Thursday, March 7, 2013

St. Thomas' roadmap to the New Testament


March 7th, Traditional Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas
At Fossa Nuova in the year 1274, having received Holy Viaticum and hearing read the Song of Solomon while commenting on the same sacred text which speaks of the love of Christ and the soul, passed into eternal life the Angelic Thomas, Common Doctor of the Universal Church.
St. Thomas Aquinas, known primarily for his systematic and dogmatic theology and, especially, for his supreme and most enlightened work the Summa Theologica, was in his own life recognized as a Master of Sacred Scripture. The primary work in which he was employed was not composition of dogmatic treatises like the Summa Contra Gentiles and the Summa Theologica, but rather lecturing to university students on the Bible.
The Angelic Doctor was a Scripture commentator and, if we admit (as do the Popes and saints) that the Doctor of the Angels is the greatest theologian in the history of the Church, we must likewise assert that he is the supreme biblical scholar of our tradition – for Scripture is the soul of all theology.
We do well then, on this day in which we remember our Saint, to consider how he read the New Testament. Perhaps his little outline will serve as a roadmap for our own study and prayer.

The Division of Sacred Scripture
The “textual division” of the scholastic period was an interpretive device employed by the biblical commentator to bring out the inherent logic of the sacred text by identifying the principle theme of a given book and then dividing and subdividing the text into smaller and smaller logical unites, often even beyond the point of the modern division into verse.
Each of these units stand in relation to those around it and, indeed, to the entire book. In this way, no text of Scripture can be read in isolation from the whole. 
Not only does this tool ensure that no passage of Scripture will be singled out and interpreted apart from the whole, but because the interpretive key of the division is often based on the intention of the human author (or at least on what the scholastic commentator perceived to be the human author’s intention) this tool continually places each passage, indeed each word, of Scripture in the context of the human author’s intention according to which the given book was written.
This tool can be understood best when we see it applied. It may be likened in some respect to the modern idea of an outline.
St. Thomas’ roadmap
In his final exam which won him the title of Doctor of Theology, the young Angel of the Schools states:
“The New Testament, which is ordered to eternal life not only through precepts but also through the gifts of grace, is divided into three parts. In the first the origin of grace is treated, in the Gospels. In the second, the power of grace, and this in the epistles of Paul, hence he begins in the power of the Gospel, in Romans 1:16 saying, For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. In the third, the execution of the aforesaid virtues is treated, and this in the rest of the books of the New Testament.”
Thus, we see the New Testament divided into three parts
I. The Gospels: The source of grace, Christ himself
II. The Letters of St. Paul: The grace of Christ in itself
III. The rest: The execution of the power of grace in the Church
Now, let us consider each of these parts in detail.
The source of all grace: Christ our Savior
It is clear that Christ is the source of all grace, but in Christ there are two natures: Human and divine. Therefore, John wrote principally of his divine nature, while the other Evangelists focused primarily on his human nature.
But, in the Sacred Humanity of our Savior, we can see a threefold dignity: For he is priest, prophet and king. Thus Matthew wrote of his royal dignity and shows in the beginning how he descended from kings and was adored by Magi kings, Mark speaks of his prophetic dignity by beginning which Christ’s preaching of the Gospel and the call to repentance, and Luke shows our Savior a priest by beginning and ending with the Temple.
I. The source of grace, Christ himself
A. Divinity: John
B. Humanity
1. Priest: Luke
2. Prophet: Mark
3. King: Matthew
The grace of Christ
The division of the letter of the Pauline Corpus is rather intricate. We will simply state the first division and will then reproduce the outline.
We consider the grace of Christ in three respects: As it is in the Head of the Mystical Body, as it is in the Body itself, as it is in the principle members of that Body. The outline follows (taken from St. Thomas’ commentary on the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans):
I. The grace of Christ in itself
A. Grace as it exists in the Head, Christ himself (Hebrews)
B. Grace as it exists in the Mystical Body itself
1. The grace of Christ in itself (Romans)
2. Grace in relation to the sacraments
a. The nature of the sacraments (1 Corinthians)
b. The ministers of the sacraments (2 Corinthians)
c. Superfluous sacraments rejected (Galatians)
3. Grace in relation to the unity it produces in the Church
a. The establishment of ecclesial unity (Ephesians)
b. Its consolidation and progress (Philippians)
c. Its defense
i. Its defense against errors (Colossians)
ii. Its defense against persecutions
- Against present persecutions (1 Thessalonians)
- Against future persecutions (2 Thessalonians)
C. Grace as it exists in the principle members
1. Spiritual principle members
a. Establishing, preserving and governing ecclesial unity (1 Timothy)
b. Resistance against persecutors (2 Timothy)
c. Defense against heretics (Titus)
2. Temporal principle members (Philemon)
The power of grace in the life of the Church
Now the power of grace is shown in the progress of the Church. In this we make three distinctions. For we consider the beginning of the Church, her progress, and also the end of the Church at the conclusion of time.
The beginning of the Church is shown in the Acts of the Apostles, but her progress is shown in the Canonical Epistles. While the whole of Scripture concludes with the book of Revelation in which the Church is shown as the spouse of Christ who will share in his glory for all eternity.
III. The power of grace in the life of the Church
1. The beginning of the Church: Acts of the Apostles
2. The progress of the Church: The Canonical Epistles
3. The final glory of the Church: Revelation
Reading Scripture profitably
This method of reading Scripture is most useful insofar as it holds the whole of Scripture together as a single unified and organic “whole”. Indeed, one of the great problems in today’s modern(ist) approach to theology and to the Bible is that individual verses and books are separated from the rest of Scripture. Thus the Sacred Word becomes only a dead letter.
The Spirit, who is the primary author of all Scripture and who directed each of the human authors so that the Bible would come together into a unified whole, this selfsame Spirit of Christ alone gives life.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Pray for us!

