"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.


Since these parts are the body and soul, Docetism and Apollinarianism are here refuted.

First Article: Whether The Son Of God Ought To Have Assumed A Human Body

It is of faith that the Word assumed a real body, and not a phantom or shadow. This truth has been frequently defined in such councils as Nicaea, Ephesus, Constantinople, Chalcedon, and others,[718] against the Marcionites and Manichaeans, who attribute to Christ the semblance of a body, because they thought every body comes from the principle of evil, and is evil. Simon Magus, Saturninus, and Basilides are likewise condemned. This latter heresiarch, says St. Irenaeus,[719] maintained that Simon of Cyrene was crucified instead of Jesus, who exchanged external figure and countenance with Simon of Cyrene.

Scriptural proof. In the New Testament we read: "The Word was made flesh."[720] And again: "Every spirit which confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God. And every spirit that dissolveth Jesus, is not of God."[721] St. Paul says: "Concerning His Son, who was made to Him of the seed of David, according to the flesh."[722] Christ speaking of Himself, says: "Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be betrayed..., and crucified, and the third day He shall rise again."[723] Finally, after the Resurrection, Jesus said: "Handle and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see Me to have."[724]

Theological proof. It is taken especially from the arguments proposed by the Fathers, especially from Tertullian,[725] and from St. Irenaeus.[726]

Three reasons are given in the body of the article. 1. Christ would not be a true man if He did not have a true body. 2. If Christ is not truly man, then He did not truly die, as narrated in the Gospels. 3. Jesus did not speak the truth when He said: "Handle and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see Me to have."[727]

Second Article: Whether The Son Of God Ought To Have Assumed An Earthly Body

This means: Ought Christ to have assumed flesh and blood, rather than a heavenly body?

Reply. The answer is in the affirmative, and it is of faith against the Valentinians, who said that Christ assumed a celestial body and passed through the Blessed Virgin, as water flows through a channel.[728]

Scriptural proof. In the New Testament we read: "A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see Me to have."[729] St. Paul says of Jesus: "He was made to Him[Father] of the seed of David, according to the flesh."[730] And again: "God sent His Son, made of a woman."[731] In Christ's genealogy, it is said of Him: "Son of David, son of Abraham."[732] The angel says to Mary: "Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus."[733] St. Joseph is also declared to be "the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus."[734]

All these texts would not be true if Christ had come down from heaven with a celestial body, and had merely passed through the Blessed Virgin, as through a channel.

Theological proof. 1. If Christ had not assumed our nature, then He would not be truly man, since flesh and bones are required for a nature to be truly human. 2. Also Christ would not have been really hungry, or have suffered and died, as recorded in the Gospels. 3. He would have told a lie in presenting Himself to men as having a body of flesh. If St. Paul says that "the first man was of the earth, earthly: the second man from heaven, heavenly,"[735] this means that Christ's body was formed from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary by a heavenly power, namely, by the Holy Ghost.[736]

Reply to second objection. Christ came in passible flesh, "that He might carry through the work of our redemption." Hence Christ's death was not the result of original sin, but the consequence of a nature conceived in passible flesh, and this consequence He offered in submission for our redemption.[737] He submitted to the penalty of death not for Himself, but for our sake.

That the Word came, however, in passible and mortal flesh, rather than in impassible flesh, presupposes Adam's sin, although in Christ death was not the result of original sin, which He did not contract. The same must be said of the Blessed Virgin, who was preserved from original sin.

Reply to third objection. It pertains to the greatest glory of God that He raised a most weak and earthly body to such sublimity. It was mercy that moved God to unite the highest with the lowest for our salvation. St. Thomas has treated this question more fully in another work.[738]

Doubt. Was Christ's blood hypostatically united with the Word? This question is of no slight importance, because it concerns the precious blood of Jesus Christ that was shed in His passion and that is offered daily in the Mass.

This doubt was formerly the subject of much dispute. Durandus denied that the Word hypostatically united with Himself the natural blood. Alphonsus Tostatus (Abulensis),[739] Richard,[740] and several Franciscan theologians were of the same opinion. St. Thomas took the affirmative view both here and in his commentary on the resurrection of Christ.[741] The Thomists, Cajetan and Capreolus, and almost all theologians are in agreement with St. Thomas on this point. Since this question gave rise to bitter contention between the Franciscans and Dominicans, the latter defending the doctrine of St. Thomas, Pius II (1464) issued a decree[742] putting an end to these disputes, until it was defined what must be believed. Later on, however, as Suarez observes, the Franciscan view was eliminated from their schools of theology, as being neither pious nor safe teaching.

There are three proofs for this affirmative view, which is the one most commonly held.[743]

Scriptural proof. St. Paul says: "Therefore because the children[i. e., men] are partakers of flesh and blood[i. e., are composed of flesh and blood], He Himself[Christ] in like manner hath been partaker of the same."[744]

This same teaching is confirmed in other passages of Sacred Scripture, in which our redemption is attributed to the blood of Christ, His Son, as in the following text: "The blood of Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin."[745]

Authoritative proof. The Council of Trent, in its discussion on the Holy Eucharist, affirms the natural union of the body and blood of Christ in these words: "The body itself is under the species of bread, and the blood is under the species of wine, and the soul under both, by the force of that natural connection and concomitance, whereby the parts of Christ our Lord... are united together."[746] Therefore the blood is a part of Christ.

