"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 IX: QUESTION 7: THE THINGS CO-ASSUMED. The Grace of Christ (cont)

Sixth Article: Whether In Christ There Was The Gift Of Fear

State of the question. There are two difficulties: (1) It seems that hope is stronger than fear, for the object of hope is good, whereas the object of fear is evil. If, therefore, Christ did not have the virtue of hope, a fortiori He did not have the gift of fear. (2) The gift of fear makes one afraid either of being separated from God, or of being punished by Him. But these two were impossible for Christ, because He was impeccable.

Reply. Christ had the gift of fear.

Scriptural proof. The testimony of the prophet, quoted in the preceding article, is: "He shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord,"[905] which also in the Hebrew text refers to the spirit of fear. Moreover, the Church condemned the following proposition of Abelard: "The spirit of the fear of the Lord was not in Christ."[906]

Theological proof. This assertion of Sacred Scripture is not so much proved as explained by the following syllogism.

God is feared by an act of reverential fear, not only inasmuch as He can inflict punishment but on account of His pre-eminence, who cannot with impunity be resisted. But the soul of Christ was moved by the Holy Spirit toward God by certain reverential affection. Therefore Scripture attributes to Him the fullness of the gift of fear, not indeed of the fear of punishment, or sin, but of reverential fear.

Confirmation. This gift of fear, understood as reverential fear, remains in the blessed, for the Psalmist exclaims: "The fear of the Lord is holy, enduring forever and ever."[907] It is said of the angels, especially of those called Powers: "The Powers tremble."[908] For every creature that is not self-existent trembles in the sight of Him who alone is and can be the self-subsisting Being. But Christ's human nature is not His being, although it exists by the very being of the Word, inasmuch as there is one being in Christ, just as there is one person.[909]

Doubt. What is the primary object of the gift of fear?

It is God's pre-eminence, who cannot with impunity be resisted; and its primary act is reverence for this divine pre-eminence, and so this gift can be both in Christ and the blessed. The secondary object of the gift of fear, or of filial fear, is the evil of sin that must be avoided.

In contrast to this, the primary object of fear, considered as a passion, is terrifying sensible evil, and the primary act of this fear is flight from this evil. Finally, the primary object of servile fear is the evil of punishment to be inflicted on account of the offense committed.

Thus it remains true that the habits of the virtues and the gifts properly and directly refer to good, but to evil as a consequence.

Seventh Article: Whether The Graces Gratis Datae Were In Christ

State of the question. By placing the article about the graces gratis datae here, it is evident that St. Thomas draws a complete distinction between them and the gifts as he has already shown.[910] The seven gifts, which are connected with charity, belong to the organism of the supernatural life, but the graces gratis datae do not.

The difficulty is that the graces gratis datae are freely given by way of a transient act. But Christ had permanently the fullness of grace. Hence He did not need these secondary graces. The Gospel does not say that He had the gift of tongues.

Reply. Nevertheless the answer is that all the graces gratis datae were pre-eminently in Christ as the first and chief teacher of the faith.

Authoritative proof. St. Augustine says: "As in the head are all the senses, so in Christ were all the graces."[911] St. Augustine is also expressly referring here to the graces gratis datae in Christ.

The Master of the Book of the Sentences is precisely of the same opinion,[912] and it is commonly admitted by the scholastic theologians.

Theological proof. Graces gratis datae are ordained for the manifestation of faith and spiritual doctrine, because the manner of their enumeration makes this evident,[913] and also the explanation of St. Thomas.[914] But Christ is the first and chief teacher of the faith and of spiritual doctrine. Therefore the graces gratis datae were in Christ.

This means that the graces gratis datae were most excellently in Christ, being ordained for the benefit of others. They may be expressed by the following schema.

[diagram page 281]

GRACES GRATIS DATAE that are ordained for the instruction of others in divine things

  • to acquire complete knowledge of divine things
    • faith concerning principles.[915] word of wisdom concerning the principal conclusions. word of knowledge concerning the examples and effects.
  • to confirm the divine revelation
    • by doing: grace of healing working of miracles
    • by knowing: prophecy, discerning of spirits
  • to convey fittingly to the hearers the divine message
    • kinds of tongues, interpretation of speeches

Christ had to have in the most perfect degree all these graces that were bestowed on others; for they denote no imperfection that is repugnant either to the beatific vision or to the hypostatic union. They are also becoming to the dignity of the head of the mystical body, as St. Augustine says in the counter-argument of this article.

Reply to first objection. St. Thomas points out that these graces are called "diversities of graces,"[916] inasmuch as in the saints these graces are divided; but Christ had these graces all at once and in their plenitude just as He had and always has the plenitude of habitual grace.

