"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.


First Article: Whether In The Soul Of Christ There Was Any Habitual Grace

State of the question. Paludanus asserts[828] that some theologians were of the opinion that there was no habitual grace in Christ, because they thought it to be entirely superfluous in Him. Their reasons are given by St. Thomas in the objections placed at the beginning of this article, and are as follows:

1. Grace is a certain participation of the divine nature; but Christ is God not by participation, but in truth.

2. By the mere fact that Christ was the natural Son of God, He had the power of doing all things well in the supernatural order, and eternal life was His by right.

What is true about these arguments, as will at once be evident, is that, absolutely speaking, Christ could have acted freely, and, by way of transient help that functions instead of habitual grace, be elevated to elicit supernatural and even meritorious acts, but these would not have been connatural to Him.[829] It is difficult to deny this statement, which is admitted by several Thomists, such as Gonet, Godoy, Billuart, and others.

Let us suppose that Christ or the Word incarnate had not received habitual grace and, nevertheless, had offered Himself for us on the cross; this oblation would not only be salutary, as our acts are that precede justification and dispose us for it, but by virtue of the grace of union this oblation would also be meritorious, in fact, of infinite value.[830] Nevertheless, as we shall immediately show, this oblation would not have been connatural, as it must be, nor would it have been connatural merit de condigno.

Conclusion. We must say that Christ's soul was endowed with habitual grace.

It is the common opinion among theologians, which the Scholastics hold along with the Master of the Book of Sentences[831] and the commentators of St. Thomas on this article. This conclusion is at least theologically certain which is correctly deduced and commonly admitted, so that it belongs at least to "the science of theology," which is subordinate to faith and above theological systems.

For the purpose of reconciling the various theologians who do not attach the same note of censure to the opposite opinion, Francis Sylvius made the following distinctions.

In his opinion: (1) It is certainly of faith that Christ even in His human nature was holy and pleasing to God.

2) It is probably of faith that Christ was sanctified by habitual grace that was infused into His soul, especially because, as Sacred Scripture attests, Christ had charity and the other infused virtues, which presuppose habitual grace.

3) Christ in His human nature was sanctified in two ways: first by the grace of union; secondly by habitual grace. The first sanctity is substantial, the second is accidental. Hence the opinion of those who said that Christ's habitual grace must be denied as superfluous, because He was sanctified by the grace of union, must be rejected, as at least temerarious.

Scriptural proof. St. Thomas quotes in the counterargument, the following text: "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him[i. e. Christ, or the Messias] : the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of godliness, and He shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord."[832]

This text from Isaias proves directly the presence of the gifts of the Holy Ghost in the soul of Christ and consequently the presence of created habitual grace, from which the gifts proceed as explained in the treatises on grace and the gifts. Thus grace is called by theologians the grace of the virtues and gifts, because these are derived from it.

The Evangelist explains these words of Isaias as referring to Christ,[833] and the interpretation of St. Thomas on these words is the one generally followed.

There is another text that must be quoted concerning this grace. The Evangelist writes: "And the Word was made flesh... and we saw His glory as it were of the only-begotten of the Father[which is the grace of union or natural divine sonship], full of grace and truth"[834][where the fullness of habitual grace is implied]. The Evangelist likewise says: "And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace."[835] We have confirmation of this grace from those texts of Scripture attributing to Christ virtues that presuppose habitual grace, such as charity, humility, and other virtues.

The meaning of these texts of Sacred Scripture is made clearer by the testimony of tradition, which is the living commentary of Scripture.

Patristic proof.[836] St. John Chrysostom says: "The full measure of grace has been poured out over that Temple[Christ] : for the Spirit does not measure this grace out to Him.... We have received of His fullness, but that Temple has received the complete measure of grace.... In Him is all grace, in men but a small measure, a drop of that grace."[837]

St. Cyril of Alexandria says: "Christ sanctifies Himself, since as God He is holy by nature; but according to His human nature He is sanctified together with us."[838]

St. Augustine says: "The Lord Jesus Christ Himself not only gave the Holy Spirit as God; but also received it as man, and therefore He is said to be full of grace[839] and of the Holy Spirit.[840] And it is still more plainly written of Him, 'Because God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit.’[841] Certainly, not with visible oil, but with the gift of grace, which is signified by the visible ointment wherewith the Church anoints the baptized."[842]

St. Bernard, commenting on these words of the Evangelist, "And therefore also the Holy that shall be born of thee,"[843] says: "He[Christ] was undoubtedly and particularly holy through the sanctification by the Spirit and assumption by the Word."[844] These last words contain two distinct assertions. Evidently, the words "and through the assumption by the Word" signify the increate grace of union; hence the preceding words, "through the sanctification by the Spirit," imply created or habitual grace.

