Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christological Hearsay: Three Heresies in Summa Contra Gentiles

It is sadly not uncommon for the average Catholic to encounter Christological heresy, whether it is of the New-Age, Gnostic sort (that Jesus was an ascended being that realized the godhead available to all of us) or of that materialistic type that denies any divinity to Him at all. As with the poor, history shows that we will always have these heresies with us. While certainly it would be an overstatement to claim that every Christological heresy has roots in the old, one can certainly find the familiar taint of the modernist skeptic in the heresiarchs of old. St. Thomas describes many of these early Christological heresies in Book 4 of Summa Contra Gentiles. Of these, three in particular had a tremendous impact on the early Church: Valentinianism, Arianism, and Nestorianism. In striving against these heresies, the early Church defined much of its Christological thought.

Valentinus was a Gnostic of the early second century. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, he was reputed to be a student of Theudas, a follower of St. Paul. Both Tertullian and Ireneus of Lyons wrote extensively on the false teachings of Valentinus and his followers.[i] St. Thomas, in Book IV of Summa Contra Gentiles, addresses primarily the errors in Valentinus’ understanding of the Incarnation. Despite the clear teaching of the Church that Christ became man, Valentinus taught (as did the Manicheans) that Christ only became man in appearance: “For he said that Christ did not have an earthly body, but brought one from heaven; that He received nothing from the Virgin Mother, but passed through her as through an aqueduct.” The Angelic Doctor addresses the same issue in Question 5, article 2 of Summa Theologica, part III. The root of the problem with Valentinus, as with the Manicheans, is their mistaken identity of the material world as a work of the devil (SCG 4, 30, 2).

He outlines several passages from scripture used by Valentinus to support this belief on the Incarnation, particularly John 3:13 and 1 Corinthians 15:47. Yet the Valentinian position leads to numerous contradictions. First is the direct conflict with scripture. Christ Himself says in Luke 24:39, “[F]or a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Likewise, in the letters of St. Paul, Christ is said to be born of the seed of David (Romans 1:3) and to have taken flesh from a woman (Galatians 4:4). Yet, if Christ did not have an earthly body, it could not be a body of flesh and bone like ours, in direct contradiction to scripture (SCG 4, 30, 3), nor would a heavenly body be passible and susceptible to suffering (ST III, 5, 2). By making Christ only appear to be man, Valentinus detracts from God’s truthfulness by seeming to be rather than actually being man, and we cannot be legitimately called His brethren (SCG 4, 30, 8). Clearly, Valentinus’ non-Apostolic positions caused the shipwreck of the faith of many.

A little over a century later, an Alexandrian priest by the name of Arius would spark a controversy that split the Church. Arius, a follower of Paul of Samasota, Bishop of Antioch, taught that the Logos was less than God but more than man[ii] and not of the same substance as God (animoios).[iii] The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that while the Gnostic heresies such as Valentinus never really had much influence in the West, Arianism had much more broad exposure and came about at a time when the technical language of Greek philosophy was being adopted more and more for the fine distinctions being developed in orthodox doctrine.[iv] The heresy spread so quickly that, in the words of St. Jerome, “The whole world groaned and marveled to find itself Arian.”[v]

Unlike the Valentinians, Arius taught that Christ was a creature. Rather than denying Christ’s human body, Arius denied that Christ had a soul and that the Word (Logos) took the place of the soul, a position he held in common with Apollinaris. As St. Thomas explains,
[H]e wanted to maintain that the Son of God was a creature and less than the Father, and so for his proof he picked up those scriptural passages which show human infirmity in Christ. And to keep anyone from refuting him by saying that the passages he picked referred to Christ not in His divine, but in His human, nature, he evilly removed the soul from Christ to this purpose[.] (SCG 4, 32, 2)

He challenges this doctrine on both philosophical and theological grounds. First, St. Thomas notes that, because the soul is the form of the body, that the Divine cannot replace the soul in a human nature (SCG 4, 32, 3). What’s more, to deprive a man of a soul would be to change his nature: “Take away… what is of the essence of man, and no true man can be” (SCG 4, 32, 5). Just as Christ could not be man without true flesh, He could not be true man without a human soul. St. Thomas continues to note that scripture includes specific references to Christ’s throughout the gospels and also speaks of Christ feeling emotions and bodily appetites, all of which belong to the sensitive soul.

