Category Archives: SUMMA THEOLOGICA

A review of or primer on the Trinity

Introduction

“If any one, therefore, says to us, “How then was the Son produced by the Father?” we reply to him, that no man understands that production, or generation, or calling, or revelation, or by whatever name one may describe His generation, which is in fact altogether indescribable. Neither Valentinus, nor Marcion, nor Saturninus, nor Basilides, nor angels, nor archangels, nor principalities, nor powers [possess this knowledge], but the Father only who begot, and the Son who was begotten. Since therefore His generation is unspeakable, those who strive to set forth generations and productions cannot be in their right mind, inasmuch as they undertake to describe things which are indescribable.” -St. Irenaeus of Lyons

How, then, dare I try to make an attempt to tell of the mystery of the Trinity in my little blog, a man of little learning that I am?  I simply affirm what St. Irenaeus says; I am out of my mind. I agree with Aristotle and St. Thomas when I say that to achieve even a little knowledge of the highest things is far better than to know almost everything about worldly things.

In the prologue to Book II of St. Augustine’s de Trinitate, he confirms this saying “When men seek to know God, and bend their minds according to the capacity of human weakness to the understanding of the Trinity; learning, as they must, by experience, the wearisome difficulties of the task, whether from the sight itself of the mind striving to gaze upon light unapproachable.”

In all that will be said here, we must remember that it is by faith alone that we can know of the Trinity.  Theologians past, and with good intention, have tried to prove the existence of the Trinity.  I agree with St. Thomas that this is impossible, for we can only know things by reason because of the world we experience.  That is, to use reason alone is to confine ourselves to the starting point of the created world.

God is One, and He acts as one.  We can know that God exists through reason alone, but this is reasoning from cause to effect, and in this case, we recognize a “necessary cause” for all that is contingent. We can only reason to the one cause, which is the one nature, the one essence that is the one God.  There is no way to know there is a Trinity.

“The following dissertation concerning the Trinity, as the reader ought to be informed, has been written in order to guard against the sophistries of those who disdain to begin with faith, and are deceived by a crude and perverse love of reason” (de Trinitate, Book I) says St. Augustine of his work on the Trinity.  While never disdaining reason, we will keep in mind constantly that we are contemplating the greatest of mysteries, beyond the comprehension of any finite intellect.

We can, however, know that arguments against the Trinity are not demonstrable, that is, there is no argument that can show that the Trinity is against reason. Arguments against the Trinity, like any argument against the faith, are either sophistry (simply erroneous) or otherwise merely probable (meaning that they are not the only explanation that explains the data; similar examples can be found on other issues which cannot be known through reason alone, such as whether the world is eternal or had a beginning in time, etc).

Therefore, the investigation of the mystery of the Trinity can do two things, and these are not really separate. “The manifestation of truth and the criticism of errors constitute two aspects of one theological enterprise” (Giles Emery, OP). We will see, then, that throughout our contemplation of the Trinity, we will often use the errors of non-believers and heretics alike to show forth the true doctrine of the Trinity, inasmuch as we are able.  Of course, God can never be comprehended, but we can, through effort and grace, come to some knowledge of God.  And after all, “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

‘”Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD.’ (Isaiah 1:18) We will attempt to do just that. Call me “out of my mind” if you will.

In the next post, I plan to, in summary form, lay out the basic principles of Trinitarian theology, to include

The immanent Trinity: processions, relations, persons, notions, and appropriations.

The economic Trinity: the “role” of each Person in the order of creation and of redemption, to include the missions. The understanding of the “economic Trinity,” (God as He is known and made known to us)of course, flows from the “immanent Trinity,” (God as He is eternally to Himself).

 

Two Processions

Our faith in the One but Triune God rests on the notion of persons, of which, in One God, we recognize three. To have any grasp of these Persons, we must first understand relations, and in order to do this, we must inquire as to the processions in the Trinity. “The role which the study of processions plays is propaedeutic: it prepares the way for the study of relations, which in its turn, prepares the way for us to think about the persons” (Giles Emery, pg. 51).

In the Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 4, we read that “Sacred Scripture, then, hands on to us the names of “paternity” and “sonship” in the divinity, insisting that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Scripture has not been silent about the very name of “divine generation.” For in the Psalm (2:7), as was said, one reads: “This day have I begotten You” (Ch. 2). We certainly do not reason our way to the divine processions, but rather, present them as the teaching of revealed truth.

We must first ask then, whether there can be any processions in God, for “It would seem that there cannot be…procession signifies outward movement. But in God there is nothing mobile, nor anything extraneous.” What we must do is recognize that here, the processions are immanent, within the one God. “This objection comes from the idea of procession in the sense of local motion, or of an action tending to external matter, or to an exterior effect…This procession has been differently understood. Some have understood it in the sense of an effect, proceeding from its cause; so Arius took it…Others take this procession to mean the cause proceeding to the effect, as moving it, or impressing its own likeness on it; in which sense it was understood by Sabellius.”

Of course, these errors are easy to fall into, as this is our experience in the world around us.  Actions tend to terminate in other objects, or in other locations, or in other times. But we can, as Augustine showed us, and Thomas refined so well, see an analogous procession in ourselves in our intellect and in our will, allowing us to have some understanding of what immanent (internal) processions might be.

“As God is above all things, we should understand what is said of God, not according to the mode of the lowest creatures, namely bodies, but from the similitude of the highest creatures, the intellectual substances… Procession, therefore, is not to be understood from what it is in bodies, either according to local movement or by way of a cause proceeding forth to its exterior effect, as, for instance, like heat from the agent to the thing made hot. Rather it is to be understood by way of an intelligible emanation.”

After showing that, within God who is pure simplicity, there can still be processions, we move to the question of generation. “Generation has a twofold meaning: one common to everything subject to generation and corruption…for this kind of generation requires that there should be a procession by way of similitude in the same specific nature; as a man proceeds from a man, and a horse from a horse…In another sense it is proper and belongs to living things; in which sense it signifies the origin of a living being from a conjoined living principle.”

Now, in God, what is generated does not have its terminus in another subject, as it would in creatures.  When a human begets a human, the nature is shared, but the subject is a different human, in different matter and with its own form. It is this creaturely part of generation we must let go of when thinking of God.

“But if there is a being whose life does not proceed from potentiality to act, procession (if found in such a being) excludes entirely the first kind of generation; whereas it may have that kind of generation which belongs to living things [but] by way of similitude, inasmuch as the concept of the intellect is a likeness of the object conceived:–and exists in the same nature, because in God the act of understanding and His existence are the same.”

As St. Thomas says elsewhere, “That, then, is the supreme and perfect grade of life which is in the intellect, for the intellect reflects upon itself and the intellect can understand itself… God, because He understands Himself, the intellect, the thing understood, and the intention understood are all identical. God, therefore, must be in Himself as the thing understood in him who understands… The divine intellect, of course, since it does not pass from potency to act, but is always actually existent (which was proved in Book I), must necessarily have always understood itself and is co-eternal with God, and is not acquired by Him in time, as our intellect acquires in time its interiorly conceived word which is the intention understood” (SCG, IV, 11) As Fr. Lagrange puts it, “the Word, conceived from eternity by the Father, has no other nature than that of the Father. And the Word is not like our word, accidental, but substantial, because God’s act of knowledge is not an accident, but self-subsisting substance” (Reality).  We touched on this when asking if there were any procession in God, and what kind of procession (immanent) that might be.

But an objection may be placed here, if one has not grasped what was said above. It would seem that “anything that is generated derives existence from its generator. Therefore such existence is a derived existence.” Thomas reply is that “…what is generated in God receives its existence from the generator, not as though that existence were received into matter or into a subject…but… He Who proceeds receives divine existence from another; not, however, as if He were other from the divine nature.” This had been recently defined by the Church: The Fourth Lateran Council…declared…(The Divine Substance) does not generate, nor is it generated, nor does it proceed; it is the Father that generates, the Son who is generated, and the Holy Ghost that proceeds (Dogma, pg. 61)

We have spoken of generation, and this applies to the Word of God, whom we generally refer to as the Second Person of the Trinity. But can any other procession exist? As stated earlier, we can have some understanding of the answer to this by looking within ourselves, for we were created in the image and likeness of God. “We must observe that procession exists in God, only according to an action which does not tend to anything external, but remains in the agent itself. Such an action in an intellectual nature is that of the intellect, and of the will.”

The first procession, that of the generation of the Word, refers to the intellect.  When we turn to the procession of the Holy Ghost, we will speak analogously of the will. We might ask what difference there is in the procession of the Word and of the Holy Ghost, and why, if we call the first generation, we do not likewise call the procession of the Holy Ghost generation.

Fr. Lagrange puts it succinctly. “Further, this procession of the only-begotten Son is rightly called generation. The living thing, born of a living thing, receives a nature like that of its begetter, its generator. In the Deity, the Son receives that same divine nature, not caused, but communicated…But this second procession is not a generation, because love, in contrast with knowledge, does not make itself like its object, but rather goes out to its object…The second procession, spiration, presupposes the first, generation, since love derives from knowledge.”

Thomas tells us, as far as using the word procession and generation for the Son, but only the word procession for the Spirit, “As in creatures generation is the only principle of communication of nature, procession in God has no proper or special name, except that of generation. Hence the procession which is not generation has remained without a special name; but it can be called spiration, as it is the procession of the Spirit.”

There are, besides intellect and will, other perfections on God, such as power, goodness, and others.  Are there, then, other processions in God? “It would seem to some that… there are more than two processions in God, for goodness seems to be the greatest principle of procession, since goodness is diffusive of itself. Therefore there must be a procession of goodness in God. But, As Boethius says (De Hebdom.), goodness belongs to the essence and not to the operation, unless considered as the object of the will.”

