The Life of God


It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, but I’d like to continue my journey through the Angelic Doctor’s great Summa Theologiae. Having discussed God’s intelligibility (here and here) and God’s intelligence (here and here), I wish to move to the question on God’s life, the text of which can be found here (Ia, q. 18).

Defining Life

First, St. Thomas addresses the question of whether everything is alive. This might seem a bizarre question with an exceedingly obvious answer, but remember: the Angelic Doctor is trying to arrive at a definition of life before determining whether or not God can be said to have life. He is engaging in a kind of dialectic by which we arrive at the true meaning of the words which we use. So, clearly a rock is not alive, but why? Why is a rock not said to be alive? What makes a rock inanimate and a plant animate? St. Thomas answers that that which “moves” itself is living whereas that which can only be “moved” by another (not by itself) is lifeless. Here, “to move” is taken in the classical sense of motion which is change, not only motion from place to place (or local motion) as the word is normally used in the contemporary world. Hence, a plant is living because it nourishes itself, renews itself, and reproduces itself (in some cases only partially – requiring two plants to fully reproduce; in other cases completely). In other words, a thing is said to be alive if it causes an operation within itself.

Then, the Saint goes on to consider whether life is an operation. It seems so, for Aristotle distinguishes four kinds of life in his De Anima (nourishment, sensation, local movement, and understanding) all of which are operations. Furthermore, the distinction between a life which is active, and a life which is contemplative is an operational distinction. And finally, Christ says, “Now this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God.” (St. John 18:3) – but then clearly, the highest kind of life is an operation. Hence, it seems that life is an operation.

However, St. Thomas answers in the negative: Life is not an operation. Aristotle says, “In living things, to live is to be.” (De Anima II.37) He answers that the name “life” or “living” is applied to certain beings on account of the fact that they move themselves and so in a certain sense, it could be taken as a name for that motion. However, properly, it does name the operation but the substance (the being) which has the property of self-motion by nature. In other words, to live is just to exist in a nature capable of self-motion (as Aristotle says above). Thus the arguments to the contrary are resolved, because the substance is named from its act, and so the kind of life a being has is named from the kind of motion to which that being can move itself.

Hence: “to live” is “to exist in a nature capable of self-movement.”

Is God Living?

It would seem not, because a living being is capable of self-movement or change (as stated earlier) but God does not change. Furthermore, all life must have a principle – hence we conclude the existence of the soul in living things – but God has no principle, being the First Cause. Furthermore, all living things posses the vegetative soul (that is, they possess a nature by which they can nourish themselves, heal themselves, and reproduce themselves) – but that can only belong to material things. Hence no immaterial being could be said to be living.

Yet, St. Thomas answers in the affirmative because the Psalmist very beautifully writes: “My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God!” (Psalm 84:2) Material beings are said to live in so far as they move themselves, but this is said also to signify that they act of themselves and not as moved to act by another. In this (analogous) sense of the word, God has life eminently. So, the lowest forms of life (plants) do not perceive an end to which they act, but merely act for that end because it is inherent in their essence to do so. Hence, plants move themselves, but not because they perceive an end to their action (for plants have no form of cognition – not even sensory cognition), but the telos or end of their action is set by nature.

Above plants, animals are said to be living and they possess sensory cognition. Hence, animals can perceive various things outside of themselves and they direct themselves toward (or away from) those things insofar as it fulfills their natures. However, animals still are governed by their instincts which are in them by nature. They do not choose the ends which they pursue, but merely pursue them by means of perceived particular goods.

However, above animals are those who possess reason: man. Man not only perceives particular goods, but by his intellect he understands the universal and hence can freely choose the means to attaining his perceived end. So whereas all men strive for beatitude (for happiness), men disagree with one another as to the means by which that end is to be achieved. However, even men there are things given us by our nature – such as first principles which it is impossible to doubt (whatever the skeptics and other modern philosophers say to the contrary). A thing cannot both be and not be in the same way at the same time. If one (irrationally) denies that principle even in his imagination, he has not denied it in the depths of his thought processes all of which rely on the truth of that principle. Furthermore, all of us have the end of beatitude given us by nature: we can not will anything other than the universal good for ourselves (we do not have freedom with respect to our final end, but only with respect to the means to that end). Hence, even man must be moved by another both “efficiently by God, the supreme agent, and to be drawn to Him as [his] ultimate end.” (Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, The One God, Chapter 18)

Hence that being who is not determined by another in His understanding, but whose understanding is His own act of existence and His own essence, must have life to a perfect degree, but that is none other than God Himself.

This argument resolves the various objections.

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange comments on this question saying:

“Only God, who is subsistent Intellection, is essential life that is absolutely immanent and immobile. But this immobility of supreme life is fundamentally the very opposite of the immobility of inertia or death. This latter means the absence of operation or the privation of movement, whereas the operation of God’s intellect and will is most perfect, and is always in act. His life is always in second actuality*, and is not  a transitive [going outside His essence] action but an immanent [remaining inside] action.” – Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, The One God, Chapter 18

*This is a reference to an Aristotelian distinction. Someone is in first potentiality if they have the capability to learn to do something. Someone is in second potentiality (or first actuality) if they know how to do something [in a habitual manner] but are not currently doing it. Someone is in second actuality if they are currently doing that thing. For example, a child who has not yet learned to speak English is in first potentiality. An adult who knows how to speak proper English but is currently silent is in second potentiality or first actuality. An adult who is currently speaking proper English is in second actuality. Hence, Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange is making the point that God is eternally life in act. He is not merely capable of life. While immutable, God is not static – but dynamic. Not dead, but alive.

This last article is especially important because, in grace, we become partakers of the divine nature. Hence, if God has not life, then we become partakers in something which is not life. However, since God not only has life but is supremely living, being Life Himself, then we become partakers of a life that is more perfect than our own natural mode of living. The Trinity Himself comes to dwell within us, bringing us to participate in His eternal processions and enabling us to partake of that sweet life which is above all lives.

Thanks for reading!

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The Intelligence of God, Part Two


In my last post (here), I discussed how God is His own knowledge, making Him the proper object of His knowledge, and I also mentioned that God does know His creatures insofar as they are reflections of Him. But, then, can God be said to have a truly proper knowledge of His creatures? That is to say, can He truly know each of His individual creatures in particular, or does He merely know them in general?

