CHRISTOLOGY

Dear Teachers, Parents, and students at JMCHS:

 

From the moment God revealed himself visibly and definitively through the person Jesus, people have wondered about this mystery called the “Incarnation”, the mystery of God became flesh in human history. The contemporaries of Jesus were amazed at the gracious words that came from His mouth, the mighty deeds He did, and the contrast of his humble background as the son of a carpenter, the son of Mary. In the early days of the Church people began studying about the person of Jesus Christ, his origin and nature. Even in our own time, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI published three books on “Jesus of Nazareth” to share with us his fruits of contemplation on the “Face of Jesus” that stems from his years of pursuit in studying and meditating on the person Jesus of Nazareth. Like Benedict XVI, those who are committed to search for the face of Jesus in the light of faith come to realize that their living relationship with the Lord Jesus is being enriched, deepened, and overflowed into the lives of others.

 

Beginning this Advent season, as an aid to your on-going faith formation, I would like to share with you some snapshots of the Lord Jesus Christ according to the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas (i.e. The Summa Theologiae): Through the Seasons with St. Thomas Aquinas’ Christology. In this theological weekly column, I would like to focus our study and meditation on Christ during the special liturgical seasons throughout the academic year 2019-2020. For instance, beginning with this Advent season we will meditate upon the mystery of the Incarnation the Word of God; during Christmas, the Birth of Jesus; for Lent, his Passion and Death; and in Easter Season, his Resurrection. I hope these special studies on Christology, which is derived from the rich fruits of contemplation of the Angelic Doctor, will deepen the foundation of our faith, increase our fervor in prayer life, and enrich our on-going living relationship with the Lord so that we might become more mature Catholic Christian believers and joyful witnesses for God in the world.

 

Sincerely in Christ the King,

Fr. Francis-Hung Le, O.P. Chaplain

 

 

 

 

Meditating through the Seasons with St. Thomas Aquinas

A Study of Christology according to St. Thomas

with
Fr. Francis Hung Q. Le, O.P.

 

  Was the human nature more capable of being assumed than any other nature in creation?

 

Absolutely speaking, the Word of God, the second divine person, could have been assumed or uniquely united with any created nature such as angelic, human, sensitive (e.g. that of animal or plant), or inanimate nature (e.g. rock). Any of these different created natures could have been elevated by God to whatever height or dignity which God would raise them.

However, among these created natures, the human nature is the most fitting one to be assumed by the Word of God principally for two following reasons:

  1. The first reason is due to the rational dignity of the human nature which is capable of knowing God and loving him. The irrational creatures such as animals, plants, and inanimate things lack such rational dignity. The whole human nature is constituted of two essential and mutual parts: the intellectual soul and the material body. All parts of the body of an individual person are animated, organized, enlivened, and informed by his particular, individual soul. The body comes from human beings, but the soul which integrates and gives life to the whole person comes from God. For this reason, death is brought about when the soul leaves the body, for without the soul, the parts of the body lacks the sense of integration and unity. When death comes, the body began disintegrating; there is no longer a the principle of life, the soul, present to unite all the parts of the body together. “You are dust and to dust you shall return.” (Gn 3:19).

  2.  The other reason for God to have assumed the human nature is due to the fact that human nature had been broken by sin and death; it needed redemption. As result of his sin and therefore, his desire for forgiveness which comes from God so that he be able to participate in the eternal happiness, man needs to be redeemed. The heavenly angels of God do not need to be redeemed like us because they are especially blessed and do not have sin; they are with God in heaven for all eternity. As for the demons, the fallen angels, they are incapable of being redeemed since they have knowingly, fully, and freely rejected God once and for all eternity; even today, the demons cast into hell still believe they are right; they persistently do not see their need for repentance, not now, not ever.

When the Word of God assumed the human nature by the power of the Holy Spirit with the consent from the Blessed Virgin Mary, the divine person of the Word elevated only the human nature to be united with the divine nature at the very instant of the conception happened in the womb of the Most Holy Blessed Virgin Mary. As result of

the Incarnation, Jesus Christ remains the only person in history who possesses two distinct natures: divine and human. The divine nature ensures that he is God; while, the human nature makes him human like us in all things, except sin. (Hebrews 4:15).

At the very moment of the conception in the holy womb the Blessed Virgin Mary, the second divine person of the Trinity, the Word of God, assumed or took unto himself our human nature. Thus, the Incarnation of the Word took place when Mary gave God her consent: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. (Lk 1:38). And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (Jn. 1:14). Since she truly has conceived the divine Word incarnated in her human womb with her own human flesh, and since such divine Word, the second divine Person of the Trinity, is God by his indivisible and divine nature, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary is really and truly the Blessed Virgin Mother of God. (ST. III, 6, 3 & 4).

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hours of our death. Amen.

