Monday, March 31, 2014

John of St. Thomas: Envy

“ENVY is specifically opposed to the joy of charity insofar as it relates to one’s neighbor. For although there are many ways in which we can feel sadness about another’s good (as the Philosopher observes in 2 Rhetoric, 9, 1386b), envy is the special sadness caused when another’s good exceeds mine and results in inequality. Thus it most formally looks to the neighbor’s good insofar as he is similar to me. It regards the good of another as the diminishment of my own good, not as if it actually took away what is mine (that would elicit fear rather than envy) but precisely because the other’s increases and is no longer equal to mine, diminishing my good only relatively. Envy exists between similar and equal persons and pertains to pusillanimity or smallness of soul in the one who, unable to increase his own glory, wants that of another to decrease to the level of his. Of itself it is a mortal and sin because its motive, one's own glory, is most desirable and causes many other things to be sought and avoided.” (See S.T. II-II, q. 36.)

~John of St. Thomas: Introduction to the Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas.

No. 48, The Seven Vices: Envy, by Giotto di Bondone.
Fresco, A.D. 1306; Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Behold the handmaid of the Lord."

"IT is related (Lk 1:31) that the angel said to her: "Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son."

"...It was reasonable that it should be announced to the Blessed Virgin that she was to conceive Christ. First, in order to maintain a becoming order in the union of the Son of God with the Virgin—namely, that she should be informed in mind concerning Him, before conceiving Him in the flesh. Thus Augustine says (De Sancta Virgin. iii): "Mary is more blessed in receiving the faith of Christ, than in conceiving the flesh of Christ"; and further on he adds: "Her nearness as a Mother would have been of no profit to Mary, had she not borne Christ in her heart after a more blessed manner than in her flesh."

"Secondly, that she might be a more certain witness of this mystery, being instructed therein by God.

"Thirdly, that she might offer to God the free gift of her obedience: which she proved herself right ready to do, saying: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord."

"Fourthly, in order to show that there is a certain spiritual wedlock between the Son of God and human nature. Wherefore in the Annunciation the Virgin's consent was besought in lieu of that of the entire human nature."

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologiae, III, Q. 30, Art. 1.

Annunciation, by Fra Angelico. Panel, 1430's;
Santa Maria delle Grazie, San Giovanni Valdarno.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

"He Who Is"

"IT IS written that when Moses asked, "If they should say to me, What is His name? what shall I say to them?" The Lord answered him, "Thus shalt thou say to them, HE WHO IS hath sent me to you" (Ex 3:13-14). Therefore this name HE WHO IS most properly belongs to God.

This name HE WHO IS is most properly applied to God, for three reasons:

First, because of its signification. For it does not signify form, but simply existence itself. Hence since the existence of God is His essence itself, which can be said of no other (3, 4), it is clear that among other names this one specially denominates God, for everything is denominated by its form.

Secondly, on account of its universality. For all other names are either less universal, or, if convertible with it, add something above it at least in idea; hence in a certain way they inform and determine it. Now our intellect cannot know the essence of God itself in this life, as it is in itself, but whatever mode it applies in determining what it understands about God, it falls short of the mode of what God is in Himself. Therefore the less determinate the names are, and the more universal and absolute they are, the more properly they are applied to God. Hence Damascene says (De Fide Orth. i) that, "HE WHO IS, is the principal of all names applied to God; for comprehending all in itself, it contains existence itself as an infinite and indeterminate sea of substance." Now by any other name some mode of substance is determined, whereas this name HE WHO IS, determines no mode of being, but is indeterminate to all; and therefore it denominates the "infinite ocean of substance."

Thirdly, from its consignification, for it signifies present existence; and this above all properly applies to God, whose existence knows not past or future, as Augustine says (De Trin. v)."

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologiae,' I, Q. 13, art. 11.

