Thursday, April 19, 2018

St. Thomas' Christology: Synthesis of De Deo Uno et Trino and De Homine


If you are a Thomistic philosopher without formal theological training, odds are you have not had a chance to study St. Thomas' IIIa Pars at any depth.  At best, as part of our Thomistic philosophical studies we philosophers have to read good chunks of the Summa theologiae, primarily select philosophically-themed questions, such as the text on the Five Ways and other questions on the One God (Ia, qq. 2-26), the questions on man (Ia, qq. 75 and following), good chuncks of the Ia-IIae on beatitude, human acts, on habits and virtues, and on law.  But rarely do we go out of those traditional loci Thomistici.  We hardly ever venture into the IIIa Pars, which is so clearly theological (although I would of course argue that the whole Summa is theological, through and through).    

But we philosophers should definitely read the IIIa Pars carefullyIn St. Thomas' Christological section of the IIIa Pars (qq. 1-59, esp. 1-26) we find so many of his philosophical doctrines coming into play in a marvellous way. This section is a true eye-opener for the philosopher: we can see the theological ‘mileage’ that St. Thomas gets out of his philosophical concepts. It is truly amazing how his philosophy of mind—which he discussed for its own sake in the Ia Pars—is now being applied perfectly to Christ's humanity in a way that it takes on new life.  

Further, this application of philosophical doctrines to Christ leads us to realize that in the Ia Pars he must have had Christ’s humanity in the back of his mind all along. The same can be said of his discussion of the virtues in the IIa pars (in particular the virtue of religion, with its discussion on prayer, and sacrifice). St. Thomas applies these questions so beautifully to his Christology, and therefore when writing the IIa Pars he must have anticipated what he was going to do here in the IIIa Pars.  I imagine he must have had all of these Christological applications in the back of his mind in those earlier sections because from the beginning it is evident that he had a very thoroughly detailed architectonic plan of what he wanted to do, so he must have thought of how the earlier sections applied to later sections from the beginning. 

Thus, the unity and harmony of the science of Sacred Theology, and of the mysteries of the faith that theology seeks to elucidate, really comes to light in this Christological section. Whereas before, in the Ia Pars he spoke of God in Himself, and then of man in himself (continuing on in the IIa Pars), here in the IIIa Pars he harmoniously applies both of those doctrinal treatises to the mystery of the God-man. Hence, Garrigou-Lagrange comments: 

Because the simpler things come before the composite… in the preceding parts of the Summa... what pertains to God and to man are discussed separately, whereas the present treatise is concerned with Him who is both God and man.1

1 Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, Christ the Savior, prologue.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

St. Thomas on Peter Lombard's Error of Positing Two Hypostases/Supposits in Christ


In the Tertia Pars of the Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas seems to be particularly concerned about the Nestorian-like error of some of his contemporaries and recent predecessors---among them Peter Lomabard---who held that there was one Person in Christ, but two hypostases or supposits

He introduces us to this error in ST IIIa, q. 2, a. 6 explicitly: 

“But some more recent masters, thinking to avoid these heresies, through ignorance fell into them. For some conceded one person in Christ, but maintained two hypostases, or two supposita... And this is the first opinion set down by the Master (Sent. iii, D, 6). But others desirous of keeping the unity of person, held that the soul of Christ was not united to the body, but that these two were mutually separate... And this is the third opinion which the Master sets down (Sent. iii, D, 6). But both of these opinions fall into the heresy of Nestorius...”  

He addresses this issue several times afterwards, and considers the logical consequences of holding that in Christ there are two hypostases/supposits (even if only one person).  For example, ST IIIa, q. 16, a. 7, he tells us that: 

“if [in Christ] there were a different hypostasis of God and man, so that ‘to be God’ was predicated of the man, and, conversely... then with equal reason might it be said that Man was made God, i.e. joined to God, and that God was made Man, i.e. joined to man.”

