Thursday, August 09, 2012

Chesterton and Thankfulness

Living among men who never dreamed of giving thanks for the portents of existence, [Chesterton] realised that the visions of a supreme sanity may appear close to madness.

"I am the first," says a strange figure in a very youthful story, [A Crazy Tale, published in the Quarto - Slade School Magazine] "that ever saw the world.  Prophets and sages there have been, out of whose great hearts came schools and churches.  But I am the first that ever saw a dandelion as it is."

'Wind and dark rain swept round, swathing in a cloud the place of that awful proclamation...."I tell you religion is in its infancy; dervish and anchorite, Crusader and Ironside, were not fanatical enough or frantic enough, in their adoration...some day a creature [will] be produced, a new animal with eyes to see and ears to hear; with an intellect capable of performing a new function never before conceived truly; thanking God for his creation."'

Now let us turn from the boy whose head was whirling with the sheer excitement of existence to the man writing of the great St Thomas [Aquinas]:

"He did, with a most solid and colossal conviction, believe in Life; and in something like what Stevenson called the great theorem of the liveableness of life...

"There really was a new reason for regarding the sense, and the sensations of the body, and the experiences of the common man, with a reverence at which the great Aristotle would have stared, and no man in the ancient world could have begun to understand...The Body was no longer what it was when Plato and Porphyry and the old mystics had left it for dead.  It had hung upon a gibbet.  It had risen from a tomb...Plato might despise the flesh but God had not despised it...

"There is a general tone and temper of Aquinas which is as difficult to avoid as daylight in a great house of windows.  It is that positive position of his mind, which is filled and soaked as with sunshine with the warmth of the wonder of created things.  There is a certain private audacity in his communion, by which men add to their private names the tremendous titles of the Trinity and the Redemption; so that some nun may be called, 'of the Holy Ghost'; or a man bear such a burden as the title of St John of the Cross.  In this sense, the man we are studying may specially be called St Thomas of the Creator...And perhaps no man ever came so near to calling the Creator by His own name, which can only be written I Am."

Page 10/11 of Return to Chesterton, by Maisie Ward.


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