Tag Archives: hypostatic union

The Sanctifying Humanity of Jesus – December 17, 2015

“For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in Him.” (Col.2:9)

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Jn.10:10)

Can you take a moment and try to imagine yourself standing before Christ while He was alive here on earth, or maybe imagine that He is standing in front of you right now wherever you are. What would He look like? He would appear as a man, for Jesus is a man, as the Creed says He became man. Jesus looked like you and like me. There did not seem to be anything noticeably or discernably different between Him and us. We can take Jesus’ neighbors from Nazareth as evidence of this. When Jesus had begun His public ministry, and began to reveal who He truly was, they “took offense at Him” and “were astounded” saying “Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power?” (Mt. 13:54,57) Jesus, it seemed to them, was an ordinary man, and only a man. They did not recognize that Jesus was something more. They did not fathom that He was even a prophet, much less the Son of God. Isaiah prophesied of Christ’s ordinariness writing, he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Is.53:2) Jesus looked common, nothing special in appearance. He was of humble social status too. Jesus performed the humblest type of work as a daily laborer. He was the son of a carpenter, and He Himself was a carpenter. Again, Jesus’ neighbors were perplexed by Christ asking, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And are not His brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all His sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” (Mt.13:55-56) They could not reconcile the juxtaposition of the ordinary neighbor who had lived among them with the great wisdom and power He was manifesting now. By every measure, according to His neighbors in Nazareth, Jesus was just a man. They, in fact, were partially right. As the Councils and Catechism declare, Jesus was “true man.” (CCC 464)

The part they missed, however, is that Jesus was also “true God.” He was both true God and true man.” (CCC 464) Jesus was not just an ordinary person that stood and lived in their midst. He was also the Son of God, the Incarnation of the second person of the Trinity. Jesus the man was also the divine being, God-become-man. They saw perfectly the humanity of Christ, but failed to see His divinity. Yet, Jesus was fully God. As scripture says, “For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” (Col. 2:9) The fullness of the Trinity dwelt in Christ. His earthly life was the autobiographical life of the Incarnated God. The thoughts of God were communicated through the voice of Christ. In the mystery of the hypostatic union, Christ’s earthly nature was united with His divine nature. The two natures together, human and divine, form the one theandric, divine person. The Catechism reinforces this saying Everything that Christ is and does in this nature derives from “one of the Trinity”. The Son of God therefore communicates to His humanity His own personal mode of existence in the Trinity. In His soul as in His body, Christ thus expresses humanly the divine ways of the Trinity.” (CCC 470) It is for this reason that St.Thomas can exclaim to the risen Christ, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn. 20:28)  

Now, because the fullness of divinity dwelt in the person of Christ, every event, every circumstance, every word, every deed, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential, takes on a divine significance and importance. There are no small actions for a God-man. Everything He would have done or said would be of divine significance. The divine Sonship of Christ imbued all of His actions with infinite value. The Catechism alludes to this saying “Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of His cross, but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life.” (CCC 517) For Christ’s whole life, the infinite God performed finite human tasks, living as an ordinary man.  For thirty years, Jesus labored as a carpenter in silence and obedience to Mary and Joseph. The infinite vastness of Jesus’ divinity remained hidden under the auspices of His ordinary humanity, only to be revealed occasionally, and progressively, when He so chose, in His miracles and His healings, in His words, at the Transfiguration, in the Resurrection and Ascension. Jesus communicated His divinity to us through the lens of His humanity. He was able to save the human race precisely because He took on a body and soul as a human being when the Word became flesh. (Jn. 1:14) The mystery of redemption took place in the body of Christ, in His humanity, and because of His divinity. The Catechism calls this “His holy and sanctifying humanity.” (CCC 774) All of humanity and human nature was made holy and sanctified because God took on our nature and lived as one of us. The Church teaches, “The saving work of His holy and sanctifying humanity is the sacrament of salvation, which is revealed and active in the Church’s sacraments.” (CCC 774) Jesus’ human nature is the instrument for redeeming our human nature, which is why the Church calls it His “sanctifying humanity.” In Jesus’ sanctifying humanity, He performed finite actions, limited to a particular time and space. Yet, these finite actions were performed by a divine person, by which, giving them infinite moral value and efficaciousness, for all time and for all people.