In other words, “The divine processions can be derived only from the actions which remain within the agent. In a nature which is intellectual, and in the divine nature these actions are two, the acts [are] of intelligence and of will.”

In summary, we may reflect on the processions in the following way:

  1. Our intellectual ideas are accidental, not substantial. God’s are substantial; it does not develop in time, as though it was discursive.  He has but one idea, one Word, that of Himself.
  2. This Word is begotten, generated, for knowledge makes itself like its object.
  3. The Holy Ghost proceeds as love, which does not make itself like its object, and thus in God is not by generation, but rather, love goes out to its object, and this, we may call spiration.
  4. To again quote LaGrange, “The second procession, spiration, presupposes the first, generation, since love derives from knowledge.” From this, we can know the Father as first principle, but also that the Holy Ghost proceeds from both the Father and the Son as from one principle.

 

Three Persons, Four Relations, and Five Notions

“…those who follow the teaching of the Catholic faith must hold that the relations in God are real…there are in God three Persons of one Essence. Now number results from some kind of distinction — wherefore in God there must be some distinction not only in respect of creatures who differ from him in nature, but also in respect of someone subsisting in the divine nature. But this distinction cannot regard anything absolute, since whatsoever is predicated of God absolutely denotes the divine essence, so that it would follow that the divine Persons differ essentially… It follows then that the divine Persons are distinct only by their relations.” (Aquinas, Disputed Questions on the Power of God)

In seeking to understand the Trinity of three Persons and one God, the subject of relations will be central.  The Persons who share one existence, one being, can only be understood as distinct in this way.

The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.  God is one being, and each of these Persons is this one being.  Each is not a part of this one being, this one God, but fully this one being, this one God. However, the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, for example.

As we see in the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, an understanding of the processions must be grasped prior to seeking to unfold the significance of the relations within the Trinity. The divine processions can be derived only from the actions which remain within the agent. In a nature which is intellectual, and in the divine nature these actions are two, the acts are of intelligence and of will. There are processions in God, then, and these can be understood (but not reasoned to apart from revealed truth) by way of what follows in the pure absolutely simple intelligent being of God.

In the natural world, temporal generation founds two relations; that of son to father and father to son. So likewise does the eternal generation of the Word found the two relations of paternity and filiation.  The procession of love also found two relations, active spiration and “passive” spiration.

A word must be said about the special significance of relations. “Relation is the only predicament that can have a purely logical existence: all other modes of being, St. Thomas says, properly signify something which concretely exists, that is, the substance or the accidents which inhere in a substance. The very nature of relation makes it an exception to this rule.” (Giles Emery, p.87)

Aristotelian categories of being show us that there is substance, in which accidents adhere, and accidents which only exist because of the substance, for example, quality and quantity. A substance exists of itself and is what underlies its accidents.  If we think of “rough” we ask “a rough what?” but when we think of rock we do not think of “a rock what?” for a roughness adheres in another, but a rock is that thing in which something adheres.

Unique, however, among the accidents is that of relation.  For, while it is this column, say, that is to the left of some other thing, it is not that left is really “in” the column.  To see exactly what is meant by this, and in the context of the Trinity, it is best to let St. Thomas explain:

“The attributing of anything to another involves the attribution likewise of whatever is contained in it. So when “man” is attributed to anyone, a rational nature is likewise attributed to him. The idea of relation, however, necessarily means regard of one to another, according as one is relatively opposed to another. So as in God there is a real relation , there must also be a real opposition. The very nature of relative opposition includes distinction. Hence, there must be real distinction in God, not, indeed, according to that which is absolute–namely, essence, wherein there is supreme unity and simplicity–but according to that which is relative.” (ST. 28, a3)

The idea of relation includes the idea of another.  It means there is something besides the substance itself. A column, as we said above, cannot be related except as to something else. A column can be white, and heavy, and long, and round, all without the existence of any other thing whatsoever. But it cannot be left or heavier or smoother without being left of something, smoother than something, or heavier than something else.

Since this is so, whatever the column is heavier than is likewise lighter than the column. Whatever the column is smoother than is rougher than the column. If it is double, that something else is likewise half.  There is, as Thomas said, a real opposition wherever there is a real relation. And when something proceeds from another, or is generated by another, there is, as said above, a real relation.

A conclusion follows from the foregoing discussion. Real relations in God are four: paternity, filiation, active spiration, and passive spiration, as we said above.  It is worth repeating here: The eternal generation of the Word founds the two relations of paternity and filiation.  The procession of love founds two relations, active spiration and passive spiration.

“But the third of these four, active spiration, while it is opposed to passive spiration, is not opposed to, and hence not really distinct from, either paternity or filiation.” (LaGrange) The relation of the Father to the Son is paternity.  That of the Son to the Father is filiation.  That of the Holy Spirit to the Father and Son is passive spiration.  The relation of the Father and Son to the holy Spirit is active or common spiration.

If the Holy Spirit, we see here, did not proceed from the Father and the Son as one principle, then the Spirit would have a different relation to the Father than He does to the Son.  The principle of the Persons having their foundation in the relations would therefore fall, and there would no longer be a unity of “personhood” in the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, we see the importance of the fact that the Holy Spirit proceeds from “the Father and the Son.” And this procession is active spiration and, as termed here, “common” spiration.  This active or common spiration is not, however, mutually opposed to paternity or to filiation.  Again, if it were, there would be more persons than the three we refer to, for there would be a greater quantity of relations.

This problem of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Son can also be approached in another way, and this again is based on the relations. We may look at it as follows:

The Father begets the Son.  We have a mutually opposed relation: paternity to filiation.

The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. We have a mutually opposed relation: active spiration and passive spiration

Are, then, the Son and Holy Spirit related? How so?

Unless the spiration that distinguishes the Father and the Holy Spirit is shared by the Son as a common active spiration, the Son and Holy Spirit seem to have no relation at all, which is absurd.  But if they do have a relation, then it must be some additional relation, some additional mutual opposition, and at least a fourth divine person would seem to be produced (of course, this fourth person would have to relate to the Father somehow, and it would only fall to greater absurdity).

But the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one principle, not two. There is no need, therefore, to multiply relations. As St. Thomas says in the Summa Contra Gentiles, “The conclusion, therefore, must be that the divine Persons cannot be distinguished except by relative opposition in origin. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit is distinguished from the Son, He is necessarily from the Son, for we do not say that the Son is from the Holy Spirit, since the Holy Spirit is, rather, said to be of the Son and given by the Son.”

It is important to restate the following: The three persons have but one existence. Hence “the divine relations do not enter into composition with the divine essence, since the three persons, constituted by relations mutually opposed, are absolutely equal in perfection.” (LaGrange)

No true understanding of the Persons can be arrived at without understanding first the processions “in” God and the mutually opposed relations that they “cause.” Reflection on the real existence (and not just logical) of the relations is necessary to avoid thinking of the Persons of God in a merely “modal” way, as has often been done in the past.  We may say that the distinction between a Person (in the Godhead) and the Nature of God is only mental: the Father is not part of God but simply is God, for example. But the distinctions between one Person and another are not merely mental but real. And these distinctions, once more, are based on mutually opposed relations.

Thus, by increasing precision, we reach the formula of the Council of Florence: “The Holy Spirit is eternally from Father and Son; He has His nature and subsistence at once (simul) from the Father and the Son. He proceeds eternally from both as from one principle and through one spiration . . . . And, since the Father has through generation given to the only begotten Son everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father, the Son has also eternally from the Father, from whom He is eternally born, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.”

We must add innascibility to the above named relations to arrive at the five notions. Of these five notions only four are relations, since innascibility is not a relation but the negation of the relation of origin in the Father. The Father, as already mentioned, has no origin, but is the origin of the Son and, with the Son, the origin of the Holy Spirit.

 

Personal Properties

Attributes like Wisdom and Power certainly apply to God as one, in His essence. Metaphysically, it would seem erroneous to say that one of the Persons of the Trinity is Wisdom and not the others. Yet the Scriptures seems to emphasis certain of these attributes as being important in the recognition of one or other Person of the Trinity.  This is a problem many prior to St. Thomas had discussed, very notably, St. Augustine in his de Trinitate, for example.

The Apostle says: “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).

Thomas goes on to say that “For the manifestation of our faith it is fitting that the essential attributes should be appropriated to the persons. For although the trinity of persons cannot be proved by demonstration… it is fitting that it be declared by things which are more known to us. Now the essential attributes of God are more clear to us from the standpoint of reason than the personal properties; because we can derive certain knowledge of the essential attributes from creatures which are sources of knowledge to us, such as we cannot obtain regarding the personal properties…such a manifestation of the divine persons by the use of the essential attributes is called “appropriation.”

While we can know that the one God is Wisdom, Power, Truth, etc, we cannot know that the one God is Trinitarian apart from Revelation.  In understanding in some way the three Persons, it is helpful and quite appropriate that we see certain attributes of the essence of God as especially revealed through the specific Persons.

“The essential attributes are not appropriated to the persons as if they exclusively belonged to them; but in order to make the persons manifest by way of similitude.” We are not, again, saying that Christ is the power and the wisdom of God in a way that excludes the other two persons of the Trinity from sharing these same attributes in their essential oneness, but we are expressing, for example, that since the Son is seen as the Word, the proceeding knowledge of God to Himself, it is appropriate to recognize Him (the Son) as the Wisdom of God.

Article 8. Whether the essential attributes are appropriated to the persons in a fitting manner by the holy doctors?

