The MOST Theological Collection: The Consciousness of Christ
"Chapter 8. Theological Speculation"
A major development in the discussion of Jesus' knowledge came as a result of modern interest in psychology. The discussion was greatly stimulated by P. Galtier in a work entitled L'unite du Christ, Etre, Personne, Conscience.1 In a subsequent publication he modified his opinions somewhat.2 We have a summary of his views in a 1951 article appearing in the Gregorianum: "The key to that psychology seems to me to be found in the Beatific Vision, thanks to which the human nature was able, in a certain sense, to have a consciousness of being united to the divine person, and of making only one substantial being with it. But it does not follow that that consciousness perceived directly and of itself the person to which it belonged."3 We might loosely compare the difference to the difference between seeing, as on a television screen, the fact of being united to a divine Person, and the direct consciousness of being so united. Galtier argued that we perceive our soul by way of its acts.4 Since our person and nature are of the one same being, there is no problem. But in Christ the nature that produces the human acts is different from that of the divine Person: hence a difficulty. So he adds that we must recognize in the humanity of Christ "a real psychological autonomy."5
Strong reactions followed, especially from the Thomists. The literature is immense.6 We shall first examine the views of several major thinkers and then propose a solution.
1. Karl Rahner
Rahner's views have been especially influential. He makes a remarkable claim: "There is certainly a nescience which renders the finite person's exercise of freedom possible.... This nescience is, therefore, more perfect for the exercise of freedom than knowledge which would suspend this exercise."7 He tales note of the teaching of the Church that the soul of Jesus had the beatific vision. He insists that his proposals do not clash with any binding teaching.8 But he says that it is too easily taken from granted that the vision of God brings bliss, or is beatific. He says there is no reason why "the direct presence to the judging and consuming holiness of the incomprehensible God should necessarily and always have a beatific effect."9 He holds that Jesus did have a visio immediata, but that it was not beatific. He points to "Christ's death-agony and feeling of being forsaken by God"10 even of a "deadly feeling of being forsaken by God" and asks: "Can one seriously maintain-without applying an artificial layer-psychology-that Jesus enjoyed the beatitude of the '' blessed,"11 and says further "...the fact that Jesus was not simply as blessed on earth as the saints in heaven cannot really be denied. "12
So Rahner proposes a different interpretation of the direct vision of God in Jesus: "...this really existing direct vision of God is nothing other than the original unobjectified consciousness of divine sonship, which is present by the mere fact that there is a Hypostatic Union."13 He compares this to the self-knowledge that an ordinary person has, a knowledge that grows from long experience with himself: "Only in the course of long experience can he [an ordinary man] learn to express to himself what he is and what indeed he has always already seen in this self-consciousness of his basic condition...so it is also in the case of Christ's consciousness of divine sonship.... We can, therefore, speak without qualms about a spiritual and indeed religious development in Jesus."14
There are, however, some problems with Rahner's views. To begin, he thinks that some ignorance is needed for freedom. He asserts: "The objective perception of every individual object right down to the last detail would be the end of freedom."15 One could counter: What about God Himself? There is no ignorance in Him, there is a knowledge of every object and every detail of every object. Yet He is free, supremely free, the source of our freedom.
Rahner also proposes what may be called a "non-beatific" beatific vision, and observes that a direct presence to God can be not only non-beatific, it can be terrifying if it is the presence of God as Judge, as supreme Holiness. Here Rahner misses two points: (1) The presence of God as Judge, as Holiness, is dreadful only to souls that are not fit, not prepared. Such was not the case with the soul of Christ. (2) Rahner misses the immediacy of the vision (even though he uses the word, saying he proposes a visio immediata). The vision of which the Magisterium speaks is most absolutely immediate, and, in a soul that is fit, necessarily produces beatitude. Pope Benedict XII, in his Benedictus Deus of December 20, 1336, taught that souls enjoying the beatific vision, "see the divine essence with an intuitive and even face to face vision, with no creature mediating, [or] being in the nature of an object seen, but with the divine essence showing itself immediately, without veil, clearly and openly to them, and that seeing [this] they enjoy the same divine essence."16
Behind this statement is the obvious fact that no image or creature could show God as He is-for any image or creature is finite. When I see anyone else face to face, I take within me the image of that person. Since the person is finite, an image can let me know that person fully. But as we said, no image, being finite, can show God as he is. Hence, to really know God it is necessary that He join Himself directly to the human intellect, with no intermediary. Such is also the view of St. Thomas Aquinas.17 This is substantially different from a perception of God as judge, for in that function, He does not join Himself so absolutely directly to the human intellect.
Still further, the kind of vision Rahner proposes hardly should be called a vision at all. It is rather just a vague self-knowledge, which Rahner compares to that of an ordinary man. An ordinary man gets to know himself through his actions and experiences. The more of these, the more he can know himself. Hence his self-knowledge can and does grow. Rahner is proposing such a knowledge as an "immediate vision" of the divinity-non-beatific. It could be called a knowledge of the divinity, Rahner thinks, inasmuch as for Jesus to know Himself is to know the divinity of the Word, to which His human soul is united. Such a vague, gradually growing perception hardly matches the description of the beatific vision given by the Magisterium. So, in spite of his protestations that he is not contradicting the Magisterium, Rahner is really doing so in not attributing to Jesus the kind of vision the Magisterium means. Such a vision as Rahner proposes would not really be vision including each member of His Mystical Body; but Pius XII taught it did (cf. Chapter 7).18
Rahner also tries to show how the vision was not beatific by pointing to a "deadly feeling of being forsaken by God."19 Closely allied is his statement, as a result of His sufferings, "Jesus was not simply as blessed on earth as the saints in heaven."20 First, as to the deadly feeling of being forsaken: here Rahner sounds more like an emotional sermonizer than a theologian. Jesus was simply reciting Psalm 22 when He said, "My God, why have you forsaken me." Psalm 22 was a most suitable prayer because of its remarkable description of His Passion.
