Today is the Feast of St Thomas Aquinas. We sang one of his great Eucharistic Hymns “O Godhead Hid” this morning at Mass. Here it is in Latin sung by a young Franciscan friar and his community:
O Godhead hid, devoutly I adore Thee,
Who truly art within the forms before me;
To Thee my heart I bow with bended knee,
As failing quite in contemplating Thee.
Sight, touch, and taste in Thee are each deceived;
The ear alone most safely is believed:
I believe all the Son of God has spoken,
Than Truth’s own word there is no truer token.
God only on the Cross lay hid from view;
But here lies hid at once the Manhood too:
And I, in both professing my belief,
Make the same prayer as the repentant thief.
Thy wounds, as Thomas saw, I do not see;
Yet Thee confess my Lord and God to be:
Make me believe Thee ever more and more;
In Thee my hope, in Thee my love to store.
O thou Memorial of our Lord’s own dying!
O Bread that living art and vivifying!
Make ever Thou my soul on Thee to live;
Ever a taste of Heavenly sweetness give.
O loving Pelican! O Jesu, Lord!
Unclean I am, but cleanse me in Thy Blood;
Of which a single drop, for sinners spilt,
Is ransom for a world’s entire guilt.
Jesu! Whom for the present veil’d I see,
What I so thirst for, O vouchsafe to me:
That I may see Thy countenance unfolding,
And may be blest Thy glory in beholding. Amen.
As this beautiful hymn illustrates St. Thomas Aquinas had an intense devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. St. Thomas believed that the Eucharist is the sacrament of the Lord’s passion because it contains — really and truly — the person of Jesus Christ who suffered and died for us. Thus, Aquinas taught that whatever is an effect of our Lord’s passion (especially our liberation from sin and death) is also an effect of the holy Eucharist because this sacrament is nothing other than the application of our Lord’s passion to us. St. Thomas believed this so completely that he was known to celebrate Mass with tears of joy and gratitude!
This is no stuffy academic coldly and dispassionately thinking “great thoughts.” This is a great lover, a man who has grasped the truth about our Lord’s Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. How can he not respond with an open and joy-filled heart to the One who has given everything for our salvation? How can he fail to sing of the Savior’s glory, of the mystery “all price exceeding” that is present to us — here and now — in the sacrament of the Christ’s body and blood? How can he fail to shed tears of joy and thanksgiving at the sacrificial gift we have been given “for the world’s redemption”?
Reflecting on the teaching and personal witness of this great saint, Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI writes; “Let us fall in love with this sacrament! Let us participate in Holy Mass with recollection, to obtain its spiritual fruits; let us nourish ourselves with this body and blood of our Lord, to be ceaselessly fed by divine grace! Let us willingly and frequently linger in the company of the Blessed Sacrament in heart-to-heart conversation.”
Jesus Christ invites our intimate communion with Him through this great Sacrament of his flesh and blood.
“In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person. As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will also draw life from me. This is the bread which has come down from heaven; it is not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.”
On 7th March 1274 as he lay dying in the Cistercian monastery of Fossa Nuova in Italy, when Holy Communion was brought to him for the last time (Viaticum) St Thomas Aquinas pronounced the following act of faith:
“If in this world there be any knowledge of this sacrament stronger than that of faith, I wish now to use it in affirming that I firmly believe and know as certain that Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, Son of God and Son of the Virgin Mary, is in this Sacrament.” Then he added: “I receive Thee, the price of my redemption, for whose love I have watched, studied, and laboured. Thee have I preached; Thee have I taught. Never have I said anything against Thee: if anything was not well said, that is to be attributed to my ignorance. Neither do I wish to be obstinate in my opinions, but if I have written anything erroneous concerning this sacrament or other matters, I submit all to the judgment and correction of the Holy Roman Church, in whose obedience I now pass from this life”
St Thomas Aquinas pray for us that we may have the same passionate love for the real presence of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar.