The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Aquinas’ Sermon Notes on the Epistle, Second Sunday of Advent

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 5, 2009

Very few of Aquinas’ sermons have come down to us.  A good number of his notes have, however, and they can provide excellent points for meditation and study.  It was not uncommon in St Thomas’ day to preach a single homily in two parts, the first part being delivered during the Mass, while the second part was delivered during the Vespers service.  This post contains both parts.

The Teaching Of Holy Scripture.
Second Sunday In Advent.
Part 1. The Book of Creation.

For whatsoever things were written previously were written for our learning~Rom 15:4.

the Apostle has taught us on the preceding Sunday to arise from the dead; on this day he teaches us towards what we ought to arise, for the Scripture, which our heavenly Master has given for us, is to be studied and read.  And the Lord as a good Master was the more solicitous to provide us with the best writings, that He might make us perfectly instructed.  “Whatever things,” He said, “were written, were written for our learning.”  But these writings are comprised in two books-that is to say, in the Book of Creation, and in the Book of Scripture.  The first book has so many creations; it has just so many most perfect writings, which teach the truth without a lie; hence, what Aristotle was asked whence he had learnt so may and so great things, answered, “From the things themselves, which know not how to deceive.”  But they teach two things to be learned; and of the things which may be known four things are to be taught.  First, that there is a God; secondly, that this God is one; thirdly, that this God is triune; and fourthly, that He is the highest good.  For the world teaches by itself that it is His work.  “For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the Creator of them may be seen, to be known thereby” (Wis 13:5).  Because they are one, and are preserved, in the same manner, they teach the unity of God; for, it there were many gods, the world would have already been destroyed, since division is the cause of destruction.  “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city  or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Mt 12:25).  For all things exist by number, weight, and measure; or, according to St Augustine, “On the Trinity by mode of species, and by order; so that they teach a threefold Godhead.”  “Thou hast ordered all things in measure, number, and weight” (Wis 11:21).  Because all things are good, they teach that He is the highest goodness through Whom so many good things proceed.  According to St Augustine it is a great token of goodness that every creature conceives itself to be good; therefore, because God is good, so are we.  About the actions to be done, in like manner, we are taught a fourfold lesson.  God is to be obeyed, loved, feared, and praised.  Of the first, we ought to obey God, for all things serve Him.  “He hath made a decree which shall not pass” (Ps 148:6).  Nothing among God’s creatures does the Creator find to be disobedient, save the sinner and the devil.  God teaches us to love Him by His benefits and gifts, which He shows to us daily.  St Augustine says that heaven and earth, and all things which are in them, on every side, say to me that I should love Thee; neither do they cease to say this by all things, that I may be inexcusable if I love Thee not.  by pains and punishments they teach us to fear God.  We see that all things are prepared to punish those that rebel against their Creator.  “For the creature serving Thee, the Creator, is made fierce against the unjust for their punishment: and abateth its strength for the benefit of them that trust in Thee” (Wis 16:24).  They teach us to praise God; for all things praise Him and invite us to His praising.  St Augustine says that it is wonderful that man does not always praise God, since every creature invites to the praising of Him; and this so plainly that all His creatures become as so many Scriptures of God, teaching us that there are four things to be known, as well as four commands to be performed.

Part 2.  The Book Of Scripture.

As we have treated of earlier, there are two books which are written for our learning, the book of the Creation, which formed the subject of the former homily; and the book of Scripture, of which we have now to speak.  This book teaches us two things-things good and things evil: the good, that we should perform them; the evil, that we should avoid them.  There are three attributes which are taught us about the Good, precepts, counsels, and promises; for the Good is threefold, and it is both honest, and pleasant, and profitable.  The precepts teach us honest good, because they teach the worship of the One God, and fairness of manners and of virtues which make the honest man.  In counsels there is the useful good.  “If thou wilt be perfect go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven” (Mt 19:21).  The delightful or joyous good flows from promises.  “I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice” (Jn 16:22).  “Hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and the judgments which I teach you that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you” (Dt 4:1).  Likewise, concerning the evil things there are three points to be noticed-prohibitions, dissuasions, and comminations, and they agree with the threefold nature of evil.  There is the evil of deadly sin, of venial sin, and of the sin of eternal punishment.  The prohibitions refer to the evil of deadly sin, “Neither shalt thou commit fornications, ” &c., and so with regard to the other prohibitions.  The dissuasions refer to venial sin, “He that contemneth small things shall fall by little and little.  Thou hast avoided grand things, be careful lest thou art overwhelmed in the sand” (Eccles 19:1).  Comminations have respect to the evil of eternal punishment, “For their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched” (Isa 64:24).  Rightly, therefore, does the Apostle say that whatever things were written in the book of Scripture were written for our instruction.

One Response to “Aquinas’ Sermon Notes on the Epistle, Second Sunday of Advent”

  1. […] St Thomas Aquinas’ Sermon Notes on the Epistle. Can be used for sermon prep, points for meditation or further study. […]

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