Similarly Clement VI affirmed that the blood of Christ was united with the Word, saying: "The innocent and immaculate lamb is known to have shed His blood, a single drop of which, on account of its union with the Word, would have sufficed[for our redemption].[747]

Theological proof. Blood is a necessary part of the human body because it is required for its life and for the nutrition of its various parts, as also for the natural process of combustion by which natural heat is generated.

Hence theologians maintain that there will be blood in glorified bodies, inasmuch as this pertains to the integrity of the body.[748]

Confirmation of proof. From the definition of the Church on the Holy Eucharist.

If the Word did not assume hypostatically the blood, then the Word is not by concomitance under the species of wine. For that is by concomitance in the sacrament which is united really and substantially with the primary term of the consecration and conversion. But, if the Word did not assume hypostatically the blood, the Word is not really and substantially united with the blood, which is the primary term in the consecration of the chalice. Therefore, in this case, the Word would not be by concomitance present under the species of wine, which is contrary to the teaching of the Council of Trent.

Objection. Those holding the opposite opinion have said that blood is not animated, and is not actually a part of the body. The Thomists contradict this assertion, remarking that the blood is a fluid that contributes to the nutrition of the other parts of the body.

Again the opponents object, saying: What the Word once assumed, remained always united with Him. But He severed His union with the blood.

Reply. In answer to this, we say with St. Thomas:[749] I deny the minor; for the blood of Christ, just as His corpse, although it was no longer animated, remained hypostatically united with the Word during the triduum of death because it had to be reassumed.[750] And if, during the triduum of death, there had been the consecration of the wine in the chalice, the divinity would have been present by concomitance under the species of wine, as the Council of Trent declares.[751] This cannot be said of Christ's blood that was shed at the circumcision, because it was not intended to be reassumed.

It must be observed that when St. Thomas says: "All the blood which flowed from Christ's body, belonging as it does to the integrity of human nature, rose again with His body,"[752] this must be understood of all the blood shed in a moral sense, but not of absolutely all the blood in a physical sense. As Pius II says, it is not contrary to faith for one to assert that a portion of the blood that was shed by Christ on the cross, or at the crowning of thorns, was not reassumed; but then this portion of blood, if it was not reassumed, was not hypostatically united with the Word, because, just as in the case of the blood shed at the circumcision, this blood was not indeed intended to be reassumed in the resurrection for the integrity of Christ's body. What has been said suffices, in our days, for the solution of this doubt that was formerly disputed.

Third Article: Whether The Son Of God Assumed A Soul

State of the question. The next two articles are written in refutation of Apollinaris and Arius, who first of all denied that Christ had a soul; then, retracting this former opinion, they granted that He had a soul, but it was not an intellectual soul, saying that the Word took the place of the intellect.

The Council of Ephesus defined against these heretics that the Word assumed an intellectual soul.[753]

Scriptural proof. Our Lord says of Himself: "My soul is sorrowful even unto death."[754] And again: "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit."[755]

St. Thomas explains in the body of the article that these words cannot be taken metaphorically, especially because the Gospel says that Jesus wondered, was angry, and hungry. These acts belong to a soul that is both intellectual and sensitive.

Theological proof. The principal reason given in the theological proof is that Christ would be neither truly man nor the Son of man as declared in the Gospel, unless He had a soul; and thus there would be no more any truth to the Incarnation.

Reply to first objection. If St. John says in his prologue, "And the Word was made flesh," flesh is taken for the whole man, just as sometimes in Sacred Scripture we read such assertions as, "All flesh shall see that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken."[756]

Reply to second objection. The Word is the effective cause of Christ's human life, the soul is its formal cause, and hence it is not useless. Moreover, the Word cannot be the formal cause of the human body, because the formal cause is the intrinsic cause and therefore is a part of the composite, not so perfect as the composite. But this cannot be said of the uncreated Word.

Fourth Article: Whether The Son Of God Assumed A Human Mind Or Intellect

Reply. That the Son of God assumed an intellect has been defined against the Arians and Apollinarians as belonging to the faith.

Scriptural proof. Jesus says: "Learn of Me because I am meek and humble of heart."[757] Christ was also obedient and merited, which was possible only if He had a human intellect and a human will; for the divine intellect and the divine will cannot be the principle of an act of obedience as regards a higher will.

Theological proof. The principal reason in this proof is that, if Christ did not have a human intellect, then He was not truly man, which is contrary both to what He Himself said and to Scripture

Index Top




"Let persons in the world sanctify themselves in their own houses, for neither the court, professions, or labour, are any hindrance to the service of God."

St Philip Neri

* * *

"It is not God's will that we should abound in spiritual delights, but that in all things we should submit to his holy will."

Blessed Henry Suso

* * *

"There is nothing which gives greater security to our actions, or more effectually cuts the snares the devil lays for us, than to follow another person’s will, rather than our own, in doing good."

St Philip Neri

* * *