Sunday, 30 November 2014

On Christ Our Saviour

''The only begotten Son of God...''whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Cor 1:30), ''entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption'' (Heb 9:12). For ''you were ransomed...,, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot'' (1 Pet 1:18f). Immolated on the altar of the Cross though He was innocent, He shed not merely a drop of His blood - although this would have sufficed for the redemption of the whole human race because of the union of the Word - but a copious flood, like a stream, so that ''from the sole of the foot even to the head, there was no soundness in Him'' (Is 1:6).
What a great treasure, then, has the good Father acquired for the Church Militant, if the merciful shedding of blood is not to be empty, meaningless, and superfluous. He wanted to lay it up for His children, so that there might be ''an unfailing treasure for men; those who get it obtain friendship with God'' (Wis 7:14) - Pope Clement VI, Unigenitus Dei Filius.

Here follows Scholasticism without the expected systematisation.

It is from this bull of 1343 that I proceed on a short theological treatise consistent with the mind of the Angelic Doctor on De Christo Salvatore. The bull itself is a justification of the legitimacy of the offering of indulgences, but let it not be thought that this point of departure is a an opportune twisting of the sense of the document. The treasury of merits belongs to the Body of Christ due to the abundant satisfaction of Christ the Head and only from that. Incidentally I have elected to comment upon this text due to my recent study of the popes residing in Avignon. Clement VI was probably the most interesting of the seven, vivacious, pleasure loving, a connoisseur of fine wine, admirer of sublime architecture and the man who bought Avignon for 80,000 gold florins from Queen Joanna of Naples.

 The suppositum is the ultimate subject of attribution. The person, the hypostasis, is the foundation of all activities which proceed from it as from an agent. It is from this principle that we can appreciate the sufficiency and superabundance of Christ's atonement for man's sins. The importance of the Chalcedonian definition manifests itself clearly in the necessity for a ''hypostatic union'', that is, an union in the Person.As regards a moral union as posited by such as Nestorius, there would be no true unified act whereby the divine would supply the defect and the human would contribute to its own restoration. The intrinsic efficacy and validity of the sacrificial act of Christ depends essentially on the hypostatic union, whereby the divine Word assumed to Himself, a particular human nature to terminate it and grant it existence. There was never a time when this human nature possessed a personality of its own, even though with a fully formed soul and physical body nothing was lacking for it. Rather in this singular case, this human nature found its highest perfection in being taking up into the divine personality. It is good to exist according to one's own nature; it is more excellent to be elevated to what is superior. As per Cajetan, personality is a substantial mode which terminates a singular nature so that it may become the immediately capable of existence.

 The human nature of Christ is not to be overlooked as though He only took on the semblance of humanity or rather that the created nature was swallowed up in the divinity. Such would be contrary to the decree of Chalcedon and the tome of Leo. The human nature truly belongs to Chirst (and remains so at the right hand of the Father) and is the highest degree of predestination that God has decreed by His ordinary power. If it were not for the assumed nature, man would not be redeemed. As St. Athanasius never tired of proclaimed, what is not assumed is not healed. The Divine Person certainly is the agent of all acts, yet He performs vitally human acts in virtue of His humanity. Man is saved due to being consubstantial with the Word who offers Himself as a ransom for the debt incurred by His brothers.

 Let us now more explicitly consider why this act of sacrifice was more than sufficient for our salvation. The Father's love for His only begotten Son is exceedingly spontaneous and loves Him who proceeded from Him with an ineffable love. The Son is the perfect image and likeness of the Father and is begotten by means of intellectual generation. Since it was through the Word that the world was brought into being, so it is eminently fitting that it should be through the Word that the world be restored to God. The offering of Christ, which is ultimately the sacrifice of the Divine Son who subsists in this assumed human nature is abundantly pleasing to the Father who possesses the numerically identical divine nature. Merit proceeds from charity, and there is no greater charity than that which proceeds from the divine Person. Christ's human will in intimate subjection to the divine will, never wavered in its assent to the mission of redemption. The dignity of the one making reparation is essential to its acceptance by the one offender. In this case, our High Priest offers His charity for the Father and for mankind to that same Father who is pleased to accept it as sufficient (and more than sufficient on our behalf). The merit of Christ is condign which is a strict equivalence between the act and the reward to be bestowed. The merits of any creature, even of the Blessed Virgin, are to be no more than congruous which is consequence upon (at least the foreseeing) of the satisfaction of Christ, proceeding from the friendship or liberality of God.

 It is to be stated that mortal sin is an infinite offence against God. Some may consider this troublesome as surely a created act can in no way be viewed as infinite. On the part of the act itself subjectively, I concede, on the part of the offended, I deny. An absolute negation is a greater offence than a truth stated inadequately. A genuflection to the emperor is his due and is of slight note compared to his dignity, a boxing of his ears is an outrage. To deny God His due majesty is a most grave sin and is infinitely greater than a thousand praises when many more are demanded because of His glory.

 In man, an intellectual conception of himself is always accidental, insufficient and usually provisional. In God, the divine word is the adequate and substantial conception of the godhead. The divine nature is fully generated without diminution or numeral division. From this eternal begetting of the Son proceeds the future merits of the Incarnate Christ. Due to this, no creature, however elevated (outwith the hypostatic union) could possibly perform an act which is proportionate to the offence to be atoned for.

 The merest suffering of Christ would be sufficient for our redemption as it is a true theandric act, that is, an offering made by the divine Word. It was not absolutely necessary for Christ to undergo death but such was His great love for us that He did not shun the ignominy of the Cross. Christ could not increase in virtue, merit or perfection as though His final act were intrinsically of greater sufficiency than the first moment of His conception. Merit proceeding from charity, becomes satisfaction when combined with suffering. Infinite charity in suffering satisfies infinitely. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Reflection on the Necessity of the Church

As the revelation of Christ was to be public and enduring it is eminently fitting that He should institute a visible teaching authority to maintain His mission until the consummation of the world. His guarantees to the Apostolate prevents His life giving blood from decaying on the barren wood. 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Reflection on the Renaissance Papacy

If one could reproach the Renaissance papacy it would not be for it being too medieval but rather for being too modern. The overwhelming interest in secular pursuits, sex, reputation, greed and good food, what else would be needed to make the modernist mind merry?

Note: As I am reading about the papal self-imposed dwelling at Avignon, I considered that this deserved a repost. I had originally written it about Borgia and company, yet it equally applies to Bertrand Got and his hapless successors, perhaps excepting Jacques Fournier (of decent memory).

Reflection on Progress and Capitalism

An accumulation of commodities makes neither a community nor a civilisation. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Reflection on Social Justice

Too many wish to sanctify the world while remaining devils themselves.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Latin Doctor Quote of the Day - Our Redemption in the Thought of St Anselm of Canterbury

St Anselm of Canterbury.

''On the basis of these considerations it is easy to recognise, that with regard to the nature of mankind, there are two alternatives; either God will complete what He has begun, or it was to no avail that He created this life-form - so sublime a life-form, and with such great good as its purpose. But, if it is recognised that God has made nothing more precious than rational nature, whose intended purpose is that it should rejoice in Him, it is utterly foreign to Him to allow any rational type of creature to perish utterly.'' - Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man)


We are here discussing the fittingness of our redemption in lieu of its necessity. God is under no obligation, whether metaphysical or moral to effect our salvation. He would be neither less wise or less good if He abandoned man to his own willing guilt. His proffering of salvation is entirely gratuitousness and is based solely on His own good pleasure and mercy. For certain, He would have remained the Supreme Good even it He had never uttered the creative words, ''Fiat Lux''.

 The only 'necessity' that God incurs in His (logical) relation to creation is the binding He freely undertakes by promising to man His forgiveness which is assured for all eternity. He has bound Himself to man by His own decree of mercy.

 It is with this in mind that we acknowledge the fittingness of God redeeming man, the microcosm of creation. Man may be said to be, pardon any excess, the summation of creation, inasmuch as he unites matter which does not remain dumb but is almost ''deified'' by its assumption by the intellectual soul which informs it. As we know adequate species of the angels were confirmed in good and attained their beatitude. The mineral and animal kingdoms are to give glory by their existence. What could we say of man if he was permitted to remain in his own guilt, far from salvation, with a rational will utterly enslaved to a perverse sensual appetite? It could be said that the condemned human race would present an unseemly obstacle to the integrity of the hierarchy of creation.

 In addition, our redemption is not merely the resumption of a just order, but more gloriously, the elevation of human nature to the divine. God's nature is the radical principle of His knowledge and love and in accordance with this, by our formal and actual participation in the divine nature, we come to know and love God as He is in Himself as the Author of grace which surpasses the realm of what is due to nature.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Reflection on Freedom

You must liberate yourself from the notion that freedom positively presupposes the necessary capacity to sin.  It is true, however, that psychological freedom is the sine qua non condition of sin. Otherwise the impeccability of God would eternally determine Him to be an unhappy slave to His nature.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Latin Doctor Quote of the Day - St Bonaventure on the Beauty of Creation

Whoever wishes to ascend to God must first avoid sin, which deforms our nature, then exercise his natural powers mentioned above: by praying, to receive restoring grace; by a good life, to receive purifying grace; my meditating, to receive illuminating knowledge; and by contemplating, to receive perfecting wisdom. Just as no one comes to wisdom except through grace, justice and knowledge, so no one comes to contemplation except by penetrating meditation, a holy life and devout prayer. Since grace is the foundation of the rectitude of the will and of the penetrating light of reason, we must first pray, then live holy lives and thirdly concentrate our attention upon the reflections of truth. By concentrating there, we must ascend step by step until we reach the height of the mountain where the God of gods is seen in Sion (PS 83:8).
 Since we must ascend Jacob's ladder before we descend it, let us place our first step in the ascent at the bottom, presenting to ourselves the whole material world as a mirror through which we may pass over to God, the supreme Craftsman. Thus we shall be true Hebrews passing over from Egypt to the land promised to their fathers (Exod. 13:3ff); we shall be also be Christians passing over with Christ from this world to the Father (John 13:1); we shall be lovers of wisdom, which calls to us says: Pass over to me all who long for me and be filled with my fruits (Ecclus. 24:26). For from the greatness and beauty of created things, their Creator can be seen and known. - St Bonaventure, ''The Soul's Journey into God''


What is creation other than the external and often physical manifestation of the inherent beauty and majesty of the Godhead? Consider the divers beings of various orders that exist, move, breath, speak, sing or shine. A single creature could not adequately manifest the plenitude of perfection that God is, and even a whole universe of beings could not exhaust His greatness. Considering even natural beauty should be enough to cause us to marvel at the goodness of God expressed in created reality in even such a finite way. All are glimmers and reflections of that infinite glory that is entirely sufficient and self-subsisting. The sinner who is enthralled by pleasures proceeding from nature does not love nature enough. He does not glimpse the Author and Sustainer who is infinitely fecund in His being and goodness. All may be dust before Him but all is gold because of Him. The saint does not consider creation to be a threat to his soul if all he sees is the divine traces of love and mercy in all that is visible.