Friday, February 24, 2006

One Last Unfathomable Addendum, Etc.: Why Not? :-)

Thomas Aquinas dominated Catholic theology for six hundred years. He was a saint and a mystic. His doctrine of connaturality, of knowledge through love, of wisdom as a gift of the Holy Spirit, issued from a mind and heart that were always united with the living God. His contemplative prayer and his love for the Eucharist were the very core of his life.

Now Aquinas was a man of his time and he belonged to the Order of Preachers. Like Abelard he was a brilliant dialectician who wanted to find a rational basis for the Christian message and to confront the enemies of the faith. For a systematic substructure he turned to Aristotle; but his theological doctrine came from revelation— from Scripture and tradition— and he created a magnificent synthesis of reason and faith. It was all the overflow of his mystical experience: contemplata aliis tradere.

Alas, the successors of Thomas, who taught energetically in the schools, paid little attention to the Master's teaching of connaturality and knowledge through love and the gift of the Holy Spirit. A decadent scholasticism was preoccupied with questions and syllogisms and rapier-like distinctions (the word distinguo echoed through the lecture halls) and it wanted to prove to the world that the system was reasonable. Abelard would have rubbed his hands with glee. Bernard would have wept: the scholastics were trying to see nothing through a glass darkly and to behold all things face to face. Where was the mysticism that had filled the writings of the Fathers?

—William Johnston, S.J., Mystical Theology: The Science of Love, p. 42


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