Arius’s primary concern was with preserving the unity of God, as Jaroslav Pelikan notes: “The point at which the Arian understanding of God called forth a controversy was, then, not in the doctrine of God as such, but in the doctrine of the relation between God and the divine in Christ.”[vi] Arius attempted to make the Logos that divine element in the man Christ, but clearly as St. Thomas demonstrates, such an arrangement would not do. One has to hold that the soul of Christ and His Divinity are two distinct things (SCG 4, 32, 9) and the Divinity of Christ to be consubstantial with the Father, the position affirmed by the Council of Nicaea.

Not long after the dust had settled on the Arian question, another controversy arose stemming again from the school of Antioch. Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, espoused a teaching taught by two anti-Arian bishops, Diodorus of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopuestia.[vii] What really seems to have brought this errant Christology to the forefront were Nestorius’ sermons concerning the title Theotokos given to the Mother of God.[viii] However, this aspect of his teaching was symptomatic of other severe distortions of Christian doctrine.

Whereas the earlier Christological heresies focused on whether Christ was God or man in nature, Nestorianism denied neither of these but addressed the union of natures in Christ. St. Thomas describes this proposed union as the indwelling of God in a true human body with a true human soul. Yet the problem with this notion of indwelling is that it is meant in precisely the same way as God’s indwelling in all holy men by grace (SCG 4, 34, 2). In this indwelling, Theodore and Nestorius saw an affective union between man and God. Yet, the Person of the Son of God and the person of the man Christ were two coincidentally.[ix]

St. Thomas makes note of numerous texts that make Nestorian Christology plainly unscriptural. First, he notes that the words of the gospel and the words of Christ Himself nullify the possibility of two distinct supposita in Christ (SCG 4, 34, 5–6). Clearly, if “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), the simple meaning of the text does not support indwelling. Likewise, St. Thomas adds,
“[T]he man called Jesus says about Himself: ‘Before Abraham was made, I am,’ and ‘I and the Father are one’ (John 8:58; 10:30), and several other things which clearly pertain to the divinity of the Word. Therefore, the person and hypostasis of the man speaking is plainly the very person of the Word of God.” (SCG 4, 34, 6)

The Angelic Doctor continues on to address the matter of predication of titles and actions to one or the other nature, which he also addresses in Summa Theologica part III, Question 16. Whereas the Nestorians posited that human and Divine activities could only be attributed to the human or Divine natures discretely, St. Thomas affirmed that to Christ must be attributed both Divine and human activities, which is the teaching of the Council of Ephesus (reaffirmed at Chalcedon) also known as the communication of idioms. It follows that Mary could be truthfully titled Theotokos and the Mother of God, rather than the Mother of Christ as the Nestorians would have it. Sadly, this heresy was to result in one of the earliest major schisms of the Catholic Church.

Today, we still see remnants of these heresies among various denominations and movements. The fascination with Gnostic Christianity is evident enough if one turns on the History Channel[x] or peruses the stacks of New Age books at the local bookstore. Arianism has influenced numerous sects, including Islam, Unitarianism, the Christadelphians, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the Assyrian Church of the East we see the legacy of Theodore of Mopuestia and Nestorius. There are few new heresies, but rather restatements of the old. Even the best of us are occasionally tempted to respond as St. Nicholas of Myra is reputed to have done to Arius at Nicaea. Yet each of these controversies when reborn gives us an opportunity to witness to the truth and to clarify the teachings of the Church. As the Holy Father has demonstrated in the last few years, sometimes what is needed most is a frank discussion of the Truth rather than a “false irenicism” that papers over real differences.

Works Cited

Aquinas, T. (2009). Summa Contra Gentiles, Book Four: Salvation. (C. J. O'Neil, Trans.) Notre Dame, Indiana, USA: University of Notre Dame Press.

Aquinas, T. (2000). Summa Theologica, Tertia Pars. Retrieved September 18, 2010, from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4.htm.