Essence and operation are not found to be appropriated to any one person. The essence is one and the operations of the one God in this world are as from one source, the one Being. It is difficult for some, then, to reconcile certain sayings of the Fathers of the Church that seem to divide the essence or operations of the one God, such as Augustine when he says that “Unity is in the Father, equality in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost is the concord of equality and unity” or when “Further, according to Augustine, to the Father is attributed ‘power,’ to the Son ‘wisdom,’ to the Holy Ghost ‘goodness.’…Likewise Augustine says …”‘from Him’ refers to the Father, ‘by Him’ to the Son, ‘in Him’ to the Holy Ghost.”

Thomas answers that, “Our intellect, which is led to the knowledge of God from creatures, must consider God according to the mode derived from creatures. In considering any creature four points present themselves to us in due order. Firstly, the thing itself taken absolutely is considered as a being. Secondly, it is considered as one. Thirdly, its intrinsic power of operation and causality is considered. The fourth point of consideration embraces its relation to its effects. Hence this fourfold consideration comes to our mind in reference to God.”

 

Conclusion

Of course, in all that has been said, nothing of the mysterious nature of the Trinity is denied.  While we cannot comprehend God, we are not confined to agnosticism regarding Him and His interior life.  Both reason and revelation can help us contemplate God with greater understanding. While reason can never arrive at the existence of the Triune character of God, it is a great instrument in understanding what is revealed, and cannot be neglected if we are to “seek His face, always.”

The Divine Missions and the Indwelling of the Trinity

The Divine Missions and the Indwelling of the Trinity in the Souls of the Just

The divine missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit are temporal, but they are directly related to the procession of the Son from the Father and of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son.  The so called economic Trinity can never be separated from the immanent Trinity, and the way in which God acts, his gift of salvation through grace, are not merely external works of a transcendent God but an indwelling of this very God in the souls of the just.

“The notion of ‘mission’ of a divine person includes two elements: (1) the eternal procession of this person from another; (2) the gift of a created effect in time, namely sanctifying grace.”It is the two aspects towards which our reflection must turn, the second dependent upon the first.

The Father is the principle of the Son and the Spirit.  While not preceding them in time, as all are equally eternal and equally the one Being, God, the Father is prior as principle of the others. The Son, so to speak, comes from the Father, and likewise, the Son is one principle along with the Father of the procession of the Holy Spirit. The Father, however, has no such origin, but is rather the unbegotten principle of the other persons, and we call this innascibility. This understanding of the procession of the Son and of the Spirit, and likewise, lack of any procession of the Father, are necessary to understand the temporal missions of the Son and the Spirit in creation.

The Father is never sent, but the Son and the Spirit, each in their own way and in conformity with their manner of procession, are sent. All three Persons, however, dwell in the souls of the just.

All of creation is made in the image of God, and all creation shows forth something of God, his mind, and his love. Creation, St. Thomas tells us, is a reflection not merely of God as God, but as the Persons in their relation to one another. We get some idea of this when we contemplate the fact that God does not know things through discursive knowledge, but rather knows them all through His own understanding. He can be said, in a simple way, to know them through His Son, the Word. Likewise, He does not “come to know” these things and love the goodness in them, but rather, they are created and good because He loves them. “The heavens declare the glory of God” says Psalm 19.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness” (Gen 1:26). Man and the angels are created with free will and with intellects, and so can participate in the life of God in a way no other creature can, whether living or inanimate. While God is in all things as their cause, He can also be in intelligent beings in a unique way, since, like God, they can know and love. This is what man and the angels were made for, but because of the fall, both need a special gift of God to be what they were created to be.

This gift of the Creator is none other than the gift of Himself.  Sanctifying grace, that gift which saves fallen man, is the life of God truly given to man, so much so that we are told that we become “partakers of the divine nature” and that we will “be like God, for we shall see Him as He is.” So it is truly the Triune God that comes and makes His dwelling with us.  But we must examine the special way in which the Son and the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and sent into the world for the salvation of man, come to live in us. We will look at their invisible missions, which can be seen even in the Old Testament, now that we have the fullness of Revelation in the New, and in the New Testament, where we have the Son Incarnate and visible manifestations of the Holy Spirit Himself.

“’Visible mission’ means the manifestation of the Son in the Incarnation and the manifestation of the Spirit in physical signs. ‘Invisible mission,’ conversely, means the sending of the Son and Holy Spirit into the hearts of the faithful.”We can see the visible missions exemplified especially in the Gospel According to John, where we are told that “In the Beginning was the Word…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” and that ““I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.”

These two visible signs of course are manifestly different in that the Son became man, and entered into creation in a unique way.  The Holy Spirit did not become a dove or fire, but manifested himself in this way for the sake of man. Still, we see that both Persons that proceed from the Father also were sent and seen by men in a way that the Father is not. What is more, the Word of God, as generated, becomes Incarnate, but not so the Holy Spirit.  The Person are all one God, but are truly unique both in the eternal immanent Trinity and in their temporal relation to man.

The invisible missions of these two Persons are likewise unique, yet they never are separate from one another. In fact, wherever the Father is, there is the Son, and likewise with the Spirit. The unity and Trinity of the Persons eternally is hardly less mysterious than their unified yet Trinitarian, if we may call it that, way of indwelling in the saints.

Jesus said that He must go to the Father and He would send another helper.  Yet we may take quite literally the words of the Apostle who says “it is no longer I that live but Christ that lives in me.”

The indwelling of God in the just is pure gift, and this gift of sanctifying grace can never be separated from the Persons themselves.  Certainly, actual grace can and does exist apart from the indwelling of the Persons, as this initial grace is required for man to even move toward repentance and faith in the first place.  But one is never sanctified without the very Triune God dwelling in him.

In fact, without sanctifying grace, God does not, dwell in us. So it is not only insufficient to know God philosophically, as in natural theology, or even to know Him with an imperfect faith, as He is known by one, for instance, in the state of mortal sin.  When God, through grace, lives within us, we have the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We then can truly say that it is no longer I but Christ that lives in me.  We can then say that it is the Spirit that groans within us, perfecting our prayers, crying Abba, Father.

The Doctrine of the Trinity, concluded in the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas in Question 43 with the Mission of the Divine Persons, is not merely a speculative doctrine for contemplation, but rather, reflection on the Trinity is central to the entire Christian faith, both as it is known and lived. We were created by God, in the image and likeness of God, and for the purpose of knowing and loving God.  The Trinity, God as He exists eternally in and of himself, is at the center of our faith, for it is the center of reality, of everything “that is.”

 

 

Bibliography

The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version. San Francisco, CA, Thomas Nelson Publishing,  2006

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles 4, translated by Charles J. O’Neil, Notre Dame, IN, 1975

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Ava Maria Press, 1948

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica: A Concise Translation, edited by Timothy McDermott, Notre Dame, IN, Ave Maria Press, 1989

Giles Emery, O.P., Trinity in Aquinas, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ave Maria Press, 2003

Giles Emery, O.P., The Trinitarian Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, Oxford, 2007

Reginald Garrigou-LaGrange, O.P., Reality, originally published 1950, Ex Fontibus Co, 2007

Reginald Garrigou-LaGrange, O.P., The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume I, originally published 1947, Rockford, IL, TAN Books, 1989

Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Tan Books, 1960

Question 43. The Mission of the Divine Persons

We here discuss the final Question on the One and Triune God before Thomas Aquinas turns to the subject of Creation

Article 1. Whether a divine person can be properly sent?

“I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent Me.” (John 8:16)

“Anyone being sent implies a certain kind of procession of the one sent from the sender: either according to command… or according to counsel…or according to origin…the mission of a divine person is a fitting thing, as meaning in one way the procession of origin from the sender, and as meaning a new way of existing in another; thus the Son is said to be sent by the Father into the world, inasmuch as He began to exist visibly in the world by taking our nature; whereas ‘He was’ previously ‘in the world’ (John 1:1).”

Mission and being sent, it may be argued, implies inferiority in the one sent, but this is only true in the forms of command or of counsel. Yet it is in the way of origin or procession that the Son, for example, is sent, and as we have seen in the unity of the Persons and their origins and distinctions, this implies no inequality in the Persons. And just as in creation, there is no change in something from something else, but rather a creation from nothing at all, likewise there is not a change when one Person is sent, but rather, something began to exist where nothing existed, causing no change in the Person but only a change in the world; the Son, for example, began to exist there.

Article 2. Whether mission is eternal, or only temporal?

“When the fullness of the time was come, God sent His Son.” (Galatians 4:4)

We must be careful of our use of terminology here and know that to proceed eternally and to be proceed as being sent are not used univocally. While the one is eternal, as discussed before, “that a divine person be possessed by any creature, or exist in it in a new mode, is temporal…Hence ‘mission’ and ‘giving’ have only a temporal significance in God; but ‘generation’ and ‘spiration’ are exclusively eternal; whereas ‘procession’ and ‘giving,’ in God, have both an eternal and a temporal signification: for the Son may proceed eternally as God; but temporally, by becoming man, according to His visible mission, or likewise by dwelling in man according to His invisible mission.”

Mission signifies not only procession from the principle, but also determines the temporal term of the procession. Hence mission is only temporal. Or we may say that it includes the eternal procession, with the addition of a temporal effect.” Any “effects” of God within creation are obviously temporal as the creation itself is temporal.  The immanent life of the Triune God is always eternal, and the effects of the Triune God in the world are always temporal.

Article 3. Whether the invisible mission of the divine person is only according to the gift of sanctifying grace?

