Christology of Thomas Aquinas
Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Five and a half centuries are a long time
between the Council of Constantinople which condemned the Monothelites and the
birth of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 A.D.) who climaxed the Church's highest period
of speculative theology. In the interim the science of Christology had not substantially
grown beyond what it was at the end of the patristic age. Yet the person of
Christ was not for that reason less dominant in the lives of the faithful, or
less relevant in the life of the Church. It was only that generations of battling
the Vandal hordes, and more generations in stabilizing European culture precluded
serious academic investigation.
With the rise
of the great universities, first as day schools attached to monasteries or cathedrals
and later as full-blown institutions of higher learning, all branches of human
study grew apace--including the religious sciences. The life and teachings of
Christ became part of these studies, and by the end of the twelfth century we
find a library of manuscript production on every phase of the Incarnation and
If the thirteenth has been called "The Greatest
of Centuries," it is only because during that remarkable period the genius
of Catholicism produced such an array of scholars and saints as the
Church had not known since the patristic age. This was the century of the philosopher
and experimental scientist Roger Bacon (1214-1294), the poets Alighieri Dante
(1265-1321) and Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306), the theologians Bonaventure (1221-1274),
Alexander of Hales (1180-1245), Albertus Magnus (1193-1280), and the statesman
Louis IX of France. (1215-1270).
Among these St.
Thomas Aquinas is commonly ranked the best exponent of the Christian faith at
a time when Roman Catholicism had fairly permeated European society and on
the eve of the Renascence, which introduced new and challenging elements into
for more than meets the uncritical eye. Any hint of labeling him "medieval"
in the pejorative sense betrays ignorance of how truly modern he was. His main
contribution to theology (including Christology) was the lesson he taught of
how to combine the sacred and secular, i.e., the Christian and non-Christian,
in a synthesis that we need especially today.
there is a legitimate sense in which the Christian can be convinced of the
absolute truth of his own position without belittling and much less despising
other religious systems than his own. He may consider his own religion normative
for others, without looking upon them as empty of content or devoid of profound
insight into man's relations with God.
When Thomas Aquinas
built the edifice of Medieval Scholasticism and united the corpus of Christian
revelation into a marvelous synthesis, the structure he used was mainly that
of a "pagan" philosopher, Aristotle, together with borrowings from
Homer, Plato, Virgil, Sallust, Seneca, Horace, two great Islamic writers, Averroes,
Avicenna and the Jewish Sage, Moses Maimonides.
It is only speculation to surmise what would have been
the course of Western religion if the Renascence and Reformation had not occurred.
The Renascence revived interest in classical thought and mythology, discovering
the riches of Homer and Plato, Virgil and Cicero; and the recovery of an appreciation
of the glories of ancient Greece and the splendors of pagan Rome might have
led to a corresponding discovery of the wisdom of China and India, as suggested
by the sixteenth century labors of Matteo Ricci and Robert de Nobili.
But the Renascence
was quickly followed in Northern Europe by the narrowing influence of a new
theology which circumscribed the native capacities of human nature. Instead
of the broad tolerance of Aquinas whose veneration for Aristotle led him to
speak of the Stagirite simply as the Philosopher, "the Calvinistic doctrine
of the inherent depravity of unredeemed
humanity reacted against a sympathetic understanding of pagan religion."
The consequences have been felt for centuries directly in the Protestant tradition
and indirectly, through Jensenism, in Catholic circles. (1) Fortunately they
are being neutralized on all sides by a return
to the wisdom of the early Church, which distinguished in other religions the
authentic spirit of God, whose Truth is not limited to one people or nation,
and the aberrations caused by the weakness of man's intellect because of the
The ancient Fathers, Augustine, Jerome,
and Prosper of Aquitaine said some harsh things about pagan depravity and the
spectacle of a thousand gods. But they never lost sight of the "naturally
Christian soul" described by Tertullian, and even
defended the classical authors against their traducers, as when Gregory Nazianzen
opposed the imprudent zealots who would forbid Christians to learn Greek and
the spirit of this ecumenical outlook, Aquinas brought to theology the wisdom
of the ancient Greeks, the system of the Romans, and a salutary rationalism
from the Jews and Moslems. True he sifted what he found and was the antithesis
of an eclectic who borrows without thinking. But he also used much of what he
discovered, notably the principles of Aristotelianism which have added immensely
to the Church's understanding of the mysteries of faith.
substance and accident, act and potency, matter and form, quality and quantity,
nature and person, cause and effect--to name only a few--were refined and developed
by Aquinas and applied to revelation with consequences that only one who knows
the history of theology can appreciate.
is not confined to any one work but diffused through most of his voluminous
writing. No doubt the Summa Theologica and commentaries on the New Testament
offer the widest range of his thought on the Savior as Incarnate God and Savior
of mankind. But almost everything he wrote breathed of Christ, to a point that
he reminds us of no one more than St. Paul whose preoccupation with Christ
has been called "obsession" by his hostile critics.
In one of his commentaries on the Pauline
letters, he gives some inkling of what Christ meant to him and what he would
like to have the Savior mean to everyone who reads his writings.
Is the mind
filled, you ask, by knowing Christ? Most certainly yes, I reply, for in him
are all the treasures of wisdom. God knows all things and his knowledge is compared
to a treasure: Wisdom is an infinite treasure to men. A treasury is where riches
are amassed, and in divine wisdom all riches are heaped together. All reality
is treasured in the Word, notwithstanding the divine generosity which scatters
goodness abroad, for God pours wisdom "out upon his works, and upon all
flesh, according to his gift."
St. Paul adds
that the treasures are hidden. Things are hidden either because our observation
is poor or because they are covered: we fail to see a light either because we
are blind or it is shuttered. The treasures of understanding and wisdom in
the Word of God are unseen either because our eyes are clouded and not clear,
or because divine truths are eclipsed by creatures and things of flesh. All
the same, creatures are like God, and through the flesh we may catch a glimpse
of him: "for the invisible things of him from the creation of the world
are made manifest, being understood by the things which are made." Moreover,
reflect on the text, "the Word was made flesh."
