CHAPTER XVIII: QUESTION 16 THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE HYPOSTATIC UNION
After considering the mode of the union in itself, as regards the person assuming, the nature assumed, and what was assumed with it, we come to discuss the consequences of the union.
There are three divisions to this part of the treatise on the Savior, inasmuch as the consequences of the union are considered, as to those things that belong to Christ:
1) In Himself as regards His being, will, and operation by which He merited for us.
2) In His relation to God the Father, for example, Christ's prayer, priesthood, predestination.
3) In His relation to us, namely, Christ as the object of our adoration, and His mediation on our behalf.
The Consequences Of The Union As Regards Those Things That Belong To Christ In Himself
This question is about the terms employed in speaking of the mystery of the Incarnation.
We are concerned here with what is technically called the communication of idioms. "Idiom" is derived from the Greek and means the same as property in Latin. Hence communication of idioms is communication of properties. In other words, although the two natures in Christ are really distinct and inconfused, as defined against Eutyches, yet by reason of the hypostatic union the properties of the divine nature can be predicated of this man Jesus, and human attributes of God. Hence the communication of idioms is usually defined as the mutual predication and interchange in themselves of the two natures, the divine and the human, and their properties, by reason of the hypostatic union. The foundation for this communication of idioms in Christ is the hypostatic union itself, by reason of which one and the same suppositum has two natures, the divine nature and the human nature.
It must be observed concerning this communication that concrete names, such as God, man, in opposition to abstract names, such as Godhead, humanity, signify directly the suppositum, and indirectly the nature. For "God, ' signifies the suppositum that has the divinity, and "man" signifies the suppositum that has the humanity. If, therefore, the suppositum is the same for the two natures, then it is true to say: "God is man, " although it is false to say: "The Godhead is the humanity." Thus we shall see that the generally accepted rule, namely, concrete words of concrete subjects, both of natures and properties, generally speaking, can of themselves be predicated of either; but abstract words of abstract subjects cannot of themselves formally be predicated of either. Thus we shall see that we cannot say the Godhead is the humanity or that God is the humanity, or that the humanity is God.
Therefore we must take great care to distinguish between abstract terms and concrete terms. The abstract term signifies the nature separated from the subject, for example, humanity. The concrete term signifies the nature as existing in the subject, for example, man. Hence this distinction between concrete and abstract term is of great importance in distinguishing between the nature and the suppositum, since the nature is an essential part of the suppositum. There is the same distinction between "being" as a noun and "being" as a participle, or between the reality and the real itself.
The principal definitions of the Church about the communication of idioms are to be found in the fourth and tenth canons of the Council of Ephesus, and in the tenth and twelfth canons of the Second Council of Constantinople.
First Article: Whether This Is True: God Is Man
Reply. The proposition is affirmed to be true, and proper on account of the truth of the predication.
The reason is that in this proposition the concrete term "God" stands for the person of the Son. But the person of the Son is a man, although not the humanity, which is only a part of this suppositum. It is true to say: "Jesus is a man, " as when it is said: "Peter is a man."
Hence to say: "God is a man" is to say: "God the Son is the same suppositum that is man." In every affirmative judgment, however, the verb "is" expresses real identity between subject and predicate. Hence this proposition is true in the formal sense.
Doubt. Is the word "man" predicated univocally of God and human beings in this mystery?
Reply. The answer is in the affirmative. For the word "man" signifies the suppositum that subsists in the human nature. But this nature is of the same species in Christ as in human beings. Therefore Christ is truly called a man.
Second Article: Whether This Is True: Man Is God
Reply. The answer is yes, because in this proposition the subject "man" can stand for whatever hypostasis of the human nature, and therefore for the person of the Son of God, who is truly God.
Third Article: Whether Christ Can Be Called A Lordly Man
Reply. The answer is No, because "lordly" is said denominatively and by participation from Lord. But the name "Christ" stands for the person of the Son of God who is essentially the Lord, and not lordly by participation.
Hence it would be absolutely contrary to custom to conclude the liturgical orations by saying: "through Christ the lordly man", and not: "through Christ our Lord." Hence the expression that was in use among certain seventeenth-century authors in France is not entirely to be approved; namely, "Jesus is the perfect religious of His Father." It cannot properly and truly be said that He who is the very Lord is a lordly man.
