A Manual of Catholic Theology, Based on Scheeben's Dogmatik
Joseph Wilhelm, D.D., PHD. And Thomas B. Scannell, D.D.
With a Preface By Cardinal Manning
Volume II --Book V -- WORK AND FUNCTIONS OF THE REDEEMER.
CHAPTER I. His Work.
Sect. 205. --The Salvation of Mankind.
I. Christ came into this world to work out the salvation of mankind (Matt. i. 21; Heb. v. 9; "Who for our salvation came down from Heaven," Nicene Creed). is salvation is announced by the Prophets as "life" and "health," "peace," "freedom," and "justice"; in the New Testament it is described as "life eternal," "grace," "holiness," and "heirship of the sons of God." On its negative side it is spoken of as "redemption," "ransom," "deliverance from sin," and all the consequences of sin (Greek text; redemptio). Its positive side is the reconciliation of the sinner with God (in Greek; reconciliatio) or the restitution of man to his original state of friendship with God. "In Whom we have redemption (Greek) through His blood, the remission of sins" (Eph. i. 7; cf. Col. i. 14). "We glory in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom we have now received reconciliation (Greek)" (Rom. v. II to the end). Daniel (ix. 24) prophesies the remission of sins and the reconciliation with God conjointly. Salvation, then, as wrought by the Redeemer, is the raising up of mankind from spiritual death unto supernatural life, a translation from sin to sanctity. The infusion of life into the dry bones of the plain in the vision of Ezechiel (xxxvii.), and the sanctification of the people of Israel into a priestly kingdom (Exod. xix. 6), were figures of our spiritual regeneration and sanctification. Mankind, regenerated (5 and sanctified in Christ as its Head and Mediator, is the supernatural kingdom of God: the work of salvation is the perfect restitution of the supernatural order destroyed by sin. The order restored by Christ, according to many texts in the New Testament, is more perfect than the order (economy) of the Old Testament; more perfect even than that of the original state, especially as regards the communion of man with God and the perfection of God's kingdom. "The dispensation of the fulness of time" in which the God-Man assumes the headship of all things, and gives man a share in the Divine Life, brings man and all things to their ultimate perfection (Eph. i. 10).
II. Christ working with God, or as the organ of God, is the cause, or principle, of Salvation: He "is made to us wisdom from God, and justice, and sanctification, and redemption" (i Cor. i. 30). The question, however, arises: in what manner or form did He accomplish His work? Only they who deny Christ's divinity, and the restoration by Him of the supernatural Economy of Salvation, will reduce His work to moral teaching and good example; for if such were the case, man would be his own saviour. Neither is it sufficient to say that Christ announced to man God's will and willingness to save him, and confirmed the truth of this announcement by His death and Resurrection. This latter was the work entrusted to the Apostles, as St. Paul expressly teaches: "God hath reconciled us to Himself by Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation. For God, indeed, was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, . . . and He hath placed in us the word of reconciliation" (2 Cor. v. 18, 19). Scripture forces us to regard the work of the Saviour as a real, efficient cause of our salvation. His work partly replaces, partly completes, partly renders possible and efficacious, the saving work of man himself; on the other hand, it is a condition of, and merits, the saving work of God. It thus differs both from the purely human and from the purely Divine influence on our salvation: for it is a "mediation."
III. Our redemption through Christ being a fundamental dogma of the Christian faith, and seldom directly assailed by heresy, the Church has but rarely formulated it authoritatively, and then only in general outlines has denned that Christ is the mediating cause of salvation, inasmuch as through His death, as a sin-offering, He has merited our salvation; and, making satisfaction for us to God, has blotted out sin. In other words, His merits and satisfaction, as being those of our Representative and Mediator, have obtained for us salvation from God. The oldest expression of the dogma is in the Nicene Creed: "crucified also for us" (pro nobis, Greek) The Council of Ephesus (Anath. x., xi.) speaks of the sacrifice of Christ as of a sin-offering; and the Creed of Toledo formally describes it as such (Denzinger, Enchiridion, n. xxvi.). Pope Eugenius IV (Decr, pro Jacobitis) expressly mentions the "merit of the Mediator," Who cancelled sin and opened heaven. The Council of Trent several times insists upon the merit of the Mediator; e.g. by the merit of the one Mediator original sin is taken away (sess. v. can. 3); the meriting cause (causa meritoria) of our justification is Christ, Who for us made satisfaction to God the Father (sess. vi. ch. 7). The terms "vicarious satisfaction," "vicarious merit," are not expressly found in the Church's formularies; but their sense is sufficiently implied in the term "satisfaction for us" (pro nobis).
IV. 1. The dogma, as above formulated, forbids us to ascribe our salvation exclusively to either the power or the intercession of Christ glorified in heaven. It was His work on earth that saved man; in heaven He administers the fruits of His work on earth. "He sitteth at the right hand of God;" "always living to make intercession for us" (Col. iii. I; Heb. vii. 25).
2. The work of the Saviour on earth was the obtaining of the good-will of God towards man. The first step was to appease the offended God. This He brought about by employing Himself on behalf of man, by interceding and intervening for him with God, in His quality of Mediator and perfect representative of mankind. Yet His work was more than a mere asking or intercession; it merited what it asked for, i.e. it was of such value before God that the salvation obtained is its rightful equivalent.
3. As Salvation implies remission of sin, the Mediator must take upon Himself the obligations or debt of the sinners, and make satisfaction for them to God. His work thus assumes the form of an Atonement or Expiation, by which He honours and pleases God more than sin had dishonoured and displeased Him.
4. The Atonement (expiation, satisfaction) for our sins, although a most essential part of Christ's saving work, does not adequately represent this work. The Atonement is subordinate to, and co-ordinate with, the merit that purchases the Divine friendship. Apart from merit, atonement would be a bare punishment, or, at most, an appeasing of the Divine anger. Taken together as one organic whole, atonement and merit come under the general notion of Sacrifice; i.e. any action performed in order to give God the honour due to Him alone, and so to gain the Divine favour (St. Thomas, 3, q. 48, a. 3).
5. Both the satisfactory and the meritorious action must comply with the following three conditions: (a) The agent must be innocent and undefiled (Heb. vii. 26), holy and pleasing to God: his holiness must be infinite if his satisfaction is to be perfect, (b) The action itself must be a work of justice (Greek; Rom. v. 18), as sin is a work of injustice; and a work of obedience opposed to the rebellion of the sinner against God's will (Rom. v. 18). (c) Lastly, the action must be prompted by reverence for God's majesty and law and by love for His goodness, in order to compensate for the sinner's irreverence, lawlessness, and want of love. All of these conditions are fulfilled in Christ's work. It is peculiar to the work of satisfaction that it should consist in voluntarily accepted suffering. Suffering inflicted on the sinner is the means by which God satisfies His outraged justice and re-establishes the violated order of things; hence, suffering is likewise the natural means of atonement. The sinner deserves death: having unfitted himself for the attainment of the bliss for which he was created, his further existence on earth is purposeless. Hence, Christ accepted death as the chief feature of His atonement. All this is fitly expressed by the technical term satispassio (atoning suffering) applied to the Saviour's work. Although
satisfaction and merit tend in different directions the former aiming at paying off a debt, the latter at acquiring goods yet satisfaction, even as such, cannot be adequately conceived without the element of merit. Satisfaction for sin implies, besides the reparation of the Divine Honour, the acquisition for the sinner of the grace of repentance, without which no sin can be remitted, and the reacquisition of supernatural habitual justice, which every man is under obligation to possess. Now, God alone gives grace: therefore Christ's satisfaction for us would be incomplete and imperfect if it did not merit the graces of repentance and of habitual justice. Like a true sacrifice, the work of the Saviour is expiatory (atoning), because it is at the same time sanctifying.
Christ gave Himself for us, and thus made Himself the objective means, the real price, of our Redemption. In the sacrifice of Himself (a) He willingly suffers the pain of death inflicted on mankind for their sins; (b) He humbles and empties Himself to atone for the sinner's disobedience, to pay to God the greatest honour, and to merit grace for man; (c) He substitutes His innocent life for the life of man forfeited by sin. In the sacrifices of the Old Testament, animals were indeed substituted for man; but Christ's substitution is far more perfect, for His life is a human life anointed with Divinity. Thus the Sacrifice of Christ contains vicarious satisfaction (atonement) for our sins, and also the purchase-price (merit) of our salvation.
The word Redemption the classic term for Christ's work expresses the purchase (emptio) of the freedom of man from the captivity of sin, and the repurchase (redemptio) for him of the liberty of the Sons of God; in other words, the transfer of man from the servitude of the devil to the liberty of the kingdom of God. In order not to misunderstand this "purchase from the devil at the price of Christ's blood," we must look upon Satan as a tyrant, holding unlawful possession of man, whom the Redeemer conquers by destroying the cause that delivered man into his power. The ransom of the slave is not paid to the unjust tyrant, but to the lawful master, as an indemnity for the injustice he suffered.
