The Catechism of Saint Thomas Aquinas
on Hypostatic Union

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Triumph of Saint Thomas Aquinas - by GOZZOLI, Benozzo - from Musée du Louvre, Paris . . . . The inscription beneath the Glory containing Christ, expresses His agreement with the Theological Writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas: BENE SCPSISTI DE ME, THOMMA ("You have written well about Me, Thomas"). The Saint is enthroned in the centre between Aristotle and Plato. At his feet lies the Arabic scholar Averroes, whose writings he refuted. In the lower part of the picture a group of clergymen can be seen on either side of the Pope, who according to Vasari is Pope Sixtus IV.

 

The Catechetical Instructions of Saint Thomas Aquinas, is an introductory work the great Saint and Doctor of the Church preached during Lent in 1273, making it the last thing he ever wrote, as he died a few months later. It is much simpler to read than his immortal Summa Theologica. Aquinas's Catechism is written as a brief prose summary of Christian teaching. In Saint Thomas' day, every Christian understood God's use of the Sacraments as instruments of His Grace, so Saint Thomas whizzes over this part of Christian Doctrine more quickly than the later Catechisms, which were written after a sizable number of Christians had begun to reject this part of the Church's teachings.

 

The Catechism of Saint Thomas Aquinas
on Hypostatic Union

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Third Article: "Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary"

 

The Christian must not only believe in the Son of God, as we have seen, but also in His Incarnation. Saint John, after having written of things Subtle and Difficult-to-Understand, points out the Incarnation to us when he says: "And the Word was made flesh". Now, in order that we may understand something of this, I give Two (2) Illustrations at the outset.

It is clear that there is nothing more like the Word of God than the Word which is conceived in our Mind, but not spoken. Now, no one knows this Interior Word in our Mind except the One who connives it, and then it is known to others only when it is pronounced. So also, as long as the Word of God was in the Heart of the Father, It was not known except by the Father Himself; but when the Word assumed Flesh -- as a word becomes Audible -- then was It First made Manifest and Known. "Afterwards He was seen upon Earth and conversed with men".

Another Illustration is that, although the Spoken Word is known through Hearing, yet It is neither Seen nor Touched, unless It is written on paper. So also the Word of God was made both Visible and Tangible when He became Flesh. And as the paper upon which the word of a king is written is called the Word-of-the-King, so also Man to Whom the Word of God is conjoined in One (1) "Hypostasis" is called the Son of God. "Take thee a great book and write in it with a man's pen". Therefore, the Holy Apostles affirmed: "Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary".

 

Errors Relating to the Third Article

On this point there arose many Errors; and the Holy Fathers at the Council of Nicea added in that other Creed a number of things which suppress all these Errors.

Origen said that Christ was born and came into the World to Save even the Devils, and, therefore, at the End of the World all the Demons will be Saved. But this is contrary to the Holy Scripture: "Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the Devil and his Angels". Consequently, to remove this Error they added in the Creed: "Who for us men (not for the Devils) and for our Salvation, came down from Heaven". In this the Love of God for us is made more apparent.

Photinus would have Christ born of the Blessed Virgin, but added that He was a mere Man Who by a Good Life in doing the Will of God Merited to become the Son of God even as other Holy Men. This, too, is denied by this saying of John: "I came down from Heaven, not to do My own will but the Will of Him that sent Me". Now if Christ were not in Heaven, He would not have descended from Heaven, and were He a mere Man, He would not have been in Heaven. Hence, it is said in the Nicene Creed: "He came down from Heaven".

Manichaeus, however, said that Christ was always the Son of God and He descended from Heaven, but He was not actually, but only in appearance, clothed in True Flesh. But this is False, because it is not worthy of the Teacher of Truth to have anything to do with what is False, and just as He showed His Physical Body, so It was really His: "Handle, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see Me to have". To remove this Error, therefore, they added: "And He was incarnate".

Ebion, who was a Jew, said that Christ was born of the Blessed Virgin in the ordinary Human Way. But this is False, for the Angel said of Mary: "That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost". And the Holy Fathers to Destroy this Error, added: "By the Holy Ghost".