It is an error to say that the Holy Ghost is not given, but “His gifts are given…and the divine person is the cause why the gift of sanctifying grace is possessed, and not conversely. Therefore it may seem improper to say that the divine person is sent according to the gift of sanctifying grace…But since then the creature’s sanctification is by sanctifying grace, it follows that the mission of the divine person is only by sanctifying grace.”

The next two points made are the most central points in all of philosophy and theology; the most important points in all wisdom that a man can attain:

  1. “God is in all things by His essence, power and presence, according to His one common mode, as the cause existing in the effects which participate in His goodness.” God is not part of this world, not the best part, or biggest part.  He transcends it entirely.  All beings are only possible because of Being Himself. When God made the universe, there may have been more beings than before, but there was no more “being” than before, nor could there ever be.
  2. “Above and beyond this common mode, however, there is one special mode belonging to the rational nature wherein God is said to be present as the object known is in the knower, and the beloved in the lover. And since the rational creature by its operation of knowledge and love attains to God Himself, according to this special mode God is said not only to exist in the rational creature but also to dwell therein as in His own temple.” God is in the rational creature, be it angel or man, in an entirely special way as compared to all else in creation.  When we have therefore the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is not merely the movements of grace as gifts or the compelling of one as from a commander, but the real existence of God in us, not just as efficient cause and final cause extrinsic to us, but as truly constituting our life in an unfathomable way.

“Sanctifying grace disposes the soul to possess the divine person; and this is signified when it is said that the Holy Ghost is given according to the gift of grace. Nevertheless the gift itself of grace is from the Holy Ghost; which is meant by the words, “the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost”…and “Although the Son can be known by us according to other effects, yet neither does He dwell in us, nor is He possessed by us according to those effects.”

Article 4. Whether the Father can be fittingly sent?

When we search the Scriptures it is clear that “The Father alone is never described as being sent.”

Because “the very idea of mission means procession from another, and in God it means procession according to origin…[and] the Father is not from another, [it is] in no way is it fitting for Him to be sent; but this can only belong to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, to Whom it belongs to be from another.”

Although the effect of grace is also from the Father, Who dwells in us by grace, just as the Son and the Holy Ghost, still He is not described as being sent, for He is not from another.” We must keep in mind here that the missions and being sent tell us something true about the immanent Trinity and not just the economic Trinity (as God works in the world), but yet the two are not unrelated.  How God is in Himself has a real relation as to how God acts in the world.

Article 5. Whether it is fitting for the Son to be sent invisibly?

Notably it is objected thatthe procession of the Son and of the Holy Ghost differ from each other. Therefore they are distinct missions if both are sent; and then one of them would be superfluous, since one would suffice for the creature’s sanctification.”

Thomas answers that “The whole Trinity dwells in the mind by sanctifying grace” and “that a divine person be sent to anyone by invisible grace signifies both that this person dwells in a new way within him and that He has His origin from another. Hence, since both to the Son and to the Holy Ghost it belongs to dwell in the soul by grace, and to be from another, it therefore belongs to both of them to be invisibly sent.” The Father, as said above, is not sent, yet He dwells also by grace in the believer.

Augustine says, in his de Trinitate, that “The Son is sent to anyone invisibly, whenever He is known and perceived by anyone.”and “The Word we speak of is knowledge with love.” Thus the Son is sent…according to the intellectual illumination, which breaks forth into the affection of love… “The Son is sent, whenever He is known and perceived by anyone.” Now perception implies a certain experimental knowledge; and this is properly called wisdom [sapientia].”

As per the superfluity of the two being sent invisibly,if we speak of mission according to origin, in this sense the Son’s mission is distinguished from the mission of the Holy Ghost, as generation is distinguished from procession. If we consider mission as regards the effect of grace, in this sense the two missions are united in the root which is grace, but are distinguished in the effects of grace, which consist in the illumination of the intellect and the kindling of the affection. Thus it is manifest that one mission cannot be without the other, because neither takes place without sanctifying grace, nor is one person separated from the other.”

Article 6. Whether the invisible mission is to all who participate grace?

According to Augustine (De Trin. iii, 4; xv, 27), the invisible mission is for the creature’s sanctification. Now every creature that has grace is sanctified. Therefore the invisible mission is to every such creature.

“Mission in its very meaning implies that he who is sent either begins to exist where he was not before, as occurs to creatures; or begins to exist where he was before, but in a new way, in which sense mission is ascribed to the divine persons. Thus, mission as regards the one to whom it is sent implies two things, the indwelling of grace, and a certain renewal by grace. Thus the invisible mission is sent to all in whom are to be found these two conditions.”

It may be objected that this mission was not for those before the New Covenant, but this comes from a misunderstanding of the way we exist in time and God transcends time. Of course, for the holy prophets and all who Christ redeemed through His passion, the effects take place in time for us, but the mission for those before the New Covenant is nonetheless real and always predestined to be what it was.”Thus the words, ‘the Spirit was not yet given,’ are to be applied to that giving accompanied with a visible sign which took place on the day of Pentecost.”

“Grace resides instrumentally in the sacraments of the New Law, as the form of a thing designed resides in the instruments of the art designing, according to a process flowing from the agent to the passive object. But mission is only spoken of as directed to its term. Hence the mission of the divine person is not sent to the sacraments, but to those who receive grace through the sacraments.” It would indeed be odd to say that the grace is sent to the Sacraments rather than to those that receive them through the Sacraments. God does not confuse means with ends, of course. A deeper discussion of the Sacraments and grace conferred by them, including the doctrine of Sacraments as signs that effect what they signify can be found in the Part III and the Supplement to Part III of the Summa.

Article 7. Whether it is fitting for the Holy Ghost to be sent visibly?

It is certainly of the faith that the Holy Spirit was never sent in the way that the Son was, that is, by an Incarnation, becoming truly a part of this world.  The Holy Spirit is never said to have “become flesh” or anything like this.  Yet it should not be said that the Holy Spirit cannot be sent in a visible way, as He obviously was in the shape of a dove or as fire, for example.

Now the nature of man requires that he be led to the invisible by visible things,…wherefore the invisible things of God must be made manifest to man by the things that are visible. As God, therefore, in a certain way has demonstrated Himself and His eternal processions to men by visible creatures, according to certain signs; so was it fitting that the invisible missions also of the divine persons should be made manifest by some visible creatures.” God “meets us where we are” and shows us through our senses either the things themselves or signs that point to the things themselves.

“…the Son has been sent visibly as the author of sanctification; the Holy Ghost as the sign of sanctification.”

One of the objections is that the Son, as Incarnate, was called “less than the Father,” as when Jesus says “the Father is greater than I.” Nothing similar is said of the Holy Spirit, and therefore, it would seem the Holy Spirit never appeared as visible.  But it is the fact of the Incarnation of the Son and the human nature thereby that allows a sense in which the Father is greater than Jesus.  As no such Incarnation, but only a visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit took place, there is no nature in the Spirit to call “less than the Father.”

“…the dove and the fire suddenly appeared to signify only what was happening…the Holy Ghost is said to be sent visibly, inasmuch as He showed Himself in certain creatures as in signs especially made for that purpose.”

It was necessary that the Son appear as that which He would save, that is, as man.  But it was not necessary for the Holy Spirit to appear as such, but only to be made known in some visible form, so as to know that this Person is doing that work which is His part, “since it was not assumed or used for the purpose of action, but only for the purpose of a sign; and so likewise it was not required to last beyond what its use required.”

The visible mission was directed to Christ at the time of His baptism by the figure of a dove, a fruitful animal, to show forth in Christ the authority of the giver of grace by spiritual regeneration; hence the Father’s voice spoke, “This is My beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17), that others might be regenerated to the likeness of the only Begotten. The Transfiguration showed it forth in the appearance of a bright cloud, to show the exuberance of doctrine; and hence it was said, “Hear ye Him” (Matthew 17:5).” Thomas goes on to give explanations of other examples in the New Testament where we see visible signs of the Spirit, and an explanation of the Spirit’s lack of a direct manifestation in the Old Testament.

Article 8. Whether a divine person is sent only by the person whence He proceeds eternally?

It would seem that, in line with what we have previously said about the missions and sending as related to the origins and processions of the Persons that the Son could not be sent by the Spirit because, in the immanent Trinity, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and not vice versa. However, the Scriptures tell us that “The Son is sent by the Holy Ghost, according to Isaiah 48:16, ‘Now the Lord God hath sent Me and His Spirit.’ But the Son is not from the Holy Ghost. Therefore a divine person is sent by one from Whom He does not proceed.”

Thomas says that there are different opinions on this point. “Some say that the divine person is sent only by the one whence He proceeds eternally;…Augustine says…that the Son is sent by Himself, and by the Holy Ghost; and the Holy Ghost is sent by Himself, and by the Son; so that to be sent in God does not apply to each person, but only to the person proceeding from another, whereas to send belongs to each person.” And he decides that “There is some truth in both of these opinions… if the sender be designated as the principle of the person sent, in this sense not each person sends, but that person only Who is the principle of that person who is sent; and thus the Son is sent only by the Father; and the Holy Ghost by the Father and the Son. If, however, the person sending is understood as the principle of the effect implied in the mission, in that sense the whole Trinity sends the person sent.”

We thus leave the section of the Summa teaching the doctrine of the Trinity in a fitting way; not only with answers, but with questions.  With mystery. If we ever think we have comprehended God, we have failed to be thinking still of God and are thinking of some created fiction of our own instead.

 

Question 39 + 42 on the Trinity

Question 39

Article 7. Whether the essential names should be appropriated to the persons?

