Friday, October 09, 2009

Garrigou-Lagrange on the "Communicatio Idiomatum"

From Christ the Savior, Ch. XIV, Q. 12 (Available thru ITOPL):

The Consequences Of The Union As Regards Those Things That Belong To Christ In Himself

This question is about the terms employed in speaking of the mystery of the Incarnation.

We are concerned here with what is technically called the communication of idioms. "Idiom" is derived from the Greek and means the same as property in Latin. Hence communication of idioms is communication of properties. In other words, although the two natures in Christ are really distinct and inconfused, as defined against Eutyches, yet by reason of the hypostatic union the properties of the divine nature can be predicated of this man Jesus, and human attributes of God. Hence the communication of idioms is usually defined as the mutual predication and interchange in themselves of the two natures, the divine and the human, and their properties, by reason of the hypostatic union. The foundation for this communication of idioms in Christ is the hypostatic union itself, by reason of which one and the same suppositum has two natures, the divine nature and the human nature.

It must be observed concerning this communication that concrete names, such as God, man, in opposition to abstract names, such as Godhead, humanity, signify directly the suppositum, and indirectly the nature. For "God, ' signifies the suppositum that has the divinity, and "man" signifies the suppositum that has the humanity. If, therefore, the suppositum is the same for the two natures, then it is true to say: "God is man, " although it is false to say: "The Godhead is the humanity." Thus we shall see[1364] that the generally accepted rule, namely, concrete words of concrete subjects, both of natures and properties, generally speaking, can of themselves be predicated of either; but abstract words of abstract subjects cannot of themselves formally be predicated of either. Thus we shall see that we cannot say the Godhead is the humanity or that God is the humanity, or that the humanity is God.[1365]

Therefore we must take great care to distinguish between abstract terms and concrete terms. The abstract term signifies the nature separated from the subject, for example, humanity. The concrete term signifies the nature as existing in the subject, for example, man. Hence this distinction between concrete and abstract term is of great importance in distinguishing between the nature and the suppositum, since the nature is an essential part of the suppositum. There is the same distinction between "being" as a noun and "being" as a participle, or between the reality and the real itself.

The principal definitions of the Church about the communication of idioms are to be found in the fourth and tenth canons of the Council of Ephesus,[1366] and in the tenth and twelfth canons of the Second Council of Constantinople.[1367]


1244  cf. ad 3.
1245  Heb. 10:25
1246  Com. in Heb., 10:25
1247  Prov. 4:18
1248  Summa theol., Ia, q. 85, a. 7.
1249  Com. on Aristotle's De anima, Bk. II, lect. 94
1250  De veritate, q. 12, a. 6, ad 4; q. 24, a. 8, ad 6.

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