V. The various elements of the work of Christ which appear in the above analysis, are an exact reflection of the doctrine of Scripture. Scripture calls the work of Redemption a sacrifice, a sacrifice of propitiation, and generally applies to it the sacrificial terminology of the Old Testament: Christ is the High-priest of the New Testament, Who offers Himself as victim (hostia), and His action is termed oblation. Now the bloody sacrifices of the old law were certainly offered as sacrifices for sin: the sinner acknowledged that his life had been forfeited to God, and begged Him to accept, instead, the blood ("in which is the life") of the victim (Lev. xvii. 1 1). The idea of substitution is especially clear in the laying of hands on the head of the victim, by which rite the victim was made the bearer of the sin of the offerer (Lev. xvi. 21). This idea of atonement, of which the old sacrifices were but symbols, was truly realized in the sacrifice of Christ (Heb. x. I sqq.), the only true priest, who not only symbolized, but effected our reconciliation with God. The Epistle to the Hebrews often insists on Christ's priesthood (v. 10; vi. 20; vii. 1-21; ix. n, 15, and 24-28; x. 1-22). The victim is Himself (Heb. ix. 14-26), His Body and Blood (x. 10; ix. 14), which He offered on the Cross, where the real sacrificial act was completed (ix. 25 sqq.). St. Paul, too, says: "Christ hath loved us, and has delivered Himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God, for an odour of sweetness (translated in Greek)" (Eph. v. 2; cf. I Cor. v. 7; Rom. iii. 25). "Jesus Christ is the propitiation (in which sentence is the Greek word vrep) for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world" (i John ii. 2; iv. 10). Besides these direct testimonies, we have numerous passages in which to the Blood of Christ (shed in His death) are ascribed all the effects of the blood shed in the ancient sacrifices. The Blood of Christ is our ransom, (in simulated Greek: Avrpov, avriAvrpov, (Eph. i. 7; Col. i. 14; I Pet. i. 19; Apoc. v. 9); our reconciliation with the Father (Col. i. 20; cf. Eph. ii. 13-15); our justification (Rom. v. 9); the remission of our sins (Matt. xxvi. 28); the cleansing of sin (l John i. 7; Apoc. I. 5; vii. 14; xxii. 14); the blood of a new testament with God (I Cor. xi. 25; i Pet. i. 2). In the same manner the death of Christ is given as our reconciliation (Rom. v. 10), and our redemption from sin (Heb. ix. 15). The doctrine so clearly set forth in these passages, leaves no doubt as to the sense of the texts where Christ is said to have shed His Blood, or died, "for many," "for all," "for sinners," "for us" (Matt. xxvi. 28; xx. 28; i Tim. ii. 6; Rom. v. 6; 2 Cor. v. 14 sqq.; i Thess. v. 10). In most of these places the word (vrep) (for) is used (not the Greek Avri ) = in the place of), which, adhering to the letter, may be interpreted "on behalf of," and thus seems to weaken the vicarious import of Christ's sacrifice. 'Avri, however, is used in Matt xx. 28 (in Greek), and I Tim. ii. 14 (in Greek), and this, in connection with the above distinct doctrine, shows that (Greek vrep) has the sense of avri. (See Liddell and Scott, sub voce). Then it is not easy to conceive how Christ died "on our behalf" if He did not die "instead of us." The idea of vicarious sacrifice is also to the fore in the testimony of the Baptist calling Christ the Lamb that beareth or taketh away the sins of the world (with reference to Isaias liii.); in 2 Cor. v. 21: "Christ Who knew no sin, God hath made sin (in Greek) for us," i.e. treated Him as bearing our sin; and in Gal. iii 13: "Christ being made a curse (karapa) for us," i.e. the object of the Divine anger which we deserved. The term Redemption itself carries with it a sacrificial notion (Lev. xxvii. 27-33; Num. xviii. 15-17). The prophet Isaias most distinctly shows the vicarious character of the Redeemer's work: "He hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows . . . He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His bruises we are healed. The Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. He was offered because it was His own will . . . the Lord was pleased to bruise Him in infirmity: He shall lay down His life for sin [Hebrew, 'as an offering for sin'] . . . He hath borne the sins of many, and He hath paid for the transgressors " (Isa. liii., et passim).
VI. The possibility and appropriateness of Christ's vicarious satisfaction are objected to upon the ground of
difficulties as to each of its three actors: God, Christ, Man.
1. Rationalists object to the idea of a God who takes offence at the acts of a being infinitely below Him; a God who gets angry and remains angry until satisfaction is forthcoming. This objection charges God with mutability, and with a certain pettiness of character. We have sufficiently answered the first part in sect. 65. As to the second, it is not below God's dignity to rule even the minutest actions of His creatures according to His Holiness, Justice, and Mercy. The idea of petty revengefulness is completely excluded by the infinite mercy which God holds out to the sinner in order to facilitate his salvation. The very satisfaction which He requires is His own free gift, the sinner " being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus " (Rom. iii. 24).
2. "Satisfaction must be given by the offender, and not La by a third person: vicarious satisfaction implies the punishment of the just for the unjust." Answer: In the economy of salvation the sinner is bound to give personal satisfaction: if he does not, his lot is damnation. Christ was not punished instead of the sinner, nor against His own will as sinners are punished: by the holiest of free acts He bore the penalties of sin in order to merit for the sinner a means of satisfying which lay beyond human power. His vicarious satisfaction is not the transfer of punishment from the unjust to the just, but the transfer of the merits of the just to the unjust.
On the whole of this section, see St. Thomas, 3, qq. 48 and 49.
Sect. 206. --Perfection of Christ's Satisfaction.
I. St. Paul teaches the "superabundance" of Christ's satisfaction: "Not as the offence, so also the gift; for if by the offence of one many have died, much more the grace of God, and the gift in the grace of one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded (Greek) unto many . . . where sin abounded, grace did more abound" (Rom. v. 15-20). The sufficiency of Christ's merits to give God an honour not only equal, but superior, to the injury caused Him by sin, is founded upon their infinitude. Sin is an infinite injury merely because its external object, the offended God, is infinite; Christ's actions, on the contrary, are infinite in value because their internal principle, Christ Himself, is infinite. Hence their infinitude belongs to a higher order than that of sin. Again, the sacrificial acts of the God-Man offer to God an infinite homage which He accepts; whereas the insult of sin does not affect God intrinsically. Lastly, the Redemption was accomplished through a whole life of meritorious acts, each one of which was of sufficient value to ransom all mankind.
II. The very idea of man's Redemption through Christ supposes that God agreed to accept the work of the Redeemer as a sufficient ransom for the sins of mankind. The work, then, having been performed with superabundant perfection, God was bound by His promise and His justice to grant the remission of sins to the extent and in the manner intended by Christ. The acceptableness of the atonement may further be illustrated from the perfection of Christ's mediatorship. He is a more perfect representative of the race than Adam, for whereas Adam is only its source according to the flesh, Christ is its head according to the spirit, establishing a general solidarity by an act of His all-powerful will. On the other hand, He is God, and as such secures the acceptance of His own work.
Sect. 207. --Effects of Christ's Satisfaction on Mankind.
I. The object or fruit of Christ's atonement is the freeing of mankind from sin and its consequences, and the imparting of all the supernatural graces necessary to man's salvation. The work of the Redeemer won back for us the essential prerogative of the state of original justice, i.e. sanctifying grace (Rom. v. 12 sqq.). Restoration of the minor prerogatives will take place at the resurrection. In the meanwhile, by a wise dispensation Christ has ordained that His followers should sanctify themselves by bearing the ills of life as He bore them (Council of Trent, sess. v. can. 5).
II. Christ's saving work did not at once blot out every individual and transform every sinner into a saint: it "only procured the means thereto. The death on the Cross propitiated God, broke the power of the devil, and founded the kingdom of grace; but the reconciliation to God and the sanctification of the individual are effected by special acts, partly Divine, partly human. This is plainly implied in the language of Scripture speaking of a Redemption already accomplished, and of a Redemption still to come. Natural generation makes us participators of the sin of Adam, because it makes us members of a family spiritually ruined, the head of which has no power over the consequences of his act; it does not make us participators of the grace of Christ, because Christ has not willed that it should. To become members of His kingdom it is indeed necessary to be born of man; but this is not sufficient Admission under the Headship of Christ --i.e. participation in His redeeming work --depends on His will, and is regulated by laws of a freely established supernatural order. Man "puts on" Christ, is incorporated into Christ, by his acts of faith and charity divinely inspired, or by the reception of sacraments divinely instituted, for that purpose. The fact that we must "draw nigh to Christ" (Heb.vii. 19) to become His, accounts for the applicability of His merits to those who lived before the Redemption: they approached Him by faith in the coming of "the Lamb that was slain from the beginning of the world" (Apoc. xiii. 8).
III. As the salvation of individuals depends on conditions which many do not fulfil, a question arises as to the extent of Christ's saving will. On this point the Church teaches that He intended the salvation of all sinful mankind living on earth, without any exception whatever. Those, however, who die in mortal sin, and of course the fallen angels, reap no actual benefit from the Redemption,
1. It: is defined that Christ offered His death for the salvation of those who are joined to Him by faith or baptism, and it is a condemned heresy to say that He died only for the predestinated (Pope Innocent X's condemnation of the five propositions of Jansenius). Similar definitions were given against the Predestinarians of the fifth and ninth centuries, and the doctrine is already contained in the Nicene Creed: "Who for us and for our salvation descended from heaven" (cf. John iii. 14-18; vi. 37-40; Rom. viii. 31, etc.). Infra, p. 239.