16 comments:

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Father. FANTASTIC!!!!

Now, consider that Pope Blessed John Paul II chose Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger for the august position of Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Church (Formerly The Holy Office which was successfully undermined at Vatican Two by Cardinal Frings who read the text attacking The Holy Office and which text had been written by the peritus, Joseph Ratzinger) and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger made it quite plain he had little use for Saint Thomas Aquinas and yet he was chosen as Prefect - the first Prefect in a long time who was not schooled in Aquinas.

There are reasons we are in the predicament we are in.

Paridell said...

Very interesting... but I think "principle" should read "principal" throughout: the principal (main) theme, the principal (main) members.

Clinton R. said...

I agree with the sentiments expressed by I am not Spartacus. The Nouvelle Theologie that started in the mid 1900's and largely influenced the schemas of the Second Vatican Council has led to the modernist view of Scripture that dominates in the Church today. I pray the next pope will be a Thomist and lead a return to the traditions of the Catholic Church that have been discarded by modernists swept up by the "spirit" of Vatican II.

Pedro Erik said...

Dear Father,

If I may, I translated your article to my blog (Thyself, O Lord), mentioning the source, of course.It is a blog dedicated to St. Thomas to Portuguese readers:

http://thyselfolord.blogspot.com.br/2013/03/como-ler-o-novo-testamento-por-sao.html

God bless you.

TomE said...

Clinton & not Spartacus, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI seemed to have a healthy nostalgia for the Angelic Doctor, as evidenced here & here. Of interest in the first link is this statement:

in his Encyclical Fides et Ratio my venerable Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, recalled that "the Church has been justified in consistently proposing St Thomas as a master of thought and a model of the right way to do theology" (n. 43). It is not surprising that, after St Augustine, among the ecclesiastical writers mentioned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church St Thomas is cited more than any other, at least 61 times!

So given the "JPII" catechism's excessive citations of Aquinas, I find it highly unlikely that this "Nouvelle Theologie" can be attributed to either blessed John Paul II or Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

God bless.

Clinton R. said...

Actually TomE, Wikipedia's entry on Nouvelle Theologie has the following: The theologians usually associated with Nouvelle Théologie are Henri de Lubac, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Yves Congar, Karl Rahner, Hans Küng, Edward Schillebeeckx, Marie-Dominique Chenu, Louis Bouyer, Étienne Gilson, Jean Daniélou, Jean Mouroux and Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI).

Very rarely, if ever, did Benedict XVI refer to the Angelic Doctor in his teachings. The Novus Ordo Mass, heterodox theology, modernist approach to Biblical exegesis, and banal artwork and music can be attributed to Nouvelle Theologie. In other words, Nouvelle Theologie has resulted in our current crisis, Modernism. We were warned of this by the likes of Pope Pius X and Fr. Garrigou Lagrange.