Barry, W. (1907). Arianism. Retrieved December 10, 2010, from The Catholic Encyclopedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01707c.htm.

Chapman, J. (1911). Nestorius and Nestorianism. Retrieved December 11, 2010, from The Catholic Encyclopedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10755a.htm.

Healy, P. (1912). Valentinus and Valentinians. Retrieved December 10, 2010, from The Catholic Encyclopedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15256a.htm.

Pelikan, J. (1971). The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: The Christian Tradition (Vol. 1). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.


i. Patrick Healy, (1912), Valentinus and Valentinians, retrieved December 10, 2010, from The Catholic Encyclopedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15256a.htm
ii. Jaroslav Pelikan, (1971), The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: The Christian Tradition, Vol. 1 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press), p. 198.
iii. William Barry, (1907), Arianism, Retrieved December 10, 2010, from The Catholic Encyclopedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01707c.htm.
iv. Ibid.
v. Ibid.
vi. Pelikan, p. 195.
vii. John Chapman, (1911), Nestorius and Nestorianism, retrieved December 11, 2010, from The Catholic Encyclopedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10755a.htm.
viii. Ibid.
ix. Pelikan, p. 252.
x. I often refer to it as the Heresy Channel.

When Idioms Speak: Communication of Properties

In the early days of the Church, the Fathers knew well the importance of fine care in the choice of language and terminology. Perhaps nothing made the statement more clearly on the difference an iota (or a jot or a tittle) could make than the early Arian and Semi-Arian controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries, when the immense metaphysical gulf between homoousios and homoiousios threatened to capsize the barque of Peter. The question facing them, one that still plagues us today, is how to put the ineffable mysteries of God into language that communicates the Truth. While morphology took center stage in the earliest controversies, semiology became the focus during later debates—in particular, how we speak about Christ and His Divinity and what can be predicated to His two natures.

Primarily, when we speak about Christ’s two natures and what can be predicated to each of them, we are referring to the theological concept “communication of idioms” or “communication of properties.” Secondarily, we can include implications drawn from this communication. The teaching of the Church on these matters was established initially at the Council of Ephesus[i] and later clarified and confirmed at the Council of Chalcedon. The majority of these pronouncements addressed what has come to be known as the Hypostatic Union.[ii] Aside from the basic teaching about the dual natures of Christ, the Fathers of the council definitively stated that because one Person subsists in two natures, activities and properties that could be predicated of either nature could rightly be predicated of the Person. Thus, the council defended the use of the title Theotokos, the God-Bearer, for the Blessed Mother, stressing that Mary was the mother of the Person of Christ, Who is God.[iii]

The understanding of how to put these realities into words developed over centuries. According to Ocáriz et al, the first person to set down rules on such Christological language was Leontius of Byzantium. However, St. Thomas is known as the primary source for the main rules on the “exchange of properties” (yet another phrase for the same concept).[iv] This general principle has been formulated in numerous ways. Kenneth Baker writes “that human things can be asserted to the Son of God and Divine things to the Son of Man.”[v] While this description is certainly true, it does not aspire to the level of precision detailed by St. Thomas. The argument, as presented by the council Fathers, is essentially that properties and activities are typically ascribed to a Person rather than to his or her nature. In this sense, one can say that God, in the Person of the Son, was born of a Virgin and was crucified.
Thus, whatever can be said of one of the natures of Christ can be attributed to the Person of Christ. The key in speaking of Christ, then, is precision in predication of actions and properties to natures or to the Person. Anthony Maas suggests three considerations in applying this principle.[vi] This paper will discuss these three considerations in applying the principle of communication of idioms.[vii]

The first consideration is that those statements interchanging Divine and human properties are generally correct, so long as both subject and predicate are stated in concrete terms.[viii] In the most basic sense, we can say that God is man, if we mean this statement in the sense that God assumed a human nature and a body. St. Thomas points out, though, that the Manicheans used this statement in an elliptical way, to mean that God was a fictitious man rather than man in the flesh (III, 16, 1). He notes that both subject and predicate refer to the suppositum, and in this sense, it is true that God is man, and likewise that man is God. In this category, too, fall all of those utterances that pertain to the Person of Christ in His hypostasis or suppositum. When a property belongs to a nature, it can be attributed to the Person, so while Christ suffered in His human nature, His Person suffered. In this sense, God suffered. Inversely, as Ocáriz et al point out, we can say that the Son of David is almighty.[ix]

