Category Archives: Summa III

The Third Part of the Summa Theologica

The Principle Problem of Christology and the Chalcedonian Solution

The Christological heresies and the Chalcedonian solution to them focus on the problem of their being two natures and one Person in Christ.  “First, Jesus Christ is only one person, the divine Person, or the Hypostasis of the Son of God or of the Word. Second, this one divine Person subsists or exists in two natures, the Divine nature and the human nature, each of which is perfect as a nature, lacking no perfection of the nature. Thus His human nature has a human soul as well as a human body.”1

“The reason pagans could not conceive of anything like the incarnation is that their gods are part of this world, and the union of any two natures in this world is bound to be unnatural, because of the otherness that lets one thing be itself only by not being the other…The Christological heresies are a reflection of tendencies to make pagan the Christian sense of the divine.”2 Here, however, we are not dealing with pagans, but with Christians who are trying to understand the same problem.  Nowhere in the world of our experience is there anything like one existent with two different natures.  Likewise, within the world of created things, for a thing to be one thing necessarily entails it not being another. Part of the definition (if singulars could have definitions) of Matt, for example, would be that Matt is not John, or a rock, etc.

The problem, then, is how to understand Jesus Incarnate. Is He man with God related to Him in a close way, such as that of the saints? Are there actually two persons here, a human person and a divine person? Does the divinity of Christ replace the rational soul of the otherwise fully human man Jesus? Or are the two natures, somehow beyond our understanding, somehow mixed? All of these solutions and more have been proposed by men of faith seeking to understand the great mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God.

In 431 A.D., the Council of Ephesus decreed that the Virgin Mary is Theotokos, the God bearer, for her son Jesus is one person who is both God and man, divine and human. “Now, it was proved that the body of that man is the body of the natural Son of God, that is, of the Word of God. So it becomes us to say that the Blessed Virgin is ‘the Mother of the Word of God,’ and even ‘of God’.”3  Objection to the title “Mother of God” arose, due to confusion concerning the mystery of the incarnation. Nestorius stated that Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, a regular human person. As such, Mary is not “Mother of God,” but simply the “Mother of Christ” or even the “Mother of Christ’s humanity.”

Another position, also heretical and indeed contrary to even reason alone, that was taken in opposition to the previous heresy of Nestorius is that of Eutyches. “Eutyches…says there is one nature, also. He says that, although before the union there were two distinct natures, the divine and human, they came together, nevertheless, in the union into one nature.”4 St. Thomas, among others, would demonstrate that this is both repugnant to Scripture and to reason.

“If…the human nature and the divine were two before the union, but from those in the union one nature was breathed together, this should take place in one of the ways in which it is natural that one comes to be from many.”5 In the next few articles, Thomas goes through the various ways this can be said to take place in nature, and demonstrates that all are untenable. The most important of these is the idea of a “mixture,” which can result in a single nature only through the destruction of both of the joined natures.

These two primary position, one of the Incarnate Christ being on person and one nature, and the other of Him being two distinct persons, one divine and one human, reflected the tendencies and arguments of the two primary “schools” of thought at Alexandria and Antioch.

With the 4th century debates between the Arians and the orthodox, especially Athanasius, we have “the emergence and development of two main types of Christology…: the so-called ‘Word-Flesh type, with its concentration on the Word as subject in the God-man and its lack of interest in the human soul, and the ‘Word-man’ type, alive to the reality and completeness of the humanity, but more hesitant about the position of the Word as a metaphysical subject…as it turned out, it was their head-on collision in these critical decades which precipitated the required synthesis.”6

Although most of the debate came in the East, primarily from the leading proponents of the Antiochene and Alexandrian schools, a key factor in the final confession was the Tome of Pope Leo.  At the Council of Chalcedon, in which more than 500 bishops took part, with the Pope represented by his legates, the Nicene Creed was upheld, and a formal confession of the doctrine of Christ’s two natures and one Person followed.  It can be summarized as follows:

“Jesus Christ is one and the same Son, the same perfect in Godhead and the same perfect in manhood…consubstantial with the Father in Godhead, and the same consubstantial with us in manhood..; begotten from the Father before the ages as regards His Godhead, and in the last days, the same, because of us and because of our salvation begotten from the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, as regards His manhood;…in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation, the difference in the natures being by no means removed because of the union,…coalescing in one prosopon and one hypostasis…”

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Notes:

  1. ICU, Patristics Course, Lecture 3: Christ’s Saving Work
  2. Sokolowski, The God of Faith and Reason, p. 36
  3. SCG Bk IV, 34, 15
  4. Ibid, 35, 2
  5. Ibid, 35, 6
  6. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, p. 310

The Summa Contra Gentiles on the Incarnation (a look at some early heresies)

In the Summa Contra Gentiles, Thomas begins his treatment of the Incarnation after his treatment of the Triune nature of God.  In that previous part, he had already said a good deal about the second Person of the Trinity, and likewise, we began his treatment with heresies and their refutations.  This approach is obviously different than the more strictly systematic approach of the Summa Theologica, but it is a very effective at demonstrating the truths of the faith.

We will, of course, see much overlap in the teachings as presented in the two great “summas” of the Angelic Doctor.  The order of teaching is different, to be sure, but much of the content is certainly the same; that of the truth of the Incarnation, which is and its proper understanding, at least insofar as it is understandable by the limited human intellect, for “it follows that toward faith in this particular marvel all other miracles are ordered, since ‘that which is greatest in any genus seems to be the cause of the others.’”1

We will first examine the error of Photinus, first treated in Question 28.  Thomas tells us that “according to this position, God would not have assumed flesh to become man; rather, an earthly man would have become God. Thus, the saying of John (1:14) would not be true: ‘The Word was made flesh’; on the contrary, flesh would have been made the Word.”2

Thomas treats this in a different way in Question 16 of the third part of the Summa Theologica. “Properly understood, this participle “made” attaches making to man with relation to God, as the term of the making… this proposition is false, because, when it is said, “Man was made God,” “man” has a personal suppositum: because, to be God is not verified of the Man in His human nature, but in His suppositum.”3

Why can we not say that man became God? A wall that has always existed can be made white, but white cannot be “made a wall,” for white must exist in something.  Now, we do not predicate Christ’s humanity as a metaphysical accident, but we do affirm that its existence is in the Person of Christ.  For man to be made God, we would have to adhere to the heresy of Nestorius, for a man cannot exist without a person existing, and so either this person would have to have been annihilated when He became Christ, or else there would be two persons in Christ.

