Albert & Thomas: Selected Writings

By Simon Tugwell | Go to book overview

something of the reality to which the words of faith point, of course the words would lose their appeal. They had served their purpose. In such circumstances Thomas was more entitled than most of us to feel what surely all writers feel, that all this verbiage of ours is utter nonsense and we cannot bear to go on with it.

This does not mean that Thomas spent the rest of his life in a happy state of supernatural elevation. On the contrary, he told Reginald that he wanted to die, now that he could no longer write. 637 He was evidently frustrated and confused.

It looks as if the collapse of his physique and some unusually overwhelming experience of the Mass, combined with the fact that he had already completed the section of the Tertia Pars which most engaged his interest, led to his sudden helpless inability to go on with his work. He did not disown his work, he would have completed it if he could, and he deliberately alluded to it on his deathbed in quite positive terms. It was simply that he could not go on with it. As far as he was concerned, he was finished. He had always been a withdrawn, rather taciturn person, from his early childhood onward, but teaching and writing had given him a way out of himself into the world of other people. Now that he could no longer write and teach, he was almost unable to come out of himself. He had, as a theologian, argued that rapture is the highest level of contemplation, and one of the ways in which it can come about is that "one's desire is so violently drawn to something that one becomes estranged from everything else." 638 Did not something like this happen to Thomas? This curiously calm, seemingly dispassionate man suddenly found that his lifelong love of Christ became too much for him. All his life he had been studying, writing, preaching and teaching for love of Christ; now that same love became momentarily so intense that it crippled him, leaving him a stranger in the world. There was indeed nothing left for him to do except to die and to enjoy forever the friendship of God.


II. INTRODUCTION TO THE TEXTS

1. Thomas' Inaugural Lecture (1256)

The earliest detailed account we possess of the ceremonies involved in the graduation of a new Master in Theology in Paris comes

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