Albert the Great by Sr. M. Albert Hughes, O.P.
The Mission of
St. Albert and St. Thomas
Autumn 1987 Vol. 39 Supplement
IT is no unusual thing in these days to find saints who even in life have a very clear consciousness of their "mission," the particular part they are called upon to play in the life of the Church, either before or after their death. They are aware of sanctity and they are also aware that the gifts of grace which God has bestowed upon them are meant not just for themselves, but for the Church as a whole. In this they are but following in the footsteps of the divine Exemplar of all sanctity who said of his mission, "I have come that they may have life," and "For this I have come into the world, to give testimony to the truth," and of his holiness, "For them do I consecrate myself, that they may be consecrated in truth" (John 10:10, 18:37, 17:19).
We find little of this in the life of St. Albert or St. Thomas. If they were conscious of their sanctity they did not say so; and although the work which they together accomplished was of immense moment in the history of the Church and of civilization in general, they do not seem to have had any conception of the magnitude of their mission. It is true that Thomas declares in the Contra Gentiles (lib. i, ch. 1, 2) that "taking heart from God's loving kindness" he assumes the office of the wise man, which is "to meditate and publish the divine truth... and to refute the error contrary to truth," doing this "although it surpasses our own powers, for, in the words of Hilary (De Trin., i, 37):'I acknowledge that I owe my life's chief occupation to God, so that every word and every thought of mine may speak of him."' Yet, in the Preface to his Summa Theologiae, which is surely the most perfect product of the human mind, he says that he wishes to write an introduction to theology for the use of novices! So too Albert declared that his aim was simply to make Aristotle intelligible to the West, which is by no means the same thing as to initiate the formulation of a system of philosophy which the Church would adopt as the basis of her official teaching.
In his commentary on the Creed, St. Thomas remarks that while the Eternal Word, abiding in the bosom of the Father, was known to God alone, having been clothed with flesh as the word is clothed with sound, he became intelligible to human beings. Perhaps it will not be irreverent to see in the life work of Albert and Thomas some parallel to the Incarnation of the Eternal Word. 1br just as the Word had to become flesh to assume a human form in order to be intelligible to and known by the human race, so too the word which he spoke, the truth to which he gave testimony, although consisting in the mysteries of the divine life and love which are ineffable and unutterable, yet had to be expressed in human language in order to be understood, so far as could be, by human minds. And just as the Eternal Word assumed the most perfect human body, so too is it fitting that the word which he spoke, the truth which he revealed, should be expressed in the most perfect and most spiritual form of human language and thought, the language of philosophy.
It is true that Our Lord himself framed his teaching in the simplest of language and that theology can add nothing to the deposit of the faith which he revealed. But it can and does reveal the whole signification of his words, and express his doctrine in clear scientific language so that all ambiguities may be removed. The Church also realizes that divine truth is one, a coherent whole, since it is ultimately a Person who reveals himself, and that therefore, although the weakness of the human intellect required that divine truth be presented as a series of separate truths, yet the essential harmony and unity between these truths should be evident when they are expressed. Theology must present a coherent whole, a unity, a synthesis.
From the very first the Church was aware of this double need. The earliest Fathers commenced the search for a system of thought which would at once provide the unity and the elevated from of expression which would make it a fit vehicle for conveying the truths of faith. Long before Christianity had made its appearance, purely human speculation had already reached its highest peak in the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. Plato was the Master, and although he developed a comprehensive philosophic system, Aristotle, the pupil, broke away and developed his own theories on different principles. "No one has thought more clearly and more correctly, more profoundly and at the same time more simply, on the problem of essence, existence, and act, than did Aristotle; never were great truths stated more calmly and objectively than by him." Unfortunately his countrymen failed to understand his teaching, while his immediate pupils altered the principles in such a manner that the magnificent comprehensiveness of his system was lost. By the time the Gospel was preached, Aristotle was almost forgotten, and his teaching, even in its distorted form, no longer had any influence.
Platonism, too, had been developed and sometimes changed. But with its mystical atmosphere, its extremely spiritual conception of man, and its teaching on the other world, it had already been adopted by some of the pagan religious philosophers and seemed to be well adapted for a scientific exposition of the truths of faith. The Fathers of the Church, many of whom had been Stoics or Neoplatonists before their conversion, made the attempt, and one of them, St. Augustine, devoted his whole genius to bring about the desired result. Many Platonic ideas could be used as they stood, others could be adapted, but a compact and unified system could not be achieved. None the less, succeeding theologians persisted in the attempt, partly because of the obvious attractiveness of Platonism, partly because of the immense prestige enjoyed by St. Augustine, whose writings were regarded even by a Thomas Aquinas with almost the same reverence as were the Holy Scriptures themselves, partly because there did not appear to be any alternative philosophy which could be utilized. Moreover the social and political upheavals of the Dark Ages did not encourage scientific research. There was one exception to the general trend -- Boethius (ca. 475-525), who realized the value of the works of Aristotle and set about commenting on them and making them accessible to the West. But he died before completing his task, and his example was never followed by other philosophers. Augustinian Platonism held sway throughout the Church, and the popularity of Platonic doctrines was further enhanced when the works of Dionysius, or more accurately the Pseudo-Dionysius, were disseminated throughout the West. This Christian mystic was a Neoplatonist even to the extent of expounding in his writings some of their unorthodox doctrines, but his works became the inspiration of almost all the Western mystical writers, so that it must have appeared most improbable that anything so unspiritual as the works of Aristotle were believed to be could ever be utilized in mystical theology.
While Plato thus held undisputed sway in the schools of Europe, Aristotle had been rediscovered by the Arabs and Jews. Avicenna (980-1037), the Arabian physician and philosopher, led the way, followed by Avicebron, the Jewish poet, moralist and philosopher (1020-70), who tried to combine Aristotle with Old Testament religion, while Averroes, the latest (1126-98), was the most influential of all. Unfortunately they knew only corrupt texts -- Averroes made his translation from an imperfect Arabic translation of a Syriac version of a Greek text -- while they used African commentaries which were deeply influenced by Neoplatonist philosophy whose errors they incorporated into their own commentaries. Thus the Aristotelianism of the Arabs, and to a less extent that of Averroes, was largely mixed with Neoplatonism.
Averroes, whom St. Thomas called (Opusc. de Unit. Intell.) "not so much a Peripatetic as a corrupter of the Peripatetic philosophy," was a rationalist who scoffed at all religions indiscriminately in that spirit of irreverence which Abelard too had shown, and which had caused apprehension as to the dangerous influence of even the logic and metaphysics of Aristotle. His two most pernicious doctrines were that a thing could at the same time be true theologically and false philosophically, and the assertion of the commonality of one intellectual soul among all human beings.
When these heterodox doctrines reached the West through Spain and through the court of Frederick II, who, attracted by Aristotle's scientific writings, supported two of the sons of Averroes, the authorities were alarmed. Nor is this surprising for even the conservative elements in the Faculties of Arts and Theology, who rejected the new systems in themselves, still strove to combine Aristotelian terminology with their own traditional doctrines, the result being eclecticism and confusion.
Therefore condemnation was resorted to. The Council of Sens, convened at Paris in 1210, forbade under pain of excommunication any commenting on the books of Aristotle, though they could be cited. In 1215 the Papal legate, Robert de Courçon, confirmed this condemnation. The Dominican constitutions of 1228 echoed this policy when they ordained: "Let not the brethren study the books of the gentiles and the philosophers...." Gerard de Frachet later produced some terrifying stories of the fate which met those who were seduced by the "witch philosophy." In 1231 Gregory IX mitigated the condemnation to a provisional prohibition until the books should have been corrected, for which purpose a committee of three masters of the University of Paris was appointed, but apparently they found the task beyond them.