Reply to third objection. Nevertheless we generally speak of the divine Word, the divine person, because the adjective "divine" is wont to be predicated of God's nature, which is called the divine nature and not merely as being a participation of this nature.
Fourth Article: Whether What Belongs To The Son Of Man Can Be Asserted Of The Son Of God And Conversely
Reply. The answer to this question is in the affirmative.
The reason for this is that, since there is one hypostasis of both natures, the same hypostasis is signified by the name of either nature. Thus it may be said that the Son of God suffered, was crucified; also it may be said that the Son of man is immortal, eternal, omnipotent, because the meaning is: this suppositum having the human nature is immortal, eternal, and possessing other divine attributes.
Fifth Article: Whether What Belongs To The Son Of Man Can Be Predicated Of The Divine Nature, And What Belongs To The Son Of God Of The Human Nature
Reply. The answer is in the negative. Thus it cannot be said that the Godhead suffered, or that Christ's human nature is omnipotent, because the two natures are entirely distinct, and abstract things, those that signify a nature and not the subject, cannot formally be predicated of abstract things (those that signify another nature), nor of concrete things. Hence, just as we cannot say the Godhead is the human nature, neither can we say that God is the human nature, or the human nature is God.
Only in the material sense and as expressing identity of person can it be said: "This man is the Godhead, the Godhead is this man, " meaning that this man is God, who is His Godhead.
Sixth Article: Whether This Is True: God Was Made Man
Reply. The answer is in the affirmative. Thus, we can say: "And the Word was made flesh." For a thing is said to be made that which begins to be predicated of it for the first time.
However, the expression, "God becomes man, " does not mean that God becomes so in the absolute sense of the term, for God became man without undergoing any change in Himself.
Seventh Article: Whether This Is True: Man Was Made God
Reply. The answer is in the negative, because in this proposition, since the subject "man" stands for the person of the Word, the meaning would be that the suppositum or person that is eternally God. became in time God, or that some pre-existing man became God, and each assertion is false.
For the same reason the expression, "man was assumed, " cannot be admitted, but we must say: "the human nature was assumed, " for the former statement would mean that some pre-existing man was assumed by the Word. Thus the Word would have assumed a human nature, and, if the human personality did not cease to exist at the moment of the assumption, there would be two persons, as the Nestorians maintained.
Hence, although this proposition is true, "Man is God, " the following proposition is false: "Man became God."
Eighth Article Whether This Is True: Christ Is A Creature
Reply. The answer is that the proposition is not true. The purpose is to avoid the suspicion of favoring the Arian heresy, and moreover, the assertion is false. But it can and must be said that Christ has a created nature, namely, a human nature. The reason why we cannot say that Christ is a creature, is that creation belongs to subsisting things, and to be created is consequent to person as the one that has being, but it is consequent to the nature as that by which something is such as it is. But as the person of Christ is uncreated and eternal, "creature, ' would apply not only to the created nature, but to the person of Christ, and this is false.
Ninth Article Whether This Is True: This Man, Pointing To Christ, "Began To Be"
Reply. The answer is that this assertion is not true, for Christ said of Himself: "Before Abraham was made, I am." The aforesaid proposition must be avoided both because it sounds like Arianism, and also because it is false. Although the person of the Word for which Christ stands, began to be man, yet this person did not begin to be so in the absolute sense.
Tenth Article Whether This Is True: Christ As Man Is A Creature
Reply. The answer is that this proposition is more to be accepted than rejected, because the term covered by the reduplication signifies the nature rather than the suppositum.
Eleventh Article Whether This Is True: Christ As Man Is God
Reply. The answer is that this proposition is not true, because the term placed in the reduplication stands more for the nature, as stated above, than for the person.
Twelfth Article Whether This Is True: Christ As Man Is A Hypostasis Or Person
Reply. This proposition must be avoided, because it favors Nestorianism and can be taken in a false sense. For if the word "man" taken exactly in its reduplicative sense, so that the particle as in its reduplicative sense, gives the formal reason why Christ is a person, then this assertion is false, because it would signify that in Christ there would be a created person, as the Nestorians said.
However, this proposition could be accepted if interpreted in a good sense, if the term "man, ' were taken for the suppositum or for the specific nature, because it belongs to the human nature to be in a person. Hence this proposition is equivocal and as such must be avoided.
This terminates the question concerning the manner of speaking about Christ.