St. Albert the Great, whose feast is today, is most known for a comment he made about his most famous student, Thomas Aquinas, in response to the name some of Thomas’ confreres had given him for his taciturnity: “You call him a Dumb Ox: I tell you this Dumb Ox shall bellow so loud that his bellowings will fill the world.”
But Albert was, in his own right, one of the most learned men of his age. He not only knew philosophy and theology, but he was intrigued by the natural sciences and wrote on astronomy, chemistry, geography, botany, and biology. He explained how the earth had to be a sphere.
But he was not like those whom the book of Wisdom warns about in today’s reading (13: 1-9):
All those who were in ignorance of God were foolish by nature and, from the good things seen, were unable to know him who is, nor from studying the works did they discern the artisan…
We could see the good things of this world and praise the Maker of all that is. This combination of knowledge of the world and love of God influenced not only St. Thomas Aquinas but the Dominican mystical theologians Meister Eckhart and Johannes Tauler.
A selection from his Commentary on Luke, found in Benedictine Daily Prayer: A Short Breviary, gives us a glimpse of the source of his holiness. Commenting on Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of Me,” he wrote:
No precept could be more lovable. For this sacrament begets love and unity. Is it not the greatest proof of divine love that Christ gives himself as food? It is as thought he were saying: “I love them so much, and them me, that I want to be within them, and they want to receive me so as to be one body with me.”
Finally, nothing more closely resembling eternal life could be enjoined. For, the essence of eternal life is God sweetly giving himself to the blessed.
St. Albert recognized that the artisan is “God sweetly giving himself” and sharing in that is real life.
He reminds us that the Eucharist is a foretaste of eternal life – God wanting to be within us.
But for Albert this also had consequences for the way we lived. As he also said,
“An egg given during life for love of God is more profitable for eternity than a cathedral full of gold given after death.”