On the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, we will feature him in his own words! Here is this Sunday’s gospel reading from Mark:
And they went into Caperna-um; and immediately on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee (Mk 1:21-28).
To demonstate the tremendous scope of his erudition, we excerpt the Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels. St. Thomas Aquinas’ masterful treatment of this same passage includes the works of the early church fathers, as well as scripture:
BEDE. (in Marc. i. 7) Since by the envy of the devil death first entered into the world, it was right that the medicine of healing should first work against the author of death; and therefore it is said, And there was in their synagogue a man, &c.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) The word Spirit is applied to an Angel, the air, the soul, and even the Holy Ghost. Lest therefore by the sameness of the name we should fall into error, he adds, unclean. And he is called unclean on account of his impiousness and far removal from God, and because he employs himself in all unclean and wicked works.
AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, ix. 21) Moreover, how great is the power which the lowliness of God, appearing in the form of a servant, has over the pride of devils, the devils themselves know so well, that they express it to the same Lord clothed in the weakness of flesh. For there follows, And he cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth, &c. For it is evident in these words that there was in them knowledge, but there was not charity; and the reason was, that they feared their punishment from Him, and loved not the righteousness in Him.
BEDE. (ubi sup.) For the devils, seeing the Lord on the earth, thought that they were immediately to be judged.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) Or else the devil so speaks, as if he said, ‘by taking away uncleanness, and giving to the souls of men divine knowledge, Thou allowest us no place in men.’
THEOPHYLACT. For to come out of man the devil considers as his own perdition; for devils are ruthless, thinking that they suffer some evil, so long as they are not troubling men. There follows, I know that thou art the Holy One of God.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) As if he said, Methinks that Thou art come; for he had not a firm and certain knowledge of the coming of God. But he calls Him holy not as one of many, for every prophet was also holy, but he proclaims that He was the One holy; by the article in Greek he shews Him to be the One, but by his fear he shews Him to be Lord of all.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) For He was known to them in that degree in which He wished to be known; and He wished as much as was fitting. He was not known to them as to the holy Angels, who enjoy Him by partaking of His eternity according as He is the Word of God; but as He was to be made known in terror, to those beings from whose tyrannical power He was about to free the predestinate. He was known therefore to the devils, not in that He is eternal Life, but by some temporal effects of His Power, which might be more clear to the angelic senses of even bad spirits than to the weakness of men.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) Further, the Truth did not wish to have the witness of unclean spirits; wherefore there follows, And Jesus threatened him, saying, &c. Whence a healthful precept is given to us; let us not believe devils, howsoever they may proclaim the truth. It goes on, And the unclean spirit tearing him, &c. For, because the man spoke as one in his senses and uttered his words with discretion, lest it should be thought that he put together his words not from the devil but out of his own heart, He permitted the man to be torn by the devil, that He might shew that it was the devil who spoke.
THEOPHYLACT. That they might know, when they saw it, from how great an evil the man was freed, and on account of the miracle might believe.
BEDE. (ubi sup.) But it may appear to be a discrepancy, that he should have gone out of him, tearing him, or, as some copies have it, vexing him, when, according to Luke, he did not hurt him. But Luke himself says, When he had, cast him into the midst, he came out from him, without hurting him. (Luke 4:35) Wherefore it is inferred that Mark meant by vexing or tearing him, what Luke expresses, in the words, When he had cast him into the midst; so that what he goes on to say, And did not hurt him, may be understood to mean, that the tossing of his limbs and vexing, did not weaken him, as devils are wont to come out even with the cutting off and tearing away of limbs. But seeing the power of the miracle, they wonder at the newness of our Lord’s doctrine, and are roused to search into what they had heard by what they had seen. Wherefore there follows, And they all wondered &c. For miracles were done that they might more firmly believe the Gospel of the kingdom of God, which was being preached, since those who were promising heavenly joys to men on earth, were shewing forth heavenly things and divine works even on earth. For before (as the Evangelist says) He was teaching them as one who had power, and now, as the crowd witnesses, with power He commands the evil spirits, and they obey Him. (1 John 5:20. John 17:3) It goes on, And immediately His fame spread abroad, &c.
GLOSS. (non occ.) For those things which men wonder at they soon divulge, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. (Mat. 12:24)
PSEUDO-JEROME. Moreover, Capernaum is mystically interpreted the town of consolation, and the sabbath as rest. The man with an evil spirit is healed by rest and consolation, that the place and time may agree with his healing. This man with an unclean spirit is the human race, in which uncleanness reigned from Adam to Moses; for they sinned without law, and perished without law. (v. Rom. 5:14. 2:12) And he, knowing the Holy One of God, is ordered to hold his peace, for they knowing God did not glorify him as God, but rather served the creature than the Creator. (1:21.25) The spirit tearing the man came out of him. When salvation is near, temptation is at hand also. Pharaoh, when about to let Israel go, pursues Israel; the devil, when despised, rises up to create scandals.
Be sure to take advantage of all the excellent St. Thomas Aquinas resources as we come to the close of January’s Verbum Monthly Sale!