CHAPTER XXXI: QUESTION 46: CHRIST'S PASSION
The synthesis of St. Thomas contains especially the following three doctrinal points.
1) Redemption by the Word incarnate, posited the sin of our first parents, was not necessary, but fitting. For God could have either condoned the offense or accepted inadequate reparation; but the Incarnation as also the passion of God's son were fitting, and in all this we have the greatest manifestation of God's love for us.
2) The Word incarnate, as the moral head of the whole human race, redeemed us or caused our salvation in five ways: (1) by meriting it for us; (2) by satisfying for us; (3) by offering Himself in sacrifice; (4) by liberating us; (5) by being the efficient cause. In these ways Christ's love prevails, which is the principle of merit, satisfaction, and sacrifice.
3) Christ's redemption is of infinite value, in virtue of the hypostatic union, inasmuch as it is a theandric act of love for His Father and for all men. This makes it apparent that this mystery is especially a mystery of love.
In the explanation of this thesis, St. Thomas discusses: (1) the Passion itself; (2) its efficient cause, on the part of Christ, the Father, and those that killed Christ; (3) how Christ's passion was effective, that is, how it caused our salvation; (4) the effects of the Passion.
This forty-sixth question, which concerns Christ's passion, treats especially of its fitness and its extreme sufferings. The predominating elements of the Passion must be noted.
The Fittingness Of The Passion
First Article: Whether It Was Necessary For Christ To Suffer For The Deliverance Of The Human Race
Reply. Christ's passion was not absolutely necessary, nor did He suffer because He was compelled to suffer; but, presupposing the end to be attained, it was necessary for Christ to suffer: (1) because we were freed by His passion; (2) because Christ, by the humiliation of His passion, merited the glory of His exaltation; (3) because God's decree, concerning Christ's passion, as foretold in the Scripture, had to be fulfilled.
Reply to third objection. "And this came of more copious mercy than if He had forgiven sins without satisfaction, " because God gave us the Redeemer.
Second Article: Whether There Was Any Other Possible Way Of Human Deliverance Besides The Passion Of Christ
Reply. Speaking simply and absolutely, it was possible for God to deliver mankind otherwise than by Christ's passion, even without any satisfaction; for this would not have been contrary to justice, because God, who is infinitely above a simple judge, since He has no superior, decreed that His Son must die and can also forgive the offense committed against Him, without requiring satisfaction; and then He acts mercifully and not unjustly. But, supposing God's foreknowledge and preordination concerning Christ's passion, then man's liberation from sin was not otherwise possible. The first part in the argument of this article and the reply to the third objection correct St. Anselm's extreme view.
Third Article: Whether There Was Any More Suitable Way Of Delivering The Human Race Than By Christ's Passion
Reply. The answer is that there was no other way more suitable; (1) because by Christ's passion man knows how much God loves him and is thereby incited to love Him in return; (2) because thereby Christ gave us an example of obedience, humility, constancy, justice, and the other virtues; (3) because Christ by His passion not only delivered man from sin, but also merited grace and glory for him; (4) because thereby man is all the more bound to refrain from sin; (5) because in this way, it was in Christ that as man by dying, He conquered the devil and vanquished death.
Fourth Article: Whether Christ Ought To Have Suffered On The Cross
Reply. The answer is that it was the most fitting for Christ to have suffered on the cross; (1) because Christ gave us an example of virtue, so that no kind of death ought to be feared by an upright man; (2) "so that whence death came [from the tree], thence life might arise, and that He who overcame by the tree, might also by the tree be overcome"; (3) and (4) that dying on a high rood, He might purify the air and prepare our ascent into heaven; (5) the fact that Christ died with outstretched hands signifies the universality of redemption; (6) because, as St. Augustine says, "The tree on which were fixed the members of Him dying was even the chair of the Master teaching"; (7) because there were very many figures in the Old Testament of this death on the cross.
First objection. In this kind of death the fire pertaining to holocausts is wanting. St. Thomas replies by saying that, "instead of material fire, there was the spiritual fire of charity in Christ's holocaust."
Second objection. Death on the cross is most ignominious. St. Thomas replies to this by quoting St. Paul: "He endured the cross, despising the shame," so that by His humility, He made reparation for our sins of pride.
Third objection. Death on the cross is a death of malediction. St. Thomas again quotes the following text from St. Paul: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us," that is, He took upon Himself the penalty of sin.
All these remarks clearly manifest the fittingness of the Passion, and they better illustrate both God the Father's love and Christ's love for us. As the Evangelist says: "For God so loved the world, as to give His only-begotten Son." As St. Paul says: "He that spared not even His own Son but delivered Him up for us all." Therefore our redemption is predominantly a mystery of love.
The Extreme Sufferings Of The Passion
Fifth Article: Whether Christ Endured All Sufferings
Reply. Christ did not endure all sufferings specifically, because many of them are mutually exclusive, such as burning and drowning. It did not become Him to suffer interior bodily sicknesses, for, as St. John Chrysostom says: "It did not befit Him who healed the infirmities of others to have His own body afflicted with the same."
