Matthew Levering has a fascinating discussion of Thomas’s understanding of Christian worship as the fulfillment of the temple in his outstanding Christ’s Fulfillment of Torah and Temple: Salvation According to Thomas Aquinas (91-97) . From 1 Kings 8, Thomas claims that God “infinitely transcends the Temple’ and yet has “chosen to place his ‘name’ there.” What does it mean for God’s “name” to dwell in the temple? Thomas says that it means “that the liturgy of the Temple (i.e., the prayers of the people who revere the temple) would manifest God.”

He elaborates:

“In contrast to [Jon] Levenson, Aquinas concentrates not on the mythical symbolism of Zion but on Zion as a place of opposition to idolatry. The poetic images that the psalmists and prophets use to speak about Zion are, in his view, imaginative (and profound) ways of speaking about the glory of true worship. In the context o a world burdened by idolatry, the Temple’s intimate association with God’s ‘name’ consists in true worship. God relates to the Temple not anthropomorphically, by taking up residence in a building, but liturgically, in that the Temple, through the actions of those who reverence it, embodies true worship.”

Thomas sees Christ as “the most perfect fulfillment of Israel’s Temple,” since He is the true worshiper who embodies the name of His Father, the one whose sacrificial passion “enables human beings to share in the heavenly liturgy.” Even ancient Israelites in the temple implicitly shared in Christ’s sacrifice: “whenever human beings manifest God’s ‘name’ by holy worship, this practice embodies a degree of proleptic participation in the effects of Christ’s saving worship, even before the actual passion and resurrection of Jesus.

As the embodiment of the Temple, “Christ is the ultimate source for understanding the Trinity’s indwelling, since Christ mediates this indwelling to all other human beings.” Through the work of the Son and Spirit who indwell human beings, creatures “attains (by sanctifying grace) each of the Persons of the Trinity as the object or term of his or her knowing and loving.”

God is in all things, Thomas says, by His essence, power, and presence, as “the cause existing in the effects which participate in His goodness.” Yet He is in the just by a “special mode” as the “object known is in the knower, and the beloved is in the lover.” Since the rational creature, specially indwelt by God, “attains to God Himself,” God is said to dwell in that rational creature “as in His own temple” ( ST I, 43, 3; Levering, 187, fn 62).

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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