Church in the Middle Ages 3
Today we continue looking there by looking at the man Thomas Aquinas before going on to see the Eastern and Western Churches fall apart spectacularly.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
Thomas Aquinas was born in Italy in 1225. Starting his clerical career with the Dominicans, he quickly established himself as a theologian and philosopher of note. Indeed, he is perhaps the greatest theologian of this period. Aquinas was well noted for being an orator and debater, renowned for having a keen and quick intellect. With his intellect, he continued to attempt to reconcile faith with reason and the Scriptures. He also sought to prove the existence of God and developed the 'Five Ways', a system of natural theology.
Here is a very crude summary of the “Five Ways” taken from his work “Summa Theologica”.
1. The first way is an argument from motion. It is certain, and in accordance with sense experience, that some things in this world are moved. He concludes with this section with: We are therefore bound to arrive at a first mover which is not moved by anything, and all men understand that this is God.
2. The second way is from the nature of an efficient cause. We find that there is a sequence of efficient causes in sensible things. He concludes this section with: We are therefore bound to suppose that there is a first efficient cause. And all men call this God.
3. The third way is from the nature of possibility and necessity. There are some things which may either exist or not exist, since some things come to be and pass away, and may therefore be or not be. He concludes this section with: We are therefore bound to suppose something necessary in itself, which does not owe its necessity to anything else, but which is the cause of the necessity of other things. And all men call this God.
4. The fourth way is from the degrees that occur in things, which are found to be more and less good, true, noble, and so on. He concludes this section with: There is therefore something which is the cause of the being of all things that are, as well as of their goodness and their every perfection. This we call God.
5. The fifth way is from the governance of things. We see how some things, like natural bodies, work for an end even though they have no knowledge. He concludes this section with: There is therefore an intelligent being by whom all natural things are directed to their end. This we call God.
Thomism (Aquinas theology) was declared eternally valid by the Pope in 1879. You can download a copy of perhaps Aquinas’ greatest work, 'Summa Theologica' freely at Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Here is one of his prayers. You will see the richness of his theology and faith – much of which formed our theology today! Perhaps you can pray it, even now!
A prayer of Thomas Aquinas
O Almighty and all-knowing God,
Who is without beginning or end!
Who is the giver, preserver, and rewarder of all virtue!
Grant me to stand firm on the solid foundation of faith,
be protected by the invincible shield of hope,
and be adorned by the nuptial garment of charity.
Grant me by justice to obey you,
by prudence to resist the crafts of the Devil,
by temperance to hold to moderation,
by fortitude to bear adversity with patience.
Grant that the goods I have I may share liberally
with those who have not,
and the goods which I do not have I may seek with
humility from those who have.
Grant that I may truly recognise the guilt of the evil I have done,
and bear with equanimity the punishments I have deserved;
that I may never lust after the goods of my neighbour,
but always give thanks to you for all thy good gifts.
Plant in me, O Lord, all thy virtues,
that in divine matters I might be devout,
in human affairs wise,
and in the proper needs of the flesh onerous to no one.
And grant that I may never rush to do things hastily,
nor balk to do things demanding,
so that I neither yearn for things too soon,
nor desert things before they are finished.
Eastern Orthodox Church
During this time there was also upheaval coming in the Eastern church. The Slavic nations of Eastern Europe were Christianised during the 10th & 12th centuries. Christianity spread to Russia in the 10th century. According to legend, the prince Vladimir sent envoys to investigate Islam, Judaism & Christianity. They were so impressed with Christianity in Constantinople, that Vladimir ordered a mass baptism of Russians.
We saw earlier in this series, how the Eastern and Western churches were moving apart. Now we approach the official parting of ways. In the year 1054, papal representatives of Pope Leo XV entered the Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople. Cardinal Humbert was sent initially to work out a conciliatory agreement with the Eastern Orthodox leadership.
However, while the Russian emperor was willing, the Patriarch Michael Cerularius was intractable. With similar personalities and intolerance, Ceralarius and Humbert clashed. The clash provoked Humber to issue an official document which excommunicated the Eastern Church from the Roman Catholic Church. Humber and his colleagues marched into Constantinople’s Church of Holy Wisdom and issued a Papal document excommunicating the Eastern Church. The impact of this is still felt even today.
But a greater chasm was to come to the Roman Catholic church, and we will see that later in our series.