A man with a
dark lantern has no need to search for a light; all he has to do is to open
the shutter. A man with a book which tells him what he should know has only
to open the book. We have no need to look outside Christ: "I judged not
myself to know anything but Christ Jesus." We know that "when he shall
appear" that is, when God shall be revealed, "we shall be like to
Aquinas followed a logical pattern in his analysis of the cardinal
mystery of Christianity. He began with exploring the reason for the Incarnation,
then the mode of union of two natures which is called hypostatic. The heart
of the study is Christ's human nature in its possession of grace and wisdom,
subject to weakness and suffering, and thereby atoning for the sins of a fallen
Necessity of the Incarnation
St. Augustine had already recognized two kinds of necessity when
we speak of the Incarnation. Thomas used Augustine but clarified him by introducing
his famous distinction between two ways of attaining a purpose or goal, since
in his thinking need always implies means with relation to end. One way is indispensable,
the other is more effective.
A means is judged necessary, he said, either
because the end cannot be secured without it, thus food is necessary for life,
or because the end is better and more suitably reached through it, thus a horse
(or in our day, a car) is necessary for a journey. The first kind of necessity
does not enter into the Incarnation, for God's almighty power could have restored
human nature in many other ways. The necessity was of the second kind, since
other ways were not closed to God, who equally commands everything, but no means
was more appropriate for healing our sinful state. (3)
It is assumed
that God intended to save mankind from its sin, and the only question was how
He would do it: first positively by fostering our advancement in good, and then
negatively by withdrawing us from evil. On both levels, Redemption by way of
Incarnation must have commended itself to God as we see from the experience
of Christians since the time of Christ.
Under the first
heading let us take faith. We have better guarantee when we believe that God
himself is speaking to us. It was that we might set forth more trustfully to
the truth that the Son of God, having become man, founded and built faith. Next,
take hope, so highly lifted up, for what better could have raised our hope than
this proof of God's deep love for us, what more cogent than the Son of God deigning
to become our partner in human nature? Then take charity, thereby strongly enkindled,
for what mightier cause is there for the Lord's coming than to show us his love?
If we have been slow to love in the past let us now hasten to love in return.
Again, take right conduct, where an example is set us. Man can be seen but should
not be followed, God should be followed but cannot be seen, and therefore God
became man that he might both be seen and followed. Finally, with regard to
our full sharing in the divinity, which is our true end and bliss bestowed on
us through Christ's manhood, Augustine says that he became man that man might
become God. (4)
function of the Incarnation is surprising. Besides being secondary to the positive
purpose God had in becoming man, it involves the admission of something that
many today would demythologize: the role of the evil spirit in man's original
fall and of sinfulness which demands an act of mercy on the part of God.
Under the second
heading, let us first meditate on how man is taught by the Incarnation not to
rank the devil above himself or to be cowed by the author of evil. When a human
nature can be so joined to God that there is but one person there, let no proud
spirits vaunt themselves above men because they are unearthly and without flesh.
We are also taught how great is human dignity lest we sully it with sin. God
has now shown us the high place human nature holds in creation, for he entered
into it by genuinely becoming man. "You are made a partner of the divine
nature: refuse, then to return to your former worthlessness by degenerate intercourse."
In order to do
away with our presumption, the grace of God is commended in Jesus Christ, through
no preceding merits of our own. Man's pride, his greatest hindrance to clinging
to God, is rebuked and cured by humility so great. Finally, in order to free
us from the bondage of sin: this should be done in such a way that the devil
is overthrown by the justice of a man, and by Christ making satisfaction for
us. A mere man could not make satisfaction for the whole human race, and this
is no office of God's. How right, then, that our Savior should be both God and
man. Pope Leo says that weakness is assumed by strength, lowliness by majesty,
mortality by immortality, in order that one and the
same mediator between God and men might die in the one and rise in the other.
(6) Unless he were God, he could not have brought the remedy; unless he were
man, he could not have set the example. (7)
Leaning on Augustine's
authority, Thomas holds that God became man only because man had become estranged
from God. Therefore, if man had not sinned, the Son of Man would not have come.
So there was no cause for Christ to come into this world except to save sinners;
abolish disease and injury and there is no call for medicine.
differently on the point. Some hold that even if man had not fallen the Son
of God would have become incarnate. Others hold the contrary. "Personally
I think their opinion is to be preferred."
His rule of interpretation
is: deeds done by the divine will above our deserving can come to our knowledge
only when revealed in the Bible which declares God's intentions to us. There
the motive for the Incarnation is always put down to man's sin. Consequently
it is safer to teach that the Incarnation was ordained by God as a remedy for
sin, and that if sin had not been committed, the Incarnation would not have
taken place. "Nevertheless," he concludes, "God's power should
not be circumscribed. He might have become incarnate even if sin had never entered
the world." (8)
To remove a popular
misconception, Aquinas was asked and answered whether the Incarnation was directed
to remove only original sin. Emphatically not! God became man to remit every
kind of deviation from them
inherited and personal. "Christ came to take away sin...all sin."
Yet there is some priority of purpose. The sin we contract on entering life,
though less grave and guilty than actual sins, is more widespread. To that extent,
it may be said that Christ came principally to take away original sin. Intimated
in the Baptists's observation, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away
the sins of the world," is the sinfulness of the world, common to everyone
through parental descent from Adam. (9)
If we examine
the matter still more closely, we see that the reason for the Incarnation may
be viewed from our side--where the purpose was redemption--or from Gods' side,
and then the motive was His infinite love.
loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes
in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The cause of every good that comes to us is God and his love.
To love is to wish a person well, and since God's will is the cause of things,
blessings are showered on us because he loves us. It is his love which causes
every perfection, of nature and of grace: "I have loved thee with an everlasting
love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee."
His giving of
grace issues from great friendship, yes, the very greatest, as appears on four
counts. First, because of the person of the lover--God so loved the world. Then,
because of the condition of the beloved, that is, human beings, earthly and
sinful: God commendeth his love towards us, for when we were enemies, we were
reconciled to God by the death of his
Son. Also because of the magnificence of the gift, for, as Gregory observes,
love is proved by deeds. God gives us the costliest gift, his own Son, of same
substance with himself, natural, not adopted, his only Son, not one among many,
who holds all his love. So does he commend his love for us. Lastly, because
of the richness of the fruit, everlasting life, giving which he gives himself,
for everlasting life is enjoying God. (10)
The value of
looking at the Incarnation from God's viewpoint is to measure it with the rod
of infinity, and to expect from Christ infinitely more than just deliverance
from evil. If the function of love is to communicate benefits, when Love itself
becomes incarnate there is no limit to its generosity towards mankind.
The essence of
the mystery of the Incarnation is the hypostatic union, which Chalcedon defined
as the union of two real natures, human and divine, in the one person of the
Logos of the Father.
St. Thomas begins
with a definition of the crucial terms, nature and person, with
a distinction between them that is one of the highlights in the history of Christology.
"Nature," he explains, specifies what a thing is; "person"
individualizes a thing by giving it concrete existence. He explores the
connotations which this difference implies, and comes to grips with the only
real problem in the mystery: Why was the humanity of Christ capable of being
assumed by the divinity? Why, in other words, was it not incommunicable, as
Nestorius claimed, while remaining in every other sense a genuine human nature?
We shall follow
Thomas' reasoning process, putting into free translation his long treatment
of the subject in the Disputed Questions, and the Union of the Word
Incarnate, as the clearest exposition of the meaning of the hypostatic union
in Christian theology.
To make the question
clear he considers, first, what nature is, secondly, what person
is, and thirdly, how the union of the Incarnate Word is of person, not of nature.
The term nature
was first used about the nativity, or the being born, of living things,
plants and animals, and later applied to their inborn qualities. Because native
principles are intrinsic (and not imposed from without, as in the case of the
violent and artificial) the term later came to signify the inward principle
of motion; in this sense nature is the principle of instinctive impulses
which well up essentially from within the subject and not from outside. And
because such natural movement, as we especially see in the generative activity,
reaches to a thing of a specific kind, the term, nature comes last of
all to stand for the determinate kind, type, or essence, signified
by the definition. Thus, Boethius speaks of a nature as of the informing specific
differences in a thing. (11) In this sense do we speak of nature in the present
what the term person implies, we should see that if there be a thing
in which there is only a specific essence, that specific essence will be
individually complete in itself; the complete substance and the nature will
be really identical, and merely logically distinct. By nature he means
the specific essence, and by person the complete substance. (12) But
if there be any reality in a thing distinct from the specific essence (which
is signified by the definition), whether that be accident or individual matter,
then the complete substance will not wholly coincide with the specific nature,
but will possess some additional reality. Such is the case with anything composed
of matter and form, and also with a person, which Boethius defines as an individual
substance of rational nature. (13)
So then, what
prevents a reality from being united in person, and not in nature? For an individual
substance of a rational nature possesses some reality not proper to his specific
nature; this belongs to his person, not his nature. Here we have a hint how
human nature can be conceived to be united to the person, and not the nature,
of the Word of God, and how manhood can be attributed, not to the divine nature,
but to the person of the Word who assumes it.
by Division. Doubt and
dissension crop up when we start explaining the manner of this conjunction.
For, in the usual run of things, when one reality is joined to another, both
either fuse essentially or remain separate things arranged together, that is
accidentally united. (14) Nestorius, therefore, and Theodore of Mopsuestia before
him, were persuaded that human nature was conjoined to the Word accidentally,
namely through the indwelling of grace; he meant that the Word was in the man
Christ like a divinity in a temple. Here we should notice that when any substance
is accidentally conjoined to another it keeps its own exclusive singularity,
like the garment a man puts on, or the house which shelters him. Consequently,
on this reading, the man Christ would have kept his own distinctive singularity,
which is his personality. The Nestorian conclusion was that the human personality
of Christ was distinct from the divine personality; the Son of Man is one thing,
the Son of God another; and the Blessed Virgin was acknowledged as the Mother
disagrees with the Scriptures, which speak differently of Christ and of men
in whom the Word of God dwells by grace; of such prophets it is said that the
Word of God comes, but of Christ that "the Word was made flesh," that
is, a man: the meaning is that the Word of God becomes personally a man. St.
Paul speaks of this union as an emptying of the Son of God, (15) not a phrase
one would choose to signify indwelling by grace, otherwise it could be applied
to the Father and the Holy Ghost who come to us: "if any man love me, my
Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him;
and, the Spirit dwells with you, and shall be in you." (16) For these and
other reasons this error was condemned at the Council of Ephesus.
while sustaining the doctrine that human nature was assumed by the Word yet
remained separate, and wanting also to avoid having to profess a duality of
persons, held that the Word assumed soul and body before they were united and
before human personality had been constituted. The main difficulty about this
interpretation is that Christ would not have been a true man, for human nature
is composed of this union of body and soul. Their error was condemned by the
Council of Tours presided over by Alexander III. (17)
Union by Confusion.
Others swung to the opposite extreme. They held that human nature entered essentially
into the Word, and that one nature was formed from the divine and human nature.
Appolinaris of Laodicea put out three dogmatic points. Pope Leo touches on them
in his letter to the clergy and people of Constantinople. (18) The first was that the Word took the place of soul,
and so came to the flesh: one nature was formed from the Word and the flesh,
as with us one nature is formed from soul and body. Here Apollinaris followed
Nestorius. But because the Holy Scriptures refer to Christ's soul--"I have
the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it up again," (19)
he modified his teaching, and declared, secondly, that in Christ there was an
animal or sensitive soul, but not a rational soul: the Word substituted for
a human mind in the man Christ. This conclusion, which cannot be justified,
is refuted by Augustine: it would mean that the Word assumed an animal nature,
but not a human nature. His third point, that the flesh of Christ was not taken
from a woman but was wrought from the Word who is thereby altered and changed,
is simply impossible. Apollinaris was accordingly condemned at the Council of
Constantinople. Eutyches, who followed his third tenet, had been condemned at
the Council of Chalcedon.
If the union
were not in person, but only by an indwelling, as Nestorius taught, then the
Incarnation would have brought nothing fresh. On the other hand, for the union
to be of natures, as Apollinaris and Eutyches taught, is out of the question:
species are like numbers; add or subtract, and you change them. A properly constituted
nature cannot be incremented by another nature, and if another was added then
the resulting nature would not be the same as before. The divine nature is quite
complete, and cannot possibly be added to; for that matter, human nature is
complete enough to disallow the entrance of another nature. In any case, the
result would be a compound, neither divine nor human, and Christ would be neither
man nor God, which is inadmissible.
in One Person. We are led then to the conclusion that human nature
is united to the Word neither essentially nor accidentally, but substantially,
hypostatically, and personally, substance here means the hypostasis, or complete
thing. Among created beings, no example is nearer than that given by the Athanasian
Creed, namely, of the union of rational soul with body. The analogy is not with
the soul as the form of body, for the Word's relation to human nature cannot
be like that of form to matter, but with the soul as using the body as its instrument.
In this case the instrument is inborn and conjoined, not adventitious and extraneous:
wherefore Damascene calls human nature the organ of the Word. (20) A closer
example is mentioned by Augustine: imagine a cosmic soul, as in fact some do,
which takes material disposed to receive all forms, and makes of it one person
with itself. (21)
all such examples fall short: thus, to mention one point, principal cause and
instrumental cause working together form an accidental whole. Indeed, the Incarnation
is a unique union, surpassing every communion known to us. As God is his existence
and goodness, so is he essentially his unity. And as his virtue is not limited
to the styles of existence and goodness discoverable among creatures, but is
capable of expressing itself in manners hitherto undreamt of, so by his infinite
power can he make a union in which human nature is taken into the person of
the Word. Augustine says about this mystery that, if explanation be sought,
let us acknowledge that it is a marvel, and if precedent, then that there was
nothing like it before; what God can do let us own we cannot probe, for in such
cases the whole reason of the fact lies in the might of the maker. (22)
Since Thomas penned the foregoing, theologians
have struggled to unravel his meaning. After centuries of controversy in the
early Church, the councils finally clarified the broad outlines of faith: in
Christ the two natures are not two persons (Nestorius), nor does the divinity
substitute for the rational soul (Apollinaris), nor is the humanity absorbed
into the divinity to lose its truly human nature (Eutyches).
With these to
build on, Aquinas argued there must be something more to personality than to
nature, and he identified this "more" as the real act of complete
existence. Thus existence tells us that a thing is, while knowledge
of its nature tells us what a thing is. To know that a thing exists
is very different from knowing that particular nature it has.
an individual nature receives the quality of incommunicability which describes
a person from its own act of existence, something quite distinct from the kind
of nature it has. Why, for example, is the human nature I possess not
communicable to any other individual of the human family? Precisely because
I exist as a complete, autonomous substance. Therefore, if a human nature
lacked what is normally (except for a sublime miracle) its natural complement,
namely actual existence, it would not be a human person.
This is Thomas'
explanation of what occurred at the Incarnation. The humanity of Christ had
all that was required for the perfection of a human nature--body and soul, faculties
and emotions--all that we have completely. Yet it came into existence and remains
so for eternity not by its own natural act of existence (as happens with everyone
else) but by the infinite subsistence of the Second Person of the Trinity. Christ
is therefore a divine Person because His act of existence, which identifies
personality, is not human but divine.
Grace and Wisdom
It is difficult to describe the relationship
of Christ's human nature to the divine because we have nothing like it in our
experience. The nearest analogy is that of instrument to its vital agent, where
the humanity was instrumental to the Word of God.
We should expect an instrument to correspond
in quality and precision with the character of the one using it and the delicacy
of the work to be done. Where the agent is the Second Person of the Trinity
and the task is man's redemption, the humanity would have to be of exquisite
perfection to qualify for such sublime instrumentality. Revelation assures
us this was the case, and describes the Savior as growing in grace and wisdom,
on His human side, from infancy through childhood to adult age.
in Christ. Aquinas first considers Christ's fullness of
grace. The term grace, he explains, suggests two ideas, not far removed
from one another: first, of being in favor; second, of being given a present.
For we give gratis to those who are after our own heart and to our liking. We
may like them either reservedly or unreservedly; reservedly, when we would give
them what is ours, but without entering into intimacy; unreservedly, when we
would draw them close to us according to the kind and degree of our liking.
Consequently, anybody who has grace has received a gift, but not everybody who
has received a gift is held dear. Hence two sorts of grace can be distinguished,
one is only a free gift, the other is also a grant of friendship.
Of course by the very force of the idea, grace is never
a matter of right. There are two kinds of right, namely, what is due to what
we are and what is due to what we do. The first is involved in
the demands of our nature; thus it is due that man should have reason and hands
and feet; the second is what we deserve by our acts, for example, the reward
for labor. All the gifts freely given to men by God surpass the claims of nature
and are not acquired by merit--though supernatural rewards are not without
the name and style of grace, for grace is the principle of merit, "the
gift of God is eternal life," and they are given more abundantly than we
Now some of these
gifts, while exceeding the powers of human nature and granted without our deserving,
do not of themselves make us pleasing to God; for example, the gift of prophecy,
the working of miracles, special gifts of knowledge and teaching, and so forth.
They do not join us to God, though they reflect some divine likeness to God,
and have some share in divine goodness, as do all things. But there are also
other gifts, freely given, which render us dear to God and united to Him.
Union with God
can be by affection or by substance. The first is through charity. St. Paul
says that without charity all the other gifts profit nothing. (24) Such grace
is common to all the saints. The second union is more than an identification
by love and divine indwelling, but is the real unity of one single person or
hypostasis. Jesus Christ alone has this unity; he is both God and man. This
is the singular grace of being joined to God as one single person; a gift freely
given, exceeding natural power, rewarding no merits, and making Christ most
dear to God: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
graces lies a difference. The first is an habitual state of soul infused by
God; the soul cleaves to God by an act of love, a perfect act coming from a habit. But the substantial
existence of two natures conjoined in one person is not a habit. The nearer
a created reality comes to God the nearer it shares in his goodness and the
more lavish the gifts which fill it: the closer the flame, the greater the warmth
and light. Nothing nearer to God than a human nature hypostatically united to
Him could exist or be thought of.
As a result Christ's soul is more full
of grace than any other soul. This habitual grace, however, did not lead up
to the hypostatic union, but flowed from it. This is suggested by the Evangelist's
turn of speech: "We beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of
the Father, full of grace and truth." (26) The man Christ is the only begotten
of the Father. Because he is the Word made flesh, was he made full of grace
of nobility is more conspicuous when it gives to others; the brightness of light
is judged by the area it illuminates. From Christ's fullness grace is outpoured
on us. The Son of God was made man that men might be made gods and become the
children of God: "When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his
Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the
law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." (27)
this overflow of grace and truth Christ is called the Head of the Church. Motion
and sensation spread from the head to other members within the same organism:
"God has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over
all things to the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him that fills
all in all." (28) He can be called the head, not only of man, but also
of angels. because of his dignity and efficacy, not because he is himself of
angelic nature: "God raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right
hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might,
and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also
in that which is to come." (29)
with St. Thomas: theological tradition ascribes to Christ a threefold grace.
