CHRIST THE SAVIOR
BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF THE SUMMA OF ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
FOR THE CONFRATERNITY OF THE PRECIOUS BLOOD
BY FRS. WALTER FARRELL AND MARTIN HEALY
1. HOW THE TWO NATURES
by Pauly Fongemie
years ago, on the Feast of Christ the King, the
delivering the sermon kept referring to our Lord and Savior, the Second
Person of the Holy Trinity, as a "human person." Then, recently
an office interview with a professional person who claims to be a
Christ was said to be "imperfect" as a human person, to wit, that He
when not telling Mary and Joseph that He would be going to the Temple
discourse with the elders; in other words He was having a bad day,
wise, because He was only being human. This same person also implied
Jesus showed human imperfection when He asked His Mother at the wedding
in Cana, "Woman, what is this to me?" In other words, He was being a
lazy or something similar, and "thus we human beings can't expect to be
any better." These are shocking statements and claims by people
to be Christians. I will make the assumption that both misspoke and did
not intend to imply that Christ was in actuality a human person, and
when referring to His human nature, the terms employed were badly
and not thought out. But the fact that two Christians, one a Catholic
could be so sloppy about the Personhood of Christ should give us pause;
we should stop right here and ask ourselves, given the same situation
we were the principal speaker, would we do any better in presenting
to others? Whether the answer would honestly be either yes or no,
we should renew our knowledge of the Personhood of Christ, lest we find
ourselves ill-equipped in the future. The two speakers above were using
heretical terms, even if they were not aware of it. Do we know how to
of the Personhood of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and can we come
to His defense in that regard if necessary? Much of this
presentation will inoculate you against the "Davinci Code virus" as
THE VISION OF GOD is the goal of human life. It is Divine grace and the supernatural infused virtues which come to man with it that enable him to attain the vision of God. But by sin, Adam lost grace and the infused virtues for himself and for the whole human race. How, then, can man ever reach his true destiny? Must we say that real happiness is forever impossible to him? By sin he has cut himself off from God. Like a petulant child, he has run away from the home of God's love. But the love of God for man is strong and deep and wise; it has reached down from Heaven and rescued him from sin and death, and the manner of its coming beyond the understanding of man.
"By this hath the charity of God appeared toward us, because God hath sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we may live by him. In this is charity: not as though we had loved God, but because He hath first loved us, and sent His Son to be a propition for our sins" [1 John, IV, 9-10].
THIS IS THE CENTRAL MYSTERY of Christianity ----- the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. To save men from their sins, God sent His own Son into the world as a man. The Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, became man and dwelt among us for our salvation. The Son of God is both God and man. He is one Divine Person existing in two natures, one Divine and the other human. Try as we may, we shall never understand in this present life how the Son of God could become man and still remain God. But this is the mystery of God's love for us which He has revealed to us. Christ Himself, Son of God in human flesh, proclaimed this stupendous truth. His miracles proved His claim. He was put to death by the Sanhedrin for making this claim. Christ died on the Cross rather than retract it; He rose from the grave to prove that He, Who really was man, was also really God.
THOUGH WE CANNOT UNDERSTAND this mystery, still, as St. Thomas and the the Church point out to us, by it the goodness, wisdom, justice and power of God are made known to us. In the Incarnation God, Who is almighty has condescended to unite to which is created and limited in power. Surely this is a sign of God's goodness to man. Since Jesus Christ is both God and man, He can offer to God an infinite satisfaction for man's sins against God, and in this the wisdom of God is manifested to us. Because Jesus Christ is man, it is man who satisfied God for sin, and in this we see the justice of God. Lastly, to unite a human nature to the Son of God as His very own human nature ----- this is a work that demands Divine power.
THE LOVE OF GOD for man shines out more clearly in the mystery of the Incarnation when we realize that God did not have to become man in order to save man from his sins. God could simply have forgiven man his sins and restored grace to him; or He could have been content with any satisfaction for sin that man himself might make. But the love of God for man was not content with half-measure or with what was simply necessary. God chose the best possible means of saving man, the best possible means of leading man to good and withdrawing him from evil.
THROUGH THE INCARNATION, God leads man to good. The Incarnation is the firm foundation of the virtues of faith, hope and charity. It is the foundation of faith because in Christ we hear the voice of Himself. It is the foundation of hope because it is a manifestation of the strength of God's love of us. It is the foundation of charity because God's great love for us cannot but enkindle our love for Him. Moreover, in the Incarnation men find the example they must follow to reach the vision of God, for in the life and actions of Christ we see the work of the Christian virtues in their full perfection. Lastly, through the Incarnation the Divine life of grace is restored to man, and it becomes possible for him to live divinely here on earth so that he may inherit the vision of God in Heaven.