Attributes like Wisdom and Power certainly apply to God as one, in His essence. Metaphysically, it would seem erroneous to say that one of the Persons of the Trinity is Wisdom and not the others. Yet the Scriptures seems to emphasis certain of these attributes as being important in the recognition of one or other Person of the Trinity.  This is a problem many prior to St. Thomas had discussed, very notably, St. Augustine in his de Trinitate, for example.

The Apostle says: “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).

Thomas goes on to say that “For the manifestation of our faith it is fitting that the essential attributes should be appropriated to the persons. For although the trinity of persons cannot be proved by demonstration… it is fitting that it be declared by things which are more known to us. Now the essential attributes of God are more clear to us from the standpoint of reason than the personal properties; because we can derive certain knowledge of the essential attributes from creatures which are sources of knowledge to us, such as we cannot obtain regarding the personal properties…such a manifestation of the divine persons by the use of the essential attributes is called “appropriation.”

While we can know that the one God is Wisdom, Power, Truth, etc, we cannot know that the one God is Trinitarian apart from Revelation.  In understanding in some way the three Persons, it is helpful and quite appropriate that we see certain attributes of the essence of God as especially revealed through the specific Persons.

The essential attributes are not appropriated to the persons as if they exclusively belonged to them; but in order to make the persons manifest by way of similitude.” We are not, again, saying that Christ is the power and the wisdom of God in a way that excludes the other two persons of the Trinity from sharing these same attributes in their essential oneness, but we are expressing, for example, that since the Son is seen as the Word, the proceeding knowledge of God to Himself, it is appropriate to recognize Him (the Son) as the Wisdom of God.

Article 8. Whether the essential attributes are appropriated to the persons in a fitting manner by the holy doctors?

Essence and operation are not found to be appropriated to any one person. The essence is one and the operations of the one God in this world are as from one source, the one Being. It is difficult for some, then, to reconcile certain sayings of the Fathers of the Church that seem to divide the essence or operations of the one God, such as Augustine when he says that “Unity is in the Father, equality in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost is the concord of equality and unity” or when “Further, according to Augustine, to the Father is attributed ‘power,’ to the Son ‘wisdom,’ to the Holy Ghost ‘goodness.’…Likewise Augustine says …”‘from Him’ refers to the Father, ‘by Him’ to the Son, ‘in Him’ to the Holy Ghost.”

Thomas answers that, “Our intellect, which is led to the knowledge of God from creatures, must consider God according to the mode derived from creatures. In considering any creature four points present themselves to us in due order. Firstly, the thing itself taken absolutely is considered as a being. Secondly, it is considered as one. Thirdly, its intrinsic power of operation and causality is considered. The fourth point of consideration embraces its relation to its effects. Hence this fourfold consideration comes to our mind in reference to God.”

The rest of the article is dedicated to expounding on this, as well as particular defenses of statements made by the Fathers of the Church on this topic.  It should be read in its entirety and meditated upon closely, as it gives insight not only into God in His relationship within Himself and to us, but in the order of human knowing in general.

 

Question 42

Article 5. Whether the Son is in the Father, and conversely?

One of two opposites cannot be in the other. But the Son and the Father are relatively opposed. Therefore  how can one be in the other?

“I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me” (John 14:10)

Thomas answers that there “are three points of consideration as regards the Father and the Son; the essence, the relation, and the origin; and according to each the Son and the Father are in each other.”

“The Father is in the Son by His essence, forasmuch as the Father is His own essence, and communicates His essence to the Son not by any change on His part. Hence it follows that as the Father’s essence is in the Son, the Father Himself is in the Son; likewise, since the Son is His own essence, it follows that He Himself is in the Father in Whom is His essence.”

“As regards the relations, each of two relative opposites is in the concept of the other. Regarding origin…the procession of the intelligible word is not outside the intellect, inasmuch as it remains in the utterer of the word. What also is uttered by the word is therein contained. And the same applies to the Holy Ghost.”

The general problem with the objections is likewise a problem in everything we ponder when reflecting on God.  His being, his essence, His attributes, etc, cannot be viewed in a univocal way with the beings and being of our experience.  The analogous character of being is here, as in all of Thomas’ reflections on God, of key importance.

 

sdfsdf

Trinitarian Persons as Relations (Summa Theologica)

Question 29 -The Divine Persons

As in all things of the Trinity, there is great difficulty in understanding the three persons in one God.  The three are truly subsistent persons, yet each is fully the one God, one Being, one essence.  It is not like man who is differentiated by his particular self from the human nature he shares with others. No man is human nature, but rather has a human nature.  God, you might say, is “God nature” and has “God nature.” There is no difference between the particular and the universal when it comes to this “God nature.” There is no difference between the abstract and the concrete.  There are no accidents adhering in the substance.  God is, although three persons, absolutely one.

Article 4. Whether this word “person” signifies relation?

After laying our several objections that would deny that this word “person” signifies relation, Thomas, of course, quotes and authority; Boethius says that “every word that refers to the persons signifies relation.” But no word belongs to person more strictly than the very word “person” itself. Therefore this word “person” signifies relation.

I answer that, A difficulty arises concerning the meaning of this word “person” in God, from the fact that it is predicated plurally of the Three in contrast to the nature of the names belonging to the essence; nor does it in itself refer to another, as do the words which express relation.

To determine the question, we must consider that something may be included in the meaning of a less common term, which is not included in the more common term; as “rational” is included in the meaning of “man,” and not in the meaning of “animal.” Also, it is one thing to ask the meaning of this word “person” in general; and another to ask the meaning of “person” as applied to God. Therefore “person” in any nature signifies what is distinct in that nature: thus in human nature it signifies this flesh, these bones, and this soul.

As stated above, however, there is no difference in the nature of God and of God Himself.  He is the being one.  God is the one God, the only nature of its kind.  The distinction of persons in God, therefore, will be in a way where no different particular instance of this nature is recognized, as it would be between Matt (an individual with a human nature) and John (an individual with a human nature).

Now distinction in God is only by relation of origin, while relation in God is not as an accident in a subject, but is the divine essence itself; and so it is subsistent, for the divine essence subsists. Therefore, as the Godhead is God so the divine paternity is God the Father, Who is a divine person. Therefore a divine person signifies a relation as subsisting. And and such a relation is a hypostasis subsisting in the divine nature, although in truth that which subsists in the divine nature is the divine nature itself. Thus it is true to say that the name “person” signifies relation directly, and the essence indirectly; this word “person” was used just as any other absolute term. But afterwards it was applied to express relation, as it lent itself to that signification, so that this word “person” means relation not only by use and custom, according to the first opinion, but also by force of its own proper signification.

Even without stating the specific objections to which these replies are given, the following help to clarify what has been said above.

Reply to Objection 2. The term “what” refers sometimes to the nature expressed by the definition, as when we ask; What is man? and we answer: A mortal rational animal. Sometimes it refers to the “suppositum,” as when we ask, What swims in the sea? and answer, A fish. So to those who ask, Three what? we answer, Three persons.

Reply to Objection 3. In God the individual–i.e. distinct and incommunicable substance–includes the idea of relation, as above explained.

Question 40

Article 2. Whether the persons are distinguished by the relations?

“Relation alone multiplies the Trinity of the divine persons.”

I answer that, In whatever multitude of things is to be found something common to all, it is necessary to seek out the principle of distinction. So, as the three persons agree in the unity of essence, we must seek to know the principle of distinction whereby they are several. Now, there are two principles of difference between the divine persons, and these are “origin” and “relation.” Although these do not really differ, yet they differ in the mode of signification; for “origin” is signified by way of act, as “generation”; and “relation” by way of the form, as “paternity.”

There is really no actual difference between them in the simplicity of God, but the origin and relation differ in that it is the relation itself, not the origin (which is the “cause” of the relation) that is the Person.

Origin of a thing does not designate anything intrinsic, but means the way from something, or to something; as generation signifies the way to a thing generated, and as proceeding from the generator. Hence it is not possible that what is generated and the generator should be distinguished by generation alone; but in the generator and in the thing generated we must presuppose whatever makes them to be distinguished from each other. In a divine person there is nothing to presuppose but essence, and relation or property. Whence, since the persons agree in essence, it only remains to be said that the persons are distinguished from each other by the relations.

Again, the relations and not the origin of the relations (which is the essence) is what distinguishes the Persons.

The distinguishing principles themselves must constitute the things which are distinct. Now the relations or the properties distinguish or constitute the hypostases or persons, inasmuch as they are themselves the subsisting persons; as paternity is the Father, and filiation is the Son, because in God the abstract and the concrete do not differ. But it is against the nature of origin that it should constitute hypostasis or person. For origin taken in an active sense signifies proceeding from a subsisting person, so that it presupposes the latter; while in a passive sense origin, as “nativity,” signifies the way to a subsisting person, and as not yet constituting the person.

The origin presupposes the person rather than constituting him.  The origin of a son, even an earthly one, presupposes the person of the father, but it is the relation of the father to the son, again, even in earthly terms, that makes the father to be the father.

It is therefore better to say that the persons or hypostases are distinguished rather by relations than by origin.

Relations in the Trinity as the Foundation of the Persons

 

What do we mean when we say there are four internal divine relations of which only three are really distinct relations?

“…those who follow the teaching of the Catholic faith must hold that the relations in God are real…there are in God three Persons of one Essence. Now number results from some kind of distinction — wherefore in God there must be some distinction not only in respect of creatures who differ from him in nature, but also in respect of someone subsisting in the divine nature. But this distinction cannot regard anything absolute, since whatsoever is predicated of God absolutely denotes the divine essence, so that it would follow that the divine Persons differ essentially… It follows then that the divine Persons are distinct only by their relations.” (Aquinas, Disputed Questions on the Power of God)

In seeking to understand the Trinity of three Persons and one God, the subject of relations will be central.  The Persons who share one existence, one being, can only be understood as distinct in this way.

