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’ Homily Notes on the Epistle for the First Sunday After Epiphany (Romans 12:1-5)

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 7, 2011

What follows is not actually a homily, rather, it is a series of homiletic notes which can provide points for meditation, reflection, and further study. Aquinas’ outstanding “Academic Sermons” are available in English translation. Basic notes such as the one presented here can not convey their depth and richness. You might also wish to purchase “Reading the Sermons of Thomas Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide“. These notes were in all likelihood really outlines made by Thomas’ students as he preached the sermon. Having students outline lectures, sermons and books was a common learning exercise in the Middle Ages. It’s still common today among students of literature, theology and philosophy.

“Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing
of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable,
and perfect, will of God.” Rom 12:2.

THE Apostle in these words exhorts us to three things, in which consists the entire perfection of man. Firstly, that the form of this world be relinquished- “Be not conformed to this world.” Secondly, that the form of the new life be assumed- “but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Thirdly, that the will of God may be known- “that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

I. On the first head it is to be noted, that the form or manner of existence, of this world is threefold. (1) In the lust of concupiscence. (2) In the desire of earthly goods. (3) In the pride of life. Of these three, 1 John 2:16, “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” It is to be remembered that this threefold form has likewise a threefold manifestation the “lust of the flesh” has a sensual form; the “lust of the eyes,” an earthly form; the “pride of life,” a devilish form. Lust makes a man sensual; avarice makes him earthly; pride makes him like the devil. Of these three, S. James 3:15, “This wisdom descendeth, not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” By the first, we are “conformed to this world” through gluttony and revelling; by the second, through avarice; by the third, through pride; so that they themselves will perish with the perishing world. As S. Greg. Mag. says, “He who leans upon that which is failing must of necessity come to ruin when it perishes.” 1 John 2:15, 17, “Love not the world.” Why not? “The world passeth away and the lust thereof.”

II. On the second head it is to be noted that the form of the new life is also threefold. It consists (1) in holiness of will; (2) in truth of speech; (3) in justness of deed. The first informs the heart; the second, the mouth; the third, the hands. Of the first, Eph 6:6, 7, “Doing the will of God from the heart, with good will.” Of the second, Eph 4:25, “Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour.” Of the third, Gal 6:10, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men.” Of these three, Eph 5:9, “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth”- in “goodness” of heart, in “righteousness” of deed, in “truth” of speech. The form of goodness makes us angelical, since by goodness man became like unto the angels. The form of righteousness makes us celestial; by righteousness we are likened unto the saints. The form of truth makes us divine; by truth we are made like unto God. Of these three, Rom 12:1, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” Living by faith, Heb 10:38, “The just shall live by faith.” “Holy,” which is cleansed. “Acceptable to God,” through the truth, for God is truth.

III. On the third head it is to be noted that the “will of God” is threefold. Firstly, “good;” secondly, “acceptable;” thirdly, “perfect.” This is to be understood in many ways, but chiefly in three.

1. In a moral sense, the will of God was “good” in creating; “acceptable” in recreating; “perfect” in glorifying. “Good ” in giving the gifts of nature; “acceptable” in giving the gifts of grace; “perfect” in the bestowal of glory. Of the first, Rev 4:11, “Thou art worthy, Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” For they were in idea in the Divine mind, they were created to have an existence of their own. Of the second, ps 30:7, “Lord, by Thy favour [tua voluntate, Vulg.] Thou hast made my mountain to stand strong;” since, in recreating, the Lord renewed the Divine beauty in us, and strengthened it by the favour of the Holy Ghost. Of the third, John 17:24, ” Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory.” Ps. 73:24, “Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.”

2. In another sense, the will of God is “good” in us by cleansing us from all impurity; “acceptable” through the showing forth of pity; “perfect” from the fervour of charity. Of the first, 1 Thess 4:3, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification,” i.e., cleansing. Of the second, Matt 9:13, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” Of the third, Luke 12:49, “I am come to send fire on the earth, and what will I if it be already kindled ?” By fire charity is understood.

3. In a third sense, the “will of God” can be viewed as “good” in those who are married; “acceptable” in the continent; “perfect” in prelates who are preserved for perfection. In the married, as exciting them to works of mercy; in the continent, to do good to others like them; in prelates, to lay down their lives for the brethren. Of the first will can be understood Ps 143:10, “Teach me to do Thy will.” Of the second, 1 Thess 4:4, “That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour,- not in the lust of concupiscence.” Of the third, Ps 104:21, “Ministers of His that do His pleasure.” The reward of His will is eternal life Ps 30:5, “In His favour [voluntas, Vulg.] is life.”


One Response to “Aquinas’ Homily Notes on the Epistle for the First Sunday After Epiphany (Romans 12:1-5)”

  1. […] Aquinas’ Homily Notes on the Epistle (Rom 12:1-5). […]

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