I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

St Thomas Aquinas and New Law: A Hebrew Catholic Opinion


According to St Thomas Aquinas it would also seem that the use of the terms Old Law and New Law are referring to St Paul's references to those who live at the level of the letter of the law and those who live at the level of the spirit of the law and is not really directly referring to the Old and New Covenants as such. In the Summa he writes: "Nevertheless there were some in the state of the Old Testament who, having charity and the grace of the Holy Ghost, looked chiefly to spiritual and eternal promises: and in this respect they belonged to the New Law. In like manner in the New Testament there are some carnal men who have not yet attained to the perfection of the New Law; and these it was necessary, even under the New Testament, to lead to virtuous action by the fear of punishment and by temporal promises."

The level of Old Law which is based on fear, reward and punishment can be appropriate for preparation and children but those who move on to the deeper way of love are those of the level of New Law revealed by Jesus in the Beatitudes and in his Life and Passion. Thus those such as Abraham and Moses who lived at the level of love in their obedience to God's Will can be said, in a mystical sense, to have lived the New Law. Just as many Catholics who respond to God out of fear of punishment live in the Old Law, so many Jews live at the level of doing the Will of God out of love. They are thus mystically living in the New Law in the Messiah.

This insight of St Thomas Aquinas helps one to understand St Paul's comment about the Law. Paul was a great mystic and one makes a mistake when his mystical understanding of the Law is not taken into account. The Rabbis of Judaism, such as Rebbe Nachman, also stress this double way of observing the Torah. They refer to those who are only looking for the rewards they will get in the World to Come as the lower level and those who observe out of pure love of God, not looking for any reward in the World to Come for their obedience, as the higher level. Rebbe Nachman taught: "And this is specially when a person performs the mitzvot with such joy, that he has no desire for any reward in the World to Come...Moses spoke ...saying 'Zeh hadavar'[This is the Word]...Rashi explains: all the prophets prophesied with 'Koh' (thus)says God. Moses achieved more than they in that he prophesied with 'Zeh hadavar. For 'koh' corresponds to a dull looking-glass, whereas 'zeh hadavar' corresponds to a clear looking glass. These two aspects of prophecy are also found in our service of the Creator. There is the person who does the mitzvah for the reward of the World to Come- he has no enjoyment from the mitzvah itself. If he were not given the World to Come as a reward, he would not do it. This corresponds to 'koh', a dull looking-glass... But the prophet who prohesies with 'zeh hadavar' does not desire the reward of the mitzvot. Rather, he desires the mitzvah itself. He rejoices so much in its performance that he rejects any kind of reward. We see, then, that his world to Come is in the mitzvah itself."

St Thomas opposes those who see the levels of Old Law and the New Law as two totally separate entities. He writes: "Now things may be distinguished in two ways. First, as those things that are altogether specifically different, e.g., a horse and an ox. Secondly, as perfect and imperfect in the same species, e.g., a boy and a man: and in this way the Divine law is divided into Old and New. Hence the Apostle (Gal. 3:24,25) compares the state of man under the Old Law to that of a child "under a pedagogue"; but the state under the New Law, to that of a full grown man, who is "no longer under a pedagogue."..." Thomas associates Old Law with the literal observance of the Ten Commandments for a earthly reward whereas the New Law is the the law of the Gospel which is the inner heart response to the Divine Law (Torah). The level of Old Law is thus essential (not something that is abrogated)and the level of New Law in a sense encompasses the Old Law just as the adult encompasses the child.

For example the Torah forbids Adultery- at the level of Old Law this means that one cannot have intercourse with anothers wife and there are physical penalties for such an action and one must take care of his wife financially. At the level of New Law one is forbidden to even think of his neigbour's wife in a lustful manner and he must not only care for his wife but love her as the Messiah loves his bride the Church. One does this out of love for the Messiah. The level of Old Law is not abolished but the one who lives at the level of the New Law will already be obedient to the demands of the outward level of the Old Law. One can keep the level of the Old Law with his own effort and will power, whereas the level of the new Law can only be achieved and received as a grace of God.

It is interesting that St Thomas still, in some ways, is locked into the Old Law approach based on rewards. He sees that one who lives at the level of New Law as one who is not motivated by earthly or physical rewards but by the rewards of Heaven. Whereas Rebbe Nachman sees even the desire for heavenly rewards as a lower level than doing God's Will in Joy out of pure love for God. Thus we might say that there are different levels even in the New Law, with a higher and lower level of sanctity.

In Judaism this is seen by the difference in the level of sanctity of those referred to as Tzaddikim (righteous ones) and Kadoshim (holy or sanctified ones). All Kadoshim are Tzaddikim but all Tzaddikim have not reached the level of Kadoshim (see Ramchal). Thus those who live at the level of Old Law live in the effects of the Fiat of Creation. Those who attain to the lower level of the New Law live in the effects of the fiats of the Creation and Redemption. Those who attain to the higher level of the New Law live in the effects of the fiats of Creation, Redemption and Sacntification. Beyond this are those who are so conformed to the Divine Will that they do not just live in the effects but the reality of the three fiats of the Divine Will. At such a level was Jesus, Mary and Joseph and certain other saints. The Divine Will within the Godhead is the Eternal Law. This Eternal Law manifests as the Divine Law.

No comments: