“Accidentally” in Love? (Love with a Capital L)

ST III Q2 a6

When someone knowledgeable translates St. Thomas’ Latin into English, s/he faces a difficult choice.

St, Thomas uses Latin words that have English equivalents, but the English equivalent may have a different meaning in its common usage. For instance, the word “accident.” When St. Thomas writes accidens, he does not mean what we usually mean when we say “accident,” at least not exactly.

The best way to understand what St. Thomas means by any word he uses: Simply study the article thoroughly. Aquinas does not always define his terms the first time he uses them, but by the time he’s finished, he has always made perfectly clear what he means by a given word.

Suffice it to say, “accident” in the Summa does not mean “unfortunate inadvertent happenstance,” as we generally understand the word. St. Thomas uses the word to mean, more generally, everything that is not permanent, or essential, about a given thing; anything that does not pertain to the definition of a thing.

Second Council of Constantinople by Vasily Surikov

The “Master of the Sentences” = Peter Lombard. He collected various Biblical interpretations into a single book. His Sentences provided the basis for theological debate in the Middle Ages.

The Christological heresy that St. Thomas identifies with Eutyches = what we usually call monophysitism. No true human nature in Christ.

The heresy that Aquinas identifies with Nestorius and Theodore of Mopsuestia = what we usually call adoptionism. Christ is personally separate from God.

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One thought on ““Accidentally” in Love? (Love with a Capital L)

  1. You’re so on the…Mark…as usual.

    One of the difficulties of delving more deeply into Latin is the problem of “false cognates,” i.e., words that have come to mean something totally different in English than they meant in Latin.

    The world “apologia” for example has totally flipped its meaning–from meaning a defense of one’s actions to offering an apology saying I was the one who was wrong. Discussions of law are thwarted because “positive law” sounds like law that is unequivocally good in English yet really only means what we would mean by “posited law”, i.e., law that, like driving on the right side of the road, is only good because somebody said so.

    And when Mary says God has looked with favor on His lowly servant, she uses the word respexit, from the root spes meaning hope, that is, the hope that a lowly servant would have when asking the lord of the household for an unmerited favor. Lords would respond with the opposite, or re-spes/respexit, which would mean to look down upon an underling’s hope and repay it with mercy. Yet we use the term “respect” in English to mean people you look “up” to, not “down” on, and thus we arrive at the exact opposite of the Latin usage!

    I blame depraved men like McCarrick, Law, and Wuerl for their role in pushing English on us when we were toddlers instead of our Latin heritage that was shared by St Thomas, St Augustine, and probably even Santa Rosa de Lima.

    Today, there are simple things we can all do to reclaim the Catholic culture and make it easier for people to learn Latin and thus embrace the Catholic faith in its fullness:
    – Stop splitting infinitives!
    – No prepositions at the end of sentences!
    – Suppress unnecessary usage of the definite article “the” when you write and speak, and instead either eliminate it or use a demonstrative, i.e., “We, these people of the United States…in order to provide for common defense…”

    By these and other steps we can arrive at a more “Catholic” version of English, which will be a jumping off point for future generations in our country to reclaim their lost Latin heritage.

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