresser….God cultivates us to make us better by his work, since he roots out the evil seeds in our hearts. As Augustine says, he opens our hearts with the plow of his words, plants the seeds of the commandments, and harvests the fruit of devotion.

[…] His interest in the good branches is to help them so they can bear more fruit. So he says, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.… For if we are well‑disposed and united to God, yet scatter our love over many things, our virtue becomes weak and we become less able to do good.

This is why God, in order that we may bear fruit, will frequently remove such obstacles and prune us by sending troubles and temptations, which make us stronger. Accordingly, he says, he prunes, even though one may be clean, for in this life no one is so clean that he does not need to be cleansed more and more: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8).

[…] He says, you are already made clean. It is like saying: I have said certain things about branches; and you are branches ready to be pruned so as to bear fruit. And you are clean by the word which I have spoken to you. The word of Christ, in the first place, cleanses us from error by teaching us: “He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9).

[…] The word of Christ cleanses our hearts from earthly affections by inflaming them toward heavenly things. For the word of God by its power moves our hearts, weighed down by earthly things, and sets them on fire: “Is not my word fire?” (Jer 23:29)…. The word of Christ cleanses by the power of faith: God “cleansed their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9).

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): Commentary on John, cap. 15, lect. 1, 1979-1988.

Thomas Aquinas: “Rejoice Always, Pray Constantly, Give Thanks in All Circumstances, for This is the Will of God” Tuesday, Dec 18 2012 

Thomas_Aquinas_in_Stained_GlassRejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 16:18). 

When Paul says: rejoice always, he shows how they ought to behave towards God; and he mentions three things.

First, to rejoice in Him; and so Paul says, rejoice always, that is, in God; for whatever evil might occur, it is incomparable to the goodness which is God.

Hence, no evil ought to interrupt it, and so Paul insists: rejoice always.

 Secondly, to pray for the blessings they want to receive.

Paul urges, pray constantly. “They ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Lk. 18: 1).

How is this possible? It may happen in three ways.

First, that person who does not neglect the appointed hours for prayer, prays always. “You shall eat at my table always” (2 Sam. 9:7).

Secondly, “Pray constantly” means to pray continuously. But then prayer is considered under the aspect of the effect of the prayer. For prayer is the unfolding or expression of desire; for when I desire something, then I ask for it by praying.

So prayer is the petition of suitable things from God; and so desire has the power of prayer. “O Lord, thou wilt hear the desire of the meek” (Ps. 10: 17).

Therefore, whatever we do is the result of a desire; so prayer always remains in force in the good things we do; for the good things we do flow forth from the desire of the good.

There is a commentary on this verse pointing out: “He does not cease praying, who does not cease doing good.”

A third way by which it is possible to pray without ceasing is through the giving of alms which may be a sort of cause of continual prayer.

In the lives of the Fathers we read: “He who gives alms is the one who always prays, for the person who receives alms prays for you even when you are asleep.”

The third thing he mentions is to offer thanks for those blessings already received, hence Paul says: in all circumstances, that is, in good times and in bad times, give thanks.

“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him” (Rom. 6:28). “Abounding in thanksgiving” (Col. 2:7). “With thanksgiving” (Phil. 4.6).

For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. “Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4).

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): Commentary on 1 Thessalonians, cap. 5, lect. 2.

Thomas Aquinas: “Let Us Praise Men of Renown, and Our Fathers in Their Generation” Wednesday, Oct 31 2012 

[from a sermon preached for the feast of All Saints]

“Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord: the people whom he hath chosen for his inheritance” (Psalm 32:12).

In many ways, holy mother Church applies her effort to this end, that she advance her children to desire heavenly things.

And if you wish to consider this properly, it would seem that the whole of her effort strives for this, which, having disdained earthly things, directs us to desire heavenly things.

This is evident from the first founder of the Church, our Savior, who in His proclamation and in His zeal of instruction, says at Matthew 3:2, “Do penance” so that we might remove ourselves from earthly affairs; “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”: which he says to entice us to desire heavenly things.

Among the different things provocative of a desire for heavenly things, he recalls and impresses upon our hearts today the glory of the saints for which we strive.

