Tag Archives: St.Thomas Aquinas

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)  

Confirmation, the Sacrament of Spirit, Strength, and Combat – November 15, 2015

“Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:14-17)

Some question whether Confirmation is really a sacrament. Martin Luther retained the ceremonial aspect of it, but rejected its sacramentality, saying, “God knows nothing of it.” Even some modern Catholic thinkers have referred to it as “a sacrament in search of a theology.” After all, Christians receive the Holy Spirit in Baptism. Why then do we need a second anointing of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation? What is its purpose? Part of the criteria the Church used in delineating the seven sacraments was that each had to have been instituted by Christ Himself, as when He instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, and when He was baptized in the Jordan River. But, when and where in the Gospels did He institute the sacrament of Confirmation? Maybe its critics have a point. Yet, the Church has continually upheld Confirmation as a sacrament. In the 13th century, St.Thomas Aquinas took up this very question of the defense of Confirmation as a sacrament in his Summa Theologica (Summa, III, q.72). Later, the Church Council of Florence in 1439, and again, the Council of Trent in 1566 both affirmed the sacrament of Confirmation as one of the seven sacraments. These declarations have remained as the foundational Catholic understanding of Confirmation all the way up to modern times. As the Catechism now states, “Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Confirmation together constitute the ‘sacraments of Christian initiation’.” (CCC 1285) Confirmation is one of the three sacraments in which the Christian is initiated into the Church. Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation are a unity which complete our initiation. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, unlike the Latin Church, this unity is expressed by administering these three sacraments together, one after another, for initiation into the Church. In Roman Catholicism, however, they are spread out over time, generally speaking, beginning with Baptism, then later, Eucharist, and finally, upon entering adulthood, Confirmation. The reception of Confirmation completes and perfects the Baptismal grace. (CCC 1285) So, Baptism and Confirmation are two distinct sacraments, but linked together in the conferral of grace. As the passage (above) from the book of Acts demonstrates, the disciples in Samaria had already been baptized, but Peter and John came to lay hands on them so that they would receive the Holy Spirit. They were then, in fact, “confirmed” into the Church, received the Holy Spirit, and completed their Baptismal grace.

Confirmation is sometimes called “the sacrament of Christian maturity.” It is the sacrament that ushers the Baptized into the fullness of the Christian community, through the special strength of the Holy Spirit it identifies us more closely with the public mission and witness to Jesus Christ. Lumen Gentium says that, in Confirmation, those confirmed are “more perfectly bound to the Church,” so that, they are “obliged to spread and defend the faith, both by word and by deed, as true witnesses of Christ.” (LG, 11) The Confirmed are to share more completely in the mission of Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit, so as to give off “the aroma of Christ.” (CCC 1294) In his letter to the Corinthian Church, St.Paul calls the newly converted, and presumably newly Baptized, “infants in Christ.” (1 Cor.3:1) Baptism is our beginning point to the life in the Spirit. St.Thomas also compares Baptism as the point of our spiritual regeneration, and Confirmation as the point of our spiritual maturity. Baptism is our entrance, and Confirmation is our graduation. St.Thomas says of Confirmation that “man is perfected by Confirmation.” (Summa, III, q.65, a.3)  In Baptism, we become children of God, and in Confirmation, we become friends of God, sent into the world to give witness and carry on the mission of Christ.