First, the grace of hypostatic union, whereby a human nature is united in person
to the Son of God. Second, sanctifying grace, the fullness of which distinguishes
Christ above all others. Third, his grace as head of the Church. All three are
duly set out by the Evangelist: first: "the Word was made flesh;"
second, "and we beheld his glory full of grace and truth;" third,
"and of his fullness we have all received." (30)
Two-fold Wisdom in Christ. Although
the Evangelist speaks of Christ's growth in grace and wisdom in the same context,
actually the two concepts differ widely in the Savior. He possessed grace only
as man, since anything like favor or a gift received by God is impossible--God
cannot be enriched.
But His wisdom
is otherwise. Since in Him there are two natures, the divine and the human,
whatever is credited to either must be doubled if it can be doubled. Wisdom
is duplicable, analogously, in the Creator and in His intelligent creatures.
Consequently we profess two wisdoms in Christ, the uncreated wisdom of God and
the created wisdom of man. As the Word of God, he is the conceived and begotten
wisdom of the Father: Christ and the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (31)
As a man, two kinds of knowledge can be distinguished, one is godlike, the other
springs from human effort.
He beheld God's
essence and all things in God: that we are bound to say. For the master principle
of a movement should be high above the process of movement. The vision of God,
in which our eternal salvation is achieved, was rightly anticipated in the
author of our salvation. We are the subjects of the process; he is the origin.
From the beginning of his life he saw God; unlike the blessed, he did not arrive
at the vision of God.
No one was so
near to God. Rightly then was his beatific knowledge greater than any other
persons's. For there are degrees of vision; God, the cause of all things, is
beheld more clearly by some than by others. A cause is seen the more fully the
more effects we perceive in it, for the power of a cause is known only by its
effects, which, as it were, measure its range. Some gaze on more effects and
see their divine meaning better than do others who also see God: theologians
work with this clue when they arrange the hierarchies of angels, where the higher
ranks instruct the lower. Christ's human soul is set above all other created
intelligent substances. With perfect insight he beheld all God's works, past,
present, and future. He enlightens the highest angels. In him "are hid
all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (32) All things are naked and opened
unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." (33)
Not that his
soul attained to comprehension of the Divinity. For comprehending means knowing
an object as much as it can be known. God's infinite being is infinite truth,
and no created mind, even though knowing the infinite, can know it infinitely,
or by seeing God can comprehend him. Christ's soul is created, as all about
his human nature was created, otherwise no other nature would exist in Christ
apart from the divine nature which alone is uncreated.
He is the person
of the Word, uncreated and single in two natures; it is for this reason that
we do not say that Christ was a creature simply speaking, for his proper name
indicates his personality. But we can speak of his body or soul as created.
His uncreated wisdom, not his human mind, comprehends God: "No man knows
the Son but the Father; neither knows any man the Father, save the Son."
(34) His soul, therefore, does not know all God's possible actions, nor all
his reasons for acting. All the same, even as man, he is set by God as governor
over all creation. Fittingly then he sees in God everything that God does, and
in this sense can be called omniscient.
beatific knowledge in which things are known in the vision of God, there is
another mode of knowledge. This starts from creatures themselves. Angels know
things in the Word by their "morning" knowledge; they know things
as natural objects in themselves by their "evening" knowledge. Now
this second mode of knowing differs in men and in angels, for men acquire knowledge
from their senses, discerning meanings in phenomena through the process of abstraction,
whereas angels have an infused knowledge, and carry from their creation the
impression of the meaning and likeness of things. Then to both men and angels
is given supernatural communication with divine mysteries, and to foster this
knowledge angels are enlightened by angels, and men are instructed by prophetic
revelation. Since no created nobility should be denied to Christ's soul, which
of all souls is the most excellent, it is fitting that, in addition to the beatific
vision, three other types of knowledge should be possessed.
The first is
the empirical knowledge which other men, also enjoy, for it is proper to human
nature that truth should be discovered through the senses. The second is divinely
infused, and informs the mind about all truths which human knowledge reaches
or can reach, for it is right that the human nature assumed by the Word of God,
which restores human nature, should itself lack no human perfection. The third
concerns the mystery of grace. Since Christ was not only the restorer of human
nature but also the propagator of grace, he also most fully knew those truths
exceeding reason which can be perceived by the Gift of Wisdom and the spirit
To sum up:
Christ's soul was raised to the highest level of knowledge possible to any created
mind, first, as regards seeing God's essence and all things in God, secondly,
by knowing the mysteries of grace, and thirdly, all objects of human knowledge.
Here no advance was possible. Obviously in course of time Christ's bodily senses
grew more experienced about their environment, and therefore his empirical knowledge
could increase. "The boy grew in wisdom and stature." (35) The text
can be differently interpreted, to mean, not that he grew wiser, but that his
wisdom grew more manifest and instructive to others. It was a providential dispensation
to show that he was like other men, for had he displayed adult wisdom in boyhood,
the mystery of the Incarnation might well have appeared a piece of play-acting.
On His own testimony,
Christ revealed both sides of His existence, the humble and human together with
the sublime and divine. On one side: "My Father is greater than I,"
and "My soul is sorrowful even unto death." (37) But on the other
side, "I and the Father are one," and "All things that the Father
has are mine." (38)
His actions also manifest His two natures: the human
in that He feared, grieved, hungered, and died; the divine, in that by His own
power He cured the sick, raised the dead to life, commanded the elements, cast
out devils, forgave sins, rose again when He willed, and ascended into heaven.
Why did the Son
of God assume the infirmities of human nature when absolutely speaking He could
have redeemed us without any suffering? One reason was that He wished to build
up our belief in the Incarnation. Always the needs of faith come first. For
since we experience human nature by undergoing trials, had He not gathered them
in, He might have seemed, not a real man of flesh and blood, but a ghostly semblance,
as the Manichaeans and Docetists held. St. Paul is emphatic: "He emptied
Himself, taking upon Himself the form of a servant, being made in the likeness
of men, and being found in the fashion of a man." (39) It was in this way
that the apostle Thomas, symbolic of all of us, was helped to believe the moment
he saw the wounds of the risen Savior.
however, Christ underwent the limitations of human nature as a means of meriting
our salvation. Behind His experience of our weakness stands the idea of vicarious
expiation. Injustice can be undone by justice, evil by goodness, whether of
the man who did wrong or, of a friend who pays in his stead. As Thomas puts
it: "Fairness demands that a man who owes a debt because of his wrongdoing
should be set free on paying the penalty. What our friends do and endure on
our behalf are in a sense our own deeds and sufferings, for friendship is a
mutual power uniting two persons and making them somehow one. For this reason
a man may be justly discharged because his friend has made restitution."
