Today we are celebrating the feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas, patron of students of the Gospel and of all seekers after God. Thomas lived about a thousand years ago. His was the task of explaining the faith of the Church to the second millennium of Christians, putting together the insights of a thousand years into a still unequalled compendium called the Summa Theologiae. This magnum opus begins with five ways of knowing God and continues through the meaning of the sacraments and their practice, especially of the practice of Holy Communion, after a thousand years of collective experience.
We are now explaining our collective experience with God, and particularly our experience of knowing God’s presence through the sacraments, to a third millennium. With the Bible and the Summa as foundational guides, and epochs named Medieval, Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment behind us, we share our words and images via an internet rather than in a Summa or an Encyclopedia. We share new languages and new technologies, and we also share the same seeking after God. Thomas wanted above all to know God present, to seek, to learn, and to find. We can relate to that. We still find meaning and beauty in his hymns for the Eucharist and for Holy Week. We are grateful for his work, and that of others of his time, to preserve the intellectual achievements of church and society.
Here are some modern translations of prayers by Thomas for understanding and for thanksgiving:
Order my life, O Lord my God.
Give to me understanding of You,
Diligence in seeking You,
Wisdom in finding You,
Discourse ever pleasing to You,
Perseverance in waiting for You,
And confidence in finally embracing You.
For you supply us with all temporal goods.
You reserve for us an eternal good.
You inspire us with the beauty of creation.
You appeal to us with the mercy of redemption.
You promise us blessings in reward.
For all these I am incapable of sufficient praise.