“Let one consider the matter earnestly and he sees that this Nestorian opinion on the Incarnation differs very little from that of Photinus…Of course, on the eternal generation of the Word they differed greatly: Nestorius confessed it, but Photinus denied it completely.”4 We see how extreme and opposite errors tend to meet in some of their conclusions.

We now turn to this heresy, also addressed by St. Thomas. Thomas’ treatment against the error of Nestorius is among the longest of his refutations of error in Book IV of the Summa Contra Gentiles. The position of this error is described as follows: “They said that the human soul and the true human body came together in Christ by a natural union to constitute one man of the same species and nature with other men, and that in this man God dwelt as in His temple, namely, by grace, just as in other holy men.”5

This, however, must result in a complete denial of the Incarnation: Christ was made man cannot be true if understood in this way.  For God has dwelled in many men in the way spoken of by Nestorius, and even if a difference in “degree” of this indwelling is claimed, it cannot be a true difference in kind.

Understood in this way, Christ would merely be the most favored of all humans.  He would be similar to Mary in this way, only greater.  This is obviously not in keeping with the faith. “For, in that position, the Word of God was united to that man only through an indwelling by grace, on which a union of wills follows. But the indwelling of God’s Word in a man is not for God’s Word to be made flesh.”6

Likewise, in this way of understanding the Incarnation, if “our understanding of the Incarnation of the Word is this alone—the Word of God dwelt most fully in that man—we will have to say that the Holy Spirit was incarnate also.”7 Obviously, this position is untenable.

Thomas, in book IV of the Summa Contra Gentiles, will often use the authority of the Church and her Councils.  This is perfectly in line with the purpose of Book IV, which, unlike the first three books, makes no claim to be of things demonstrable from human reason alone apart from revelation.  “Now, it was proved that the body of that man is the body of the natural Son of God, that is, of the Word of God. So it becomes us to say that the Blessed Virgin is ‘the Mother of the Word of God,’ and even ‘of God’.”8

Objection to the title “Mother of God” arose in the fifth century, due to confusion concerning the mystery of the incarnation. Nestorius, stated that Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, a regular human person. As such, Mary is not “Mother of God,” but simply the “Mother of Christ” or even the “Mother of Christ’s humanity.”  Our protestant brethren would do well to contemplate the wisdom of the ancient Church councils and of Thomas Aquinas’ masterful expositions of such topics, as presented in the work this short essay presents.

We now turn a position, also heretical and indeed contrary to even reason alone, that was taken in opposition to the previous heresy of Nestorius. “Eutyches…says there is one nature, also. He says that, although before the union there were two distinct natures, the divine and human, they came together, nevertheless, in the union into one nature.”9 Thomas demonstrates that this is both repugnant to Scripture and to reason.

“If…the human nature and the divine were two before the union, but from those in the union one nature was breathed together, this should take place in one of the ways in which it is natural that one comes to be from many.”10 In the next few articles, Thomas goes through the various ways this can be said to take place in nature, and demonstrates that all are untenable. The most important of these is the idea of a “mixture,” which can result in a single nature only through the destruction of both of the joined natures. Robert Sokolowski demonstrates why the pagans could never understand this idea of an Incarnate God:

“The reason pagans could not conceive of anything like the incarnation is that their gods are part of this world, and the union of any two natures in this world is bound to be unnatural, because of the otherness that lets one thing be itself only by not being the other…The Christological heresies are a reflection of tendencies to make pagan the Christian sense of the divine.”11

Thomas, of course, understood that God cannot even be understood to be in a genus.  He is not differentiated, therefore, even within the genus of being.  It is this infinite difference that makes possible the relation between man and God when God takes on a human nature.  Part of the definition and essence of a rock is that it is not a tree, not Socrates, etc. There is no mixture, and no destruction, for there is no relatedness between God and anything created that would cause one to be defined by “not being the other.” Only in this way, rejecting our common understanding of how things combine within contingent being, can a true understanding of the Incarnation ever take place.

I am of the opinion that Thomas’ understanding of the difference between essence and existence, as well as his understanding of God’s essence as “to exist,” is the most outstanding breakthrough in understanding of the mysteries of God in the last 2000 years.

Notes:

  1. SCG Bk IV, 27,1
  2. Ibid, 28, 4
  3. ST. III, 16, art. 7
  4. SCG Bk IV, 34, 31
  5. Ibid, 34, 2
  6. Ibid, 34, 3
  7. Ibid, 34, 23
  8. Ibid, 34, 15
  9. Ibid, 35, 2
  10. Ibid, 35, 6
  11. Sokolowski, The God of Faith and Reason, p. 36

Summa II, Q. 25 and 26

Question 25. The adoration of Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summa III, Q. 23 and 24

Question 23. Adoption as befitting to Christ

Article 1. Whether it is fitting that God should adopt sons?

“He hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children of God.” Ephesians 1:5

The objections given to this question seem to be those of taking the analogy too far.  To be an adopted son is of God is similar in one way and not in another to that of worldly adopted sonship.

Men, then, are adopted by God as sons as far as they, in their created nature, can participate in the goodness of God.  We become, as St. Peter says, partakers of the divine nature, and in as much as this is possible for a created being, it is the inheritance of sonship.  Just as, by creation, there are more “beings” than before but no more “being,” likewise, by our sharing this inheritance, nothing is lost to God.  Unlike material goods, its giving causes no loss in the giver.

Likewise, as we discussed in the doctrine of predilection,God, by bestowing His grace, makes man whom He adopts worthy to receive the heavenly inheritance; whereas man does not make him worthy whom he adopts; but rather in adopting him he chooses one who is already worthy.”

Article 2. Whether it is fitting that the whole Trinity should adopt?

It may be objected that the Father alone can adopt, as it is “He who begets that may call someone his son,” but Thomas takes the position that references to God in ragards to our sonship must refer primarily to God as one, and thus, the whole Trinity is said to adopt us. So St. Thomas tells us thatalthough, in God, to beget belongs to the Person of the Father, yet to produce any effect in creatures is common to the whole Trinity, by reason of the oneness of their Nature: since, where there is one nature, there must needs be one power and one operation.”

It is pointed out that Christ call the Father “My Father,” and “Your Father” (John 20:17).  In fact, He never calls God “our” Father in relation to us and Himself, for the Fatherhood of God is different for the Son than it is for the sons.  The only place Jesus says the words “our Father,” is when He tells us what to say. We are adopted sons, and this is nothing small; but never are we exactly the same as Christ in relation to the Father.

Article 3. Whether it is proper to the rational nature to be adopted?

