That the exercise of our intellectual powers in the service of the Gospel can prove life-transforming is a principle that both informs the writings of Thomas Aquinas and marks the horizon of his thought. Yet the contemporary interpretation of Aquinas’ thought suffers from the modern divorce between systematic theology and spirituality. Few have asked how Aquinas sets about composing his text in such a way that it orders spiritual operations of memory, affect, imagination, understanding, judgment, and decision to each other and to the purpose of Christian spiritual development.
Embracing Wisdom proposes a theological interpretation of the Summa theologiae as a spiritual pedagogy ordered to the growth in wisdom and holiness of preachers and confessors. First it examines the social and cultural transformations of the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, and the spiritual crisis they occasioned for the Church, which called for the creation of a new kind of pastoral agent. A picture is developed of the socio-cultural role of the theologian and preacher which brings to light the rhetorical means Aquinas deploys to promote the formation of wise preachers who can mediate the Gospel by means of new cultural forms. Successive chapters present the pedagogical structure and spiritual dynamic of the Summa theologiae in light of these rhetorical principles, showing how it climaxes in the Christology of the tertia pars which promotes communion with and conforming of the whole person to Wisdom Incarnate, transforming the student into an agent of Divine Wisdom in the world.