Such was the situation which faced the Order of Preachers as it came to occupy a foremost position in the intellectual life of Europe, and although certain elements were either definitely hostile, like Gerard de Frachet, or cautiously conservative, like Humbert de Romans, the majority were ready to follow the lead of an Albert the Great, who with unusual vehemence stigmatized the opposition as "senseless animals who blaspheme that of which they know nothing." He seems to have realized either by natural intuition or by supernatural illumination that the christianizing of Aristotle would at once solve the problem of the moment and effect a reconciliation between philosophy and theology, between reason and faith, by providing that scientific system which theology had been seeking since the early ages of the Church. To do this it was necessary to get back to the primitive text, then to purge the authentic thought of Aristotle of its pagan errors, and expound it in a mariner compatible with Christian truth. In this last task the Arab commentators could be utilized. Indeed Thomas -- acting upon advice of St. Augustine which he quotes with approval (ST, I. Q.84, a5), "If those who are called philosophers said by chance anything that was and consistent with our faith, we must claim it from them as unjust possessors" -- molded his own commentary upon that of Averroes, whom he frequently cites with respect despite the hard words already mentioned. In this he was only following the example of his master, for it was Albert who first set about wresting the truth from these "unjust possessors," and who undertook the prodigious task of familiarizing himself with all the works of the Arabs and Jews. St. Thomas seems to have taken the initiative in asking William of Moerbeke to make a Latin translation of Aristotle direct from the Greek, but Albert's own commentaries, which were part translation, part paraphrase admixed with a good deal of original matter, had already done much to make the Stagirite's genuine thought "available to the West" even before this translation was ready.
This struggle to christianize Aristotle was a stormy one, and it must be admitted that Thomas bore the brunt of the battle, for he seems to have aroused personal enmity in a way that Albert never did. Nor can it be denied that it was also Thomas who brought the undertaking to its successful conclusion, refuting the errors of the perverters of Aristotle, and formulating in his Summa contra Gentiles the Christian Aristotelianism, that philosophia perennis which the Church was to adopt as the basis of her official teaching. He then reconciled it with, or better, wedded it to, theology in his incomparable and immortal Summa Theologiae, thereby producing the synthesis which the Church had been seeking for over a thousand years. But it must never be forgotten that Albert wrote first, collecting and utilizing material that had never before been used in the service of Christian truth, and almost certainly conceived, at least in outline, the nature of the synthesis which was ultimately achieved. As a biographer has written: "It cannot be too strongly emphasized that Thomas presupposes Albert his teacher and master in everything. Without a due appreciation of Albert's preliminary labors, Thomas can never be rightly estimated. " (1)
It is true that Albert lacked the keenness and clarity of intellect which have earned for Thomas the title of the Angelic Doctor, so that although he had the wider knowledge of the sources he was inferior in his critical use of them. Nor is his profundity of thought or finesse of interpretation equal to that of his erstwhile pupil. Therefore, although Albert stands unrivalled in science, a field Thomas never cultivated, he yields him the palm both as philosopher and theologian. But it must be insisted that their two minds are complementary, their labors inseparably interconnected. Without Thomas, Albert's work could never have reached its logical consummation; without Albert, Thomas would not have been what he was, nor could he have undertaken what he did. But when the one had been given a helpmate like unto himself, Thomististic philosophy and theology was the offspring of their united efforts and genius.
In actual fact some writers seem to dispute any such interdependence between Albert and Thomas, although it is difficult to see on what grounds they do so. It is undeniable that Albert collected the material and commented on Aristotle; he did not produce the finished synthesis, for even had he had the mind to do so, he would never have had the time. Thomas had the mind, but without Albert's previous labors which provided the necessary material, he would never have been able to formulate his system. For he would himself first have had to undertake all the research which his master had already done.
