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Celebrate the Genius of St. Thomas Aquinas, Part 3

The Verbum monthly sale features several valuable resources from St. Thomas Aquinas, leading up to his feast day, January 28th.

Contemporary moral issues are considered by academics and experts in several fields from the Georgetown University Press Aquinas Studies Collection, specially priced through the end of January!


This 4-volume set has been highly praised. Here’s a review of The Ethics of Aquinas, edited by Stephen J. Pope:

[A] must have for every theology library and an invaluable resource for moral theologians, philosophers, and students alike. Pope has gathered some of the best Thomistic scholars and ethicists in Europe and America to contribute to this book.


Included in the set is Aquinas on the Emotions, lauded by Jean Porter,  John A. O’Brien Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Notre Dame:

Diana Cates’ book thus fills a real need, offering us a comprehensive, reliable, and engagingly clear guide to Aquinas’ complex theory, firmly placed within the wider context of his thought. What is more, by comparing Aquinas’ account with that of central contemporary theories of the emotions, she draws Aquinas into our own conversations, where he proves to be a surprisingly illuminating interlocutor. This fine book makes an important contribution both to Aquinas studies and to contemporary religious ethics and moral philosophy, and it deserves, and I expect it to have, wide influence.

Be sure to take advantage of the savings and add to your library now!

Celebrate the Genius of St. Thomas Aquinas, Part 2

The Verbum monthly sale is featuring several works of St Thomas Aquinas.

Here’s an excerpt from Commentary on the Gospel of John: Chapters 1-5, part of the 8-volume set, Thomas Aquinas in Translation.

Get a hint of the capacious and lucid intellect of St. Thomas in his Prologue to the Gospel of John:

I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and the whole house was full of his majesty, and the things that were under him filled the temple (Is. 6:1)

These are the words of a contemplative, and if we regard them as spoken by John the Evangelist they apply quite well to showing the nature of this Gospel. For as Augustine says in his work, On the Agreement of the Evangelists: “the other  Evangelists instruct us in their Gospels on the active life; but John in his Gospel instructs us also on the contemplative life.”

The contemplation of John is described above in three ways, in keeping with the threefold manner in which he contemplated the Lord Jesus. It is described as high, full, and perfect. It is high: I saw the Lord seated on a lofty throne; it is full: and the whole house was full of his majesty; and it was perfect; and the things that were under him filled the temple.

As to the first, we must understand that the height and sublimity of contemplation consists most of all in the contemplation and Knowledge of God: “Lift up your eyes on  high, and see who has created these things” (Is. 40:26). A man lifts up his eyes on high when he sees and contemplates the Creator of all things. Now since John rose above whatever had been created—mountains, heavens, angels—and reached the Creator of all, as Augustine says, it is clear that his contemplation was most high. Thus, I saw the Lord. And because, as John himself says below (12:41), “Isaiah said this because he had seen his glory,” that is, the glory of Christ, “and spoke of him,” the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne is Christ.

Now a fourfold height is height is indicated in this contemplation of John. A height of authority; hence he says, I saw the Lord. A height of eternity; when he says, seated. One of dignity, or nobility of nature; so he says, on a high throne. And a height of incomprehensible truth; when he says, lofty. It is in these four ways that the early philosophers arrived at the knowledge of God.




Celebrate the Genius of St. Thomas Aquinas During the Month of January

The Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas is January 28th, and Verbum is celebrating with sales on Aquinas texts and scholarship in the Verbum Monthly Sale.

Here’s an excerpt from British Dominican scholar Aidan Nichols’ Discovering Aquinas: An Introduction to His Life, Work, and Influence:

Aristotle had asked, fundamentally, two questions. What is reality like, and what are the rules of argument which get us from one conclusion about it to another? The first kind of question is answered in his Physics, Metaphysics and Ethics; the second in his logical writings, the Organon, a name we can paraphrase as ‘the philosopher’s tools of trade’. The latter had been percolating through, in dribs and drabs, for some time, but a logical rule is empty unless you have some content for it to deal with, and it was the philosophical and ethical writings that caused the stir. In them, the different kinds of things in the world around us, including man, are analysed in terms of general principles of being and action which all beings in different ways exemplify; happiness is said to be the goal of specifically human life; it is reached by the exercise of virtues which are ways of being at harmony with myself and my human environment. There is little in Aristotle about the divine, for the philosopher lacked the concepts both of creation and of the personal nature of God, even if he saw a place for an unmoved Mover to keep the whole cosmic process of coming-to-be and passing-out-of-being in operation.
Thomas’s achievement was to integrate such naturalism into the traditional Christian vision of life which the earlier monastic theologians entertained. In the early Middle Ages theology had been by and large the spiritual theology practised in the monasteries. While issues of logic were beginning to exercise monastic minds (one thinks of St Anselm), and such ruminations on the fundamental grammar of theological discourse were even more at home in cathedral schools, the aim was predominantly (not least in Anselm) the expression of the prayerful orientation of man to God. Preferred theological themes were closely relevant to spiritual living: religious self-knowledge, one’s status as creature and sinner; the grace of Christ and how it heals from sin and raises up to share the life of God; the goal of earthly pilgrimage in the beatific vision, sitting down with the Trinity at the banquet of heaven in the celestial city. Monastic theology, so well described in Dom Jean Leclerq’s The Love of Learning and the Desire for God, included, as that title tells us, ardour for erudition. The same monastic milieux transmitted, after all, much of the pagan classical inheritance as well as the Church Fathers. It was Thomas’s conviction, evidently, that this programme could be taken much further. The naturalism of the pagans at their best—the thinking, both theoretical and practical, of the ‘good pagans’—could be textured into the fabric of Christian theology, without losing—and here is the point that Thomas’s more rationalist disciples in later centuries were in danger of forgetting—the spiritual and eschatological (in a word, the heavenly) orientation of theology itself (14-15).

