Thomas Aquinas - God Praised with Lips

Thomas Aquinas: Speaking to God is not indeed to make known our thoughts to Him Who is the searcher of hearts, but that we may bring ourselves and our hearers to reverence Him. Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Aquinas,

Whether God should be praised with the lips?

Objection 1.It would seem that God should not be praised with song. For the Apostle says (Col. 3:16): "Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles." Now we should employ nothing in the divine worship, save what is delivered to us on the authority of Scripture. Therefore it would seem that, in praising God, we should employ, not corporal but spiritual canticles.

Thomas Aquinas: Reply to Objection 1.

Reply to Objection 1: The name of spiritual canticle may be given not only to those that are sung inwardly in spirit, but also to those that are sung outwardly with the lips, inasmuch as such like canticles arouse spiritual devotion.

Added Notes:

We may speak of God in two ways. 

First, with regard to His essence; and thus,since He is incomprehensible and ineffable, He is above all praise. 

On this respect we owe Him reverence and the honor of latria; wherefore Ps. 64:2 is rendered by Jerome in his Psalter [Translated from the Hebrew]: "Praise to Thee is speechless, O God," as regards the first, and as to the second, "A vow shall be paid to Thee."

Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection (noisy crowd) of the workers of iniquity: Psalm 64:2NIV 

They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their words like deadly arrows. Psalm 64:3

Shanan (h8150) shaw-nan'; a prim. root; to point (trans. or intrans.); intens. to pierce; fig. to inculcate: - prick, sharp (en), teach diligently, whet.

Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind: Is.5:28

"According to Philo, the gods of the pagans exploit this weakness of men. For the sake of a better effect, and

with the intention of more easily cheating their devotees,
they have
set their lies to melodies, rhythms and meters.

"Philodemus takes offense at the fact that, in cultic music, the inner sentiment is lacking while this so-called worship is offered to the gods only for payment.

"Philo, too, stressed the necessity of religious inwardness in preference to the cult of sacrifice:

"God has no joy in sacrifices, my dear sir, even if one should offer him hecatombs, for everything belongs to him.

Since he possesses everything, he has need of nothing. He takes pleasure only in a pious disposition in men who lead pious lives. He accepts the sacrificial cakes, the barley and the most modest gifts from them as if they were the most valuable offerings. He prefers them to costlier thing.

If they bring nothing more other than themselves in the fullness of moral goodness, they present the most acceptable offering, as they worship God their benefactor and savior in songs and thankful homage.

Sometimes they do so with their tongue, but sometimes without it, whey they speak only in their soul and in their thoughts the confession and invocations which the ear of God alone hears; for men cannot perceive such things with their ears." Philo, De specialibus legibus (I. 271 (v 56)

Philo says what Paul said: He not only eleminates instrumental music as worship and even audible singing is imperfect worship. The true worship, as Jesus said, is in spirit (silence) and in truth (pure intentions) which leaves no reason for "ritual" music. Paul demanded that we fill up with the Spirit (Ephesians 5) which is the Word (Colossians 3) and then make the melody in the heart because external melody is destructive to the mind and soul.

The pagan "gods" were like men: they had passions, got mad and cursed you or were made happy and blessed you. The Egyptian gods loved the tears of lamentation, the Greek gods love to dance with the "worship team" the others loved the tambourines, drums and flutes. Apuleius considered any form of music unworthy of the highest God but was the worship "of the nations."

Celsus said that it was well known that "music pertained only to the lowest gods, the demons,

and that the highest divine being had no need of melodies and sounds. And again, Philo claimed that:

One cannot truly offer thanks to God as the vast majority of men do, with external effects, consecrated gifts and sacrifices..., but rather with songs of praise and hymns - not such as the audible voice sings, but such as are raised and re-echoed by the invisible mind. (Philo, De Plantations 126 (II 148 Cohn-Wendland)

Secondly, we may speak of God as to His effects which are ordained for our good. On this respect we owe Him praise;

wherefore it is written (Is. 63:7): "I will remember the tender mercies of the Lord, the praise of the Lord for all the things that the Lord hath bestowed upon us." Again, Dionysius says (Div. Nom. 1): "

Thou wilt find that all the sacred hymns," i.e. divine praises "of the sacred writers, are directed respectively to the Blessed Processions of the Thearchy," i.e. of the Godhead, "showing forth and praising the names of God."

[Note: if one can replace the songs and hymns God delivered by the Spirit of Christ then we can replace the rest of the instpired Word]

Objection 2. Further, divine praise is part of divine worship, for it is an act of religion.

Now God is worshiped with the mind rather than with the lips: wherefore our Lord quoted against certain ones the words of Is. 29:13, "This people . . . honors [Vulg.: 'glorifies'] Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me." Therefore the praise of God lies in the heart rather than on the lips.