Albert did not produce the finished synthesis. Did he conceive it? Assuredly, since he attempted it. In the unpublished parts of the Summa de Creaturis, which was probably written between 1242 and 1245, Albert in treating of the moral virtues follows the exact method which Thomas was to adopt in the second part of the Summa, written probably between 1271-2; a method which was a complete departure from the treatment of the subject in Peter Lombard's Sentences. Similarly, in his own Summa Theologiae, Albert adopted a plan similar to that of Thomas, and again quite different from the method previously in vogue. Thomas' treatment of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is simply the extended application of the principles which Albert had utilized in dealing with the gift of wisdom; and the same applies to other dogmatic questions. To quote once more:We must never forget that Albert wrote first. Thomas was the pupil who sat at Albert's feet, and to whom the Master imparted all his ideas, ambitions and plans.It is true that such a statement cannot be proved by letters, quotations, embryo schemes, etc., but a glance at the relations between the two saints and doctors, so far as they are known, will show that it is the most probably explanation of their interdependence. Albert entered the order about the year 1223, when Thomas was four or five years old. By 1233 he had gained his lectorate, and spent the next ten years teaching in different German convents. By about 1240 he had attained to such eminence that he was chosen to go to Paris, to receive the crown of an academic career, the doctorate in theology.
It was by Albert that Thomas's work was inspired, furthered, watched over and defended, and through Albert his work found recognition, at any rate in the Order. Without Albert, Thomas would not have been what he became. (2)
He was admitted to this coveted honor in 1245 or 1246, so the pervious two years must have been spent in teaching the Commentaries of Peter Lombard, and his written commentary belongs to the period 1242-6 though the fourth book was not completed until 1249. As noted, his signature as Master of Theology appears on a report on the Talmud undertaken as member of a commission appointed by the Papal legate in 1248, and this is the first date in his life which is known with absolute certainty. Meanwhile, Thomas Aquinas had entered the Order in Italy, in 1244, and came to Paris probably in 1245. Even if his theological studies did not begin immediately -- and they may well have done so -- he must have come to the knowledge of Albert, as they would have been living in the same convent of St. Jacques. Indeed some biographers declare that it was for the purpose of placing Thomas under Albert that the Master, John the Teuton, took him to Paris. In 1248, after the general chapter which had decided upon the foundation of a new studium generale and solemne in the provinces of England, Lombardy, Provence, and Germany, Albert was sent to establish and become the first Regent of Studies of the one at Cologne, and Thomas accompanied him. There the two saints remained until the return of Thomas to Paris in 1252 to gain in his turn the prized doctorate in theology.
Thomas's biographer tells us that Albert gave his young pupil a cell next to his own, imparted to him all his cherished ideas and plans, and made him his substitute if he were called away from his teaching duties. The story of the Dumb Ox belongs to this period. Albert was commenting on a difficult passage in Dionysius the Areopagite, and one of the more forward pupils offered to explain things to the supposedly dull Thomas, only to become involved himself, and to be extricated from his difficulties by his "pupil." A few days later someone picked up outside Thomas's cell some notes which were found to deal with some of the most difficult and lofty passages in the mystic's writings. These were taken to Albert, who thereupon uttered his famous prophecy: "You call him a dumb ox, but the day will come when the whole world will be filled with his bellowings." (3) Neither history nor legend tells us very much more, but from the little which has been given, much can be deduced without undue exercise of the imagination.
Albert, already recognized as one of the greatest if not yet the greatest of Europe's teachers,(4) perceived the extraordinary genius of the young pupil entrusted to him, and received him into his closest friendship. Thomas, although only twenty-seven when he left for Paris, was yet considered sufficiently mature to embark upon the course necessary for obtaining the doctorate. It is hardly unreasonable therefore to expect that Albert would treat him more as an equal than as a pupil, would confide to him his hopes and plans, discuss the needs of the Church and the order, and the measures which were required as well as the steps he had already undertaken to meet these needs. He must have seen in Thomas the one who could carry his work to a stage of completion which he himself could never have attained, and he handed over to his young co-operator, as it were, the full weight of his researches and learning. Thomas too would have had his ideas and suggestions, which he would surely have disclosed to and debated with his master and friend. It may be noted here again, however, that although there is ample and undisputed evidence of the influence of Albert over Thomas, Albert's writings do not show that Thomas influenced him.