If it is agreeable, we will ask God at the beginning (of this sermon) that He give me something worthy to say on behalf of the fitting nature of so great a celebration, that it be to His honor, of all the saints, and the salvation of our souls.

“Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.” It is commonly laid upon men’s souls that they hear with delight the praises of their homeland and of their parents:

the praises of their homeland, that they may hasten to return to her; the praises of their parents, that they, by imitating them, may not become degenerate.

But what is our homeland? That homeland for which we strive is a heavenly homeland. Wherefore, the Apostle state at Hebrews 13:14, “For we have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come.”

Our parents are the spiritual people who have taught and instructed us, who have supplied us with an example of living rightly and well.

These very people are saints in this heavenly homeland whose solemn rites we celebrate today. And for this reason we ought to persist in our praises of these very people with delight.

Whence it is said at Ecclesiasticus 44:1, “Let us praise men of renown, and our fathers in their generation.”

[…] David praises this very assembly of the saints because of their dignity, at, “Blessed are the people.”

The dignity of this very assembly is indicated because they have arrived at that place for which we strive. They possess that which we desire. They have been established beyond that which we are able to understand.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): Sermon “Beata Gens” for the Feast of All Saints.

Thomas Aquinas: Renewal Through the Holy Spirit Monday, May 28 2012 

Renewal through the Holy Spirit consists, first of all, of the grace that cleanses. Sin is a sort of old age of the soul, and a man is only freed from this old age through justifying grace, by which he is cleansed from sin…: “As Christ has risen from the dead, so also let us walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).

[…] Secondly, this renewal consists in the justice that is ever making progress. If one should walk, grow tired, and become weak, and then he rests, his powers seem to him to be renewed; and when a man works diligently, he is renewed when he gains further power for working.

[…]  Thirdly, renewal comes about through the wisdom that illuminates. When a man comes to new knowledge of more of the good things of God, he is renewed. About this renewal it says in Colossians: “Put on the new man who is created according to God.”

The “new man” indicates Christ, because His was a new kind of conception, “not from the seed of man, but from the Holy Spirit”;

a new kind of birth, because His mother remained a virgin after birth; a new kind of suffering, because it was without guilt; a new kind of rising from the dead, because it was quick and renewing, for He rose quickly and in glory;

a new kind of ascension, because he ascended by His own power, not by that of another, as did Enoch and Elijah. And so it is said in Ecclesiasticus: “Show signs anew and work wonders” (Sir. 36:6).

And because all things are renewed through Christ, therefore on solemnities we use new vestments in church, that we may “sing to the Lord a new song”—as though to signify that he who is renewed by the exterior cleanness of his clothing is renewed interiorly in his mind by grace.

By “stripping off the old man,” i.e., the habit of sins with its deeds, “and putting on” the habit of virtue which is not lacking in [good] deeds, “the new man,” i.e., the rational mind, will be renewed “in the knowledge of God” (Col. 3:9-10). As Romans has it, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 13:14).

[…] Fourthly, renewal comes about through the glory that attains consummation, when the body is renewed, the oldness of punishment and guilt being taken away. We read about this in the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;” (Is. 65:17).

And where does this renewal come from? The Holy Spirit. He is the pledge of our inheritance, and it is He who leads us into the heavenly inheritance. He who needs to be created and renewed shall obtain this from the Holy Spirit.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): Sermon “Emitte Spiritum”.

Thomas Aquinas: Jesus the Pioneer and Perfecter of Our Faith Tuesday, Apr 3 2012 

… looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).

For He is the author [pioneer] of faith in two ways: first, by teaching it by word: ‘He has spoken to us by His Son’ (Heb. 1:2); ‘The only begotten, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him’ (Jn. 1:18);

Secondly, by impressing it on the heart: ‘Unto you it is given for Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him’ (Phil 1:29).

Likewise, He is the finisher [perfecter] of our faith in two ways: in one way by confirming it through miracles: ‘If you do not believe me, believe the works’ (Jn. 10:32);

And in another way by rewarding faith. For since faith is imperfect knowledge, its reward consists in perfectly understanding it: ‘I will love him and will manifest myself to him’ (Jn. 14:21).

This was signified by Zechariah (4:9) where it says: ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of his house,’ namely, the Church, whose foundation is faith, ‘and his hands shall finish it.’