Jesus promised that His Spirit would lead us to all truth, and we must take into account the veracity of His word in the Church seeing fit to establish the sacrament of Confirmation. The Spirit does not make mistakes. Confirmation, as with all the sacraments, contains an essential form to make the rite valid. The signs and symbols of the rite confer the grace they signify and signify the grace they confer. The catechumens are confirmed by the bishop by anointing their foreheads with a perfumed oil, a sacred chrism blessed by the bishop, and the laying on of hands by the bishop (just as Peter and John, as the first apostolic bishops, laid hands on the disciples of Samaria), and with the words “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 1300) The sign of anointing with the chrism imprints a spiritual seal upon our souls with the indelible mark of the Holy Spirit. (CCC 1304) For this reason, because it imparts a special character upon us, just as in Baptism, it is only given once. (CCC 1305) In ancient times, a seal was a symbol of a person, or the symbol of who that person belonged to, such as, soldiers marked with their leader’s seal, or slaves with their master’s seal. (CCC 1295) So too, now, Christians are confirmed with the mark of the Holy Spirit in order to seal us as His, consecrated to Christ. In the old mosaic covenant, an indelible mark was left on the body in circumcision, but now, in the new covenant, an indelible mark is left on the soul with the seal of the Holy Spirit. St.Paul speaks about this saying we are “marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph.1:13), and “marked with a seal for the day of redemption.” (Eph. 4:30) To the Corinthians, he similarly says, “But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting His seal on us and giving us His Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.” (2 Cor.1:21-22) This idea of the seal of the Holy Spirit hearkens back to the Old Testament, where God prophesies through Ezekiel “I will put My spirit within you.” (Ez.36:27) The seal of the Holy Spirit is also promised to us as divine protection in the eschatological future, that is, at the end of the world. (CCC 1296) In Revelation, the angels of judgment are told, “Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads.” (Rev. 7:3)

The effects of the sacrament of Confirmation are most commonly associated with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost. (CCC 1302) As St.Luke describes the dramatic event in the book of Acts:

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” (Acts 2:1-4)

The Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles in startling fashion with a rush of violent wind and tongues of fire. This is in fulfillment of Jesus’ command to “stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Lk.24:49) In obedience, the Apostles had been persevering in prayer, hiding in the upper room for fear of persecution. However, once they were sealed with the power of the Holy Spirit “from on high,” they emerged from the upper room and began to preach powerfully and publicly to the crowds of people. St.Peter, in particular, is the first to fearlessly witness to the crowds about the crucified Jesus, the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. He begins by quoting the prophet Joel:

‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28)

The Holy Spirit had strengthened the Apostles and the disciples, who were now unafraid to proclaim and defend the faith publicly. The flinching Apostles became towering super-Apostles, for through these twelve men, Christianity spread throughout the whole world in the midst of, and in spite of, terrible persecutions and martyrdom. St.Thomas discusses the miraculous change in their behavior due to the Holy Spirit. He says, “whereas in Confirmation he receives power to do those things which pertain to the spiritual combat with the enemies of the Faith.” (III, q.72, a.5) Confirmation anoints us with the power for spiritual combat, and to persevere amidst the trials and tribulations of giving witness to Christ in a hostile world. Confirmation is the sacrament to strengthen us for combat.

Jesus Himself, in fact, did institute the sacrament of Confirmation, albeit not by bestowing it directly, but with the promise of a future fulfillment, for He could not give the Spirit until after His Resurrection and Ascension. (Summa, III, q.72) Jesus promises His Apostles beforehand, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” (Jn.16:7) Jesus promises that once He is gone He will send the Spirit of Truth (Jn.14:17), the Advocate (Jn.14:16), the Paraclete, the Comforter and Counselor, to clothe them with power “from on high.” And again, Jesus tells His Apostles, “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” (Jn14:25-26) Jesus promises this, even though His Apostles had already been baptized, as implied in Him washing their feet and His saying to them “you are clean.” (Jn.13:10) Yet, Jesus promises more. He promises to clothe them with the power of Heaven, the Holy Spirit, which is ultimately fulfilled on that day of Pentecost.