2. Although not expressly defined by the Church, it is Christ died yet of faith --because clearly contained in Scripture, and taught by the Fathers that --Christ died not only for such as actually come to the faith, but for all men without exception, so that at least a distant possibility of salvation is given to all. Further, the Fathers and theologians teach, as fidei proximum, that, as regards adults, this possibility of salvation is such that its non-realization is due solely to their own fault. As regards those who die before attaining the use of reason, God's will to save them must also be considered sincere; i.e. the common means of salvation are also intended for them, and God wishes and commands that they should be used. Just as the Divine intention of saving adults is not to be deemed devoid of sincerity because God does not remove the obstacles which through their own fault men put in His way, in like manner the Divine will to save infants must not be thought insincere because God does not remove by miraculous interference the natural obstacles to their salvation. Scripture abounds in texts implying the universality of Christ's saving will: "He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world (Greek text)" (l John ii. 2). The classical text is i Tim. ii. 1-4: "...God our Saviour, Who will have all men (in Greek) to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
IV. Jansenists and Protestants often accuse Catholics of Semi-Pelagianism on account of the above doctrine. The Semi-Pelagians taught: (a) That God (and Christ) grant the means of Salvation only to such as, on their own doctrine, account, and previous to any Divine motion, desire to be saved, (b) That the Divine will to save is entirely circumscribed and ruled by the independent behaviour of man: it succeeds or fails according to acts of the human will not coming from God. (c) Hence the Divine will to save all men is absolute, God doing all that is necessary to save every individual: failure is due solely to insuperable
The Catholic doctrine is, and always has been, totally different (a) God's saving will is not subordinate to any independent act of man's will: He is the first mover in the process of salvation. (b) God freely regulates the motions of the human will, assisting it to co-operate with His grace, or permitting it to resist, (c) The will to save all men is not absolute on the part of God, i.e. God does not use all His power to save man, but freely allows obstacles to salvation to remain, although He could overcome them.
V. Another article of faith is that any sin, however great if duly repented of before death, can be forgiven by the merits of Christ. This is a necessary consequence of the universality of God's saving will. There are, however, certain sins which, by their own nature, make repentance very difficult, and even impossible, e.g. unbelief in the means of grace, final impenitence, etc." The blasphemy of the Spirit shall not be forgiven" (Matt. xii. 31), not on account of God's unwillingness, but on account of the nature of the sin which consists in an obstinate resistance to the Light and Grace of God.
VI. The redeeming work of Christ is of no benefit to devils (defined against Origen in the Second Council
of Constantinople, can. 7, 12).
Sect. 208. --The Supernatural Order in Mankind and in the whole of Creation raised to higher Perfection by Christ and His Work Position of Christ in the Plan of the Universe.
I. The ultimate result of the work of Christ is the restoration of the supernatural order originally instituted for the salvation of mankind. But Scripture also gives as a result the final completion or crowning perfection of man and all things. Thus, Christ not only restored the original order, but raised the whole of creation to a higher standard of perfection.
1. The economy of our salvation received through Christ a new and more powerful basis. What formerly was grace, pure and simple, is now bought at its proper value by the Redeemer's merits; and these same merits are an effective means for preserving grace when obtained, and for recovering it when lost. Moreover, the Divine Principle of Salvation is engrafted upon mankind and made one with us: His titles to heavenly bliss and glory are ours as His co-heirs (Rom. viii. 14-17).
2. The supernatural kingdom of God on earth exists for the glorification of God as the Eternal Father by a people of saints, able to perform that service worthily. In the person of Christ this kingdom possesses a member Who is God, and therefore able to tender to the Father the worship of infinite value due to Him. And as all the saints are one body, whose head is Christ, their worship participates in the perfection of His worship. They constitute not only a kingdom of priests (Ex. xix. 6), but "a royal priesthood" (i Pet. ii. 9). They are the Temple consecrated with the Blood of the High Priest, in which, without intermission, the all-holy victim burns for the glory of God, and for the good of the people bought with His Blood. The new covenant, therefore, is more perfect than the old, both in the way it was established and in the way it works.
3. Pre-Christian grace established between God and man a union of friendship, akin to the union between members of the same household. Christ has raised the moral union to the highest type of "matrimonial communion." When the Logos wedded our flesh and blood, we were made, in a mystic sense, one person with Him, and through Him organically connected with the Father. Hence our sonship participates in a higher degree in the Sonship of the Logos, both as regards our claims to the inheritance and as to the spiritual life we draw from the Father. We also enter into closer communion with the Holy Ghost, who proceeds from the Son and dwells in us as in His temple (i Cor. iii 16).
II. The supreme perfection of the communion with God, as re-established by Christ, lies in this, that it makes every justified Christian another Christ, "Christianus alter Christus, is a favourite saying of the Fathers. As the whole body of the faithful form, with Christ as their Head, one mystical body, so each individual saint is built up after the model of the Head: he is anointed with the same Divine Spirit, made a partaker of the Divine Nature, and transformed into the image and likeness of God. The nobility which is natural to the Divine Son becomes his by adoption. In the simple order of grace, the sanctified are, indeed, the anointed of God, but not in the same manner as sanctified Christians. With the former grace as a quality infused into the soul precedes the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. In Christ and His sanctified members the anointing Spirit is the source of created grace. The sacramental character of Baptism stamps us as members of Christ, for in its innermost essence this character is a copy of the anointing and sealing of the humanity of Christ with the Logos. The characters of Confirmation and Order intensify the membership and increase the flow of the Spirit. The three characters give the Christian a share in the royal and holy dignity proper to Christ --a share in His prophetic office in as far as this consists in being a living witness of the glory of God --and lastly, a share in His priestly and kingly functions.
III. The fulness of perfection achieved by Christ in the perfected, supernatural order belongs primarily to mankind. But as Christ is Head also of the Angels, and consequently their Mediator, they too participate in the fruits of His work. The glory of their Head reflects upon themselves; their worship is enhanced by being united to His worship; their graces and privileges are more their own since they rest upon His merits. The material world itself is raised in perfection through the greater perfection of man, for whose service it exists. Christ, then, unites the whole of creation into one sanctuary, of which He is the foundation and the keystone; and all rational beings He gathers into one family, or one body, of which He is the Head.
IV. We are now able to understand the full significance of St. Paul's admirable description of the work of Christ, Eph. i. 9, 10: "That He might make known unto us the mystery of His will,...in the dispensation of the fulness of times, to re-establish all things in Christ, that are in heaven and on earth, in Him." The sense of this (Greek text) (restoration, rejuvenation, summing up) is that the whole of creation, bound up together and perfected in Christ as its Head, is led back in the most perfect manner to God, its first principle, from whom sin had partly led it away. The influence of Christ on the supernatural order appears here as restoring and perfecting; its reason, form, and effects are indicated, and the organic connection between the whole orders of nature and supernature is set forth. Christ is the Crown, the Centre and the Foundation of a new and higher order of things; He is the Lord and King of all things, and, next to God, their highest end, according to I Cor. iii. 22, 23: "All things are yours . . . and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's." Whether the Incarnation would have taken place if Adam had not sinned was much discussed between Thomists and Scotists. St. Thomas (3, q. i, a. 3) holds that it would not; Scotus (In. 3, dist. 3) that it would. In favour of this latter opinion, see also Suarez, De Incarn., tom. i. disp. 5; St. Francis of Sales, Treatise of the Love of God, bk. ii. chap. iv.
CHAPTER II. Functions of the Redeemer
Our notion of the supernatural kingdom established by Christ corresponds to some extent with our notions of an earthly kingdom. In order to secure the fruits of Redemption, Christ founded a spiritual society, of which He Himself is the Head Who teaches its members supernatural truth, Who sanctifies them by His Sacrifice and Sacraments, Who rules and leads them on to supernatural happiness: Who is therefore at once Teacher, Priest, and King. Each of these offices or functions has a holy, or hierarchic, or priestly character, for they are ministrations in the kingdom of God which is holy in its origin, in its growth, and in all its objects. To teach holy things, to make and to dispense holy things, and to lead to the fruition of holy things (sacra docere, sacra dare et facere, ad sacra ducere et perducere), is the triple function of the Head of God's kingdom.
Of the prophetical or teaching office of Christ we have already treated in the first book of this Manual. We here add only a few remarks.
The Prophets announced Christ as a Teacher of Divine truth to all mankind; Christ Himself claimed this title repeatedly, and exercised this office in many ways during His life on earth. "Behold, I have given Him for a witness to the people, for a leader and a master to the Gentiles" (Is. Iv. 4). "You call me Master and Lord, and you say well, for so I am" (John xiii. 13; cf. Matt, xxiii. 10; John iii. 31). Christ's excellence as a Teacher is supereminent. Even as man He is an eye-witness of all that He reveals, and His truthfulness is founded upon His Divinity. His authority is not by delegation: His human words are the words of a Divine Person. He has personal power to prove His mission by miracles. His teaching is not merely external: He has power internally to illumine and move the minds of His hearers. He taught by deed as well as by words: His whole life, with all its incidents, natural and supernatural, being a lesson in holiness. See St. Thomas, 3, q. 42 sqq.
a.christ as high priest.