Reply to second objection. It was fitting for Christ to have habitual grace, not according to His divine nature, but according to His human nature.

Reply to third objection. It is pointed out that, although we do not read of Christ having had the gift of tongues, because He preached only to the Jews, "yet a knowledge of all languages was not wanting to Him, since even the secrets of hearts, of which all words are signs, were not hidden from Him."[917]

Christ likewise had the grace gratis datae of faith. This grace is a certain pre-eminence of knowledge concerning the revealed mysteries whether such knowledge be clear or obscure;[918] it is also a facility given by the Holy Spirit of proposing the things of faith simply and in a way adapted to all, so that they can be understood even by the ignorant, as explained by St. Thomas.[919] It is evident from the Gospel that Christ had both kinds of excellence.

There is no doubt about Christ's powers concerning either the grace of healing or the discernment of spirits, for the Evangelist says: "And Jesus seeing their thoughts[of the Pharisees], said: 'Why do you think evil in your hearts?'"[920] Again he says: "Jesus knowing their thoughts.[921]

Finally, Christ had pre-eminently the grace of interpretation of speech for explaining the Scriptures in the true and most exalted sense. Hence the Evangelist relates that the disciples going to the town called Emmaus said: "Was not our heart burning within us, whilst He spoke in the way, and opened to us the Scriptures?"[922]

Eighth Article: Whether In Christ There Was The Gift Of Prophecy

State of the question. St. Thomas posited this special article about prophecy, because this grace gratis data presents a particular difficulty. For the first objection of this article remarks that prophecy implies a certain obscurity. But Christ already enjoyed on this earth the beatific vision. Also prophecy concerns distant things or those that are far off, and seems to imply an essential imperfection, as faith and hope do. Moreover, the Apostle says that in heaven, "prophecies shall be made void."[923]

Reply. The answer is in the affirmative.

Scriptural proof. Moses announced to the Israelites: "The Lord thy God will raise up to thee a Prophet... of thy brethren... Him thou shalt hear."[924] Jesus applied to Himself what Moses foretold of Him, saying: "He wrote of Me."[925] Likewise Jesus said of Himself in the synagogue at Nazareth: "A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country."[926]

Theological proof. He is a prophet who knows and announces what is distant both from himself according to his state and from his hearers. But Christ, who was not only comprehensor but also wayfarer, knew and announced very many things which were distant from Him according to His state as wayfarer, such as His betrayal, death, and resurrection,[927] as also the destruction of Jerusalem, the signs preceding the end of the world, the denial of Peter, and several other events. Therefore Christ was a prophet.

Reply to first objection. Prophecy, as usually communicated, is obscure and enigmatic not in itself, but because of the imperfection of the hearer. Its clarity or obscurity, that it be communicated transiently, or permanently, are of themselves a matter of indifference. But in Christ prophecy was clear and permanent because of the union of His human nature with the Word.

But if the Apostle says that in heaven "prophecies shall be made void,"[928] he has in mind complete beatitude, which is incompatible with the state of wayfarer.

Ninth Article: Whether In Christ There Was The Fullness Of Grace

State of the question. The third part of this question begins here. After the consideration of the grace of the virtues and of the gifts and of the graces gratis datae in Christ, St. Thomas treats of the fullness of grace. He asks whether Christ was simply full of grace, both intensively and extensively.

This article and those that follow are therefore concerned with the perfection of Christ's grace.

Conclusion. Christ had fullness of grace, both intensively, that is, as regards its perfection, and extensively, that is, as regards the various effects it can produce.

Scriptural proof. The Evangelist says: "We saw His glory... full of grace and truth.... And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace."[929] Likewise St. John the Baptist testified concerning Christ, and the Evangelist says; "He whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God; for God does not give to Him the spirit by measure. The Father loveth the Son, and He hath given all things into His hand."[930]

The Fathers of the Church have often explained these texts by showing that Christ, who is most full of grace, had every kind of holiness.[931]

Theological proof. It is simply discursive and explanatory, explaining the above quoted text.[932]

This proof may be reduced to the following syllogism.

Fullness of grace is of two kinds, namely, intensive and extensive.

But Christ had each kind. Therefore Christ had absolutely or completely fullness of grace.

Major. It is thus explained. There is intensive fullness of any quality in a being, for instance, of whiteness, when the being has as much of this quality as it can naturally have. Thus it appears that a lily has the highest possible degree of whiteness; so also snow.

Hence intensive fullness is estimated from the degree and radication of any quality in the subject. But extensive fullness of any quality is estimated from the relation to the various effects that any operative principle is capable of producing; for example, the irrational animal has not extensive fullness of life, because it has not intellectual life, but only the vegetative life and sensitive life.