When we speak of the Person of God, we can speak objectively about a concrete entity. However, as Maas notes, we have to do so with caution. Some utterances, such as “man became God,” suggest that man subsisted in human nature prior to Christ’s assumption of that nature, which is false.[x] In addition, when a concrete term is used with reduplication, for example in “Christ as Man is God,” the emphasis is on the nature rather than the suppositum, as St. Thomas notes, so the clause in this instance is taken to be false (III, 16, 11). In such cases, one must take care not to attribute to one nature that which belongs to the other. If we say that “Christ as Man is a creature” (III, 16, 8), we are referring to His created human nature, but if we say “Christ as Man is God,” we are attributing divinity to His human nature. On the other hand, when demonstrative constructions are used, we are speaking clearly of the suppositum rather than the nature. To say “This Man, Christ…” is to point at the eternal Person of the Son of God since He subsisted first in His Divine nature. Anything, then, predicated to suppositum must take this fact into consideration. If we say, “This Man, Christ, came to be,” we can only say so truthfully with qualification—that He came to be in His humanity (III, 16, 9).

Maas’ second consideration addresses the use of abstract terms, which generally respect one or the other nature. Statements concerning Divine and human properties of Christ are, in general, incorrect if either subject, predicate, or both are abstract.[xi] For example, we cannot say that Christ’s humanity is omnipotence or that His Divinity was humanized. However, some exchange of abstract is acceptable, and we can predicate abstract names of the Divine nature of concrete names of the human nature: for example, this Man, Christ, is the Omnipotence.[xii] There is less danger when we begin talking specifically about the Second Person of the Trinity since abstract properties of either nature can be attributed to Him as the Person of the Son of God. Yet again, this does not mean that the abstract properties of one nature can be attributed to the other. We cannot, without error, say that “The Word is the humanity” or “the Word is the soul or the body of Christ.”[xiii]

St. Thomas addresses the use of abstractions specifically in part III, question 16, articles 3 and 5. In article 3, he discusses the predication of the terms God and Lord denominatively. While we call the Son of God Lord, we cannot call Him “lordly Man” since to do so would derogate the truth about the union of natures in the Person of Christ. In article 5, he writes of the predication of properties of the human nature of the Divine nature, which likewise is errant. So while we can attribute human properties to the Person of Christ, we cannot attribute them to the Godhead. We can say that Christ suffered and died. We cannot say that the Godhead suffered and died or suggest that the Godhead is passible or corruptible.

The third consideration is that statements must be used with care to avoid destroying the properties of one or the other nature.[xiv] Such statements would include those that speak to Christ’s humanity in such a way that His Divinity is put into question. For example, one can say the God was made man without inferring anything about Christ contrary to either nature. However, if the terms are traded and one says “man was made God,” an incorrect impression is given that man subsisted in his human nature prior to being assumed by the Second Person of the Trinity (III, 16, 7). In the same sense it would be incorrect to say that “Christ began to be” without qualifying the statement further: for example, “this Man, Christ, began to be in His humanity” (III, 16, 9).

Maas notes that negative sentences can sometimes be used in such a way that one or the other nature is denied. While it might be true in one sense that the Son of God did not die (in His Divine nature), one cannot say “the Son of God did not die” without implicitly denying His human nature. One might also (errantly) speak restrictively in a way that denies one or the other nature: for example, that Christ was not passible or that Christ was a creature (III, 16, 8). Again, while these statements can be true of one or other of the natures of Christ, they cannot be said to be true of the Person of Christ without denial of either His Divinity or His humanity.

