Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from St Thomas Aquinas

Here is one of the books I plan to keep but wanted to blog about anyway.  I am reading it as a daily devotional during this Advent.

Advent and Christmas:  Wisdom from St Thomas Aquinas

compiled by Father Andrew Carl Wisdom, OP
(the link takes you to a Facebook page which talks about him)

I love the way the internet helps you inspect a book.  I couldn't find any reviews of this book anywhere, but I did find this book is part of a series called Advent and Christmas Wisdom from....(GK Chesterton, Henri Nouwen, the Saints, Francis of Assisi, Fulton Sheen, Pope John Paul II, Thomas Merton...etc)    The books are all compiled by different authors, and they are all pretty colors with a beautiful picture on the front.  It is a nice idea.

The book has an introduction, a "how to use this book", and 28 meditations for Advent, 12 meditations for the Christmas season.   Each meditation has a passage from a writing of St Thomas Aquinas relevant to the topic; then a passage from Scripture; then a prayer composed by the author, then an "Advent Action" (or "Christmas Action") which is basically a resolution for how to act as a result of the meditation. 

In the "how to use this book" it says something I didn't know:

"The four weeks of Advent are often thought of as symbolizing the four different ways that Christ comes into the world:  (1) at his birth as a helpfless infant in Bethlhem; (2) at his arrival in the hearts of believers; (3) at his death; and (4) at his arrival on Judgement Day.

Because Christmas falls on a different day of the week each year, the fourth week of Advent is never really finished:  it is abruptly, joyously, and solemnly abrogated by the annual coming again of Christ at Christmas.  Christ's Second Coming will also one day abruptly interrupt our sojourn here on earth."
An appendix contains a suggested format for meditation... an opening prayer, an examination of conscience, a Psalm, a prayer of Thanksgiving, and a blessing prayer that invokes Thomas Aquinas.

The introduction tells a bit about Aquinas's life.   Fr Wisdom is in the same order as Aquinas and writes more than a biographical sketch -- it is a short but (in my opinion) perceptive distillation of what motivated this great scholar and saint.

"Nil nisi te, Lord.  Nil nisi te" Thomas replied (Nothing but you, Lord.  Nothing but you).  The desire that led o such an unparalleled output as a philosopher and theologian flowed from the religious commitment he had made as an obedient, generous, and compassionate Dominican friar.... Far from the dry scholastic that his formal style might suggest, Thomas was a deeply affective man, passionately and unequivocally in love with God.  .... This profound inquiry of the heart gave shape to Thomas's Herculean output as both teacher and scholar and defines his remarkable and unprecedented legacy..."

This devotional book follows the traditional and effective pattern for Catholic meditations and strikes a good balance -- not too difficult for the average layperson, but not "dumbed down" or overly emotional, either.

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