It is not said of all rational creatures, such as the angels, that they are adopted by God in the way we are. “Angels are called sons of God by adoptive sonship, not that it belongs to them first; but because they were the first to receive the adoption of sons.” Of course, a non-rational creature could not be adopted to the beatific vision. Nevertheless, we are adopted by God, made to conform to His Word, and to a certain oneness with God in as much as is possible in our created nature. We are always reminded that “grace perfects nature” (rather than destroying it).

Article 4. Whether Christ as man is the adopted Son of God?

Here we return to the all important question that, if properly understood, Thomas has answer back in Question 2.  For sonship belongs to a person, and not to a nature.  It is the person of Christ who is the natural, not adopted, Son of the Father, and therefore, it is not proper to call Him, even in His human nature, the adopted son of God.  The Second Person is the Son, and no new person exists in the Incarnate Word than the eternal Person, the unadopted but begotten second Person of the Trinity.

Question 24. The predestination of Christ

Article 1. Whether it is befitting that Christ should be predestinated?

The Apostle says, speaking of Christ (Romans 1:4): “Who was predestinated the Son of God in power.”

The problem here is that it is hard to see how either the divine person or the human nature (“we do not speak of a person’s nature, but of his person, as being predestinated: because to be predestinated is to be directed towards salvation, which belongs to a suppositum acting for the end of beatitude”) can be the subject of predestination, for predestination is a Divine preordination of what is to be done by God’s grace within time, and this is done to a person.

The Incarnation, of course, is “in time,” and it is reflection on this that will help us comprehend the mystery. “The union itself of natures in the Person of Christ falls under the eternal predestination of God. For this reason do we say that Christ was predestinated.”

Article 2. Whether this proposition is false: “Christ as man was predestinated to be the Son of God”?

It would seem that, “Christ, as the Son of God, was predestinated to be man,” is truer than, “Christ, as Man, was predestinated to be the Son of God.”But Thomas pays close attention to the words of St. Augustine: “Forasmuch as God the Son was made Man, we say that the Lord of Glory was predestinated.”

In answering the objections, St. Thomas pays close attention to the manner of speaking and the types of cause that are referred to, be it the “material” or “efficient” most especially, but also the cause and effect considered antecedently and consequentially. We see again the importance of specificity in our speech, reminding us of the trouble Thomas Aquinas took in Question 16 in a similar regard.

In the end, it seems most fitting to say that “Christ, as Man, was predestinated the Son of God.”

Article 3. Whether Christ’s predestination is the exemplar of ours?

First, as we see in analogous terms as well, “the exemplate need not be conformed to the exemplar in all respects: it is sufficient that it imitate it in some.” Indeed, Christ’s predestination is the exemplar of ours.

I will expand on this in summary to article 4, as the concept behind understanding it applies there as well, but to quote Thomas briefly:

Predestination may be considered in two ways. First, on the part of the act of predestination: and thus Christ’s predestination cannot be said to be the exemplar of ours: for in the same way and by the same eternal act God predestinated us and Christ.”

“Secondly, predestination may be considered on the part of that to which anyone is predestinated, and this is the term and effect of predestination. In this sense Christ’s predestination is the exemplar of ours.”

Article 4. Whether Christ’s predestination is the cause of ours?

Predestination, as an eternal decision of God’s, cannot be said to precede another act of predestination.  However, in the order of first and second causes, God may predestine one to be the cause of another.  In this regard, Christ’s predestination precedes ours, not in time, but in order of causality by the will of God.

“For eternal predestination covers not only that which is to be accomplished in time, but also the mode and order in which it is to be accomplished in time.”

As an aside, we may note here how, in soteriology, we are saved by grace alone, and yet, our faith and our works are required. God’s wills not only the ends but the means, and these means must be accomplished for the ends to do so.  Thus, we “work out our salvation” for “it is God who wills in us” to work and merit this just as “it is by grace” that we are saved and “not of ourselves.” So it is in one eternal act that all is decreed, yet in decreeing the means, the means are necessary for God’s end to be reached, because He wills that they be necessary, just as He willed that Christ’s predestination be necessary for our predestination.

Sacraments of Healing

Just as Baptism causes a spiritual cleansing from spiritual stains by means of a bodily washing, so this sacrament causes an inward healing by means of an outward sacramental healing: and even as the baptismal washing has the effect of a bodily washing, since it effects even a bodily cleansing, so too, Extreme Unction has the effect of a bodily remedy, namely a healing of the body. (ST. Supp, q. 30, a. 2)

Both penance and extreme unction are sacraments of healing.  As a human, we are body and soul, and although it is our soul that is the form of the body, and thus its state is of more eternal importance, nevertheless Christ, in the gift of His Sacraments, cares for the whole man.

Private penance begins (500-1000 A.D)

 

Private Penance developed as a result of monasticism and the relationship between religious and their confessor and spiritual director, who were generally the same person.  Thus, often, spiritual direction would begin with a confessing of sins, and likewise, spiritual direction given would obviously include guidance on avoidance of those faults confessed.

Today, there are mixed opinions about whether one should have the same person as spiritual director and confessor, but the two are certainly well suited to each other, since growing in holiness cannot but include our turning away from our sins and towards the Lord.

Jesus calls to conversion: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”…It is by faith in the Gospel and by Baptism that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life. (CCC 1427)

Unlike the angels, our decision to serve or not serve our God is not a momentary and once for all event.  As creatures subject to time, our conversion is continual.  We fall and we repent.  We certainly do not want this to become a rote habit where we see forgiveness as something mechanical to be repeatedly obtained after sinning freely, but we also do not despair when we fall yet again, for God is merciful.  We do what we can, and pray for God to make up for what we cannot, praying most especially for the grace of final perseverance.

 

Parts of the Sacrament of Penance

The first necessity of the sacrament is contrition. As Isidore defined it, “Contrition is a tearful sorrow and humility of mind, arising from remembrance of sin and fear of the Judgment.” In other words, we must recognize that we have done contrary to the will of God, and must overcome our pride and wish to render the honor to God that we refused in sinning.

Once we are contrite, we confess our sin.  We always confess to God, but the normal mode instituted by Christ Himself is the Sacrament of Penance, especially for mortal sins.  Here, we confess our sins to a priest of Christ, ordained in the Church He founded.

We are then given a penance, normally, and we agree to carry it out.  This Satisfaction may include retribution to those we have harmed, and prayer as well.  Besides any repaying of those we may have harmed, the penance is not so much for us to repay a debt as it is a medicine for our soul, that we may be turned back to God and trust in doing His will.

Anointing of the Sick

Mark 6:13 and James 5:14-15.