Thomas Aquinas: Reply to Objection 2. It profits one nothing to praise with the lips if one praise not with the heart.

For the heart speaks God's praises when it fervently recalls"the glorious things of His works" [Cf. Sirach 17:7,8. Yet the outward praise of the lips avails to arouse the inward fervor of those who praise, and to incite others to praise God, as stated above.

Objection 3. Further, men are praised with the lips that they may be encouraged to do better: since just as being praised makes the wicked proud, so does it incite the good to better things. Wherefore it is written (Prov. 27:21): "As silver is tried in the fining-pot . . . so a man is tried by the mouth of him that praiseth." But God is not incited to better things by man's words, both because He is unchangeable, and because He is supremely good, and it is not possible for Him to grow better. Therefore God should not be praised with the lips.

Thomas Aquinas: Reply to Objection 3. We praise God, not for His benefit, but for ours as stated.

On the contrary, It is written (Ps. 62:6): "My mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips."

I answer that, We use words, in speaking to God, for one reason, and in speaking to man, for another reason.

For when speaking to man we use words in order to tell him our thoughts which are unknown to him.

Wherefore we praise a man with our lips, in order that he or others may learn that we have a good opinion of him: so that in consequence we may incite him to yet better things; and that we may induce others, who hear him praised, to think well of him, to reverence him, and to imitate him.

On the other hand we employ words, in speaking to God, not indeed to make known our thoughts to Him Who is the searcher of hearts, but that we may bring ourselves and our hearers to reverence Him.

Consequently we need to praise God with our lips, not indeed for His sake, but for our own sake; since by praising Him our devotion is aroused towards Him, according to Ps. 49:23: "The sacrifice of praise shall glorify Me, and there is the way by which I will show him the salvation of God." And forasmuch as man, by praising God, ascends in his affections to God, by so much is he withdrawn from things opposed to God, according to Is. 48:9, "For My praise I will bridle thee lest thou shouldst perish." The praise of the lips is also profitable to others by inciting their affections towards God, wherefore it is written (Ps. 33:2): "His praise shall always be in my mouth," and farther on: "Let the meek hear and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me."

Objection 4: Further, in the Old Law God was praised with musical instruments and human song, according to Ps. 32:2,3: "Give praise to the Lord on the harp, sing to Him with the psaltery, the instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new canticle." But the Church does not make use of musical instruments such as harps and psalteries, in the divine praises, for fear of seeming to imitate the Jews. Therefore in like manner neither should song be used in the divine praises.

Reply to Objection 4: As the Philosopher says (Polit. viii, 6), "Teaching should not be accompanied with a flute or any artificial instrument such as the harp or anything else of this kind: but only with such things as make good hearers."

For such like musical instruments move the soul to pleasure rather than create a good disposition within it. In the Old Testament instruments of this description were employed, both because the people were more coarse and carnal---so that they needed to be aroused by such instruments as also by earthly promises---and because these material instruments were figures of something else.
Objection 5: Further, the praise of the heart is more important than the praise of the lips. But the praise of the heart is hindered by singing, both because the attention of the singers is distracted from the consideration of what they are singing, so long as they give all their attention to the chant, and because others are less able to understand the thing that are sung than if they were recited without chant. Therefore chants should not be employed in the divine praises.

Reply to Objection 5: The soul is distracted from that which is sung by a chant that is employed for the purpose of giving pleasure. But if the singer chant for the sake of devotion, he pays more attention to what he says, both because he lingers more thereon, and because, as Augustine remarks (Confess. x, 33), "each affection of our spirit, according to its variety, has its own appropriate measure in the voice, and singing, by some hidden correspondence wherewith it is stirred." The same applies to the hearers, for even if some of them understand not what is sung, yet they understand why it is sung, namely, for God's glory: and this is enough to arouse their devotion.

On the contrary, Blessed Ambrose established singing in the Church of Milan, a Augustine relates (Confess. ix).

I answer that, As stated above (Article [1]), the praise of the voice is necessary in order to arouse man's devotion towards God. Wherefore whatever is useful in conducing to this result is becomingly adopted in the divine praises. Now it is evident that the human soul is moved in various ways according to various melodies of sound, as the Philosopher state (Polit. viii, 5), and also Boethius (De Musica, prologue). Hence the use of music in the divine praises is a salutary institution, that the souls of the faint-hearted may be the more incited to devotion. Wherefore Augustine say (Confess. x, 33): "I am inclined to approve of the usage of singing in the church, that so by the delight of the ears the faint-hearted may rise to the feeling of devotion": and he says of himself (Confess. ix, 6): "I wept in Thy hymns and canticles, touched to the quick by the voices of Thy sweet-attuned Church."

See his comments on chanting and against instruments

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