Sect. 209. --Notions of Priest and Sacrifice.
I. In Holy Scripture the term "priest" is used in a wide priest. and in a narrow sense. In the wide sense it designates all the members of the chosen people of God, Israelites as well as Christians (Exod. xix. 6, and I Pet. ii. 9), as distinct from other nations. In the narrower sense, priests are men chosen from among the chosen people to act as the officials of the house of God. The former are the lay priesthood; the latter the hierarchical priesthood. Both priesthoods imply in general the same characters (cf. Exod. ix. 5 sqq.; Numb. xvi. 5): Divine vocation or election, special appropriation by God (Heb. v. i), a consecration or sanctification connected and given with the appropriation (e.g. by the imposition of hands or anointing with oil); a consequent qualification to approach God and to offer gifts in His presence. Election, appropriation, and consecration stamp the priest as "priest of God" (Hebrew; Greek; Latin, sacerdos Dei).. The offering of gifts to God is his noblest function, from which also is derived his Hebrew name of "approacher" (Hebrew "to draw nigh"). The priest approaches God when he enters the temple and deposits gifts on the altar, viz. when as a servant, holy and pleasing to God by his consecration, he offers a worship which is itself made holy and pleasing to God by the dignity of the servant: a dignity derived primarily from his vocation and consecration, rather than from his own moral worth.
The hierarchical priest, then, by his special vocation, consecration, sanctification, and nearness to God, stands between God and the people. Yet his qualification for offering a worship more excellent than that of the people, is given him on behalf of the people, viz. in order to act before God on their behalf, by bringing their gifts, and through their gifts the people themselves, nearer to God. His holiness supplements the deficient holiness of his people. "Every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins." (repeated here in Greek text--Heb. v. i). The addition "for sins expresses a special function of the priesthood among fallen mankind, but by no means the essence of priesthood; the sacrifice for sins being included in the general functions of bringing the people nearer to God by sanctification.
The Hebrew priesthood was little more than a higher degree of lay-priesthood. Originally the people were elected as priests, and then from among the people the family of Aaron was chosen. This is also implied in the Hebrew term (Hebrew) (see Bähr, Symbolik, ii. 15). The Latin term sacerdos, and the Greek (in Greek iepevc) connote a priestly dignity found properly only in the priesthood of the Church. Sacerdos connotes a sacred person, who can give holy things (sacra dans) by reason of his consecration. He not only offers to God the gifts of the people, but he also dispenses to man the gifts of God (i Cor. iv. i). This latter function, however, was not prominent under the Mosaic Law. The chief function of the sacerdos is sacrificare, i.e. to make sacred, to consecrate, conficere rem sacram, to sanctify the gifts of God to man, and of man to God. The Council of Trent (sess. xxiii. ch. i) sets forth this character of the Christian priesthood when it describes its power as "a power to consecrate, to offer, and to dispense (ministrandi) the Body and Blood of Christ." Here we have a supernatural power to change a profane thing into a sacred thing, as opposed to the simple power of offering to God anything either profane or sacred. The act of consecrating is intimately connected with that of offering and dispensing or ministering: the priest consecrates in order both to offer and to dispense what he has consecrated. If, then, we give to the term sacrificare its full meaning, we may define the priest as one who has the power to offer sacrifice.
The hierarchical priesthood, the only one which exists under the present dispensation, is essentially different from the priesthood which would have existed under the simple law of nature. In the order of nature the priest would be the public and legitimate representative of society for the public worship of God. But neither his social position nor his election would give him a dignity of higher sanctity and power: he would only be the principle or medium of unity and order in public worship. The representation of the people is by no means the chief element in hierarchic priesthood, not even if the representatives were adorned by God with special holiness and dignity, or empowered to promote through their own sanctity the sanctification of the people with more or less perfection. These and similar elements make up the notion of a sacred (hieratic) servant (Greek, minister), possibly of eminent dignity, but after all only a dignitary whose functions are analogous to those of the lay-priesthood. The hierarchic priest is first and foremost rather a representative and plenipotentiary of God. As such he acts formally when consecrating and ministering. When offering he holds up to God a thing which he has appropriated or consecrated for Divine worship; when praying as priest he acts as divinely appointed patron of the people. Thus in all his functions the hierarchic priest, either formally or as a matter of fact, is the representative of God.
II. Sacrifice is an act of worship in which God is honoured as the Beginning and End of man and of all things by the offering up of a visible creature, which, for this purpose, is submitted to an appropriate transformation by a lawful minister. An internal sacrifice is offered whenever man devotes himself to the service of God by either "reforming or giving up" his life for God (Ps. 1. 19). No external sacrifice is perfect without an accompanying internal sacrifice, whereby the soul associates itself with the meaning and object of the external rite (infra, Book VII. § 267).
I. The object of sacrifice is that of practical religion in general: to acknowledge God as the Beginning and End of man and of all things; that is, to profess in deed our entire dependence on Him, both for existence and for ultimate happiness. Some post-Tridentine theologians have narrowed the idea of sacrifice to mean the expression of God's dominion over life and death, or of the Divine power to dispose of all things, or of the Divine majesty as exalted above all; and have restricted its primary object to the atonement for sin.
2. So, too, the external form of sacrifice --an appropriate transformation of the creature offered --has been limited by Vasquez and later theologians to the "transformation by destruction." Neither historical nor theological grounds can justify such limitations; e.g. the burning of incense, (Greek: Ovaia), which has furnished the Greek name for all sacrifices, is not so much the destruction of the incense as its conversion into "an odour of sweetness," the symbol of the soul of man transformed by the fire of charity. Similar remarks apply to all sacrifices without exception. In the sacrifice of the Mass, the immutatio, as the Fathers technically call the sacrificial act, is not the destruction, but the production of the victim.
3. A lawfully appointed minister is necessary to offer public sacrifice in the name of the people. If the sacrifice is to have a peculiar dignity and efficacy as oblation and as action, i.e. if it is to be more than the most expressive act of external worship, and of man's earnest desire of sanctification a consecrated minister is required: for as gift and as action, the value of the sacrifice is measured by the personal dignity of him who offers it Accordingly, the symbolical sacrifices of Moses obtain the efficacy of sacrifices of the covenant through the sanctification and lay-priesthood of all the people; in the Christian dispensation, individual self-sacrifice, and the public sacrifice for the people, derive supernatural sanctity and dignity from the supernatural character of the Christian layman or priest. See St. Thomas, 1a 2ae, q 102; 2a 2ae, q. 85.
Sect. 210. --Christ's Priesthood and its Functions.
The Priesthood of Christ and its functions are set forth in the Epistle to the Hebrews in order to induce the converted Hebrews to abandon the defective Aaronic priesthood and to cling to Christ, the Great High-Priest Who entered heaven. The treatment of the subject is not, however, exhaustive, because it has only one special object in view, viz. the superiority of Christ's priesthood over that of Aaron. Hence Protestant theologians are not justified in restricting the attributions of Christ's priesthood to those mentioned therein.
I. Christ's priesthood is eminently hierarchical, and perfect in every respect. Christ "draws nigh to" God on behalf of mankind, and His sacrifice has sufficient virtue to take away the sins of the world. No higher priesthood exists; all other priesthoods, of both the Old and the New Testament, depend on it for their existence and efficacy. It is eminently perfect, because (a) it has all the perfections of other priesthoods without any of their imperfections; (b) it has hierarchical power to accomplish in the most perfect manner whatever any priesthood can accomplish.
I. The priest is made "God's own," and endowed with the honour and power of his ministry through an act of consecration. When an ordinary man is elevated to the priesthood, he is made God's own minister by an accidental unction: Christ is constituted God's Own Son by His substantial unction with the Divine Nature, and so possesses sacerdotal dignity and power by His very Nature. Hence His pre-eminent holiness. The ordinary priest is not made impeccable by his consecration; he requires priestly ministration for his personal sanctification; his personal holiness is not the source of the holiness which he imparts to others. The consecration of Christ, i.e. the Hypostatic Union, makes Him holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners (Heb. vii. 26-28), and makes Him the holder and dispenser of God's own holiness. The ordinary priest "draws nigh to God" in a very imperfect manner; Christ sits at the right hand on the throne of God (ibid. viii. i). Like other priests, Christ has known the weaknesses and sufferings of our nature (Heb. v. 2), yet without loss to His dignity and holiness: on the contrary, His death was but the road to the never-ending exercise of His priesthood in an eternal life (Ibid. vii. 25).
2. As Christ's priestly powers flow from His hypostatic consecration, they also are eminently perfect. Being Himself consecrated with the fulness of Divinity, He can in His turn consecrate and sanctify everything, and bring it nigh to God; He can dispense all holy things, whether they be sanctified offerings from man to God, or gratuitous gifts from God to man. He has power to perform the holiest of sacrifices by which the Covenant between God and man is established and sealed, and to make the victim of that sacrifice the pledge of the covenant, the bearer and dispenser of the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost (cf. Heb. ix. 14 sqq., and x. 14).
The nature and power of the Divine Priesthood show its excellence over the imperfect, inefficacious, and transitory priesthood of Aaron (see Epistle to the Hebrews, passim). The whole matter may be summed up in a few words: the Levitic priesthood was temporal, earthly, and carnal in its origin, in its relations to God, in its working, and in its power, whereas Christ's Priesthood, in all these particulars, is eternal, heavenly, and spiritual.
