Sing with Aquinas on This Corpus Christ Sunday

In 13 History on 2011/06/22 at 11:27 PM

Dying Pope Urban IV instituted the feast of Corpus Christi and commissioned Thomas Aquinas to write a liturgy which Catholic worshipers through the centuries have treasured.

The Corpus Christi liturgy includes the sequence “Lauda Sion,” the Vesper hymn “Pange Lingua” and concludes with the “Tantum Ergo.”  For Morning Prayers he wrote “Salutaris Hostia.”

Listen to a few of these pieces:

“Panis Angelicus” composed by Cesar Frank and performed by Renee Fleming:

“Ave Verum Corpus” by Mozart performed by a soprano with organ:

“Pange Lingua Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium” – Eucharistic Prayer Of St Thomas Aquinas:  “Tantum Ergo” is the last two stanzas.

“Adoro Te Devote”:

“O Salutaris Hostia”:

As a child, Thomas kept asking his professors the same question over and over:  “Sir, Who is God?  Please explain to me what is God?”  Eventually, he concluded that knowing God was, more than anything else, a spiritual attempt.  Seek the truth by praying with humble and contrite heart.

Thomas’ family was related to the Holy Roman Emperors and the Kings of Aragon, Castile and France.  At the age of five his training was begun by the Benedictine monks of Monte Cassino. At the age twelve he was sent to the University of Naples because the Abbot wrote to Thomas’ father that a boy of such talents should not be left in obscurity.

Having surpassed his teachers at Naples, he was sent on to train in logic and natural science.  No matter what the subject matter was, Thomas could represent whatever he learned with greater clarity and depth than his professors.

At age 18 he entered the order of St. Dominic.  His mother had him kidnapped and imprisoned in a fortress for two years during which his sister sent him books on the Holy Scriptures, Aristotle’s Metaphysics and the “Sentences” of Peter Lombard.

“The Books of Sentences” is a compilation of Biblical texts and an exegesis of Biblical passages with relevant passages from the Church Fathers and many medieval thinkers on every aspect of Christian theology. It is the first major attempt to arrange the material in a systematic order and to reconcile them where they appeared to defend different viewpoints.

Eventually freed by being lowered in a basket, Thomas was sent by the Dominicans to be examined by the Pope who forbade any interference to his vocation which now had his blessing.

In Cologne he was placed under the renowned Dominican, St. Albert the Great.  Thomas’ humility and silence were often misinterpreted as signs of dullness.  Albert, having heard Thomas defend a difficult thesis brilliantly, said:  “We call this young man a dumb ox, but his bellowing in doctrine will one day resound throughout the world.”

In 1245 Albert was sent to Paris, and Thomas accompanied him as a student.  Everyone was more more anxious to hear Thomas than Albert whom Thomas surpassed in accuracy, clarity, succinctness and power of demonstration, as well as in knowledge.  His appointment to the University of Paris began his famous teaching career which attracted the attention both of the professors and students.  His life now was one essentially of praying, preaching, teaching and writing.

In his inaugural lecture as master at the University of Paris in 1256, Thomas said that teachers should lead lives that would “illumine the faithful by their preaching, enlighten student by their teaching and defend the faith by their disputations against errors.”  Thomas certainly lived what he believed and said.  Vatican II recommends that the faithful obtain a deeper understanding of the mysteries of the Faith through St. Thomas’ writings.

His duties at the University consisted principally in explaining the “Sentences” of Peter Lombard which eventually led Thomas to write his chief work: the “SUMMA THEOLOGICA.”  While working on this major opus, Thomas simultaneously wrote twelve extraordinary commentaries on Aristotleʼs major books, all in a period of six years.

His powerful mind never rested. During a banquet given by the King of France, all of a sudden Thomas pounded his fist on the table, crying out: “That settles it.”  The King sent for his secretary to write down Thomas’ insight.

Throughout his relatively short but brilliant career as a master teacher and writer on theology and philosophy, Aquinas had the enthusiastic support of the Popes and the King of France.

Paris saw Thomas as belonging to her, but everyone was eager to learn from his teaching.  Thomas, therefore, went from one major university to another (eight in all) and writing with one desire: a consuming zeal to explain and defend Christian truth.  The world is grateful that he refused becoming archbishop of Naples; had he done so, the “Summa Theologica” probably would not have been written.

During Lent of 1273, Thomas Aquinas delivered a series of 59 sermons on charity, the Commandments, the Apostles Creed, the Our Father & the Hail Mary.

Almost the entire population of Naples went to hear his sermons every day.  That same year in Naples, he completed his treatise on the Eucharist. That December, Thomas ceased to write.  His studies and writings had led him to such a closeness to God that all he had written seemed nothing in comparison.  Thomas began to prepare for his death.  However,  he was ordered to attend the Council of Lyons.  On his way there, he struck his head on a tree branch and died shortly after.

Thanks to his deep knowledge of classical philosophy and the Church Fathers, Thomas devised a harmonious synthesis between faith and reason.  There is no doubt why he is considered to have the ablest mind in the history of Christendom. His intellectual synthesis has stood for centuries despite attacks by hostile or misguided minds.

Pope Leo XIII in his Encyclical, “Eternal Father” on the restoration of Christian philosophy, declared Aquinas “the prince and master of all Scholastic doctors” and declared him patron of all Catholic universities, academies, colleges and schools throughout the world.

  1. Is there another voice more awesome than Renee Fleming. I have heard the voice referred to as an instrument. Hers is surely one of God’s greatest creations.

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