Apotheosis of St. Thomas Aquinas by Francis de Zurburan, 1631.

Apotheosis of St. Thomas Aquinas by Francis de Zurburan, 1631.


The Feast of St. John the Evangelist

The Church celebrated the feast of St. John the Evangelist on December 27th. Since St. John’s feast day is so close to Christmas, we decided to wait a little while to feature him in our blog.

To give St. John his due, here is an excerpt from Verbum’s Navarre Bible: Saint John’s Gospel, “The Relationship between the Gospel of St. John and the Synoptic Gospels:”

If we enter St John’s Gospel after reading the Synoptics, we sense that we are entering a different atmosphere. Even in the prologue the evangelist soars towards the heights of divinity. It is not surprising that St John is symbolized by an eagle. The evangelist “soars very high, mounts beyond the darkness of the earth and fixes his gaze on the light of truth …(St. Augustine, On the Gospel of John 15,1).


The Eagle of St. John the Evangelist by Andrei Rublev, c. 1400.

St John himself gives us one reason why his Gospel is different. He says that it is a testimony to what he has seen and heard. Rather than speak of evangelizing or preaching, the Fourth Gospel prefers to use “testify” or “bear witness” or “teach”. Thus, he presents the preaching of the Baptist as an instance of testimony to Christ (cf. Jn 1:7, 19, 32, 34; 3:26; 5:33). Our Lord is always the object of this testimony, which comes from different directions in the Fourth Gospel: first and foremost, it comes from the Father who has sent Jesus to bear witness to him (cf. Jn 5:37)… […]

Another unusual feature of St John’s Gospel is that it is a “spiritual gospel,” in the words of Clement of Alexandria (on account of which St John has been called “the theologian”). This refers to John’s desire to explore and explain the deeper meaning of Jesus’ words and actions. In St John’s account our Lord usually begins his teachings with an intriguing remark or question, to awaken the curiosity of his listeners, and then moves on to explain some point of doctrine. For example, in the case of Nicodemus, when he speaks about being born again; or his conversation with the Samaritan woman about living water: what Jesus is saying obviously means much more than one would get from a first glance at the text. In fact, it is only when the Holy Spirit comes that the disciples grasp the full meaning of the Master’s words (cf. Jn 14:26)… The Master, when he sees they cannot grasp his meaning, consoles them by promising the “Spirit of truth,” who will guide them into all the truth (Jn 16:13).[…]

St John insists that he “has seen” all this; that he has “touched” it with his hands (Jn 1:14; 19:35; 1 Jn 1:2). After a lifetime of preaching and prayer, it is only logical that he should see it all from a deeper, clearer perspective. St Augustine is right when he says that St John “soared beyond the flesh, soared beyond the earth which he trod, beyond the seas which he saw, beyond the air where birds fly; soared beyond the sun, beyond the moon and the stars, beyond all spirits which are unseen, beyond his own intelligence and the very reason of his thinking soul. Soaring beyond all these, beyond his very self, where did he reach, what did he see? ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’” (St. Augustine, On the Gospel of John 20,13) Therefore, what he narrates, far from contradicting what we read in the Synoptics, takes it as read, and fills it out.

St John on Patmos by Joannes Gleismuller, 1490.

St John on Patmos by Joannes Gleismuller, 1490.

Feast of the The Epiphany

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Every year, on the twelveth day after Christmas—this year, January 6th—the church celebrates the feast of the Epiphany.