II. 1. The things offered to God by the ancient priests were either lifeless, or at best irrational creatures, distinct from the person of the offerer. In Christ, on the contrary, the gift offered up is included in the Person of the offering Priest: it is His living, human flesh, animated by His rational soul, and therefore, in the language of Scripture, it is a spiritual and rational (Greek () offering. Hence the sacrificial victim offered by Christ is not a merely symbolical, but a real and equivalent, substitute for mankind, on whose behalf it is sacrificed. Again, it is a "victim of immaculate holiness," whereas its predecessors were at best but physically spotless or blameless animals. Lastly, the gifts brought to the altar in the Old Testament acquired some consecration by their contact with consecrated persons, altars, and fires. The gift offered by Christ possesses a holiness of its own, before the act of offering, viz. its unction with the Divine Substance of its personal principle. That same unction, by which the Logos anoints His human nature to the highest priesthood, likewise consecrates it as the Altar of the sacrifice, and, moreover, is the spiritual fire which clarifies and vivifies the victim. Hence, at the very moment the Hypostatic Union took place, the High Priest, the Altar of the sacrifice, the victim and the sacrificial fire were consecrated, and the Logos began to offer up a " spiritual and rational oblation " (Greek).
2. The power of the Aaronic priests over the victims of their sacrifices was limited to the infliction, by external means, of an irreparable death which their sacrificial intention turned into a religious rite or symbol. The dead victim acquired no new life-giving qualities, and was forever beyond the power of the sacrificer. In Christ's sacrifice the immutation of the victim is brought about by an internal act of His will: "I lay down my life that I may take it again" (John x. 17); His death is the source of new life to Himself and mankind. The immutation, therefore, is spiritual, accomplished by the Eternal Spirit of the Sacrificer. This spiritual character is manifest in the glorious resurrection of Christ's body, and likewise in the Eucharistic sacrifice. But it is of the bloody sacrifice on the cross that the Apostle speaks in this connection. On the cross, death was indeed inflicted by external agents; the immutation, however, was accomplished neither by these agents, nor by Christ's willing submission to their act: He offered Himself by a direct and positive act of His will which had power to dispose of His own life and death. The inner act of supernatural power allowed the external agencies of death to take effect, to dissolve the animal life of His body --to liquefy, as it were, the inhabiting Divine Life so as to transform the body into food and the blood into drink unto life everlasting.
III. Of Christ as Mediator we have already treated (supra, § 190). The perfection of His mediatorship stands out prominently in His priesthood.
1 His sacrifice, being that of a Divine Person, is not only acceptable to God, but carries its acceptance with it. For the same reason the shedding of His blood in the name of mankind is as much a gift of God to man as a sacrifice of man to God. On the other hand, Christ perfectly represents mankind in His sacrifice. The flesh He offers is a gift from the human race accepted by Him; it is not a symbol or an inadequate substitute, as in the old sacrifices, but the most perfect member of the whole race, and therefore a perfect substitute for His brethren.
2. The sacrifice of the cross is chief amongst the sacerdotal functions of Christ, because it crowned His work on earth, and laid the foundation of His eternal priesthood in heaven. It alone realizes all the aims and objects of the ancient sacrifices. Being at once an offering for sin, a peace offering, and a burnt offering (holocaust), it reconciles man to God by the remission of sins; it establishes and maintains peace between God and man by preserving man in a state of grace; it unites the spirit of man to God, imperfectly on earth, but perfectly in the state of glory, by imparting to him the consuming fire of Divine Charity (St. Thomas, 3, q. 22, a. 2). In other words: the sacrifice of the cross attains the object of the burnt offering or holocaust, which is to arrive at a perfect union with God through acts of worship; and also attains the objects of the offerings for sin and of peace offerings, which were to remove the obstacles to an acceptable worship (sins), and to procure the means thereunto.
3. The sacrifice of the cross is also the central function of Christ's priesthood, inasmuch as all its other functions are based on this, and are only its consummation or perpetuation. It is virtually continued --not repeated --in heaven, where the sacrificial intention of the Priest and the glorified wounds of the Victim live forever in the Divine Pontiff. One circumstance alone prevents the heavenly sacrifice from being actually the same as that of the cross: and that is the absence of any real immutation of the victim.
4. In the whole burnt offerings of the Old Testament the smell of the victim is said to ascend to God "as an odour of sweetness," which expression is also applied to the sacrifice of Christ. The "odour of sweetness" of the Saviour is His glorified Self ascending into heaven, and as the Lamb slain, standing in the midst of the throne before God, as an eternal sacrifice of adoration and thanksgiving (Apoc. v. 6, etc.).
IV. From His heavenly throne Christ, through priestly ministers on earth, continually consecrates and sacrifices in His Church, making Himself the Sacrifice of the Church, and including the Church in His sacrifice. He thus brings down to earth the perennial sacrifice of heaven in order to apply its merits to mankind, and at the same time enables the Church to offer with Him and through Him a perfect sacrifice of adoration and thanksgiving. The Mass, then, like the Eternal offering in heaven, completes the sacrifice of the cross by accomplishing its ends; viz. the full participation of mankind in its fruits. Although the Eucharistic sacrifice is offered on earth and through human hands, it is none the less the formal act of Christ Himself as heavenly Priest. This idea finds expression in the liturgical prayers before and after the Consecration, in which the Church, here acting in her own name, asks the heavenly Priest and Angel of the Covenant to complete and perfect her sacrifice in heaven. In a similar way the layman in the Old Testament asked the priest to accept his offering, and to lay it on the altar before God. See the prayer "Supplices te rogamus," in the Canon of the Mass.
V. The final consummation of Christ's sacrifice is the perfect participation in its fruits, in time and in eternity, of Christ's by those on whose behalf it was offered. The sanctifying graces thus obtained consecrate the faithful with the Holy Ghost, and transform them into God's holy servants and priests, and make them members of the mystical body of Christ. With Christ they sacrifice and are sacrificed in the universal offering of the Holy City to God. St. Thomas, 3, q. 22.
b. --Sect. 211. --christ as king
I. Christ is hailed by the Prophets, and calls Himself "King of Mankind" (Ps. ii. 6; Isa. ix. 6, 7; Ezech. xxxiv. 23 sq.; xxxvii. 24-28; Jer. xxiii. 3-6; Luke i. 32, 33; John xvjjj 37) because, with the power and majesty of God, He procures justice and peace, salvation and beatitude, for his subjects. His kingdom is of a higher order than the kingdoms of this world. It is hierarchic, spiritual, and celestial --in its origin and final object, in its ways and means, and even in its members: for it embraces only such as, through grace, have acquired the title of adopted children of God. The hierarchic character of the kingdom is pointed out by Zacharias (vi. 12, 13) foretelling that the king would build a temple to God a prophecy fulfilled by Christ when He built His Church upon Peter. He set forth the heavenly character of His Church when He called it "the kingdom of Heaven," and called the power to rule it "the keys of the kingdom of Heaven." The exaltedness of Christ's Kingship as hierarchical, heavenly, and spiritual, shines forth in its first and most solemn act, viz. the sending of the Holy Ghost, through Whom He now performs all the acts of His royal power.
II. The Kingly functions of Christ are the foundation, expansion, and final consummation of God s kingdom among men. They are not always performed visibly, as in earthly kingdoms. Christ acts on the inner man, though ordinarily through visible means, because the kingdom of Heaven on earth is a visible and well-ordered society. He can, however, and often does, exercise His influence on the soul independently of external agencies. The first and the last acts of the kingdom --its constitution and its consummation in the final judgment --are personal and visible acts of the King.
The fundamental function is the distribution of salvation. It is carried out: (1) in the form of Legislation regulating the acquisition and use of grace by man, but especially in the constitution and organization of the Church as the continuator of its Founder's saving work; (2) in the form of administration, government, and development of the kingdom by Christ's visible organs on earth under His assistance and protection; (3) in the form of judicial functions, meting out rewards or punishment to man according to his right or wrong behaviour in relation to grace and the Law of Christ.
The practical working of the Kingly office of Christ is given in the treatises on the Sources of Revelation, Grace, the Church, the Sacraments, and the Last Things. See Suarez, De Incarn., I., disp. 47 and Knoll, Theol. Dogmat., II., sect. 390 sqq.
The Mother of the Redeemer.
In this Part we deal with the personal attributes of the Virgin Mother of the Redeemer, and her participation in the work of Redemption. Other points of doctrine relating to her have been treated of in Part III of this Book. We shall here speak of: (1) Mary the Virgin; (2) Mary the Mother of God; (3) Mary full of grace; (4) Mary co-operating in the Redemption of Mankind. St. Thomas, 3, q. 27-29; Suarez, De Incarn., tom, ii., in proem, dist. i; Petavius, De Incarn., lib. xiv. cc. 1-9; Newman's Anglican Difficulties, vol. ii.
Sect. 212. --Mary the Virgin.
In ordinary women maternity excludes virginity, but the woman chosen to be the Mother of Christ through the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost was necessarily consecrated to God alone, not only a virgin among many, but the virgin of virgins. The prophet Isaias (vii. 14; Matt. i. 23) announces that "a virgin shall conceive and bring forth Emmanuel;" and in the Apostles' Creed, Mary "the Virgin" is associated with the Holy Ghost as the source and origin of Christ. She is the spiritual vessel of election set apart for God.
