Jan-Heiner Tück presents a work that explores the sacramental theology, lived spirituality, and Eucharistic poetry of the Church’s doctor communis, St. Thomas Aquinas. Although Aquinas’ Eucharistic poetry has long occupied an important place in the Church’s liturgical prayer and her repertoire of sacred music, the depth of these poems remains hidden until one grasps the rich sacramental theology underlying it. Consequently, Tück first offers a detailed but approachable primer of Aquinas’ theology of the sacraments, before diving deeply into the Angelic Doctor’s theology and poetry of the Eucharist. The Scriptural accounts stand at the heart of the systematic framework developed by Aquinas, and thus significant attention is devoted to showing the harmony between the accounts of Christ’s passion and the detailed exposition of the Summa theologiae. Moreover, the Eucharistic controversies of the ninth and eleventh centuries provide the contrapuntal context in which Aquinas did his thinking, praying, and writing. Not surprisingly, therefore, the response he crafts to these controversies draws upon both speculative powers and contemplative prayer, brought together in the unity of Aquinas’ theology and spirituality. The net result is a twofold treasure for the Church: a careful systematic presentation of Eucharistic theology and the lived devotional expression of the same in the carefully constructed—and now much beloved—stanzas of Pange lingua gloriosi, Lauda Sion, Adoro te devote, etc. By revealing the lively interplay of the saint’s powerful speculative intellect and a heart steeped in love for the Eucharistic Lord, Tück offers a sophisticated exposition of Aquinas’ Eucharistic poetry and the roots it sinks into a wider theological framework. Finally, the contemporary significance and power of Aquinas’ work is drawn out, not only in the rarefied realm of intellectual inquiry but also in the everyday expanse of ordinary life.
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Jan-Heiner Tück’s A Gift of Presence offers a lucid and at the same time beautiful re-lecture of Thomas Aquinas’s theology of the Eucharist. What makes the book in a welcome way unique is Tück’s insightful interpretation of Thomas’s Eucharistic theology through the lens of his Eucharistic hymns and prayers. By way of this fresh interpretive route, Tück leads the reader right to the heart of Aquinas’s Eucharistic vision and from there into a compelling contemporaneous recovery of an authentic Eucharistic existence. In dialogue with contemporary theology, philosophy, and literature, and with a commendable ecumenical sensitivity, Tück achieves in this insightful work a remarkable fusion of theology, spirituality, poetry, and existential relevance. A Gift of Presence is an enticing invitation to rediscover the dazzling beauty, the unfathomable depth, and the existential relevance of Thomas’s Eucharistic theology.
Reinhard Hütter, Ordinary Professor of Fundamental and Dogmatic Theology, The Catholic University of America
Tück’s achievement in this wide-ranging and insightful book is remarkable. He describes Aquinas’s Eucharistic theology accurately and with sensitivity, playing up its strengths—not least, the underscoring of Christ’s irreducible Eucharistic presence, a presence which is ‘for us’—while taking into consideration various criticisms coming from different quarters, including from scholars of liturgy. Tück is as adept in the Eucharistic poetry of Aquinas as he is in the systematic writings. Indeed, the second part of this book provides what is tantamount to the finest analysis of all of Aquinas’s Eucharistic hymns--as theology and as poetry--now available. The third and final part of the book is especially stimulating, as Tück offers a modern reformulation of Eucharistic change and presence (arguably more accessible to modern Christians) that strives to be faithful to Aquinas’s core convictions about Eucharist and its centrality for Christian belief and practice. The translation reads well; and the translator is to be congratulated for making this rich and important book available to English readers. The book, I think, is a must-read for anyone interested in Eucharistic theology and practice, past and present.
Joseph Wawrykow, University of Notre Dame
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