The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.  God is one being, and each of these Persons is this one being.  Each is not a part of this one being, this one God, but fully this one being, this one God. However, the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, for example.

As we see in the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, an understanding of the processions must be grasped prior to seeking to unfold the significance of the relations within the Trinity. The divine processions can be derived only from the actions which remain within the agent. In a nature which is intellectual, and in the divine nature these actions are two, the acts are of intelligence and of will. There are processions in God, then, and these can be understood (but not reasoned to apart from revealed truth) by way of what follows in the pure absolutely simple intelligent being of God.

In the natural world, temporal generation founds two relations; that of son to father and father to son. So likewise does the eternal generation of the Word found the two relations of paternity and filiation.  The procession of love also found two relations, active spiration and “passive” spiration.

A word must be said about the special significance of relations. “Relation is the only predicament that can have a purely logical existence: all other modes of being, St. Thomas says, properly signify something which concretely exists, that is, the substance or the accidents which inhere in a substance. The very nature of relation makes it an exception to this rule.” (Giles Emery, p.87)

Aristotelian categories of being show us that there is substance, in which accidents adhere, and accidents which only exist because of the substance, for example, quality and quantity. A substance exists of itself and is what underlies its accidents.  If we think of “rough” we ask “a rough what?” but when we think of rock we do not think of “a rock what?” for a roughness adheres in another, but a rock is that thing in which something adheres.

Unique, however, among the accidents is that of relation.  For, while it is this column, say, that is to the left of some other thing, it is not that left is really “in” the column.  To see exactly what is meant by this, and in the context of the Trinity, it is best to let St. Thomas explain:

“The attributing of anything to another involves the attribution likewise of whatever is contained in it. So when “man” is attributed to anyone, a rational nature is likewise attributed to him. The idea of relation, however, necessarily means regard of one to another, according as one is relatively opposed to another. So as in God there is a real relation , there must also be a real opposition. The very nature of relative opposition includes distinction. Hence, there must be real distinction in God, not, indeed, according to that which is absolute–namely, essence, wherein there is supreme unity and simplicity–but according to that which is relative.” (ST. 28, a3)

The idea of relation includes the idea of another.  It means there is something besides the substance itself. A column, as we said above, cannot be related except as to something else. A column can be white, and heavy, and long, and round, all without the existence of any other thing whatsoever. But it cannot be left or heavier or smoother without being left of something, smoother than something, or heavier than something else.

Since this is so, whatever the column is heavier than is likewise lighter than the column. Whatever the column is smoother than is rougher than the column. If it is double, that something else is likewise half.  There is, as Thomas said, a real opposition wherever there is a real relation. And when something proceeds from another, or is generated by another, there is, as said above, a real relation.

A conclusion follows from the foregoing discussion. Real relations in God are four: paternity, filiation, active spiration, and passive spiration, as we said above.  It is worth repeating here: The eternal generation of the Word founds the two relations of paternity and filiation.  The procession of love founds two relations, active spiration and passive spiration.

“But the third of these four, active spiration, while it is opposed to passive spiration, is not opposed to, and hence not really distinct from, either paternity or filiation.” (LaGrange, pg.) The relation of the Father to the Son is paternity.  That of the Son to the Father is filiation.  That of the Holy Spirit to the Father and Son is passive spiration.  The relation of the Father and Son to the holy Spirit is active or common spiration.

If the Holy Spirit, we see here, did not proceed from the Father and the Son as one principle, then the Spirit would have a different relation to the Father than He does to the Son.  The principle of the Persons having their foundation in the relations would therefore fall, and there would no longer be a unity of “personhood” in the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, we see the importance of the fact that the Holy Spirit proceeds from “the Father and the Son.” And this procession is active spiration and, as termed here, “common” spiration.  This active or common spiration is not, however, mutually opposed to paternity or to filiation.  Again, if it were, there would be more persons than the three we refer to, for there would be a greater quantity of relations.

This problem of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Son can also be approached in another way, and this again is based on the relations. We may look at it as follows:

  1. The Father begets the Son.  We have a mutually opposed relation: paternity to filiation.
  2. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. We have a mutually opposed relation: active spiration and passive spiration
  3. Are, then, the Son and Holy Spirit related? How so?

Unless the spiration that distinguishes the Father and the Holy Spirit is shared by the Son as a common active spiration, the Son and Holy Spirit seem to have no relation at all, which is absurd.  But if they do have a relation, then it must be some additional relation, some additional mutual opposition, and at least a fourth divine person would seem to be produced (of course, this fourth person would have to relate to the Father somehow, and it would only fall to greater absurdity).

But the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one principle, not two. There is no need, therefore, to multiply relations. As St. Thomas says in the Summa Contra Gentiles, “The conclusion, therefore, must be that the divine Persons cannot be distinguished except by relative opposition in origin. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit is distinguished from the Son, He is necessarily from the Son, for we do not say that the Son is from the Holy Spirit, since the Holy Spirit is, rather, said to be of the Son and given by the Son.”

It is important to restate the following: The three persons have but one existence. Hence “the divine relations do not enter into composition with the divine essence, since the three persons, constituted by relations mutually opposed, are absolutely equal in perfection.” (LaGrange)

No true understanding of the Persons can be arrived at without understanding first the processions “in” God and the mutually opposed relations that they “cause.” Reflection on the real existence (and not just logical) of the relations is necessary to avoid thinking of the Persons of God in a merely “modal” way, as has often been done in the past.  We may say that the distinction between a Person (in the Godhead) and the Nature of God is only mental: the Father is not part of God but simply is God, for example. But the distinctions between one Person and another are not merely mental but real. And these distinctions, once more, are based on mutually opposed relations.

Thus, by increasing precision, we reach the formula of the Council of Florence: “The Holy Spirit is eternally from Father and Son; He has His nature and subsistence at once (simul) from the Father and the Son. He proceeds eternally from both as from one principle and through one spiration . . . . And, since the Father has through generation given to the only begotten Son everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father, the Son has also eternally from the Father, from whom He is eternally born, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.”

 

Patristic Theology of Man and Grace

The Fathers of the Church, by reflecting on revealed truth, contributed much to our understanding of the human person.  As created in the image and likeness of God but wounded by original sin, reflecting on man can tell us something of God, and likewise, reflecting on God tells us something of man. Ultimately, we were created by God and for God, and it is this overarching theme that must form the basis of any reflection on the human person.

The first major theme of the Fathers is that of the created human person.  The human person is created, according to revelation, in the image and likeness of God.  All things reflect God in some way, but man (and in this way he is also like the angels) has intellect and will.  He is therefore free in a way other created beings, rather animate or inanimate, are not.  Man, then, is in some way master of his own decisions and, ultimately, his end. But man is made, as we said, not only by God but for God, and because of this, his only rightful end is to choose God. He is not, therefore, free to choose what his end should be, but he is free to choose or reject that which he was created for.

This brings us to the second great theme of the Fathers on this subject; that of the original state of humankind. Man was created in what might be called the state of original justice. He was created with natural gifts, preternatural gifts, and supernatural gifts. A natural gift is that which is proper to the structure of nature.  A preternatural gift is that which goes beyond the structure of the nature of the material universe (from “praeter naturam”, beyond nature).  A supernatural gift is that which goes beyond any created nature, and belongs only to God.

However, original sin, or the Fall, injured but did not erase completely, all of these gifts. But “O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer.” We come to a third theme of the Fathers, that of the Redeemer and of the justification, through grace, of man.

Man lost, through his rejection of God, and this due to pride, his share in the divine life. The supernatural gifts in man were lost through sin, the preternatural gifts erased, and even the natural strengths of man were greatly injured (This is not to be confused with the error of total depravity. Man is wounded in the sense that he lost the preternatural gifts so the natural gifts did not work well together  but they remain in their natural orientation:  the intellect to truth, the will to good and the passions to be obedient to reason.  The preternatural gifts insured they would be used well). The infinite God was rejected by finite man, and only an infinite love could redeem man. Man, however, has no way of such an offer to God, and so grace alone, God’s own gift of self, would be required.

The salvation of man, then, depends on the supernatural grace of God. Through our Redeemer, Christ Jesus, we are made “partakers of the divine nature” and it has been said that “God became man so that man might become God.” This is, of course, meant in no pantheistic way, but is consistent with revealed truth, which tells us that “we will be like God, for we shall see Him as He is.”

Grace, however, does not rule out man’s free will and his participation in his own salvation. As St. Augustine tells us, “God who created you without you, will not save you without you.” God wills that all be saved, but we remain free, and many reject the salvation offered by God through His Son. To those then that are saved, all glory is due to God.  But to those that are damned, the fault is completely their own.

Of course, this teaching, which is that of the Fathers in general and of Augustine, the “Doctor of Grace,” specifically, has always been a controversial one, and because of this, especially in light of the Reformation and its disputes on faith and works, many of the other aspects of the Fathers on the doctrine of Grace has received less attention than they deserve.

The doctrines of the divinization of man and the indwelling of the Trinity in man are key to understanding the Patristic teachings on grace, and again, because of the focus on faith and works for the last several centuries, sadly, much of the Fathers’ teaching on these topics is not well known.

The bestowal of grace and gifts is the work of the Trinity. Grace is a gift that comes from the Father, comes through the Son, and is given in the Holy Spirit. This could lead us into the patristic understanding of the Trinity itself, where the Father has a primacy of origin but not of nature, and into the appropriations within the Trinity, as discussed especially by St. Augustine. But here, we note that, although God is One and in His being works as one toward creation, the Persons do act in their own ways towards creation. This, of course, we only know through revelation, and the Fathers reflect on this at great length.