We do not find, however, that the Fathers distinguish so clearly between the increate grace of union and created habitual grace as the Scholastics do and especially as St. Thomas does. Yet the Fathers distinguish more explicitly between the Word and charity that is infused into Christ's soul, because the Gospels and epistles frequently refer to Christ's charity and His other virtues that always presuppose habitual grace. The Fathers spoke more in the concrete, that is, they spoke of Christ's acts and were not so much concerned with the abstract question of habitual grace. Such is always the case, inasmuch as our intellect gradually makes the transition from the concrete to the abstract and then returns to the concrete for a better understanding of the question. We find this to be the method of procedure in all treatises.

Theological proof. Three proofs from theological reasoning are given in the body of this article.

1) On account of the principle which is the hypostatic union.

2) In view of the end, or the purpose of the supernatural operations in Christ's soul.

3) Because of Christ's relation to the human race.

The article must be read.

1) The reason on the part of the principle, which is the hypostatic union, is reduced to the following syllogism.

The nearer any recipient is to an inflowing cause, the more does it partake of its influence. But Christ's soul is most closely associated with the Word of God, the Author of grace, since it is united with the Word in the person, and there cannot be a closer union. Therefore Christ's soul receives the maximum influx of grace from God.

It follows from this that Christ's habitual grace, though it is not a physical property, is at least a moral property of the hypostatic union, inasmuch as the Word incarnate was connaturally entitled to it. It is not, however, a physical property, for the Word does not constitute with Christ's human nature one nature, but only one person.

A similar reason, all due proportions being observed, prevails for the fullness of grace in the Blessed Virgin Mary.

2) The reason, because of the end of Christ's operation in His soul, may thus be expressed: That the operations of the soul, namely, knowledge and love, may attain to God the Author of grace, who is to be loved above all things, the soul and its faculties must be elevated by habitual grace as by a second nature. But it was necessary that operations of Christ's soul should most closely and therefore connaturally attain to God the Author of grace, by knowledge and love. Therefore Christ's soul and its faculties had to be elevated by habitual grace.

The major is evident, inasmuch as habitual grace is necessary so that these operations be elicited connaturally. For the agent operates connaturally when it has in itself the nature or permanent form by which it is inclined to its act. But Christ's soul could be inclined intrinsically and permanently to vital supernatural acts only by habitual grace. Therefore, that Christ's soul be inclined intrinsically and permanently to vital supernatural acts, it had to have habitual grace.[845]

The nature itself of the soul did not suffice nor did the grace of union.

For the soul by nature is entitatively natural and hence it is intrinsically incapable of eliciting vital supernatural acts; but with merely actual grace it could indeed elicit such acts, just as a sinner elicits a salutary act before justification; but such an act is not connatural to the soul, as it is generally admitted to be in the case of a just person.[846]

The grace of union likewise did not suffice, because this grace is, as already stated by St. Thomas: "the personal being that is given gratis from above to the human nature in the person of the Word."[847] Thus this grace was the principium quod of the operations, but not the principium quo. That by which Christ's soul is intrinsically, permanently, and connaturally inclined to supernatural acts, must be in the soul by way of a second nature, as the radical principium quo of operations, just as the infused virtues are the proximate principium quo.

It is evident from this that habitual grace in Christ was not superfluous, but it was necessary for the eliciting of connatural supernatural and meritorious acts.[848]

We must insist upon the word "connatural" because, absolutely speaking, Christ, in virtue of the grace of union, and with a transient help, could have elicited supernatural and even meritorious acts. But that He should elicit these acts connaturally, His soul had to be endowed with habitual grace as a second nature, which is a participation of the divine nature. Otherwise His soul would be imperfect, which is absolutely unbefitting Him.

3) The reason of Christ's relation to us confirms the preceding proofs, and may be expressed by the following syllogism.

The mediator between God and man must have grace overflowing upon others. But Christ, as man, is the mediator between God and man, for the Scripture says: "Of His fullness, we have all received, and grace for grace."[849]

We shall see farther on that Christ's grace as head of the Church is not precisely the grace of union, but it is habitual grace as presupposing and connoting the grace of union. For St. Thomas says: "Everything acts inasmuch as it is a being in act..., hence the agent is nobler than the patient.... And therefore from this pre-eminence of grace which Christ received, it is befitting to Him that this grace is bestowed on others."[850]

Truly Christ is the head of the human race inasmuch as He merited and satisfied for us, and He could not connaturally elicit these meritorious and satisfactory acts without habitual grace, as already stated. But the grace of union is presupposed so that these acts may be of infinite value on the part of the principium quod of these operations.

For a more complete understanding of this article, the following three conclusions taken from Gonet, with whom several other Thomists such as Godoy and Billuart agree, must be noted. However, the Salmanticenses differ from the others concerning the third conclusion.

1) Habitual grace was required in Christ's soul for the completion and perfection of His sanctity. Such is the opinion of all theologians except Vasquez.

2) Habitual grace was required in Christ's soul for His supernatural acts to be connatural.

3) It was necessary for Christ to have habitual grace so that He could merit connaturally a supernatural reward. By Christ's absolute power, however, without this grace He could have merited a supernatural reward with intrinsically supernatural help by way of a transient light of glory.

