Friday, August 11, 2023

“Liturgical Theology in Thomas Aquinas”: A New Collection of Essays by Fr Franck Quoëx

Fr. Franck Quoëx, a priest of the diocese of Vaduz, Lichtenstein, Savoyard by birth, was one of the foremost liturgists of our times. I had the great honor of serving alongside him at the traditional Masses in Rome for several years, and some of the most beautiful rites I have ever seen were put together and guided by his phenomenal expertise. He had and deserved a reputation throughout Europe as a highly talented Master of Ceremonies; many have remarked that if the Pope should ever decide to do the ancient Papal Mass again, Fr. Quoëx would have been one of the few people who could have arranged it properly. In 2001, he received a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of St Thomas (also known as the Angelicum) in Rome, defending a thesis entitled “Le Rite et le Royaume: Culte et histoire du salut selon Thomas d’Aquin” (Rite and Kingdom: The Exterior Acts of Cult [or Worship] and Salvation History according to Saint Thomas Aquinas). He was subsequently professor of liturgy at the FSSP seminary in Wigratzbad, Germany, and continued to write and research on a variety of liturgical topics.

In May of 2006, Abbé Quoëx was diagnosed with cancer, which took his life less than nine months later. In the final days of his illness, when he had become too weak to celebrate Mass, he would have friends sit at his bedside and read the Mass to him. He passed away at the age of thirty-nine, on January 2, the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, and is buried in the cemetery of Lausanne, Switzerland, where he had been serving the faithful of the traditional Mass community.

We are very pleased to share the news that several articles which he wrote, based on the work which he did in his doctoral thesis, have now been gathered into one volume, and translated into English by Zachary Thomas, under the title “Liturgical Theology in Thomas Aquinas: Sacrifice and Salvation History.” It is now available for pre-order, and is scheduled to be published in hardcover on October 27. (Mr Thomas is one of the writers of the excellent blog Canticum Salomonis, whose work we have shared on NLM many times.)
The description on Amazon: “In this volume, Fr. Quoëx responds to Joseph Ratzinger’s call for a renewed appreciation of liturgical rite. A student of Pierre Gy, OP, he brings to this study of Aquinas’ liturgical theology a rare combination of expert knowledge of liturgical sources and history and the best of modern historical-critical research guided by sound theological judgment. Fr Quoëx frames his study with an overview of the problem of rite in modern theological-anthropological discourse, before turning to Aquinas’ theory of worship in the treatise on the virtue of religion. He then explores Aquinas’ doctrine on the cultic dimensions of the Eucharist and other sacraments in his sacramental theology more broadly, finishing with a close study of the mass commentary of the Tertia Pars.
Although there has been increasing attention to Thomas’ treatment of religion as a virtue, none have approached him from an anthropological angle with a focus on the nature of liturgical rite, or fully exploited the perspectives of liturgical scholarship to shed light on sacramental theology. Quoëx’s work, as the work of a Thomist, liturgist, and medievalist well versed in medieval liturgical development and in the genre of often-allegorical liturgical commentary, opens up this crucial but neglected facet of Aquinas’ theological synthesis. Few books have been published on Aquinas’ liturgical theology. Now that interest in Aquinas’ virtue theory and sacramental theology is growing rapidly, Quoëx’s studies are an invitation to further reflection on the topic of Aquinas's liturgical theology with its manifold ramifications for and connections with other theological topics in his Summa, including his theological anthropology, his soteriology, his treatment of the Old and New Laws, and his account of the virtue of religion in connection with the other virtues.”
I asked Mr Thomas to say something about how the project came about, and he wrote, “One problem that has vexed me since my graduate days is how to discuss the liturgical question with modern people who, even if religious, even if Catholic, have no understanding of what a liturgical rite, or a public sacrifice, is. Every page of the Bible or the Iliad impresses one with the fact that it was weirdly natural for an ancient person, say, whose city had been delivered from a plague, or who wanted to crave a divine favor, to drag an animal up to a temple, slaughter it, and invite his friends to a feast. Public cult was the nexus that held together the ancient city states of Greece and the Kingdom of Israel, as it was for all of Christian history until the modern period. The Sacrifice of Christ and the symbolic rites that surrounded its repetition simply made sense to these people.
Given that the Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life, and the liturgy that font from which we derive the Christian spirit, it is imperative for Catholics to recover an intimate familiarity and emotional connection to what Aquinas calls the ‘rites of the Christian religion.’ We have to recover, for ourselves, and for our societies, the naturalness of liturgical rite.
Fr. Quoëx’s thesis lends us a helping hand. He explains what Aquinas has to say about religious worship and everything related to it – sacrifices, vows, consecrations, sacred places and persons, the Sunday obligation, etc. He shows us how public worship is a part of the virtue of religion, an auxiliary part of the virtue of justice. It is the way that human beings, both as individuals and as ‘cultic societies,’ express the debt of gratitude and submission they owe to their Creator. Further, Aquinas explains the role of solemnity, of holy things and holy places, in exciting our devotion and directing our attention to the worship of the Father. They are not ‘accidentals’, but an intrinsic part of the way that we worship as beings composed of body and soul. Finally, Fr. Quoëx expounds Aquinas’ views on the symbolism of the liturgical rite, the way the rite can be ‘read,’ like Sacred Scripture, on multiple spiritual levels of interpretation.
The translator hopes this volume will contribute to the recovery of liturgical rite that Ratzinger called for in Spirit of the Liturgy. It also contributes to the growing literature on the public role of religion, expressed recently for example in Scott Hahn and Brandon McGinley’s It is Right and Just.”

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