There is no doubt, however, that the understanding of grace and free will was of great importance in the writings of the earliest Christians, and much was debated and discussed from the earliest times. Controversies certainly arose in reconciling the providence of God with the freedom of man, and the greatest of these controversies was that of Pelagius and Augustine. But even Augustine, who preached so strongly the primacy of grace (Command what you will; give what you command“), tells us that “God does not command impossibilities, but by commanding admonishes you do what you can and to pray for what you cannot.”

The Church Fathers have a deep and rich reflection on man, his creation in the image and likeness of God, and of his salvation through the Grace of God merited through our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Only the slightest introduction, of course, could be offered here in so short an essay, but a lifetime could be spent reflecting on the great patristic contribution that has been left to us as a wonderful gift.

Summa Theologica Q. 36-38: The Holy Spirit

Question 36. The person of the Holy Ghost

  1. Is this name, “Holy Ghost,” the proper name of one divine Person?
  2. Does that divine person Who is called the Holy Ghost, proceed from the Father and the Son?
  3. Does He proceed from the Father through the Son?
  4. Are the Father and the Son one principle of the Holy Ghost?

“While there are two processions in God, one of these, the procession of love, has no proper name of its own…Hence the relations also which follow from this procession are without a name…so to signify the divine Person, Who proceeds by way of love, this name “Holy Ghost” is by the use of scriptural speech accommodated to Him.”

It is true that the terms holy and ghost (old English equivalent of the Latin spiritus) are both used of the nature of God, the term Holy Spirit, used as one word (one term) is proper to the third Person of the Trinity. It is important here to remember that a term, as used in logic, simply denotes some one thing, and we may use two (or more words) to denote one term, and thus one name.  In fact, “that which is greater than anything which can be thought” is simply one term, even if it is ten words. Names and the essential meaning of the words used in them must not be confused or set against one another.

Of great importance is Thomas’ response to the second objection to article 1: “Although this name “Holy Ghost” does not indicate a relation, still it takes the place of a relative term, inasmuch as it is accommodated to signify a Person distinct from the others by relation only. Yet this name may be understood as including a relation, if we understand the Holy Spirit as being breathed [spiratus].

Probably the key question here, at least as it relates to a proper understanding of the Trinity as one of Persons defined by relative opposition, is that of the procession of the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son, rather than from the Father alone. This is often termed the Filoque (Latin “and the Son”) problem, and is still very much debating between the eastern Churches and the West.

Simply put, there must be some real relation between the Son and the Holy Spirit, and if this relation is separate than that of the relation between the Father and the Holy Spirit, one cannot maintain that the Persons can be understood through relative opposition.

“…it cannot be said that the divine Persons are distinguished from each other in any absolute sense; for it would follow that there would not be one essence of the three persons…the divine persons are distinguished from each other only by the relations…If therefore in the Son and the Holy Ghost there were two relations only, whereby each of them were related to the Father, these relations would not be opposite to each other, as neither would be the two relations whereby the Father is related to them. Hence, as the person of the Father is one, it would follow that the person of the Son and of the Holy Ghost would be one, having two relations opposed to the two relations of the Father…the Son and the Holy Ghost must be related to each other by opposite relations. Now there cannot be in God any relations opposed to each other, except relations of origin..opposite relations of origin are to be understood as of a “principle,” and of what is “from the principle.”

Of the Son and the holy Ghost, then, one must be a principle of the other, the the other as from this principle.  No one, of course, says that the Holy Ghost is the principle of the Son.  But the Son is, as one principle with the Father, the Principle of the Holy Ghost.

The topic of the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son was highly discussed in St. Thomas day, and in fact, St. Thomas died in route to a council in which, with representatives of the East present, this certainly would have been discussed. In the Summa he notes that, in the east “they grant that the Holy Ghost is the Spirit ‘of the Son’; and that He is from the Father ‘through the Son.’ Some of them are said also to concede that ‘He is from the Son’; or that ‘He flows from the Son,’ but not that He proceeds…[but] granted that the Holy Ghost originates in any way from the Son, we can conclude that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son.”

Sadly, centuries later, this issue is still among those that divide us.

“…because the Son receives from the Father that the Holy Ghost proceeds from Him, it can be said that the Father spirates the Holy Ghost through the Son, or that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father through the Son, which has the same meaning. ”

So we may grant that the Father is the principle of a principle, inasmuch as the Son is begotten and therefore receives the power to spirate the Holy Spirit from the Father.  Yet this Spiration is one, and “the same spirative power belongs to the Father and to the Son; and therefore the Holy Ghost proceeds equally from both.”

This sums up what is clarified further in Article 4, in that the Father and Son are one principle of the Holy Ghost. The only difference that can be stated as between any Person of the Trinity and another, as is clear by now, is whatever makes the one not to be the other through relative opposition.  For example, the Son is all that the Father is, except father, begettor, unbeggotten, etc. “The Father and the Son are in everything one, wherever there is no distinction between them of opposite relation. Hence since there is no relative opposition between them as the principle of the Holy Ghost it follows that the Father and the Son are one principle of the Holy Ghost.”

Question 37. The name of the Holy Ghost–Love

  1. Is it the proper name of the Holy Ghost?
  2. Do the Father and the Son love each other by the Holy Ghost?

1 John says that “God is Love,” and this refers to the One God in His essence. As an essential term, therefore, it may be argued that the name Love is not a proper name for a Person of the Trinity.  After all, we do not say that God is Word and also that the proper name of the Son is Word.

Aquinas, as always, makes the distinction: “The name Love in God can be taken essentially and personally. If taken personally it is the proper name of the Holy Ghost; as Word is the proper name of the Son.”

So to understand the difference, we must look at a few things. Again, “there are two processions in God, one by way of the intellect, which is the procession of the Word, and another by way of the will, which is the procession of Love.” As we have earlier looked at the processions according to intellect and will, we need not review them here.  But just as before we had no proper name for the second procession (that of the Holy Ghost) but could use the term Spiration, so here “on account of the poverty of our vocabulary, we express these relations [of the love and to love] by the words ‘love’ and ‘dilection’: just as if we were to call the Word ‘intelligence conceived,’ or ‘wisdom begotten.'”

In the replies to the objections, we are further enlightened of the distinctions”…when we say that the Holy Ghost is the Love of the Father for the Son, or for something else; we do not mean anything that passes into another, but only the relation of love to the beloved; as also in the Word is imported the relation of the Word to the thing expressed by the Word…As regards origin, therefore, the Holy Ghost is not the medium, but the third person in the Trinity; whereas as regards the aforesaid relation He is the bond between the two persons, as proceeding from both. ”

When addressing the topic as to whether the Father and the Son love each other by the Holy Ghost, once more a distinction is made, this time between using terms essentially or notionally.

“…we must say that since in God ‘to love’ is taken in two ways, essentially and notionally, when it is taken essentially, it means that the Father and the Son love each other not by the Holy Ghost, but by their essence…But when the term Love is taken in a notional sense it means nothing else than ‘to spirate love’; just as to speak is to produce a word…”

Question 38. The name of the Holy Ghost, as Gift

  1. Can “Gift” be a personal name?
  2. Is it the proper name of the Holy Ghost?

The word gift denotes something that can be given, even before it is given.  Something must belong in some way to the giver before it can be gifted to someone else. Of course, a stolen good could be said to be given to another, but this is to use the term gift in a nominal way.

Here, the gift is the Person Himself.  To give oneself, one must truly belong to oneself.  This is fully true only in God, who belongs in no way to another. Indeed, God as a whole can be said to be gift, but properly speaking, and as backed by Scripture, the Holy Spirit is Gift.

“Now a divine person is said to belong to another, either by origin, as the Son belongs to the Father; or as possessed by another. But we are said to possess what we can freely use or enjoy as we please: and in this way a divine person cannot be possessed, except by a rational creature united to God…the rational person alone can possess the divine person…Thus a divine person can be given, and can be a gift.”

Just as Word and Image are personal and proper names of the Son, as from eternity, so must Gift, if it is to be proper, be a name eternally, apart from and not contingent upon creation. “Gift is not so called from being actually given, but from its aptitude to be given. Hence the divine person is called Gift from eternity, although He is given in time.

As always, there is much we can learn of ourselves from contemplating the Trinity and the divine Persons as such.  The Love of God and the proper name of Love which belongs to the Holy Spirit as Gift are no different.  We are made, after all, in the image and likeness of God, and we are called to “be like Him” if we wish to “see Him as He is.”

But first and foremost our contemplation of the Trinity should be just that; a gazing at God simply to know God. “Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you.” (Matt 7:7)

 

 

 

 

Augustine, de Trinitate, Books VIII-IX: Truth and Love

How Book VIII of De Trinitate represents a shift in Augustine’s method

Augustine has repeatedly stated that we must start with faith in treating of the Trinity, for reason cannot bring us to a knowledge of the Triune God. Any rationalism in treating of the revealed mystery of the Trinity is to be ruled out.  Unless you believe, you will not understand. Yet at the same time, we do not simply acknowledge the statements of our faith without seeking to understand them and certainly avoid Tertullian’s “it is absurd, therefore I believe.” Faith and reason are distinct, but compatible.

In Book XIII, Augustine shifts to a more direct seeking of how we may know God, and in doing this, he must show that we cannot analogously know Him by some sort of image we know on earth.  We know what a virgin is and what a man is, and therefore, without ever seeing a man born of a virgin, we can at least know what this means when we say “He was born of a virgin.” With God, however, we cannot point to anything on this earth, it would seem, and say “this is how I know what it means to believe in a God who is one being and three persons.”