“And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” (Mark 6:13) Jesus has just sent out the apostles, in twos, to preach the kingdom.  We see here that He has given them a participation in His authority (we will see this even more clearly in Jesus’ words in Matt 28) to be conveyors of His grace.  The casting out of devils and the healing with oil shows both the spiritual and physical care that God has for His people, and the oil demonstrates that Christ, Himself incarnate, of course, uses material means as instruments of grace because we are not merely spiritual but corporeal beings as well.

James tells us that this ministry and sacrament has not ceased with the Ascension of Christ, but continues through His Church. “Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick man: and the Lord shall raise him up: and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him.” (James 5:14-15)

 

The fruits of this sacrament (CCC 1520-1523).

When we are sick or in old age, we often face grave temptations against the faith.  Even the greatest of saints have often faced temptations against the faith itself as they neared death. In fact, God allows these trials, but He always gives the grace to grow by them.

As the Catechism says, “The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death.” (CCC 1520)

“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church” (Col 1:24) says Paul. And further, we are “joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.” (Rom 8:17)

Sometimes we are truly called upon to suffer with and for Christ, and we can merit for ourselves and even for others when we do so willingly.  The Sacrament of Extreme Unction is a great gift in the grace it gives in such times.

Summa III, Question 22 – Christ’s Priesthood

Article 1. Whether it is fitting that Christ should be a priest?

“The Lord showed me the high-priest standing before the angel of the Lord. (Zechariah 3:1)” It seems that to be a priest is to be less than an angel. However, “We have therefore a great high-priest that hath passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God. (Hebrews 4:14)”

The office of a priest is to be a mediator between God and the people. “Every high-priest taken from among men is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins.” Christ does exactly this in the perfect and only truly efficacious way.

“Wherefore, as to others, one is a lawgiver, another is a priest, another is a king; but all these concur in Christ, as the fount of all grace. Hence it is written (Isaiah 33:22): The Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our law-giver, the Lord is our King: He will come and save us.”

Article 2. Whether Christ was Himself both priest and victim?

It is the duty of the priest to slay the victim. Christ did not slay Himself, but of His own free-will He exposed Himself to death, according to Isaiah 53:7: “He was offered because it was His own will.” Thus He is said to have offered Himself.

Man is required to offer sacrifice for three reasons. For the remission of sin, that he may be preserved in a state of grace, and in order that his spirit be perfectly united to God. All these effects were conferred on us by the humanity of Christ. Therefore Christ Himself, as man, was not only priest, but also a perfect victim, being at the same time victim for sin, victim for a peace-offering, and a holocaust.

Article 3. Whether the effect of Christ’s priesthood is the expiation of sins?

The blood of Christ, Who by the Holy Ghost offered Himself unspotted unto God, shall cleanse our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:14)”

The stain of sin is, indeed, blotted out by grace, by which the sinner’s heart is turned to God: whereas the debt of punishment is entirely removed by the satisfaction that man offers to God. The priesthood of Christ produces both these effects. Christ was a priest, not as God, but as man, yet one and the same is both priest and God.

The Eucharist obviously ties in with the current topic, as seen in the reply to the second objection: The Sacrifice which is offered every day in the Church is not distinct from that which Christ Himself offered, but is a commemoration thereof. Wherefore Augustine says (De Civ. De. x, 20): “Christ Himself both is the priest who offers it and the victim: the sacred token of which He wished to be the daily Sacrifice of the Church.”

Article 4. Whether the effect of the priesthood of Christ pertained not only to others, but also to Himself?

“In the days of His flesh, with a strong cry and tears He offered up prayers and supplications to Him that was able to save Him from death.” Was the priesthood of Christ effective  not only in others, but also in Himself? Thomas told us in question 19 that in His passion Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice, and by His passion He merited, not only for others, but also for Himself.

We read in the acts of the Council of Ephesus “If anyone say that Christ offered sacrifice for Himself, and not rather for us alone, let him be anathema.” Therefore the priesthood of Christ had no effect in Himself.

The sinner needs someone between himself and God, who of himself cannot approach to God; and such a one is subject to the priesthood by sharing in the effect thereof. “For the influence of the first agent in every genus is such that it receives nothing in that genus: thus the sun gives but does not receive light; fire gives but does not receive heat.” Therefore it is not fitting that Christ should receive the effect of His priesthood, for He is the cause of all that His priesthood effects.

Article 5. Whether the priesthood of Christ endures for ever?

It would seem that the priesthood of Christ does not endure for ever, because, at the end of time, the saints in heaven will have no sin, being all just, and there is no redemption for those in hell However, It is written “Thou art a priest forever. (Psalm 109:4):”

The end of the sacrifice which Christ offered consisted not in temporal but in eternal good, which we obtain through His death. The Saints who will be in heaven will not need any further expiation by the priesthood of Christ but will need consummation through Christ Himself, on Whom their glory depends.

Although Christ’s passion and death are not to be repeated, yet the virtue of that Victim endures forever, for, as it is written “by one oblation He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.”

Article 6. Whether the priesthood of Christ was according to the order of Melchisedech?

“Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.” In this, the answer seems clear, but we should look at an objection to it by way of reason.

Objection: Christ is the fountain-head of the entire priesthood, as being the principal priest. Now that which is principal is not secondary in regard to others, but others are secondary in its regard. Therefore Christ should not be called a priest according to the order of Melchisedech.

Reply: Melchisedech was not a more excellent priest, but he foreshadowed the excellence of Christ’s over the Levitical priesthood.

As always, there are different ways in which something may be predicated of another.  Thomas, the rigorous thinker, is always careful to point out these distinctions, wanting always the clearest understanding possible of the great mysteries of the faith.

Could we say, rather, that Melchisedech was a priest according to the order of Christ? Thomas does not answer this question, but if he did, I would assume careful distinction would be made on the relation of Christ to Melchisedech.  Obviously, Melchisedech was not the cause of Christ’s type of priesthood, but Christ was the exemplar cause of Melchisedech’s. What is prior in time is not always prior in cause.

Likewise, Mary is the new Eve, and even though Eve was her “mother” in humanity, Mary is the exemplar of all humanity as human person, the one human person that all of humanity and indeed creation is based on. This is not the place to go into depth here, but I bring it up for its similarity.

Summa III, Question 21 – Christ’s Prayer

Article 1. Whether it is becoming of Christ to pray?

“And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain, and He passed the whole night in the prayer of God.”

There are two wills in Christ; one human, and one divine.  The human will, like all human wills, needs prayer to conform itself to the will of God.

In the reply to the second objection, it is said that “Amongst the other things which He knew would happen, He knew that some would be brought about by His prayer.” Now, we do not pray to change the mind of God, but we know that God has, from all time, decreed certain things to happen as a result of our praying for them.  He is a creator always respectful of His creation, including cause and effect.

