Summa II, Q. 25 and 26

Question 25. The adoration of Christ

Article 1. Whether Christ’s humanity and Godhead are to be adored with the same adoration?

We read in the chapters of the Fifth Council [coll. viii, can. 9]: “If anyone say that Christ is adored in two natures, so as to introduce two distinct adorations, and does not adore God the Word made flesh with the one and the same adoration as His flesh, as the Church has handed down from the beginning; let such a one be anathema.”

The objection that, because there are two wills and two natures, we should adore the Divinity of Christ with a greater adoration that that of the humanity is thus heretical.  Christ is one Person, and it is this person we worship and adore.

“We may consider two things in a person to whom honor is given: the person himself, and the cause of his being honored.” The honor is given to the person primarily, and only secondarily to the “action.”  Therefore, the separate wills, separate operations, of Christ are not the determinants of differing adoration, but the one Person.

Article 2. Whether Christ’s humanity should be adored with the adoration of “latria”?

For this reason were the Gentiles reproved, that they “worshiped and served the creature,” as it is written (Romans 1:25).

But we see already in the first article that this is not the basis of our adoration, nor the primary object.  The object is the Person of Christ, and He is worshipped in His Divinity and Humanity as one Person, a Divine Person who should be given the adoration of “latria.”

As Damascene says, “On account of the incarnation of the Divine Word, we adore the flesh of Christ not for its own sake, but because the Word of God is united thereto in person.”  The adoration of “latria” is not given to Christ’s humanity in respect of itself; but in respect of the Godhead to which it is united, by reason of which Christ is not less than the Father.

Article 3. Whether the image of Christ should be adored with the adoration of “latria”?

It might be objected that: “Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything” and the Gentiles are reproached principally for that “they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man.” And also, Scripture does not lay down anything concerning the adoration of images.

However, “The honor given to an image reaches to the prototype,” i.e. the exemplar. But the exemplar itself–namely, Christ–is to be adored with the adoration of “latria”; therefore also His image.

Aristotle tells us that there is a twofold movement of the mind towards an image: one indeed towards the image itself as a certain thing; another, towards the image in so far as it is the image of something else. We do not worship the image as an image. Reverence should be shown to it, in so far only as it is an image. In fact, Christ is the “image of the invisible God.”  We, in a way, already worship an “image of God.” And as we saw above, it is the Person of Christ that we worship when we adore His image, and not the material body as such.

Article 4. Whether Christ’s cross should be worshipped with the adoration of “latria”?

We see then that Christ’s humanity is worshiped with the adoration of “latria,” inasmuch as it is united to the Son of God in Person. But this cannot be said of the cross. Therefore, it might be objected that Christ’s cross should not be worshiped with the adoration of “latria.”

St. Thomas illustrates his answer with a hymn of the Church:

“Dear Cross, best hope o’er all beside,
That cheers the solemn passion-tide:
Give to the just increase of grace,
Give to each contrite sinner peace.”

We show the worship of “latria” to that in which we place our hope of salvation, and we place our hope in Christ’s cross. Therefore Christ’s cross should be worshiped with the adoration of “latria.”

Article 5. Whether the Mother of God should be worshipped with the adoration of “latria”?

The Mother of God is a mere creature. Therefore the worship of “latria” is not due to her. This is, of course, dogmatic Catholic teaching.  It is often, either out of ignorance or malice, not correctly portrayed by the protestant Christians.  If out of malice, it is dishonest and not Christlike.  If out of ignorance, there is no excuse, for the official teaching of the Church is easily available to all in documents and especially the Catechism.  Nevertheless, there are even Catholics who fail to underdstand this difference. They, more than any, are especially culpable for this error.

Since the Blessed Virgin is a mere rational creature, the worship of “latria” is not due to her, but only that of “dulia”: but in a higher degree than to other creatures, inasmuch as she is the Mother of God. For this reason we say that not any kind of “dulia” is due to her, but “hyperdulia.”

Article 6. Whether any kind of worship is due to the relics of the saints?

St. Thomas’ own words (sometimes quoting others, of course) are sufficient here:

“We believe that the bodies of the saints, above all the relics of the blessed martyrs, as being the members of Christ, should be worshiped in all sincerity”: and further on: “If anyone holds a contrary opinion, he is not accounted a Christian, but a follower of Eunomius and Vigilantius.”

As Augustine says in The City of God,  “If a father’s coat or ring, or anything else of that kind, is so much more cherished by his children, as love for one’s parents is greater, in no way are the bodies themselves to be despised, which are much more intimately and closely united to us than any garment; for they belong to man’s very nature.”

“Now it is manifest that we should show honor to the saints of God, as being members of Christ, the children and friends of God, and our intercessors. Wherefore in memory of them we ought to honor any relics of theirs in a fitting manner: principally their bodies, which were temples, and organs of the Holy Ghost dwelling and operating in them, and are destined to be likened to the body of Christ by the glory of the Resurrection. Hence God Himself fittingly honors such relics by working miracles at their presence.”

Question 26. Christ as called the mediator of God and man

Article 1. Whether it is proper to Christ to be the Mediator of God and man?

“There is . . . one Mediator of God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5)

The proper office of a mediator is to join those between whom the mediator mediates.  Only Christ perfectly fulfills this office (“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” 2 Corinthians 5:19). “However, nothing hinders certain others from being called mediators, in some respect, between God and man, forasmuch as they cooperate in uniting men to God, dispositively or ministerially.” This includes both angels and men, either as messengers of God or as priests who participate in His office.

Article 2. Whether Christ, as man, is the Mediator of God and men?

Although it belongs to Christ as God to take away sin authoritatively, yet it belongs to Him, as man, to satisfy for the sin of the human race. And in this sense He is called the Mediator of God and men.”

It is priests who offer sacrifice, who make reparation for us to God.  It is God who forgives sin and reconciles us to be sure, but Christ as man offers the sacrifice and thus can rightly be called the mediator as man.

This completes our summary of the Summa’s treatment of the Incarnation in Questions 1-26 of Part III.

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