Aquinas on love of God and love of neighbor


Happy feast of St Thomas Aquinas!

Below, Thomas argues that love of God and love of others are not just two acts that naturally go together but rather that love of each takes place in the same act. Just as we see light and color together when we look at anything, and these can never be separated, so too genuine love (caritas or charity) of God is never completely apart from love of neighbor.

From Q25 in the Summa:

“…it is specifically the same act that tends to an aspect of the object, and that tends to the object under that aspect: thus it is specifically the same visual act whereby we see the light, and whereby we see the color under the aspect of light.

Now the aspect under which our neighbor is to be loved, is God, since what we ought to love in our neighbor is that he may be in God. Hence it is clear that it is specifically the same act whereby we love God, and whereby we love our neighbor”

I don’t take Thomas to mean that we should love our neighbor as some kind of moral rule because it shows a love for God. Rather he means something still deeper: if our love of God is genuine, then it will naturally flow over into love of others in our lives because we will love all that belongs to God–which is everyone. To the extent that we do not fully love others, our love of God is also in some way still incomplete.

One love, one act–all with its origin in God.

(Above quote from NewAdvent.org.)