This is the birth of the active Church, the Church militant. From there, the Church spread through the ancient world, first to Jew, and then, soon after, to Gentile, and all the way up till today, to all nations, universally across the globe. Yet, the Holy Spirit did not continue to anoint the disciples in such a dramatic, miraculous and visible fashion as at Pentecost. From that point on, the Apostles begin to invoke and confer the Holy Spirit through the imposition of hands, or the laying on of hands. This is truly the birth of the sacrament of Confirmation. As Acts says, “Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:14-17) St.Paul and the other bishops of the apostolic Church also conferred the Holy Spirit upon the Baptized through the imposition of hands. As St.Paul’s letter says, “For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands.” (2 Tim. 1:6) We see this again in Acts, “When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.” (Acts, 19:6) The “laying on of hands” is similarly mentioned in other places throughout the New Testament, such as in the letter to the Hebrews. (Heb.6:2) It was an integral part to the early, apostolic Church. It was part of The Way. The laying on of hands is the sacrament of Confirmation. It remains part of our way today. Confirmation is an extraordinary and charismatic conferral of grace, that completes our Baptism, unites us more closely with Christ, confers an indelible character upon our souls, gives us a special permanent status within the Church, strengthens our faith to engage in spiritual combat and to be able to publicly and boldly defend it. (CCC 1303) In short, it perfects the character we receive (in Baptism) as part of the common priesthood of the faithful. (CCC 1305) Our initiation is complete. Our status and our service in the common priesthood of the faithful are officially consecrated to God through the power of the Holy Spirit. With the winds of the Spirit in our hearts and the tongues of fire in our minds, we are ready now, ready to leave the safe confines of the upper room and witness to Christ in the public marketplace.

The Mystical Body of Christ – October 30, 2015

A real symbol is both a symbol and a reality. It symbolizes a reality, but it also has the real presence of the reality it symbolizes. The symbol, in a real symbol, is so intimately identified with the reality of it that the symbol makes present the reality. It is more than just a representation. The symbol and the reality are one. Yet, even though the symbol and the reality are inseparably bestowed, they are also identifiably distinct from each other. The best illustration of a real symbol is the human body. The human body is the real symbol of the soul. It both symbolizes the reality of the soul and it actually makes present the essence of the soul, or the reality of self. In St.Thomas’ words, the soul is the substantial “form” of the “matter” of the body. (Summa, I, q.76, a.1, a.4) When we think of a human person, we think of a united being of body and soul, forming one human substance. We know that the human person is more than a physical body. It is also a rational, immaterial, and immortal soul created directly by God that lives on after the death of the body. The body and soul are distinct. Nevertheless, the body is not simply a cocoon possessed by the soul. Rather, the body individuates the soul, permanently. The two principles, body and soul, are forever linked and conformed to each other. Man is a composite being, in which body and soul are separated at death, but reunited, in eternal form, in the final Resurrection. (CCC 366) The corporeal matter of the body and the spiritual form of the soul make one human person. As the Catechism teaches, “spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united; but rather their union forms a single nature.” (CCC 365) Human nature is the body and the soul together. Therefore, the body is the real symbol of the soul, because it symbolizes the soul and also makes the soul present in reality.

The Church is the real symbol of Jesus Christ. The Church symbolizes the continued presence of Christ in the world, and it also makes present Christ in reality. Just as the soul animates the body of a person, so too, the Holy Spirit animates the body of the Church. (CCC 797) As the encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, or “On the Mystical Body of Christ,” makes clear, the Church is a body (MCC, 14), and specifically, the Body of Christ. (CCC 805) She is both visible and invisible, and human and divine. (CCC 779) She is the physical symbol of a hidden reality. In that sense, the Church is like a sacrament. (CCC 775) She is the visible sign in communicating God’s invisible grace. She is the efficacious instrument, and real symbol, of Christ’s redemption by which man is reconciled with God. (CCC 780) The Holy Spirit “forms,” as it were, the “matter” of the body of the Church. Just as the body is formed in the likeness of the soul, so too, we are formed into the likeness of Christ. We are recreated in His image. (Rom.8:29) This is begun at Baptism and continues in a lifelong process, so that we “may become daily more and more like to our Savior” (MCC, 56), and are being “transformed into the same image from glory to glory.” (2 Cor.3:18) This self-communication of Christ to His believers is primarily through the sacraments, where we are “united in a hidden and real way to Christ in His passion and glorification.” (LG, 7) In Baptism, we are conformed to His likeness; in Confirmation, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit; and in the Eucharist, we are brought into communion with Him and with each other. Christ is as intimately connected with His followers as the soul is with the body. Lumen Gentium puts it this way, “For by communicating His Spirit, Christ mystically constitutes as His body those brothers of His who are called together from every nation.” (LG, 7) The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. (CCC 779) It is for this reason that when the risen Jesus confronts Saul on the road to Damascus, who is on his way to persecute and kill members of the Church, Christ says, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” (Acts 9:4) Christ is actually present, under veiled form, in His community of believers, the Church. As Jesus says, “For where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there among them.” (Mt.18:20)