Some theologians say that heresy is the emphasis of one truth to the exclusion or detriment of others. The Arians, not wanting to make Christ the equal of God, emphasized His humanity to the detriment of His Divinity. The Nestorians, not wishing to reduce His Divinity, weakened the union of natures in the Person of the Son. Still later, the Monophysites emphasized the union to such a degree as to destroy the distinction between the two natures. Along the way, simple lack of precision played a part in advancing error (for example, when Euthyches and his adherents misinterpreted St. Cyril’s writings about the union of natures in the Person[xv]). For this reason, theologians must take great pains for clarity in their use of Christological language, particularly in the area of communication of idioms. As the author of Hebrews wrote, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever” (13:8). Yet Jesus was born of a virgin, suffered, and died. We hold many truths in tension, and so our words we must choose with clear intention.

Works Cited

Aquinas, T. (2000). Summa Theologica, Tertia Pars. Retrieved September 18, 2010, from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4.htm

Baker, K. (1983). Fundamentals of Catholicism (Vol. 2). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Maas, A. (1908). Communicatio Idiomatum. Retrieved November 7, 2010, from New Catholic Encyclopedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04169a.htm

Mosey, R. D. (2006). "Patristics: Lecture 3." International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, Inc.

Ocáriz, F., Mateo-Seco, L. F., & Riestra, J. A. (2008). The Mystery of Jesus Christ. Dublin: Four Courts Press.

Ott, L. (1974). Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers.


i. Ludwig Ott, (1974), Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, (Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers), p. 144.
ii. Douglas Mosey, (2006), “Patristics: Lecture 3,” International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, Inc.
iii. Ibid.
iv. F. Ocáriz, L. F. Mateo-Seco, & J. A. Riestra, (2008), The Mystery of Jesus Christ, (Dublin: Four Courts Press), p.135.
v. Kenneth Baker, (1983), Fundamentals of Catholicism (Vol. 2), (San Francisco: Ignatius Press), p. 241.
vi. Anthony Maas, (1908), Communicatio Idiomatum, Retrieved November 7, 2010, from New Catholic Encyclopedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04169a.htm.
vii. Ocáriz et al have a more complex breakdown that also treats the subject well, but the author has chosen Maas’ more basic approach for simplicity’s sake.
viii. Maas, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04169a.htm.
ix. Ocáriz, p. 134.
x. Maas, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04169a.htm.
xi. Maas, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04169a.htm.
xii. Ocáriz, p. 135.
xiii. Maas, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04169a.htm.
xiv. Ibid.
xv. Ott, p. 146.

Grace and Glory: the Threefold Grace of Christ

Here's what happens when you overprepare for a short paper.

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In the Gospel according to John, the evangelist writes, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (1:14, RSV). He continues that we have received from His fullness “grace upon grace” (1:16) and that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (1:17). In these few verses, the evangelist highlights the threefold grace of Christ: the grace of union, the fullness of habitual grace that resided in Him as flesh, and the fullness that He pours out upon us as the Head of the Church. Ocáriz, Mateo-Seco, and Riestra describe this fullness in Christ the man:
When discussing Christ’s holiness, we are referring exclusively to Jesus Christ as man, that is, we are dealing with the divinization of his human nature…. A triple grace is to be found in Christ—the grace of union (that is, the hypostatic union viewed as a gift or grace to the humanity of Jesus), habitual grace (so-called sanctifying grace), and capital grace, that is, the grace he has as head of the human race.[i]

The grace of union, according to the authors, is the source of Christ’s holiness and also what makes Him our mediator, sanctifying us and giving us life.[ii] St. Thomas Aquinas, in Summa Theologica, Part III, Questions 7 and 8, reflects on this threefold grace and the essence of each.