Sanctifying grace is the true source of greatness for the believer. Without sanctifying grace our faith is meaningless. It is the transformative and life-giving power that Christ won for us in His life that can transform our ordinary lives and actions. Sanctifying grace is primarily conferred upon us through the sacraments. Baptism and Confirmation confer the Holy Spirit into our lives making us adopted children of God. Reconciliation and Eucharist sustain us with sanctifying grace from one day to the next, divinizing all of our activity in imitation of Christ for the glory of God. However, just as Christ’s divinity lay hidden in the workshop in Nazareth, so our life, as adopted sons and daughters, lay primarily interior and hidden. As Jesus tells us “the kingdom of God is within you.” (Lk. 17:21) St.Paul echoes this too, saying “your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3) The Christian life is truly a supernatural life. It is our participation in the mysteries of Christ, making us partakers in the divine nature. (2 Pet.1:4) We are drawn into Christ’s mysteries through our faithful love and adoration of Christ, in contemplation, in reading the Bible, in the mass and liturgy, in the sacraments, in our prayer life, in our actions, in doing them with intentionality to please God. As John says, “from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (Jn.1:16) So that, through our contemplation and worship of the life of Christ and all His words and deeds, He may be able to reproduce them in us by the special grace attached to each of His deeds and actions. Christ’s whole life is a type of sacrament, imparting His sanctifying grace upon us in each of His actions. As Jesus walked through the masses of people “the crowd were trying to touch Him, for power came out from Him and healed all of them.” (Lk 6:19) Christ is a living Christ, with this same grace and power He had then, which still emanates forth from Him now into those that draw near to Him and dare to reach out for Him in faith.

The Catechism lucidly describes Christ’s sanctifying humanity and our communion with His mysteries. It is worth quoting at length:

All Christ’s riches “are for every individual and are everybody’s property.” (Redemptor Hominis, 11) Christ did not live His life for Himself but for us, from His Incarnation “for us men and for our salvation” to His death “for our sins” and Resurrection “for our justification”. He is still “our advocate with the Father”, who “always lives to make intercession” for us. He remains ever “in the presence of God on our behalf, bringing before Him all that He lived and suffered for us.”

In all of His life Jesus presents Himself as our model. He is “the perfect man” who invites us to become His disciples and follow Him. In humbling Himself, He has given us an example to imitate, through His prayer He draws us to pray, and by His poverty He calls us to accept freely the privation and persecutions that may come our way.

Christ enables us to live in Him all that He Himself lived, and He lives it in us. “By His Incarnation, He, the Son of God, has in a certain way united Himself with each man.” We are called only to become one with Him, for He enables us as the members of His Body to share in what He lived for us in His flesh as our model:

“We must continue to accomplish in ourselves the stages of Jesus’ life and His mysteries and often to beg Him to perfect and realize them in us and in His whole Church. . . For it is the plan of the Son of God to make us and the whole Church partake in His mysteries and to extend them to and continue them in us and in His whole Church. This is His plan for fulfilling His mysteries in us.   (St.John Eudes)

The mysteries that Christ lived in the flesh are our mysteries too. They are meant for us. We can unite ourselves each day with them. His divine, sanctified humanity, which conquered death, gives eternal life to our mortal humanity. This is the whole point. We are doomed to die, but in Christ we have the blessed hope of resurrection and eternal life. And, how should we live? We can habituate ourselves to try to please God in all things, even the smallest of our actions, in order to be united with Christ in all that we do. This is a key to the sacramental life, living with the intentionality of pleasing God. This will orient all of our activity towards God, and unite our lives with the life of Christ. He will recreate His mysteries within us. Just think, even more so than adoring the life of Christ, Christ’s very own sanctifying humanity – His divine essence as manifested in His flesh – lives on with us, even now, He is still here, in the real presence of the Eucharist. We can merge ourselves with His sacred humanity and His sanctifying grace by consuming His body and blood in reception of the Eucharist, our Holy Communion. Then, Christ will live within our dying bodies and souls, His sanctifying humanity transfiguring our humanity, and resurrecting us to eternal life.

Christ’s Infinite Knowledge and Consciousness – December 12, 2015

“Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He Himself is doing; and He will show Him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.’” (Jn. 5:19-20)

Jesus Christ, as a divine person, enjoyed the Beatific Vision of the Father from the moment of His conception. Jesus had a divine consciousness in which He continuously perceived God the Father, face-to-face with infinite knowledge and beatitude. As Jesus reveals, “I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence.” (Jn. 8:38) And again, “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; He has seen the Father.” (Jn. 6:46) Scripture is clear on this: Christ beheld the Beatific Vision. From His first second on Earth, Jesus’ human nature was assumed by the Logos, the Word of God, and had immediate and direct knowledge of God and the knowledge of all things. St.Thomas understood this as Christ knowing whatsoever is, will be, or was done, said, or thought, by whomsoever and at any time.” (Summa, III, Q.10, a.2) He was both fully human and fully divine, with two natures, two intellects, and two wills, that worked perfectly together, in the hypostatic union, as the one divine person. The finite, in all its humanly facets, was linked seamlessly to the infinite. In this same way, Christ’s consciousness was also both human and divine, united together in the hypostatic union. His finite human brain and human consciousness were united to the infinite mind and infinite consciousness of the Logos. Not that these are two separate beings. They are not. This was the error of Nestorianism, a fifth century heretical movement that wrongly espoused Christ as two separate persons, one, the divine Logos, and the other, the human Jesus of Nazareth. Rather, there is only one Christ, one divine being, one divine person, who is concurrently both the eternal Logos and the human son of Mary. This is the mystery of Christ, and the theandric mystery of the hypostatic union.

