“The Temptation of St. Thomas” by Diego Velazquez, 1632

St. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican, one of the greatest of all philosophers, and arguably the greatest of Catholic theologians; we tend to think of him as a pretty cerebral fellow.  And so he was.  At the same time, he did have his poetic side, which we can see in a number of hymns we still sing today. The Euchariastic hymn Panis Angelicus, for instance, which is familiar even to secular audiences today, especially in 19th century composer Cesar Franck’s lovely musical setting.  In the clip below Franck’s version is beautifully sung by a young Franciscan known as Friar Alessandro, upon whom God has apparently bestowed the gift of song, just as he did on Alessandro’s spiritual father St. Francis. .

  St. Thomas wrote Panis Angelicus as part of an entire liturgical cycle (both Mass and Divine Office) for the feast of Corpus Christi, literally, “Body of Christ”. The formal name for the feast today is The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, and the more alert among you will have noticed that we celebrated it this past Sunday. The hymn Pange Lingua was part of this same cycle. 

As is appropriate for a celebration of the Lord’s gift of His own Body, Panis Angelicus (literally, “Bread of Angels”) is a meditation on the Incarnation and the Eucharist.  It is also appropriate for the Feast of the Nativity, in which we celebrate the moment when the Word became Flesh, and for that reason we hear it most often during the Christmas Season. 

In  the video below I have also included images from recent Eucharistic miracles at Legnica and Sokolka in Poland, Tixtla in Mexico, and Chirattakonam in India.

Panis angelicus
Fit panis hominum
Dat panis coelicus
Figuris terminum
O res mirabilis
Manducat dominum
Pauper, pauper
Servus et humilis

May the Bread of Angels
Become bread for mankind;
The Bread of Heaven puts
All foreshadowings to an end;
Oh, thing miraculous!
The body of the Lord will nourish
the poor, the poor,
the servile, and the humble.

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