Article 2. Whether it pertains to Christ to pray according to His sensuality?

Prayer transcends particular things, and rises above. It is a raising of the mind to God. The senses, however, do not transcend these particulars, and thus, although we can pray for things that our senses tell us are good (to not experience pain, etc) it is never in sensuality that we pray. Pray requires the intellect, which proper object is universal being and not particular things. Prayer is an act of reason.

Article 3. Whether it was fitting that Christ should pray for Himself?

The objection is made thatno one prays save for what He wishes, because, as was said, prayer is an unfolding of our will to God that He may fulfil it. Now Christ wished to suffer what He suffered. Therefore it was not fitting that He should pray for Himself.”

On the contrary, our Lord Himself said while praying to “Glorify Thy Son.”

Christ prayed for Himself, first, by expressing the desire of His sensuality, as stated in Article 2. He prayed “let this cup be taken from Me.” He also prayed by expressing the desire of His deliberate will when He prayed for the glory of His Resurrection.

Christ wished indeed to suffer what He suffered, at that particular time: nevertheless He wished to obtain, after His passion, the glory of His body, which as yet He had not. This very glory which Christ, while praying, besought for Himself, pertained to the salvation of others according to Romans 4:25: “He rose again for our justification.”

Article 4. Whether Christ’s prayer was always heard?

It is objected that “It would seem that Christ’s prayer was not always heard. For He besought that the chalice of His passion might be taken from Him, as we read (Matthew 26:39): and yet it was not taken from Him. Therefore it seems that not every prayer of His was heard.”

Christ was always heard in what He willed with reason, in conformity with the Divine will.  However, as man, He prayed for what His sensuality desired, as said above, and this was not always answered in the way His sensuality would prefer.  Nevertheless, His prayers were always heard, and His reason and will were always in conformity to that of the Divine reason and will.

Of note is the reply to the second objection:Our Lord did not pray for all those who crucified Him, as neither did He for all those who would believe in Him; but for those only who were predestinated to obtain eternal life through Him. Wherefore the reply to the third objection is also manifest.”

In 1722, certain professors try to censure this reply because, to them, it had Jansenistic tendencies. Indeed when I first read this, Calvinism came to mind (Christ died only for the elect).  We know, of course, that Thomas was not a Jansenist or a Calvinist.  How do we understand him here, then?

As always, Thomas makes careful distinction between conditional prayer, efficacious prayer, etc. Here, he is referring to Christ’s efficacious prayer. Earlier in the Summa, St. Thomas has said much on the difference of sufficient grace and efficacious grace, for example, and also of God’s antecedent will that all be saved.  For Thomas to remain consistent, we must understand his reply above in light of all he has earlier said.

Thus, the attempt at censure of this reply was condemned by Rome in 1726. St. Thomas is clearly no Arminian, but he is no Calvinist either.  There is great mystery in God’s antecedent will that all be saved and His consequent will that not all are saved.

Summa III, Question 20 – Christ’s subjection to the Father

Article 1. Whether we may say that Christ is subject to the Father?

“The Father is greater than I”(John 14:28). In the form of a servant Christ is subject to the Father.

Human nature from its beginning has a threefold subjection to God:

  1. By degree of goodness: “Why askest thou Me concerning good? One is good, God.” (Matt 19:17)
  2. As regards God’s power: “The Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28)
  3. By submission of will to God: “The creature serving Thee the Creator.” (Wisdom 16:24)

Article 2. Whether Christ is subject to Himself?

Augustine says (De Trin. i, 7): “Truth shows in this way…that the Son is less than Himself,” and what’s more, Christ in His human nature is the servant of God the Father, according to John 20:17: “I ascend to My Father and to your Father to My God and your God.” And whoever is the servant of the Father is the servant of the Son; otherwise not everything that belongs to the Father would belong to the Son.

To be master or servant is attributed to a person or hypostasis according to a nature, so Christ as man is subject to Himself inasmuch as He is Divine. This should not be confused with the Nestorian heresy, as if there are two persons, as if there was the person of the Word of God ruling and the person of the man serving.

“Whatever pertains to Him in His human nature is rather to be attributed to Him with a qualification; so that we say that Christ is simply greatest, Lord, Ruler, whereas to be subject or servant or less is to be attributed to Him with the qualification, in His human nature.”

I am reminded a bit in this article of Plato’s Republic, for the entire work is a dialogue is seeking “what is justice,” and the “republic” seems to come about by showing how one part of the same “body” is rightly subject to another.

Summa III, Q.17-19 – Christ’s unity of will and unity of operation

Question 17. Christ’s unity of being

Article 1. Whether Christ is one or two?

Basically, “Christ is something that the Father is, and something that the Father is not.” He is both God and man.  Is He therefore “two?”

Now in Christ there are two substantial natures, the human and the Divine. Therefore Christ is one thing and another. Therefore Christ is two.

What, though, are we asking?  Who Christ is?  Or what He is “made” of.  Christ is one Person, and this is the one suppositum. Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity, and He is no less this One divine Person after the Incarnation than before. We can’t say “Christ is human nature” but that He has a human nature.  Christ is one, for His being is His Person.  He, the divine Person, is unchanged in the Incarnation.  “He IS.”

Article 2. Whether there is only one being in Christ?

Everything is said to be a being, inasmuch as it is one, for one and being are convertible. Therefore, if there were two beings in Christ, and not one only, Christ would be two, and not one.

There is only one being in Christ, inasmuch as He is one Person. Analogously, there is only one being in a human person, although there is a soul and a body.  Indeed, any material object has a formal and a material cause.  Now, Christ’s divinity is not the formal cause and His human nature the material: by no means.  Christ’s human nature, likewise, is not an “accident” attached to the “substance” of His divinity.  Thinking along these lines can help contemplate the union, but lack an exactness in understanding the unique reality of the hypostatic union. Still, it may be helpful to ponder this in understanding the oneness of Christ as person.

For a much fuller treatment, however, it may be helpful to read Fr. LaGrange’s discussion of the Incarnation in the Person from ST III, Question 2 (http://thesumma.info/saviour/saviour13.php).

Objection 3 and Reply:

Further, in the Trinity, although there are three Persons, yet on account of the unity of nature there is only one being. But in Christ there are two natures, though there is one Person. Therefore in Christ would there not be two beings?

Since the Divine Person is the same as the Nature, there is no distinction in the Divine Persons between the being of the Person and the being of the Nature, and, consequently, the three Persons have only one being. But they would have a triple being if the being of the Person were distinct in them from the being of the Nature.

Question 18. Christ’s unity of will

Article 1. Whether there are two wills in Christ?