Yet, because His human body, human brain and human consciousness were created, they were necessarily finite. He did not perceive the infinite number of possibilities of all things of all eternity at any given moment. For, the finite cannot fully realize or actuate all that is infinitely possible simultaneously in any one moment. Following this Aristotelian logic, St.Thomas surmised, and thus in Himself God knows many more things than the soul of Christ.” (Summa, III, Q.10, a.2, a.3) This is the great paradox of Jesus. As a divine person, Jesus knew all things, but at any given moment, He did not contain infinite knowledge. In effect, Christ is theandric in nature, in His intellect and operation, as both God and man, where the human side works in perfect harmony with the divine side. His human soul was united perfectly with the infinite Word of God. Although His finite human consciousness could not hold the infinite possibilities in every moment, He did still have access to the divine infused knowledge and Beatific Vision, from which, to draw knowledge towards anything He turned His attention. The infinite knowledge of Christ was manifested in specific, finite instances in His life. The Beatific Vision remained intact, from which, Jesus drew from it as necessary in His finite, human consciousness.

This in no way undermines dignity of Jesus as the divine Word. He is ontologically always the Son of God, meaning He was never at any point anything less than the divine being. Of this, He was acutely aware. Throughout His whole life He understood His own divinity and being eternally begotten of the Father. From the first instance of His Incarnation into human nature, Jesus enjoyed infused divine knowledge and the Beatific Vision of God. No one had to teach Christ who He was. No one ever had to show Him the Father. Jesus Himself knew all this innately. Jesus says, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made Him known.” (Jn. 1:18) There was at no point in His life when He did not know of His own divinity, or did not perceive the Beatific Vision of the Father, or did not have access to all knowledge. We read in scripture that at the age of twelve, the boy Jesus was sitting amongst the teachers of Israel in the Temple, and And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.” (Lk. 2:47) When His distraught parents found Him after three days of searching and questioned Him, He reveals His divine self-consciousness as already present, saying, “Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” (Lk. 2:47) He was ignorant of nothing, or no thing to which He directed His gaze. This has been affirmed and reaffirmed through the centuries from the trajectory of teaching of the Church Fathers to the Magisterium. This truth still holds true. As the Catechism instructs, “The human nature of God’s Son, not by itself but by its union with the Word, knew and showed forth in itself everything that pertains to God. Such is first of all the case with the intimate and immediate knowledge that the Son of God made man has of His Father.” (CCC 473)

However, this truth has been sporadically under attack through the millennia. The First Council of Ephesus in 431 AD had to deal with the error of Nestorianism by declaring Jesus one person, fully God and fully man, united in the hypostatic union, and consubstantial with the Father. Yet, from that, another heresy quickly emerged in the sixth century, the Agnoites, or “the Ignorants,” who espoused that there were things that Jesus did not know, or for which, He was ignorant of. They attacked Christ’s divinity in particular by saying He did not know the day or hour of the final judgment. In response, Pope Vigilius declared in his “Constitutum” on May 14, 533 AD:

If anyone says that the one Jesus Christ, true Son of God and true Son of Man, was ignorant of future things, or of the day of the last judgment, and says He could know only as much as the divinity dwelling in Him as in another made known to Him: let him be anathema.” (Fr.Most, Consciousness of Christ, p.137)

Yet, the error has persisted into modern times, focusing primarily around questions that Jesus grew in knowledge, and that He did not know the hour of the Parousia. In regard to the former, the Gospel of Luke says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years.” (Lk. 2:52) In regard to the latter, the Gospel of Mark says, “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mk. 13:32) The historical deniers of Christ’s divine knowledge, and indeed, some modern theologians use these passages as the primary proof that Jesus was ignorant. But, are they correct? The arc of Church Father teachings and the Magisterium, again, say no. They are not correct. Jesus had infused divine knowledge, beheld the Beatific Vision, and knew all things. St.Thomas argues that Jesus, in addition to His divine knowledge, did in fact, possess acquired or experiential knowledge, and advance and progress in the acquisition of experiential knowledge. (Summa, III, q.12, a.2) To grow in wisdom, then means perhaps, Christ manifested His wisdom more and more as He grew older. Another explanation is that Christ advanced in acquired knowledge, but possessed the full Beatific Vision and infused divine knowledge from the moment of His conception. Hence, there was no growth in His divine knowledge. He possessed it fully from His first moment. Christ did have two channels of knowledge, divine and human. His knowledge and consciousness, like all the other aspects of His being, are theandric in nature, operating at two separate levels, human and divine, yet in complete harmony together. So, even if, as a child, He learned, for example, the Aramaic word for bread, this is the human, experiential knowledge. At the same time, He already knew this, and everything besides, from the divine knowledge within Him.