God Knows Each Creature in Particular

We have confirmation of this proposition in the letter to the Hebrews, where it is written, “Neither is there any creature invisible in His sight.” (Heb. 4:13)

However, we can know this from the light of reason as well as the light of faith. St. Thomas argues that if a thing is known generally rather than particularly, then the knower has an imperfect knowledge. Thus, were God to know each creature in a merely general mode, then we would attribute imperfect knowledge to God, and thus God Himself is not perfect – a fact contrary to both faith and reason. Thus, by reductio ad absurdum, we can conclude that God knows each creature in particular. (cf. Ia, q. 14, a. 6)

But how can this be, since God knows things only insofar as they are in Himself? St. Thomas would respond that every perfection of each being is to be found in God in an eminent manner. He states,

“As therefore the essence of Gogd contains in itself all the perfection contained in the essence of any other being, and far more, God can know in Himself all of them with proper knowledge. For the nature proper to each thing consists in some degree of participation in the divine perfection.” Ia, q. 14, a. 6

But does this not merely imply a “more specified generality” (if you will pardon the oxymoron)? That is, does it not imply that God knows each creature insofar as it is of a particular species, but not as it is distinct from other members of that species? I respond with no, because united to each essence are accidental forms. For instance, Peter is a man, and so God knows him insofar as he is man, but Peter is also virtuous, and God knows him insofar as he is virtuous. Thus God knows that the essence of this particular man has certain accidents predicated of him, whereas that man does not have the same accidents. As no two creatures have the same essence and all of the same attributes (else they would be the same creature), God knows each creature in particular.

Whether God’s Knowledge is the Cause of Things

This has been oft-disputed question since the beginning of philosophy. One of the more beautiful discussions of it can be found in St. Boethius’s famous work: The Consolation of Philosophy. As this is one of the key questions that lays a foundation for many of the great debates of theological and philosophical history, I also wish to discuss it in this post.

St. Thomas in his answer to the question begins with the premise that “the knowledge of God is to all creatures what the knowledge of the artificer is to things made by his art.” (Ia, q. 14, a. 8) The certainty of this principle comes from the fact that God is the first efficient cause of every composite being (a conclusion we derive from St. Thomas’s second way). Thus just as art proceeds from the mind of the artist, so do composite beings proceed from that Being who is Pure Act. However, this premise does not by itself guarantee the conclusion. St. Thomas states in the same article, “the intelligible form does not denote a principle of action in so far as it resides in the one who understands unless there is added to it the inclination to an effect, which inclination is through the will.” In other words, the existence of a concept in the mind does not cause the existence of a being in reality unless the mind tends to bring about its concepts through the will. Think about a unicorn, we have a concept of the unicorn, but that does not bring about the existence of a living, breathing unicorn (although it can bring about a description of a hypothetical unicorn or an image of a hypothetical unicorn via the human will).

Thus, to show that God’s knowledge is the cause of things, we need an additional premise. However, as demonstrated in my previous post (see link at the beginning of this post), God is His own knowledge. That is to say, God’s knowledge and His existence are one. Thus, God’s knowledge and His will are also one. But this implies that what God knows to exist, God wills to exist, and thus it exists (in the mode in which God knows it to exist). Thus, God’s knowledge is the cause of things.

An objection could be raised that since the knowledge of God is eternal, then if His knowledge were the cause of things, then those things would exist eternally, but St. Thomas responds to this objection wisely. As stated above, the things which God knows exist in the mode in which God knows it to exist. But God did not know things to exist in an eternal mode, but some in a temporary mode and some (men and angels) in an aeviternal mode (that is, roughly speaking, having a beginning but no end). Hence, while the knowledge is eternal, the creatures themselves are not eternal. (cf. Ia, q. 14, a. 8, ad 2)

A good understanding of this is a prerequisite to a good understanding of the truths concerning divine providence, grace, predestination, human freedom, and a host of other topics about which I hope eventually to write.

Joe

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The Intelligence of God, Part One


Having completed two posts on the intelligiblity of God (here and here) – that is, how we can know God – I would now like to consider God’s knowledge. To begin with, it must be stated that God does, indeed, have knowledge. This is convincingly argued for by St. Thomas (Ia, q. 14, a. 1).

The Proper Object of the Divine Intellect

The next point to make, then, is whether the act of God’s intellect and God are, in fact, one? Our answer to this must also be yes. Why? Because God is supremely simple. In God, there are no accidents. Thus, He is His own intellect. But why is this important? This seems quite abstract. The reason this is important is because it reveals to us that the proper object of the divine intellect is God Himself. That is, when God thinks, He thinks about Himself.

To distinguish this: the proper object of the human intellect is material being: that is beings composed of matter and form. All of our concepts concern such beings. This is why any knowledge we have of higher beings is of necessity analogous. Meanwhile, the angelic beings have for the proper objects of their intellects immaterial beings composed of essence and existence. Thus, the angelic intellect soars above the human intellect because it can comprehend many things that are above the human intellect. However, only the divine intellect can understand itself without some sort of created idea. This is why it is literally impossible for human nature to have the beatific vision from its own action. God must act within the human being and elevate the human intellect above its natural capabilities or it cannot receive the beatific vision. This is why grace is necessary for paradisal bliss: even if sin had never entered the picture.

But if God is the proper object of the divine intellect, in what sense does God know composite beings?

“All things are naked and open to His eyes…”

In opposition to objections which would hold that God does not know anything beside Himself, St. Thomas cites this verse of Scripture, “All things are naked and open to His eyes.” (Hebrews 4:13) I point this out for one important reason: God became man in order to reveal Himself to us – it does not ultimately matter whether our knowledge of Him comes through faith or reason provided it is a legitimate knowledge. Whereas truths such as the Resurrection can only be known through the light of faith, truths such as this one can be known from both divine revelation and the light of reason. So, even if the arguments from reason do not convince you, the argument from faith should grant you absolute certainty.

However, it is true that St. Thomas provides an argument from reason, and (as is typical with the holy Doctor) it is quite convincing. As mentioned before, God’s intellect is Himself. Thus, it is perfect, lacking nothing. Thus, God perfectly understands Himself. Thus, God knows His power perfectly. Because of this, God knows all of which He is capable. Furthermore, as the first efficient cause of everything, He must know that of which He is the cause. Thus, not only does God know some things not Himself, but indeed He knowseverything which is distinct from Him.