Hidden divine realities are often times expressed in the world through symbolic reality, as has been discussed in regards to the soul and the Church. In a similar way, Christ is the real symbol of the eternal Word of God. In His humanity, Christ symbolizes, in bodily form, the manifestation of the divine and eternal Word, but He also is, in reality, the Son of God. In a similar fashion, within the Church, grace is primarily conferred on us through the symbolic reality of the sacraments. This is most especially true in the Eucharist. Christ is symbolically present under the veiled species of bread and wine, but Christ is also actually present in reality in the Eucharist. At consecration, with the transubstantiation, His body and blood, soul and divinity truly become present, even though our “eyes were kept from recognizing Him.” (Lk.24:16) Christ is the primordial sacrament from which grace is bestowed upon the Church; itself, a type of analogous sacrament; which, in turn, confers grace upon us in the actual sacraments themselves. Sanctifying grace flows from Christ, to the Church, and to the sacraments. We, the community of believers, initiated and sustained by the sacraments, are thence drawn into the symbolic reality of Christ. We become symbols of Christ and manifest His real presence in our lives. We are taken up into the mysteries of His life. (LG, 7) As such, we, the Church, who are the Body of Christ, are drawn into close union with Jesus Christ, who is the Head of the Body. (MCC, 81) St.Paul reveals this to us saying, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Cor.10:17) Since we all partake of the one Eucharistic “bread,” we are united into communion with Christ, and consequently, with each other. (LG, 7) This is a constant theme of the New Testament. As St.Paul teaches the Romans, “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” (Rom.12:5) The effect of the Eucharistic sacrament, or in Thomistic terms, “the Res Tantum,” or the “final reality” produced by the sacrament, is our unity with God and with each other, i.e., the coalescing of the Mystical Body of Christ. As Jesus Himself testified, “Those who eat My flesh and drink My blood abide in Me, and I in them.” (Jn.6:56) We are made one in the symbolic reality of Christ’s Body.

To this point, the main purpose of the Church is to be the “sacrament of the inner union of men with God” and the “sacrament of the unity of the human race.” (CCC 775) In Gethsemane, Jesus prays to the Father for the Church’s communion with God and with one another, or in other words, for the Communion of Saints, “so that they may be one, as We are one.” (Jn. 17:22) As part of this oneness, the Church’s mission is to take care of each other, and not just corporeally, but also, spiritually. God wills that the Church take part in the redemptive mission of Christ, and become “as it were, another Christ.” (MCC, 53) Christ’s redemptive work merited superabundant grace for us, of which the Church contributed nothing. (MCC, 44) Yet, Christ’s passion and death “merited for His Church an infinite treasure of graces.” (MCC, 106) God could have chosen any way possible to distribute those graces, but He chose that the Church should take an active role in the work of redemption; thus, conferring a special dignity upon His members. The magisterium teaches “not only does He share this work of sanctification with His Church, but He wills that in some way it be due to her action. This is a deep mystery..” (MCC, 44) This deep mystery pervades every member of the Body of Christ. For, Christ wills that His Mystical Body, we, the Church, carry on His salvific mission here on earth until the end of the world. It is an utterly serious responsibility, for “the salvation of many depends on the prayers and voluntary penances” of her members. (MCC, 44) We can petition God to apply our own prayers and mortifications, our “spiritual sacrifices,” in union with the infinite grace of Christ’s Passion, towards the salvation and sanctification of other souls, and in particular, on behalf of sinners. We can be co-redeemers. Again, this is not from anything we have done or earned or merited. We can do nothing without Christ. All grace is from Him. Christ simply wills that we should share in His work. The encyclical says we must offer our “prayers, works, and sufferings” every day to the Eternal Father. (MCC, 109) In this way we resemble Christ (MCC, 47) in our intercession and mediation for the whole human family. Being one body, we must have “the same care for one another.” (1 Cor.12:25) As individual members of the Mystical Body of Christ we must be rustled up from our slumber with a “supernatural charity” for the good of all men. (MCC, 97) We can do this by remaining faithful to the Church. When we abide as members united in His Mystical Body, He too abides in us by the Holy Spirit. We become a living symbolic reality, where Christ is truly present in the world again.

Consoling the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Part II – 17 September 2015

The Catechism states that, “Jesus knew and loved us each and all during His life.” (CCC 478) As we have just explored, this would have been possible for Jesus to know us, and who we are, and what we would do, despite living in a different time and a different location. Jesus Christ, as the Word of God, was filled with divine knowledge. He had Infused divine knowledge about everything related to His mission of Redemption, and all the people and events involved in fulfilling that mission. He also had divine knowledge of the Beatific Vision, in which He constantly beheld the glory of God the Father and the Holy Trinity. He, as the divine being, was not confined by space and time, in relation to His divine nature. In this way He could perceive people and places in the future and in other locations; hence, Jesus’ ability to read people’s minds and hearts, know what was happening elsewhere, and prophesize future events and actions. There was no one who was outside of Jesus’ grasp to know or understand. Jesus’ only limitation in this respect, during the time of His Incarnation, was His finite human mind and soul’s ability to grasp the infiniteness of God the Father. Yet, we know as per the discussion by St.Thomas, that Jesus knew the essence of all finite creatures. Furthermore, He knew “whatsoever is, will be, or was done, said, or thought, by whomsoever and at any time.” (S.T. III, Q.10.,a.2) All human beings and human nature are finite in essence, and so, Jesus, as the Word of God, in His deified humanity, could well perceive all that we are, and all that we did, or will do, despite the limitations of His human mind.

And so, St.Paul could say, “the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal 2:20) Jesus loved me and gave Himself for me. This is a fascinating thing to contemplate. Specifically, Jesus, in His earthly life 2,000 years ago, knew me. He knew my life, my circumstances, my failings, my actions, my prayers. When Jesus willingly entered on Holy Thursday and Good Friday into His Passion, to suffer horrible tortures and death, He was thinking about saving you, and saving me. Jesus in His divine knowledge saw that His suffering and death could save us from our individual sins. So, He willingly laid down His life for us, out of love for us. As Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn. 15:13) Think about all the good you have done and all the sins you have committed. They were all there, wrapped up in the heart and mind of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. We have to remember that Jesus was no ordinary man. What may seem impossible to us would not have been impossible to the God-man. We were on His mind. Indeed, Jesus prayed for us saying, “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.” (Jn.17:20)  

Jesus was in fact praying for all of His followers throughout the centuries who would form His Church and His Mystical Body. In His divinely Infused knowledge and the Beatific Vision, Jesus would perceive not only God the Father, but the whole Blessed Trinity. As a part of the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, Jesus would have been able to know all the people that make up His Mystical Body. The Mystical Body of Christ is made up of Christ’s followers, or simply, the Church. In 1943, Pope Pius XII put out an encyclical “On the Mystical Body of Christ,” or “Mystici Corporis Christi.” In one section of that, he addresses Christ’s vision of us in the Mystical Body, “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.” (Mystici Corporis Christi, 75) Throughout Christ’s life He beheld all of us in the Beatific Vision as members of the Mystical Body of Christ. There, Christ was able to keep all of us individually present to Himself throughout His life and continually in His thoughts. Whoever we are, wherever or whenever we live, Christ loved us. The symbol with which the Church shows this love for us is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As the Catechism states, “He has loved us all with a human heart.” (CCC 478) In the agony of the Garden of Gethsemane, that human heart of Jesus was afflicted by our sins and consoled by our acts of charity and mercy.

