Reading the Song of Songs with St. Thomas Aquinas
Thomistic Ressourcement Series
Imprint: Catholic University of America Press
St. Thomas Aquinas never wrote a commentary on the Song of Songs. The purpose of this book is to demonstrate, however, that he meditated on it and absorbed it, so that the words of the Song are for him a familiar repertoire and a theological source. His work contains numerous citations of the Song, not counting his borrowings of vocabulary and images from it. In total, there are 312 citations of the Song in Aquinas’s corpus, along with citations of the Song that are found in citations that Aquinas makes of other authors (as for example in the Catena aurea). Understanding the purpose and placement of these citations significantly enriches our understanding of Aquinas as a theologian, biblical exegete, and spiritual master. The book contains an Appendix listing and contextualizing each citation.
The study of the citations of the Song especially illuminates Aquinas’s spiritual doctrine. By citing the Song, Aquinas emphasizes the spiritual life’s path of dynamic ascent, through an ever increasing participation in the mystery of the nuptial union of Christ and the Church through love. The Song also highlights the eschatological tension or yearning present in the spiritual life, which is ordered to the fullness of beatific vision. Although Aquinas’s theology is highly "intellectual," by citing the Song he brings out the affective character of the spiritual life and conveys the centrality of love in the soul’s journey toward Christ. He also draws together contemplation and preaching through his use of the Song.
"Bonino makes a significant contribution to the fields of biblical Thomism and medieval Scripture studies."~Francis J. Caponi, Villanova University
"Thomas Aquinas left no commentary on the Song of Songs, but according to legend the saint treated the text from his deathbed as a parting ‘memento of his science.’ Fr. Bonino’s book supplies us at last with this missing biblical memento, assembling a virtual commentary from citations across St. Thomas’ work. It is the presentation of a modern master on a medieval Master of the Sacred Page, at once accessible, academically erudite, and profound. ‘The entire universe is unworthy of the day the Song of Songs was given to Israel,’ said Rabbi Akiva. Fr. Bonino’s creative study exposes Aquinas’ reading of scripture's superlative song as a theological treasure that has been hidden in plain sight."~Anthony Giambrone, OP, author of A Quest for the Historical Christ: Scientia Christi and the Modern Study of Jesus
"Aquinas never wrote a commentary on the Song, so his exegesis must be gathered from all his writings. But it is abundant, clear, and consistent, and it shows that for Thomas the Song was central to an understanding of Scripture—and Scripture was essential to his theology. There is, moreover, an uncharacteristic affectivity in these scattered reflections, a passion that gives us rare insight into the Angelic Doctor's own spiritual doctrine and life. Father Bonino has given us a library's worth of study in this small book."~Scott Hahn, Scanlan Professor of Biblical Theology, Franciscan University of Steubenville
"Father Serge-Thomas Bonino, OP, follows Thomas Aquinas’s inspirations to propose interpretative keys for reading the Song of Songs. In his reconstruction of the ‘unwritten’ commentary on this book of the Bible, he goes beyond compiling Aquinas’s fragmented references to the Song of Songs and demonstrates that a proper reading involves sapiential formation, development of affectiveness and contemplation of the beauty of Christ. Thanks to Father Bonino’s book, we can decode the profound meaning of the biblical references found in Aquinas’s systematic works. These references are not simple embellishments; instead, they are woven into a fabric that brings focus to the framework of salvation history. Insightful and intriguingly written, this book sets new directions for Biblical Thomism."~Piotr Roszak, Nicolaus Copernicus University