Our debt of reparation
began with the fall of Adam and Eve. With their sin, perdition fell on all
their progeny. No single human being could have justly repaired the injury
thus done the divine majesty, especially when we add to Adam's sin the cumulative
malice of mankind from the dawn of history to the end of time. No one man could
offer in strict compensation for the wrong in which everybody shares. Nor would
it have been sufficient for an angel or some superior creature, moved by love
of the human race, to try to make amends. Angels, too, are only creatures and
subject to the same finite capacity of expiation as we.
God alone is
of such infinite dignity that atonement can be complete in the flesh he assumes.
His human nature, therefore, existed in such a condition that expiation could
be made for the sins of everybody. But not all penalties which men incur are
of the kind that renders satisfaction. Sin has two phases, the turning to transient
advantage, and the consequent
turning away from God. Punishment corresponds to both, for, first, a man is
hurt by the shortcomings of the things he has chosen to give him
pleasure, and, secondly, he has lost grace and the other gifts of God's friendship.
How right it is that he should be reclaimed through his very vexation and sadness
over the fleeting pleasures to which he has committed himself. As for the penalties
which separate him from God, these tell against recovery, for what satisfaction
can be offered when the heart is graceless, the mind ignorant, the desires deranged?
All these are the penal effect of sin. It is from the other phase of sin that
satisfaction can spring, namely, from the sinner's own experience of inward
grief and outward loss.
That Christ should assume those consequences of sin which keep men
away from God cannot be entertained. How could they have enabled him to make
restitution? Indeed he had to be full of grace and wisdom. But the other failings
in which man has landed
himself, death and distress of mind and body, these Christ chose to share, that
by laying down his life for men He might redeem them.
common sufferings fall differently on him and on us. We incur them willy-nilly,
for we are born of tainted stock. But Christ, who was born immaculate, chose
to accept them. Our weaknesses are inherited, his are adopted. He could have
embraced human nature without them, as he did without stigma of blame. It stands
to reason that he who is free from wrong should be free also from punishment.
Hence He was clearly under no necessity, either congenital or legal, of bearing
our weaknesses. Instead, He freely shouldered them.
Our bodily disabilities
are punishments for sin. We were exempt from them before our lapse. Christ put
them on, and accordingly is said to have worn the likeness of sin: "God
sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned in
the flesh." (41) Here St. Paul calls suffering sin. Also, "in that
He dies unto sin once." (42) And, what is more of a marvel, Christ was
"made a curse for us;" (43) by taking on Himself the weight of pain
He broke up the burden of our crimes and their penalties.
our bodily afflictions are of two kinds: some are common to all, for instance,
hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain, death; others are special to individuals, for
instance, blindness, leprosy, fever, bodily injury. There is this difference
between them: the former are inherited by our descent from our first parents,
the latter are induced by individual factors. No reason existed in Christ why
He should have been subject to any afflictions, either from His soul, united
to the Word of God and full of grace and wisdom, or from his body, well knit,
healthy, and formed from the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.
By His own dispensation
He laid Himself open to the weakness deriving from our common origin, and He
did this in order to earn our salvation. But since He came to restore human
nature, He took those only which are everybody's heritage, not those peculiar
to individual cases. Damascene says that He assumed our ineradicable defects.
(44) Had He submitted Hiself to ignorance and gracelessness, or even to leprosy
or blindness, He might have been dishonored or lowered in men's estimation,
for which His sharing in our common lot gives no occasion. (45)
we may say that Christ assumed our human weakness not from compulsion but from
choice, and not for His benefit but for ours. This benefit runs the spectrum
of divine generosity: from removal of sin to the conferral of grace, and from
the least to the highest virtue that His example was intended to evoke.
To make sure
there is no doubt what this meant, Aquinas stressed the fact that Christ was
not only able to suffer but actually did so. Without actual suffering, there
would have been no satisfaction or merit. "Nobody is called good or bad
from how they can act, but from how they do act. Praise and blame
are awarded for performance, not for promise. For this reason Christ assumed
not only our vulnerability in order to save us, but also, to make good our sins,
chose actual sufferings." (46)
For us he underwent the suffering owing to us from original
sin, sufferings which culminate in death: "the wages of sin is
death." (47) He willed to suffer death for our sins so that he might pay
the price and free us from the charge of death, although he himself was without
crime. He also willed that his own death should not only make redress for us,
but also be a sacrament of salvation, in that by the likeness of his death we
may die to carnal life and be carried over into spiritual life: "Christ
has suffered once for
our sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put
to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit." (48)
Death also he willed in order that by dying he might
leave us a perfect example of virtue. Of charity, "for greater love has
no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (49) Of fortitude,
which cannot be stronger that when holding fast to righteousness despite mortal
fear: "consider him that endured such contradiction against himself, lest
you be wearied and faint in your minds." (50) Of patience, for he did not
allow himself to be overwhelmed by sadness, but calmly sustained death, as was
spoken of him in prophecy, "he was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet
he opened not his mouth." (51) Of obedience, for the greater the task the
more famous the obedience: "he became obedient unto death, even the death
of the cross." (52)
Some have charged Thomas with neglecting
the role of Christ as exemplary cause of our salvation, that he practically
ignored the need we have of following a pattern of virtue in doing the will
of God. It is true that
Aquinas lays more stress on the function of Christ's meritorious suffering,
but he by no means overlooks what has since become (mainly through Ignatius
Loyola) the mainstay, of Christian spirituality, namely, the following of Christ
who is the perfect model for us to imitate.
He quotes Augustine
to the effect that the Cross was not only a victim's scaffold but also a teacher's
rostrum. There we can learn every virtue: obedience to God, even as Christ humbled
Himself and was obedient unto death; love and care for our parents, charity
towards our neighbor, and prayer for our enemies; there we see patience in adversity
and how to persevere to the end.
