"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)

Introduction Or Ascent Toward A Certain Understanding Of The Incarnation

There are three articles of St. Thomas that enable us to make this ascent.[450] But what pertains to the psychological and moral aspects of person must be added.

This introduction must begin by a definition of person considered under this threefold aspect, namely, ontological, psychological, and moral, and in accordance with the law of true progress from the psychological and moral aspects of personality.

Person under this threefold aspect is defined as an intelligent and free subject, or a substance of a rational nature, by itself separately existing and operating, conscious of and responsible for itself, such as Peter and Paul.

Human personality is that by which a man is thus by himself separately existing, and hence conscious of and responsible for his actions, which means that he is master of his actions. What must especially be noted about personality is that, besides its common independence from every suppositum, inasmuch as it exists separately by itself, it enjoys a threefold special independence, for a person is a suppositum by itself separately existing, whose specific existence and operation, namely, understanding and willing, does not intrinsically depend upon matter.

Therefore a person enjoys the following threefold independence:

1. Its existence does not intrinsically depend upon matter, and thus the soul separated from the body remains immortal.

2. In like manner its understanding does not intrinsically depend upon matter, and thus it transcends actually existing individual things and extends to the universal.

3. It will also remain independent of particular goods that are mingled with evil, for these do not infallibly attract the will, which is specified by universal good. Thus personality far surpasses individuation by means of matter.

What, then, is the law of true and complete progress concerning psychological and moral personality?

Some think that this law consists simply in progress of the aforesaid independence, which would finally be in every respect absolute, or it would consist in complete autonomy of spirit and will, as Kant says. In accordance with this tendency, however, the complete evolution of man's personality would mean that he recognizes nobody his superior. Once this personality is fully developed, there would no longer be any place for virtues that are called passive, such as humility, obedience, patience, meekness, even for the theological virtues; and hence this superior personality would not differ much from the perfect insubordination of him who said: "I will not serve." This absolute autonomy, which is the doctrine of Kant, was condemned by the Vatican Council in these words: "If anyone shall say that human reason is so independent that faith cannot be enjoined upon it by God; let him be anathema."[451]

It is manifest that the law of true and complete progress of personality does not consist merely in progress of the above-mentioned independence; for the true and legitimate independence of the human person toward things inferior to it has its foundation in the strict dependence toward realities that are superior to it. Thus our reason transcends sensible things, space and time, because it is ordered to universal truth, and so to the knowledge of Him who is supreme Truth, at least so far as He is naturally knowable.

Likewise, as our will is free and independent with reference to the attraction of particular good, this is because it is ordered to universal good, and so to the supreme Good, which means to God the author of nature, who is to be loved above all things.

True personality has this characteristic, that its legitimate independence or relative autonomy toward things inferior to itself has its foundation in immediate dependence on truth and goodness, on supreme Truth and supreme Goodness, that is, God.

What follows from this characteristic as regards the law of true and complete progress of psychological and moral personality? It follows that the more personality dominates inferior things and the more intimately it is dependent on God, then the more perfect it is.

This is the true law of its progress, which is easily illustrated by examples, ascending gradually from the lowest grade of human personality until we reach the personality of Christ.

Thus the lowest grade of psychological and moral personality is verified in the man who is addicted to inordinate passions. Yet this man is a person or a substance of an intellectual nature, but insufficiently conscious of his dignity and dominion. Such a man is not ruled by right reason, but by his senses, imagination, and inordinate passions as in the case of irrational animals. He has not dominion over himself, nor independence as regards those things inferior to him, acting as if invincibly attracted by the lowest kind of good, by pleasure and every concupiscible object, living according to the prejudices of the world, rather its slave than its master; he is the slave of sin. What is developed in him is not personality but the lowest type of individuality, which manifests itself as individualism or egoism. He wishes to be the center of all things, and truly becomes the slave of all things, the slave of his passions that are in open rebellion against one another, inasmuch as they are not controlled; he becomes the slave of men and events that can in the twinkling of an eye definitely take away from him the least happiness he enjoys.

Moral personality is far nobler in the virtuous man, who is conscious of his human dignity and succeeds in controlling his passions, in proportion as he increases in the love of truth and justice, that is, in proportion as he increasingly makes his life dependent on God who is to be loved above all things.