But Christ endured every human suffering, because: (1) He suffered something from Jews and Gentiles, from the chief priests and their servants, from the mob, even from friends and acquaintances; (2) He suffered from His friends who abandoned Him, in His reputation, His honor, in His soul from sadness and weariness, in His body from wounds and scourgings; (3) He suffered in all His bodily members, from head to foot, and in all His senses.
Reply to second objection. "As Christ was uplifted above others in gifts of graces, so He was lowered beneath others by the ignominy of His sufferings."
Reply to third objection. "The very least one of Christ's sufferings was sufficient of itself to redeem the human race from all sins." However, because of His great love for us, He willed to offer Himself as a most perfect holocaust for us, and generically endure all sufferings.
Sixth Article: Whether The Pain Of Christ's Passion Was Greater Than All Other Pains
Reply. Christ experienced both sensible pain and interior pain, both of which were the greatest of pains in this present life. There are four reasons for this: (1) from the causes of this pain, because the death of the crucified is most bitter, and because He felt interior pain for all the sins of the human race, which He ascribed, so to speak, to Himself; (2) because of the susceptibility of His body that was endowed with a most perfect constitution, and because the interior faculties of His soul most efficaciously apprehended all the causes of sadness; (3) because Christ from His great love for us, in offering Himself as a perfect holocaust, refused to mitigate His pains and sadness by the overflow of contemplative joy through the higher part of His soul; (4) because "He embraced the amount of pain proportionate to the magnitude of the fruit which resulted therefrom, " namely, that He might most perfectly accomplish His mission as the Redeemer of men.
Reply to second objection. Christ, that He might atone for the sins of all mankind, accepted indeed the greatest of sadness in absolute quantity, yet not exceeding the rule of reason.
Reply to fourth objection. "Christ grieved over the sins of all men, and this grief in Christ surpassed all grief of every contrite heart both because it flowed from a greater wisdom and charity, by which the pang of contrition is intensified, and because He grieved simultaneously for all sins, as the prophet says: "Surely He hath carried our sorrows. ' "
Reply to sixth objection. In answer to the objection that the least of Christ's pains would have sufficed for man's salvation, St. Thomas says: "Christ willed to deliver the human race from sins not merely by His power, but also according to justice. And therefore He did not simply weigh what great virtue His suffering would have from union with the Godhead, but also how much, according to His human nature, His pain would avail for so great a satisfaction."
Seventh Article: Whether Christ Suffered In His Whole Soul
It seems that Christ did not, because He did not suffer in the summit of His soul, in the higher faculties, namely, of reason and will.
Reply. In answer to this, St. Thomas says in the body of this article: "So, then, we say that if the soul be considered with respect to its essence, it is evident that Christ's whole soul suffered. For the soul's whole essence is allied with the body, so that it is entire in the whole body and in its every part. Consequently, when the body suffered and was disposed to separate from the soul, the entire soul suffered. But if we consider the whole soul, according to its faculties, speaking thus of the proper passions of the faculties, He suffered indeed as to all His lower powers... whose operations are but temporal. But Christ's higher reason, since it considers only the eternal and not the temporal, did not suffer thereby on the part of its object, which is God, who was the cause not of grief, but rather of delight and joy, to the soul of Christ, " for He continued in possession of the beatific vision and its resultant joy in the summit of His soul.
To understand the reply to the second objection, consult the eighth article and the footnote to the third objection of this article.
Reply to third objection. "Grief in the sensitive part of Christ's soul did not extend to reason so as to deflect it from the rectitude of its act."
Eighth Article: Whether Christ's Entire Soul Enjoyed Blessed Fruition During The Passion
It seems that Christ's entire soul did not, because simultaneous sadness and joy are impossibilities; in fact, vehement sadness checks every delight, and the converse is true.
Reply. Nevertheless, as St. John Damascene says in the counter-argument of this article: "Christ's Godhead permitted His flesh to do and to suffer what was proper to it. In like fashion... His passion did not impede fruition [of mind]." St. Thomas explains this in the body of the article as follows: "If it be understood according to its essence, then His whole soul did enjoy fruition, inasmuch as it is the subject of the higher part of the soul to which it belongs to enjoy the Godhead.... But if we take the whole soul as comprising all its faculties, thus His entire soul did not enjoy fruition... because, since Christ was still upon earth, there was no overflowing of glory from the higher part into the lower, nor from the soul into the body. But since, on the contrary, the soul's higher part was not hindered in its proper acts by the lower, it follows that the higher part of His soul enjoyed fruition perfectly while Christ was suffering."
Reply to first objection. It is indeed impossible to be sad and glad simultaneously about the same object; but in Christ sadness and fruition were not about the same object. Thus, though Christ was in a way crushed by grief, He rejoices in His sorrow.
In the next three articles of this forty-sixth question, St. Thomas considers the fitness of the Passion as regards time, the place between two thieves, of whom the one on the right was converted, but the one on the left died impenitent, just as on the Judgment Day a distinction will be made among all human beings, inasmuch as the elect will be on Christ's right hand, and the reprobates on His left. In the last article of this question it is shown that Christ's passion is not to be attributed to His divine nature, which is incapable of suffering, but it is to be attributed to the person of the Word incarnate, because of His human nature.