In the final
analysis, only human beings can suffer. Animals have physical pain but, without
spiritual faculties their pain never becomes reflective and much less a matter
of volitional choice.
If the causes
of pain in Christ were manifold, the rational experience of pain and its deliberate
acceptance came only from one source, the human will He possessed as a true
Son of Man. It is worth reviewing with Aquinas the basis of Catholic teaching
that Christ had two wills, a divine and human, and the various aberrations
that called into question Christ's finite volition and power of created liberty.
In a few paragraphs he brings together the whole of past history on the subject
and makes his own synthesis.
"Father, if you be willing, remove this chalice
from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done." (53) Those were
the words of Christ's prayer in the Garden. Ambrose reminds us that mine
is the will he calls his own, mine the sorrow he took; and he explains,
that his own will refers to the man, his Father's to the Godhead; the human
will is temporal, the divine will is eternal.
Some have taught there was only one will in Christ, but
not all were
persuaded by the same arguments. Apollinaris maintained there was no rational
soul in Christ, but that the Word took the place of the soul and even of mind:
and since, as Aristotle says, the will is in the reason, (55) it would follow
that in Christ there was no human will, but one single will. Eutyches likewise,
and all who held there was but one composite nature in Christ, were compelled
to allow but one will. Nestorius, too, came to the same conclusion, though from
the different premises that the union was one of will and affection. Later,
Macarius, Patriarch of Antioch, Cyrus of Alexandria, and Sergius of Constantinople,
and some of their followers, taught that there was but one will in Christ, although they held there were two
natures united in one hypostasis: this was because they believed that Christ's
human nature was not active with its own motion, but only because it was moved
by the Godhead, as appears from the synodical letter of Pope Agatho. (56)
Hence the decision
of the Sixth General Council, held at Constantinople, that we must confess,
in accordance with what the prophets of old and Christ himself taught us, handed
down in the creeds, two natural wills in Christ and two natural operations.
was opportune. For it is certain that the Son of God assumed a perfect human
nature. Now the will
is like the
mind, a natural power which is part of the perfection of human nature; hence
we must say that the Son of God assumed a human will together with human nature.
By the assumption of a human nature the Son of God suffered no diminution of
his divine nature, to which a will also is attributed. Therefore, we are bound
to profess two wills in Christ, one human, the other divine.
While St. Thomas
did not coin the expression, theandric, he made it his own and used it
to help explain how the two natures in Christ co-existed and particularly how
His two wills cooperated.
The term "God-human"
activity (energia Theandrike) goes back to Dionysius the Areopagite (about
500 A.D.). For a time, it was misused by those who misunderstood Christ's unity
in duality. But long before Aquinas, theandric was the canonized form
of describing the relationship of Christ's twofold nature in operation.
At the highest level Christ acted as the
Logos of the Father, where His operations of mind and will proceeded
from the Godhead, in common with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Technically
these actions are purely divine and not theandric. They are produced by the
Second Person (principium quod = operating source) through the divine
nature as operating means (principium quo). Such would be the creation,
conservation and providence of the world.
As we approach Christ the God-man, His
actions are also "God-manly," hence theandric (Theos = God,
andros = man). Yet not all in the same way. Some things which Christ
did and does are done by His divinity using the human nature only as instrument,
and these are theandric in the strict sense. Another name would be "God-through-man"
produced activities. They cover all the operations that God performed (performs)
in the person of Christ in such a way that the divine nature produced the effect
through the human nature as subordinate instrument agent. The miracles
of Christ, His teaching the mysteries of faith, His instituting the Church and
sacraments--in a word everything which God alone could know or do, when done
by Christ, was done with the cooperation of His humanity as channel or vehicle
of the Deity. Theologians prefer to call these "mixed " actions, to
distinguish them from those which only God or only man can perform.
series of actions performed by the Savior are also theandric, where the
accent is on the human agent working in personal union with the divinity. These
may be described as "man-with-God" produced activities, which by themselves
are done by other people but in Christ (who is Man-God) become the actions of
God. Seeing and hearing, speaking and walking, suffering and dying are human
acts. In Christ, however, their operating source (principium quod) is
the Second Person while their operating instrument (principium quo is the human
nature, yet differently than in the preceding where the stress is on the God-man.
Here the accent is on the Man-God.
Aquinas has the
great merit of clarity, due in large measure to adopting the philosophy of Aristotle.
At this point, he introduces a subtle factor that should bring the sufferings
of Christ into closer, and more imitable, focus. We may speak of three kinds
of appetitive drive in man: one in the lower faculties of sense and bodily emotions,
another on the higher level of non-deliberate volition-- as a spontaneous reaction
to desire the pleasant and dread the painful, and on the highest level the power
of deliberate choice--which alone determines merit and character.
As before, the
biblical evidence is the struggle that Jesus endured in the Garden. That it
was a struggle shows He was typically human, that He overcame the urge to resist
shows He was consciously free; but both factors prove that He was a man, with
a will distinct from that of God--because it shrank from suffering (which we
all naturally do) and yet freely accepted the suffering (which we often fail
I will, but what you will," these words of our Lord show that he willed
an object his Father did not will: this will, according to Augustine, could
be only from his human heart, since he transfigured our weakness, not into his
divine love, but into his human love.
We have already
noted in Christ's human nature a twofold power of will, the sensitive appetite
or derivative will, and the rational appetite, which acts both non-deliberately
and deliberately. When he embarked on his passion he allowed his flesh to do
and suffer whatever was natural to it. In like manner he allowed the powers
of his soul to follow their bent. Clearly it is the nature of the sensitive
appetite to shrink from bodily pain and hurt. So also the non-deliberate will
shrinks from what is hostile to nature and what by itself is evil, such as death
and the like. For example, the emotions and instinctive will of an ordinary
man shrink from cauterization, which may yet be chosen all the same for the
sake of health. It was God's will that Christ should undergo pain, suffering,
and death, not for themselves, but for the sake of human salvation. Hence his
sensitive appetite and non-deliberate will could want what God did not will
though deliberately he will always what God willed: "nevertheless, not
what I will, but as you will." By his reasoned will he willed to fulfill
God's will; by another will he showed that he wished otherwise. (58)
We should be
quick to add that though Christ's sensitive and instinctive will wished what
God did not will, He was not torn by contradictions. He did not reject the
reason which moved His divine will and deliberative human will to choose the
Passion. Always His unconditional will was for human salvation. It was neither
frustrated nor delayed by His emotions and natural instincts.
mental agony was not such that His will suffered a conflict of reasons, as happens
with us when we are caught with a divided mind. This comes from our weakness
and inability to know what is simply best in a given situation. Christ had no
doubt that the best course for Him was to suffer if we were to be saved.
