THE PRINCIPLES OF ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
REV. DENIS FAHEY, C.S.SP., B.A., D.Pa., D.D.
Professor of Philosophy and Church History, Senior Scholasticate, Blackrock College,
With Nihil Obstat and Imprimi Potest
THE WORLD STRUGGLE
AROUND THE DIVINITY OF OUR LORD
"AND I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself" (John xii. 32). We Catholics know that Our Lord Crucified and Risen from the dead is the centre of the world, centre and culminating-point, too, for in Him and through Him, humanity is linked with God. The hillock of Calvary is really and truly (if the metaphor may be allowed) the watershed of the world's history. The human race moves on down to Calvary and from Calvary onwards, dividing at the foot of the Cross, according as men accept or reject the Divinity of Him Who died there on the first Good Friday. But this view of Calvary requires, for its completion, to be supplemented by a full perspective of the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Our Lord. In the words of St. Augustine (De Unitate Ecclesiae, IV.): "The whole Christ is the Head and the Body: the Head is the only-begotten Son of God and His Body is the Father was so carried out that our Catholic life here below should be conformed thereto" (Enchirid. C. 53).
Two duties that follow from this adorable mystery of Christ's life in the Church have been touched on by His Holiness Pope Pius XI in his Encyclicals -----the duty of suffering and expiating with Christ and the duty of standing for the Kingship of Christ. The duty of suffering and expiating with Christ as His members has been dwelt on in the Encyclical, On Universal Reparation to the Sacred Heart, 8th May, 1928: "It should be also remembered that the expiatory Passion of Jesus Christ is renewed and, in a manner, continued in His Mystical Body, the Church. To use once more the words of St. Augustine: 'Christ suffered all that He had to suffer, and to the number of His sufferings nothing is wanting. Hence the Passion is complete, breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples' (Acts ix. I), He said: 'I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest' (Acts ix. 5). By these words He clearly meant that persecutions directed against the Church are a grievous attack upon her Divine Head. Christ, then, as He still suffers in His Mystical Body, rightly desires to have us as His companions in the work of expiation. In this manner, He desires us to be united with Him, because, since we are 'the body of Christ and members of member' (I Cor. xii. 27), what the head suffers the members should suffer with it. That the necessity of expiation or reparation is especially urgent today must be evident to anyone who considers the present plight of the world 'seated in wickedness' (I John v. 19). From every side we hear the cry of nations whose governments have in very truth stood up and met together against the Lord and against His Church (Psalm xi. 2). In these countries we have seen the rights of God and man trampled under foot, churches razed to the ground, religious orders of men and women driven from their houses, imprisoned, starved, attacked with insults and hatred; children torn from the bosom of Mother Church, made to deny and blaspheme Christ, and led into horrible crimes of impurity; all Christians threatened, oppressed, in constant danger of apostasy from the faith, or of a cruel death. So distressing are these events that they would seem almost to portend that 'beginning of sorrows' which is to be brought by 'the man of sin . . . who is lifted up above all that is called God, or that is worshipped' (2 Thess. xi. 34)."
The other duty incumbent on Catholics, because of the great truth of Christ's life in the Church, is brought home to us in the Encyclicals "Ubi Arcano Dei," On the Peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ, and "Quas Primas," On the Kingship of Christ. In the former, the Holy Father insists that "unless the precepts, doctrines, and example of Christ are faithfully followed by all in public and private life, no peace worthy of the name can be attained, and certainly not the peace of Christ, which is pre-eminently to be desired. It is necessary, therefore, that human society be rightly organized, in order that the Church, following its divine mission, may be in a position to defend the rights of God towards men, individually as well as collectively. This is what We have briefly expressed as the reign of Christ." He then goes on to point out that "the Lord Jesus reigns in civil society, when therein sovereign homage is paid to God, and He is recognized as the source of authority and of law, without which there would be no standard of rule, no obligation to obey, nor honour in doing so; He reigns in it when the Church holds that position of dignity which was allotted to it by its Divine Author, that of a perfect society -----mistress and guide of all other societies. Not that it lessens the power of these societies, for each is legitimate in its own sphere, but rather that it perfects them, as grace doth nature: and this connection between the Church and other societies places within their reach the power to assist man in the attainment of his final end, which is eternal beatitude, and to secure for him, even in this life, happiness and prosperity. From this it is clear that there is no peace save in the Kingdom of Christ, and no more efficacious way of establishing peace than by restoring the reign of Christ."
In the Encyclical Quas Primas, the Holy Father treats of the revolt from Christ and the Church: "We refer to the plague of secularism, its errors and impious activities. This evil thing you know, Venerable Brethren, has not come to the surface in one day. Its seeds have been long developing within the vitals of the nations. First Christ's authority to rule over nations was denied. The Church's right, which follows on that of Christ, to teach the human race, to make laws, to rule over peoples unto their eternal salvation, was denied. Then by degrees the religion of Christ was put on a footing with false religions, and placed ignominiously in the same category with them. It was put under civil authority, and tolerated more or less at the whim of princes and rulers. Some went further, and desired to have a natural religion, mere natural instinct, set up in the place of Divine religion. There were not wanting States that thought they could dispense with God, and make their religion consist of impiety and neglect of God. Bitter, indeed, are the fruits that this revolt of individuals and of nations against Christ has borne so frequently and for such long periods. The disastrous consequences of this revolt We lamented in the Encyclical "Ubi Arcano," and today We reiterate the lament. . . . We earnestly hope that the Feast of the Kingship of Christ, which in future will be yearly observed, may hasten the return of society to our loving Saviour.
