"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

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

by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P.


CHAPTER IV: QUESTION 2 —THE MODE OF THE UNION OF THE WORD INCARNATE (cont)

Seventh Article: Whether The Union Of The Divine Nature And The Human Is Something Created

State of the question. It seems that the union is not anything created, and this for the following reasons.

1) Because this union is in God, for it is God united to the human nature, and there can be nothing created in God.

2) The terminus of the union is the uncreated person of the Word. Therefore the union itself is not anything created.

This question presents considerable difficulty, because there are three possible meanings to the word "union." It may be understood: (1) as unitive action; (2) as rather the passive union of some things into one; (3) as a relation that follows from this union.

1) If we consider the union as meaning the act of uniting the human nature with the Word, then certainly the action is uncreated, and it is common to the whole Trinity, for the Father and the Holy Ghost united Christ's human nature with the Word, although they did not assume it.[605] This action common to the whole Trinity, inasmuch as it is dependent on the omnipotence that is common to the three Persons, is formally immanent, but virtually transitive, and hence is certainly uncreated.

2) If we consider the union as implying a real relation of dependence on the part of Christ's human nature on the Word, St. Thomas clearly shows it to be something created, and so it presents no difficulty.

3) But if we consider the union rather as denoting a passive combination of Christ's humanity with the Word, then theologians dispute whether it is something real and created that is distinct from the human nature. Scotus, Suarez, Vasquez, and certain Thomists, such as the Salmanticenses and Godoy, as also Father de la Taille in recent times, affirm this view.[606] But Scotus would have it to be something relative that is an extrinsic adjunct, whereas others say it is a substantial mode and the foundation of the real relation of which St. Thomas speaks.

On the contrary, Cajetan and several other Thomists, such as Billuart and Father Billot, deny that the union is something created, remarking that there is no substantial mode in this case, one that is a quasi-intermediate connection formally uniting the human nature with the Word, so that it is impossible to detect any other formal union distinct from the extremes united, except the relation itself that follows from the passive change effected in the human nature by the action of the Word uniting to Himself. So says Billuart. Thus passive creation is merely a real relation of dependence, nothing else, and it has its foundation in the being of a creature, inasmuch as a creature is not its own existence. This seems to be the true solution of the difficulty.[607] Let us see what St. Thomas says.

In the counterargument he observes that this union began in time, therefore it is something created. In the body of the article, however, he determines what this something created formally is. St. Thomas speaks only of relation here. His argument is reduced to the following syllogism.

Every relation between God and the creature is real in the creature and logical in God. But the relation about which we speak is a certain relation of Christ's humanity to the Word. Therefore this union is in Christ's humanity as something real, and created, namely, a real relation of dependence on the Word assuming this nature, just as creation is a real relation of dependence of the creature on the Creator.[608]

But what is the foundation for this relation? St. Thomas says in the body of this article: "By the change effected in the creature such a relation is brought into being," that is, this foundation is passion that corresponds to the unitive action. Whether this passion is really distinct from the human nature passively assumed, is a disputed point among the above-mentioned theologians.

Let us see whether the replies to the objections define more clearly the nature of this union.

Reply to first objection. It declares that this union is not anything real in God.

Reply to second objection. It states that this union is something real and created in the human nature. It is not apparent from this reply that the union is anything more than a real relation.

Did St. Thomas speak more explicitly on this point elsewhere? He certainly did; for in another of his commentaries he says: "We must know that in the union of the human nature with the divine there can be nothing intervening that is the formal cause of the union with which the human nature is joined before it is united with the person. For, just as there can be no intervening entity between matter and form that would be in the matter prior to the substantial form, otherwise accidental existence would be prior to substantial existence, which is impossible; so also between the nature and the suppositum there can be nothing intervening in the above said mode."[609] Thus there is nothing intervening between the Word and the humanity. Hence union in the passive sense or created is nothing else but a real relation of the human nature that is dependent on the Word as a person, just as creation in the passive sense is nothing else but a real relation of dependence of the creature on the Creator.

Which is the more probable opinion? An intervening substantial mode between the Word and the human nature, as Cajetan, Billuart and others show, appears to be inadmissible.

Proof. The Word is united with the human nature by that whereby the Word terminates and maintains it. But the Word by Himself or solely by his personality, every formal connection excluded, terminates and sustains the human nature. Therefore the Word Himself or His personality is united with the human nature.

The union of the Word with the human nature means nothing else but the termination of this latter; thus analogically, in the order of operation, God clearly seen immediately terminates the beatific vision.

First confirmation. Created subsistence is by itself immediately united with created nature. Therefore a fortiori uncreated subsistence is so united, as it is most actual in the notion of terminating.

Second confirmation. Likewise existence, as the ultimate actuality, by itself immediately actuates the created suppositum; similarly personality by itself immediately is united with created nature, or terminates it; so also one and the same point immediately terminates two lines that meet in it, which is a very faint image of the union of the two natures in the Word.

Doubt. Was the human nature changed in being assumed by the Word?

Reply. In the strictest sense of the term, it was not, because it did not exist before it was assumed, inasmuch as it did not have its own personality, but was assumed by another personality. A nature must be first produced before it can be assumed.

Thus St. Thomas shows[610] that creation is not a change except as we conceive it, for he says: "Change means that the same something should be different now from what it was previously."[611] But this cannot be either in creation, or even in the assumption of Christ's humanity, which did not exist before its assumption. And St. Thomas says: "When motion is removed from action and passion, only relation remains."[612] Hence creation in the passive sense is nothing but a real relation of dependence that has its foundation in created substantial being. Similarly, in the hypostatic union, the soul of Christ is created as dependent on the Word as a person. If other authors wish to affirm that it is something else, namely, a special substantial mode, let them prove its existence. St. Thomas never spoke about this special mode.

What is therefore the foundation of the relation in the hypostatic union? It is Christ's humanity, inasmuch as it is not terminated by its own created personality, and so it can be terminated and possessed by the Word.

Index Top

Footnotes

12-169-181

 

"What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. "

Thomas Kempis

* * *

"The supreme perfection of man in this life is to be so united to God that all his soul with all its faculties and powers are so gathered into the Lord God that he becomes one spirit with him, and remembers nothing except God, is aware of and recognises nothing but God, but with all his desires unified by the joy of love, he rests contentedly in the enjoyment of his Maker alone."

St Albert the Great

* * *

"For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God?"

Thomas Kempis

* * *

 

 

 
Copyright