In 1928, Pope Pius XI put out an encyclical “Miserentissimus Redemptor,” or “All Merciful Redeemer,” concerning Reparation to the Sacred Heart. This is a wonderful meditation on the Sacred Heart of Jesus that also delves into the idea of forethought in Christ. The encyclical reminds us that, “no created power was sufficient to expiate the sins of men.” (M.R. 9) Rather, the God-man alone would be sufficient to undo the transgressions of sin for all mankind. It quotes the suffering servant prophesies from Isaiah, “He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities.” (Is.53:5) All of the sins of every person in the history of the world were placed upon Christ in the hour of His Passion and Crucifixion. The Chief Apostle, St.Peter, reiterated this saying, He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross.” (1 Pt.2:24) The sins and crimes of people throughout the ages were the source of Jesus’ grief, suffering, and death. Our sins today, caused Jesus’ agony then. Seeing and bearing the immensity of sins and crimes committed by every person that has ever lived, an unimaginable burden, Jesus was in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, even to the point of His sweat becoming like drops of blood. (Lk.22:44) So, for us today, in the 21st century, when we sin, are “crucifying again the Son of God and are holding Him up to contempt.” (Heb.6:6) Jesus, with His divine foreknowledge, knew the sins we would commit. He beheld them in the garden. It was a source of agony for Him, and He willingly suffered that torture on our behalf to expiate our sins. Simply put, our sins today are a source of suffering and grief to Jesus’ Sacred Heart then.

Now, if we are a source of pain to Jesus in His agony by our actions now, it reasons that by our prayers, sacrifices and good deeds now, we can also console the Sacred Heart of Jesus then. This reaches a key point in the encyclical. It says: 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.” (M.R. 13) So, just as Jesus foresaw our sins, He also foresaw our acts of reparation, love and mercy. We, by our actions today, can console the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the past. This is a wonderful thing to contemplate. By our acts of mercy and charity, we can ease the pain of Christ in His Passion. We can bring Him consolation, even now after the fact. The encyclical says this plainly, “And so even now, in a wondrous yet true manner, we can and ought to console that Most Sacred Heart which is continually wounded by the sins of thankless men.” (M.R. 13) It is within our power to make reparation and console the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the midst of His Passion. Time and space is of no constraint to the divine person, the eternal Word. We are, in a mystical but real way, present to Jesus in His life and His Passion. By our actions in the present, we can either wound or console Jesus’ Sacred Heart in the past. Our unfolding actions here and now in time are already present to Jesus in the eternity of His foreknowledge.

In 1980, in Pope John Paul II”s encyclical Dives in misericordia,” or “Rich in Mercy,” he also addressed this idea of consoling the crucified Christ. He said, “In a special way, God also reveals His mercy when He invites man to have “mercy” on His only Son, the crucified one.” (Dives et Misericordia, 8) We can show mercy to Christ. Think about that, God allows us to comfort Him. This is part of the scandal of Christianity. It calls to mind the fact that Jesus’ Mystical Body continues to live on in the world as the Church, whose members continue to suffer, “I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church.(Col.1:24) The resurrected and glorified Christ also appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus as he was trying to slaughter the Christians of the infant Church. Jesus confronted him saying, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” (Acts 9:4) Jesus implied attacks on His Church were in fact attacks on His very person. Saul, by persecuting individual Christians and the Church was persecuting Jesus Himself. This is the same language Jesus uses when He spoke about the Last Judgment. The Righteous will be rewarded for all the good deeds they did, even those done to the least person among us. Jesus associates Himself with those suffering the most, and the weakest, most in need. Jesus said, And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to Me.” (Mt.25:40) Thus, our good deeds, our charity, our prayers, and our mercy, especially towards those most in need, can bring comfort both to Jesus’ Sacred Heart in His Passion 2,000 years ago and to the on-going suffering of His Mystical Body today. As the encyclical states we can, by living holy lives and by reparation and by deeds of mercy, “fulfill the office of the Angel consoling Jesus in the garden.” (M.R. 19) For as the Gospel states, “there appeared to Him an angel from heaven” (Lk. 22:43), in order that His Heart, oppressed with weariness and anguish, might find consolation.” (M.R. 13)

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.