And, what of the knowledge, or lack of knowledge, Jesus had of the day and hour of the End? Most scholars and theologians ascribe that Jesus was using oikonomia, a dispensation, or an adaptation to the human conditions Jesus found Himself in. It was not fitting that humanity should know the day and hour of the End. Jesus knew in His divinity the day and hour of the End, but He had not come to reveal that. It was not part of His mission, and it was of no benefit to humanity to know this exactly. Thus, Jesus chose to not reveal this in order to preserve, as St.Cyril said, “the order proper to humanity.” This was an assumed unawareness, where Jesus identifies with His human brethren, in our human nature, as part of a divinely providential oikonomia. The Catechism answers this directly: By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in His human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans He had come to reveal. What He admitted to not knowing in this area, He elsewhere declared Himself not sent to reveal.” (CCC 474) In the Book of Acts, Jesus replies to the Apostles’ questions about the End, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority.” (Acts, 1:7) Or, in other words, Jesus tells them it is not fitting for humanity to know when the End will come, and it is not His mission to reveal it to them. This does not attest to ignorance, but to the fitness of humanity to have this knowledge of the Parousia. For, in other parts of the Gospels, such as Matthew 24, Jesus speaks with great specificity about future events and the signs of the End and what would happen.            

The Magisterium continues to address these issues and errors, Neo-Nestorianisms, if you will, up till today, as the current manifestations of old heresies keep popping up, cloaked in the veneer of modernity. In 1907, Pope Pius X issued Lamentabili Sane (“It is Lamentable”) in condemnation of “The Errors of the Modernists.” One such error condemned in the Syllabus is that Christ having “knowledge without limits…cannot be historically conceived.” (LS, 34) In condemning this error, the Church affirms the infinite knowledge of Christ. In 1928, Pope Pius XI published Miserentissimus Redemptor, “Merciful Redeemer,” in which he addressed reparations to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He argues that Jesus’ Sacred Heart was oppressed as He foresaw our future sins, and was consoled as He foresaw our future reparations. Jesus in His infused divine knowledge and Beatific Vision continuously beheld God, and as part of that, He also perceived His Mystical Body, made up of His believers and followers through the centuries. The encyclical attests to this saying, “Now if, because of our sins also which were as yet in the future, but were foreseen, the soul of Christ became sorrowful unto death, it cannot be doubted that then, too, already He derived somewhat of solace from our reparation, which was likewise foreseen..” (MR, 13) In 1943, Pope Pius XII wrote the encyclical, Mystici Corporis Christi, “On the Mystical Body of Christ.” In this document, the Church addresses the question of the knowledge of Christ in one of the most clear and profound statements ever on the topic. It is worth quoting it at length:

“Now the only-begotten Son of God embraced us in His infinite knowledge and undying love even before the world began. And that He might give a visible and exceedingly beautiful expression to this love, He assumed our nature in hypostatic union: hence – as Maximus of Turin with a certain unaffected simplicity remarks – “in Christ our own flesh loves us.” But the knowledge and love of our Divine Redeemer, of which we were the object from the first moment of His Incarnation, exceed all that the human intellect can hope to grasp. For hardly was He conceived in the womb of the Mother of God, when He began to enjoy the Beatific Vision, and in that vision all the members of His Mystical Body were continually and unceasingly present to Him, and He embraced them with His redeeming love. O marvelous condescension of divine love for us! O inestimable dispensation of boundless charity! In the crib, on the Cross, in the unending glory of the Father, Christ has all the members of the Church present before Him and united to Him in a much clearer and more loving manner than that of a mother who clasps her child to her breast, or than that with which a man knows and loves himself.” (MCC, 75)            