I. The Christian idea of Mary's virginity postulates its perpetuity, and its extension to her body, her mind, and her feelings: Virgo perpetua virginitate mentis et sensus. Mary, a virgin before, during, and after the birth of her Son: such is the classical phrase for expressing the perpetual integrity of her body.
The Fifth General Council (can. ii.), and the council held in the Lateran under Martin I. (can. iii.), defined the perpetual virginity of the flesh of Mary, which consequently is of faith. In Part II of this Book we have spoken of Mary's virginity in the conception and birth of Christ. That she was a virgin before conceiving has never been contested. As to her virginity after bringing forth her first-born, we gather it from her vow (Luke i. 34, of which more below); from the fact that she is always called the Mother of Jesus (never of any other), and that on the cross Christ recommended her to John, there being no son to take His place. Whatever is inadequate in these indications from Scripture, is amply supplied by the unanimous and unbroken tradition of the Church. To all the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers Mary is "The Virgin." The heretics who impugn this attribute are treated as mad-men, blasphemers, criminals, guilty of sacrilege (St. Jerome, Contra Helvidium). The reason why Mary should always remain a virgin is by universal consent given in the words of Ezech. xliv. 2, "This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it; because the Lord, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, and it shall be shut." St. Thomas (3, q. 28, a. 3) says that Mary's perpetual virginity was required: (1) by Christ, whose dignity requires that He should be the only-born as well as the first-born Son of His Mother; (2) by the Holy Ghost, who had to preserve His sanctuary inviolate; (3) by Mary herself, who in sacrificing her virginity would have been guilty of the greatest ingratitude; (4) by Joseph, in whom the violation of the sanctuary of the Holy Ghost would have been most culpable arrogance.
Three exegetical difficulties have, from the earliest times, been urged by heretics against the perpetual virginity of Mary. St. Jerome exhaustively discusses and solves them in his book against Helvidius. They are: 1. Matt. i. 25, "And he knew her not till she brought forth her first born." But from the words immediately preceding, "Joseph took unto him his wife," it is manifest that the Evangelist only intended to lay stress upon the virginal birth of Jesus, without a thought of the relations between Joseph and Mary after that birth. The same intention is equally manifest in ver. 18, "Before they came together, she was found with child," although here the coming together probably simply implies that Joseph "took unto him his wife." 2. The title of "First-born" is applied to Jesus here; and Luke ii. 7 excludes previous children without necessarily including subsequent ones. The First-born in the Bible is the subject of privileges, rights, and duties: he is consecrated to God. The title is given to Jesus for this and for no other reason. 3. The "brothers of Jesus" in biblical language may be His relatives, or members of the same tribe. Abraham says to Lot, "We are brethren" (Gen. xiii. 8). As a matter of fact, several of the brethren of Jesus are said to be children of another Mary, the sister of the Mother of Jesus, and wife of Klopas (Matt, xxvii. 56, and John xix. 25). James, who is especially pointed out as the brother of the Lord (Gal. i. 19), is regularly styled the son of Alphaeus in the list of the Apostles. Klopas, Cleophas, and Alphaeus, are but different forms of the same Hebrew name.
Some Fathers, on the authority of apocryphal gospels, admit that Joseph had children by a former marriage; this admission, however, is not necessary to account for the brethren of the Lord. Origen and Jerome strenuously reject it.
2. That the virginity of Mary includes "the firm intention perpetually to preserve the integrity of her body for the honour of God," has always been the conviction of the Church. After conceiving by the Holy Ghost, without detriment to her virginity, Mary could not entertain the thought of desecrating her sanctified body: such an impious desire could not spring up in a soul "full of grace." As to the time before the conception, when Mary was yet unaware of her exalted vocation, we may safely presume that God prepared her for it by suggesting to her mind the "vow of virginity," which she mentioned to the Angel of the Annunciation as an accomplished fact: "How shall this be done, because I know not man" (Luke i. 34.) This text leaves no doubt as to the existence of a vow of chastity. When was it made? Was it unconditional? Considering the ideal love of purity which the Church attributes to the Virgin of virgins on the ground of her being the bride of the Holy Ghost, we are bound to think of this vow as perfect, without any restrictions as to time or circumstances, and that it was made when the question of her future state of life for the first time arose in Mary's mind.
3. The third peculiarity of Mary's perfect virginity is her complete freedom from unchaste feelings and feelings, sensations both in mind and body. As, however, this aspect of purity comes under the head of the moral perfection and sanctity of Mary's will, we deal with it in another place.
Her perfect purity of body, mind, and feelings, makes the Mother of Jesus the Virgin of virgins that is, the ideal Virgin. Her love of purity was in proportion to her eminent fulness of grace and love of God. Her virtue was protected not by human will alone, as other saints, but by the all-holy will of God, who, by reason of His alliance with her, bound Himself to keep her unspotted.
II. St. Thomas (3, q. 29, a. i) gives twelve reasons why Mary should have been united in marriage to Joseph. The chief ones are, that her marriage shielded herself and her Son from infamy, secured a protector to both, and gave us, in the person of her husband, a trusty witness of the Divine origin of Christ. But was not Mary's vow of virginity an obstacle to a true marriage? We must, indeed, admit that her marriage differed from the ordinary union between man and wife, inasmuch as her vow debarred Joseph from the exercise of his right over her body. All other duties and rights of both parties in the matrimonial contract remained unaffected. In virtue of his marriage, Joseph had a right to call Mary's Son his own, and the duty to act to Him as a father; in fact, God had ordained their union for that very purpose. It thus appears that the union between Joseph and Mary has excellences not attained even by Christian matrimony. The fruit of union is Joseph's own through his "spiritual "union with Mary. The same fruit is not merely an "adoptive Son of God added to His kingdom," but the natural Son of God Himself. St. Thomas, 3, q. 28 and 29; Franzelin, thes. xv.
Sect. 213. --Mary the Mother of God.
I. In Holy Scripture, and still more in the language of the Church, the title "Mother of Jesus" is given to Mary as the distinctive character of her dignity, as the fountain-head of all her other privileges. Who is Mary? "She is, by Divine election, the Mother of the Saviour." This description defines her personality, accounts for all her exceptional gifts and graces, and marks her unique position in the economy of salvation (supra, § 185). Stress must be laid on the Divine election by which Mary was made the Mother of Jesus; for, as maternity presupposes matrimony, the act by which the Logos from all eternity decreed that Mary should be His partner in the work of the Incarnation, may be considered as analogous to human marriage: a virgin is chosen to be the Divine Bride, and to become, by Divine operation, the Mother of Him who chose her. The eternal decree is Mary's eternal title to the dignity of Mother of God. In the fulness of time the Bride is conceived immaculate, and filled with grace in consequence of her eternal predestination; in the Conception of Christ the union is consummated, and Mary is actually invested with a dignity only excelled by that of its prototype, the Hypostatic Union of Christ with the Logos.
II. The grace of Divine Motherhood originates, like all supernatural graces, in election and predestination by God. But, unlike ordinary predestination to glory, it is un- conditional and irrevocable. As integral part of the plan of Redemption, the Virgin's election to Divine Motherhood is antecedent to any act of hers. Her union with God for the purpose of man's salvation is as indissoluble as God's purpose itself, and much more so than human marriage. In the Creator's idea, Mary is "the Mother of the Saviour" as much as Eve, her type, is the "mother of mankind." Her maternity unites her personally to God after the manner of the Hypostatic Union of Christ with the Logos; not, indeed, so as to constitute one person with God, but so as to elevate her personality to the highest sphere of created perfection and dignity, above and beyond all mere creatures. The gratia unionis in Christ is a substantial grace, viz. the Logos Himself anointing His human nature with Divinity. Similarly, the grace of Divine maternity is substantial, viz. the Divine Being of the Son infused in the Mother. Again, in Mary, as in Christ, the Substantial grace dwells "corporally," and in both the union is organic. The grace of maternity existed from all eternity in God's idea of Mary as an element of her being and a condition of her coming into existence, exactly as the gratia unionis in Christ. Lastly, both unions are analogous in their sanctifying effects: both Christ and Mary, although each in a peculiar form, are "consecrated" by the indwelling Divinity. It deifies Christ, it fills Mary with grace, and makes her the (in Greek text), full of grace, and (in Greek text), the Child of God, in an eminent sense. It also perfects in Mary the antitype of Eve, making her the Bride of the new Adam, and to Him a "helper like himself." For as Eve came from the substance of Adam, and was endowed with a soul like his and a personality of her own, so Mary receives her supernatural life from the substance of her Divine Son, inasmuch as the Holy Ghost, who proceeds from the Logos, and is one with Him, dwells in Mary as in His sanctuary, and so gives her a personality analogous to that of Christ. Again, this indwelling of the Holy Ghost constitutes Mary "the type of the Church," which is "the spouse of Christ," inasmuch as its members are sanctified, raised to the rank of adopted sons, by the outpouring on them of the Holy Spirit.