 

(Ref. ST, III, 4, 1; III, 6, 3 & 4 -> i.e. Summa Theologica, Part III, Q.4, Art.1; Q.6, Art.3&4)

 

 

 

Meditating through the Seasons with St. Thomas Aquinas

A Study of Christology according to St. Thomas

with
Fr. Francis Hung Q. Le, O.P.

 

Whether our Lord Jesus Christ should have been born in Bethlehem of Judea?

 

     The historical birthplace of Jesus is recorded in the Gospels: “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea.” (Mt 2:1). The Book of the Prophet of Micah also announced the same information eight centuries before his birth on earth, “But you, Bethlehem- Ephrathah least among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.” (Mi 5:1).

     According to St. Thomas Aquinas, it was fitting that our Lord Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea for two reasons:

     First, Bethlehem was the humble city of David; he was born there. David also received from God the special promise of the coming of the Messiah. (Ps 89:36-38; 132:11-13). And this promise was fulfilled in the fullness of time as being recorded in the Gospel according to St. Luke: “Joseph went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Lk 2:4-7).

     Second, according to St. Gregory, there is a wonderful correlation between the meaning of “Bethlehem” and what Christ has said of himself. Bethlehem means is “house of bread”, and the Lord Jesus has revealed about himself as follows: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (Jn. 6:51).

     Note also that since King David established Jerusalem to be the royal and priestly city of the people of Israel, it makes sense that later on the Lord Jesus, who was also known as the Son of David, would choose the same city as the place to inaugurate his royal kingdom of priesthood in his Passion.

     The Lord Jesus chose Bethlehem for his humble birthplace and the illustrious city of Jerusalem for his great suffering in order to remind us not to pride ourselves of having come from such and such prestige places on earth. God chose a poor mother and a poor country at the time to illustrate that ultimately it is his divine power, and not any temporal power on earth, which would bring about transformation of the world: “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.” (1 Cor 1:27-29). Who would have thought that the humble feet of the Peter and Paul would march to Rome one day to establish the new spiritual city from where the light of Christ would radiate throughout the world. (Read the prophesy from Is 26:5-6).

 

(Ref. Summa Theologica, Part III, Q.35, Art.1)

 

 

 

Meditating through the Seasons with St. Thomas Aquinas

A Study of Christology according to St. Thomas

with
Fr. Francis Hung Q. Le, O.P.

 

Why the Blessed Virgin Mary is called the Mother of God?

 

     Our faith reveals to us that in Christ there are two natures which are perfectly distinct,

but there is only one person who is the divine person of the Word. The divine nature exists in Christ from all eternity; that is what constitutes him as God. However, at the first instant of the conception of Christ within the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary (i.e. at the annunciation of angel Gabriel and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Mary), a human nature was created instantaneously for the divine person of the Word to assume that human nature, the human nature that was also animated by a rational soul and intellect. This possession of two natures in one person, united yet remained distinct, happens only in Christ. In philosophy such singular union of natures in one person of Jesus Christ is called “hypostatic union”.

     It can be said that at the very instant of his conception in time, the invisibility of the divine person of the Word became visible in the world; in other words, the invisible Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us for the very first time in human history.

     Even though the Blessed Virgin Mary only provided the divine person of Christ with her own human nature at the moment of the annunciation, nevertheless she was his mother because her motherhood in this relationship. Like any mother, motherhood is the relationship which relates a mother to her child, who is a person, and not to the nature itself (see Mt. 1:18). And since the person of Jesus Christ is also truly God due to his divine nature (see 1 Jn. 5:20), the Blessed Virgin Mary deserves to be called the Blessed Virgin Mother of God.

     Such conclusion makes sense since even in ordinary motherhood we notice that in each human person the material body comes from the parents while the soul comes directly from God; hence, the woman who conceives a her child in the womb and gives birth to that baby is the mother of the whole person.

     In responding to those who might be wondering whether the Blessed Virgin Mary was also the mother of all three divine persons in the Trinity, St. Thomas pointed out that even though the word “God” is common to all three divine persons (e.g. at times the word “God” is used to designate the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit), it should be understood that the title of the Mother of God as being applied to the Blessed Virgin Mary is designated uniquely to her divine maternity with regard to the person of the Word of God who became incarnated. In other words, she is not the mother of all three divine persons in one God but only the mother of the Person of Christ incarnated. And she is the Mother of God because Christ is truly God.

     This is a profound mystery for us, but it is a holy mystery that helps drawing us closer to God, to Christ, through our true and healthy devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mother Mary, the spiritual mother of all of us, the Mother of the Church. Among our human race, no one else knows more about the Lord Jesus Christ than our Blessed Virgin Mary, since she gave birth to him, nursed him, raised him, lived with him, and followed him throughout his whole life and ministry on earth. And now she is with him in Heaven, constantly interceding for us all.