It seems almost as if the older man, recognizing in the young one his alter ego, the one whose work would be the development and completion of his own, continued his own researches but did not try to produce a synthesis which would compete with that of Thomas. This theory seems to be borne out by Albert's conduct in later life, when he so much praised and recommended the works of his pupil that they completely overshadowed his own, and eventually almost cast his name into oblivion. He would not have done this had he believed that his writings contained contributions to the intellectual life of the Church which were not found in those of Thomas.
It was also at Albert's instigation, moreover, that Thomas was sent to Paris at this juncture. Albert must have realized that the "novelties" which he himself had introduced needed to be constantly propagated and defended. But his superiors, probably not realizing the significance of the revolution which he had initiated, had given him an important task in the foundation of the studium solemne at Cologne. Besides, Germany as well as Paris had to be introduced to the real Aristotle, and a German was the best suited to act as sponsor.
And so, we are told, Albert suggested to John the Teuton that his brilliant young pupil should be sent to St. Jacques to study for the doctorate. He met with a flat refusal. Nothing daunted, he repeated the proposal to Hugh of St. Cher, the Dominican cardinal legate and his close friend, and before long Thomas received his assignation to Paris. Hither he went, fully conscious, we may be sure, of the magnitude of the work which was being entrusted to him, and of the opposition he was likely to encounter, but conscious too that he had behind him the whole weight of Albert's learning and prestige and with him the powerful support of his prayers. Thus the partnership entered on a new phase. Each, in every way possible, propagated the doctrines of Aristotle and attacked the enemies of such propagation, while the enemies in turn -- Averroists, traditionalists, and the secular masters who were jealous of the extraordinary success of the Dominican Order -- endeavored to destroy the doctrine, its leading exponent, and the whole order to which he belonged. All these elements were behind the attack on the mendicant orders which William of St. Amour led and directed. Thus it was only natural for the Master to appoint as the Dominican protagonists the two men who were most deeply involved in the struggle. When the case was called to Rome, Albert repaired there to defend the cause with the success already described. Thomas returned to Paris, to enjoy the added prestige and authority that the doctorate, conferred at the express command of the pope on a candidate who had not yet reached the prescribed age, would give to his teaching.
Albert remained at the Curia for some time longer, lecturing on St. John's Gospel and the Epistles of St. Paul, and, at the request of the Pope, Alexander IV, writing his treatise De Uniate Intellect us contra Averroes. The next meeting between the two Dominicans was at the general chapter held at Valenciennes in 1259, when both were appointed to the commission which was established to draw up a revised curriculum of studies for the whole order. We cannot but believe that the ensuing discussions would have provided, and even demanded, an opportunity for further comparisons of their own work and plans. Books were needed for studies, and if the curriculum were a new one new books would have to be written, and none were better qualified for this task than Albert and Thomas.(5)
After the general chapter Thomas was summoned to the Curia, where he remained almost uninterruptedly until 1268. Albert returned to Cologne, only to be made Bishop of Regensburg, a dignity which he succeeded in laying aside after two years, as we have seen. His resignation involved a journey to the Curia, however, where he remained until 1263, so that he and Thomas would have had continual access to each other during this period. Here again, we have no records of what they said and did and arranged. We can only surmise and suggest that their own experiences and writings, the working of the new curriculum in the order, and the problems which still faced Europe in the intellectual sphere, must have occupied them.
So far as we know, this was the last meeting of these two "masters in Israel." Albert returned to Germany as legate to preach the crusade, and when the death of the Pope in 1264 terminated this appointment he placed himself at the disposal of the Master, and returned to Würzburg and then to Strassburg, where he combined a life of teaching with external activity of every kind.
In 1268 an incident occurred which is not easy to understand on the evidence at our disposal today. The Averroists in Paris, under Siger de Brabant, had renewed their attacks on Christian Aristotelianism and on the Dominican Order in particular. The Master invited Albert as the chief protagonist in the struggle and the order's greatest teacher to go to Paris and reassume the chair of philosophy. He refused, and Thomas went in his stead.