 Moses on Mount Sinai, by Nicolas of Verdun.
Gilt copper, embedded enamel, 1181;
Augustiner Chorherrenstift, Klosterneuburg.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Josef Pieper: "The Antichrist is a phenomenon of the political sphere"

“JUST AS the martyr, historically speaking, is a figure of the political order, so, too, the Antichrist is a phenomenon of the political sphere. The Antichrist is not something resembling a “heretic”, who is of importance only to ecclesiastical history and to whom the rest of the world need pay no attention whatever. Potentia saecularis, worldly power—this, says Thomas, is the specific instrument of the Antichrist; he is a worldly potentate. Tyrants, in their persecutions of the Church, Thomas states further, are prototypes (quasi figura) of the Antichrist. The latter, then, is not conceived as a phenomenon on the brink of the historical field; rather is the Antichrist, insofar as history is primarily political history, an eminently historical figure.

“This also implies that the End will not be chaos in the sense that the opposition and conflict between numbers of historical powers will cause progressive dissolution of historical ties and structures and, finally, putrefaction. On the contrary, the End will be characterized by one single governmental structure equipped with prodigious power, which, however, fails to establish any genuine order. At the end of history there will be a pseudo-order maintained in being by the exercise of power....

“The establishment of a World State, which is today well within the bounds of historical possibility, may quite possibly come to be looked upon as a legitimate goal of political endeavor. What this doctrine [the traditional doctrine of the Antichrist] does state is that once this step has been taken, mankind itself will find itself in a condition in which the Dominion of the Antichrist has become more acutely possible than ever before: a world organization might become the most deadly and impregnable of tyrannies, the final establishment of the reign of anti-Christ.”

~Josef Pieper: The End of Time: A Meditation on the Philosophy of History. (Ignatius Press)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Jacques Maritain: "Charity"

“CHARITY is very different from that simple human benevolence which philosophers praise, which is noble indeed in itself, yet inefficacious in the end. Charity alone, as Bergson observed…can open the heart to the love of all men, because, coming from God who first loves us, charity desires for all men the same divine good, the same eternal life, as it does for ourselves, and it sees in all human beings the summoned of God, streaming, as it were, with the mysteries of His mercy and the prevenient gifts of His goodness.”

~Jacques Maritain: Ransoming the Time.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

"The 'Judge not' of the Gospels"

“EVERY believer knows very well that all men will be judged—both himself and others. But neither he nor another is God, able to pass judgment. And what each one is before God, neither the one nor the other knows. Here the “Judge not” of the Gospels applies with its full force. We can render judgment concerning ideas, truths or errors; good or bad actions; character, temperament, and what appears to us of man’s interior disposition. But we are utterly forbidden to judge the innermost heart, that inaccessible center where the person day after day weaves his own fate, and ties the bonds binding him to God. When it comes to that, there is only one thing to do, and that is to trust in God. And that is precisely what love for our neighbor prompts us to so.”

~Jacques Maritain: Ransoming the Time.

"The New Law is chiefly the grace itself of the Holy Spirit"

"NOW that which is preponderant in the law of the New Testament, and whereon all its efficacy is based, is the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is given through faith in Christ. Consequently the New Law is chiefly the grace itself of the Holy Spirit, which is given to those who believe in Christ."

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologiae, I-II, Q. 106, Art. 1.

"Heresy and schism"

"HERESY and schism are distinguished in respect of those things to which each is opposed essentially and directly. For heresy is essentially opposed to faith, while schism is essentially opposed to the unity of ecclesiastical charity. Wherefore just as faith and charity are different virtues, although whoever lacks faith lacks charity, so too schism and heresy are different vices, although whoever is a heretic is also a schismatic, but not conversely. This is what Jerome says in his commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians [In Ep. ad Tit. iii, 10]: "I consider the difference between schism and heresy to be that heresy holds false doctrine while schism severs a man from the Church." Nevertheless, just as the loss of charity is the road to the loss of faith, according to 1 Timothy 1:6: "From which things," i.e. charity and the like, "some going astray, are turned aside into vain babbling," so too, schism is the road to heresy. Wherefore Jerome adds (In Ep. ad Tit. iii, 10) that "at the outset it is possible, in a certain respect, to find a difference between schism and heresy: yet there is no schism that does not devise some heresy for itself, that it may appear to have had a reason for separating from the Church." "

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologiae, II-II, Q. 39, Art. 1, ad. 3.

The Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas (detail), by Andrea Da Firenze.
Fresco, 1366-67; Cappellone degli Spagnoli, Santa Maria Novella, Florence.

"A free press"

“A free people needs a free press, I mean free from the State, and also from economic bondage and the power of money.”

~Jacques Maritain: Man and the State.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Aquinas Catechism

"His teachings could have come only from a miraculous intervention by God." ~Pope John XXII



"WE need to pray to God, not in order to make known to Him our needs or desires but that we ourselves may be reminded of the necessity of having recourse to God's help in these matters."

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologiae, II-II, Q. 83, Art. 2, ad. 1.

The Virgin Mary in Prayer, by Albrecht Dürer.
Oil on lindenwood, 1518; Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


"AN act is virtuous through being directed by reason to some virtuous [honestum] good. Now this is consistent with fasting, because fasting is practiced for a threefold purpose. First, in order to bridle the lusts of the flesh, wherefore the Apostle says (2 Cor 6:5-6): "In fasting, in chastity," since fasting is the guardian of chastity. For, according to Jerome [Contra Jov. ii.] "Venus is cold when Ceres and Bacchus are not there," that is to say, lust is cooled by abstinence in meat and drink. Secondly, we have recourse to fasting in order that the mind may arise more freely to the contemplation of heavenly things: hence it is related (Dn 10) of Daniel that he received a revelation from God after fasting for three weeks. Thirdly, in order to satisfy for sins: wherefore it is written (Jl 2:12): "Be converted to Me with all your heart, in fasting and in weeping and in mourning." The same is declared by Augustine in a sermon (De orat. et Jejun. [Serm. lxxii (ccxxx, de Tempore)]): "Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one's flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, kindles the true light of chastity." "

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologiae, II-II, Q. 147, Art. 1.

Christ in the Desert, by Ivan Kramskoy.
Oil on canvas, 1872; Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.

"The only true masters in philosophy"

“OF all those who have learned philosophy only in school or from books written only for schools I am sorry to say that they have not the slightest idea of what the philosophical life really is. Not unlike the innumerable students who spend years in learning Latin and never use it to read Vergil, our students in philosophy are introduced to a philosophical life which very few of them will ever enter. I cannot help wondering, however, if a larger number among them would not enjoy living a genuinely philosophical life, if they were warned in due time that what we must teach them as philosophy is not yet philosophy, but a way to it, and that the only true masters in philosophy there are, are the great philosophers?”

~Etienne Gilson: History of Philosophy and Philosophical Education, (Aquinas Lecture 1947, Fall).

Monday, March 3, 2014

"The love of wisdom"

“THE very name of philosophy means the love of wisdom. To philosophize, then, is to pursue wisdom through a consistent effort of reflexion, which itself entails definite ethical requirements; for indeed no man can, at one and the same time, both philosophize and indulge in such ways of life as are incompatible with philosophical thinking. Yet even supposing that these moral conditions are satisfied, the fact remains that, by its very nature, a philosopher’s life is a constant effort to acquire wisdom.”

~Etienne Gilson: History of Philosophy and Philosophical Education, (Aquinas Lecture, Fall 1947; Marquette Univ.)

Portrait of a Philosopher, by Salvator Rosa,
(1615-1673). Oil on canvas; private collection.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Schall on Jacques Maritain

Recommended reading: Jacques Maritain: The Philosopher in Society, by Fr. James V. Schall.

James Schall has written the first major exposition in the English language of the political philosophy of Jacques Maritain, the eminent 20th century Thomist philosopher.

"The engaging and inquiring mind of French philosopher Jacques Maritain reflected on subjects as varied as art and ethics, theology and psychology, and history and metaphysics. Maritain's work on the theoretical groundings of politics arose from his diverse studies. In this book, distinguished theologian and political scientist James V. Schall explores Maritain's political philosophy, demonstrating that Maritain understood society, state, and government in the tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas, of natural law and human rights and duties. Schall pays particular attention to the ways in which evil appears in political forms, and how this evil can be morally dealt with. Schall's study will be of great importance to students and scholars of political science, philosophy, and theology." ~the Publisher

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