Valentinus believed that Christ was Conceived by the Holy Ghost, but would have the Holy Spirit deposit a Heavenly Body in the Blessed Virgin, so that she contributed nothing to Christ's Birth except to furnish a place for Him. Thus, he said, this Body appeared by means of the Blessed Virgin, as though she were a Channel. This is a Great Error, for the Angel said: "And therefore also the Holy Which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God". And the Apostle adds: "But when the fullness of time was come, God sent His Son, Made of a Woman". Hence the Creed says: "Born of the Virgin Mary".

Arius and Apollinarius held that, although Christ was the Word of God and was born of the Virgin Mary, nevertheless He did not have a Soul, but in place of the Soul was His Divinity. This is Contrary to the Scripture, for Christ says: "Now is My Soul troubled". And again: "My Soul is sorrowful even unto death". For this reason the Fathers added: "And was made man". Now, Man is made up of Body and Soul. Christ had all that a True Man has, save Sin. All the above-mentioned Errors and all Others that can be offered are destroyed by this, that He was made Man. The Error of Eutyches particularly is destroyed by it. He held that, by a commixture of the Divine Nature of Christ with the Human, He was neither purely Divine nor purely Human. This is not true, because by it Christ would not be a Man. And so it is said: "He was made Man". This destroys also the Error of Nestorius, who said that the Son of God only by an Indwelling was united to Man. This, too, is False, because by this Christ would not be Man but only in a Man, and that He became Man is clear from these words: "He was in habit found as Man". "But now you seek to kill Me, a Man Who have spoken the Truth to you, which I have heard of God".

 

Good Effects of These Considerations

We can learn something from all this.

angel_01.gif (2832 bytes) Our Faith is Strengthened. If, for instance, someone should tell us about a certain Foreign Land which he himself had never seen, we would not believe him to the extent we would if he had been there. Now, before Christ came into the World, the Patriarchs and Prophets and John the Baptist told something of God; but Men did not believe them as they believed Christ, Who was with God, nay more, was One (1) with God. Hence, far more firm is our Faith in what is given us by Christ Himself: "No one hath seen God at any time; the Only-Begotten Son Who is in the Bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him". Thus, many Mysteries of our Faith which before the coming of Christ were Hidden from us, are now made Clear.

angel_01.gif (2832 bytes) Our Hope is Raised Up. It is certain that the Son of Man did not come to us, assuming our Flesh, for any Trivial Cause, but for our Exceeding Great Advantage. For He made as-it-were a trade with us, assuming a Living Body and deigning to be born of the Virgin, in order that to us might be vouchsafed part of His Divinity. And thus He became Man that He might make Man Divine.

angel_01.gif (2832 bytes) Our Charity is Enkindled. There is no proof of Divine Charity so clear as that God, the Creator of All-Things, is made a Creature; that Our Lord is become our Brother, and that the Son of God is made the Son of Man: "For God so loved the World as to give His Only-Begotten Son". Therefore, upon consideration of this our Love for God ought to be Re-Ignited and Burst into Flame.

angel_01.gif (2832 bytes) This induces us to keep our Souls Pure. Our Nature was Exalted and Ennobled by Its Union with God to the extent of being Assumed into Union with a Divine Person.

Indeed, after the Incarnation the Angel would not permit Saint John to Adore him, although he allowed this to be done before by even the Greatest Patriarchs. Therefore, one who reflects on this Exaltation of his Nature and is ever conscious of it, should scorn to Cheapen and Lower himself and his Nature by Sin. Thus, says Saint Peter: " By whom He hath given us most great and precious promises; that by these you may be made partakers of the Divine Nature; flying the corruption of that concupiscence which is in the world".

Finally, by consideration of all this, our desire to come to Christ is intensified. If a king had a brother who was away from him a long distance, that brother would desire to come to the king to see, to be with him and to abide with him. So also Christ is our Brother, and we should desire to be with Him and to be United to Him. "Wheresoever the Body shall be, there shall the Eagles also gathered together". The Apostle desired "to be dissolved and be with Christ". And it is this desire which grows in us as we Meditate upon the Incarnation of Christ.