III. As the grace of union secures to the humanity of Christ the highest excellence attainable by a created nature, so the grace of Divine Motherhood secures to Mary the highest excellence possible to a created person. It associates her in the closest manner with the Divine persons; without giving her divinity, it draws her to the Divinity as near as the finite can be drawn to the infinite.
I. She is the Daughter of God the Father: first, in common with every rational being; secondly, in common with, but immensely above, all the adoptive children of God through sanctifying grace; thirdly, in common with the humanity of Christ only, as being jointly conceived and jointly willed in the eternal mind, and organically associated in the temporal manifestation, ad extra, of the Logos. Hence so many titles properly belonging to Christ are bestowed by the Church, in a duly modified sense, upon Mary: she is our Lady (Domina), our Life, our Sweetness and Hope, our Queen, etc.
2. She is, next to Christ, the noblest and most exalted of human beings; through her, mankind is mystically connected with Christ and with God. The Mother of Christ is also, through Him, the Mother of His mystical body, the Church. When she conceived and brought forth Christ, she also conceived and brought forth the Light and Life of the world, wherefore her maternity of the adoptive children of God is not purely mystical, but has an organic foundation in fact.
3. Lastly, having been made a participator in Christ's eternal generation, and in His Fatherhood (Headship) of mankind, Mary in a manner and degree participates in His office of Mediator between God and man. She is the Mediatrix who heads us on to the true Mediator, Christ; for through her Christ received the existence and the flesh in which He carries out His mediation, and is the Head of mankind. Mary's mediation, however, essentially differs from that of her Son: He, being God, gives of His own; she, being but a creature, distributes what she receives.
IV. The peculiar exaltedness of the Mother of Jesus above all that is great and holy in creation (except her Son), entitles her to a peculiar worship, differing in degree and in kind from that due to the Saints. The technical name "hyperdulia" given to this worship implies that it is above the dulia (service) offered to ordinary saints.
When we thus honour Mary, we honour in her the gifts of God and Christ. The worship of the Mother implies and completes the worship of the Father and the Son.
Sect. 214. --Mary full of Grace Her Immaculate Conception.
The "fulness of grace" of the Mother of Jesus began with her Immaculate Conception, defined in the Bull Ineffabilis in these terms: "The most blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, was, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, through the foreseen merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin (ab omni originalis culpa labe prceservatam immunem)."
I. 1. The subject of the definition is the "person" of the Blessed Virgin; hence, "the first instant of her conception" is the moment in which God united the living soul to the body, i.e. the moment Mary began to be a human being; technically, her nativitas in utero.
2. The words, "was preserved from all stain of original sin," directly express that the habitual sin of Adam, which passed on to all his descendants as an internal stain, did not touch Mary. Indirectly, the same words imply the doctrine taught by the Church of the Virgin's original sanctity and justice, and the consequent exclusion of the imperfections of our fallen nature. The preservation from sin is but a consequence of a positive infusion of grace.
3. "Through the merits foreseen of the Saviour," is added to show that Mary, like every other child of Adam, was by nature liable to original sin, and that to her, as to others, Redemption from it through her Son was necessary. But whilst Christ frees us from the sin after it has been actually contracted, He freed His Mother from the necessity of contracting it at all.
4. The last words, "by a singular privilege," etc., state that the Immaculate Conception was a gracious and unique exception to the general law. The universality of the law is thus no proof against Mary's immaculateness, nor does her immaculateness create a prejudice against the universality of the law. "This law is not made for thee, but for all others" (Esth. xv. 13).
II. 1. The proof of the Immaculate Conception contained in the formula of St. Anselm, Potuit, decuit, ergo fecit (the Immaculate Conception was possible, it was fitting therefore God accomplished it"), carries conviction to every faithful mind. When we consider the origin of Mary in the Father's eternal mind, and her close association with the Divinity as described above, we cannot help feeling that God "was bound" to give His daughter every privilege that was possible and becoming: the ergo fecit follows with almost metaphysical cogency. The "Holy Virgin, the Daughter of God, the true Eve," must be perfectly stainless.
2. Scripture speaks nowhere in set terms of this dogma. It may, however, be inferred from Gen. iii. 3, 15, compared with the salutation of the Angel and of Elizabeth (Luke i. 28, 42): " I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel;" "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women;" "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." The Woman, blessed among women, and her Son are here represented as jointly opposing the power of the father of sin: the victory is a crushing defeat of the enemy which --whether attributed by the text primarily to the Mother or to the Son (cf. supra, p. 51) --is common to both, and implies that neither of them, even for a single instant, was under the power of sin. The words of the angelic salutation are but an echo of the Protoevangelium. The woman full of grace and blessed above all women is she who, with her Son, crushed the serpent's head and destroyed its seed.
3. It would be unfair to restrict the proof from tradition to such testimonies of the Fathers as directly assert the Immaculate Conception. To get at the sense of the early Church on this point, we must examine its picture of Mary's general holiness, and of her position in the supernatural order. Two features are prominent and universally pointed out, both of which evidently imply the completest freedom from all stain of sin. They are: (a) Mary's perfect, unqualified purity; and (b) her position as the "new Eve, the mother of regenerate mankind." St. Anselm, in the words reproduced at the beginning of the Bull Ineffabilis, sums up the Christian tradition with its motives: "It was fitting that Mary should shine with a purity than which none greater can be conceived except in God. For she is the Virgin to whom God the Father ordained to give His only Son --generated from His heart, equal to Himself, and beloved by Him as another Self --so that He should be the one and selfsame Son of God the Father, and of the Virgin. She it is whom the Son chose to be His Mother substantially, and of whom the Holy Ghost willed and effected that He, from Whom He Himself proceeds, should be conceived and born." The idea of the New Eve is thus introduced by St. Ephrem, "Both (Mary and Eve) were established in the same purity and simplicity, but Eve became the cause of our death, Mary the cause of our life."
Besides the general and implicit expressions of the Virgin's Immaculateness --volumes of which can be produced --there exist, from the fourth century onwards, many witnesses testifying to an express knowledge of the dogma in the Church, and even among the common people. In the Eastern Churches the belief constantly existed without any contradiction, and manifested itself in many doctrinal utterances and in the ancient feast of the Conception of St. Anne. In the West we find fewer traces of the doctrine, yet we meet with no contradiction until the twelfth century, when the introduction of the feast of the Immaculate Conception gave rise to controversies closed only by the definition of 1854. (For details, the reader may consult Perrone, Passaglia, or Malou, De Imm. Conc.; Newman, Angl. Diff., vol. ii.)
III. The proofs from reason, Scripture, and Tradition which establish Mary's freedom from original sin, likewise establish her freedom from concupiscence and from actual sin. As to the fact that Mary never experienced the motions of concupiscence, there exists an almost absolute unanimity among the Fathers, at least since the fifth century. Moreover, concupiscence is but a consequence of that original sin which never had power over the Mother of Jesus; hence her perfect freedom from it, although not expressly defined (de fide), is fidei proximum. The universal doctrine of her complete exemption from actual sin is confirmed by the Council of Trent (sess. vi. can. 23): "If any one say that man once justified can during his whole life avoid all sins, even venial ones, as the Church holds that the Blessed Virgin did by special privilege of God, let him be anathema." Theologians go a step further, and assert that Mary was "impeccable," i.e. unable to commit sin; not indeed, like Christ, by the essential perfection of her nature, but by that special Divine privilege which assimilated her as far as possible to her Son.
Sect. 215. --Mary's Death, Incorruptibility, and Assumption into Heaven.
I. There are two methods of treating of the end of Mary's life on earth --the historical and the theological. Death, incorruption of the body, and resurrection, are facts observable by eye-witnesses, and therefore matter of history and tradition. But in the case of the Blessed Virgin, as in that of our Lord, these facts may also be studied from theological sources of knowledge. Since the Vatican Council was petitioned to define the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven, a vast amount of literature, historical and theological, has been produced on the question. The outcome of the historical researches has proved unsatisfactory to the defenders of the traditional view; no con- temporary evidence, no reliable testimony connecting later traditions with the facts, is forthcoming. From purely historical sources the current belief in Mary's bodily assumption cannot be proved. This belief, however, has in theological principles so solid a foundation, that many theologians think it ripe for dogmatic definition. "Did Mary in her bodily life share the common lot of mankind, or did she in this, as in her spiritual life, participate in the privileges of her Son?" Such is the question which theology has to solve.
II. That Mary underwent death is a universal belief in the Church. Yet her death is less certain than her glorification. For this latter admits of positive proof from revelation, whereas the former cannot be proved convincingly either from history or revelation. In fact, the law of death as revealed only punishes fallen mankind; but Mary was exempted from original sin, therefore also from its penalty, death. Again, her death cannot be proved as a consequence of her mortal nature, for in her case the claim of nature is superseded by a supernatural claim to immortality. The same would have been true of Adam, had he not sinned. Mary's claim to a life unbroken by death rests upon her Divine Motherhood; but as she is the Mother of Him who died for us, it was fitting that she should die also, lest her and her Son's human natures should be thought unreal, and the Mother privileged above the Son. Mary, then, died because Jesus died; but her death was not necessarily the effect of violence --it being undergone neither as an expiation or penalty, nor as the effect of disease from which, like Jesus, she was exempt. Since the Middle Ages the view prevails that she died of Love, her great desire to be united to her Son either dissolving the ties of body and soul, or prevailing on God to dissolve them. Her "passing away" is a sacrifice of Love completing the dolorous sacrifice of her life; it is the death in the kiss of the Lord (in osculo Domini), of which the just die.
