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Part 2 of "The Blessed Sacrament is Truly Emmanuel" | Part 1



Can We Call Christ a Human Being?

One must also understand that, for St. Thomas Aquinas, unless we are speaking about God, essence (substance, nature, or form) does not necessarily include being (esse or existence). When St. Thomas discusses the composition of a thing other than God, he says that "being is other than essence" [34] and "being must be other than its quiddity, nature, or form." [35] Even "the being of the intelligences must be in addition to their form" - except for the "pure being" which is "God." [36]

It has already been pointed out that, when the Church teaches that Jesus is "consubstantial with us according to the human nature," she means this in the sense of "essence," but not in the sense of "hypostasis" or "person." Jesus does not have a human "hypostasis" or human "person" in common with us. This is why St. Thomas says "That Christ must not be called a creature." [37] While Christ has a full human nature or essence, this essence does not include created being or a created hypostasis (person). The Angelic Doctor of the Church says:

But in Christ there is no other hypostasis or person save that of God's Word, and this person is uncreated as is clear from the foregoing. Therefore, one cannot say without qualification: "Christ is a creature," although one may say it with an addition, so as to say a creature "so far as man" or "in His human nature. [38] Someone might object and say that if Christ's human nature did not have created being then Christ took on less than what we are, for our human nature has created being. But, Pius XI quoted St. Thomas Aquinas in his Encyclical Letter, Lux Veritatis saying:
Personality belongs to the dignity and perfection of any being insofar as the dignity and perfection of any being require that it should have its own existence as is understood by the term person. It is, however, a greater dignity for anyone to exist in someone of greater dignity than to have one's own existence. Therefore, human nature is more dignified in Christ than in us, because in us with our own existence it has its own personality, whereas in Christ it exists in the person of the Word. [39]

Thus, Pius XI teaches that "human nature" in Jesus Christ does not have its own being or "existence," but rather "it exists in the person of the Word." While the Son of God assumes the essence or nature of created man (i.e., humanity), He does not assume the being of created man. The Son of God, therefore, does not assume human or created being. So, Jesus Christ is not a human being except in a qualified sense. Rather, He is a divine Being.
If one were to try to say that Jesus Christ is both a human and divine being, one would imply that Jesus Christ is both two beings (one divine and one human) or that He was a blend of a human being and a divine being. But, to say that Jesus Christ is two beings is to clearly fall into the Nestorian trap. For it does not matter whether you call the supposit of the man a person or a being and the supposit of the God a person or being, the result is still the same - two separate individuals. Salvation and the Catholic Faith would entirely collapse. For, as St. Thomas says, "Hence, if the human nature is not united to God the Word in person, it is nowise united to Him; and thus belief in the Incarnation is altogether done away with, and Christian faith wholly overturned." [40]

And an attempt to mix divine being and human being into one blended created and uncreated being would also be disastrous for the Faith. The early Fathers of the Church found it necessary to explicitly reject any intrusion into the Deity by created being. In his First Letter to Serapion, probably written between the years 359-360 A.D. from the Libyan Desert, St. Athanasius taught: "We acknowledge the Trinity, holy and perfect, to consist of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In this Trinity there is no intrusion of any alien element or of anything from outside, nor is the Trinity a blend of creative and created being." [41]

Finally, it is clear that Jesus Christ cannot be a human being or created being because we are called upon by the Church to adore Jesus Christ with "the worship known as 'latria' (act of adoration) which may be given to God alone." [42] But, it is idolatry to adore anything created. Jesus Christ, therefore, can only be a divine Being. St. Thomas says: "the adoration of latria is not given to Christ's humanity in respect of itself, but in respect of the Godhead to which it is united, by reason of which Christ is not less than the Father." [43] Similarly, Pius VI taught in "Auctorem fidei," August 28, 1794 that the "humanity and the very living flesh of Christ is adored, not indeed on account of itself as mere flesh, but because it is united to the divinity." [44]
Thus, while it is correct to say that Jesus is fully human because He has an essence or full human nature in common with us, we should not say that Jesus is a human being. The "a" in the "a human being" particularly indicates an individually existing created human substantial form or nature. It will be most likely be understood as human substance or human nature in the sense of a "hypostasis," "suppositum," or "subject," i.e., "person." And then it would be incorrect.

The hypostatic union in Jesus Christ is a mystery beyond all telling. We will never completely understand how a fully human nature or substantial form can be joined to a divine Person without destroying itself or substantially altering the being of the divine Person. We cannot even understand how a substantial form can have the divine Person as its suppositum or being. We only know that this is not contradictory. While Jesus Christ has a full human nature and a full divine nature, these natures subsist in His divine Person (hypostasis or suppositum). So, we should not call Christ a human being, for He is a Divine Being. Jesus Christ is truly Emmanuel. He is a divine Person and Being in human form. When we touch the hands and fingers of Jesus Christ we are touching his divine Person. Thus, St. John refers to the "Word of Life" as that which "our hands have handled" (I Jn 1:1). Let us now turn our attention to the Blessed Sacrament.

The Blessed Sacrament is a Living Physical Divine Person and Being

The Council of Trent has defined that there is no difference between the reality of Jesus Christ and the Blessed Sacrament, except for the appearance. The Council stated: "First of all the holy Synod teaches and openly and simply professes that in the nourishing sacrament of the Holy Eucharist after the consecration of the bread and wine our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really, and substantially contained under the species (appearance [45]) of those sensible things." [46] Similarly, in his encyclical, Mysterium Fidei, Paul VI stated about the effect of the consecration at the Mass that "once the substance or nature of the bread and wine has been changed into the body and blood of Christ, nothing remains of the bread and wine except for the species ("appearance" [47]) - beneath which Christ is present whole and entire in His physical 'reality,' corporeally present, although not in the manner in which bodies are in a place." [48]

Because the Blessed Sacrament is the same "Thing" as Jesus Christ, one might also ask whether or not one can call the Blessed Sacrament a human person or a human being? No doubt, one might think that, if Christ's "physical 'reality"' is "corporeally present" in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, then the Blessed Sacrament must be a human person or human being. But, we have previously stated that, for St. Thomas, substantial being is "being through itself (per se) because it is not in another" and "accidents" "do not have being in themselves, independent of a subject." But, "physical" is a quality and therefore only represents accidental being or "being in another (in alio)." And, the "Other" or "Subject" in which this physical quality subsists is the divine Being who is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Thus, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "everything in Christ's human nature is to be attributed to his divine person as its proper subject." [49] This includes Jesus Christ's "physical, 'reality'." [50]

So, when our tongues touch the Host, we are not coming into bodily contact with a human person and a human being. Rather, we are coming into bodily contact with a living physical divine Person and Being as directly and immediately as did St. Thomas the Apostle when he put his finger into the nail-marks of Jesus' wounds and his hand into Jesus' side and exclaimed: "My Lord and my God!" (Jn. 20:27-28). The Blessed Sacrament is Emmanuel!

(This article originally appeared in the May/June 1997 issue of The Catholic Faith magazine.)

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End Notes:

1. Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, Acta Apostolica Sedis, Vol. LVII (1965),766. Partially my emphasis; Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, No. 46, The Pope Speaks, Vol. 10, No. I (Summer-Autumn 1965), p. 321. Partially my emphasis.

2. Paul VI, Siamo lietissimi in The Pope Speaks, 10 (First Quarter 1964), 10.

3. Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, No. 16, p. 312.

4. Enchiridion Symbolorum (Denzinger), No. 888, 30th edition. Hence all citations of the Enchiridion symbolorum will be taken from this source, unless otherwise indicated, and will be abbreviated as "Denz."

5. Denz., No. 302.

6. Tad W. Guzie, S. J., Jesus and the Eucharist (New York: Paulist Press, 1974), pp. 67-68. My parenthesis and partially my emphasis.

7. Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P., The Eucharist, (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1968), p. 120.

8. Anthony Wilhelm, Christ Among Us, 5th revised edition (San Francisco: Harper Collins Pub., 1990), the cover and p. 216. My emphasis.

9. Denz., No. 61,113 ff., 125.

10. Second Vatican Council, Gravissimum Educationis, No. 10.

11. Second Vatican Council, Gravissimum Educationis, No. 10.

12. Denz., No. 148 & 283.

13. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1 a, q29, art. 2.

14. Denz., No. 710.

15. Denz. No. 148.

16. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book One: God, Ch. 25, No. 10, trans. Anton C. Pegis, F.R.S.C. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975), p. 128.

17. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book One: God, Ch. 25, No. 10, p. 128.

18. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book One: God, Ch. 65, No. 3, p. 214.

19. St. Thomas Aquinas, On Being and Essence, Ch. 6, No. 1, trans. by Armand Maurer, C.S.B. (Toronto: The Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1968), p. 66.

20. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, la, q29, art. 2. Partially my parenthesis.

21. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, q2, art. 2. Partially my emphasis.

22. Denz., No. 283.

23. Denz., No. 148, 283, 312.

24. John Paul II, Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 466, p. 117. My emphasis.

25. John Paul II, General Audience of March 23, 1988, found in John Paul II, Jesus, Son and Savior: A Catechesis on the Creed, Vol. 2 (Boston MA.: Pauline Bks. and Media, 1996, p. 334).

26. John Paul II, General Audience of April 13, 1988, found in John Paul II, Jesus, Son and Savior, Vol. 2, pp. 337-338.

27. Denz., No. 216-217, 30th edition.

28. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book Four: Salvation, Ch. 38, No. 1-2, trans. by Charles J. O'Neil (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975), pp. 185-186.

29. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book Four: Salvation, Ch. 38, No. 2, p. 186.

30. Denz. No. 148.

31. Denz., No. 168.

32. Denz., No. 111a.

33. Denz., No. 168.

34. St. Thomas Aquinas, On Being and Essence, Ch. 4, No. 6, p. 55.

35. St. Thomas Aquinas, On Being and Essence, Ch. 4, No. 6, p. 56.

36. St. Thomas Aquinas, On Being and Essence, Ch. 4, No. 6 & 7, pp. 56 & 57.

37. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book Four: Salvation, Ch. 48, pp. 207-208.

38. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book Four: Salvation, Ch. 48, No. 2, p. 207.

39. Pius XI, Lux Veritatis, in Act Apostolicae Sedis, Vol. 23 (December 26, 1931), 507-508, St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, q2, art. 2, reply to obj. 2. English translation from Michael O' Carroll, C.S.Sp., "Lux Veritatis," Verbum Caro: An Encyclopedia on Jesus, the Christ (Vol. 1), (Collegeville, MN.: Liturgical Press, 1992), p. 105. The Latin of Pius XI's Encyclical, Lux Veritatis, reads: "personalitas intantum pertinet ad dignitatem alicuius rei et perfectionem, inquantum ad dignitatem alicuius rei et perfectionem eius pertinet, quod per se exsistat; quod in nomine personae intelligitur: dignius autem est alicui, quod exsistat in aliquo se digniore, quam quod exsistat per se; et ideo ex hoc ipso humana natura dignior est in Christo, quam in nobis, quod in nobis quasi per se exsistens propriam personalitatem habet, in Christo autem exsistit in persona Verbi."

40. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, q 2. art. 2.

41. St. Athanasius, "Ep. I ad Serapionem," 28-30: pp. 26, 594-595, 599, found in The Liturgy of the Hours," Vol. III, (New York: Catholic Book Pub. Co., 1975), p. 584. Partially my emphasis, F. Chiovaro, "St. Athanasius," New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 997-998.

42. Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, No. 55; Denz., No. 878, 120, 221, 1561.

43. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, la, q 25, art. 2, reply to obj. 1.

44. Denz., No. 1561.

45. Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, No. 45.

46. Denz., No. 874.

47. Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, No. 45.

48. Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, No. 46, p. 321. My emphasis.

49. John Paul II, Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 468 (Washington D.C., Vatican City: United States Catholic Conference, Inc. - Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1994), p. 118.

50. St. Thomas Aquinas, On Being and Essence, Ch. 6, No. 2, p. 67.



Father Regis Scanlon has contributed to numerous Catholic periodicals.


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