"The good of the grace of one soul is greater than the good of the nature of the whole universe"
- St Thomas Aquinas Ia IIa, q.24, a. 3, ad 2

REALITY—A Synthesis Of Thomistic Thought

by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P.


1. By the substantial grace of personal union with the Word, the humanity of Christ is sanctified, with a sanctity that is innate, substantial, and uncreated. By the grace of union Jesus is united to God personally and substantially, by that grace He is Son of God, the well-beloved of the Father, by that grace He is constituted as the substantial principle [786] of acts, not merely supernatural but theandrical, and by that grace He is sinless and impeccable.

2. Nevertheless it is highly appropriate that the soul of the Savior should have, as consequence of the hypostatic union, the plenitude also of created grace, of sanctifying grace, with all the infused virtues and with all the gifts of the Holy Ghost, that thus his supernatural and meritorious acts be connatural. This connaturalness requires that also the proximate principles of these acts, His intellect and will, be of the same supernatural order as are the acts themselves. [787].

3. This habitual and sanctifying grace, being a consequence of the hypostatic union, was, from the first moment of His conception, so perfect that it could not be augmented. By His successive deeds, says the Second Council of Constantinople, [788] Christ Himself was not made better.

This initial plentitude of grace expanded at once into the light of glory and beatific vision. [789] It is highly appropriate that He who came to lead humanity to its last end should have perfect knowledge of that end. [790] Were it otherwise, did He have from His divinity only faith illumined by the gifts of the Holy Ghost, then, on receiving later the light of glory, He would, contrary to the Council just cited, have Himself become better.

This expansion of sanctifying grace into the vision of God was paralleled by a corresponding expansion of zeal for God's glory and man's salvation, a zeal which led the Savior, at His entrance into the world, to offer Himself as a perfect holocaust for us. The same plenitude of grace is the source, on the one hand, of a supreme beatitude, which did not leave Him even on the cross, and, on the other hand, of the greatest suffering and humiliations, arising from His zeal to repair all offenses against God and to save mankind. This identity of source serves in some manner to explain the mysterious harmony, in Christ crucified, between supreme beatitude and supreme suffering, physical, moral, and spiritual.

4. The priesthood of Christ, which gives to His sacrifice an infinite value, on what does it rest? It presupposes, not merely the fullness of created grace, but also the grace of union. The priestly acts of Christ draw their theandric and infinite value from His divine personality. Some Thomists, it is true, say that Christ's priesthood is constituted by His created grace, by His grace of headship, [791] which of course presupposes the grace of union. But the majority, more numerous as time goes on, hold that Christ's priesthood rests directly on the uncreated grace of union itself. That union it is which makes Jesus the "Anointed one of the Lord." That union gives Him His primordial anointing, His substantial holiness. [792].

Further, the grace of union is also the reason why we owe to Christ's humanity the homage of adoration. [793] It is likewise the reason why Christ sits at the right hand of God, as universal king of all creatures, as judge of the living and the dead. [794] This is the view which dominates the encyclical on Christ as King. [795] Jesus is universal judge and universal king, not only as God, but also as man, and that above all by His grace of union which makes Him God-man.

This uncreated grace of union, then, is the reason why Christ, as man, since He possesses substantial holiness, is to be adored with the adoration due to God alone. And primarily by this same grace He is first priest, capable of priestly acts which are theandric, secondly universal king and judge.

Here appears the necessity of contemplating our Savior from three points of view: first according to His divine nature, by which He creates and predestines; secondly, according to His human nature, by which He speaks, reasons, and suffers; thirdly, according to His unity of person with the Word, by which His acts are theandric and have a value infinitely meritorious and satisfactory.

Christ was predestinated. In what sense? St. Thomas and his school, in opposition to Scotus, teach that Jesus as man was predestined, first to divine filiation, secondly and consequently, to the highest degree of glory, which is given to Him because He is God's Son, by nature, not by adoption. [796] They teach, further, that Christ's own gratuitous predestination is the cause of our predestination and that Jesus merited for the elect all the effects of predestination, all the graces which they receive, including the grace of final perseverance. [797].

5. Christ's meritorious and satisfactory acts have an intrinsic value which is infinite. On this important question, which touches the very essence of the mystery of Redemption, Thomists and Scotists are divided. St. Thomas and his school, as we saw above, by insisting on the one existence of Christ, emphasize, much more than Scotus does, the intimacy of the two natures in Jesus,—which gives to His acts, meritorious and satisfactory, an intrinsically infinite value. Thomists insist on the substantial principle of these acts, which is the Word made flesh, the divine suppositum, the divine person of the Son of God.

Hence, whereas Scotists assign to Christ's acts a value that is only extrinsically infinite, that is, only so far as God accepts those acts, Thomists, on the contrary, and with them many other theologians, hold that the value of these acts is intrinsically infinite by reason of the divine person of the Word, which is their substantial and personal principle. That which acts, merits, satisfies, is not, speaking properly, the humanity of Jesus, but rather the person of the Word, which acts by His assumed humanity. But that person, having an infinite elevation, communicates that elevation to all His acts. He that properly satisfies for an offense, says St. Thomas, [798] must give to the one offended something for which his love is at least as great as is his hatred for the offense. But Christ, by suffering in charity and obedience, offered God something for which His love is greater than is His hatred for all offenses committed by the human race. As offense grows with the dignity of the person offended, so honor and satisfaction grow with the dignity of the person who makes amends. [799].

This thesis, admitted by theologians generally, is in accord with the teaching of Clement VI: [800] One little drop of Christ's blood, by His union with the Word, would have sufficed to redeem the whole human race. It is to men an infinite treasure... by reason of Christ's infinite merits.

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