“O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!”[iii] These words from “The Exsultet” underscore the character of the Incarnation as gift. St. Thomas contrasts this pre-eminent grace in our Redeemer, called the grace of union in Summa Theologica (III, 2, 12), with that grace by which the saints are joined to God (III, 2, 10). This grace is unique to Christ, belonging to Him and no one else, and divinizing His human nature:
[H]uman nature is lifted up to God in two ways: first, by operation, as the saints know and love God; secondly, by personal being, and this mode belongs exclusively to Christ, in Whom human nature is assumed so as to be in the Person of the Son of God. (III, 2, 10)

Through this grace of union, according to Kenneth Baker, it is reasonable to say that Christ’s humanity is “endowed with substantial sanctity or holiness.”[iv] He continues, “[I]t is impossible to have a more intimate union between a creature and God than the Hypostatic Union in Jesus Christ.”[v] Ocáriz et al note that this substantial holiness is also referred to by the early Father as “anointing” or “unction.”[vi] They add that, according to the Thomists, grace of union sanctifies Christ formally (formaliter), and not only radically (radicaliter), as was believed by the Scotists.[vii] This grace is the source of Christ’s impeccability.[viii]

This union, St. Thomas explains, occurs by grace in two ways: first, through bestowal by the will of God; second, as a free gift unpreceded by any merit (III, 2, 10). While the grace of union with Christ the man could not be considered “natural” in regard to an essential property of His human nature (III, 2, 12, ad. 3), it was natural in that it occurred by the power of His Divine nature (III, 2, 12, ad. 1 and 2).

The second of the tripartite graces of Christ (in their common order of reference) is habitual or sanctifying grace. This accidental grace initially or formally justifies the human soul (Denzinger, Syst. Ind. Xf, 799) and enables it by operation to know and love God (III, 2, 10). Ocáriz et al highlight that habitual grace and grace of union are closely linked: “[T]he grace of union (which makes Christ’s humanity ‘substantially holy’) involves the need for habitual grace (which sanctifies accidentally) and for glory as the ultimate perfection of operative union with God.”[ix] As with human persons, the operations of the soul to know and love God require this habitual grace (III, 7, 1 ad. 2). Despite the fact that grace of union granted substantial holiness to Christ’s human nature, His soul still required habitual grace to be divinized. St. Thomas writes, “Yet because together with unity of person there remains distinction of natures… the soul of Christ is not essentially Divine. Hence, it behooves it to be Divine by participation, which is by grace” (III, 7, 1, ad. 1.)

Linked to this accidental grace are the infused virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit. St. Thomas defends against the objection that Christ needed no virtues, pointing out that “as grace regards the essence of the soul, so does virtue regard its power. Hence it is necessary that as the powers of the soul flow from its essence, so do the virtues flow from grace” (III, 7, 2). Yet in Christ, not all virtues are present. Because He held the beatific vision through the Hypostatic Union, He had no need for the theological virtues of faith and hope. The Angelic Doctor writes,
As it is of the nature of faith that one assents to what one sees not, so is it of the nature of hope that one expects what as yet one has not; and as faith, forasmuch as it is a theological virtue, does not regard everything unseen, but only God; so likewise hope, as a theological virtue, has God Himself for its object, the fruition of Whom man chiefly expects by virtue of hope[.] (III, 7, 4)

As faith and hope have as their object God Himself, Christ needed them not. However, as Ocáriz et al point out, “any element of perfection which is found in [faith and hope] is found in Him, raised to a higher level of perfection.”[x] Another result of sanctification is the infusion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Ludwig Ott examines the differences between the infused gifts and the infused virtues, noting that the “motivating principles of the virtues are the supernaturally endowed faculties of the soul, whereas the motivating principle of the gifts is the Holy Spirit immediately.”[xi] In Christ, according to St. Thomas, “the gifts were in a pre-eminent degree.” (III, 7, 5).

Finally, Christ possessed uniquely what theologians call captis gratia or capital grace:[xii] grace as the Head of the Church, His Mystical Body. This grace He possesses by virtue of His nearness to God and His perfection in the fullness of all graces (III, 8, 1). Pius XII, in “Mystici Corporis Christi,” writes, “It is He who, through His heavenly grace, is the principle of every supernatural act in all parts of the Body.”[xiii] St. Thomas explains the fitness of the metaphor of Christ as Head and His likeness to the human head in order, perfection, and power (III, 8, 1). In order, the head guides and directs the other members of the body, so does Christ influence both body (secondarily) and soul (primarily) (III, 8, 2). In perfection, the head is the seat of the senses. As Ott says, “from Christ, the Head, grace continuously streams to the limbs of His Mystical Body, by means of which He supernaturally enlightens and sanctifies them.”[xiv] Ocáriz et al note that this capital grace finds its source in the habitual grace of Christ.[xv] This personal grace by which Christ is sanctified, St. Thomas indicates, is the same as that grace which He, as Head of the Church, justifies mankind (III, 8, 5).

