Friday, January 28, 2005

Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas

Contributor's note: The following taken from a recently discovered text, believed to one the lost parts of the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. For a good example of his distinctive discourse, see here. (For the link-averse, this one might be helpful in deciphering what follows.)


Objection 1: It would seem that it is immoral to travel to St. Thomas in winter, because, as Scripture has it, "there is a time and a season for every purpose", and the purpose of winter is cold: for only by such cold can the fauna of the earth die in order to be revitalized in the spring; therefore, to leave the cold for the warmth defeats the purpose of winter, which God has made.

Obj. 2: Further, warmth tends to excite human passions; whereas, cold tends to inhibit them; since it is clearly better that such passions be held in check and worse to give them free rein, it is more virtuous to remain in a cold place in winter.

Obj 3: Further, to be cold in winter is to be mortified, because the flesh seeks warmth and rebels or suffers at the cold; such mortification is good for the soul as a kind of fasting; to avoid such mortification is to avoid what is good for the soul. Therefore, one should avoid St. Thomas in the winter.

On the contrary, the Lord said, "I will quietly look from my dwelling like clear heat in sunshine," and, again, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." The Lord, who is Goodness itself, could neither describe Himself as clear heat in sunshine unless that were an aspect of His being, nor offer rest unless it were good.

I answer that it is not only licit but sensible to travel to St. Thomas during the winter, for several reasons.

First, if a person who travels to St. Thomas be unrepentantly vicious, then such a trip will be his reward during his life, and he can look forward, at death, to an eternity of punishment, which may be compared with the as yet unfounded city of Boston in winter; whereas, if a person who travels to St. Thomas be virtuous, then he will have a foretaste of heaven.

Second, any place named for a saint is, at least to that extent, a holy place, for to be saintly is to be holy: whence, one who travels to the place of a saint, knowing of such holiness, is a pilgrim, and to be a pilgrim is to be devout, and, therefore, cannot be vicious.

Third, any place named for the Holy Apostle Thomas doubtless is a wonderful place. That such a place is also called for your humble Theologian is merely accidental.
Fourth, if such a place be later discovered and associated with other places under the patronage of the Virgin, the mother of the Lord, then it cannot be a place to avoid, since she has been a refuge for saints and sinners alike in every season.

Reply Obj. 1: Many proofs fail from mere want of knowledge: this objection is no exception. Scholars of cosmology and certain travelers to uncharted lands tell us that, in the nether parts of the world, it is hot in winter and cool in summer: this is also what God has made, and it is good. Likewise, by the unreason of this objections, one could not find a cool place in the heat or else defeat the purpose of summer; whereas, as Scripture has it, "It will be for a shade by day from the heat."

Reply Obj. 2: The law of nature is written on the hearts of men: therefore, men seek warmth when they are cold, and coolness when they are hot; otherwise, they might perish. To hold as wrong that which is natural and good -- that is to say, necessary and proper according to the nature of a substance -- is without reason. Moreover, the mere absence or frustration of vice is not virtue; otherwise, to be very aged would be the same as to be very virtuous.

Reply Obj. 3: While fasting is good, it is by no means an exclusive mark of holiness: for the Holy Apostles never fasted while the Lord was with them, and no person or thing is holier than the Lord. Indeed, in the Lord's parable, it was the hypocrite that fasted. Moreover, since this day will be your humble Theologian's feast day, it would be unnatural and wrong to fast, since fasting and feasting cannot co-exist according the principle of non-contradiction. On the contrary, it is altogether proper today to party.



Blogger Gone Away said...

.oO(How does he think of this stuff...?) Logic is a wonderful thing, is it not? What a pity that such a beautiful gift from God should so often be used to mar and destroy (and even dissuade us from attempting a journey to St Thomas in winter). I must thank you for pointing out the usefulness of the link; it was most instructive and entertaining. Your piece, too, is marvellously adroit and insightful. My congratulations on it. My only regret is that it is beyond my abilities to imitate, my predilections for apologetics being more in the line of Mr CS Lewis...

1/28/2005 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger Remainderman said...

Hard to do better that Mr. Lewis -- he was a remarkably gifted writer and thinker.

1/28/2005 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger Remainderman said...

Now, if one of our well-heeled and generous visitor would just sponsor your humble Contributor on a trip to St. Thomas, we could demonstrate the argument convincingly.

1/28/2005 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

Alas, sir, you find me with nary a groat to my purse...

1/28/2005 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger Remainderman said...

Ditto here: that's why your humble Contributor was seeking sponsorship.

My guess is that Harry is loaded.

1/28/2005 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

Positively rolling in it, by all accounts... :D

1/28/2005 07:08:00 PM  
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