God’s Knowledge Through Himself

God knows this multitude of things through one perfectly simple act of the intellect: that is, He knows them inasmuch as they are reflections of His essence. This gives more depth to the Gospel passages where Christ says that He would say on that day, “I knew you not.”

I close with that idea. I hope this post has given you food for thought. I know it has for me.

Joe

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The Intelligibility of God, Part Two


In my previous post on the intelligibility of God (read here), I discussed how we can affirm that God is intelligible (indeed, supremely intelligible) while remaining impossible for us to grasp with our mind without the aid of grace. That is, I discussed how [by what means] we come to know God. In this post, I wish to discuss how [in what manner] we come to know God. I first distinguish two types of knowledge of God: the first I will denote as a conceptual (or theological) knowledge of God and the second I will denote as a mystical knowledge of God. The first is what I take to be my main topic, but I will devote a portion of this post to the second part.

The Possibility of Our Conceptual Knowledge of God

It has been argued in the history of theology that we cannot have a conceptual knowledge of God, since to attribute to Him some property (“to give Him a name”) is to restrict in some manner, but God is Pure Act, and thus God cannot be restricted. Thus, we cannot name God. [This is a simplification of an argument with tremendous weight, but this shall serve for our purposes.]

Now, in St. Thomas’s truly brilliant manner, he has looked at both of these extremes and come up with a solution to what seems an insurmountable difficulty. St. Thomas says first that we can have knowledge of God through His creatures. Thus, since goodness is a perfection of creatures, and a perfection cannot be present in the creature unless it is present in some manner in the causes of that creature, and since all such causes must eventually be traced back to God, God must possess goodness in some manner. Thus, we can attribute goodness to God, and thus we can have a conceptual knowledge of God. However, he also acknowledges that our concept of good does not fully encompass God in His essence, and thus we cannot name God in the sense of being able to give God a name which completely encompasses all that He is in His ultimate simplicity.

This conclusion of the reason is ratified by divine Revelation (the mere fact that God revealed Himself as well as the manner in which it reveals Him). The fact of divine revelation proves that God desires us to know Him, and not only in a mystical manner (for mystical knowledge is beyond words) but in a truly human manner, that is a rational manner. While divine revelation goes beyond human reason, it does not forsake human reason (which is a creation of God, and thus something which He saw and said that it was good). Furthermore, divine revelation gives us such statements as “God is Almighty”, “God is good”, “God is love.” Thus God has revealed Himself to us in a conceptual manner which, as must still be admitted, falls short of the ultimate reality.

The Manner of Our Conceptual Knowledge of God

The next question to be asked is how our concepts of God reflect the reality of God? What is the relationship between the image and the reality, the portrait and the person (or Persons, as we know from divine revelation)?

We must first state that since our knowledge of God is truly a knowledge of God, then our concepts must not be completely equivocal. An equivocal usage of language would be such as when we use the word “bat” to describe both a living animal and an instrument used in baseball. If our language of God were equivocal, then we would have no real knowledge of God, and further there would be no similarity between God and man.

Some theologians conclude from this that there must be no difference between our concepts as applied to God and as applied to creatures. That is, they believe the terms are used univocally (as in the usage of “ring” to describe the sound a bell makes and the sound a phone makes).

However, St. Thomas argues that “univocal predication is impossible between God and creatures.” (Ia, q. 13, a. 5) He reasons that since the perfections of God are as one whereas those perfections in the created world are often separate, there is a difference … a lessening in the meaning when applied to man than applied to God. We call this an analogous predication. Thus, for an example, God’s knowledge is His goodness and vice versa. But in human beings, knowledge and goodness are not necessarily the same thing. To be knowledgeable is not necessarily to be virtuous, and to be virtuous is not necessarily to be knowledgeable. Hence, we have saints who did not have philosophical and erudite theologies who still lived charity to a very great degree, and there have been very intelligent theologians who have not entered fully into virtuousness. To be a philosopher is not to be a saint.

I have two images of this, before I offer further explanation.

(1) Most people recognize that wine and grape juice are “the same” in some manner. That is, they are both the fruit of the vine and the work of human hands. However, there is a richness in wine that is not present in grape juice. Wine is like grape juice, but moreso. Similarly, God’s goodness is like our goodness, but moreso.

(2) I come from a mathematical background, and I find this image appealing. Consider the set of counting numbers: {1, 2, 3, 4, …}. Each number in this set is certainly a number, right? Now, how many numbers are there in that set? (Hopefully, you answered infinitely many.) But do we say that infinity is a number in the same sense that 1 is a number (or even in the same sense that 700 billion is a number)? No. Infinity is like a number, but more. Thus, there is an analogy in our usage of the word number for both.

This last image leads me to a further thought, before I move on from conceptual knowledge. God is infinite, whereas we are finite. God is unlimited whereas we are limited. God’s being is being itself. He is His own existence. Our being is received; it is limited by our essence (as discussed here). Thus, when we say that “God exists” we mean that He exists in an unlimited manner, an infinite manner; whereas when we say “Joe exists” we mean that Joe exists in a limited and finite manner. But, just as we say “infinity is a number” and “3 is a number” in analogous manners, so do we say that “God exists” and “Joe exists” in an analogous manner.

This brings us to the 4th Thomistic Thesis: “A thing is called a being because of being (“esse”). God and creature are not called beings univocally, nor wholly equivocally, but analogically, by an analogy of attribution and proportionality.”

However, I do feel the need to point out that this does not lessen God’s existence but makes it greater. God’s existence is “the same” as my existence, but moreso. God’s existence is the foundation of my existence. I exist in a contingent manner, whereas God exists of necessity. I exist only insofar as God underlies my existence. I depend on Him for my existence. God depends on no one and nothing.

The Nature of Mystical Knowledge

This leads us to our final consideration. Because our conceptual and abstract knowledge of God necessarily falls short of the reality (although being nonetheless true), it leaves us desiring more. Our ultimate end is union with God, and while this union will not be complete in this life, we can experience it in a manner greater than a mere conceptual knowledge, a knowledge about. While we should desire to know about God, we should not let it end there. We should rather pursue it because of our desire to know God. At our baptism, the Trinity comes to dwell within us. We become intimate friends. Furthermore, every reception of Holy Communion brings us into an intimate contact with the divine. It is in the contemplative way that we come to the greatest knowledge of God we can have on earth: a mystical knowledge. All of our abstractions fall short of what we receive in the gift of contemplation, a gift that in the ordinary way of salvation all should experience, but a gift that is nonetheless undeserved and coming solely from God. We must prepare ourselves through silent meditation and prayer to receive this gift. We know that St. Thomas received this gift many times (he was not merely a great theologian, but also a great mystic). Indeed, we know he received a vision shortly before his death after which he said that all he had written was as straw (which, nonetheless does not mean it wasn’t true, but merely that it could only go so far – the infinite is so far above the finite). I cannot provide much insight into this, but there are many great mystics who are doctors of the Church, and it is necessary that we learn from them the ways of contemplation so that we might prepare ourselves to receive the gift.