From Scott Hahn’s Catholic Bible Dictionary:

MAGI Ancient wise men who were specialists in dream interpretation, astrology, and sometimes magic. In the Septuagint, the Greek term magoi is given to the Babylonian court magicians called in to interpret King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams (Dan 1:20; 2:2, 10, 27). In the New Testament, a “magi” once refers to a practitioner of occult magic (Acts 13:6). More significantly, the name “magi” was given to the foreign dignitaries who traveled to Palestine from the east to pay homage to the infant Jesus. These are often identified with members of a priestly caste from Persia who specialized in dream analysis and astrology (see, e.g., the description in Herodotus, Hist. 1.101). Their occupation explains their interest in unusual astral phenomena (the star of Bethlehem), and their origin makes them the first Gentiles to recognize and give reverence to the Kingship of Christ.
On the basis of the Old Testament (cf. Ps 72:10; Isa 49:7; 60:3, 6) the tradition arose that the Magi were three kings, even though Matthew does not state their number. The idea that there were three of them is inferred from the three gifts, and the idea that they were kings arises from OT prophetic texts (Ps 72:10–11; Isa 60:3, 6). Christian legend names them Balthasar, Gaspar, and Melchior. Later interpreters attached a symbolic meaning to the three gifts: gold, because Jesus was a King; frankincense, because he was God; and myrrh, because he became a mortal man.

Adoration of the Magi by Andrea Mantegna, 1500.

Adoration of the Magi by Andrea Mantegna, 1500.

Feast of St. Basil the Great

Acquaint yourself with the fascinating life and writings of St Basil (born 330), one of the the early champions of Christianity!  Although they were written over 1600 years ago, Basil’s sermons are fresh and vivid, and have much to say to us today. Here is an excerpt from St Basil’s sermon, “I Will Tear Down My Barns“:

The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God. Lk 12:16–21

[…] God brought showers upon the earth that had been cultivated by this man’s greedy hands, and gave sunshine to gently warm the seeds and multiply their produce in abundance. From God comes everything beneficial: fertile soil, temperate weather, plenty of seeds, cooperation of the animals, and whatever else is required for successful cultivation. But human beings respond with a bitter disposition, misanthropy, and an unwillingness to share. Such characteristics are what this man offered back to his Benefactor. He did not remember that he shared with others a common nature, nor did he think it necessary to distribute from his abundance to those in need. He did not keep even a word of the commandments: “Do not neglect to do good for the needy,” and “Do not let mercy and loyalty forsake you,” and “Share your bread with the hungry.” He did not heed the urgings of all the prophets and teachers.



The Rich Fool by Rembrandt, 1627.

The Rich Fool by Rembrandt, 1627.

Though his barns were filled to bursting with the abundance of his goods, his miserly heart was still not satisfied. By constantly adding more to what he already possessed, augmenting the existing surplus with annual increases, he fell into this intractable dilemma. He refused to be satisfied with what he already had on account of his greed, yet neither could he store the new harvest on account of its abundance. His purposes thus reached an impasse, and he was at a loss how to proceed. “What should I do?” he wondered. Who would not have pity on someone so besieged with troubles? He was made miserable by abundance, wretched by the good things he possessed, and still more wretched by the good things he still expected to receive. The land does not produce revenue for him, but rather brings forth sighs of discontent; he does not harvest an abundance of produce, but rather cares and sorrows and severe hardship. He laments like those afflicted with poverty. Or rather, do even those hard pressed by poverty give forth such piteous cries? “What should I do? What will I eat? What will I wear?” These things the rich man also exclaims. He is sorely afflicted; his heart is eaten away with cares. What would cause others to rejoice causes the greedy person to waste away. He does not rejoice at all the good things he has in store, but is rather pricked to the heart by the wealth that slips through his fingers, lest perhaps, as it overflows the storehouses, some of it should trickle down to those outside his walls, so as to become a source of aid for those in need.[…]

Do not suffer the same thing yourselves. Indeed, it was for this purpose that these things were written, so that we might avoid a similar fate. Imitate the earth, O mortal. Bear fruit as it does; do not show yourself inferior to inanimate soil. After all, the earth does not nurture fruit for its own enjoyment, but for your benefit. But whatever fruit of good works you bring forth, you produce for yourself, since the grace of good works redounds to those who perform them. You gave to the poor, and in so doing not only did you make what you gave truly your own, but you received back even more. For just as grain, when it falls upon the ground, brings forth an increase for the one who scatters it, thus also bread cast to the hungry yields considerable profit at a later time. Therefore, let the end of your harvesting be the beginning of a heavenly sowing. As the Scripture says, “Sow for yourselves righteousness” (Hos 10:12).  