 

Fourth Article: "Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried."

 

It is just as necessary for the Christian to believe in the Passion and Death of the Son of God as it is to believe in His Incarnation. For, as Saint Gregory says, "there would have been no advantage in His having been Born for us unless we had profited by His Redemption". That Christ Died for us is so Tremendous a fact that our Intellect can scarcely grasp it; for in no way does it fall in the Natural Way of our Understanding. This is what the Apostle says: "I work in your days, a work which you will not believe, if any man shall tell it to you". The Grace of God is so Great and His Love for us is such that we cannot understand what He has done for us. Now, we must believe that, although Christ Suffered Death, yet His Godhead did not Die; it was the Human Nature in Christ that Died. For He did not Die as God, but as Man.

This will be clear from Two (2) Examples, One (1) of which is taken from Himself. Now, when a man Dies, in the Separation of the Soul from the Body the Soul does not Die, but the Body or Flesh does Die. So also in the Death of Christ, His Divinity did not Die, but His Man Nature Suffered Death. But if the Jews did not Slay the Divinity of Christ, it would seem that their Sin was not any greater than if they Killed any Ordinary Man. In answering this we say that it is as if a king were clothed only in One Garment, and if someone Befouled this Garment, such-a-one has committed as Grave a Crime as if he had Defiled the king himself. Likewise, although the Jews could not Slay God, yet in putting to Death the Human Nature which Christ assumed, they were as Severely Punished as if they had put the Godhead Itself to Death.

Another Example is had from what we said before, viz., that the Son of God is the Word of God, and the Word of God made Flesh is like the word of a king written on paper. So if one should tear this royal paper in pieces, it would be considered that he had rent apart the word of the king. Thus, the Sin of the Jews was as Grievous as if they had Slain the Word of God.

But what need was there that the Son of God should Suffer for us? There was a Great Need; and indeed it can be assigned to Two (2) Reasons. The First is that it was a Remedy against Sin, and the Second is for an example of what we ought to do. It was a Remedy to such an extent that in the Passion of Christ we find a Remedy against all the Evils which we incur by our Sins. And by our Sins we incur Five (5) different Evils.

 

Evil Effects of Sin

yellowdot.gif (100 bytes) The First Evil that Man incurs by Sin is the Defilement of his Soul. Just as Virtue gives the Soul Its Beauty, so Sin makes It Ugly. "How happened it, O Israel, that thou art in thy enemies' land? . . . Thou art defiled with the dead". But all this is taken away by the Passion of Christ, whereby Christ poured out His Blood as a Laver wherein Sinners are Cleansed: "Who hath loved us and washed us from our sins in His own Blood". So, too, the Soul is Washed by the Blood of Christ in Baptism because then a New Birth is had in virtue of His Blood, and hence when one Defiles one's Soul by Sin, one offers Insult to Christ and Sins more Gravely than before one's Baptism. "A man making void the Law of Moses dieth without any mercy under two or three witnesses. How much more, do you think, he deserveth worse punishments, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God and hath esteemed the Blood of the Testament unclean"!

yellowdot.gif (100 bytes) Secondly, we Commit an Offense against God. A Sensual Man Loves the Beauty of the Flesh, but God Loves Spiritual Beauty, which is the Beauty of the Soul. When, however, the Soul is Defiled by Sin, God is Offended and the Sinner incurs His Hatred: "To God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike". This also is removed by the Passion of Christ, which made Satisfaction to God the Father for Sin -- a thing which man of himself could never do. The Charity and Obedience of Christ in His Suffering were greater than the Sin and Disobedience of the First Man: "When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son".