Thanks for reading,

Joe

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The Intelligibility of God, Part One


I have decided to continue discussing ideas from St. Thomas’s treatise on the One God (from his Summa Theologiae). Before we can speak of the particular ways in which we know God, it is first important to discuss the more universal aspects of the issue. How is it that we can come to any knowledge of God? Certainly God knows us with a perfect knowledge surpassing even our own, but how [by what means and in what way] can we be said to know Him?

As Christians, it is wise to discuss this issue because our knowledge of God is central to our entire worldview. Thus we must understand the senses in which we know God.

St. Thomas begins his discussion with an axiom which I am paraphrasing as Knowledge follows being. It is one of the characteristic aspects of modern philosophy to make metaphysics (the philosophy of being) and epistemology (the philosophy of knowledge) to be disjoint sciences. However, it should be clear that we can only come to know that which is. We acknowledge that there is something real outside of ourselves, and we know that to have knowledge is for our mind to be conformed to that reality. Thus we must acknowledge that something is knowable only insofar as it exists. But God is Himself Pure Act. He is the purely self-subsistent being. This was discussed in my last post on St. Thomas’s distinction between essence and existence (see here). Thus, objectively speaking, God is supremely intelligible. However, when the subjective aspect is introduced, we must also affirm that there may be a defect on the part of the subject that hinders it from knowing God as He is in Himself. St. Thomas gives the example of a bat and the sun. The sun is supremely visible in itself, but because of a defect on the part of the bat (that being blindness), the sun is not visible to the bat. Similarly God, while being supremely intelligible, is not intelligible to us who are intellectually blind (so to speak).

However, as Christians, we hold that “we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 2:2) Thus, we must admit, on some level, that it is possible to know God with a true knowledge. So how is it that we come to know God as He truly is? St. Thomas goes through a list of possibilities: whether we see it through a created image? no. whether we see it with our physical eyes? no.

What about by our own natural powers? Is it possible that through our own natural abilities, we can come to know God as He is? St. Thomas answers the question by stating, first, that the mode of one’s knowledge is based in one’s nature. So, as a material being, I can know particulars through my senses (I know this tree, that door, this computer, etc.). As an intellectual being composed of matter and form, I can know universals through abstraction (I can know about trees in general, dogs in general, etc.). The angelic beings are subsistent beings that have a received existence but are entirely immaterial. Thus the mode of knowledge proper to angels is the knowledge of forms that are not in matter. But God is subsistent being: He is the One in whom essence and existence are one. Thus, only God can know, by nature, the divine essence. This may seem a little abstract, but it has exceedingly important consequences. There was a heresy in the early Church known as Pelagianism. Pelagius taught that it was possible for man to achieve salvation on his own merits without the aid of God [this does not mean that Pelagius didn't believe in the existence of grace, he just did not believe in its necessity]. But what is salvation if not the beatific vision, when we behold God face to face, when we shall see Him as He is. Thus, if we could know God as He is from our own natural powers, that would mean we could experience the beatific vision without grace. As it stands, however, the necessity of grace for salvation (even before the Fall of Man) is something we hold to be divinely revealed.

And this brings me to my next point: it is by grace that we can come to know God as He is. How is this possible? Grace is a share in the divine nature. Through His gift of grace, God communicates Himself to us in an intimate and mysterious way. And, when we are in a state of grace, we have the aid of the divine nature in which we partake in coming to know God. That is to say that God, working in us, grants us through the brilliant mystery of grace, a share in His nature, by which we can know Him.

This doctrine is in harmony with that of the mystics who compare the mystical experience of God to a darkness. This is because we leave the realm of sensible reality to contemplate God who is above our intellects. Thus we leave our cave for realms of blinding light.

A final comment before I close this post: All of this pertains to our knowledge of God as He is. This being said, we can also come to know about God in a more imperfect manner. St. Thomas does make clear that through our knowledge of created reality, we come to know the Creator (just as when we come to know a masterpiece, we come to know the artist). However, this is an imperfect knowledge which does not pierce through to the divine essence but only reveals in a veiled manner what the divine essence is like.

For further reading on this: Ia, q. 12

Thanks for reading,
Joe

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Essence and Existence


Last weekend, I gave a short spiel on the 3rd Thomistic Thesis, so I thought I would post some of my stuff on the blog. I know it’s been a while and I do intend to get back to the Trinity posts I was doing this summer. I just started a teaching job and it’s really taking a lot out of me. The 3rd Thomistic Thesis states:

“Wherefore, in the exclusive domain of existence itself God alone subsists, He alone is the most simple. Everything else, which participates in existence, has a nature whereby existence is restricted, and is composed of essence and existence as of two really distinct principles.”

To have a limited existence is to be a composite being, composed of act and potency, as by the 2nd Thomistic Thesis, “act … is not limited except by potency.” Thus to have an unlimited existence is to be a simple being (one that is not composite). Since by the 1st Thomistic Thesis, that which is not composite must be Pure Act, we can conclude that to have an unlimited existence is to be Pure Act.