In this, with the authority of the Apostolic teaching commissioned to the Church, we can see that Christ had infinite knowledge, beheld the Beatific Vision, and perceived us always, as part of His Mystical Body, all from the moment of His conception, indeed, from before the foundation of the world. In 1951, Pope Pius XII also issued Sempiternus Rex Christi, “Christ, the Eternal King,” reaffirming the truths of the Council of Chalcedon, that Christ was both fully human and fully divine, united together in the hypostatic union, as one divine person. Moreover, he reiterates, “Each nature possesses its properties without defect.” (SR, 21) Jesus is “perfect in His divinity, perfect in His humanity, true God, and true man.” (SR, 23) Again, Pope Pius XII, in 1956, published another encyclical, Haurietas Aquas, “You Will Draw Waters” in regard to the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He speaks again of Jesus’ divine knowledge, saying: since ‘in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily.’ It is, besides, the symbol of that burning love which, infused into His soul, enriches the human will of Christ and enlightens and governs its acts by the most perfect knowledge derived both from the beatific vision and that which is directly infused.” (HA, 55-56) In the year 2,000, Pope John Paul II put out the encyclical Novo Millenio Ineunte, “At the Beginning of the New Millenium.” In it, he refers to Jesus in the Garden of Olives as “oppressed by foreknowledge of the trials that await Him.” (NMI, 25) The Church consistently teaches that Jesus is divinely aware, knowing the intimate details of future events and all that would befall Him, as predicted in His Passion. Lastly, in 2013, Pope Francis put out his first encyclical Lumen Fidei, “The Light of Faith.” In it, Pope Francis alludes to the divine understanding Christ has of the Father. He says,Christ’s life, His way of knowing the Father and living in complete and constant relationship with Him, opens up new and inviting vistas for human experience.” (LF, 18) The infinite knowledge and consciousness is important because it is united to Jesus’ humanity. God reached down to become part of man, so man could be lifted up to become part of God. We are adopted children of God, who are made partakers in the divine nature, through Christ’s humanity. This is the new and inviting vistas for human experience Pope Francis refers to, and which, is an intimate aspect of the sacramental life.    

Scripture, too, repeatedly and unequivocally affirms and reaffirms Christ’s divinity, and in doing so, incidentally professes His divine knowledge and consciousness. Jesus takes for Himself the name of God, declaring Himself “I Am.” (Jn. 8:58) And, He openly declares, “The Father and I are one.” (Jn. 10:30) Jesus takes to Himself special titles, such as “The Son of Man” and “The Son of God.” He refers to God as Abba, or Father. He declares Himself “greater than the Temple” and “Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mt.12:6; 8) Authority for, both of which, belongs only to God Himself. Jesus can read the interior thoughts of other people and knows future events. He ascribes for Himself the power to forgive sins and the power to judge, particularly as the eschatological final judge of all humanity. He can only be the true and just judge of all humanity if He truly knows all the deeds and interior motivations of all humans, as He does in His divine knowledge. Occasionally, Jesus uses simple rhetorical ploys, often times to elicit a response from someone. For example, when Jesus is talking with the Samaritan woman, He asks her, “Go, call your husband, and come back,” even though He already knows that she has had many husbands, and the one she is with now is not her husband. (Jn. 4:16) He gently elicits her moral conscience to sins she has committed, and at the same time, reveals His divinity. This is reminiscent of God coming into the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned, asking “But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9) God, of course, knew where Adam and Eve were, but elicited a moral response from them after they had sinned. This is the same oikonomia that Jesus practiced in His lifetime, in tempering down His divine knowledge and consciousness to the human condition. Nevertheless, we should not be fooled by Christ’s humility and fall into error by questioning His divine knowledge and consciousness. For, in His final revelation to humanity, Jesus proclaims His omnipotence saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev. 1:8)  

Consoling the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Part I – 14 September 2015

“Jesus knew and loved us each and all during His life, His agony and His Passion, and gave Himself up for each one of us” (CCC 478)

Jesus, as a divine human being, had both a human nature and a divine nature. As such, He also had two modes of knowledge, one human and one divine. Traditional Catholic teaching on the types of knowledge that Jesus possessed fall into three categories: (1) Acquired knowledge; (2) Infused knowledge; (3) Beatific Vision. The knowledge Jesus possessed by way of His human nature and His human intellect is referred to as Acquired knowledge. This is the same experiential learning common to all humanity. The Gospel of Luke mentions this incidentally in reference to the childhood of Jesus when it says He “grew in wisdom and in years.” (Lk. 2:52) There are other inferences in the Gospels that allude to His humanly knowledge, such as when He asks His disciples how many loaves of bread there are; Or, when He asks His disciples who the people say He is. This acquired knowledge is part of Jesus being fully-human. He acquired human knowledge, as any human being does. As the letter to the Phillipians says, “but He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form.” (Phil. 2:7)