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Tom E. Here is Mr George Weigel:

Those willing to look beyond the caricature [of Ratzinger as a gloomy Inquisitor] when Ratzinger was appointed Prefect of CDF could find several important clues to John Paul II’s thinking about the Church’s post-conciliar theological situation.

….Ratzinger’s appointment also suggested that the Pope wanted CDF to interact with the international theological community in a thoroughly contemporary way.John Paul did not appoint a medievalist or a patristics scholar as Prefect of CDF. He appointed a theologian who had been deeply and critically engaged with contemporary philosophy and ecumenical theology.

Cardinal Ratzinger was the first man in his position in centuries who did not take Thomas Aquinas as his philosophical and theological master. The Pope respected Thomism and Thomists, but he broke precedent by appointing a non-Thomistic Prefect of CDF. It was a clear signal that he believed there was a legitimate pluralism of theological methods, and that this pluralism ought to be taken into account in the formulation of authoritative teaching.”


And here, in The Nature and Mission of Theology, is the result of appointing a non-Aquinas Theologian, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith:

... “that there are magisterial decisions which cannot be the final word on a given matter as such but, despite the permanent value of their principles, are chiefly also a signal for pastoral prudence, a sort of provisional policy...

And so into the dustbin of history goes the authoritative teachings of many Popes - including the the authoritative decisions taken by the Pontifical Biblical Commission.


As James Larson of Christian Order notes,

One can well imagine the response of a Pius X, Leo XIII, Pius IX or the many Popes before them to the assertion that their condemnations of Liberalism and Modernism were provisional. In fact, Pope St. Pius X, in his Motu Proprio Praestantia Scripturae, pronounced an ipso facto excommunication upon any one who would presume to contradict or “endeavor to destroy the force and the efficacy” of his Syllabus or of his encyclical Pascendi.


...Moreover, in order to check the daily increasing audacity of many modernists who are endeavoring by all kinds of sophistry and devices to detract from the force and efficacy not only of the decree "Lamentabili sane exitu" (the so-called Syllabus), issued by our order by the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition on July 3 of the present year, but also of our encyclical letters "Pascendi dominici gregis" given on September 8 of this same year, we do by our apostolic authority repeat and confirm both that decree of the Supreme Sacred Congregation and those encyclical letters of ours, adding the penalty of excommunication against their contradictors, and this we declare and decree that should anybody, which may God forbid, be so rash as to defend any one of the propositions, opinions or teachings condemned in these documents he falls, ipso facto, under the censure contained under the chapter "Docentes" of the constitution "Apostolicae Sedis," which is the first among the excommunications latae sententiae, simply reserved to the Roman Pontiff. This excommunication is to be understood as salvis poenis, which may be incurred by those who have violated in any way the said documents, as propagators and defenders of heresies, when their propositions, opinions and teachings are heretical, as has happened more than once in the case of the adversaries of both these documents, especially when they advocate the errors of the modernists that is, the synthesis of all heresies.

Anonymous said...

Not Spart and Clinton:

Right. Pope Emeritus advocated the synthesis of all heresies. What have you people been reading?

'a theologian who had been deeply and critically engaged with contemporary philosophy and ecumenical theology.'

For you, this is a bad thing. Of course, St. Thomas Aquinas did precisely this: deeply and critically engage contemporary philosophy. For doing so, his work was considered to be suspect for about 200 years. But he became the gold standard in time. But since St. Thomas did that, apparently, anyone else that takes the challenges posed by new philosophy seriously, is a modernist heretic, in your book.

I think frankly, that you are captured by the devil to reflexively condemn whatever contradicts your sub-Catholic opinion of what constitutes the Catholic understanding and interpretation of the deposit of faith.

Yan

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Anonymous. It is not a problem to become engaged with contemporary philosophical and ecumenical theology but it is a problem to engage with them in a manner proscribed by Popes whose decisions on those matters (one even carrying an automatic anathema for those violating their strictures) remain in force despite claims to the contrary.

Being falsely accused of being a servant of Satan is a joy to read during Holy Week for that is the same false accusation made against Jesus during Passiontide.

Anonymous said...

Spartan,

I am glad you don't think it's a problem to become engaged, deeply, with intelligent thoughts, the appearance of your post seeming to be to the contrary. I am sad that you consider yourself qualified to judge Pope Benedict as having fallen short of catholicity, and instead, propose your judgment and understanding in place of his as being superior, and as being the correct option for all Catholics. What chutzpah.

I am also sad that you think my fraternal criticism is a sign of your personal holiness. I'm sure Luther thought likewise when he was criticized. In fact I feel certain he did. He wrote that wonderful hymn, A Mighty Fortress, in response to his persecution by the Church for his errors and for the schism he caused.

I wish you a blessed holy week, and a heart fully attuned to the burdens which our holy father has to bear for us, the whole world, and you included.

Yan

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Anonymous. You completely misunderstood why I was happy to be falsely accused by you; I was happy because the same thing happened to Jesus and such an observation has not one whit to to with me thinking I am personally holy - another false accusation by you.

The execrable Heresiarch, Martin Luther, was not persecuted by Holy Mother Church; in fact, Holy Mother Church went out of her way to keep that fat violent lying hateful vow-breaking drunk (I don't mean that in a bad way) in the Ark of Salvation.

Yan. You ought just ignore what I write as my words seem to set you off.

Pax tecum, brother.

Clinton R. said...

Anonymous,

You have to admit we have evidence the "New Theology" of the Church is in full effect. Pope Francis has abandoned tradition and washed two girls feet at the Holy Thursday Mass. Sadly, tradition can be quickly discarded by those who scoff at the rubrics of our Holy Religion. Do you think Pope St. Pius X, a holy pontiff as the Church has ever had, would have taken it upon himself to change rubrics and traditions? But this is what the New Theology has brought us. Novelties and more novelties.

Anonymous said...

Clinton,

Jimmy Akin has offered a reasonable explanation for what the Holy Father has been doing. It seems fully Catholic to me. Two applications of the virtue of charity are to believe all things, and to hope all things. This applies in the strongest possible way when we are attempting to judge the actions of the Pope. Next time a certain news report invites you to assume that the actions of the Pope make him a modernist heretic, you should exercise your imagination in order to see if there is some reasonable explanation for what he is doing that relates to being Catholic, and moreover being the Pope. With practice, this will become second nature, and you will find yourself to be more at peace and in charity with the Pope and the entire Church, since you will see in most cases quite easily and quickly how what the Pope said or did fully and completely embodies the aspect of catholicity which he is trying to bring to the fore at the moment in his teaching office.

Not Spartacus,

I think you are Spartacus. I am sorry if my accusing you of thinking yourself holy is a false accusation. If you are not holy, I stand corrected.

I have often taken you up on your invitation to ignore your words. No doubt I will do so again in the future.

My point was that Mr. Luther thought himself persecuted, as you do. The similarities between the two of you, unfortunately, do not seem to end there. You seem inclined as he did to carve out of the universal church a 'purer' church that would adhere to Catholicism not in communion with the hierarchy endowed with the authority of the apostles. You even deny their authority and orthodoxy in a similar manner.

Since it is obvious that you want to love the Church I suggest you attempt to pray for those members of the hierarchy, or the entire hierarchy as the case may be, that you believe to be doctrinally defective. And I will pray God to open your eyes. However, since I, like you, am not very holy, all bets are off in regard to whether God will hear me.

Best,
Yan

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Yan. You can not address me or my points without falsely accusing me of malign motivations you have no way of knowing unless you are afflatic; and you show no signs of that charism :)

In fact, it has gotten so bad with you that I can barely see what you write due to the smoke generated by your torching of innumerable straw men.

Continue this and I shall be forced to report you to the EPA.

Good Bye

Anonymous said...

Dear Spartacus,

One need have no recourse to afflatus to see what you are up to. Your comments are everywhere on the internet as plain and prominent as your monkey mask.

In any event I beg your indulgence not to report me to the EPA, since I have a terrible fear of death-by-government-agency.

Cheers and happy octave of Easter. Until the next time or so in which you again malign the Jews, I remain,
Yours,
Yan

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Yan and Not Spartacas,

Come one you two! This is just down-right silly!

Both of you would like to follow the Lord more closely, both of you want to be faithful to the Church and her venerable Tradition ... both of you (and I too) have many imperfections which can rub others the wrong way.

Let's not take something very small and passing, and make it into something worse.

No more comments will be published on this article.

(btw, I freely admit that I [a priest even] often fall into this very trap of getting upset or stubborn in the comment box ... Saints preserve us!)