But God alone can be said to be Pure Act. For suppose there were a second being distinct from God that was also Pure Act. Then there is some perfection or potency in the second that is not in God or vice versa. But there can be no potency in that which is Pure Act. Furthermore, if either has a perfection that the other doest not, then the other is limited in some way. But by the 2nd Thomistic Thesis, “act … is not limited except by potency.” Thus potency would be a part of that which is Pure Act, which is a contradiction in terms. Therefore, God alone is Pure Act. (cf. Ia, q.3, a.4 for St. Thomas’s argument from causality)

Furthermore, those beings that participate in existence have an essence distinct from their existence. Suppose there were a composite being in which essence and existence were identical. Then that being would be immutable. (cf. Ia, q.9 for St. Thomas’s argument) But that which is immutable has no potency, and thus must be Pure Act, and thus a composite being (one composed of act and potency) would be Pure Act, which is impossible. Therefore, all composite beings have an essence distinct from their existence. Thus follows the final part of the thesis. Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange sums up the importance of this truth of Christian philosophy when he says,

“Thomists maintain that the supreme truth of Christian philosophy is the following: In God alone are essence and existence identified … this supreme truth is the terminus, the goal of the ascending road which rises from the sense world to God, and the point of departure on the descending road, which deduces the attributes of God and determines the relation between God and the world.” (Reality, Chapter 5, Article 3)

Thanks for reading,
Joe

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Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces


So this post may seem somewhat out of sequence given the previous posts, but it is my blog, after all. Today is my birthday, and last year I began a practice of dedicating every year to Our Lady in some way. This year, I offer myself in dedication to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the white dawn announcing the nearness of the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, the Incarnation. However, though my year will be dedicated especially to her Immaculate Conception, I want to write this post on Mary as the Universal Mediatrix of Grace. Despite this teaching being approved and promulgated by every pope since Leo XIII as well as the Second Vatican Council, by the great preacher of Marian devotion, St. Louis de Montfort (a patron of this blog), in True Devotion to Mary, and that great Thomistic commentator of the 20th century, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P, it remains unknown and even rejected by many Catholics.

Divine Simplicity

The Church teaches that God is supremely simple (CCC 202):

We firmly believe and confess without reservation that there is only one true God, eternal, infinite (immensus) and unchangeable, incomprehensible, almighty, and ineffable, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; three persons indeed, but one essence, substance or nature entirely simple.

This mean that the divine essence can in no way be construed to be composed of parts. Thus St. Thomas teaches that there are no accidents in God (cf. Ia, q. 3, a. 6). This has a number of consequences, two of which I would like to point out. First, God is His justice, which is His mercy, which is His love, etc. Secondly, God is utterly immutable, i.e. it is absurd to suggest that God can change.

Suppose that God is not His own justice (or some other attribute which He has). Then that justice does not make up His entire essence. But then it must either be a part of His essence or it must be an accident or it is not an attribute of God at all. Now, the first is false because God’s essence is not composed of parts. The second is false, since there are no accidents in God. And the third is not true because justice is a perfection which God, as First Cause, must possess in some manner, or nothing possesses it. Thus it is false that God is not His own justice. Thus no matter what divine attribute is under consideration, God is that attribute in Himself. But that means that all of these attributes are one in God. Thus His justice is His mercy. Thus the first point is proven.

Suppose that God were mutable, i.e. suppose it were possible that God change. But a change must either be a change of the essence or the accidents or it is no change of the being. But if the essence changes, then it is no longer God. Thus, it would be true that God can pass out of existence, and He would thus be a contingent being, which is plainly false. Furthermore, there are no accidents within God, as shown by St. Thomas. Thus, there can be no change in God. Thus the second point is proven.

Furthermore, we know that God must be Pure Act. Thus, given the first point, God is His own act. And, by the second point that act never changes (actually, there’s a more fundamental reason, but this suffices). Because God is His own unchanging Act, then, it appears obvious that God always acts “the same” in some manner in this world. Here, I think the metaphor of a fun house is useful. When you walk into a fun house, the mirrors all display you a little differently, but you’re not changing, it is your image in the mirror that changes. Similarly, in the created world, God does not change, but His manifestation of Himself does. However, just as in the mirrors there are elements that remain the same, so in creation, God’s manifestation of Himself is always similar. Indeed, since God is supremely simple (unlike us), the differences in His manifestation of Himself is comparatively small. Now, I think I have lain a good enough groundwork for my topic of discussion.

God Came Through Mary

At this point, I will turn to St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort whose small, but beautiful and life-changing, work of Marian devotion, True Devotion to Mary, contains an elucidation and defense of this doctrine.

Consider, first, the mystery of the Incarnation. In this great act of God, God deigned to dwell among man as a man Himself. He deigned to take to Himself that which was infinitely below Himself. In this great act of charity, He showed Himself in a perfect image. Hence Jesus is “the image of the invisible God.” (Col. 1:15) He was truly God and truly man, a divine Person with two natures, the divine and the human. Because of this, the Church joyously and gloriously proclaims the dogma that Mary is truly the Mother of God. Mary, who “knew not man” (Lk. 1:34), who remained ever and always a virgin in both soul and body, became the Mother of the Savior. This truth is one that it is a great joy to ponder. How great is God? How blessed His Mother? Unfortunately, I must leave my consideration of such mysteries for another time.

In pondering the Incarnation, St. Louis de Montfort shows how, not only the Son, but the Most Holy Trinity Himself worked in the Incarnation to bring the Son forth. The whole Trinity brought God to us through Mary, the Ever-Virgin Mother of God. (cf. True Devotion, Chapter 1, Section 1) But, as I said before, God always acts in some manner “the same.” Thus St. Louis says (22):

The plan adopted by the three persons of the Blessed Trinity in the Incarnation, the first coming of Jesus Christ, is adhered to each day in an invisible manner throughout the Church and they will pursue it to the end of time until the last coming of Jesus Christ.

So, just as the Father wished His Son to be truly the Son of Mary, so He wishes all of His children to be children of the Virgin. Just as the Son wished to form Himself in the womb of the Virgin Mary, so does He wish to be formed in us through His Mother. Just as the Holy Spirit wished to fashion the firstborn of all creation, the One in whom grace reigns supreme, Jesus Christ in the womb of the Virgin Mary, so He wishes that all those born in grace be born from His most gracious spouse, the Virgin Mother of God.

Furthermore, grace is nothing but a participation in the divine nature. When we are granted grace, we become more like God. So when God communicates to us grace, He communicates the divine nature to us. But this is what happened in a supreme and unsurpassable way in the Incarnation. So just as God wrought the gift of His divine nature through the Virgin Mother, so every day He grants us grace through the Blessed Mother. Indeed, all graces come to us through the hands of the Holy Mother of God. Thus St. Bernard of Clairvaux says that if Christ is the Head of the Body, then Mary is the neck. For all that goes from the head to the body, passes through the neck.

The Magisterium

Pope Leo XIII said, “It is God’s will that nothing be bestowed on us except through Mary; so that, as nobody can reach the supreme Father except through the Son, so that almost nobody can approach Christ except through Mary,” and also, “She is the one from whom Jesus was born, His true Mother, and for this reason the worthy and most accepted Mediatrix to the Mediator.”