yellowdot.gif (100 bytes) Thirdly, we have been Weakened by Sin. When a person Sins the First Time, he believes that he will thereafter keep away from Sin, but what happens is the Very Opposite. This is because by that First Sin he is Weakened and made More-Prone to Commit Sins, and Sin more-and-more has Power over him. Such a one, as far as he alone is concerned, has Lowered himself to such a condition that he cannot rise up, and is like to a man who jumps into a well from which, without God's Help, he would never be Rescued. After the Fall of Man, our Nature was Weakened and Corrupted, and we were made More-Prone to Sin. Christ, however, lessened this Sickness and Weakness, although He did not entirely take It away. So now Man is Strengthened by the Passion of Christ, and Sin is not given such Power over Him. Moreover, He can rise Clean from His Sins when aided by God's Grace conferred by the Sacraments, which receive their Efficacy from the Passion of Christ: "Our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin may be destroyed". Indeed, before the Passion of Christ few there were who lived without Falling into Mortal Sin; but afterwards many have lived, and are living, without Mortal Sin.

yellowdot.gif (100 bytes) Fourthly, we incur the Punishment due to Sin. For the Justice of God demands that whosoever Sins must be Punished. This Punishment, however, is in-proportion-to the Guilt. But the Guilt of Mortal Sin is Infinite, because It is an Offense against the Infinite Good, namely, God, Whose Commandments the Sinner holds in Contempt. Therefore, the Punishment due to Mortal Sin is Infinite. Christ, however, through His Passion has taken away this Punishment from us and borne It Himself: "Who His own self bore our sins in His Body upon the Tree". "Our sins [that is, the punishment due to sin] His own self bore in His Body". The Passion of Christ was of such value that It sufficed to Expiate for all the Sins of the whole World, even of a Hundred Thousand Worlds. And so it is that, when a Man is Baptized, he is released from all his Sins; and so also is it that the Priest Forgives Sins; and, again, the more one conforms himself to the Passion of Christ, the greater is the Pardon and the Grace which he gains.

yellowdot.gif (100 bytes) Fifthly, we incur Banishment from the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who offend kings are compelled to go into exile. Thus, man is Expelled from Heaven on account of Sin. Adam was driven-out-of Paradise immediately after his Sin, and the Gate of Paradise was shut. But Christ, by His Sufferings and Death opened this Gate and recalled all the Exiles to the Kingdom. With the opening of the Side of Christ, the Gate of Paradise is opened; and with the pouring out of His Blood, Guilt is Washed Away, Satisfaction is made to God, Infirmity is Removed, Punishment is Expiated, and the Exiles are called back to the Kingdom. Hence, the Thief received the Immediate Response: "This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise". Never before was this spoken to anyone, not to Adam, not to Abraham, not to David; but this day (i.e., as soon as the Gate is opened) the Thief, having asked for Pardon, received It: "Having a confidence in the entering into the Holies by the Blood of Christ".

 

Christ, Exemplar of Virtues

From all this then is seen the effect of the Passion of Christ as a Remedy for Sin. But no less does it Profit us as an example. Saint Augustine says that the Passion of Christ can bring about a complete Reformation of our lives. Whoever wishes to live Perfectly need do nothing other than Despise what Christ despised on the Cross, and Desire what Christ desired. There is no Virtue that did not have Its Example on the Cross.

So if you seek an Example of Charity, then, "greater love than his no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends". And this Christ did upon the Cross. If, therefore, He gave His Life for us, we ought to endure any and all Evils for Him: "What shall I render to the Lord for all the things that He hath rendered to me"?

If you seek an Example of Patience, you will find It in Its Highest Degree upon the Cross. Great Patience is Exemplified in Two (2) Ways: Either when one Suffers intensely in all Patience, Or when one Suffers that which he could avoid if he so wished. Christ Suffered greatly upon the Cross: "O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any Sorrow like to My sorrow". And with all Patience, because, "when He suffered, He threatened not". And again: "He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter and shall be dumb before His shearer, and shall not open His mouth". He could have avoided this Suffering, but He did not: "Thinkest thou that I cannot ask My Father, and He will give Me presently more than Twelve Legions of Angels"? The Patience of Christ upon the Cross, therefore, was of the Highest Degree: "Let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us; looking on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith, who, having joy set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame".

