The Aquinas Center and the Thomistic Institute have joined together to co-sponsor a conference at Ave Maria University, “Thomas Aquinas and the Greek Fathers.” This conference will feature speakers Khaled Anatolios, Joseph Wawrykow, and many others. Currently, there is a call for additional papers for the conference, through August 1.
In addition to being one of the featured speakers, Fr. Andrew Hofer O.P., is also organizing the conference. Recently, he kindly took some time to answer some questions regarding the conference. His replies are given below.
What was the inspiration for this conference?
The conference was inspired by St. Thomas Aquinas’s deep respect for the Greek Fathers of the Church. For example, in the Summa Theologiae, Aquinas says, following Jerome, that the authority of Gregory of Nazianzus in Christian doctrine is so great, that no one has ever presumed to attack his teaching, just like the texts of Athanasius (STh I, q. 63, a. 3). Aquinas holds great admiration for the holy doctors, and many of the Greek fathers stand out as preeminent among the holy doctors.
Given the rather distinct developments of the Latin and Greek theological traditions, what are the salient points of contact between the two traditions that make engagement possible?
It is true that there was a gradual estrangement between the Latin and the Greek traditions. But St. Thomas saw himself as inheriting a great tradition that was more expansive than a particular culture or language. The Catholic tradition is much broader than any language or culture, and St. Thomas made himself a student of all the holy doctors he could find. It is an example of the patristic principle that he cited several times: “Truth, by whomever is spoken, comes from the Holy Spirit.” If that principle led St. Thomas to study Greek philosophers, who knew not Christ, how much more so the Greek doctors who knew and loved Christ personally and intensely!
Following on the above, Aquinas is in many ways the pinnacle of the Latin theological tradition. In general terms, how would you characterize Aquinas’ relationship to the Greek theological tradition? What makes his stance toward Greek Theology a particularly fruitful point of discussion?
Aquinas was the first Latin theologian to use the first six ancient ecumenical councils to teach about the mystery of Christ. He was the leading researcher of ancient conciliar history in his day. He wanted to know what the Church taught, not because all those councils were Greek, but because all those councils, which were indeed held in Greek lands, were councils of the one Church. After the theological divisions of the middle of the twentieth century between neo-scholastics and ressourcement theologians, we can re-think the position of Thomas Aquinas in theological history and strive to imitate his work–both scholastic and ressourcement. Some constructs of what divided theologians in the 1940s and 50s, as well as those that divide theologians in the present age, can be seen afresh when we think about God in faith with Aquinas and the Greek Fathers together.