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
8. CHRIST AS HEADSHIP
IF CHRIST IS THE HEAD of His Church, then the Church is His Body. As the term "Head" is used figuratively of Christ in relation to the Church, so also the term "Body" is used figuratively of the Church in relation to Christ. It is obvious that the Church is not a physical body as the body of a man. It is rather a body in the sense in which we speak of a moral body, such as the body politic. The body politic is a group of men united to work together to achieve the common goal of all men in the temporal order. Now the Church is a group of men united to work together under the authority of Christ for the good of the whole Church, which is the attainment of the vision of God. However, the Church is even more than a moral body. In a moral body, the only means of union between the members is the free decision of their wills to work together. But in the Church the members of Christ's Body are united to Christ and to one another by the supernatural bond of God's grace and charity. All the members of Christ's Body, the Church, are united, not by a natural union of wills, but in the Divine life of grace and in the supernatural bond of Christian charity. Because both grace and charity are supernatural realities which are not fully understood by men in this life, we call this union a mystical, or mysterious, union. Hence, the Church is called not simply the Body of Christ, but the Mystical Body of Christ.
A NATURAL BODY is alive, so the Mystical Body of Christ is alive in the supernatural order. As the soul is the source of the life of the human body, so the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, is the life of the Mystical Body of Christ. From Heaven, Christ, as the Son of God, sends the Spirit into the world to give supernatural life to His Church. The Holy Spirit communicates life to the Church in the order of truth, holiness and discipline. He is the source of truth in the Church, because it is the Holy Spirit Who imparts infallibility to the Pope and bishops in the teaching of Christian doctrine. He is the source of truth for all the members of the Church, for it is He Who bestows on all the gift of Divine faith whereby they lay hold on God's revealed truth. He is the source of holiness, since He is the principal agent infusing grace ----- a share in the Divine life ----- into the souls of men. He is the source of discipline, as it is He Who chooses ----- in a mysterious, invisible way ----- those who will be the visible rulers of the Church in the world. He is the primary source of all vocations to the priesthood or the religious life, to the episcopacy or the papacy. It is for these reasons that the Holy Spirit is called the Soul of the Church, the Soul of the Mystical Body of Christ. He is the source of all its supernatural life. He is the source of the charity which binds together all the members of the Church.
AS THERE ARE MANY and different members in a living human body, so, too, Christ and the Holy Spirit have placed numerous and diverse members in the Church. As we have just said, some members of the Church are placed in positions of authority, and they are endowed with the graces necessary for teaching, ruling and sanctifying. To the others are given the graces required for obeying and serving the Church. But in all the members of the Church, whether they be rulers or ruled, God produces an astonishing variety of graces which gives the Church the great beauty that is to be found in any living body. In the Church there are humble missioners with the gift of tongues or of persuasive preaching. We can find, also, intellectual geniuses such as St. Thomas or St. Bonaventure. In the Church God produces the zeal of St. Paul, the charity of St. John the Evangelist, the fortitude of Pope Gregory VII or of St. Arnbrose, the temperance of Matt Talbot, the humility of the Cure of Ars, the purity of St. Agnes, the crusading spirit of St. Louis of France, the martyrdom of St. Maria Goretti.
IN ALL THESE MYSTERIOUS WAYS, God works out His Divine plan for men and for His Church. All the members of His Church labor together for the building up of the Body of Christ, for the salvation of men. Christ, His Blessed Mother, the angels and Saints in Heaven work for the release of the souls in Purgatory ----- the Church Suffering. They work also for the salvation of the Church Militant ----- the Church here on earth. Seeing us in their vision of God, they know all our needs, our trials and difficulties. Through their prayers, a constant torrent of God's graces is pouring into Purgatory and into the world to redeem men. The souls in Purgatory ----- the Church Suffering ----- expiate their sins in the purifying fires of Purgatory. Some theologians think they also can pray for the Church Militant on earth. At any rate, when their Souls are fully cleansed and they are admitted to Heaven, then they, also, as Saints of God, intercede for us who still remain here on earth. The members of the Church here on earth ----- the Church Militant ----- in their turn toil and pray for their own salvation and for the release of the Souls in Purgatory. In addition, they praise God in Himself and in His Saints. In all these wonderful ways, the grace of Christ circulates through the three great sections of His Church, the Church Triumphant in Heaven, the Church Suffering in Purgatory and the Church Militant on earth, binding them all together in the Communion of Saints.