In Christ is the fullness of grace (III, 7, 9), finite in that it is a created being, but infinite in that He possesses everything pertaining to grace without limitations (III, 7, 11).[xvi] By His grace, we are brought into participation with His Mystical Body and in the Divine Mystery. The early Church Fathers spoke of this participation as adopted sonship in the Divine Nature.[xvii] St. Clement of Alexandria, writing on the sacrament of baptism, describes the effect of this outpouring of grace on the person: “Being baptized, we are illuminated; illuminated, we become sons; being made sons, we are made perfect; being made perfect, we are made immortal.”[xviii] Through Christ’s grace, we have life and have it abundantly.

Works Cited

Aquinas, T. (2000). Summa Theologica, Tertia Pars. Retrieved September 18, 2010, from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4.htm.

Baker, K. (1983). Fundamentals of Catholicism (Vol. 2). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Denziger, H. (2007). Sources of Catholic Dogma. Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire: Loretto Publications.

Gassner, J. (2010). The Exsultet. Retrieved October 8, 2010, from Catholic Culture: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=6341.

Mosey, R. D. (2006). Patristics: Lecture 4. International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, Inc.

Ocáriz, F., Mateo-Seco, L. F., & Riestra, J. A. (2008). The Mystery of Jesus Christ. Dublin: Four Courts Press.

Ott, L. (1974). Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers.

Pelikan, J. (1971). The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: The Christian Tradition (Vol. 1). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Pius XII. (1943, June 29). Mystici Corporis Christi. Retrieved October 8, 2010, from Vatican the Holy See: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/
encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_29061943_mystici-corporis-christi_en.html.

i. Ocáriz, F., Mateo-Seco, L. F., & Riestra, J. A., (2008), The Mystery of Jesus Christ, (Dublin: Four Courts Press), p. 177.
ii. Ibid.
iii. Gassner, J., (2010), The Exsultet, retrieved October 8, 2010, from Catholic Culture: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=6341.
iv. Baker, K., (1983), Fundamentals of Catholicism (Vol. 2), (San Francisco: Ignatius Press), p. 260.
v. Ibid., 260–261.
vi. Ocáriz et al, p. 179.
vii. Ibid., 180. Also Ott, L., (1974), Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. (Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers), p. 170.
viii. Ibid., 181.
ix. Ibid., 180.
x. Ibid., 183.
xi. Ott, 261.
xii. Ocáriz, 184.
xiii. Pius XII, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_29061943_mystici-corporis-christi_en.html.
xiv. Ott, 293.
xv. Ocáriz, 185.
xvi. Ibid., 186.
xvii. Mosey, R. D., (2006), “Patristics: Lecture 4,” International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, Inc.
xviii. Pelikan, J., (1971), The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: The Christian Tradition,Vol. 1, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press), p. 164.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

What is really cool about the Catholic blogosphere...

is how you can run across a blogger with shared interests in the faith and find out you're distant cousins.

This happened to me just recently. A post on Mark Shea's blog mentioned Wade St. Onge, a Stuebenville graduate and blogger at The Longsuffering Writer. Having a paternal grandmother with that maiden name, I was intrigued, and I have to agree that St. Onge is a cool last name. Alas, I get "Burns," which is sort of the "Smith" of Irish and Scottish surnames.

Anyway, he mentioned that he had his family's lineage back to the mid-1600s. I checked with my father, who also just happened to have picked up the lineage from his cousin (another St. Onge), and we found we have a common great grandfather. With a little more poking, I found the next generation back, a François Payan dit St. Onge and his wife, Madeleine Cantin. They were the generation just prior to the branch that migrated to Quebec from St. Columbe, Saintonge, France.

Now, if I could only find the lineage for Burns. I understand Irish recordkeeping was not as meticulous.

Drop by and give Wade a hearty welcome!