This was, in a certain manner, understood by the great philosophers of antiquity, such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and to some extent by the Stoics.[452]

Likewise, in the intellectual order, to what shall we attribute that superiority of intellectual personality in men of great genius compared with those of ordinary intellectual ability? It must be attributed to the fact that a man of great genius depends less on the help to be obtained from men of his age and country, and this because he receives a higher inspiration from God, and is more dependent on God. Aristotle said about these great men, who are called divine, such as the divine Plato: "They follow an interior instinct, and it is not expedient for them to be given advice, because they are moved by a better principle,"[453] that is, they depend more immediately on God, and their lives are dominated by this higher inspiration, which sometimes is most impelling. Thus genius is defined as a certain special nearness to God, a relationship with the absolute.

But how far superior are the saints to men of ordinary virtue and to men of great genius! The saints alone fully understood the law of true and complete progress of human personality, that human personality is the more perfect in proportion as it is more dependent on God, and united with Him, dominating inferior things. This aspect of personality is something that belongs most especially to the saints, being found only in them, since they exemplify in their lives these words of Christ: "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world keepeth it unto life eternal."[454] The saints, thoroughly understanding these words of our Lord, engaged in a real conflict with their own ego, fought against a personality that is the result of egoism or self-love, and reached such a superior degree of psychological and moral personality that it is truly supernatural, and even distinguished in the order of grace.

The saints in dying to themselves, submerge themselves, their personality in God's personality, so that they become truly and most profoundly servants of God, as the Church says: for the servant is not free, is not master of himself. God's servant, however, participates in His supreme independence; hence it is commonly said that to serve God is to reign, and this is the culmination of created personality, which bears a certain remote resemblance to Christ's uncreated personality.

How did the saints acquire this eminent personality? In dying to themselves, they are guided in their intellect not by their own more or less inordinate judgment, but by the most correct judgment of God received in them by means of faith and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Thus it is said that the just man lives not by his own inspiration but by faith, and considers all things, so to speak, as God sees them, in the mist of faith.

Likewise, in the case of the will, the saint gradually substitutes God's will for his own will, in accordance with our Lord's words: "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me that I may perfect His work."[455] They live continually faithful to the divine will of expression, and they completely abandon themselves to the divine will of good pleasure not yet made manifest, so that they become in the profoundest sense the servants of God, just as our hand is the servant of our will; they become in some manner something of God, or a creature of God, always in the hand of his Creator. As St. Thomas says, "They live not for themselves, but for God,"[456] in that charity of friendship with God, and God is to them another ego.

In fact, the saints keenly perceive that God is to them another ego that is much more intimate to them than their own ego, and infinitely more perfect, inasmuch as what perfection there is in their own ego is found most eminently in God, and inasmuch as God is the radical principle of their intimate life. Thus the saints, giving up entirely, as it were, their own will and independence in their relation to God to be loved above all things, finally come to say with St. Paul: "I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me,"[457] or "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."[458] As St. Thomas remarks: "As the hunter is preoccupied with hunting, and the student with study, and as the sick person is preoccupied in regaining health, so with the saints to live is Christ, because He is the principle and end of their lives."[459]

Thus the psychological and moral personality of the saints in the supernatural order exceedingly transcends the type of personality found in wise pagans, just as grace transcends nature. The personality of the saints transcends not only sensible things, space and time, but in a certain manner all created things inasmuch as the saints live not for themselves but for God.

This supernatural transcendence is the extraordinary secret of St. Paul's personality, so that after twenty centuries a vast number of Christians daily model their lives according to his epistles, as if these had been written yesterday; whereas only a few of the learned read once in their lives the epistles of Seneca. It is also the secret of the personality of all the saints, for example, of St. Francis of Assisi, of St. Catherine of Siena, of St. Vincent de Paul, who, in a certain manner die to their own personality, so that they might live to God, so that their supernatural influence is felt not only in their own times and countries, but practically throughout the Church and for many centuries.

Pascal excellently pointed this out in one of his works, saying: "The saints have their realm, their glory, their victory, their luster, and have no need of temporal or spiritual (intellectual) aggrandizement which in no way affects them, neither increasing nor decreasing their greatness. The saints are seen by God and the angels, not by bodies or curious minds. God suffices for them."[460]

This is strictly speaking to live not for oneself but for God, as St. Thomas remarks.[461] This means, so to speak, to lose one's own personality in God by denial of oneself, acquiring perfect mastery over one' passions and all inferior things. Yet there is an infinite distance between God and the saints, inasmuch as their ontological personality is created, even though they may say with St. Paul: "I live, now not I but Christ liveth in me."[462] They are intimately united with Him in the moral order..

