- Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Sophia Inst Pr; Revised edition (December 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1928832431
- ISBN-13: 978-1928832430
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 41 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Aquinas's Shorter Summa: Saint Thomas's Own Concise Version of His Summa Theologica Paperback – December 1, 2001
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From the Inside Flap
Two years before he died, St. Thomas Aquinas probably the greatest teacher the Church has ever known was asked by his assistant, Brother Reginald, to write a simple summary of the Faith of the Catholic Church for those who lacked the time or the stamina to tackle his massive Summa Theologica.
In response, the great saint quickly set down in language that non-scholars can understand his peerless insights into the major topics of theology: the Trinity, Divine Providence, the Incarnation of Christ, the Last Judgment, and much more.
Here, then, is not only St. Thomas's concise statement of the key elements of his thought, but a handy reference source for the essential truths of the Catholic Faith.
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The Shorter Summa was authored by St. Thomas Aquinas himself in response to a request that I believe was from his secretary to provide a distillation of the Summa Theologica. St. Thomas died (at age 50) only 10 chapters into Part II, "Hope." Part I, "Faith" is therefore the main theme of this work. There was to be a third part - you guessed correctly, "Charity." The unfinished nature, however, is by no means a reason to pass this by. After finishing it, I understand why it also goes by a third published name, "Light of Faith."
Shortly after beginning I was tempted to stop and get some primers on Aristotle, basic philosophy, and theology. Instead, I decided to web search the concepts and terms I didn't understand as I went along, and in short order I felt up to the challenge. I'm glad I persisted because it was a delight to have St. Thomas as my instructor.
Each chapter builds on the teachings in previous chapters, so read them slowly. Re-read them, if need be, until the ideas crystallize, especially early on. Don't sell yourself short; it takes a bit of doing, but the reward is enormous. The teaching on the Trinity in chapters 37-50 was one of my favorite parts. Using the "light of reason" - a term itself you will understand better after St. Thomas - you will have new appreciation of why Jesus Christ is the Word of God.
Among the great services St. Thomas does in his writing is to show us how Christianity is truly a philosophy of Reason. Modernists, rationalists, and atheists who claim that religion in general and Christianity in particular is not reasonable are in truth the ones at odds with Reason. The Thomistic view is predicated on the fact of existence; it accepts creation, and the fact that there is a real world that we can experience through our senses. It also, of course, explains that there is much more beyond what our senses can experience.
The modern academic mind can't seem to get beyond "to be or not to be." Aquinas shouts to us the answer down through the centuries: "To be!"
This edition is sprinkled with helpful footnotes to cited bible verses, Church Fathers (St. Augustine prominent among them), and philosophers (Aristotle of course very prominent among these.) Cyril Vollert's translation is in very easy to understand English, and for a paperback, this volume is pretty sturdy. This was a wonderful choice for my first foray into Scholasticism and my first encounter with the Angelic Doctor.
St. Thomas conveys his plan for this work in his introduction, stating "I shall treat first of faith, then of hope, and lastly of charity. This is the Apostle's arrangement which, for that matter, right reason imposes. Love cannot be rightly ordered unless the proper goal of our hope is established; nor can there be any hope if knowledge of the truth is lacking. Therefore the first thing necessary is faith, by which you may come to a knowledge of the truth. Secondly, hope is necessary, that your intention may be fixed on the right end. Thirdly, love is necessary, that your affections may be perfectly put in order." Unfortunately, Aquinas died prior to completing this work having really only begun the second part of the Shorter Summa, Hope. It would be difficult to call this work incomplete, however, as it is insightful from cover to cover. Indeed, the few chapters that Aquinas managed to complete on his section about hope might be an example of some of the most gracefully contemplative pieces of Christian theology ever written. The fact that this work is unfinished does not detract from it as it is; but only with respect to the idea of what it could have been.
The Shorter Summa should be read by all Christians, regardless of denomination. As St. Thomas Aquinas is a scholar of St. Augustine, it might also be helpful to first read Confessions (Penguin Classics),The City of God, and any other work of Augustine's that is readily available. If you have any inkling to read this work, please do, as you will not be disappointed.