Let us backtrack a bit.  In the Prima Pars, St. Thomas addresses the question of how there are "persons" in God, and there he unpacks for us and defends Boethius' definition of person, as "an individual substance of a rational nature" (De Duabus Naturis).  There St. Thomas says that within the genus "substance" we find hypostases or supposits, which are individual substances.  And in turn, within the genus of hypostasis/supposit, we find persons, which are nothing but rational hypostases.  So from general to particular we have: substances > hypostases/supposits > persons.  In St. Thomas' words:

"Although the universal and particular exist in every genus, nevertheless, in a certain special way, the individual belongs to the genus of substance. For substance is individualized by itself; whereas the accidents are individualized by the subject, which is the substance; since this particular whiteness is called "this," because it exists in this particular subject. And so it is reasonable that the individuals of the genus substance should have a special name of their own; for they are called "hypostases," or first substances.

Further still, in a more special and perfect way, the particular and the individual are found in the rational substances which have dominion over their own actions; and which are not only made to act, like others; but which can act of themselves; for actions belong to singulars. Therefore also the individuals of the rational nature have a special name even among other substances; and this name is 'person'.

Thus the term "individual substance" is placed in the definition of person, as signifying the singular in the genus of substance; and the term "rational nature" is added, as signifying the singular in rational substances." (Summa theologiae Ia, q. 29, a. 1).

So a person is "an individual substance of a rational nature" according to Boethius' classical definition. And an individual substance is a hypostasis or supposit.  This is precisely what suppositum or hypostasis signifies: an individual substance. Therefore, a person is nothing but a rational hypostasis/suppositum.  So if we were to admit that there is a human, temporal, and created hypostasis or suppositum in Christ, then we would be saying that besides the Divine Person, there is in Him a human person as well.

Note especially that for St. Thomas, hypostasis and suppositum are synonyms.  The former term has a Greek etymology, and the latter is a native Latin term.  But they mean the same thing.  Moreover, hypostasis/suppositum is not synonymous with "person"; all persons are hypostases, but not vice-versa.  Whenever a hypostasis is rational, then we have a person.  Therefore, in St. Thomas' mind, to posit two hypostases in Christ, one Divine and another human (yet both rational), would be tantamount to positing two persons in Christ, which is clearly heretical.

He makes reference to this theory again, in q. 17, a. 1, and the way he does is very illuminating. This time he explains it in terms of the pronouns unus ([some]'one', in the masculine), unum ('one' [thing], in the neuter), and duo ('two' [things], in the neuter). According to the theory Aquinas is combatting, Christ, being one person and two supposits, is unus (“some-one,” signifying the complete ‘who’), but duo (“two things”). This is not the same as saying that he has two natures, humanity and Divinity, because natures thus construed are just abstractions, and not concrete, real things; saying he is duo, or “two things,” amounts to ascribing two supposits to Him, two concrete natures. But this is erroneous. St. Thomas corrects this theory, saying that in Christ there is not only one Person (unus, in the masculine), but also one supposit, ‘one thing’ (unum, in the neuter), despite this one thing having two natures. Therefore, Christ is not: (a) a divine thing plus (b) a distinct being that possesses human nature; but rather, He is one being that is both human and Divine in nature.  Christ is one thing and some-one (unus et unum, masculine and neuter), with one existence, though possessing two natures, humanity and Divinity. Thus, St. Thomas saves Christ’s unity of being (which is the subject of the following article).

But how is it possible for Catholic theologians, like Peter Lomabard, who were writing and teaching so many centuries after the Patristic era---where all these issues had already been settled---to fall into such a grave error?  Although this error of positing two hypostases/supposits/persons in Christ was already condemned in the early councils of the Church, such as those of Chalcedon and Ephesus, through the terminological imprecisions of the early Scholastics---an unwarranted distinction between person and hypostasis/supposit---, these errors crept back into the theological scene. St. Thomas’ contemporaries were not aware of these councils as much as he was.  If Lombard and his ilk understood what they are saying, they would be forced also to posit two persons in Christ when they place two supposita or two hypostases in Him.   Corey Barnes sheds light into the historical circumstances:

“Aquinas’ later presentations of Christology share knowledge of patristic and conciliar sources unparalleled in the thirteenth century. Among other things, these sources granted Thomas a privileged awareness of early Christological controversies and led him to suspect that some medieval approaches to Christology veered toward Nestorianism. Combating this unintended but nonetheless pernicious tendency required eliminating the imprecisions through which error could enter. The root Nestorian error, according to ST III, q. 2, a. 6, lies in positing an accidental union in Christ, against which Thomas affirms a substantial union, though Nestorius also erred in allowing two hypostases in Christ. Terminological imprecision had, in Aquinas’s own age, led some to allow a duality of hypostases or supposits in Christ. Thomas arrests this drift toward Nestorianism by specifying the relationship between supposits, hypostases, and persons and through the principle actiones sunt suppositorum.”1

1 Corey L. Barnes, “Aristotle in the Summa Theologiae’s Christology” in Gilles P. Emery, Matthew Levering, Aristotle in Aquinas’ Theology (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 193.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

An Introduction to Analogy in St. Thomas' Theology


One common problem among experienced by beginners in theology, especially those who have a more analytical mind but who have no previous theological training, is that they do not understand or know how to handle analogy.  Since they know from q. 1 of the Prima Pars that theology is a science, which uses logic and even the scholastic method, they expect terms to mean the same thing every time St. Thomas uses it.  In the Summa, however, St. Thomas expects his readers to have previously undertaken a comprehensive course of logica and of philosophy in general, where analogy is studied in depth and applied throughout.  So when a reader comes to the Summa expecting univocity, perhaps because they associate it with logical rigor, they are disappointed and it can become a serious obstacle to understanding the text.

So let me explain analogy briefly for those of you who are not familiar with it (for those of you who are well versed in St. Thomas' logic and metapysics, and are interested in reading more on my take on analogy in Aquinas, I refer you to this old post). 

St. Thomas teaches that we can use a term either univocally or equivocally. We use a term equivocally when we use it many times with different meanings. For example, when I say that the tree has bark I mean something quite different form when I say that my dog likes to bark. In these examples, "bark" is being used in a purely equivocal way. On the other hand, we use terms univocally when they have the same meaning: I am writing these words on a computer and you are reading them on a computer. Here "computer" has the same meaning in both instances, and thus it is being used univocally. Now there is a third way to use terms, which is called analogy, but which is really a subset of equivocal terms. For example, I can say that my dog is "healthy" but also that his food is "healthy" and that his urine seems "healthy." Of course the dog's being healthy means that his physiological funcitons are all in normal order; but the food's being healthy does not mean that at all: it means that the food is capable of producing or continuing the dog's being healthy. And the urine's being healthy is not at all healthy in the way his food is healthy: it is healthy in the sense that it is a sign of the dog's being healthy. So in these examples the term "healhty" is being used with different meanings (equivocally), but yet these meanings are so closely related that they constitute a special kind of equivocal term. 

St. Thomas uses analogous terms throughout his discussion of God, and so does all of theology, for that matter. When we say that this steak that I'm eating is "good," and when I say that God is "good," by the term "good" I mean different things. God is not tasty, and the steak is not goodness itself. Goodness is an analogous term. In fact, pretty much all divine attributes are analogous terms: they mean different things when attributed to God and when attributed to creatures. Thus, you as a student of theology and of St. Thomas in particular you need to be always aware of the fact that analogy is ubiquitous. 

In Summa theologiae Ia, q. 13, a. 5, we read:

Sed contra, quidquid praedicatur de aliquibus secundum idem nomen et non secundum eandem rationem, praedicatur de eis aequivoce. Sed nullum nomen convenit Deo secundum illam rationem, secundum quam dicitur de creatura, nam sapientia in creaturis est qualitas, non autem in Deo; genus autem variatum mutat rationem, cum sit pars definitionis. Et eadem ratio est in aliis. Quidquid ergo de Deo et creaturis dicitur, aequivoce dicitur.   On the contrary, whatever is predicated of various things under the same name but not in the same sense, is predicated equivocally. But no name belongs to God in the same sense that it belongs to creatures; for instance, wisdom in creatures is a quality, but not in God. Now a different genus changes an essence, since the genus is part of the definition; and the same applies to other things. Therefore whatever is said of God and of creatures is predicated equivocally.
Praeterea, Deus plus distat a creaturis, quam quaecumque creaturae ab invicem. Sed propter distantiam quarundam creaturarum, contingit quod nihil univoce de eis praedicari potest; sicut de his quae non conveniunt in aliquo genere. Ergo multo minus de Deo et creaturis aliquid univoce praedicatur, sed omnia praedicantur aequivoce.    Further, God is more distant from creatures than any creatures are from each other. But the distance of some creatures makes any univocal predication of them impossible, as in the case of those things which are not in the same genus. Therefore much less can anything be predicated univocally of God and creatures; and so only equivocal predication can be applied to them.
Respondeo dicendum quod impossibile est aliquid praedicari de Deo et creaturis univoce. Quia omnis effectus non adaequans virtutem causae agentis, recipit similitudinem agentis non secundum eandem rationem, sed deficienter, ita ut quod divisim et multipliciter est in effectibus, in causa est simpliciter et eodem modo; sicut sol secundum unam virtutem, multiformes et varias formas in istis inferioribus producit. Eodem modo, ut supra dictum est, omnes rerum perfectiones, quae sunt in rebus creatis divisim et multipliciter, in Deo praeexistunt unite. Sic igitur, cum aliquod nomen ad perfectionem pertinens de creatura dicitur, significat illam perfectionem ut distinctam secundum rationem definitionis ab aliis, puta cum hoc nomen sapiens de homine dicitur, significamus aliquam perfectionem distinctam ab essentia hominis, et a potentia et ab esse ipsius, et ab omnibus huiusmodi. Sed cum hoc nomen de Deo dicimus, non intendimus significare aliquid distinctum ab essentia vel potentia vel esse ipsius. Et sic, cum hoc nomen sapiens de homine dicitur, quodammodo circumscribit et comprehendit rem significatam, non autem cum dicitur de Deo, sed relinquit rem significatam ut incomprehensam, et excedentem nominis significationem. Unde patet quod non secundum eandem rationem hoc nomen sapiens de Deo et de homine dicitur. Et eadem ratio est de aliis. Unde nullum nomen univoce de Deo et creaturis praedicatur.   I answer that, Univocal predication is impossible between God and creatures. The reason of this is that every effect which is not an adequate result of the power of the efficient cause, receives the similitude of the agent not in its full degree, but in a measure that falls short, so that what is divided and multiplied in the effects resides in the agent simply, and in the same manner; as for example the sun by exercise of its one power produces manifold and various forms in all inferior things. In the same way, as said in the preceding article, all perfections existing in creatures divided and multiplied, pre-exist in God unitedly. Thus when any term expressing perfection is applied to a creature, it signifies that perfection distinct in idea from other perfections; as, for instance, by the term "wise" applied to man, we signify some perfection distinct from a man's essence, and distinct from his power and existence, and from all similar things; whereas when we apply to it God, we do not mean to signify anything distinct from His essence, or power, or existence. Thus also this term "wise" applied to man in some degree circumscribes and comprehends the thing signified; whereas this is not the case when it is applied to God; but it leaves the thing signified as incomprehended, and as exceeding the signification of the name. Hence it is evident that this term "wise" is not applied in the same way to God and to man. The same rule applies to other terms. Hence no name is predicated univocally of God and of creatures.
Sed nec etiam pure aequivoce, ut aliqui dixerunt. Quia secundum hoc, ex creaturis nihil posset cognosci de Deo, nec demonstrari; sed semper incideret fallacia aequivocationis. Et hoc est tam contra philosophos, qui multa demonstrative de Deo probant, quam etiam contra apostolum dicentem, Rom. I, invisibilia Dei per ea quae facta sunt, intellecta, conspiciuntur.    Neither, on the other hand, are names applied to God and creatures in a purely equivocal sense, as some have said. Because if that were so, it follows that from creatures nothing could be known or demonstrated about God at all; for the reasoning would always be exposed to the fallacy of equivocation. Such a view is against the philosophers, who proved many things about God, and also against what the Apostle says: "The invisible things of God are clearly seen being understood by the things that are made" (Rm. 1:20). Therefore it must be said that these names are said of God and creatures in an analogous sense, i.e. according to proportion.
Dicendum est igitur quod huiusmodi nomina dicuntur de Deo et creaturis secundum analogiam, idest proportionem. Quod quidem dupliciter contingit in nominibus, vel quia multa habent proportionem ad unum, sicut sanum dicitur de medicina et urina, inquantum utrumque habet ordinem et proportionem ad sanitatem animalis, cuius hoc quidem signum est, illud vero causa; vel ex eo quod unum habet proportionem ad alterum, sicut sanum dicitur de medicina et animali, inquantum medicina est causa sanitatis quae est in animali. Et hoc modo aliqua dicuntur de Deo et creaturis analogice, et non aequivoce pure, neque univoce. Non enim possumus nominare Deum nisi ex creaturis, ut supra dictum est. Et sic, quidquid dicitur de Deo et creaturis, dicitur secundum quod est aliquis ordo creaturae ad Deum, ut ad principium et causam, in qua praeexistunt excellenter omnes rerum perfectiones. Et iste modus communitatis medius est inter puram aequivocationem et simplicem univocationem. Neque enim in his quae analogice dicuntur, est una ratio, sicut est in univocis; nec totaliter diversa, sicut in aequivocis; sed nomen quod sic multipliciter dicitur, significat diversas proportiones ad aliquid unum; sicut sanum, de urina dictum, significat signum sanitatis animalis, de medicina vero dictum, significat causam eiusdem sanitatis.    Now names are thus used in two ways: either according as many things are proportionate to one, thus for example "healthy" predicated of medicine and urine in relation and in proportion to health of a body, of which the former is the sign and the latter the cause: or according as one thing is proportionate to another, thus "healthy" is said of medicine and animal, since medicine is the cause of health in the animal body. And in this way some things are said of God and creatures analogically, and not in a purely equivocal nor in a purely univocal sense. For we can name God only from creatures (Article [1]). Thus whatever is said of God and creatures, is said according to the relation of a creature to God as its principle and cause, wherein all perfections of things pre-exist excellently. Now this mode of community of idea is a mean between pure equivocation and simple univocation. For in analogies the idea is not, as it is in univocals, one and the same, yet it is not totally diverse as in equivocals; but a term which is thus used in a multiple sense signifies various proportions to some one thing; thus "healthy" applied to urine signifies the sign of animal health, and applied to medicine signifies the cause of the same health.