THE INCARNATION withdraws man from evil. First of all, it shows him that he must prefer God and himself to the devil, who brought about the ruin of human nature. Secondly, it shows man his own great dignity. God has united to Himself no other nature but the nature of man. Surely, then, man is something wonderful in God's eyes and in the universe. But the Incarnation also preserves man from presumption, for grace is restored to him through Jesus Christ and not because of his own merits. Then, too, in the Incarnation the love of God dissolves the hard ice of human pride. If God is humble enough to become man, can man be too proud to become godlike through Divine grace? Most importantly, Jesus Christ, the God-Man, satisfied God for man's sins and so merited for him the forgiveness of his sins.
THE SON OF GOD became man to Save man from sin. Some theologians have held that God would have become man even if man had not fallen into sin. But St. Thomas remarks that God has not told us what He would have done if man had not sinned. It is better, therefore, to say no more than God Himself has said, that the Son of God became man to redeem man from sin. He came into the world to take away all sin, both actual and original sin. Since Original Sin infects the whole human race, it can be said that, though Christ came to take away all sin, nevertheless He came principally to rescue man from Original Sin.
ST. THOMAS ALSO REMARKS that Christ came into the world at just the right time. Had He come immediately after Adam sinned, man would not have appreciated the value of his redemption by Christ. To appreciate the value of the divine gifts he threw away by sin, man needed to live for some time on his own resources. Moreover, the dignity of the Person Who was coming to save man ----- the Second Person of the Trinity ----- demanded that the world be prepared for His coming by the long line of patriarchs and prophets who preceded Him. Again, if Christ had come at the beginning of the history of the human race, faith in Him might be weakened in the time to come. On the other hand, had Christ delayed His coming until the end of men's history on earth, it is very likely that by that time men would have forgotten about God and His commandments.
IN ITSELF, THE INCARNATION is a mystery that surpasses human understanding. We can do no more than state it correctly. St. Thomas begins his statement of the mystery with the infallible definition of the Council of Chalcedon: "We confess that in these latter times the only-begotten Son of God appeared in two natures, without confusion, without change, division, without separation ----- the distinction of natures not having been taken away by the union." If we strip this definition down to its essentials, we might say that in the Incarnation we have one Person, the Son of God, and two natures, one Divine, the other human, and these two natures are united in the one Person. To understand what we mean, we must recall what is signified by the terms "nature" and "person", and by a union in a person.
OF US KNOW, at least in an elementary way, a what is
by the terms nature and person. We know that a dog has a nature, an
nature, the nature of a dog; but we realize that a dog is not a person.
We know that John Smith has a human nature and is a person, and we
too, that his nature is not precisely the same thing as his person. His
human nature is the same as the human nature of all other men, but his
person is not. We can assert that all men are rational animals, that
all have bodies and souls. But if John Smith steals ten dollars from
Jones, we can say that he did it, but we cannot say that anyone else
it. As a human being John Smith has a body and soul like all other men,
but only the person known as John Smith, and no one else, stole Mary
ten dollars. We might state all this simply by recalling that the
to the question, "What is it?" gives us the nature of a thing; and the
answer to the question, "Who is it?" gives us the person. If we ask,
is that coming down the road?" the answer may be, "It is a human
The answer gives us the nature of what is coming down the road. But if
we want to know the person coming down the road, we must inquire, "Who
THE NATURE OF A THING tells us what it is; but the person tells us who it is. This implies, too, another important distinction between a nature and a person. The answer to the question, "What is it?" might be anything ----- an atom, a boat, a rose, a horse, a man, or even the Divine Nature. But the reply to the query, "Who is it?", must always be a rational being, an intellectual being. If we ask, "Who is it?", we never expect to be told, "A rose," or "A boat". We expect to hear that it is John Jones, or St. Thomas, or the Archangel Raphael, or the Son of God. A person is always a rational being, and therefore a being with free will ----- a being who has control of his own actions, someone who is master of himself, someone who is responsible for his own actions. A person is always, then, someone who is unique, who is himself and nothing or no one else. A nature may be common to many individuals. There may be thousands of dogs, but they all have in common the same kind of nature. There may be thousands of men, and they all have in common the same kind of nature. But every human person is himself and no one else; his personality is not possessed in common by anyone else.