For the hands of Christ, Who descended from Zerubbabel, founded the Church and will finish the faith in glory: ‘We see now through a glass in a dark manner, but then face to face’ (1 Cor. 13:12);

‘Contemplation is the reward of faith, by which reward our hearts are cleansed through faith,’ as is says in Acts (15:9): ‘purifying their hearts by faith.’ (Augustine, On the Trinity, c. 10).

Three things should be considered in the passion of Christ: first, what He despised; secondly, what He endured; thirdly, what he merited.

As to the first he says, ‘who for the joy set before him endured the cross.’ That joy was earthly joy, for which He was sought by the crowd, when they wished to make Him king; but He scorned it by fleeing into the mountain (Jn. 6:15); […] For having set before him the joy of eternal life as a reward, he endured the cross.

This is the second thing He endured, namely, the cross: ‘He humbled himself, being made obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross’ (Phil 2:8).

In this is shown the bitterness of His torment, because His hands and feet were nailed to the cross; and the shame and ignominy of His death, because this was the most shameful of deaths: ‘Let us condemn him to a most shameful death’ (Wis. 2:20).

In regard to the third, namely, what He merited was to sit at the right hand of the Father; hence, he says, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

For the exaltation of Christ’s humanity was the reward of His passion: ‘He sits on the right hand of the majesty on high’ (Heb. 1:3).

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): Commentary on Hebrews, cap. 4, lect.1.

Thomas Aquinas: To Impress the Vastness of this Love more Firmly upon the Hearts of the Faithful Saturday, Jun 25 2011 

Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that men should share in his divinity, he assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make men gods.

Moreover, when he took our flesh he dedicated the whole of its substance to our salvation.

He offered his body to God the Father on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for our reconciliation.

He shed his blood for our ransom and purification, so that we might be redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleansed from all sin.

But to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us forever, he left his body as food and his blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine.

O precious and wonderful banquet, that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness!

Could anything be of more intrinsic value?

Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered, but here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food.

What could be more wonderful than this?

No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift.

It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all.

Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament, in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion.

It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper.

As he was on the point of leaving the world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion.

It was the fulfilment of ancient figures and the greatest of all his miracles, while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): Opusculum 57, in festo Corporis Christi, lect. 1-4, from the Office of Readings for the Feast of Corpus Christi @ Crossroads Initiative.

Thomas Aquinas: The Holy Spirit Inclines the Heart to Give Assent and to Carry Out What It Hears Saturday, Jun 11 2011 

In the homily of today’s office, Gregory says: “Love’s proof is in love’s work.”

But you say: we just aren’t able to fulfill the commands of God.

I say: you aren’t able to fulfill them by your own powers, but through the grace of God you certainly can do so!

Hence the Evangelist adds: “My Father will love him”—God shall not fail a man—“and we will come to him,” that is, we [the Father and the Son] will be present to him (Jn. 14:23).

By that presence, we will be able to dedicate our powers to fulfilling God’s commands.

Concerning this charity for fulfilling God’s commands, we read in Ephesians: “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good works” (Eph. 2:10).

Where does this charity in us come from? The Holy Spirit.

“The charity of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

He who has a share of daylight has that light from the sun; in the same way he who has charity has it from the Holy Spirit.

Therefore: “Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created”—namely, in the being of the life of grace, through charity.

You see that men, when they become true lovers, make efforts to know the will of God.

“It belongs to friends to have one heart,” as it says in Proverbs, and God reveals His secrets to His friends.

And this is the second step of the creation which is from the Holy Spirit: that they[who are re-created may know God in wisdom.

[…] In today’s Gospel: “The Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (Jn. 14:26).

Now, however much a man may be taught exteriorly, it will profit him nothing unless the grace of the Holy Spirit is interiorly present.

As the Gospel says, “The anointing will teach you concerning all things.”

And He not only teaches the truth, but will even call it back to mind.

It is as if Jesus were saying: “I myself am able to teach you, but you do not by this fact believe or want to fulfill what I teach.

“But He who brings it about that you believe and that you fulfill what you hear, He will call things back to mind.”

The Holy Spirit does this because he inclines the heart to give assent and to carry out what it hears.