If you seek an Example of Humility, look upon Him Who is Crucified; although He was God, He chose to be Judged by Pontius Pilate and to be put to Death: "Thy cause has been judged as that of the wicked". Truly "that of the wicked", because: "Let us condemn Him to a most shameful death". The Lord chose to Die for His servant; the Life of the Angels Suffered Death for Man: "He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the Cross".

If you seek an Example of Obedience, imitate Him Who was Obedient to the Father unto Death: "For by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners; so also by the Obedience of one, many shall be made Just".

If you seek an example of Contempt for Earthly Things, imitate Him Who is the King-of-kings, the Lord of Rulers, in Whom are all the Treasures of Wisdom; but on the Cross He was Stripped Naked, Ridiculed, Spat Upon, Bruised, Crowned with Thorns, given to drink of Vinegar and Gall, and finally Put to Death. How Falsely, therefore, is one attached to Riches and Raiment, for: "They parted My garments amongst them; and upon My vesture they cast lots". How Falsely to Honors, since "I was covered with lashes and insults"; how Falsely to Positions of Power, because "taking a Crown of Thorns, they placed it upon My Brow"; how Falsely to Delicacies of the Table, for "in My thirst they gave Me to drink of vinegar". Thus, Saint Augustine, in commenting on these words, "Who, having Joy set before Him, endured the Cross despising the shame," says: "The Man Christ despised all earthly things in order to teach us to despise them".

 

 

Fifth Article: "He Descended into Hell".

Holy Week Triduum

allori_body_of_christ.jpg (70020 bytes) littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) In the Sepulchre were Jesus' Body and His Divinity.
Limbo3.jpg (65263 bytes) littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Jesus' descent to Hell included His Soul and His Divinity.

 

The Death of Christ was the Separation of His Soul from His Body as it is with other Men. But the Divinity was so indissolubly conjoined to the Man Christ that although His Soul and Body were Disunited, His Divinity was always Most Perfectly United to both the Soul and Body. This we have seen above. Therefore in the Sepulcher His Body was together with the Son of God Who together with His Soul descended into Hell.

 

Reasons for Christ's Descent

There are Four (4) Reasons why Christ together with His Soul descended into Hell. First, He wished to take upon Himself the entire Punishment for our Sin, and thus Atone for Its entire Guilt. The Punishment for the Sin of Man was not alone Death of the Body, but there was also a Punishment of the Soul, since the Soul had Its share in Sin; and It was Punished by being deprived of the Beatific Vision; and as yet no Atonement had been offered whereby this Punishment would be taken away. Therefore, before the coming of Christ all Men, even the Holy Fathers after their Death, descended into Hell. Accordingly in order to take upon Himself most Perfectly the Punishment due to Sinners, Christ not only Suffered Death, but also His Soul descended into Hell. He, however, descended for a different cause than did the Fathers; for they did so out of Necessity and were of Necessity taken There and detained, but Christ descended There of His Own Power and Free Will: "I am counted among them that go down to the Pit; I am become as a man without help, free among the dead". The others were there as Captives, but Christ was freely there.

The Second Reason is that He might Perfectly deliver all His Friends. Christ had His Friends both in the World and in Hell. The former were His Friends in that they possessed Charity; and the latter were they who departed this life with Charity and Faith in the future Redeemer, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and other Just and Good Men. Therefore, since Christ had dwelt among His Friends in this World and had delivered them by His Death, so He wished to visit His Friends who were detained in Hell and Deliver them also: "I will penetrate to all the lower parts of the earth, and will behold all that hope in the Lord".

duccio_satan.jpg (17455 bytes) The Third Reason is that He would Completely Triumph over the Devil. Now, a person is Perfectly Vanquished when he is not only Overcome in Conflict, but also when the Assault is carried into his very home, and the Seat of his Kingdom is taken away from him. Thus Christ Triumphed over the Devil, and on the Cross He completely Vanquished him: "Now is the Judgment of this world; now shall the Prince of this world (that is, the Devil) be cast out". To make this Triumph complete, Christ wished to deprive the Devil of the Seat of his Kingdom and to Imprison him in his own house -- which is Hell. Christ, therefore, descended There, and Despoiled the Devil of everything and bound him, taking away his prey: " And despoiling the Principalities and Powers, He hath exposed them confidently in open show, triumphing over them in Himself". Likewise, Christ Who had received the Power and Possession of Heaven and Earth, desired too the possession of Hell, as says the Apostle: "That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in Heaven, on Earth, and under the Earth". "In My Name they shall cast out devils".

The Fourth and Final Reason is that Christ might free the Just Who were in Hell [or Limbo]. For as Christ wished to Suffer Death to deliver the living from Death, so also He would descend into Hell to deliver those who were There: "Thou also by the Blood of Thy Testament, hast sent forth Thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water". And again: "O death, I will be thy death; O Hell, I will be thy bite". Although Christ wholly overcame Death, yet not so completely did He Destroy Hell, but, as it were, He bit It. He did not free all from Hell, but those only who were without Mortal Sin. He likewise liberated those without Original Sin, from which they, as individuals, were freed by Circumcision; or before [the institution of] Circumcision, they who had been Saved through their parents' Faith (which refers to those who died before having the use of Reason); or by the Sacrifices, and by their Faith in the future coming of Christ (which refers to adults). The reason they were there in Hell [i.e., Limbo] is Original Sin which they had contracted from Adam, and from which as Members of the Human Race they could not be delivered except by Christ. Therefore, Christ left there those who had descended there with Mortal Sin, and the non-circumcised children. Thus, it is seen that Christ descended into Hell, and for what reasons. Now we may gather Four (4) Considerations from this for our own instruction.

 

What We May Learn From This

(1) A firm Hope in God. No matter how much one is Afflicted, one ought always Hope in the Assistance of God and have Trust in Him. There is nothing so Serious as to be in Hell. If, therefore, Christ delivered those who were in Hell, what great confidence ought every friend of God have that he will be delivered from all his Troubles! "She [that is, wisdom] forsook not the Just when he was sold, but delivered him from sinners. She went down with him into the pit. And in bonds she left him not". God helps in a special manner those who serve Him, and hence the Servant of God should feel secure in Him: "He that feareth the Lord shall tremble at nothing and shall not be afraid; for He is his Hope".

(2) We ought to conceive a Fear of God and avoid all Presumption. We have already seen that Christ Suffered for Sinners and descended into Hell for Them. However, He did not deliver all Sinners, but only Those Who were free from Mortal Sin. He left there Those who Departed this life in Mortal Sin. Hence, anyone who descends into Hell in Mortal Sin has no Hope of Deliverance; and he will remain in Hell as long as the Holy Fathers remain in Paradise, that is, for all Eternity: "And these shall go into everlasting punishment; but the Just, into life everlasting".

(3) We ought to arouse in ourselves a Mental Anxiety. Since Christ descended into Hell for our Salvation, we ought in all care go down there in Spirit by considering, for instance, Its Punishments as did that Holy Man, Ezechias: "I said: In the midst of my days I shall go to the Gates of Hell". Indeed, he who during this life frequently descends into Hell by thinking of It, will not easily Fall into Hell at Death; for such Meditation keeps one from Sin, and draws one out of It. We see how Men of this World guard themselves against Wrongdoing because of the Temporal Punishment; but with how much more care ought they avoid the Punishment of Hell which far exceeds all else in Its Duration, Its Severity, and Its Varied Nature! "In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin".

(4) There comes to us in this an example of Love. Christ descended into Hell in order to deliver His own; and so we should go down there to Rescue our own. They cannot Help themselves. Therefore, let us Deliver those who are in Purgatory. He would be Very Hard-Hearted who does not come to the aid of a relative who is detained in an earthly prison; but much more Cruel is he who will not Assist a friend who is in Purgatory, for there is no comparison between the Pains of this World and of that: "Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least you my friends, because the hand of the Lord hath touched me". "It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins". We may assist these Souls in Three (3) Ways as Saint Augustine tells us, viz., through Masses, Prayers, and Almsgiving. Saint Gregory adds a Fourth, that is, Fasting. All this is not so amazing, for even in this world a friend can Pay a Debt for his friend; but this applies only to those who are in Purgatory.

 

Sixth Article: "He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the
Right Hand of God, the Father Almighty".

 

Besides the Resurrection of Christ, we must also believe in His Ascension; for He ascended into Heaven on the Fortieth (40) Day. Hence, the Creed says: "He ascended into Heaven". Concerning this we ought to observe Three (3) Things ,viz., that it was Sublime, Reasonable, and Beneficial.

 

The Sublimity of the Ascension

It was certainly Sublime that Christ ascended into Heaven. This is expounded in Three (3) Ways. Firstly, He ascended above the Physical Heaven: "He . . . ascended above all the Heavens". Secondly, He ascended above all the Spiritual Heavens, i.e., Spiritual Natures: " Raising [Jesus] up from the dead and setting Him on His Right Hand in the heavenly places. Above all Principality and Power and Virtue and Dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come. And He hath subjected all things under His Feet". Thirdly, He ascended up to the very Throne of the Father: "Lo, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of Heaven. And He came even to the Ancient of Days". "And the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into Heaven and sitteth on the Right Hand of God". Now, it is not to be taken in the literal sense, but figuratively, that Christ is at the Right Hand of God. Inasmuch as Christ is God, He is said to sit at the Right Hand of the Father, that is, in equality with the Father; and as Christ is Man, He sits at the Right Hand of the Father, that is, in a more preferable place. The Devil once feigned to do this: " I will ascend above the height of the clouds. I will be like the Most High". But Christ alone succeeded in this, and so it is said: "He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the Right Hand of the Father". "The Lord said to my Lord: Sit Thou at My Right Hand".

 

The Reasonableness of the Ascension

The Ascension of Christ into Heaven is in accord with Reason: (1) because Heaven was due to Christ by His very nature. It is natural for one to return to that place from whence he takes his origin. The beginning of Christ is from God, Who is above all things: "I came forth from the Father and am come into the world; again I leave the world and I go to the Father". "No man hath ascended into Heaven, but He that descended from Heaven, the Son of man who is in Heaven". The Just ascend into Heaven, but not in the manner that Christ ascended, i.e., by His Own Power; for they are taken up by Christ: "Draw me, we will run after Thee". Or, indeed, we can say that no man but Christ has ascended into Heaven, because the Just do not ascend except in so far as they are the Members of Christ Who is the Head of the Church. "Wheresoever the body shall be, there shall the eagles also be gathered together".

(2) Heaven is due to Christ because of His Victory. For He was sent into the world to Combat the Devil, and He did overcome him. Therefore, Christ deserved to be exalted above all things: "I also have overcome and am set down with My Father in His throne".

(3) The Ascension is Reasonable because of the Humility of Christ. There never was Humility so great as that of Christ, Who, although He was God, yet wished to become Man; and although He was the Lord, yet wished to take the Form of a Servant, and, as Saint Paul says: "He was made obedient unto death", and descended even into Hell. For this He deserved to be Exalted even to Heaven and to the Throne of God, for Humility leads to Exaltation: "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted". "He that descended is the same also that ascended above all the heavens".

 

The Benefits of the Ascension

The Ascension of Christ was very Beneficial for us. This is seen Three (3) Ways.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Firstly, as our Leader, because He ascended in order to lead us; for we had Lost the way, but He has shown It to us. "For He shall go up that shall open the way before them, and thus we may be made certain of possessing the Heavenly Kingdom: "I go to prepare a place for you".

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Secondly, that He might draw our Hearts to Himself: "For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart so".

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Thirdly, to let us withdraw from Worldly Things: "Therefore, if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the Right Hand of God. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth."

 

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