 

     “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

 

(Ref. Summa Theologica, Part III, Q.35, Art.4)

 

 

 

Meditating through the Seasons with St. Thomas Aquinas

A Study of Christology according to St. Thomas

with
Fr. Francis Hung Q. Le, O.P.

 

Should the birth of Christ have been made known to some but not to all?

 

     There are three reasons, according to the Angelic Doctor, why the birth of Christ was not made known to all people at the time:
1. St. Paul said, “
If they had known him, they would never have crucified the Lord of

Glory” (1 Cor 2:8). Had Christ’s birth been made known to all people, then the redemption for humanity would have been      prevented prematurely. The plan of redemption was destined to be completed later, on the cross.

2. According to the Book of Hebrews, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped and evidence of things unseen” (Heb 11:1). If the birth of Christ had been made known to all people with the manifested signs of his divinity, then such fully divine manifestation would have diminished the merit of the faith by which all men and women would come to be justified.

3. It was more fitting that before manifesting himself to all people, Christ should go through different stages of human life. St. Augustine said, “If Christ had not passed through the different stages of growing up from childhood to adolescence, if he had neither eaten nor slept, then people might have thought that he had not truly taken on our human nature to become true man; furthermore, while Christ would be doing all things wondrously, ‘would he have taken away that which he accomplished in mercy?’” (Ep. ad Volussianum cxxxvii).

 

     In reality, the birth of Christ was fittingly and historically made known to some people at the time, such as to the shepherds and the Magi (i.e. the wise men coming from the East), so that these people, in turn, would communicate to others about the historical and salvific event of the birth of the Savior of the world. As St. Paul says, “Faith comes from what is heard” (Rm 10:17).

     One might raise an objection that since the future birth of Christ was already made known to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, why was it necessary that his birth would also be made known to other people such as the shepherds and the Magi?

     St. Thomas replied to the objection as follows: “Mary and Joseph needed to be instructed concerning Christ’s birth before he was born, because it was entrusted to them to show reverence to the child conceived in the womb, and to serve Him even before he was born. But their testimony, being members of the family, would have aroused suspicion whatever related to the greatness of Christ; hence, it was more appropriate that such manifestation about the birth of Christ be made known to others outside his family, for then their testimony would not be under suspicion.”(Reply to obj. no. 2)

     Note that Christ’s manifestation of himself to the shepherds and the Magi at his birth would also foretell his future manifestation to all classes of people, both the simple, humble people like the shepherds and the wise persons like the Magi of the East.

 

(Ref. Summa Theologica, Part III, Q.36, Art.1 & 2)

 

 

 

Meditating through the Seasons with St. Thomas Aquinas

A Study of Christology according to St. Thomas

with
Fr. Francis Hung Q. Le, O.P.

 

Should Christ have been baptized and should he have been baptized with the baptism of John?

 

     The baptism which John the Baptist administered did come from God for such baptism was inspired by the Holy Spirit (Jn 1:33). However, this baptism from John brought only about the effects which were purely natural or human; it prepared the hearts of people to receive the grace, the Holy Spirit, which would come from the Christian baptism to be instituted later by the Lord Jesus Christ with his Passion and Resurrection.

     Since Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit at the very moment of his conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he did not need to receive the spiritual, Christian baptism. However, it was fitting that Jesus received the baptism of John for the following reasons:

  1. Upon being baptized, “the heavens were opened” again for all mankind for previously

    the sin of Adam had closed it (Mt 3:16).

  2. By having allowed his holy body to touch the water at the Jordan river, Jesus purified

    water and gave it the hidden power which would be used later for the sanctification of

    other people down through the ages.

  3. Even though Jesus was totally freed from sin, he was taking on the likeness of human

    flesh of the old Adam; hence, being the savior of the world, he wanted to bury the sin

    of the old Adam totally in the water of the Sacrament of Baptism.

  4. Through his reception of the baptism of John, Jesus gave us a good example of

    humility; he also reminded people about the need of baptism in their lives. Moreover, Jesus encouraged people to be prepared, to look forward, and to receive a true sacrament of Baptism filled with sanctifying grace that he was going to establish.

  5. Coming to the Jordan river for his baptism, the river through which the children of Israel had crossed and entered the promise land, Christ reminded those who would receive the true sacrament of Baptism that their true promised land would be kingdom of heaven which he was about to introduce them throughout his ministry.

     Note that those who had been baptized with the baptism of John the Baptist

ought to have been baptized again with the Baptism that Christ would institute. The baptism of John was a simple baptism by water only; it conferred neither grace nor imprint in the soul of the receiver the sacramental character; that is, the indelible spiritual mark of belonging to Christ. The Lord said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (Jn 3:5). Such is precisely the effect of the Baptism of Christ on a person when he or she is baptized validly with water and in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

 

(Ref. Summa Theologica, Part III, Q. 38, Art. 6; Q. 39, Art.1, 2 & 4)