But, this was not the only knowledge that Jesus possessed. He also had divine knowledge. By way of the hypostatic union, His human nature was united with the divine Word of God. Jesus, as the divine Word, had two different types of divine knowledge. One level of His divine knowledge was an Infused knowledge; that is, Christ knew “the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans He had come to reveal.” (CCC 474) Jesus was given to know all things necessary to His redemptive mission and for our salvation. Such is clearly the case when Jesus foretells that He must “undergo great suffering,” “be rejected by the elders,” “be killed,” and “after three days rise again.” (Mk. 8:31) He made other similar prophecies in the Gospels concerning His future passion, death and resurrection. The scripture also says Jesus knew “all the things that were coming upon Him.” (Jn 18:4) He announced beforehand Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. The scriptures point to Jesus also as being able to know peoples’ hearts and thoughts; for example, Jesus “knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe.” (Jn. 6:64) Again, after Jesus cures the paralytic, He reads peoples hearts, “and He said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?” (Mk 2:8) When Jesus is speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well, He knew her background entirely without her telling Him. Jesus had direct knowledge, at first meeting, of people, their history, and their thoughts and hearts. He knew about their past, their present, and what they would do in the future. He also knew what was happening elsewhere. He was consistently telling His disciples about situations as they exist, or will exist, in other locations; such as, when He tells the disciples to “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. (Mk.11:2) Again, when Jesus was calling His apostles, He shows His divine insight in calling Nathanael. “Nathanael asked Him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (Jn 1:48-49)

The second form of divine knowledge Jesus possessed was the Beatific Vision; that is, Jesus saw God face to face, and had direct knowledge of the Father. Jesus realizes from a young age the grace of union He has with the Father in the Beatific Vision. At the age of twelve, after Mary and Joseph could not find Him for three days and then subsequently find Him in teaching in the Temple, Jesus says, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) Jesus is already aware of the unique relationship that He has with the Father. St.John clarifies this repeatedly, hinting at a beatific knowledge. Later, in His public ministry, Jesus says, No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made Him known.” (Jn 1:18) And again, “The one who comes from heaven is above all.  He testifies to what He has seen and heard.” (Jn 3:31-32) Then, in declaration of His divinity, Jesus says, “The Father and I are one.” (Jn 10:30). The other Gospels also allude to the Beatific Vision: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son.” (Mt.11:27 & Lk.10:22) Of course, there are the numerous “I Am” statements too when Jesus equates Himself with the Hebraic name of God: I Am Who Am, Yahweh. “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (Jn 8:58) The scandal of Jesus’ divinity and the intimacy of His Beatific Vision are too much for some to handle. This is when the Pharisees begin to plot to kill Him. And for that matter, numerous modern theologians try to strip Him of His divinity. Yet, Jesus is telling us a truth about His divine nature and His divine knowledge. In His human nature, Jesus is united together with the eternal Word of God. And as the Word of God, Jesus is united together with the Father and the Holy Spirit in their eternal beatitude.

Who better to understand the nature of Christ than the angelic doctor, St.Thomas Aquinas? St.Thomas discusses in depth in his Summa Theologica the various levels of knowledge within Christ. In regard to Christ’s knowledge via the Beatific Vision, the angelic doctor refers to Colossians 2:3, that in Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (S.T. III, Q.9.,a3)   St.Thomas continues to answer the question of what Christ knows, as the eternal Word of God united with the Trinity in their eternal beatitude. He says, “When it is inquired whether Christ knows all things in the Word, “all things” may be taken in two ways: First, properly, to stand for all that in any way whatsoever is, will be, or was done, said, or thought, by whomsoever and at any time. And in this way it must be said that the soul of Christ knows all things in the Word.” (S.T. III, Q.10.,a.2) Aquinas argues that Christ, as per the dignity of the eternal “Judge,” knows the “essence of every creature” and all that was ever said or done in the past, present or future.

Yet, how can Christ have at once both humanly Acquired knowledge and the Beatific Vision? To answer this, St.Thomas hearkens the idea of the Tome of Leo, a letter written by Pope Leo I (Saint Leo the Great) from the 5th century concerning Christ’s unity of natures. The letter was read aloud at the ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. In the Tome of Leo, the pontiff enumerates what is now called the “Communication of Idioms (or Properties).” It states, “each of the natures retains its proper character without defect; and as the form of God does not take away the form of a servant, so the form of a servant does not impair the form of God.” St.Leo’s words became, from that point forward, the foundation for all of Christology, and the proper understanding of Christ’s natures. Christ’s human nature retains its humanity, and Christ’s divine nature retains its divinity. St.Thomas tries to show in this vein how Christ can have all three forms of knowledge without impeding upon either His human knowledge or His divine knowledge; in effect all three working harmoniously together. Although St.Thomas argues that Christ knows the essence of all finite creatures, He at the same time concedes, “it is impossible for any creature to comprehend the Divine Essence,” due to the fact that “the infinite is not comprehended by the finite.” (S.T. III, Q.10, a.1) So, according to the Summa, in Christ’s finite human soul He could comprehend the finite power of creatures, but not the full infinitude of God’s power. He states, so likewise, besides the Divine and uncreated knowledge in Christ, there is in His soul a beatific knowledge, whereby He knows the Word, and things in the Word; and an infused or imprinted knowledge, whereby He knows things in their proper nature by intelligible species proportioned to the human mind.” (S.T. III, Q.9, a.3) Therefore, in lay terms, Christ’s Infused knowledge and Beatific Vision would all have been there from the beginning of His life, and throughout His life, but extracting that knowledge would be proportionate to His age, experience and the limitations of His rational, human soul, albeit a perfect soul.