Minor. Its parts are proved. Christ had intensive fullness of grace, that is, in the highest degree that it can be had, for two reasons.

1) Because His soul, which was united to God by the most exalted of all possible unions, which is the hypostatic union, received the greatest influx of grace, just as the air that is nearer to the fire is warmer and more luminous.

2) Because grace was given to Christ, as the head, from which it was to be poured out upon all others; just as in this world nothing is brighter than the sun, which illumines all other things. Hence the Evangelist quotes Jesus as saying: "I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?"[933] The reference is to fire that purifies, illumines, and kindles spiritually.

From these proofs it is apparent that intensive fullness of any quality is estimated from its intrinsic perfection inasmuch as it is pure and free from all imperfection. Thus snow is perfectly white; it has whiteness in all its intensity or purity, containing no element that is not white.

If there is reference to some operative habit, since this habit determines the faculty to operate, it is all the more perfect intensively, the more it determines the faculty with reference to the formal object of the operation to be elicited, that is, it actuates the faculty and is radicated in it. There is something similar in the case of habitual grace, which is an entitative habit, which is received in the essence of the soul, and is radically operative, inasmuch as the virtues are derived from it, just as the faculties are derived from the essence of the soul. Thus intensive fullness of habitual grace is estimated from its intrinsic perfection free from all imperfection, and its radication in the soul, which it especially determines radically to operate most holily free from all imperfection. This intensive fullness of grace would apply to Christ even if His soul were ordered solely to the performance of acts of the love of God.

Likewise Christ had extensive fullness of grace, which is estimated from its relation to the various effects it can produce.

The reason is that, as St. Thomas says: "Christ had grace for all its operations and effects, and this because it was bestowed on Him, as upon a universal principle in the genus of such as have grace... just as the sun is the universal cause of generation."[934]

This twofold fullness, intensive and extensive, is called absolute on the part of the grace itself, which by God's ordinary power cannot be received in a more perfect manner. It is not merely relatively perfect or according to the exigencies of the state or dignity of the subject. In fact, this most exalted dignity of head and redeemer of the human race demands absolute fullness of grace.

Doubt. Is this plenitude of grace more perfect intensively than extensively?

Reply. It is the common opinion among theologians that intensive plenitude is the more perfect, just as quality is to be preferred to quantity, although positivism is inclined to the contrary view; for indeed intensive plenitude is immediately estimated from the intrinsic perfection of the quality, and is the foundation of extensive plenitude. This is especially evident in knowledge, for its intensive plenitude results from the deeper penetration of its first notions and principles, whereas its extensive plenitude, both habitual and actual, is estimated according to the number of conclusions that are deduced from the principles. There are certain physicists who know all the conclusions of their own science in its actual state of development, and who have read all the books of any importance belonging to this science. This does not mean, however, that they have penetrated more deeply into the principles of this science; for the scientific habit is not yet, perhaps, established in their intellect as a sort of second nature. On the contrary, another physicist knows more from on high the principles of this particular science, and their subordination to the other sciences, even though he may have forgotten certain conclusions. The perfection of a science is not estimated according to the number of its conclusions, for although science may make use of many subordinated ideas, it is a simple quality that perfects the intellect in its relation to some formal object and to certain first principles, which virtually contain all the conclusions of this particular science.

Thus there is a great difference between Aristotle and the author of a textbook on peripatetic philosophy. Although the author of such a textbook may perhaps succeed in giving to this science new conclusions, yet he has not the genius of Aristotle, nor could he be the author of such works as the Organon, Physics, Metaphysics, and Ethics of the Stagirite. There is also a similar difference between St. Thomas and his commentators, although the latter may succeed in giving to the science new conclusions.

Likewise those historians Who Write a critical estimate of the life of Napoleon have a more extensive knowledge perhaps than the ambassadors and soldiers of his time, but they generally do not penetrate so intensively and vividly into the mind of such a genius as Napoleon.

Similarly those historians who insist on giving us a critical evaluation of the Gospels, certainly have a less intensive knowledge of Christ's preaching than the apostles had who heard Him. Thus St. John the Evangelist had a better knowledge of Christ's teaching than a theologian would have who would know all the condemned propositions contained in Denzinger's Enchiridion.

Therefore, a fortiori, there was in Christ intensive plenitude of habitual grace and hence of the virtues and gifts.

Index Top

Footnotes

12-169-181

 

"Men should often renew their good resolutions, and not lose heart because they are tempted against them."

St Philip Neri

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"Happy is the youth, because he has time before him to do good. "

St Philip Neri

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"The one thing necessary which Jesus spoke of to Martha and Mary consists in hearing the word of God and living by it."

R. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP

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