JMC : Saint Thomas Aquinas / by Raïssa Maritain

VIII The Truth

WHAT, then, is the truth? It is the knowledge of what exists. It is the treasure of intelligence. And as God is the intelligent source of all being, He is also the source of all truth. And as He is the infinite and perfect Being, He is also the highest, the most beautiful and lovable truth, because things have in truth, in goodness and in beauty, the same rank as in being. God spoke of Himself when He said in the Old Testament I am Who am, and in the New, I am the Truth.

There is no distance between the thing and the truth that expresses it. There is no distance between the true God and the soul that knows Him and loves Him. Nevertheless, to know perfectly the Being of God and all His Truth, and the being and truth of every other being, this will be given to us only in heaven, when we see God face to face.

But we shall never see that Divine truth, and in it and by it the truth of all that exists, if our heart is not turned towards it in this life, and if we refuse to love it and to serve it. We must fly from ignorance and lies; we must seek truth, love the truth, and, if it is attacked, "defend it hardily," as is said in the little book of Divine Ways.

That is what Saint Thomas always did in his life and in all his works.

He begins one of his most important works by these words of Holy Scripture:

My mouth shall meditate the truth, and my lips shall hate wickedness; that is to say, error opposed to divine truth.

To spread the truth that he has found in his meditations and to attack the error that struggles against truth, that is what makes the wise man.

"Full of confidence in divine mercy, I try," said Saint Thomas, "to fulfil the duties of a wise man, although they are beyond my powers. . Because I know that all I am I owe to God, and I want to devote all my words and all my strength to making Him known."

And in this Saint Thomas imitated Jesus Christ Himself, Who said "For this was I born, and for this came I into the world, that I should give testimony to the truth."


The Angel of the Schools, the messenger of divine truth and "the foremost of its teachers," rose up like the sun on a very high mountain, like a giant of knowledge and wisdom.

Everyone rushed to hear him. Students, seated on straw, as was the simple manner of the time, were penetrated and delighted with this new light.

There had never been any teacher, not even Albert the Great, who knew like Saint Thomas how to show the perfect unity of divine Faith and of human knowledge.

Those things we know by Faith (which comes down from heaven), and those things we know by science (the fruit of men's efforts), all these are parts of the same truth known to God. By divine Intelligence it comes down to the intelligence of man, whether he discovers it little by little in the study of living creatures (when it is science) or whether he receives it by means of the Son of God (when it is Faith).

Jesus is the Word of God. The Word of God has made known to us what neither men nor angels could find out -- the mysteries of Divine Life like the Trinity of Persons in God, the Incarnation of the Redeemer, His presence in the Sacrament of the altar.

Before the birth of Jesus great pagan philosophers whose names many of you have heard -- Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus -- had devoted their lives to the search for the highest truths that reason could attain, and they succeeded in knowing some very beautiful truths, but they were incomplete, mixed with error, and, moreover, these philosophers did not agree.

After the death of Christ the divine truth revealed by Him and carried by the Apostles, one and all, to the ends of the earth so far as it was then known, eclipsed poor human wisdom, and for nearly a thousand years it formed almost the only object of Christian meditation.

At the beginning of the thirteenth century false Arabian and Mussulman sages began to have a great deal to say about several books long forgotten, works of the old pagan philosophers.

The Schools were quite upset about all this.

Was the wisest of the old philosophers, Aristotle with his pointed hat, going to begin a struggle with Christian wisdom?

His philosophy was resurrected, dressed in Arabian guise, its face hidden. The veil taken away, what would it be? The Church, in indecision for a while, forbade students to read the books of the Greek sages.

Saint Albert had already begun to drive away from the philosophy of Aristotle those shadows with which its Arabic exponents had wrapped it around.

Saint Thomas got rid of them entirely. He looked this human light in the face and saw in it the beautiful face of reason, the daughter of God.

From then on there was nothing to fear. There only remained to show the harmony of human and divine truth, and to lead Aristotle, cleansed of his errors, to the feet of the Lord Jesus.

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