St Thomas Aquinas

For a dumb ox Thomas has been enormously influential, in and out of his lifetime: doctor of the church, synonymous with a whole way of doing theology, a way that has been both lifted up as the ideal and hated as the worst imitation of real knowledge.
I like it that we are given the readings we are given today to mull over: words that extol humility and inspire a receptive approach to theology. “I prayed and understanding was given to me.” Words that should challenge us to wonder how much our own quest for theology rises from that same wholehearted need for wisdom from on high.
There’s nothing dry or perfunctory or careerist about the love of wisdom in our first reading. It is a driving passion, a vision of beauty, a hunt for illumination. It is an openness, an emptiness, a waiting to receive. And we’re told this was true of Thomas … that you couldn’t tell where the theology ended and the spirituality began … that his prayer and his study were each workings out of the other.
And if that sounds as if his work should be pious or insipid then we have to wonder at what our own study has done to us.
Like us, Thomas lived in challenging times: when one age was passing into another; when institutions were shifting balance and certainties were shaking; when new knowledge of every kind was flooding out all over; when old wineskins were being tested by new wine.
Somehow Thomas’ love of wisdom led him right into the shifting heart of the age: to grapple with the new science, new cosmology. And not to combat it … but to trust it enough to let it warp and reshape his whole vision of God. More than that … to take that hybrid vision right into the heart of the new culture—the university—and face it on its own ground, in its own medium. Thomas found a wisdom for his age exactly where others were afraid to go. And with what he found he created something new and beautiful and enduring.
Not bad for a dumb ox.

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