St. Pius X said, “But from the communion of griefs and purpose between Mary and Christ she merited, as Eadmer says, to become most worthily the reparatrix of a lost world, and therefore the dispenser of all the gifts which Jesus procured for us by His death and the shedding of His blood…. Since she excelled all others in sanctity and in her union with Christ and was summoned by Him in the human work of salvation, it was congruous, as they say, that she should merit for us what Christ condignly merited for us; and she is the principal minister in the dispensation of graces.”

Pope Benedict XV said, “As she suffered with her Son in His passion and, so to speak, shared in His death, so she abdicated her maternal rights over her Son for the salvation of men and, as far as it was in her power, sacrificed her Son for the appeasement of divine justice, so that it can truly be said, that along with Christ she redeemed the human race.”

Similarly, Pope Pius XI said, “The most sorrowful Mother participated in the work of Redemption of Jesus Christ.”

(quoted from Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange’s Christ The Savior, Chapter XL: Compendium of Mariology, Article 6)

Furthermore, Bd. John Paul II wrote an entire encyclical on the issue: Redemptoris Mater.

Finally, the fathers of the Second Vatican Council, in its dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium (62), say:

This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix. (quoted in CCC 969)

Conclusion

I close with three prayers: one in honor of Mary’s Immaculate Conception to which my year is dedicated, one in honor of Mary’s Universal Mediatorship, and an abridged version of one found at the end of Pope Benedict XVI’s second encyclical, Spe Salvi.

You are all fair, O Mary; the original stain is not in you. You are the glory of Jerusalem, the joy of Israel, the honor of our people, and the great advocate of sinners. O Mary, Virgin most prudent, Mother most merciful, pray for us; intercede for us with our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

Holy Mary, you belonged to the humble and great souls of Israel who, like Simeon, were “looking for the consolation of Israel” and hoping, like Anna, “for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Your life was thoroughly imbued with the sacred scriptures of Israel which spoke of hope, of the promise made to Abraham and his descendants. In this way we can appreciate the holy fear that overcame you when the angel of the Lord appeared to you and told you that you would give birth to the One who was the hope of Israel, the One awaited by the world. Through you, through your ‘yes’, the hope of the ages became reality, entering this world and its history. You bowed low before the greatness of this task and gave your consent: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” … From the Cross you received a new mission. From the Cross you became a mother in a new way: the mother of all those who believe in your Son Jesus and wish to follow him. The sword of sorrow pierced your heart. Did hope die? Did the world remain definitively without light, and life without purpose? … No, at the foot of the Cross, on the strength of Jesus’s own word, you became the mother of believers. In this faith, which even in the darkness of Holy Saturday bore the certitude of hope, you made your way towards Easter morning. The joy of the Resurrection touched your heart and united you in a new way to the disciples, destined to become the family of Jesus through faith … Thus you remain int he midst of the disciples as their Mother, as the Mother of hope. Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Mother, teach us to believe, to hope, to love with you. Show us the way to his Kingdom! Star of the Sea, shine upon us and guide us on our way! Amen. (cf. Spe Salvi, 50)

God bless you all, and may the Ever-Virgin Mother of God, Mary Most Holy, Mediatrix of all Graces, who was conceived without any stain of sin, draw you near to her Son, who is the Son of the Most High, God Incarnate, and Savior of the human race!

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The Processions in God


In view of continuing to build that foundation I claim is essential to any Christian worldview (read more here), and having established that the Trinity is truly mysterious (read more here) and some basic ideas involving the Trinity as well as the main errors in the history of the development of the Church’s doctrine regarding the Trinity (read more here), in this post I will endeavor to present a theological understanding of the Trinity.

A short disclaimer: I am not capable of doing this idea justice, but I hope to present the doctrine of the great teachers (St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Matthias Scheeben, and Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange) in a somewhat understandable manner. I also point out that I will not directly quote all of these authors, but I know that my own understanding of the Trinity has been formed by their writing. I hope that the Holy Spirit will speak (write?) through my writing.

St. Thomas begins his Treatise on the Trinity in his Summa Theologiae with the question on the processions of the divine persons (Ia, q. 27). It is first worthy of note that St. Thomas begins his entire discussion with the Scriptures, that is, with divine revelation. St. Thomas new that the truth of the Trinity was essentially mysterious and thus unattainable by human reason. We first need revelation to arrive at the truth of the Trinity. Hence, St. Thomas quotes the authority of the Scriptures to prove that there are processions in God. He does this by saying that the Scriptures use names for God that signify procession (namely “Father” and “Son”). He then shows how this has been understood by the heretics (see my previous post on the heresies). He concludes that the primary error made by all of these understandings is that they perceived the processions in God to be external processions rather than internal.

Hence, he looks at the internal faculties of rational beings, intellect and will, to provide an analogous explanation of the processions in God. To correspond to these two faculties of rational beings, there are two processions in God: generation and spiration. The act of generation produces (not in time, but eternally) the Son and the act of spiration produces (not in time, but eternally) the Holy Spirit. Scheeben says that this truth is

“so unanimously and decisively accepted by the Fathers and theologians, that it cannot be regarded merely as an ingenious hypothesis or a freely discussed theological opinion, but must prevail as the only admissible and hence perfectly certain and authentic description of the divine productions. Though it is not explicitly of faith, it cannot be denied without great temerity.” (Scheeben, 56)

Scheeben explores the analogy of intellect and will further. He says, “Knowledge and love can be expressed in a twofold manner, exteriorly and interiorly.” (Scheeben, 58) We express knowledge by word – “in which we represent our thought” – and by image – “in which we depict it.” Similarly, we [exteriorly] express love by the “sigh … in which it streams forth” and by the gift “in which we embody it.” God, similarly (and analogously), gives external expression to His knowledge and love. Everything that God has created is an external manifestation of His knowledge (both “words” and “images”). Furthermore, every creature that participates in God’s eminent happiness and life is an expression of the divine love.