Some biographers believe that Albert refused because no lector could be assigned to him, and he felt too old to undertake the task unaided. But in view of the comparatively recent offer of his services to the Master, and of the journey to Paris to defend Thomas's doctrine which he insisted on making against the advice of his friends nearly ten years later, this interpretation appears unlikely. Albert was too good a religious to go against a superior's wishes without very good reason for doing so -- a reason such as the direct papal command which had caused him to accept a bishopric in spite of the exhortation of Blessed Humbert. Another and more probable explanation is that Albert said he would not accept the invitation unless no other lector were available -- knowing all the while that Thomas was available, and perhaps himself proposing him. In this case Albert's action might well have been deliberate self-effacement so as to give Thomas the chance of showing his metal and at the same time of bringing his teaching into greater prominence before a wider public. By so acting he would have given still further proof of his conviction that the teaching of Thomas was the teaching of Albert, and that he could do nothing to defend the Church's cause which his former pupil could not do equally well or even better.
So Thomas betook himself to stormy Paris, and Albert, at the request of the Master, returned to Cologne in 1271 to deal with storms of a different nature. (Apparently Albert's refusal to go to Paris had not made his superiors feel any less free to employ him as they wished.)
In 1274 both Albert and Thomas set out for the Council at Lyons, but, whereas the old man arrived there and played a leading part in the proceedings, Thomas died on the journey at Fossa Nuova on 7th March. According to the legend, Albert was one day at dinner when he suddenly burst into tears. When the Prior inquired the reason for his distress he replied, "I must break the sad news to you. Brother Thomas of Aquin, my child in Christ and the light of the Church, is dead. God has revealed it to me." And from that time forward the mere mention of the name of Thomas made his loving master and father dissolve into tears.
Thomas was dead, but his works and doctrine lived on, and there were not wanting men who would gladly have consigned them to the grave with their author. Even during life and within his own order he had enemies whose activities continued after his death. Three years to the day after his death, at the instigation of some members of the faculty of theology at Paris, Bishop Etienne Tempier condemned two hundred and nineteen propositions, including some drawn from Thomas' works. Three weeks later Robert Kilwardby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, condemned these same theses at Oxford.
Thomas could no longer defend himself, but he was not without a champion. Albert, who was certainly well over seventy and perhaps over eighty, announced his intention of going to Paris; and to Paris he went despite the fears and remonstrances of his friends and brethren. Assembling the brethren of the studium generale, he mounted the master's chair, and taking as his text the words of Holy Scripture, "What glory would it bring to the living to be praised by the dead?" he, recognized by friends and enemies alike as Europe's leading scholar, delivered a glowing eulogy of the works of Thomas. He asserted with prophetic insight that when all other doctors would have fallen into oblivion, Thomas alone would survive in the Church. He declared himself ready to defend all Thomas' writings, and did not cease to magnify his exalted merits.
We are not told that anyone dared to speak a work in contradiction. On his return to Cologne Albert betook himself with almost youthful ardor to read through all the works of Thomas. Having done so, he repeated his praises publicly and solemnly, and declared that Thomas had by his writings written "finis" to all labors even to the end of time, and that henceforward any others would labor in vain, no doubt meaning thereby that Thomas had carried his speculations to such limits that no human intellect could ever penetrate further nor add to his discoveries. This was high praise indeed from one who had himself so many claims to be honored for his own original and mighty intellect. (6)
Albert's defense of Thomas had a decided influence within the order. Hitherto there had been some difference of opinion; henceforward the order itself undertook Thomas' defense and made his doctrine its own. The Chapter of Milan, 1278, severely reprimanded those English brethren who had disparaged his writings. At the Chapter of Paris, 1279, penalties were threatened against any religious who should attack him. And in 1286 the Paris Chapter made the study of his doctrine obligatory throughout the whole order.On this point, as in the matter of scientific and philosophical studies, it can be said that Albert the Great was destined by Providence to perform the double task of precursor and promoter, pointing out with a sure hand the path which the whole Church should follow, and which in fact it did follow, with the authentic exposition and supreme sanction of the Holy See.Did Albert realize that it was his own work he was defending and propagating? He must have recognized that Thomas had set the seal on all that he himself had initiated and dreamed of. Otherwise he would still have looked for another to bring about the realization of his plans and hopes. But knowing this, he nonetheless sought to efface himself completely behind his younger pupil and collaborator, and so well did he succeed that Albert, who even in his lifetime had been called the Great and had been the outstanding figure in a century of outstanding men, was soon almost forgotten, save among his native Germans, while Thomas, as he had prophesied, became the light of the Church. But as Albert was once the precursor and promoter of Thomas, so in these days when Thomas has once more come into his own, he would seem to be securing for Albert the very large share of honor which is due to him.
