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Who I Am

I Am Who I Am.
Exodus 3:15

On this day, we acknowledge Thomas Aquinas as the greatest theologian of the high Middle Ages. He was born in Aquino, Italy in 1225 to a wealthy family. As a young boy, he was sent to live at the Abbey of Monte Cassino, after which (as a teenager) he went to Paris for his education. To the anger of his family, he joined the Dominican Order of Preachers. They tried to deter him by various means, including kidnap, the temptation of a ‘woman of the night,’ as well as offering him the Archbishopric of Naples! All these attempts failed and Thomas pressed on with his decision.[1] While he was seen as slow and serious (and thus had the nickname “Dumb Ox”), Thomas was a brilliant debater and renowned for his expertise in “public disputation.”

In addition to his skills in public debate, Aquinas also wrote extensively, and many of his writings are available to us today. He wrote commentaries on Scripture, many sermons, hymns and, perhaps most famously, Summa Theologica and Summa Contra Gentiles. The first focused on the revelation of God, the second human reason in support of God. They were radical for the time and still influence many philosophers and theologians today.[2]

The scripture above, in which God discloses to Moses His name, was formative for Thomas’ understanding of revelation. From this revelation, Thomas understood God's name to mean that God is the Ultimate Reality from which everything else is derived. Because of that connection, some things about God can be understood through creation (“natural theology”), but a full understanding is only possible through divine self-revelation. Many aspects of Aquinas’ work to harmonize our understanding of reason and revelation were criticized, but ultimately he was vindicated by his canonization in 1323 and then, in 1879, Pope Leo XIII declared his theology “eternally valid.”[3]

Today, let us pray for those who have given us wisdom and understanding about our relationship with God, but may we also pause ourselves to reflect on the One who is the great “I Am” Himself, the source of all being and life, reason and revelation (Acts 17:28, Col 1:15-17).

[1] Tim Dowley, Eerdmans’ Handbook to the History of Christianity, 1977, p.288.
[2] Holy Women, Holy Men, p.194.
[3] Tim Dowley, Eerdmans’ Handbook to the History of Christianity, 1977, p.288.
The Rev. Nicolas (Nick) R.D. Dyke
Pastoral Associate
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