To stress the point further, the use of analogy is so ubiquitous that we find it throughout theology, and not just in St. Thomas' discussion of divine attributes (which is perhaps the context in which philosophers use analogy the most).  

Analogy extends much further and is found in the discussion on the Trinity as well.  One example is St. Thomas' discussion on the "Son" as an "image" of the "Father." Those three terms are analogous: "Father," "Son," and "image" are being attributed to God, and therefore they have different (though related) meanings in God from the way they are meant when attributed to creatures.

The first point is regarding God as cause/principle. In order to understand St. Thomas' remarks on this topic, we need first to make an important distinction. And this distinction is not that between philosophy and theology. Philosophy indeed identifies God as the first cause. And so does theology. In doing so, philosophy and theology are speaking of the relationship between God and what is outside of God (ad extra). But theology also delves into God's inner life, what is to be found within God (ad intra). And within God, we find processions, where one person, the Father, is the first principle of the others. This procession ad intra is distinctly different from the causality of God ad extra. We can properly describe God's action ad extra as 'causation' or 'causality', but for the reasons St. Thomas gives, God's inner processions are best described as proceeding from a principle, rather than from a cause.

So, the take home message for beginners in theology: get used to analogy in theology!  It's everywhere!

Friday, April 06, 2018

Quaeritur: Doesn't the Necessity of Baptism Imply a Miopic View of Salvation?


Quaeritur: The dogma that there is no salvation without baptism bothers me.  Can't God work outside our little theological box?  It seems miopic and close minded to think that God is bound by the Sacraments that He Himself instituted.  And it is especially arrogant for you theologians to think that your little theological boxes can contain God's infinite mercy.