Turning to the interior expression “which does not pass beyond the knowing and loving soul”, Scheeben conceives of knowledge as the production of a representation of a thing (namely, a thought) and of a judgment concerning it. The thought is an image of that which is known and the judgment is a word of our soul. “… the word or image is a real product, a real expression of the soul…” (Scheeben, 60) Similarly, God gives forth a real, interior expression of His own being. God really produces an interior word and image. However, because God’s intellect is perfect, it cannot fail to produce a perfect word or image of Himself, and thus that Word is Himself. (cf. Ia, q. 27, a. 1, reply to objection 2) Hence, Scheeben says,

“God cannot produce His word and image in order to know Himself [since His intellect is perfect, He knows Himself essentially of necessity]; He produces it because He knows Himself, out of the overflowing fullness and actuality of His knowledge, which does not remain sterile, but is infinitely fruitful. This infinite fecundity impels it to give adequate expression of itself in a word and image remaining in God.” (Scheeben, 60)

Furthermore, there is a similar line of reasoning with regards to the production of the Holy Spirit. By the will, the rational being establishes a real bond in the soul by which “the object loved is in the lover.” (Ia, q. 27, a. 3) But “all that exists in God is God.” (Ia, q. 27, a. 3, reply to objection 2) We call this bond, the Holy Spirit, because He is the “sigh” or “aspiration” of love, as Scheeben says. Thus, St. Bernard of Clairvaux says of the Holy Spirit that He is “the most sweet kiss of Father and Son … the tranquil peace of Father and Son, their bond of union, their singular love.” (quoted from Scheeben, 65)

We call the first of these processions “generation” because by it, the Father communicates the divine nature to the Son (again, realize that human language falls short and that this takes place eternally rather than in time). The second process is not generation, and is termed spiration. St. Thomas says that this is because whereas knowledge places a likeness of the object in the mind, love inclines one toward the object. Garrigou-Lagrange says, “love, in contrast to knowledge, does not make itself like its object, but rather goes out to its object.” (Reality, ch. 14, a. 2) St. Thomas and Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange are stating this because of the Aristotelian idea that when mind forms an idea, the intellect is “conformed” or takes on the form of the object of which the idea is a representation. However, the will, directs the soul toward an object.

In the future, I hope to further pursue the Trinity through these posts, following my teachers.

Sources:

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald. Reality: A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought.
Scheeben, Matthias Joseph. The Mysteries of Christianity. trans. Cyril Vollert, S.J.
St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologiae.

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The Most Holy Trinity: The Basics and The Errors


I have already mentioned in two previous posts that the Christian’s understanding of the Holy Trinity is essential to his worldview (read more here) and that the Holy Trinity is essentially mysterious – that is, inaccessible to human reason unenlightened by faith (read more here). In fact, since the mystery of the Trinity is the essential mystery of God Himself who, in His totality, is incomprehensible to human nature (due to the infinity of God and the finiteness of creatures), we can never come to a complete understanding of the Trinity. However, we can come to an incomplete understanding of the Trinity. This is because of divine revelation, handed on to us by Christ through the twin founts of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

Matthias J. Scheeben defines mystery as follows (The Mysteries of Christianity, 13):

Christian mystery is a truth communicated to us by Christian revelation, a truth to which we cannot attain by our unaided reason, and which, even after we have attained to it by faith, we cannot adequately represent by our rational concepts.

Thus, since something of the Trinity has been revealed to us (albeit through imperfect images), we can strive for a certain understanding of it. In my presentation of this glorious mystery, I will follow the teaching of the Church as presented by St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Matthias Scheeben, with assistance from Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange and certain ecclesial texts.

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is (simply put) this: we worship one God in three Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Also, the Father is not the Son, and neither the Father nor the Son are the Holy Spirit. There is only one God – not three. However, there are three persons in God – not one. For a further statement of this idea, reference the Athanasian Creed (most likely not written by St. Athanasius).

But how is this statement to be understood?

It may be easier to point out how this is not to be understood first, and then later to discuss how this is to be understood (especially since this is really how the Church’s understanding of the Trinity has developed to its current state). For my presentation of the heresies, my main source is Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma.

I. Monarchianism

Monarchian is an adjective attributed to any doctrine claiming that there is only one Person in God (contrary to the Church’s teaching that there are, in reality, three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Ott presents two primary categories of Monarchianism: (1) Dynamic or Adoptionist Monarchianism (henceforth, adoptionism) and (2) Patripassianic or Modalist Monarchianism (henceforth, modalism).

Adoptionism teaches that Our Lord was a mere man, although born in a miraculous manner. However, at His baptism, according to the adoptionists, He was accorded a great degree of grace and power with which He was to carry out His divinely-ordained task, and thus He became an adopted Son. This is a vicious heresy contrary in every way to Christian faith (not to mention hope and charity). It was held primarily by Theodotius of Byzantium (excommunicated by Pope Victor c. 190), Paul of Samosata, the bishop of Antioch (excommunicated by the Synod of Antioch in 268), and  Photinus of Sirmium (excommunicated by the Synod of Sirmium in 351). In addition, it has sprung up in many modern heresies, including much of the New Age movement.

Modalism accepts that Our Lord was truly divine, but that there was only one Person in God. That is, the Father is the Son is the Holy Spirit, and that these names are just different “modes” of God. This heresy is also known as Sabellianism, since Sabellius took it to its most extreme. Sabellius was condemned by Pope Callistus (r. 217-222) and Sabellianism was condemned by Pope Dionysius (r. 259-268). Modalism is found in many places today, including some well-meaning Protestants who try to explain the Trinity in a comprehensible manner without the aid of Tradition or the Magisterium to guide them. Its most common manifestation is in the analogy of the phases of matter: ice, water, and steam are all H2O, but they are three different phases of matter. (I reiterate, this analogy is a representation of modalism, not orthodox Trinitarianism.)

II. Subordinationism

Subordinationism asserts that while there are three Persons in God, these three Persons are not consubstantial (that is, they are not of the same substance), and thus the Son and the Holy Spirit are not truly divine (at least, not in the sense that the Father is). This view has manifested itself primarily in (1) Arianism and (2) Macedonianism.

The heresiarch Arius taught that the Word did not exist from eternity. That is, he taught that the 2nd Person of the Trinity had a beginning in time, and that he was a mere creation of the Father. Arius held that the Son was of unlike substance (anomoios) of the Father. The first ecumenical council (Nicea I) was called for the purpose of settling the issue and condemned Arius. This council is also responsible for much of the Nicene Creed which is acknowledge by Christians everywhere as a succinct statement of the Christian faith.