So say several Thomists, such as Godoy and Billuart.

Objection. The argument raised against this third conclusion is that St. Thomas says: "Although there is a certain note of infinity in Christ's merit because of the dignity of the person, yet His actions are meritorious because of habitual grace, without which merit is impossible."[851]

Gonet replies as follows: "I answer that the purpose of St. Thomas in the passage just quoted is to point out that without habitual grace there can be no question of connatural merit. It does not follow from this, absolutely speaking, and according to God's absolute power that Christ's soul solely with the grace of union and an actual help in the supernatural order could not merit a supernatural reward, but only that He could not do so connaturally."[852]

John of St. Thomas is of about the same opinion, saying: "Habitual grace is not absolutely necessary for the validity of Christ's merit and satisfaction that transcends the former and that is derived from the value of the person."[853]

The conclusion of St. Thomas is confirmed from the solution of the objections in this article.

Reply to first objection. "The soul of Christ is not essentially divine. Hence it behooves it to be divine by participation, which is by grace."

Reply to second objection. In Christ's soul "the beatific act and its fruition could not be without grace."

Reply to third objection. "Christ's humanity is the instrument of the Godhead, not indeed an inanimate instrument, which nowise acts, but is merely acted upon, but an instrument animated by a rational soul, which is so acted upon as to act." For Christ's soul to act supernaturally by the love of charity, it was at least the normal requisite for His soul to have habitual grace. It would have been something absolutely abnormal for Christ not to have this habitual grace.

Another objection. If Christ had habitual grace, He would be the adoptive son of God, for adoptive sonship is the formal effect of habitual grace. We shall see further on that Christ cannot be called the adopted son of God, because He is already the natural Son of God in His own right.

Reply. I deny the consequence, for adoptive sonship is not the primary effect of habitual grace, but only its secondary effect, and even if it were the primary effect, it would not be communicated to Christ, because He is already the natural Son of God and hence is incapable of being an adopted son of God. Adopted sonship applies to anyone by reason of the suppositum, or person, and hence the person who is the natural Son of God, cannot be called the adopted son. Hence the Blessed Virgin Mary is the first of the adopted children of God.

First doubt. When did Christ receive habitual grace?

Reply. He received this grace at the moment of His conception, because habitual grace is the connatural consequence of the hypostatic union.[854]

Second doubt. Did Christ at the first moment of His conception dispose Himself by an act of free will for the habitual grace that was then infused?

St. Thomas answers this question in the affirmative, because this mode of sanctification by one's own disposing act, as in adults, is more perfect than to be sanctified by the disposing act of another as an infant.[855]

St. Thomas holds that "Christ's intellect in regard to His infused knowledge, could understand at the first moment of His conception, without turning to phantasms."[856] Many doctors admit this truth as applicable to the Blessed Virgin Mary. So also the angels; Adam and Eve, who were created as fully grown, by receiving habitual grace at the moment of their creation disposed themselves for it by actual grace.

Objection. Some say that this act of free will comes from habitual grace and therefore cannot dispose one for it.

Reply. Several Thomists, such as Gonet and Serra rightly maintain in their treatises on grace, when discussing the justification of adults, that the free act that ultimately disposes in the order of material cause for habitual grace follows it in the order of formal cause and hence is the effect of habitual grace, in accordance with the principle: causes mutually interact, though in a different order.

Likewise the due organization of the human body disposes it for the reception of the human soul; however, the body has this ultimate disposition only from the soul, as St. Thomas teaches.[857]

Other Thomists, such as Goudin, say that the free act which is the ultimate disposition for habitual grace in adults proceeds effectively from the virtue of charity that is not as yet permanently communicated as a habit but is of the nature of a transient actual help. The former answer seems the more profound.

St. Thomas solves this question, saying: "Because the infusion of grace and the remission of sin regard God who justifies, hence in the order of nature, [instantaneously] the infusion of grace is prior to the freeing from sin. But if we look at what takes place on the part of the man justified, it is the other way about, since in the order of nature, the being freed from sin, is prior to the obtaining of justifying grace."[858] But the being freed from sin is the ultimate disposition for the attainment of habitual grace, and this takes place in the adult only by an act of free will (as stated in the body of the article); this movement of the free will to God proceeds from the actual infusion of habitual grace and follows it in the orders of formal, efficient, and final causes, although it precedes this grace in the order of material cause, as the ultimate disposition in the body in its relation to the soul.

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"To think of oneself as nothing, and always to think well and highly of others is the best and most perfect wisdom. Wherefore, if you see another sin openly or commit a serious crime, do not consider yourself better, for you do not know how long you can remain in good estate. All men are frail, but you must admit that none is more frail than yourself. "

Thomas á Kempis

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"Though the path is plain and smooth for people of good will, those who walk it will not travel far, and will do so only with difficulty if they do not have good feet, courage, and tenacity of spirit. "

St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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"Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life eases the mind and a clean conscience inspires great trust in God."

Thomas á Kempis

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