"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)

Third Article: Whether The Union Of The Word Incarnate Took Place In The Suppositum Or Hypostasis

The meaning of the title is: whether the union of the Word incarnate so took place that in Christ there is one suppositum, only one hypostasis..

The answer is in the affirmative, and it is of faith. The Council of Ephesus declares that "the union is subsistential."[593] But some heretics said that there is one person but two supposita.

St. Thomas refutes this heresy by three arguments.

1) He points out that, by the addition of the note of person to the hypostasis, the nature becomes determinate and rational.

2) If it be said that "what person adds to the hypostasis is a dignity," then the union would be according to a certain dignity, or it would be a moral union, as Nestorius contended.

3) If there were two supposita in Christ, then to one of these what pertains to God would be attributed, and to the other what pertains to man. This would result in the severance of the subsistential union.[594]

Fourth Article: Whether After The Incarnation The Person Or Hypostasis Is Composite

State of the question. Some deny that the person of Christ is composite, such as St. Bonaventure, Durandus, Scotus; and this for reasons posited by St. Thomas in his objections at the beginning of this article. He points out: (1) that the person of Christ is the very person of the Word, who is in Himself most simple, and in no way composite. (2) Moreover, the divine nature cannot be a part in Christ, because the part is always less perfect than the whole. (3) It cannot be said that Christ is composed of two natures, because thus there would be a composite nature, just as the human nature is composed of soul and body, and then the Deity would be to the composite as form, and therefore as part. This would be Monophysitism.

Reply. The person of Christ is one, but is composed of two natures.

First proof. It rests on the authority of St. Damascene, who is quoted in the counterargument of this article. Moreover, the Second Council of Constantinople corroborates the conclusion stated above, saying: "The Holy Church of God... confesses that the union of the Word of God with the flesh was by way of composition, which means that it was subsistential."[595]

Second proof. The argument is from reason, and there are two parts to it.

a) The person of Christ in itself is an absolutely simple uncreated being, even as the nature of the Word is, and therefore in itself is in no way composite. Thus Christ is one subsisting being.

b) Nevertheless, this person of Christ subsists in two natures, and thus He can and must be said to be a composite of two natures.

First objection. The reply is evident from the argumentative part of the article.

Reply to second objection. The divine nature, however, is not to be considered as a part of this composite. For "this composition of a person from natures is not so called on account of parts, but by reason of number, even as that in which two things concur may be said to be composed of them." Hence Christ is not a composite of parts, but of extremes that are united. St. Thomas explains this point more fully elsewhere,[596] remarking that composition may be viewed in two ways.

1) It may be considered as the union of parts which causes and results in the totality of the being, and this union implies imperfection, inasmuch as the part is an incomplete being, not so perfect as the whole, and inasmuch as the being of the whole is dependent on its parts and thus is caused.

2) Composition may be viewed as the union of extremes in some third entity that communicates being to the extremes. The extreme, however, prescinds from the notion whether it be a complete or incomplete being. Thus, for example, seeing terminates in the thing seen without resulting in any imperfection on the part of the object seen, on which the seeing depends, but which does not depend on the seeing. Thus the intellect of the blessed is united to God who is clearly seen, without involving any imperfection on the part of God. There is something similar to this in the hypostatic union, but in the order of being and not merely of operation, since the human nature is terminated by the absolutely simple person of the divine Word, without involving any imperfection on the part of the divine person. The person of the Word is related to the human nature not as informing act, but as terminating act.

First corollary. Christ is also a composite of the person of the Word and the human nature, because He consists of these really distinct and united. Yet it cannot be said that Christ is a creature, because created being applies to the person, who is what is. The person of Christ, however, is uncreated, but in Him the human nature is something created.

Second corollary. Although Christ is thus composite, He is not more perfect than the Word not made flesh in this composition, because the Word is the infinite extreme eminently containing the perfection of the human nature.

In contrast to this, God is not said to be a composite of persons and nature, because the divine persons, although united in the same nature, are not united among one another, but are rather in opposition, not being united with the nature, because They are simply identical with the nature. Thus They are not really distinct from the nature, but They are really distinct from one another by a relation of opposition.

Index Top

Footnotes

12-169-181

 

"If you wish to learn and appreciate something worth while, then love to be unknown and considered as nothing. Truly to know and despise self is the best and most perfect counsel."

Thomas á Kempis

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"Every man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars."

Thomas á Kempis

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"The greatest glory we can give to God is to do his will in everything."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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