An early heresy, monothelitism, claimed that there was only one will in Christ, but a human nature has a human will, and so this could not stand in a correct understanding of Christology. Unlike monophysitism, it did admit two natures in Christ, but obviously misunderstood what it meant to truly have both natures.

Much of this is related, then, to the understanding of the person and will, for the controversy at this point is whether a will belongs strictly to a person or to a nature. The will pertains to the perfection of human nature, being one of its natural powers, even as the intellect, as St. Thomas states in Summa Theologica I, Q79,80. Hence we must say that the Son of God assumed a human will, together with human nature.

“Father, if Thou wilt, remove this chalice from Me. But yet not My will but Thine be done.”

In the sixth Council held at Constantinople it was decreed that it must be said that there are two wills in Christ, in Act. 18: “In accordance with what the Prophets of old taught us concerning Christ, and as He taught us Himself, and the Symbol of the Holy Fathers has handed down to us, we confess two natural wills in Him and two natural operations.”

Whatever was in the human nature of Christ was moved at the bidding of the Divine will; yet it does not follow that in Christ there was no movement of the will proper to human nature, for the good wills of other saints are moved by God’s will, “Who worketh” in them “both to will and to accomplish,” as is written Philippians 2:13.

Article 2. Whether in Christ there was a will of sensuality besides the will of reason?

The question pertains to the sensitive appetite, which comes from the body (the senses) but with a relation to the soul, as an operative power. There is “will” of sensuality, then, in Christ, and not merely a “will” related to reason.

“The Son of God must have assumed together with the human nature whatever belongs to animal nature; one of which things is the sensitive appetite, which is called the sensuality. Consequently it must be allowed that in Christ there was a sensual appetite, or sensuality.”

Unlike us in our fallen state, however, Christ’s sensitive passions were completely under the control of His human soul, instead of being a negative influence on it, as ours so often are. Sensuality is signified by the “serpent” not as regards the nature of the sensuality, which Christ assumed, but as regards the corruption of it, which was not in Christ.

Article 3. Whether in Christ there were two wills as regards the reason?

In every order there is one first mover. But the will is the first mover in the genus of human acts. Therefore in one man there is only one will, properly speaking, which is the will of reason. But Christ is one man. Therefore in Christ there is only one human will.

Again, Fr. LaGrange is most helpful:

“In Christ there is one power or faculty of the human will; but if we consider the human will with reference to its acts, then there is a distinction between the natural will that is naturally inclined to good in itself, shrinking from what is harmful to nature, and the rational will, or free will, that is drawn to its object by comparison and deliberation.”

The will is sometimes taken for the power, and sometimes for the act. Hence we must say that if we are speaking of the power of the will, in Christ there is but one human will, but if we are speaking of the will as an act, we thus distinguish in Christ a will as nature, and a will as reason.

Article 4. Whether there was free-will in Christ?

The objection is made that free-will is indifferent. But Christ’s will was determined to good, since He could not sin, so there was no free-will in Christ.

Here is not this place to venture an in-depth discussion of the [I think false] idea of free will as indifference, but we may note that nominalist moral philosophers and theologians would seem to have been anticipated here.  Freedom does not, rightly understood, entail the indifference to do right or wrong.  After all, Christ came to “set us free” from sin; how then can true freedom involve the ability to sin?  On the contrary, it is to be freed from it.

Aristotle says (Ethic. iii, 2) choice differs from will in this, that will of itself regards the end, while choice regards the means. For one with the beatific vision, even as man (wayfarer), the end is always in view, and the means is thus never distorted.

Thus Thomas says in his reply to the third objection: The will of Christ, though determined to good, is not determined to this or that good. Hence it pertains to Christ, even as to the blessed, to choose with a free-will confirmed in good. (This is the ancient teaching of the freedom for excellence, as opposed to the freedom of indifference, mentioned above in reference especially to the nominalists)

Article 5. Whether the human will of Christ was altogether conformed to the Divine will in the thing willed?

He who desires to do another’s will, wills what the other wills. Hence it seems that Christ’s human will willed nothing but what was willed by His Divine will.

Augustine disagrees, saying “When Christ says ‘Not what I will, but what Thou wilt’ He shows Himself to have willed something else than did His Father; and this could only have been by His human heart, since He did not transfigure our weakness into His Divine but into His human will.”

It was the will of God that Christ should undergo pain, suffering, and death, not that these of themselves were willed by God, but for the sake of man’s salvation. We know that in his sorrowful prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, the man Jesus certainly did not positively will His passion (let this cup pass from Me). Yet He conformed His will by reason to that of the Father; “Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” For He willed in His reason that the Divine will should be fulfilled although He said that He willed something else by another will.

Likewise, if the doctor prescribes bitter medicine, I take it not because I am merely doing his will, but willing it myself by reason of what it accomplishes.

Article 6. Whether there was contrariety of wills in Christ?

The purpose of this article is to explain that diversity of wills, which was discussed in the preceding article, was not such as to induce real contrariety, because they are considered under different aspects.

“Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” His reason, would we say, willed contrary to His flesh?

The Third Council of Constantinople says: “We confess two natural wills, not in opposition, as evil-minded heretics assert, but following His human will, and neither withstanding nor striving against, but rather being subject to, His Divine and omnipotent will.”

Contrariety can exist only where there is opposition in the same and as regards the same. There is no contrariety, for example, if I wish a man to be executed for the sake of protecting the community, and another wills him to be spared out of mercy, for we are not willing the act under the same aspect. Likewise, a difference in sensitive appetite and rational appetite approach something from two different aspects, and are not contrarieties. And hence it must be said that although the natural and the sensitive will in Christ wished what the Divine will did not wish, yet there was no contrariety of wills in Him.

In us the desires of the spirit are impeded or retarded by the desires of the flesh: this did not occur in Christ. Hence in Christ there was no contrariety of flesh and spirit, as in us.”

Question 19. The unity of Christ’s operation

Article 1. Whether in Christ there is only one operation of the Godhead and Manhood?

On account of the unity of hypostasis is there only one operation of the Godhead and Manhood? St.Ambrose says (De Fide ii, 8): “How can the same operation spring from different powers? Cannot the lesser operate as the greater? And can there be one operation where there are different substances?”

The heretics (see Question 18 art. 6) who placed one will in Christ placed one operation in Christ. Now, as in a mere man the body is moved by the soul, and the sensitive by the rational appetite, so in the Lord Jesus Christ the human nature is moved and ruled by the Divine.

