1. Christ is true God and true man; hence we call Him the God-man.
Every being gets its nature whence it has its origin; thus a child gets its human nature by being born of man. Christ, therefore, having His origin from God the Father, derives from Him His divine nature, and by being born of Mary, derives from her His human nature. He claimed both divine and human attributes. He said, for example, “The Father is greater than I” (John xiv. 28), and yet on another occasion: “The Father and I are one” (John x. 30). As God He calls Mary “woman,” as on the occasion of the wedding-feast at Cana, and as man He calls her “Mother.” He called Himself at times “Son of God” and again “Son of man.”
Christ, as man, is like to us in all things except sin (Council of Chalcedon).
Christ became like to His brethren (Heb. ii. 17); He was made in the likeness of man and in habit formed as a man (Phil. ii. 7). Christ had a human body, with all its consequent needs of eating and drink ing and sleeping, as well as of suffering and dying; and He had a real body, not a fictitious one, as the Docetæ taught. Christ had a human soul, and so a human intellect, and a human will (for He prayed in the garden: “Father, not My will, but Thine be done” (Luke xxii. 42). At His death Christ gave His soul into the hands of His heavenly Father (Luke xxiii. 46). St. Paul (1 Cor. xv. 47) calls Christ the “heavenly” man, in opposition to the “earthly” man, Adam; his meaning being that Christ’s body was heavenly in the sense that it was formed supernaturally in the womb of a virgin by the action of the Holy Spirit and that it displayed on earth some of the properties of glorified bodies, as on Mount Thabor and the walk ing on the waters.
2. In Christ there are two natures, human and divine, which despite their intimate union are quite distinct.
The nature or essence is the total of the powers belonging to a being. The person is the possessor of this nature; or perhaps more strictly, that which is common to all men is the nature and that which constitutes man an independent individual is the person. Thus the nature may embrace many individuals, but not so the person. Just as iron and gold may be welded into one solid mass, and still remain with all their individual properties distinct, so are the two natures united in Christ. Nor is the human nature changed into the divine nature, as the water was changed into wine at Cana; nor again is the human nature, as Eutyches thought, absorbed into the Godhead as a drop of honey might be lost in the expanse of the ocean; nor have the two natures combined to form a third, as hydrogen and oxygen combine to form water.
Hence Christ has a twofold knowledge, human and divine.
As God He knew all things, even the thoughts of men; and He also knew all things as man on account of the hypostatic union; the reason why He denied all knowledge of the day and hour of the Last Judgment was because He was not entrusted with His knowledge to communicate it to man (Mark xiii. 32).
Hence also Christ has a twofold will, human and divine, the human being subject to the divine (Third Council Constantinople, A.D. 680).
We learn from the prayer in the garden that Christ had a human will: “Not My will but Thine be done” (Luke xxii. 42), subject how ever to the divine will: “I seek not My own will but the will of Him that sent Me” (John v. 30). So a patient may shrink from the pain of an operation, and yet submit himself to the hands of the surgeon.
Thus Christ has a twofold activity, human and divine (Third Council Constantinople, A.D. 680).
To His divine activity belong the miracles and prophesies, to the human principle of action the operations of sleeping, eating, drinking and suffering. The three persons of the Blessed Trinity have only one nature and so one principle of action.
3. In Christ there is only one person, and that person is divine.
compares this with the two eyes forming only one image, or the two ears conveying one sound. Tn the words of the Athanasian Creed: “As the rational soul and the flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ.” The human nature in Christ, though completed by a divine and not a human personality, is for that very reason more perfect; just as in man the body is more perfect on ac count of being informed by a human soul, than in the lower animals. Moreover as in man the body is an instrument by which the soul acts, so in Christ the human nature is the instrument by which the divine person acts; nor is Christ’s body a lifeless tool, like a pen in the hand of a writer, but it is full of life and has its own special activity. The humanity of Christ is, it must be remembered, not an instrument of God’s action in the same way as were the prophets or the apostles, etc. Its union and action are far more intimate, just as the eye and the hand of the workman are more concerned in his work than the tools. We must avoid the error of Nestorius, condemned at the Council of Ephesus, in which he taught that in Christ the Godhead dwelt in a distinct person (i.e., that the God Christ dwelt in the man Christ) as in a temple.
Since in Christ the divine and human natures are inseparably united by His divine personality, the following propositions are true:
1. Christ is, as man, the true Son of God.
St. Paul’s words on the subject are: “He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Rom. viii. 32).
2. Mary, the Mother of Christ, is really Mother of God.
St. Elizabeth called her the Mother of God (Luke i. 43). Nestorius heresy that Mary should be called only the Mother of Christ, was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431. “If,” as St. Cyril says, “Our Lord Jesus Christ is God, how can it be that the holy Virgin who bore Him is not Mother of God?” Though the mother does not give the soul to her offspring, she is nonetheless called the mother; so Mary is called the Mother of God, though she did not give to Christ His divine nature.
3. Christ, as man, could neither sin nor err.
Christ did no sin either in word or in deed (1 Pet. ii. 22); or, in the words of St. Gregory the Great: “As light permits no darkness in its neighborhood, so the Son of God admitted no sin in His human nature.” Christ had from His birth all wisdom and knowledge (Col. ii. 3). The words “Christ grew in wisdom and grace” (Luke ii. 52), mean that with the passage of time He ever showed more of the wisdom and grace of God in His speech and conduct. There must have been in His person something majestic (Ps. xliv. 3); St. Jerome says that the glory and majesty of the Godhead was reflected on His face, and gave it a beauty which attracted and subjected all those who had the happiness of gazing upon Him.
4. All Christ’s human actions have an infinite value.
What Christ did as man was a human action, and also a divine action, inasmuch as He was God. St. John Damascene says: “Just as iron raised to a glow burns not because burning is a property of the iron itself, but because it has acquired the property from the fire, so the human actions of Christ were divine, not of their own nature, but on account of the intimate union with the Godhead.” The very least prayer or suffering of Christ might thus have redeemed all men.
5. Christ’s humanity is worthy of adoration.
This adoration is directed, not to the human nature, but to the divine person. Thus a child kissing the hand of its parent is paying homage to the parent, not to the hand. As St. Thomas says: “We pay honor to the king and the purple which he wears; so in Christ we adore the humanity along with the Godhead, since they are inseparable.” St. John Damascene points out that we do not adore mere flesh, but the flesh as united to the divinity. Thus the Church adores the five wounds, the Sacred Heart, the precious blood, etc.
6. Human attributes may be predicated of Christ as God, and divine attributes of Christ as man (the so-called communication of characters or idioms).
Hence St. Peter’s reproach: “The Author of life you have killed” (Acts iii. 15), and St. Paul’s words: “If they had known it they would never have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. ii. 8), as well as St. John’s “Therein do we know the love of God, that He laid down His life for us.” Since the second divine person and the man. Christ Jesus are one and the same person, whatever is said of Christ as God may also be said of Him as man (e.g., this man is omniscient or almighty), and what we say of Christ as man may be said of the second divine person (e.g., God suffered for us, died for us, etc.). When a man is both good and rich, we may say without error: “This rich man is good,” or “This good man is rich,” because we are talking of the person who is rich and good. We may do the same in regard of the divine person Who is at the same time God and man, and in con sequence has the attributes proper to God and man. So we might say “This sufferer is God,” “This dying man is almighty.” But we cannot say “The Godhead suffered or died,” because the word “Godhead” means the divine nature, and it never suffered. Hence St. John Damascene wrote: “Though the Godhead was in a suffering form, the Godhead did not suffer. The sun is not hurt, though the tree on which it shines is felled.”
This article, What Truths follow from the Mystery of the Redemption? is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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