We must, therefore, look and see if we can find a way past this. Augustine’s answer is to look within, not without. We are created in the image and likeness of God, and it is in us that we may find, not a perfect image, but one that at least will give us some understanding of the triune reality that can exist in a single being. Starting in Book VIII, we are no longer asking primarily “what does the Scripture say” but rather “how can we intellectually ponder this reality by comparison with some knowledge we already have.”

The significance of truth in books VIII and IX of De Trinitate

Ontological truth is the truth as located in beings themselves as toward the mind, and epistemological truth is truth as located in the mind towards beings. Truth in the general sense then is conformity of the mind and being.

God, as the “one who is,” is truth in the ontological sense, to its fullest. He is truth itself. If we take the correspondence theory of truth, say, as per Aristotle, for example, then we know the truth when what is in our mind corresponds to what is in reality. The ultimate reality, ultimate being and truth, of course, is God.  If we know the truth, the truth itself in its fullness, we know God.

Augustine warns us that “’He is truth.’ Do not ask what truth is; immediately a fog of bodily images and a cloud of fancies will get in your way and disturb the bright fair weather that burst on you the first instant when I said ‘truth.’ Come, hold it in that first moment in which so to speak you caught a flash from the corner of your eye when the word ‘truth’ was spoken; stay there if you can.”

The only things we know we know from experience, and all knowledge starts with sensation. It is hard for us, and it was certainly hard for Augustine (read his Confessions) to overcome the thought that everything that “is” is material. This, of course, is a very widespread fallacy today, especially in the scientific community, where truth is often limited to what can be empirically observed and verified.

Augustine goes on, however, to show us that to know truth is truly to know God, and to know at least something of truth is to know something of God. In this way we can begin to overcome the limitations mentioned earlier, where while “we cannot point to anything on this earth,” we can look at truth itself, known from within, and gain a starting point in knowing something of God.

The role of love in books VIII and IX of De Trinitate

“This is good and that is good. Take away this and that and see good itself if you can. In this way you will see God, not good with some other good, but the good of every good.” Augustine tells us that this is what we love:  Good.  We love good food and love good people and love good sunsets, because we ultimately love good, and the source of good in anything is Goodness Himself. “…there would be no changeable good things unless there were an unchangeable good.”

Of course, in this way, good is a transcendental of being, for there would be no beings if there were not being itself, nor truths if there were not truth itself, etc.

But as intellect goes out to being and to truth, the will goes out to the good. We love, and we love (or should) ourselves. In this way, we are both the lover and the loved. And further, the lover loves the loved, so there is lover, loved, and the love. Here, we can start to put together an image analogous with God who is, perhaps as Aristotle might say, thought thinking thought or understanding understanding understanding, which means that “Understanding” is understanding Himself.

Love is Augustine’s first internal image, in man, that we can look towards and see something of the relation of the three persons that are the one being of God, and further, the no one of them is greater or lesser than the others, or even of the whole.  That is, the Father is no greater or less than the Son, and likewise, the Father is no less than the Son and Holy Spirit together, or even any less than God as one Being.  Augustine discusses how we can see this in the lover loving the beloved that he has imaged in man, and thus come to some understanding that this is true in God, of course, without any of the imperfections of the image in man.

 

Grace does not destroy, but rather perfects nature

This article is a revised and expanded version of an earlier post, so much will be familiar to one who has read it, of course.

Gravity, Predestination, and Occasionalism: How God’s grace works

If one where to ask the question “why does a rock fall when released from the hand,” it would, no doubt, be a true yet odd answer to say that “God wills it.”  Yet, we must not argue that indeed, the falling of the rock does not escape God’s providence.  It certainly did not catch Him by surprise.

However, when asking the question, we are usually seeking the more proximate answer.  To say that “the rock falls because of gravity,” that still hardly understood force that draws massive objects toward one another, is to in no way infringe upon God’s power and providence.

In fact, we could not believe in miracles if we did not believe in a normal order of the world, created by God, in which things had proximate causes.  By this, I mean that, if we did not understand it to be that gravity is what caused a thing to fall to the ground, we would make no sense in saying that a levitation of an object is miraculous.  It would simply be “that particular occasion” of God’s will.  We could say that, in our experience, God seems to more often will a rock to fall than to levitate, but we could in no way make a distinction between the one being natural and the other being miraculous.

Miracles, by definition, do not destroy belief in a natural world, as many that reject the faith assume, but rather, presuppose it.  Likewise, grace, that super-immanent power of God, does not destroy nature but perfects it, elevates it.

Once a miracle enters reality, it acts with reality.  Miracles enter the world from without, but behave within it once present.  Take the loaves and the fish.  Once present, the loaves and the fish are “loaves and fish;” they feed hungry human beings and are part of nature.

If we deny that grace works with nature and instead say that it supercedes it, indeed replaces and destroys it, we have an analogous problem with miracles and can no longer assume a God who is not simply arbitrary in His will and design.  One is free, I imagine, to believe in such a God, as is the result of nominalist thinking along the lines of William of Occam, which undoubtedly leads to occasionalism, a close partner.

But once we accept this, we say that things are so merely because God says they are, to the point where, if God commanded murder, if God commanded even idolotry and denial of God by humans, these would by that fact be the right things to do.

This is, indeed, the teaching of Islam, and the teaching of reformed (Calvinist) theology within Christianity. Things happen because of God’s will, but apart from this being in line with His nature as goodness itself. One may look to Plato’s Euthyphro to see an in-depth discussion of whether things are good because God says so or if God says so because they are good.  The Christian answer, for centuries, has always been that it is both, and that it is a false dichotomy to ask the either/or question.

However, in those that fall into the camps of either emphasizing God’s sovereignty to the detriment of man’s freedom (John Calvin) or emphasizing man’s freedom to the detriment of God’s sovereignty (Jacobus Arminius), the old problem has returned.  We need, instead, the clear picture that God’s goodness, His will, His love, and all of the features we apply to God are indeed one and simple in Him, who simply IS.

Why, then, do we struggle to understand the place of our free will and our works in salvation?

St. Thomas teaches us, in the most clear manner, the truth of Predestination and man’s cooperation through God’s grace:

Wherefore we must say otherwise that in predestination two things are to be considered–namely, the divine ordination; and its effect. As regards the former, in no possible way can predestination be furthered by the prayers of the saints. For it is not due to their prayers that anyone is predestined by God. As regards the latter, predestination is said to be helped by the prayers of the saints, and by other good works; because providence, of which predestination is a part, does not do away with secondary causes but so provides effects, that the order of secondary causes falls also under providence. So, as natural effects are provided by God in such a way that natural causes are directed to bring about those natural effects, without which those effects would not happen; so the salvation of a person is predestined by God in such a way, that whatever helps that person towards salvation falls under the order of predestination; whether it be one’s own prayers or those of another; or other good works, and such like, without which one would not attain to salvation. Whence, the predestined must strive after good works and prayer; because through these means predestination is most certainly fulfilled. For this reason it is said: “Labor more that by good works you may make sure your calling and election” (2 Peter 1:10).

Man is Created by Nature to See God

What is man, by nature, called to do? Or more correctly put, what is man’s fulfillment? What is it that is the act by which man’s potentiality is perfected? It is to see God.  But “Man is called to an end by nature that he cannot attain by nature, but only by grace because of the exalted character of the end.” (Fr. Mullady, Lecture on Nature and Grace).

Grace is needed because man’s end as an intellectual creature is to know the first cause.  He is to “see God as He is” (1John 3:2). But can we really “be like God?” Of course we cannot be like Him in a univocal way, as no created being can in any way match the uncreated One, Being Himself. Yet, “all created beings, so far as they are beings, are like God; moreover, in many this likeness is in life and intelligence. Not infrequently Holy Scripture speaks of this likeness, even of the likeness according to image, as when it says: ‘Let us make man to our image and likeness.’ (Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, The One God, Ch. 4)

Aristotle opens his Metaphysics with the well known phrase that “all men by nature desire to know,” and here he shows the wisdom that our desire for God is fulfilled in the intellect.  We are created by God to know God.  Without knowing of revelation, and seeing man in his fallen state without realizing the existence of a fall from grace, Aristotle had no way of knowing that man could actually attain this knowing of God. But with grace, we can actually know God, and “see Him as He is.” We will never comprehend God, for that is not even possible with grace, and this again because grace does not replace or destroy nature but perfects it.

Saved by Grace Alone, through Faith and Works as Gifts of Grace

St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Fr. Garriogou Lagrange, when speaking on grace and especially on predestination, always emphasis the importance of 1Cor 4:7: “what hast thou that thou hast not received?” But with grace, we receive the faith to believe in God and believe God, and to live according to what He tells us we must do, in order to attain the perfection of our nature, the fulfillment of our natural desire to “know thee, the only true God,” (John 17:3) for “you have created us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” (Confessions)

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” It is this Christ “who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will” and who will “render to every man according to his deeds:  To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life.” Certainly, it is by grace we are saved and “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

But do not be fooled; these works are part of how we are judged unto salvation or damnation, when Christ “will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”

All these, both sheep and goats, are judged by what they did or did not do.  It is by grace, a pure gift, that I may be saved, but I find no evidence that Christ will say, at the judgement, “come, you who were predestined by grace apart from works” but rather we know from the mouth of the King of Kings that we will hear one of two things:

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

or

‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

It is God’s will that a rock fall when released from the hand., but it is His will that this be caused by gravity. It is grace that will save us, and by this grace, God wills that what we do or do not do will be the standard by which we are judged.