THIS MARVELOUS SUPERNATURAL LIFE of the Church is all traceable to the grace of headship which is Christ's. From this point of view, we can say that the Church is Christ; it is from Him that supernatural life flows to all its members. Christ lives on forever in His Church; here on earth the Church is the continuance of His life. In the Church, Christ still teaches men the truths of salvation, sanctifies their souls, and rules them for the salvation of the world.
THERE ARE, UNFORTUNATELY, some men who are not under the headship of Christ. These are they who are either already in Hell for their sins, or who will be condemned to Hell for their sins. These men have lost their true head, and now are under the rule of the devil. They have no real head in the sense of a source of supernatural life; but they are subject to the external government of the devil.
SINCE THE HUMAN NATURE of Christ is the human I nature of the Son of God, and since Christ in that nature is the head of men and Angels, it is natural to expect that it will have all the excellence that is possible to a human nature. This is precisely the case: in knowledge and power, the human nature of Christ possesses all the perfection possible to a in which it is possible for a human soul to know anything. This means that the soul of Christ must have been enriched from the beginning with the vision of God. If Christ was to make it possible for other men to see God, certainly He must have seen God with His own human intellect. Obviously, this vision of God in the human intellect of Christ cannot be equal to the infinitely perfect vision of God which is proper to God alone. But since Christ, in His human nature, is the head of all creatures, He will see in His vision of God all that can be known about creatures ----- that is, He will see everything that is real about creation: all that has been, that is, or that will be. He will not see everything that is possible to God; only God can fully realize the infinite power of God. In addition, the human soul of Christ possesses infused knowledge. We realize that this is possible, because the Angelic intellects know by means of infused knowledge, and the souls of the dead also know by infused knowledge, since they no longer have any eyes, ears, and so forth by which they could know anything. If the Angels and the souls of the dead are to know the things in the world, they must know them through knowledge which God infuses into their minds. Since knowledge of this kind is attainable by a created mind, it must exist in the human mind of Christ. Surely, God would not allow the mind of His own human nature to lack any possible perfection. Through this infused knowledge Christ would not know the essence of God; He knew the essence of God through His beatific vision of God. But through this infused knowledge He would know everything that is possible for a created intellect to know. Lastly, the human intellect of Christ could acquire knowledge just as other men obtain it. Through the senses He would come to learn the world in which men live; by the power of His mind He would come to understand the meaning of things just as other men do. It follows, then, that while the vision of God in the soul of Christ and the infused knowledge in His soul could not grow or increase, the acquired knowledge in the soul of Christ could increase. This is the meaning of the statement in sacred scripture that the Boy Christ advanced in wisdom. Neither His beatific vision of God nor His infused knowledge increased, but His natural acquired knowledge was augmented. Naturally, since the human nature of Christ was a perfect human nature, since the power of Christ's mind was never weakened or darkened by sin, even the acquired knowledge of Christ surpasses the knowledge of all other men. We do not say that Christ, in this way, knew even things of which He had not experience, such as the television or the atom bomb. But His mind grasped the essence of all things. Naturally, too, since Christ is God, it was not fitting that Christ should learn anything either from Angels or men. God is the source of all knowledge; therefore, even in His human nature, He acquired all that He knew without any Angelic or human teacher.
AS WE HAVE ALREADY NOTED, the great perfection of the human knowledge of Christ is due to the fact that it is the knowledge of the human nature that is God's, the human nature that was assumed by the Son of God. The absolute perfection of the Son of God demands that the human nature He assumes be as perfect as it can be. The necessity of this perfect knowledge in Christ appears even more clearly when we recall the role that Christ plays in the universe. He is the head of men and Angels, and must direct them; therefore, He must know perfectly the world of men and Angels. In addition, He is to lead men to the vision of God. But unless He knows the destination well, how can He lead men to it? It was necessary then, for Christ to know God and the whole universe as perfectly as is possible.
WE MAY SAY THE SAME about the power of Christ. Since He is God, it is fitting that His human nature possess all the power possible to a creature. As He is the head of men and angels, it is fitting that He have all the power necessary to fulfill this role in the universe. Because the human nature of Christ is a creature, it cannot have the omnipotence of God. It cannot create anything or annihilate anything; these actions are proper to God alone. But Christ had the power to work miracles through His human nature; it was the instrument used by His Divinity to produce miraculous effects in the world. Obviously, too, the human nature of Christ, in virtue of its fullness of grace and perfection of knowledge, had the power to instruct all creatures.