Hence our Lord says: “Everyone who has heard and learned from my Father comes to me” (Jn. 6:45).

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): Sermon “Emitte Spiritum”.

Thomas Aquinas: “The Night is Far Gone, the Day is at Hand” Sunday, Nov 28 2010 

The night is far gone, the day is at hand (Romans (13:12).

The night is far gone….

The import is that the entire time of the present life is compared to night on account of the darkness of ignorance with which the present life is encumbered.

“We are swallowed up in darkness” (Jb 33:4). Isaiah says of this night: “My soul yearns for thee in the night” (26:9).

But the state of future happiness is compared to day on account of God’s splendor with which the saints are enlightened: “the sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night, but he Lord will be your everlasting light” (Is 60:19)….

It can also be understood that the state of guilt is being compared to night on account of the darkness of guilt. About this darkness Ps 82 (v. 5) says: “They have neither knowledge nor understanding; they walk about in darkness”….

But day is called the state of grace on account of the light of spiritual understanding which the just have, but the wicked lack: “Light dawns for the righteous” (Ps 97:11); “The light of justice did not shine on us” (Wis 5:6).

Or it can be understood that the time before Christ’s incarnation is being compared to night, because it was not yet clear but wrapped in darkness….

Hence, just as shadows appear at night, so during that time the practices of the Law were in vogue, but “these were only a shadow of what is to come” (Col 2:17).

But the time after Christ’s incarnation is compared to day on account of the power of the spiritual sun in the world: “But for you who fear my name, the sun of justice shall shine” (Mal 4:2)….

The saying, the night is far gone, can be taken for any of the three nights mentioned….

But it seems that the saying, the day is at hand, must be understood as referring to the day of future glory, which was at hand for the believers in Christ to whom he was writing, although it had not yet arrived for them.

In keeping with the foregoing explanation, the time of Christ’s grace, although it had already arrived as regards the passage of time, is nonetheless described as drawing near through faith and devotion; just as it also says in Phil 4:5 “The Lord is near,” and in Ps 145:18 “The Lord is near to all who call upon him.”

It can also apply to those who begin to repent of their sins; for such persons the day of grace is at hand.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): Commentary on Romans, cap. 13, lect.3, 1067-1069.

Thomas Aquinas: “Be Renewed in the Spirit of Your Minds”; “Your Youth is Renewed like the Eagle’s” Tuesday, Nov 2 2010 

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

But the reason why we do not fail is that although we fail as to the outward man, we are always renewed as to the inward man.

Hence, he says, though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day.

[…] According to the judgment of those who consider only bodily and sense-perceptible things and savour earthly things, and whose god is the belly, the body with its sentient nature  is called the outward man.

Therefore, it is according to this manner that the Apostle is speaking here when he says, though our outer nature, i.e., the body with its sentient nature, is wasting away, in tribulations, fasts, abstinences and watchings:

“Our old self was crucified with him” (Rom. 6:6); “Rottenness enters into my bones” (Hab. 3:16).

Yet this man, who is inner, namely, the mind or reason strengthened with the shield of faith, is being renewed.

This should be understood in the following way: oldness is the road to corruption: “And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Heb. 8:13).

But human nature was established in wholeness, and if it had continued in that wholeness, it would have always been new.

But through sin it began to be corrupted. As a result, whatever followed, such as ignorance, difficulty in doing good, inclination to evil, punishment, and so on, all pertain to oldness.

Therefore, when such a human nature gets rid of the results of sin, it is said to be renewed.

Such riddance begins in the saints here, but is perfectly completed in heaven.

For here the oldness of sin is put off; for the spirit removes the oldness of sin and is subjected to the newness of justice.

Here the intellect removes errors and assumes the newness of truth.

It is according to this that the inner man, namely, the soul, is renewed: “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds” (Eph. 4:23).

But in heaven, even the oldness of punishment is removed. Hence, there will be a complete renewal there: “Your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Ps. 103:5).

But because the saints advance daily in purity of conscience and knowledge of divine things, he says, every day: “Ascending in his heart” (Ps. 84:7, Vulgate).

Consequently, patience is unconquerable, because it is renewed from day to day.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): Commentary on 2 Corinthians, cap. 4, lect.5.

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