"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

— A Commentary on the Third Part of St Thomas' Theological Summa

by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P.


Fifth Article: Whether In Christ There Is Any Union Of Soul And Body

State of the question. If so, then it seems that there would be in Christ a human person, for the human person is the result of the union of the soul with the body.

Reply. The answer is in the affirmative and it is of faith.[597] But the human nature thus being a composite has not its own personality.

Sixth Article: Whether The Human Nature Was United To The Word Of God Accidentally

This article is both a recapitulation of the preceding articles and the completion of their definition of the hypostatic union.

State of the question. It seems that this union is accidental, for whatever accrues to a being after it is complete as an entity, accrues to it accidentally. Whatever does not pertain to the essence of anything, is its accident. But the human nature does not pertain to the divine nature of the Son of God. Therefore the union of the human nature with the divine nature is accidental.

Reply. It is given about the end of the argumentative part of the article. St. Thomas says: "The Catholic faith, holding an intermediate position between Monophysitism and Nestorianism, does not affirm that the union of God and man took place in the essence or nature, nor yet in something accidental, but midway, in a subsistence or hypostasis."[598]

1) Indirect proof. It is drawn from the counterargument, and is expressed by the following argument. Whatever is predicated accidentally, is not predicated substantially, but quantitatively or qualitatively. But the humanity of Christ is not predicated quantitatively or qualitatively. Therefore it is not predicated accidentally.

2) Direct proof. It is founded on the arguments defining the faith on this point, which declare that the union is not natural, which is against Eutyches, nor accidental, which is against Nestorius, but is subsistential. The two opinions quoted by the Master of the Sentences in this article may be included in the error of Nestorius. The argument may be reduced to the following syllogism.

The union of substantial things that form the composite of one person is not accidental. But such is the union of the Word incarnate. Therefore the union is in no way accidental, but substantial, which means that it is subsistential.

This implies more than the expression "in the person," for even accidents are in the person to whom they are attributed.[599] To understand this article it must be noted that there are four modes of per se predication, and that personal union means more than union in the person, as Cajetan observes.[600]

There are four modes of per se and not per accidens predication, as Aristotle explains.[601] St. Thomas says in his commentary on Aristotle: In the first mode of per se predication, definition is predicated of the subject, for instance, man is per se or essentially a rational animal.

In the second mode of per se predication a property is predicated of the subject, for instance, man is risible, or has the power of laughing, which manifests itself on his countenance as an indication of intelligence, and this power does not belong either to the angel or to the irrational animal.

The third mode of per se predication is more the mode that pertains to existence, and not to predication, since it signifies something that exists in itself and not in another as in a subject. Thus first substance, for example, Peter, is per se or in himself existing, in opposition to accident, and to second substance, for example to humanity, which is predicated of Peter and is in him.

The fourth mode of per se predication is according to the notion of causality, when the proper effect is attributed to its proper cause. Thus the doctor restores to health, that is, he does this inasmuch as he is a doctor; strangling kills, light illumines. Contrary to this, it is accidental that the doctor sings.

It is evident that the humanity is united with the Word neither in the first mode, nor in the second mode, nor in the fourth mode, but in the third mode, inasmuch as it exists in the Word not per accidens, but per se,[602] and as Cajetan says,[603] it is united with the Word not only as in the person or in the hypostasis, as accidents are so united with substance, but it is united with the Word hypostatically, which means substantially, according to the third mode of predication.

Solution of difficulties. Durandus holds that this union is not predicamentally or physically accidental, because humanity belongs to the predicamental substance, and not to any of the others. But the union is predicably or logically accidental, because the predicable accident is defined as that which can be either present or absent from its subject of predication, without the corruption of this latter. But the humanity can be either present or absent from the Word, which remains unchanged.

The principal objections in scholastic form are the following.

First objection. What accrues to anything after the completion of its being, accrues to it accidentally. But the human nature accrues to the Word after the completion of the former as a being. Therefore the human nature is united with the Word accidentally.

Reply. I distinguish the major: if it is not drawn into the same personal being, I concede the major; otherwise I deny it. I contradistinguish the minor: that the human nature is drawn into the personal being of the Word,[604] this I concede; that it is not, this I deny.

But I insist. Even though it is drawn into the same personal being, it is united accidentally. The accident that accrues to any subject is drawn into the same being of the subject. But the accident is united with this subject. Therefore the human nature is united with the Word accidentally.

Reply. I distinguish the major: that it is drawn into the same being of the suppositum, this I deny; improperly so, I concede; for it has its own being, but inheres in a subject. It belongs to the being of accident to inhere. I concede the minor. I distinguish the conclusion: if the human nature were an accident inhering in the Word, then I concede the conclusion; otherwise I deny it.

The human nature is truly united with the Word not only in the person as accidents are, but also substantially inasmuch as it is terminated by the personality of the Word, and has one personal being or one existence with it, just as body and soul are so united.

Again I insist. Nevertheless the union is accidental at least predicably, if not predicamentally as Durandus says.

What is not predicated of a subject per se is a predicable accident.

But the human nature is not predicated per se of the Word.

Therefore the human nature is united with the Word as a predicable accident.

Reply. I distinguish the major; what is in no way predicated per se, I concede; what is at least predicated per se in the third mode or per se as subsisting, I deny. I contradistinguish the minor, and I deny the consequent and consequence. The humanity of Christ does not indeed belong to the definition of the Word or of the Second Person of the Trinity, nor is it a property of the Word, but the Word subsists in the human nature, and the human nature in the Word.

Finally I insist. Nevertheless, what can be either absent or present, the subject remaining intact, is united with the subject accidentally. But the human nature can be absent from the Word, which remains intact. Therefore the human nature is united with the Word accidentally.

Reply. I distinguish the major: the subject remaining intact considered as a composite, this I concede; the subject considered as a mere subsisting form, I deny. I contradistinguish the minor: the human nature can be absent, the Word remaining intact considered in Himself, as the eternal person, I concede; considered as the Word incarnate, I deny.

Thus the body is not united accidentally with the soul, and yet the body can be separated from the soul, this latter continuing to exist, though the composite ceases as such. In other words, there can be no separation of the body from the soul unless there is a cessation of the composite, and so the union is per se and not per accidens. Similarly the humanity is united with the Word, although the union between the two is not essential.

Corollary. Hence the hypostatic union differs from an essential union that would result in one sole composite nature, such as the union between body and soul. It also differs from an accidental union. It is, however, an absolutely unique union of its kind, one that is subsistential or hypostatic, or a formally personal union, and not only a material union in the person, for even accidents, which accrue to man, are united to him materially in the person, but not formally as constituting the person.

Therefore Christ's human nature in the Word is neither a predicamental accident, as, for example, the intellectual faculty is in the rational soul or in the angel, nor a predicable or contingent accident as, for example, a certain person may be sitting instead of standing.

Thus is determined the exact meaning of this conciliar expression, namely, "hypostatic union." We are not concerned here with a theological conclusion deduced from the dogma, but with a metaphysical explanation of the dogma. The hypostatic union is not a new truth concerning the Incarnation, but it is a metaphysical explanation of this revealed truth.

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"It is vanity to love what passes quickly and not to look ahead where eternal joy abides. "

Thomas Kempis

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"A person who rails at God in adversity, suffers without merit; moreover by his lack of resignation he adds to his punishment in the next life and experiences greater disquietude of mind in this life."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life eases the mind and a clean conscience inspires great trust in God."

Thomas Kempis

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