If the Incarnation
was determined by God because of man's sin, so the sufferings and death of Christ
were chosen because they are so effective in redeeming from sin. Absolutely
speaking, God might have saved man without the Passion, but then we should have
been deprived of innumerable benefits.
Seeing God suffering in His humanity
proves as nothing else how much He loves us, since the willingness to endure
pain is a perfect index to measure the depth of one's love. In the same way,
Christ's suffering reflected a host of virtues-‑obedience, humility, constancy
and justice--all lucid examples for us to follow. But most important is the
ontological relation between Christ's death and our redemption. It was through
His pains that we were redeemed.
Christ's Passion is the cause of our salvation
in various ways-- efficient cause when to His Godhead (as God He is the creator
of divine grace); the meritorious cause when related to His human will (He freely
chose to suffer death in His body); the satisfying cause in that it liberates
us from the debt of punishment (Christ vicariously suffered that we might be relieved of pain that was due to our sins);
the redemptive cause in that it frees us from the bondage of sin (guilt is remitted
and the estrangement caused by sin is removed); and the sacrificial cause in
that it reconciles us with God (from enemies of God, we become once more His
in our redemption was that of mediator between God and His people. As the name
implies, the office of mediator is to join opposing parties, where both extremes
meet in a middle. To achieve our union with God is Christ's work: "God
was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself." (60) He alone is the
perfect mediator between God and men, since the human race was brought into
agreement with God through His death: "There is one mediator between God
and men, the man Jesus Christ," says St. Paul, and then adds, "who
gave Himself as a ransom for all." (61)
A closer scrutiny
of Christ's function as mediator reveals that Aquinas developed Soteriology
at this point quite beyond those who preceded him, even St. Anselm.
conceived, satisfaction meant the compensation for a debt to be paid or an offense
to be expiated. St. Anselm (1033-1109 A.D.) first gave the term theological
currency in reference to the Atonement, by interpreting Christ's death as a
sufficient vicarious satisfaction for the sins of the world. Prior to Anselm,
the mainstream of patristic tradition stressed the negative side of the Redemption,
namely, the ransoming from the slavery of sin and the devil. Anselm shifted
the emphasis to the contemplation of the guilt of sin. Sin is an insult offered
to God, and therefore infinite because an offense to the Infinite. It demands
an infinite expiation which only a divine Person can achieve.
along with Anselm in accepting his satisfactional view of the Redemption. But
he was unwilling to say that the method of satisfaction was imperative. No matter
how "suitable" (conveniens) the method was, it had no intrinsic
necessity, because God might have redeemed us without requiring full satisfaction.
In the circumstances,
though, Christ's satisfaction was more than adequate. Whereas the offense against
God was perpetrated by a finite being, it was only morally infinite (directed
against God). Satisfaction on Christ's part, however, was objectively and morally
infinite; it was done by a Divine Person suffering in the humanity He assumed.
In Thomistic theology, three elements
concur to make satisfaction effective: love, justice and pain. Justice was required
on the premise that God was offended and therefore God must repair; pain was
required because where sin had been committed through seeking pleasure, its
expiation must involve the infliction of pain. But love is what most constitutes
satisfaction and, with Christ, was such that its merits
far exceed the malice (or opposite of divine love) which called for reparation.
Strict satisfaction is rendered when the person
offended is given what he loves as much as, or more than, he hated the offense.
By suffering from charity, Christ offered to God more than what was demanded
as recompense for the sin of the entire human race.
First, from the greatness of his charity. Secondly, from the preciousness of
the life he laid down, the life of a man who was God. Thirdly, by the extent
and depth of what was accepted. Christ's Passion was more than sufficient, it
was superabundant. "He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours
only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (62)
Head and members make up, as it were, one mystical body.
Therefore the amends made by Christ are made also by all his members. For when
two persons live in friendship, one may make satisfaction for the other. It
is true that one cannot act as a substitute for the other's contrition and confession.
Satisfaction, however, is an external deed, for which we adopt auxiliaries,
among which are reckoned our friends. (63)
The final note,
that Christ continues making satisfaction for sin through His members in the
Mystical Body is among the most satisfying concepts of the Catholic faith, it
makes suffering for the followers of Christ meaningful in the deepest sense
of that term. Even as He underwent trial and persecution, terminating in death,
to atone for men's sins, so the believing Christian strives to put on Christ
and cooperate with the Redeemer in His work of salvation.
one can add to the merits of Christ, which of themselves are infinite in value
and capable of redeeming a thousand worlds. But subjectively the fruits of the
Redemption must be applied, i.e., they must be willingly accepted by those for
whom Christ died. Their willingness to respond to His saving love is finite,
reluctant, and calls for prior help from God in the form of grace. Each person
cooperates in his own redemption by a ready obedience to God, by withdrawing
from sin and doing penance for his misdeeds. He can help others do the same
by joining with Christ's redemptive act through the loving acceptance
of pain in order to satisfy the divine justice offended by resistance
to the Creator's will.
In the centuries
after Aquinas, the doctrine of satisfaction became a stumbling block for many
who felt that the Scholastic analysis was too abstract, that Christ's true humanity
was obscured in the process of safeguarding His sinlessness, and that Christ
literally substituted Himself for mankind as Redeemer to become a sinner in
our place. His redemptive sufferings were those of a man condemned to separation
It was on the
mystery of the Redemption that the Reformers mainly parted company with Catholic
tradition, as brought to a peak in the writings of Thomas Aquinas. The Atonement,
he believed, was intended for all mankind; for the Reformers a selective Redemption
was conceived. Aquinas thought of the Atonement as directed first to the restoration
of man to supernatural friendship with the Creator whom he lost; with the Reformers,
it was mostly to hide man's innate sinfulness from the justice of an offended
Chapter VIII - References
- E.O. James, Comparative Religion, London, 1961, p. 15.
- Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Collossians, II, 3.
Conference transcription from a talk that Father Hardon gave to the
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