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas

From J.N. Tylenda’s Saints and Feasts of the Liturgical Year:

The shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, on the outskirts of Mexico City, is the most famous shrine of our Lady in the Western Hemisphere, and today we commemorate her appearances to a native Mexican convert, St. Juan Diego, on Tepeyac Hill. On December 9, 1531, our Lady appeared to him and asked that a church be built on the site, and on December 12 she again appeared and urged him to take her message to the bishop. To offer proof that he was our Lady’s messenger, she told him to gather the flowers he found blooming there in mid-December. When Juan Diego stood before Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, he opened his cloak, and as the flowers cascaded to the floor, those present saw on the rough cloth an image of our Lady—the image still preserved at the shrine. The first sanctuary was built in about 1533; the second was begun in 1556; and the third was built in 1695. The present basilica dates from 1976. In 1746, Our Lady of Guadalupe became the patroness of Mexico, and in 1754 Pope Benedict XIV established December 12 as the feast. In 1945, when Pope Pius XII was speaking of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he called her “Queen of Mexico and Empress of the Americas.” The pope went on to say that the image on the cloak was done “by brushes that were not of this world.” The prayer in the Mass today affirms that by the Virgin Mary’s appearance at Tepeyac, God has brought blessings to the Americas (273-294).


Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico

Lumen Gentium: The Immaculate Conception


This excerpt from Lumen Gentium beautifully describes Mary’s Immaculate Conception as taught by the Catholic Church:

The Father of mercies willed that the incarnation should be preceded by the acceptance of her who was predestined to be the mother of His Son, so that just as a woman contributed to death, so also a woman should contribute to life. That is true in outstanding fashion of the mother of Jesus, who gave to the world Him who is Life itself and who renews all things, and who was enriched by God with the gifts which befit such a role. It is no wonder therefore that the usage prevailed among the Fathers whereby they called the mother of God entirely holy and free from all stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature. Adorned from the first instant of her conception with the radiance of an entirely unique holiness, the Virgin of Nazareth is greeted, on God’s command, by an angel messenger as “full of grace,” and to the heavenly messenger she replies: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38). Thus Mary, a daughter of Adam, consenting to the divine Word, became the mother of Jesus, the one and only Mediator. Embracing God’s salvific will with a full heart and impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally as a handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son, under Him and with Him, by the grace of almighty God, serving the mystery of redemption. Rightly therefore the holy Fathers see her as used by God not merely in a passive way, but as freely cooperating in the work of human salvation through faith and obedience. For, as St. Irenaeus says, she “being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.” Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert in their preaching, “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience; what the virgin Eve bound through her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.” Comparing Mary with Eve, they call her “the Mother of the living,” and still more often they say: “death through Eve, life through Mary.”

Deacon Kevin’s Reflections for the 2nd Week of Advent

This guest post is by Deacon Kevin Bagley, Director of Verbum.

We journey closer to Christmas and our anticipation heightens. Last week Jesus spoke of the end times, and we now hear John the Baptist telling us to, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” We must live our lives as Jesus has asked if we want to be part of the Kingdom.

Isaiah tells us that we need to turn our hearts to God. The spirit of the Lord shall come, bestowing gifts upon us: wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, and fear of the Lord. Along with piety, these are the spiritual gifts we receive at Confirmation. The Messiah is so powerful and his message so strong that he will bring peace and justice to all creatures.

Paul tells us that living a Christian life means maintaining peace with each other. During Advent, we should examine our relationship with God and also look at our relationships with others. Now is the time to become reconciled with one another. Now is the time to bring peace into strained relationships.

Take some time to discriminate between the messages you hear this Advent: John the Baptist asks us to prepare, but so do the merchants. John wants us to prepare for eternity; the merchants want us to prepare for a particular event. John urges us to turn to God and be saved; the merchants are ultimately interested selling their products. Yes, we want to have a wonderful Christmas, but if we are not good stewards and live the gospel message, eternity will be a living Hell, literally.

As a reminder: Monday, December 8, is a Holy Day of Obligation. We celebrate Mary’s Immaculate Conception. In 1854, Pope Pius IX declared that the Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the very first instant of her conception, exempt from sin and clothed in sanctifying grace. It is a wonderful opportunity to gather in prayer as community and thank Mary for saying YES to God!

Feast of Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and the Archangels

The devil. Satan. Maybe we don’t like to think about him. Today’s reading from Revelations, however, reminds us of the reality of evil. As St. Paul states in his letter to the Ephesians, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph 6:12, KJV). Ultimately, of course, the story of Michael the archangel re-affirms God’s power over all the powers in heaven and earth:

Арханёл_Міхал._Канец_XVІII_ст._Пінск Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Rev. 12:7-9)

The war has been won; God is victorious. Our job as believers is to continue to pray and work for the coming of the kingdom to save our “place in heaven.” As the church celebrates the Feast of the Archangels, it is worth considering these powerful allies and asking for their protection. As St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church, advises us:

Make friends with the angels, who though invisible are always with you. Often invoke them, constantly praise them, and make good use of their help and assistance in all your temporal and spiritual affairs.

St. Francis de Sales is just one of the writers features in the 10-volume set Classic Wisdom Collection featured on the Verbum Monthly Sales! Take advantage of 27% off through September 30th.



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