Saint Thomas Aquinas, prophetic theologian who dared to step beyond the dualisms of Plato and the Neo-platonists and who dedicated his life to bringing science into religion, had something to say that is thoroughly applicable to Thich Nhat Hanh’s exemplary life.
He said, “It is a great thing to do miracles, but it is a greater thing to live virtuously.” According to Aquinas, living virtuously is more marvelous than miracles!
Aquinas does not overindulge in commentaries on the commandments, nor in threats and fear as a motivation for healthy actions. Instead, he develops a lengthy discussion on the Beatitudes, which he says “contain the whole process of forming the life of a Christian.” There “the whole perfection of our life is contained.”
Instead of proposing a “rule book” to follow, Aquinas follows the teachings of a “pagan” in his commentaries on Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics. This is significant for our times, for it demonstrates Aquinas’s Deep Ecumenism—that as human beings we all struggle with living lives of integrity, and we can learn from one another. No single tradition or lineage holds all the answers to life’s ethical dilemmas. We can and must listen to one another, and sometimes even reach back into our histories to discover wisdom. Thich Nhat Hanh’s life and teachings offer holy pathways.
Following Aristotle, Aquinas chooses to build his ethics not on shoulds and don’ts, but on virtues, which he defines as powers. “Human virtue is a participation in Divine power,” he declares.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s gifts were a participation in Divine power therefore. He, like Aquinas, celebrates our capacity for prudence and wisdom, justice and love, courage and fortitude, and—what is Aquinas’s favorite virtue—magnanimity. Both recognize the healthy masculine to be found in virtue, where manhood and virility find their true home.
TNH, being a man of virtue, was therefore a carrier of the sacred masculine. That he made enemies of bullies should come as no surprise.
By inviting us to develop our inner selves, Aquinas teaches that virtue is a lifelong effort. Rightly therefore can we conclude that Thich Nhat Hanh’s life and work was a marvel or miracle and “greater than a miracle.”
Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 97f.
And from Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. 326, 502, 350.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: People’s Climate March 2017 in Washington DC. Ordained members of the Earth Holder Sangha wearing brown robes carry banner and a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh, and practice mindful walking. Photo by Dcpeopleandeventsof2017 on Wikimedia Commons.
Queries for Contemplation
How do Aquinas’s teachings and Thich Nhat Hanh’s bring the wonder and miraculous and more-than-miraculous alive in you?
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