The Theandric Nature of Christ – 5 September 2015

“The Word became flesh.” (John 1:14) 

“Jesus Christ is true God and true man, in the unity of His divine person” (CCC 480)

Writing about theology is often a process of recapitulating in a few minutes or hours what the Church has struggled with and elucidated over two thousand years. This is both a blessing and curse. A blessing, of course, because now in the 21st century, we have the luxury of these neatly and elaborately defined dogmas; and a curse, because it’s not always an easy task sifting through the minutiae of two millennia of history and exegesis. These religious ideas and doctrines we take for granted now have been struggled with, debated, fought over, scandalized, held Councils about, and in the cases of the various heresies, called heretical and anathema, but all the while leading to more refined doctrines and creeds of the Church. Such is the will of God, that we should “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Mt. 22:37-38) Jesus instructed us, by adding to the Deuteronomic quote (Dt.6:5), that we should love God with “all your mind.” And hence, the Church, and the doctors of the Church, theologians and saints have studied the Word of God, the Bible, the teachings of the Apostles, the Traditions of the Church, and life of Jesus, parsing every word and deed to understand the true nature of God. This dialectic struggle within the Church over the two thousand years has resulted in 21 major ecumenical Church Councils, in order to resolve the nearly as many major heretical movements within each century. Loving God with all your mind is easy, but precise exegetical, Church-approved analysis has been long, hard, and arduous. In no area has this been more contentious than Christology, or the study of the nature and person of Jesus Christ.

The “Hypostatic Union” is the theological term positing the fusion of the divine and the human in the person of Jesus Christ. Hypostasis (ὑπόστασις) is the Greek word referring to the “underlying substance” of something, or “concrete existence” of a person. In Christian theology, it refers to the union of the two natures of Christ in the one divine person. Christ had two natures, one human and one divine; as well as two intellects and wills, or “modes of operation,” one human and one divine. Taken together, the two natures and the two intellects, and wills or operations, they form in perfect union the one divine man, Jesus Christ. It seems so straight-forward to us now. What was so difficult? I jest, yet this simple phrase had a long, struggled history. The struggle began back with the first ecumenical Council at Nicea in 325 AD. This Council was called to deal with a heresy involving a popular priest named Arius. Arius believed that Jesus was not consubstantial with God the Father, but was rather “homo-i-ousios,” or of “like or similar substance and being,” in effect, Jesus was less than the Father. A huge schism was created in the Church between those who believed in homo-i-ousios and those who adhered to “homo-ousios,” or that Jesus and God the Father were “of one substance or being.” As Edward Gibbon had noted the world was divided over “one iota.” Thus, the Council met and then issued the Nicean Creed. This declared Jesus “homo-ousios,” or “consubstantial” with God the Father, the same creed we repeat in mass to this very day.

After that, the Christological struggle to define the exact nature of who Jesus is continued on for centuries. In the fifth century, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, had felt uncomfortable calling Mary “Theotokos,” (in Greek Θεοτοκος) or “God-bearer,” since he did not think she was the cause of Jesus’ divinity. As such, he ended up devising a doctrine, Nestorianism, that essentially divided Jesus into two persons, one divine (Logos) and one human (son of Mary). This, of course, in response led to the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. The Council proclaimed Mary is not the cause of Jesus’ divinity since He’s consubstantial with the Father for all eternity. As well, it proclaimed Mary is not the cause of Jesus’ human soul since that is also from God. Yet, the Council reaffirmed the hypostatic union of a divine nature and a human nature in the one divine person of Jesus Christ. Being that Mary bore the divine person, Jesus, and not just His human nature, it is in fact true to call her the bearer of God.

