събота, 4 февруари 2012 г.

Angels-THOMAS AQUINAS

St. Thomas Aquinas, Catholic theologian and philosopher, was born
in Roccasecca, Italy, in 1224. Educated by the Benedectines of Monte
Cassino, he earned a master in arts degree at the University of Naples
before entering the Order of Dominicans in 1244. He then studied
philosophy and theology in Paris and Cologne. In 1252 he was sent to
the University of Paris for advanced study in theology and taught until
1259, when he went back to Italy to spend ten years teaching at vari-
ous Dominician monasteries. Illness forced him
to leave teaching, and after a five-year illness,
Aquinas died in 1274.
Aquinas, whose eclectic philosophy, including
his musings on angels, is principally a
rethinking of Aristotelianism within the framework
of Christianity (plus significant influences
from earlier Christian philosophers), produced
his writings during his twenty years as an
active teacher. Besides a variety of recorded disputations
and commentaries (On Being and
Essence, De Anima, On Physics, On Interpretation,
Posterior Analytics, Ethics, Metaphysics, Politics
and the unfinished expositions of Aristotle’s
De Caelo, De Generatione, and Metheora),
his works primarily consist of theological and
philosophical treatises written in Latin, such as
the short treatise Principles of Nature, in which
he discusses several philosophical subjects, from
the distinction between essence and existence
to the Aristotelian dependence of abstracted
universals on individual material things; the
Summa contra gentiles, four books in which he
argues against nonbelievers and heretics;
Against the Errors of the Greeks, in which he expresses his opinion
about the doctrinal points disputed by Greek and Latin Christians;
and the unfinished Summa Theologica, a three-part treatise on sacred
doctrine that contains the principles of Thomistic theology.
The element providing the Summa Theologica with conceptual
unity consists of the Dionysian circle, implying the going forth of all
things from God and the return of all things to God. Part 1 includes
questions and treatises about creation, angels, humanity, and divine
government. The two sections of the second part are about virtues,
vices, law, and grace, and the questions contained in the third part
consider Christ and his sacraments as indispensable means to salvation.
Aquinas thoroughly treated the subject of angels, providing an
influential angelology for his age. Based on the assumption that
humans cannot be the highest beings in the created order, Aquinas’s
angelology posits a race of superior beings with capacities far beyond
our own.
Even without an evolutionary understanding of the universe, he
perceived why angels are necessary in a natural hierarchy. He asserted
that angels are the next step beyond humanity in the order of beings.
He argued that since intellect is above sense, there must be some creatures
who are incorporeal and therefore comprehensible by the intellect
alone.
He thus assigned to angels an incorporeal nature, departing from
earlier philosophers who had asserted that angels were constituted
from a subtle material substance. Aquinas’s work does refer to Aristotle,
according to whom nothing is moved except a body and so it
might well be argued that Aquinas believed an angel must be in some
way a corporeal substance. However, he also quoted the psalmist in Ps.
104:4, who affirms that God “maketh his angels spirits.” He defended
the view that angels do not belong to a species as do humans, but each
is a separate substance and its own species. He also held that angels
are incorruptible. In spite of their incorporeal nature, angels can
sometimes assume bodies, since the scriptural account of Abraham’s
entertaining angels makes this plain.
During Aquinas’s time, it was generally recognized by the Church
that angels are impeccable. Their state of perfection was believed to
be such that they did not stand in any danger of sinning as men and
women do. Aquinas held that Lucifer, like all the angels, was created
in a state of grace. Nevertheless, he impiously exercised the free will
with which all angels are endowed. Otherwise he could not have
sinned, since, according to Aquinas, angels achieve everlasting bliss
the instant they do one meritorious act, and thereafter they are so
close to God that it is impossible for them to turn away from him.
Hence, the angels who did not rebel can never sin.
Aquinas also accepted the concept of the guardian angel and held
that only angels of the lowest rank are appointed to this office.

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