Sacred Heart Cathedral

From the Rector, The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 6/18/2023

The Eucharist in the Teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas

It was only because St. Thomas was so deeply devoted to the Body and Blood of the Lord that he was able to teach so elegantly in this regard. For it would not stand to reason that his love of Mass and the Eucharist could be removed from his intellectual pursuits into these matters. On the contrary, he realized that all that he wrote only pointed to higher realities: “Theology, for Thomas, would not be worth writing at all if there were nothing more important than it.

Theology matters only because—and when—there is more to life than theology, and when that ‘more’ shows its presence within the theology that is done” (Denys Turner). Additionally, “the most important benefit to be derived from sacred studies, is that they inspire a man with a
great love for God and a great longing for eternal things” (Studiorum ducem, 13). It is for this reason that St. Thomas is an exemplar regarding the connection between the spiritual and intellectual lives, for his studies were not distinct from his prayer, but rather were an impetus for the same. Indeed, then, it can be said that “[i]n dealing orally or in writing with divine things, he provides theologians with a striking example of the intimate connection which should exist between the spiritual and intellectual life” (Studiorum ducem, 12).

And what is the “fount and apex” of the spiritual life but the Eucharistic sacrifice? It is easy to see, then, why St. Thomas would have given such precedence to the Eucharist in his spirituality. This becomes ever clearer when one examines the specific teachings of the Eucharistic Doctor regarding the Blessed Sacrament and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. When he first begins discussing the Eucharist in his treatise on the sacraments, he shows how the Eucharist is the perfection of all others sacraments and is, in itself, the “sign of supreme charity,” that is, the sign of that ultimate act of love which Christ committed on
the Cross (Summa, III, 75, 1c; cf. also Jn. 15:13). In fact, St. Thomas goes on to say that “the reality of this sacrament is charity,” that the Eucharist is the “sacrament of charity” (Summa, III, 79, 4c). This only makes sense in the context of the whole, for surely St. Thomas would have been familiar with the words of St. John: “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8) And since the Blessed Sacrament is the “Word made flesh” (Jn. 1:14) and “God is love,” it only follows that the Blessed Sacrament, the Body and Blood of the eternal Word, itself is the sacrament of charity.

Elsewhere, St. Thomas describes the Eucharist as the greatest of the sacraments: for Christ is substantially present within the Eucharist; all other sacraments are ordered to the Eucharist; and finally, all the rites for the different sacraments culminate in the Eucharist (Summa, III, 65, 3c). At one point, he even applies his definition of a sacrament to the Eucharist itself (cf. “O Sacrum Convivium” and Summa, III, 60, 2c), implying that the Eucharist is the Sacrament of sacraments, the one from which all others flow and to which they are all directed. It is almost as if he is saying that the definition of a sacrament comes from the Eucharist, and
not that the Eucharist fits the definition of a sacrament.

This week’s recommendation: The Incredible Eucharistic Miracles w/Fr. Robert
Spitzer and Chris Stefanik ; Daily Reflections for June 18, 2023

Similar Posts