The vision of St. Mechtilde, from which the Church has taken the responsory at Vespers for the Feast of St. Albert, may serve as a fitting closing and commentary on this chapter:She saw the souls of Albert and Thomas entering heaven like two princes of the highest degree. Each was preceded by two angels who bore two enormous candlesticks. One angel belonged to the choir of the Seraphim, the other to the Cherubim. The former denoted how the two saints were intellectually illuminated so as to know God while the latter indicated the special love towards God with which they were aflame by which they loved as a great gift of God their divinely bestowed knowledge and understanding. As they drew near to the throne of God the words which the two saints had written seemed to be inscribed on their garments in letters of gold, and as the rays of the Divinity caught them, as a blazing sun is reflected on gold, each word reflected a wonderful glory on the Divinity itself. This produced a delicious sweetness in their members, and filled their souls with an overwhelming joy.
All the words which they had written on the Divinity and the sacred humanity of Christ, filled their souls with a singular glory, so that they appeared to perceive in themselves a certain image of the Divinity. All that they had together written on the glory and happiness of the angels, on the deeds of the Prophets and the Apostles, all the honor that by their writings or their words they had paid to the merits of the other Saints, now resounded to their own glory; i.e. the brightness of the Angels, the merits of the Prophets, the dignity and excellence of the Apostles, the triumphant glory of the Martyrs, the teaching and sanctity of the Confessors, in a word, the entire glory of all the saints.
1. H. Wilms, O.P., Albert the Great (London, 1933), p. 84.
2. Wilms. op. cit., p. 84.
3. Thomas also made a copy of Albert's commentaries on the Ethics of Aristotle, and the autograph MS. is still extant.
4. He enjoyed such a high repute that even in his lifetime he was cited in the schools as an authority. Cf. Roger Bacon and other contemporary writers.
5. The following extract from Raymundiana, i, 12, quoted by Fr. Schwertner in St. Raymund of Pennafort, p. 117, is of interest here:
"Very desirous of the salvation of the pagan, Brother Raymund asked that great doctor of sacred Scripture, Brother Thomas of Aquin, of the same Order, master in theology, who next to Brother Albert the Philosopher was the greatest clerk of the world [italics ours), to compose a work against the error of the pagans, in order to dissipate their darkness and discover to the eyes of the unbeliever the doctrine of the True Sun. This master acceded to the request which so illustrious a Father had made to him, with great humility composing the Summa contra Gentiles. None other can compete with it in the same matter."
This sounds quite probable, for St. Raymund, a Spaniard, was very much alive to the danger from the Arabs and Jews, and had established schools for the study of Arabic and Hebrew when he was Master. But as he had resigned that office in 1230, before St. Thomas had entered the order, it seems strange that he should still be referred to as "father" at a date when Thomas was "master" -- unless it is his venerable age which the writer has in mind. Be that as it may, the fact remains that the Contra Gentiles was written at a period when Albert and Thomas were in personal contact, and as it is the consummation and vade mecum of the christianizing of Aristotle which the former had initiated, it is inconceivable that Thomas would have written it without taking the fullest advantage of all that his master's presence could afford.
6. Of this incident Touron writes (Historie des hommes illustres de l'Ordre de S. Dominique, Paris 1743, t. 2. p. 580): "I do not know what is more to be admired, the zeal of Albert the Great, or his modesty. Bishop and renowned doctor as he was, when the defense of truth was in question, he was not afraid to make himself in a sense the disciple of him whose master he had the honor of being."
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