Respondeo: Your criticism of theology is (1) self-referentially inconsistent, and (2) not sufficiently aware of what Catholic theology actually says regarding this matter. 

(1) You clearly think theology does not have the full story about God and salvation.  And in doing so you are theologizing.  In fact, any criticism of the very project of theology is ipso facto a theological act.  So you can't belittle all theology without at the same time creating your own theology, therefore criticizing your own act of theologizing.  That is, in critizicing all theology you are critizicing your own (theological) criticism of theology.  So first of all please stop and think about how your insufficiently reflected-upon theology could in fact possibly be less adequate than the theology that you belittle, given how little you have thought about it, and compared to two thousand years of theological discussion. 

(2) Moreover, you are clearly underestimating Catholic theology.  Actually, the principles of our theological "box" are the articles of faith, which were revealed to us by God Himself.  And in that box we know there is not only sacramental baptism, but also baptism of desire and baptism of blood.  And also that God is not bound by His sacramental economy, but that He chose to institute this economy as the ordinary means of salvation for all humankind.  And not only that, but also the very limitations of our theological knowledge and of intellectual knowledge in general are a vast topic of discussion in traditional Catholic theology.  And all of this is either explicitly or implicitly contained in God's revelation, and theologians for centuries have discucssed this.  Theology --any theology--cannot help being miopic in a certain sense, because while we are in via, short of seeing the Divine Essence, we cannot really understand God's truth fully.  But its being limited does not give us the right to belittle this sacred science, which ultimately is nothing other than a humbling of human intelligence before God's gift of revealing Himself to us. 

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Quaeritur: How are Trinitarian Processions Compatible with Divine Immutability and Eternity?


Quaeritur: In Summa theologiae Ia, q.27, Aquinas explains in great detail what is going on inside the Trinity. The two internal processions: the Father generates the Son. The Father and the Son spirate the Holy Spirit. All of these terms seem to imply movement—emanating from, coming forth, a breathing out, etc., yet we learned earlier that God is immutable. There is no movement in God as that would imply potentiality, and in God there is no potential, He is pure act. How can movement and immutability seemingly coexist?

There also seems to be an ordering or succession of the divine persons—God the Father, the First Principle, unbegotten. God the Son, begotten, generated from God the Father. God the Holy Spirit, spirated from God the Father and God the Son. But in God there is one divine essence, not shared by the three persons, but subsisting in each one. And in God essence and existence are one and the same thing. How can we reconcile the one essence and existence of the divine persons with their apparent succession?

Respondeo: Excellent questions.  God is indeed immutable Pure Act, and therefore in Him there cannot be any sort of motion whatsoever.  It is also not quite correct to say that there is "succession" in God, because that would imply motion.  Rather, the Divine Processions are eternal processions: the Father eternally begets the Son, and the Father and Son eternally spirate the Holy Ghost.  The consequence is a priority and posteriority among the persons in God: but not a temporal priority, since the Father does not exist "before" the Son, nor do they exist "before" the Holy Ghost.  Rather, there is an order among the persons with regard to their procession.  The Father proceeds from no one: He is innascible, unbegotten, unspirated.  The Son proceeds from the Father by way of generation, and together with the Father (the Father through Him) spirates the Holy Ghost.

Moreover, none of this brings division into the Divine Simplicity, because these processions are all identical to the Divine Essence.  St. Thomas, in an objection, argues thus:

Obj. 2: "Everything which proceeds differs from that whence it proceeds. But in God there is no diversity; but supreme simplicity. Therefore in God there is no procession."  

To this, he responds: 

Ad 2: "Whatever proceeds by way of outward procession is necessarily distinct from the source whence it proceeds, whereas, whatever proceeds within by an intelligible procession is not necessarily distinct; indeed, the more perfectly it proceeds, the more closely it is one with the source whence it proceeds. For it is clear that the more a thing is understood, the more closely is the intellectual conception joined and united to the intelligent agent; since the intellect by the very act of understanding is made one with the object understood. Thus, as the divine intelligence is the very supreme perfection of God (Question [14], Article [2]), the divine Word is of necessity perfectly one with the source whence He proceeds, without any kind of diversity." (ST Ia, q. 27, a. 1, ob. 2, ad 2).

