I’m not setting myself up as a commentator on the Summa. But I’m plodding through it from beginning to end (hopefully). Generally I read an article each day, and once in a while I find something particularly enlightening. (Actually I finish an article every three days since I find that I need to read each article three times before it starts to sink in. It’s going to take a while to finish, isn’t it?)
Anyway, this article continues the topic of happiness or beatitude. St. Thomas asks “Whether God is the beatitude of each of the blessed?” In other words, is the happiness that we experience in Heaven God himself? Or something besides God?
St. Thomas answers in this way:
“The beatitude of an intellectual nature consists in an act of the intellect. In this we may consider two things, namely, the object of the act, which is the thing understood; and the act itself which is to understand. If, then, beatitude be considered on the side of the object, God is the only beatitude; for everyone is blessed from this sole fact, that he understands God, in accordance with the saying of Augustine (Confess. v, 4): “Blessed is he who knoweth Thee, though he know nought else.” But as regards the act of understanding, beatitude is a created thing in beatified creatures; but in God, even in this way, it is an uncreated thing.”
Our happiness is a created thing. But since God is uncreated, God himself is not our happiness. Therefore our happiness is something besides God.
Well, it is and it isn’t.
“Thus to a miser the end is money, and its acquisition. Accordingly God is indeed the last end of a rational creature, as the thing itself; but created beatitude is the end, as the use, or rather fruition, of the thing.”
Thus God is the object of our happiness. But we are made happy by knowing him and contemplating him; and knowing and contemplating are the acts of created beings. Our happiness then is a created thing, though the end or object of it is uncreated.