THE PERFECTION of the human nature of Christ is an inspiration to all men. It shows them what God wants them to be; not that all men, or anyone man, could ever reach the excellence of Christ. But it is the will of God that all should approach the perfections of Christ as closely as possible. Still, God, in His wisdom, did not make the human nature of Christ so perfect that men might not recognize Christ as one of themselves, as another person with a human nature. In Christ we find those human imperfections which are not contrary to His human perfection, and which are useful in the work of redemption which Christ was to accomplish. Christ was hungry at times, and thirsty, and tired; He could feel pain. He could suffer and die, and He did suffer and die for the sins of men. By His sufferings and death He paid the penalty of the sins of men. He could feel sorrow at the prospect of death; He could weep over the death of Lazarus, His friend. But He did not have those defects of human nature which are due solely to sin. Since He had to suffer and die to redeem men from sin, He assumed in His body the defects of suffering and death; but He Himself, because He was sinless, did not contract the penalties of suffering and death as a punishment for His own sins. He assumed these defects only to pay the penalty of other men's sins. He Himself was absolutely sinless; the perfection of His holiness did not even tolerate in Him any inclination to evil, any disordered concupiscence of the flesh. But the sufferings and the death He endured for men are an example of patience and love to all.
SON OF GOD has become man. Christ is
God and man. Important consequences result from this tremendous
From the point of view of Christ Himself, it follows that since there
only one Person in Christ, whatever we can say of either of His natures
can be said of that Person. Hence, we can declare that Christ is God,
that Christ is man. We can state that the Son of God is eternal, and
He died on the Cross at Calvary. Because the Person in Christ is a
Person, the Son of God, we can call Mary the Mother of God; she has
birth to God in His human nature. However, it is important to remember
that the two natures of Christ remain themselves; hence, we cannot say
that the Divinity of Christ is human, or that the Divine Nature died on
the Cross, or that the human nature of Christ is eternal or strictly
This great grace was given to Christ also because in the Divine plan He was to be the head of the whole human race in the spiritual order. Adam is the head of the whole human race in the natural order of the body. He was also, before his sin, the spiritual head of the human race. By his sin he lost God's grace fro himself and all his descendants, and in this way he ceased to be the head of the human race in the spiritual order. However, God determined to restore grace to the human race, and He made Christ the new spiritual head of all men. It is in this sense that the Fathers of the Church called Christ the "second Adam." from Adam to the end of time, all grace comes to men from Christ. Since His own personal sanctifying grace is the source of grace for all men, His grace is sometimes called capital grace or the grace of headship.
In virtue of the oneness of personality in Christ, we must also assert that there are not two Christs, the one human and the other Divine. We must affirm that there is one Christ, Who is both human and Divine. Because there is but one Person, one responsible Agent in Christ, it follows that there must also be a unity or a conformity between the Divine will of Christ and His human will. Since Christ possessed a perfect human nature, He also possessed a free human will. The human will of Christ was perfectly conformed to the Divine will of Christ. It did not will anything against the Divine will, nor did it refuse anything the Divine will commanded. This does not mean that Christ did not suffer at all in undergoing death on the Cross. Christ allowed His sensitive appetite to function quite naturally during His Passion and death. As in other men, His soul, through the action of the sensitive appetite, feared the prospect of suffering and death. This is the meaning of Christ's statement in the garden of Gethsemane: "My soul is sorrowful unto death". His will, considered simply as a tendency to good, also shrank from suffering and death. But His will as a rational appetite, as an inclination to good under the control of reason, accepted suffering and death as the will of God. In the action of His human will, then, Christ gave us the example of a perfect will. While still subject to the movement of the passions, the will of Christ was rationally obedient to God, even unto the death of the Cross.
AS A PERSON WITH A HUMAN NATURE, Christ had also the power to act in a human way. He was capable of acts of reason and will. In fact, all the actions of the human nature of Christ, even the purely vegetative functions of His body, were under the control of His rational luman will. Moreover, since Christ was able to act freely, He was capable of meriting grace for Himself and for others. But here we must make an important distinction. Since Christ did not exist in His human nature until the Son of God assumed a human nature to Himself in the womb of the Virgin Mary, Christ did not merit for Himself either the personal union of His human nature with the Son of God, nor sanctifying grace, nor the perfection of His knowledge. But He merited for Himself the glory of His body after His Resurrection and His Ascension, and, in general, all the perfections which He acquired in the course of time. In addition, He merited by His free actions all the graces given to men as members of His Mystical Body, and even the graces whereby the Angels assist Him in the work of building up His Mystical Body.