A couple of decades later a Byzantine monk, Eutyches, had began advocating that there was really only one nature in Christ; or that His human nature was absorbed by His divine nature. This heresy was termed “Monophysitism,” or that Christ only had a divine nature. In 451 AD, the Church called the Council of Chalcedon to deal with this. The Council declared Jesus had “two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” They reaffirmed that Jesus was one person and one hypostasis with two natures, one human and one divine. In the 7th century, the Monothelitism heresy posited that Christ only had one will and one natural operation; eliminating the distinctly human will in Christ, in favor of His divine will. In response to this, the Church called the Third Council of Constantinople in 681 AD. The Council eventually declared, in reiteration of the Chalcedon declaration, that Christ possessed “two natural wills and two natural energies, without division, alteration, separation or confusion.” (III Council of Constantinople) The Hypostatic Union had finally triumphed! Jesus Christ, the God-man, is one divine person, of one substance with the Father, with two natures, human and divine; two wills, human and divine; and two modes of operation, human and divine.

Yes, there are two natures and two wills in Christ, yet they always act in harmony together. Jesus was perfectly one with Himself, undivided. He is the perfect model for us to align our human nature and our human will with the divine nature and the divine will. In us, our nature and our will resist the divine nature and the divine will. In Christ, His human nature and His human will were in perfect obedience and submission to the divine. We, because of Original Sin, are divided; He, without sin, is one. The Catechism quotes the Council of Constantinople III in this respect saying: Christ’s human will “does not resist or oppose but rather submits to His divine and almighty will.” (CCC 475) As the Church Fathers teach us, the obedience of Christ atoned for the disobedience of Adam. Only Christ could have done this. Jesus is in a sense properly defined as “theandric.” Theandric taken from the root Greek words, “theos,” (θεός) meaning “god;” and “andros,” (ἀνδρός) meaning “man.” Christ properly understood is both God and man united as one person, or literally, the God-man. In the 7th century St.John of Damascus wrote, “Thus, the theandric operation shows this: when God became man, that is to say, was incarnate, His human operation was divine, that is to say, deified. And it was not excluded from His divine operation, nor was His divine operation excluded from His human operation. On the contrary, each is found in the other.” The divine operation and the human operation are independent and separate, yet they subsist – one in the other – in Jesus Christ. St.Thomas Aquinas in the Middle Ages wrote, “Dionysius* places in Christ a theandric, i.e. a God-manlike or Divino-human, operation not by any confusion of the operations or powers of both natures, but inasmuch as His Divine operation employs the human, and His human operation shares in the power of the Divine.” (Aquinas) Thus, what Aquinas argues is that because of the dual nature of Christ as both human and divine, it appears as though He operates with a single, theandric operation. Yet, what is really happening is the two distinct natures of Christ are operating in perfect communion with each other, so much so as to appear as a single, theandric operation.

“Everything that Christ is and does in this nature derives from ‘one of the Trinity.’ The Son of God therefore communicates to His humanity His own personal mode of existence in the Trinity. In His soul as in His body, Christ thus expresses humanly the divine ways of the Trinity.” (CCC 470) The Catechism shows that, although separate, the divine is part of His human nature and the human is part of His divine nature. Christ’s humanity was a deified humanity. As in the healing of the leper, Christ uses the divine operation to heal, but He also uses His humanly operation to touch. In the raising of Lazarus, He uses His divine operation to resurrect, and His human operation to speak it. In these instances, as in all the others in His life, the divine operation is made manifest in perfect harmony with the human operation. And the human operation acts in perfect obedience to the divine operation. In the epistle to the Hebrews, St.Paul calls Christ, “the exact imprint of God’s very being.” (Heb.1:3)** That is, Christ is God made manifest in the flesh. The life of Christ is the human biography of the Trinity. Since the human and divine, though distinct, work in perfect operation together in Christ, His operations are, in effect, theandric. Each of His humanly actions are in conjunction with Godly actions. It can be surmised then that each of His actions is of infinite merit and grace. For the divine is operating within the natural. The Catechism says, “Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption.” (CCC517) The smallest of His actions take on divine efficaciousness. There are no small actions in the life of the God-man. Because of this, Aquinas can say, “Consequently, Christ did merit in the first instant of His conception.” Then, all of Christ’s actions throughout His life are of divine worth imbued with supernatural grace. Hence, when Christ reaches the climax of His life with His Passion and Crucifixion, His death takes on infinite value, capable of saving all of humanity from sin, and even death itself. The infinite dignity of God, offended by the sin of man, is now satisfied by the infinite sacrifice of Christ, the God-man.     

*Dionysius refers to the fifth century monk Gaius, a theologian who operated under the name Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. He was one of the first to refer to Christ’s actions as “theandric.” He said, “by virtue of being God-made-man He accomplished something new in our midst – the activity of the God-man (ie, the theandric activity).” The error in his thought is by proscribing in Christ “one” mode of operation, not two.

**This line includes the use of the Greek word “hypostasis.”