III. Death is an evil not degrading in itself; nay, under certain circumstances it is even honourable. Corruption of the body, on the contrary, is of itself associated with ideas of dishonour: even in the body of the just it is looked upon as a result of God's curse on sin. Hence, corruption of the body is incompatible with the dignity and position of Mary. The body of the Mother of Christ and Bride of the Holy Ghost could not be allowed to fall a prey to vile corruption. To the Virgin, who conceived without knowing man, who brought forth without lesion, whose flesh without concupiscence had encompassed Divinity, the words of the Psalmist may be applied: " Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; nor wilt Thou give Thy holy one to see corruption" (Ps. xv. 10). The Fathers love to connect Mary's incorruption after death with her virginal integrity during life. No theologian impugns this privilege. Mary's incorruptibility is theologically so certain that it may be used as an argument for her speedy resurrection.
IV. A lifeless body, however incorrupt, is still under the dominion of death. If; then, Mary's body was preserved intact because though dead it was not under the law of death, its separation from the soul could only last a short time. The words (Ps. xv. 10) quoted by St. Peter (Acts ii. 24) to prove the resurrection of Christ, have likewise force to prove the resurrection of Mary, inasmuch as she shared with Him the privilege of incorruptibility. As from the beginning she was associated with her Son in the conflict against sin and evil (Gen. ii. 15), so must she also be associated with Him in the final victory and triumph. Further theological considerations, based upon the grace of Motherhood, may help to strengthen this proof. I. Protracted death would be an unbecoming interruption of Mary's Motherhood, since she is Mother by her body. 2. The Bride of Christ ought not to be separated from her Bridegroom beyond the term required by the object of the union. If "husbands must love their wives, as Christ loved the Church and delivered Himself up for it" (Eph. v. 25), and if Mary is the type, and the first member of the Church, and if she enjoys the first and greatest love of the Head of the Church, how can her body be dead to Him? 3. The commandment to honour father and mother, the promises made to the Saints of a participation in the Divine nature, the fact that Mary's substance formed the substance of her Son --all these require the completest honour to the body of Mary. Other proofs from types in the Old Testament are current among the Fathers; especially the incorruptible wood of the Ark of the Covenant
V. Mary's corporeal assumption into heaven is so thoroughly implied in the notion of her personality as given by Bible and dogma, that the Church can dispense with strict historical evidence of the fact. Again, whatever traditional evidence there is, e.g. the early celebration of the feast of the Assumption, acquires increased force from the theological arguments, and vice versa.
Sect. 216. Mary's Participation in the Work of Redemption.
I. Work necessarily bears the stamp of the worker: its worth or worthlessness, its meritoriousness or demeritoriousness, are commensurate with the qualities of the agent who produces it. Hence, correctly to estimate Mary's co-operation in the work of Redemption, we must keep before our eyes her personal character, especially its analogy with the personal character of Christ The peculiar dignity and power of her work are derived from the Holy Ghost, Who acts in and through her in a union by grace, as the Logos acts in and through the humanity of Christ in personal union.
II. As Mother of Christ, Mary co-operated "physically" in the Incarnation. This privilege she shares with no other creature. Ministers of the sacraments act as mere vehicles of God's power; Mary gives to Him of her own substance. Without having the sacramental power of the priest, she in the conception, formation, and birth of the Saviour, presents the most perfect type of the priest's functions. Moreover, her organic participation in the be- ginning of Christ's life, organically connects her with the whole course of that life.
III. Mary's actions had a singular moral value in singular themselves as being personal services rendered to God, and tending to further the great object of the Incarnation. But they acquire a special excellence from the personal excellence of their authoress: they flow from the "Bride of the Logos, and Bearer of the Holy Ghost," and have the stamp of their origin. If the soul of the just is a temple in which the spirit "asketh with unspeakable groanings in order to help our infirmity" (Rom. viii. 26), we are justified in assuming that in the sanctuary of Mary's soul His sanctifying influence attains the highest degree. He inspires acts, moves the will to carry them out, and assists in the work, so as to make it almost wholly His own. From this point of view the actions of the Blessed Virgin are seen to possess, like those of Christ and of the Church, a supernatural, moral, and legal efficacy, benefiting not herself only, but all mankind. There is, however, between the merits of Christ and those of Mary, an essential difference in their manner of benefiting others. The merits of Christ, infinitely perfect in themselves, are applied authoritatively to whom and in what measure He wills. What Mary does for us is neither infinitely perfect nor applied on her own authority; her work, however excellent and pleasing to God, is but "impetratory," viz. of its kind it is a prayer.
IV. The titles given by the Church to Mary, "the new Eve, the Bride of the new Adam, the Sanctuary and Organ of the Holy Ghost," clearly contain the idea that her work is associated with the work of Christ by a special ordinance of God; that it enters into the plan of Redemption, and forms a subordinate but integral part of Redemption. Hence the attributes of the Saviour are often bestowed upon His Mother. She is called Salvatrix, Reparatrix, even Redemptrix; the destruction of sin and the victory over the devil are ascribed to her. The meaning of these titles and attributes when applied to Mary is not the same as when applied to Christ; to the former they only apply as to the "Handmaid of the Redeemer in the work of Redemption." The Fathers find a proof for, and an illustration of, the Divine pre- ordination of Mary's co-operation with her Son, in the fact that the Redemption was the exact counterpart of the Fall: the subordinate part acted by Eve for evil is counteracted by the subordinate part acted by the new Eve for good (Newman, AngL Diff., II. p. 31 sqq.).
1. The first act of Mary's co-operation in the work of Redemption is her consent to become the Mother of the Redeemer. As Eve, through disobedience and disbelief, became the handmaid of the devil in the work of destruction, even so Mary, through obedience and faith, becomes the handmaid of God in the work of restoration. And as Eve's consent to the temptation became fully co-operative in the fall when Adam added to it his own consent, so Mary's consent became a full co-operation when Christ united to it His first act of obedience.
2. This initial consent, the fervent prayers which preceded and followed it, the continued maternal services, the offering of Jesus in the Temple and on the Cross, the complete union of her will with His in the work of Redemption, place Mary by the side of her Son as a deaconess by the side of the sacrificing priest. The deacon is both the representative of the people and the consecrated assistant of the priest: in the first capacity he hands to the priest the elements of the sacrifice; in the second he supports him in the oblation of the chalice, and, when the sacrifice is complete, assists him in the distribution of the Sacred Food. In the same manner Mary takes an active and integral part in the sacrifice of Christ, without in the least interfering with His self-sufficiency and supremacy.
3. The association of the Mother of Jesus with her Son in acquiring the redeeming merits, is maintained in their distribution, and is of the same nature, viz. what Christ effects by His own authority and power, Mary obtains by intercession and prayer. She, of all human persons the most excellent and the nearest to God, the organ of the Holy Ghost and the Mother of the Church, received at the foot of the Cross the fulness of salvation in the name of mankind. In the Apostle St. John she beholds the spiritual sons committed to her motherly care; in the upper chamber she sat and prayed with the Princes of the infant Church; in heaven she reigns as a Queen all-powerful because her prayer knows no refusal. May we not say, with some theologians, that God grants no grace except on the intercession of Mary? It would certainly be an anomaly in the Divine dispensation if a work begun and carried on with the co-operation of the Virgin-Mother was concluded without her: "the gifts of God are without repentance. "We must, however, be careful to fix accurately the sense of our statement. It does not imply that we can obtain no grace except by expressly and explicitly praying for it to Mary, or that her intercession is always required in order to dispose her Son in our favour. The true and only defensible meaning is that ''in the Dispensation established by God and by Christ, the merits and the intercession of the Saviour Himself are applied to nobody without the concurring intercession of Mary, and consequently, that every grace given is co-impetrated by Mary."
Scholion. The doctrine of the Invocation of Saints is thus described by the Council of Trent (sess. xxv.): "The Saints, who reign together with Christ, offer up their own prayers to God for men. It is good and useful suppliantly to invoke them, and to have recourse to their prayers, aid, and help for obtaining benefits from God, through His Son Jesus Christ, Who alone is our Redeemer and Saviour. Those persons think impiously who deny that the Saints, who enjoy eternal happiness in heaven, are to be invocated; or who assert either that they do not pray for men; or that the invocation of them to pray for each of us even in particular, is idolatry; or that it is repugnant to the word of God, and is opposed to the honour of the one Mediator of God and men, Christ Jesus."
"Prayer," says St. Thomas," is offered to a person in two ways --one as though to be granted by himself, another as to be obtained through him. In the first way we pray to God alone, because all our prayers ought to be directed to obtaining grace and glory which God alone gives, according to those words of Psalm Ixxxiii. 12: The Lord will give grace and glory. But in the second way we pray to holy angels and men, not that God may learn our petition through them, but that by their prayers and merits our prayers may be efficacious. Wherefore it is said in the Apocalypse (viii. 4): The smoke of the incense of the prayers of the Saints ascended up before God from the hand of the Angel (Summ. Theol. 2a 2ae, q. 83, a. 4).