Dominic Holtz

in The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195326093
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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The article discusses Aquinas's view on sacraments. Aquinas understood worship and not simply the internal love shown in mind and will of rational creature to its Creator but also the use of material objects, words, and bodily gestures, to be a natural obligation of all human beings. Aquinas is rightly credited with asserting that the sacraments are better understood as signs than as causes, and that even as causes, they have their effect by means of their signifying. The purpose of the analysis of the sacraments is meant to do justice to the fullness of the sacramental teaching that Aquinas inherited from the early centuries of the Church. Aquinas was not unaware that one might imagine both different matter and different form, particularly different words, to enact the sacraments. Aquinas was willing to admit a range of signification in certain respects. Aquinas rejected any radical departure from the matter or the ritual forms accepted by the Church. Aquinas recognized that objects and ritual actions are ambiguous as signs. They generally require words to locate the meaning that they have here and now. The sacraments are signs of supernatural effects, of the various participations in the healing of sin and more importantly of the perfection, the completion of the human person through a sharing in the life of the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.

Keywords: sacraments; worship; justice; sacramental teaching; supernatural effects; ontotheology

Article.  4824 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Religion

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