The Catechism of Saint Thomas Aquinas
on Hypostatic Union
Third Article: "Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary"
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
"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
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"!
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".
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.
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.
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".
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".
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.
"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,
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.
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".
Secondly, that He might draw our
Hearts to Himself:
"For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart so".
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