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Χριστὸς ἀνέστη / Christos Anesti / Christ is Risen (Paschal Troparion, Byzantine Liturgy)


Saturday, March 31, 2018

God is Dead


The Dead Christ, by Andrea Mantegna c.1480

Holy Saturday is that day of the year that I cannot help but think of the deep theological irony involved in Nietzsche's infamos phrase.  "God is dead" is something we faithful Catholics can utter today with profound devotion.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, truly underwent human death.  On that day, God was dead.  Quite literally so.  And we commemorate that day every year on Holy Saturday, so at least liturgically we can say today, with Nietzsche: God is dead.  (Nietzsche of course didn't mean it that way, but it is ironic that his words help us, on a day like today, to profess our faith and meditate on its depths.)

You may be thinking: "Wait, God did not die; it was just Jesus who died."  The theological principle of the communicatio idiomatum, the "communication of idioms" (cf. my wife's post) states that the attributes of each of Jesus' two natures can be attributed to the person.  So we attribute to the Person of the Word, whom we call "God," both human and divine attributes.   Among these human attributes we include His mortality, and the fact of His death.  It is true that the Divine Nature did not die: the Divine Nature is immortal, and in this sense each of the three Divine Persons is immortal through their Divine Nature.  But the Second Person, the Person of the Word, "God," also possesses a human nature, which was mortal while on this earth.  And through this human nature, the Person of the Word did truly die.  And this fact is what we especially remember today.

Or maybe you're thinking: "Jesus did not die; only his body died."  If you are thinking along these lines, you are probably thinking of the basic truth of the faith that the Second Person of the Trinity is eternal, and never ceases to be, even during the three days from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.  And it is true that he never ceases to be.  In fact, even the constituent parts of His human nature (body and soul), never ceased to be, even though they were separated.  That is to say, throughout the triduum the Second Person of the Trinity continued His divine existence, and continued to be hypostatically united not only to his human soul, which "descended into hell," but also to his body, which lay in the tomb (cf., Summa theologiae IIIa, q. 50).  But still, it is true to say that He died, or that He underwent death, given that death does not mean ceasing to be, but rather it means the separation of soul and body.  He truly suffered this separation of body and soul, which we call human death.

Ultimately, the underlying principle here is: acta sunt suppositorum, acts are done by persons (supposits). We do not say that my body drives my car; we say: I, the person, drive the car, even if it's my through my body that I do it. So Christ's actions and passions may be done through his body, but it is He who does them through His body. So it is not wrong to say His body died, so long as we don't mean to deny that the person died.  At any rate it is more proper to say that the Person ("God," "Jesus," "the Word") died.

That's what's so awe inspiring about today: the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity truly underwent human death --a separation of his body and soul-- for our salvation.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Quaeritur: Why the Lack of Feminine Language in Reference to the Trinity?


Quaeritur: I am reading St. Thomas' treatise on the Trinity (Summa theologiae, Ia Pars, qq. 27-43).  I am trying to understand more about the Trinity, how the Persons relate to one another, and how we can properly communicate about it. One thing that feels amiss to me is the lack of the feminine when I encounter the Trinity. God is obviously neither male nor female, but when I see the term "generation" as it relates to the Father and Son, a maternal force more readily comes to mind. In our creatural experiences women are the generators. I might suggest allowing some of the feminine attributes of God to be encountered here. It is also not uncommon for the Father’s love for us to be described in a maternal way. “As a mother comforts her child, so will I [God] comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” (Isa. 66:13). Some others are Mt. 23:3 and Is. 49:15.

Respondeo: Regarding the feminine aspects of 'generation', St. Thomas is simply being faithful to Scripture (and Tradition) by using masculine terms. Jesus revealed himself as the as the only-begotten (rather than "birthed" or "conceived") Son of the Father: all of these are masculine references. Despite the Divine Nature being asexual, and despite there being some apt maternal metaphors for God and His relationship towards us (as you rightly point out), God did reveal Himself to us principally in unequivocally masculine terms, and so it makes sense that we respect that revelation by echoing it in our theology.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Quaeritur: Logical Vocabulary in St. Thomas' Christology


Quaeritur: In St. Thomas' Christology, I have found some logical terminology that I do not understand, especially the terms "to predicate" and "reduplication."  Would you please define the following terms for me?  Thank you.


