As a highly Pagan poet said to me: “The Reformation happened because people hadn’t the brains to understand Aquinas.”
I can’t believe I forgot to post on the feast day yesterday of the Angelic Doctor! (Too much work in the law mines was the culprit!) I try to always remember his perfect synthesis of faith and intellect every January 28. Too many people think these attributes are opposites which helps to explain why the world is in such a mess today. I think what is appealing most to me about Aquinas is his optimism. He lived in the thirteenth century, nicknamed the Glorious Century, a true turning point in history when Christendom began to assert traits that would lead to revolutions in so many fields. Aquinas never doubted that the new knowledge about the World was no jeopardy to the Faith, and it has not been, so long as faith and reason work in alliance. We go badly astray when these two essential components of a complete human are viewed as adversaries.
At the end of his life, the Angelic Doctor had a mystical experience before the Eucharist and stopped writing. When asked about it, he said that what he had seen made all of his writings seem like mere straw in comparison. His writings will endure as long as Man endures, a tribute to what the human mind, enlightened by Faith, can accomplish. However, it is his sublime and victorious faith in Christ which is his real monument.
As a highly Pagan poet said to me: “The Reformation happened because people hadn’t the brains to understand Aquinas.” The Church is more immortally important than the State; but the State has its rights, for all that. This Christian duality had always been implicit, as in Christ’s distinction between God and Caesar, or the dogmatic distinction between the natures of Christ.
But St. Thomas has the glory of having seized this double thread as the clue to a thousand things; and thereby created the only creed in which the saints can be sane. It presents itself chiefly, perhaps, to the modern world as the only creed in which the poets can be sane. For there is nobody now to settle the Manichees; and all culture is infected with a faint unclean sense that Nature and all things behind us and below us are bad; that there is only praise to the highbrow in the height. St. Thomas exalted God without lowering Man; he exalted Man without lowering Nature. Therefore, he made a cosmos of common sense; terra viventium; a land of the living.
His philosophy, like his theology, is that of common sense. He does not torture the brain with desperate attempts to explain existence by explaining it away. The first steps of his mind are the first steps of any honest mind; just as the first virtues of his creed could be those of any honest peasant.
G.K. Chesterton Continue Reading