What is moved by another has a twofold action: one which it has from its own form and the other, which it has inasmuch as it is moved by another; thus the operation of an axe of itself is to cleave; but inasmuch as it is moved by the craftsman, its operation is to make benches. We see then that Thomas here uphold’s first and second causality.  Indeed, this is necessary for man’s free will, for God is the primary mover of all, even insomuch as He holds things in existence.

“Wherever the mover and the moved have different forms or operative faculties, there must the operation of the mover and the proper operation of the moved be distinct; although the moved shares in the operation of the mover, and the mover makes use of the operation of the moved, and, consequently, each acts in communion with the other.”

“Therefore in Christ the human nature has its proper form and power whereby it acts; and so has the Divine.” I cannot emphasis enough here that proper Christology and proper understanding of ourselves as free creatures yet dependant upon God go hand in hand.  And error in one inevitably leads to an error in the other.

Pope Leo says both the Divine and the human nature in Christ “do what is proper to each in union with the other, i.e. the Word operates what belongs to the Word, and the flesh carries out what belongs to flesh.”

Article 2. Whether in Christ there are several human operations?

Further, powers and habits are distinguished by their acts. Now in Christ’s soul there were divers powers and habits; were there therefore also divers operations? No, for “operation is consequent upon the nature.” In Christ there is only one human nature, and likewise, only one human operation.

If there is any operation in man which does not proceed from the reason and the will, it is not simply a human operation, but belongs to man by reason of some part of human nature. There is, in Aristotelian and Thomistic ethics, an important distinction between acts of man and human acts. In fact, true ethics is the study of voluntary human action. Voluntary action always proceeds from the will and intellect, and thus, other actions and their operations are not properly human acts.  For example, a human may fall due to gravity, but this is an act insomuch as he is made of matter; it is not particular to what makes him human: his rational nature.

Article 3. Whether the human action of Christ could be meritorious to Him?

No one merits what is due to him, but Christ is the Son of God by nature, and the eternal inheritance is due to Him, which other men merit by their works. It seems, therefore, that Christ Who from the beginning was the Word of God could not merit anything for Himself.

“Becoming obedient unto death . . . For which cause God also hath exalted Him.” (Philippians 2:8-9)

Thomas mentions the principle of predilection here, according to 1 Corinthians 4:7: “What hast thou that thou hast not received?”

“Nevertheless, in a secondary manner anyone may be a cause, to himself, of having certain good things, inasmuch as he cooperates with God in the matter, and thus whoever has anything by his own merit has it, in a manner, of himself. Hence it is better to have a thing by merit than without merit.” Christ, in His human nature, merits as we do, conforming His human will to God and cooperating with His grace.

“We must say that Christ had, by merit, the glory of His body and whatever pertained to His outward excellence, as His Ascension, veneration, and the rest. And thus it is clear that He could merit for Himself.”

Earlier we said that Christ was both comprehensor and wayfarer at the same time.  It is, then, as wayfarer that Christ merited for Himself.

Article 4. Whether Christ could merit for others?

It is written: “The soul that sinneth, the same shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4) and also: “Noah and Daniel and Job be in the city. . . they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; but they shall only deliver their own souls by their justice.” Is it possible, then, that Christ merited for others?

Thankfully, the completion of this doctrine is cleared up by Paul: “As by the offense of one, unto all men to condemnation; so also by the justice of one, unto all men to justification of life” (Romans 5:18).  But Adam’s demerits reached to the condemnation of others. Much more, therefore, does the merit of Christ reach others.

It is important here to remember that original sin does not impute the guilt of personal sin on each person.  We are born sinners taken as “in sin” because we lack the graces of our first parents, but we are not born sinners taken as “having sinned.”

“As many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27); and it is by grace that it is granted to man to be incorporated with Christ. And thus man’s salvation is from grace.

Summa III, Question 16 (Updated and Completed)

Here are the forthcoming articles to be considered.

Question 16. Things which are applicable to Christ in his being and becoming

  1. Is this true: “God is man”?
  2. Is this true: “Man is God”?
  3. May Christ be called a lordly man?
  4. May what belongs to the Son of Man be predicated of the Son of God, and conversely?
  5. May what belongs to the Son of Man be predicated of the Divine nature, and what belongs to the Son of God of the human nature?
  6. Is this true: “The Son of God was made man”?
  7. Is this true: “Man became God”?
  8. Is this true: “Christ is a creature”?
  9. Is this true: “This man,” pointing out Christ, “began to be”? or “always was”?
  10. Is this true: “Christ as man is a creature”?
  11. Is this true: “Christ as man is God”?
  12. Is this true: “Christ as man is a hypostasis or person”?

I thought it important to leave the original post, which can be seen at the bottom of the page after the footnotes. Here I present the essay:

We must use care when predicating terms of Christ, because He is uniquely one person with two natures.  Any time we speak of things beyond our ordinary experience, we run the risk of speaking falsely; we can barely speak clearly of the things we experience every day. The key to almost every issue we will encounter will be the distinction between concrete and abstract terms, and so we first turn to this, that we may better understand what it is we are doing when we say “A is B.”

We abstract by taking the universal from the particular. Thus we speak of flesh without having to mean “this flesh.” Once we speak of “this flesh,” however, we are predicating a universal to a concrete thing.  We can say of my skin that it is flesh, but we cannot say of “fleshness” that “it is my skin.” We easily recognize here that an abstract can be said of concrete things in some ways but not in others.

It must be observed concerning this communication that concrete names, such as God, man, in opposition to abstract names, such as Godhead, humanity, signify directly the suppositum, and indirectly the nature.1

When we therefore ask if phrases such as “Man is God,” “God is Man,” and “Christ as man is God,” we must distinguish abstract and concrete terms, and care must be taken to affirm that the terms can be predicated of the subject. Many heresies have come about by improper predication of terms to Christ, either because something about Christ was explicitly denied, or because, unintentionally, these things were not thought through.

We are concerned here with what is technically called the communication of idioms. “Idiom” is derived from the Greek and means the same as property in Latin.2 We will see that, when using concrete terms, we can often predicate concrete terms of concrete subjects, but not so when it comes to abstract words of abstract subjects.

We will look at two examples before looking at some of the specific words that can or cannot be predicated of the Incarnate Word.  First, we see this problem when one wishes to say that “Socrates is man” and “Socrates sits,” and then further, asks if one may say that “man sits.”  If the term man signifies a certain man, Socrates, it may well be true.  But we likewise affirm that Socrates is man because of the human nature.  We cannot, in saying that “man sits,” somehow affirm that “humanity sits.”

Secondly, we can and must say, therefore, that Mary is the Mother of God.  We certainly say that God is three persons.  Mary, however, is not the mother of three persons.  The syllogism “Mary is the Mother of Jesus, Jesus is God, therefore Mary is the Mother of God” is therefore true.  The syllogism “Mary is the Mother of God, God is three persons, therefore, Mary is the mother of the Trinity” is certainly not true.

