Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Last words of St Thomas Aquinas

Today is the feast of St Thomas Aquinas - Dominican priest, philosopher, theologian and Doctor of the Church.


St Thomas Aquinas


This altarpiece in the church of S. Caterina d'Alessandria in Pisa is usually dated to c.1340, but there is the suggestion that it was probably was painted on the occasion of the canonization of St Thomas in 1323. It is usually ascribed to Francesco Traini, but Lippo Memmi has also been suggested as the painter.
In it St Thomas receives not only the divine wisdom but also the wisdom of the Evangelists and the philosophers of the classical world. He then convey this to the Christian community, and also, in order to convert them, to the enemies of the Church. The intertwining structure of these rays of vision or wisdom determines the composition of the picture and creates a pictorial order which reflects the divine order of the cosmos.

The following are said to have been his last words:

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. 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 aught 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.

With acknowledgements to the Oxford Ordinariate group newsheet for this week.


Anagnostis said...

Seems a little formulaic, doesn't it?

To my mind, the "other" account of Thomas's last words has the true note of authenticity - "All that I have written is chaff, in respect to those things that I have seen and have lately been revealed to me".

There, at last, is the voice of someone who has seen "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; of Our Lord Jesus Christ".

Once I Was A Clever Boy said...

I suspect both have lost nothing in the retelling. The one I posted sounds like aprofession of faith on the deathbed, the other one, better known, a more personal comment. Both may bot be the literal last words, but rather statements made in his last days. Equally valid and helpful to us lesser mortals toiling in in St Thomas's extensive wake.