Thomas Aquinas, Champion of Deep Ecumenism

The first thing that comes to mind when one hears the name “Thomas Aquinas” may not be Deep Ecumenism.  But it ought to be.  After all, he devoted his entire adult life to bringing the best scientist of his day, Aristotle, a “pagan,” into the heart of theological and intellectual life.  And he paid a steep price for it including being condemned three times by bishops shortly after he died.

The Rose Main Reading Room at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (also known as New York Public Library Main Branch) in the heart of Manhattan. Photo by Patrick Robert Doyle on Unsplash.

It is difficult to imagine a more ecumenical statement than these words from Aquinas:

“Every truth without exception—and whoever may utter it—is from the Holy Spirit.”

He is saying that truths from all the religious traditions of the world are “from the Holy Spirit” and therefore are to be taken in and listened to and meditated on. They can all lead us to the divine, and this is why study is so important a spiritual practice to him (as it is in the Jewish tradition).

These words from Aquinas were written late in life. No doubt he was looking back on his many battles over his eagerness to interact with ideas of non-Christians—including but not limited to Aristotle, Moses Maimonides, Avicenna, Averroes, Plato, and Boethius.

Claire Parkinson, a climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, speaks to the public about sea ice and climate change. Photo by NASA HQ on Flickr.

Aquinas is also saying that all truth arrived at by science “comes from the Holy Spirit.” Thus it is important not only to pursue science and link it with love of wisdom but also to listen and learn from scientists who help to reveal the insights and revelation that creation contains.

Aquinas also reminds us that all music that speaks and awakens the truth in us—all art, architecture, mathematics, novels, poetry, dance, rituals, films, documentaries, political punditry that arrives at truth—is to be taken in and contemplated deeply. Art too, is content worthy of the lectio divina.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 64-66. 

See also, Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas, p. 31.

Banner Image: Detail of the Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas, “Doctor Communis”– Aquinas seated between Plato and Aristotle. Painting by Benozzo Gozzoli, 1471; Louvre, Paris. Wikimedia Commons.

To read the transcript for Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Queries for Contemplation

What does it mean to you to hear that “Every truth without exception—and whoever may utter it—is from the Holy Spirit.”  How might that change relationships between religions and between science and religion?

Recommended Reading

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way. 
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake

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4 thoughts on “Thomas Aquinas, Champion of Deep Ecumenism”

  1. Avatar

    Some say that truth is relative to perception. I would add that truth is relative to conscious awareness, or conscious expansion, which is evolutionary. For example people at one time held to be true that the earth was flat and that everything revolved around the earth. The perception of this once held truth shifted and changed as it was discovered otherwise than what was believed to be true at the time.

    Truth seems to me then, to be a continuous fluid expansion rather than a static absolute, relative to conscious awareness, which deepens as you say, through meditation and contemplation regarding the relationships of one thing to another… the key operative word into truth being relationship.

    Meditating and contemplating on our relationships to the all and the everything of creation, the joining of the head with the heart as you have said, is a pathway of evolutionary expansion, which leads us to the awakening and discovery of universal truths… a deepening of consciously understanding the interconnections, the interdependence and the interreliabilty within our relationships with the all and the everything that exists.

    Meditation and contemplation is a way of intuiting truths offered through relationship with the fluid and expansive movements of the essence and presence of the Holy Spirit, whom leads us into the infinite expressions of wisdom to be discovered within these truths… which enlarges our understanding and our conscious awareness of the reality of what is. The result is we evolve into a greater measure of beingness and oneness.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, You say that truth seems to be a continuous fluid expansion which deepens through meditation and contemplation, regarding the relationships of one thing to another–the key operative word into truth being “relationship.” This is a pathway of evolutionary expansion which leads us to the universal truths of: interconnections, interdependence, and interbeing–of all things!

  2. Avatar

    God’s Spirit of Love~Wisdom~Creativity~Peace~Justice~Compassion are Truly within, through, among, around us in all creation and the Cosmos in Loving Oneness in the Eternal Process of the Present Moment…. Amen!

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