Between Arianism and Catholicism, there was another school of thought that sought to bridge the gap between the two, known as Semi-Arianism. The Semi-Arians held that the Son was of like substance (homoiousios) of the Father. They rejected Nicea’s formulation that the Son was of the same substance (homoousious) of the Father, because they thought it was Sabellianism. However, the Son must be acknowledge to have the same nature as the Father, or He is not God. Thus the Semi-Arian compromise is itself heretical (and has also been condemned).

Macedonianism extended the subordinationist notion to the Holy Spirit in addition to the Son and is heretical for the same reason that Arianism and Semi-Arianism are. The second ecumenical council (Constantinople I) extended the Nicene Creed to a form almost identical to the current usage in order to make a defense against this heresy.

III. “Trinitarianism”

Heretical Trinitarianism (as opposed to Christian Trinitiarianism) held that the three Persons in God are three Divine Persons with the same Divine nature in the same way that three men are three human persons with the same human nature. This view is also condemned (in all of its various forms that have arisen from the 500’s on).

(Ott, 50-52)

Now that we have established what the Church’s teaching is not, I hope (in a later post) to deal with the actual teaching of the Church (especially as presented by the great theologians I mentioned above).

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The Trinity: Truly a Mystery


Previously, I posted that the Trinity is fundamental to a truly Christian worldview (read more here). So, that being said, I would like to explore this most glorious of mysteries: the Mystery of Mysteries, the mystery of the Only God whose existence precedes that of all time and space.

I firstly affirm with the 1st Vatican Council that God’s existence can be known from the light of natural reason alone (cf. Dei Filius Chapter 2, par. 1). It is not the subject of this post to determine how God can be known from natural reason.

I secondly affirm, again with the 1st Vatican Council, that “there are proposed for our belief mysteries hidden in God which, unless they are divinely revealed, are incapable of being known.” (Dei Filius Chapter 4, par. 3)

I thirdly affirm that those truths which are mysteries of our faith, while inaccessible to our reason, are not contrary to reason. That is, the mysteries of faith are suprarational rather than irrational. This truth is promulgated by the First Vatican Council (cf. Dei Filius Chapter 4, par. 5-6) and upheld by Bd. John Paul II in his encyclical Fides et Ratio.

Finally, it is a truth of faith that the Trinity is a mystery. Hence, St. Paul says that God “dwells in unapproachable light.” (1 Timothy 6:16) Bd. John Paul II, with firm grounding in the Fathers and Doctors of the Church refers to the Trinity as a mystery in Fides et Ratio paragraphs 13 and 66.

Why can we not know the Trinity through the light of our natural reason? The fathers of the First Vatican Council affirm that existence of God can be known with certitude by the light of our natural reason “from the consideration of created things.” (Dei Filius Chapter 2, par. 1) Furthermore, quoting the Council of Florence, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not three principles in creation, but one principle.” (CCC 258) Therefore, from creation, only the unity of God can be deduced. This is to say that given the created world, we can only know that God is one. We can not know the Trinity of His persons from creation, since creation comes from all three persons as 0ne principle.

Fr. Matthias J. Scheeben, a great theologian of the 19th century, writes refutations of various “proofs” from natural reason given for the Mystery of the Trinity in his fantastic work: The Mysteries of Christianity. For purposes of illumination, I include a skeleton of each of these proofs and refutations.

I. God, as the First Cause of all created things possesses every perfection possessed by His creatures in an eminent manner. Life is one such perfection. Therefore, God has life in an eminent manner. Life is movement proceeding from an interior principle. But in what sense could we understand movement in God if not by way of procession of the persons?

Scheeben concurs with the statement that God has life in an eminent manner. However, he says that even though generation is certainly the most vital of acts in creation, it is so because it is a communication of life. Therefore we must posit that life exists in God “independently” (in a sense) of the procession of the persons. Furthermore, this “life” must be present in the divine nature itself. It is only in this manner of thinking that we can conclude that there is life in God from the light of human reason. Scheeben says quite beautifully (p. 32):

But in God no transition from potency to act is thinakble; nevertheless … He possesses the purest and most perfect activity; He is His own activity. Therefore He must possess the purest and most perfect life, and must be Life itself, although no real movement can be predicated of His life. His immanent activity, His life, being the life of a pure spirit, consists in knowing and willing. We conceive of this knowing and willing as proceeding from Him after the analogy of the corresponding activity in creatures; in reality both acts are identical with His essence. But just as His activity does not cease to be true activity because of this identity, so it does not cease to be true life; in fact, only thus will it be perfectly immanent, and hence life in the highest sense of the word.

Therefore it can be seen that one can only deduce the life in the essence of God Himself, not in the production of the Persons who possess that one essence.

II. Act is inconceivable unless it ends in production. Thus, since God is pure act, we must admit that there are products of His activity: namely the Word (a product of the act of knowledge) and the Spirit (a product of the act of love).

If this argument holds, then the Word (which also possesses the divine essence in its totality) must also produce a Word and a Spirit through His acts of knowledge of love which is in blatant contradiction of the dogma of the Trinity. Thus Scheeben admits that we can know that God is infinitely active in His intellect and will, but how can we know without divine revelation that these result in true products? (cf. The Mysteries of Christianity, p. 32-33)

III. “The ability of creatures to communicate their natures is a great perfection” which must, therefore, be present in God as First Cause.

Scheeben admits that this article carries weight but only if one can show via natural reason “that the infinity and simplicity of God actually admit of a communication of His nature.” When creatures communicate their nature, they do so by “multiplying” that nature, but the divine nature is incapable of being multiplied. We cannot know from natural reason that such a communication (one without multiplication) is possible short of divine revelation, because such a thing does not occur within creation.

Now that we have shown reasonably that the Trinity is not accessible to human reason, there are two further points I would like to draw before, in a later post, discussing what has actually been revealed concerning the Trinity.

First, that the Trinity is not accessible to our intellect by the light of human reason does not denigrate the truth of this mystery, but rather elevates it. It shows how truly sublime of a truth the mystery is.

Second, the fact that God has revealed this mystery to us tells us two further things. (1) God loves us greatly, and this is known because God revealed the sublime mystery of the Trinity to us, enabling us to enter into friendship with each of the persons and (2) God desires us to cultivate our knowledge of Him. If He did not, He would not have given our intellect more Truth concerning Him, but would have left it in relative darkness. Therefore, God intends us to come to knowledge of the Truth (as St. Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:4) and thus to perfect not only our wills in charity, but our minds in faith.

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