Predication: To "predicate A of B" is literally to make term A be the predicate of term B in a sentence or proposition. So to predicate A of B equals to saying that "B is A." For example, to predicate God of Christ is to say that "Christ is God." 

Reduplication occurs when a proposition has a qualification that specifies in which regard the predicate belongs to the subject.  So for example, I am both a father and a professor, and you might want to say that I am "stern" but maybe you want to add that I am so only as a professor and not as a father. So it would be reduplication to say "Professor Romero is stern as a professor." You are 'reduplicating' the term professor. And that reduplication is not a mere redundancy: it is necessary in order to specify in what regard the predicate belongs to the subject: "Prof. Romero qua professor is stern." This is often necessary in Christology in order to specify in what regard we predicate things of Christ. So for example, we can say of Christ the following: "That man is mortal as man" or "God incarnate is immortal qua God." Even if you don't repeat the subject in the predicate, it is considered reduplication if the subject implies the term: "Christ qua man is mortal." 

Reduplication is also common in philosophy; for example, when we say that the object of metaphysics is "being qua being." 

I hope this helps.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Quaeritur: Is the Hypostatic Union an Accidental Union of Natures?


Quaeritur: I have a question regarding the union of the Divine and human natures in the one Person of Christ. Is the union of the two natures in the one Person of Christ merely accidental or is it an essential union between the natures?  Is the union a quiddity onto itself?  How are we to conceive the nature of the union that occurs within the Person of the Incarnate Word?  I tried to word the question as best as I could.  Thank you, and God bless.

Respondeo: The hypostatic union is not an accidental union of natures, but is rather the closest union possible, that between a person/hypostasis/subject and his natures.  The hypostatic union is not a union that occurs between the natures themselves, but in the Person or Hypostasis of the Word.  So the human nature is united to the Person in the same way that the Divine Nature is united to the Person.  There is no direct essential union of the two natures among themselves, nor is there a third nature that unites them.  It is the person that is the "pivotal point" as it were, of the union.  So the two natures are united in the person, and so their union is not accidental, but, as St. Thomas says, it is a union "in subsistence":

A Divine Person is said to be incommunicable inasmuch as It cannot be predicated of several supposita, but nothing prevents several things being predicated of the Person. Hence it is not contrary to the nature of person to be communicated so as to subsist in several natures, for even in a created person several natures may concur accidentally, as in the person of one man we find quantity and quality. But this is proper to a Divine Person, on account of its infinity, that there should be a concourse of natures in it, not accidentally, but in subsistence. (ST IIIa, q. 3, a. 1, ad 2).
Ad secundum dicendum quod persona dicitur incommunicabilis inquantum non potest de pluribus suppositis praedicari. Nihil tamen prohibet plura de persona praedicari. Unde non est contra rationem personae sic communicari ut subsistat in pluribus naturis. Quia etiam in personam creatam possunt plures naturae concurrere accidentaliter, sicut in persona unius hominis invenitur quantitas et qualitas. Hoc autem est proprium divinae personae, propter eius infinitatem, ut fiat in ea concursus naturarum, non quidem accidentaliter, sed secundum subsistentiam.
The hypostatic union does produce an effect in the human nature which is accidental, yet profound: the human nature participates accidentally in the divine nature, becomes divinized by the fact that the Divine Nature is there present also (without confusing the two natures).  This is distinct from the fact that the human person is assumed by a Divine Person.  I'm speaking of the divinization that we also undergo, despite not having been assumed by a Divine Person.  So just as our own human nature receives a participation of the Divine Nature through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in us, all the more so, the human nature of Jesus is divinized by the presence of the Divine Nature (aside of from is becoming the flesh of the Logos).  

I hope this helps (or at least that it doesn't confuse you further).