"It would be the duty of Catholics to do all they can to bring about this happy result. Many of them, however, do not seem to enjoy the social status or to wield the influence befitting those who bear the torch of truth. This drawback may, perhaps, be due to slowness and timidity on the part of good people, who shrink from contest or offer but a weak resistance; with the result that the enemies of the Church become more and more reckless and more daring in their attacks. But if the faithful would generally understand that it is their duty to fight bravely and continually, under the banner of Christ their King, then, fired with apostolic zeal, they would endeavour to win over to Our Lord those who are estranged from Him or know Him not, and would valiantly defend His rights. Moreover, the annual and universal celebration of the Feast of the Kingship of Christ is very much calculated to fix men's attention on, and remedy in some way, this great ruin of society. While nations insult the sweet name of our Redeemer by suppressing all mention of it in their conferences and parliaments, we ought all the more loudly proclaim it, and all the more universally affirm the privileges of His royal dignity and power."
In St. John (xv. 18-27 and xvi.) Our Lord exposes to His disciples, of whose union with Himself as the branches of the true vine He has just spoken, some of the consequences of that vital union. They must love one another; their disciples in all the nations they were to teach must love one another; yet the Church of which they are the leaders and guides, being one with Him, will meet with the same treatment from the world as that given to Jesus Christ. The world that rejected the Father and Christ and the supernatural life He came to restore will also reject the Church and her Divine mission of radiating that life. To Our Lord, then, reliving His Passion in His Church down the ages, the duties of Catholics are twofold. Firstly, they must stand up for Christ the King arid strive that He be not dragged before earthly tribunals to be condemned. They must, in other words, profit by the enthusiasm of Palm Sunday to organize, in order to avert the crime of Good Friday. The Holy Father, Pope Pius XI, in addition to the texts just quoted from the Encyclicals "Ubi Arcano " and "Quas Primas," speaks also in the Encyclical On Reparation of the rejection of Christ the King, which is evident in so many ways in modern society. "Christian modesty is lamentably forgotten in modern habits of life and dress, especially among women: there is an insatiable desire for the goods of the world, an unbridled lust for success in business, a reckless pursuit of popularity, a contempt for legitimate authority and for the Word of God, with the consequence that the faith is lost, or at least is in considerable danger." He then paints a sad picture of the abandonment of Christ the King. "And then to all these evils must be added the cowardice and indolence of those who, like the sleeping or fleeing disciples, are weak in faith, and abandon Christ while He is oppressed with anguish and beset by the allies of Satan; also the perfidy of those who, following the example of Judas the traitor, receive Holy Communion unworthily, or pass over to the enemy's camp. One cannot but think that the time is approaching of which Our Lord prophesied: 'Because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold' " (Matth. xxiv. 12). Before the Sanhedrin no one stood up for the King Who had gone about doing good. To strengthen Pilate and prevent him from being vanquished by fear, in spite of his desire to liberate the King whose Kingdom "was not of this world," there was only a woman, his wife. She, however, did her best to save her husband from responsibility for the most awful crime the world has ever seen, that of Deicide.
Secondly, Catholics must suffer with Christ the King when He is condemned to death. "If, then, in foreseeing the sins of the future the soul of Jesus became sorrowful unto death, it cannot be doubted that He already felt some comfort when He foresaw our reparation. . . . Hence, even now, in a mysterious but true manner, we may, and should, comfort the Sacred Heart, continually wounded by the sins of ungrateful men; for Christ -----as we also read in the sacred liturgy, complains by the mouth of the Psalmist that He is abandoned by His friends: 'My heart hath expected reproach and misery. And I looked for one, who would grieve together with me, but there was none and for one that would comfort me, and I found none' " (Psalm lxviii. 2I).-----(Encyclical Letter, On Reparation.)
The valiant gesture of St. Veronica brought relief that was not merely physical to the Heart of Our King, and His answer to the penitent thief shows how deeply He was and is affected by the compassion and sympathy of the lowliest.
In order to have a clearer view of the struggle around the Divinity of Christ and of His Church, on account of which His Passion is said to be renewed and His friends are called on to stand for His Kingship down along the ages, let us consider the agents of Christ's Passion and Death. They are indicated to us, with his usual limpid clearness, by St. Thomas, in the Third Part of the Summa Theologica, especially in Q. 41, a. 1. ; Q. 42, a. 2, Q. 47, a. 4, 5, 6. In order of malevolence and guilt come first Satan, in the second place the leaders of the Jewish nation, whom St. Thomas calls Maiores Judaei (the, more influential Jews), in the third place the rank and file of the Jews, called by St. Thomas Minores Judaei (the less influential Jews), lastly, the Gentiles, Pilate, and the soldiers who acted as executioners.
Something must be said about each of these in turn.