The error of Nestorius, and afterward of Rosmini, consisted in reducing the union of the Word incarnate to God's union with the saints, so that the difference between them was only one of degree, and the union itself was accidental. Hence the following proposition of Rosmini was condemned: "In Christ's humanity the human will was so rapt by the Holy Spirit to adhere to the objective entity of the Word, that it gave up completely its human control to the Word, and the Word personally assumed this control, thus uniting the human nature to Himself. Hence the human will ceased to be personal in Christ as man, and, although it constitutes a person in other human beings, in Christ as man it remained a nature,"[463] This means the confusion of the psychological and moral manifestation of the ontological personality with its personality.

Truly the uncreated personality of Christ is the inaccessible culmination of the true and complete progress of personality that can be conceived by us. For not only in Christ's intellect is God's judgment substituted for His own human judgment, not only in His will is God's will substituted for His own volition, but radically in these faculties, in fact, radically in the very soul of Christ, there is no human personality, but in its place there is the uncreated personality of the Word that assumed Christ's humanity in an ineffable manner. And whereas the saints almost never speak in their own person except to accuse themselves of their sins, Christ speaks of His uncreated and adorable person saying: "I am the resurrection and the life."[464] "I and the Father are one."[465] "I" designates the uncreated personality of the Word, in whom the human nature of Christ exists.

Thus the fitness of the Incarnation is in a certain way made manifest, and a certain knowledge of this mystery is acquired by considering, on the one hand, that it belongs to the notion of the supreme Good, namely, God, that He communicate Himself in the highest manner to the creature, which means in person, as already stated.[466] On the other hand, the more intimately personality is dependent on God and is united with Him, dominating things that are inferior, the more perfect it is. The saints are, in a way, one in judgment and will with God, since theirs is in complete conformity with His. The ideal union would be if our human nature were united, without any commingling, with the divine nature in the same divine person, and in the same divine existence. But this wonderful union, which absolutely transcends our natural desire, is verified in the Incarnation of the Word, in which supreme personality is made manifest according to the greatest possible intimacy with God, and its domination over inferior things.

All these notes are implicitly contained in the true definition of person, which is an intelligent and free subject. To say that a person is a subject or person is to declare its ontological personality; to say that it is intelligent and therefore conscious of itself is to declare its psychological personality; to say that it is free and is master of itself is to declare its moral personality, or to consider it in its moral aspect. From what has been said, it is clearly evident that ontological personality is the root or foundation of psychological and moral personality. Therefore they must not be separated, but must be considered as one person.

Thus it is easy to see that in accordance with revelation, Christ is but one person, namely, just one intelligent and free subject, although He has two intellects and two wills. In Christ it is not merely the ontological union of two natures in one person, for it also follows that there is a wonderful union in Him in the psychological, moral, and spiritual orders. This union is a kind of compenetration of Christ's two intellects, inasmuch as His most holy soul, from the moment of its creation, enjoys the beatific vision, as will be stated farther on.[467] Thus His human intellect sees immediately, without any impressed and expressed species, God's essence and intellection, and by this supreme intellection is comprehensively seen, and by it is continually reinforced by the light of glory, which is preserved in it and measured by participated eternity. Likewise there is in Christ's most holy soul from the beginning of its existence a kind of interpenetration of the two wills, for Christ as man, by reason of His infused charity intensely loves God's good pleasure as regards everything, and is in the highest degree loved by God.[468]

Thus Christ's ontological personality results in a union not only of natures in the order of being, but also in a union of activities in accordance with the most perfect and intimate subordination of the two intellects and wills in the order of operation, or in the psychological, moral, and spiritual orders.

Index Top

Footnotes

12-169-181

 

"Before a man chooses his confessor, he ought to think well about it, and pray about it also; but when he has once chosen, he ought not to change, except for most urgent reasons, but put the utmost confidence in his director."

St Philip Neri

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

Thomas á Kempis

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"God commands not impossibilities, but by commanding he suggests to you to do what you can, to ask for what is beyond your strength; and he helps you, that you may be able."

St Augustine

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