A solid grasp of the reason for the truth of the first syllogism and the falsity of the second will clear up almost all the problems faced when answering the questions posed in Question 16 of the Third part of the Summa Theologica.

However, a failure to understand these distinctions will result, and has resulted, in many an error, as the heresies confirm.  All Christians accept that God is now a man, but not all understand the proposition in the same way.3 Some, failing to understand this as pertaining to a nature of Christ, understood Christ to not be truly God.  Others made the opposite error, seeing Him as a man only “apparently.”

St. Thomas begins his treatment of the Incarnation in the Summa Contra Gentiles by discussing these various heresies.  It cannot be stated too clearly that understanding the way that a word is predicated of the subject, and whether that subject be the Person of Christ or one of His natures, is of extreme importance in properly speaking of the Word Incarnate.

If we speak of the Person of Christ, we may speak of either nature, as long as we do not limit the Person to that nature.  For example, we may affirm statements such as God is man and Man is God, because in each, we are referring to Christ as Person and a nature of Him. In the phrase “God is man,” The word  “man” signifies the suppositum that subsists in the human nature. Likewise, in the phrase “man is God,” the term man stands for the Person of Christ, “For this word “man” may stand for any hypostasis of human nature; and thus it may stand for the Person of the Son of God, Whom we say is a hypostasis of human nature.4

We see then that we may predicate something specific to one nature to the Person of Christ.  We can say, then, as in Article 4, that  what belongs to the Son of Man belongs to the Son of God, because “since there is one hypostasis of both natures, the same hypostasis is signified by the name of either nature.”5

We may not, however, predicate something of one nature to the other.  We cannot, for example, say that “Christ as man is God,” for it is not in virtue of the fact that He is man that He is God, but because of the divine nature, and the fact that He is a Divine Person. Thus the answer to article 5 is in the negative: “in the mystery of Incarnation the Divine and human natures are not the same; but the hypostasis of the two natures is the same. And hence what belongs to one nature cannot be predicated of the other if they are taken in the abstract.”6

In the next two articles, we examine whether one may say that “God was made man” and “Man was made God.” We see that we may affirm the first, but must deny the second. This is because the Person, the second of the Trinity, has always existed, but the Incarnate Christ, and thus His human nature, has not.  God was made man, for Jesus, always and eternally God, became man, and so was made man.

Why can we not say that man became God? A wall that has always existed can be made white, but white cannot be “made a wall,” for white must exist in something.  Now, we do not predicate Christ’s humanity as a metaphysical accident, but we do affirm that its existence is in the Person of Christ.  For man to be made God, we would have to adhere to the heresy of Nestorius, for a man cannot exist without a person existing, and so either this person would have to have been annihilated when He became Christ, or else there would be two persons in Christ. For this reason, we affirm that Mary is the Mother of God, for she is the mother of Christ, the Person.

Nestorius’ preferred title for Mary was Christotokos, and not Theotokos. Of course, many protestants today prefer the title used by Nestorius.  Old heresies reaffirm themselves because of a lack of proper understanding, and when we do not divide Christ into parts as if the man and God were separate. Thus, “the holy virgin gave birth in the flesh to God united with the flesh according to hypostasis, for that reason we call her Theotokos… If anyone does not confess [this], let him be anathema.”7 The title belongs to Mary, but its most important purpose is what it affirms of Christ.

We likewise cannot say that Christ is a creature, or that “this man, pointing to Christ, began to be.”  This is because, when speaking of Christ, we ought to be speaking of the person.  We do not point to someone in speaking of a nature, but of the person.  If we fail to do likewise here, we risk the error of Arius. Christ has a created nature, but Christ is not created, and therefore did not “begin to be.”

When we say something of Christ, speaking simply, we affirm or deny something of Him as Incarnate Person.  However, we may specify that we are speaking of Christ “as man.” We can, say that Christ, as man, is a creature.  For His human nature is created, and thus, as any particular existing instance of human nature, is a creature. We may not say that Christ as man is God.  For the human nature is distinct from the divine, and thus “as man” cannot be equated with “is God.”  The same follows when it is asked if Christ, as man, is a hypostasis or a person.  We must deny this, because the Person is the divine Person, the second of the Trinity. This last question, however, is not so simple, for “man” could be taken in a certain manner, since, as said above, it belongs to a human nature to be in a person. Nevertheless, Thomas suggests its avoidance because of the danger of a Nestorian understanding of the phrase.

It should be clear at this point that care must be taken when predicated one thing of another, for we must know exactly what the term we are predicating is being predicated of. The danger always exists of saying “A is B,” where A is not clearly understood.  If we mean by “A” a nature, and it is understood as being said of the Person (or vice versa), the correct doctrine of the Incarnation can be entirely distorted. History has shown this, and Thomas has done us a great service in clearly laying out not only what may and may not be said of the “Things which are applicable to Christ in his being and becoming,” but the reasons for making such distinctions as well.

Footnotes:

  1. LaGrange, Christ the Savior, pg. 421
  2. Ibid, pg. 420
  3. McDermott, Summa Theologiae: A Concise Translation (pg. 496)
  4. Aquinas, ST III, q. 16, a.2
  5. LaGrange, pg. 423
  6. ST, III, q. 16, a.5
  7. St. Cyril, 3rd letter to Nestorius

Original Post:

This is the future site, to be edited of course, of Question 16, which will be treated differently than the general summaries.  My plan here will be to articulate the terminological issues in detail, so important to understanding what we mean in speaking of Christ, Christ “as man,” etc, and terms such as “God is man” and “man is God” when referring to the Incarnation.

Here are the forthcoming articles to be considered.

  1. Is this true: “God is man”?
  2. Is this true: “Man is God”?
  3. May Christ be called a lordly man?
  4. May what belongs to the Son of Man be predicated of the Son of God, and conversely?
  5. May what belongs to the Son of Man be predicated of the Divine nature, and what belongs to the Son of God of the human nature?
  6. Is this true: “The Son of God was made man”?
  7. Is this true: “Man became God”?
  8. Is this true: “Christ is a creature”?
  9. Is this true: “This man,” pointing out Christ, “began to be”? or “always was”?
  10. Is this true: “Christ as man is a creature”?
  11. Is this true: “Christ as man is God”?
  12. Is this true: “Christ as man is a hypostasis or person”?

I post this now because “it is the office of the wise man to order,” but I , being far from wise, will soon post the summaries of Questions 17-19…and then return to post my essay on Question 16.