Rahner is right, obviously, in saying that Jesus was not as blessed as those in heaven, for His bitter sufferings made a difference. But this fact does not support Rahner's claim that the vision was non-beatific for Jesus, or that a beatific vision would be in Jesus' case, incompatible with suffering. Actually, Rahner knows the key to the problem, but dismisses it, not with scholarly reasoned analysis, but with ridicule when he speaks of "an artificial layer-psychology."21 The truth is that the beatific vision rules out all suffering in a pure spirit and in a human being with a body transformed after the resurrection. Yet both mystical theology and the experience of many saints give evidence that for a human being with a non-transformed body, even highly pleasurable experiences of direct contact with God in infused contemplation are fully compatible with distress, even with distress of mind. Thus St. Francis de Sales, in his Treatise on the Love of God:
St. John of the Cross, a great mystic and subtle mystical theologian, writes in a similar vein: "This is an enkindling of love in the spirit, where, in the midst of these dark afflictions, the soul feels itself to be keenly and acutely wounded in strong divine love, and to have a certain realization and foretaste of God, although it understands nothing definitely, for, as we say, the understanding is in darkness."24
It would be easy to fill pages telling of the actual experiences of mystics.25 Let us cite one passage, from Venerable Sister Barbara: "God has given me to drink the dregs of this most bitter chalice and at the same time communicated a sweetness which must be experienced to be believed. It is sweet and bitter at the same time.... My God has hidden Himself from me and left me in a state of the greatest desolation.... Everywhere there is darkness. "26
2. F. E. Crowe
Like Rahner, F. E. Crowe admits that the soul of Jesus had a "direct vision" of God. Rahner specifically calls it non-beatific. Crowe seems to mean the same thing. Rahner admits even religious growth in Jesus; Crowe does so too. But Crowe goes about things quite differently. He thinks that "the efforts made to build a theology of his knowledge of God on his self-consciousness are ill-advised."27
Crowe proposes three "analogies" for the vision of God. He begins with what he calls a Thomist understanding of the vision of God. He says the Thomist doctrine is "transformed by Lonergan into a doctrine of the spontaneously operative notion of being or the pure notion of being: 'The pure notion of being is the detached, disinterested, unrestricted desire to know.'"28 He thinks this notion of being is present in all our activities of knowing, but is not there consciously as a red light or bell would be, it is, "Not ordinarily adverted to."29 This suggests to him a parallel to the vision of God that the soul of Jesus had: "Christ's understanding of the divine mysteries was inexpressible,"30 like the words St. Paul heard (2 Cor. 12:4). "There had therefore to be a translation from one understanding to the other...." So, "the vision of God gave him no actual knowledge that was expressible. He had to win this slowly." So he had to learn everything,31 for this "vision" did not include the words Father, or Son, or Spirit, or Creator, or Almighty, or Eternal. It did not supply Jesus with religious ideas at all.32 And He had to learn to remember the Aramaic equivalents of Mama and Papa, and so on.
Crowe's second analogy comes from the experience of mystics,33 who found difficulty in expressing what they learned from their experiences. So also, he says, with the soul of Jesus.
His third analogy rests on, "our own ordinary faith experience...the most fundamental ideas...remain preconceptual...we might think of our inability to say anything appropriate on the great occasions of life-disaster and death, or love and success and triumph."34
So the vision gave Jesus only the generic principles, the "species et genera rerum et rationes earum" with the result that "the mind of Jesus [had] to operate according to this scissors-action, with the upper blade supplied by his understanding of God and the most general preconceptual ideas that derive from that understanding...and the lower blade supplied by the thousands and thousands of items of data that met his eye and ear and taste and smell and touch during his life on earth."35 Only by experience, reacting with these vague generalities, would He have any distinct and expressible knowledge.
These analogies are peculiar. In the first, Crowe borrows Lonergan's notion of being as "the detached, disinterested, unrestricted desire to know." But we observe: if desire is equated with being, then the more desire the more being, and vice versa. But: desire presupposes a lack-for we do not desire what we do not lack-so, the more being, the more lack of being.
His second analogy in a way blends with the first, for in the first he had spoken of the inexpressible words St. Paul referred to in 2 Cor 12:4. In the second analogy Crowe compares the vision of Jesus to that of the mystics. But again his analogy is far from complete: (1) the mystics did not, as a rule at least, have the beatific vision; they had instead various forms of infused contemplation (which lacks images) or at times sensory or other images. (2) Why were their experiences inexpressible? We must distinguish between the divine essence in itself, and other religious facts. If they in some way contacted the divine essence itself, the divinity in itself is inexpressible, or better, is not fully expressible in human language. But it is partly expressible: hence we do have many defined truths about God in Himself. (3) A large part of the reason the mystics called their experiences inexpressible was not that everything was inexpressible in itself, but that human language lacks the needed words. For example, if I say, "red, blue, or green," a man who is not color blind understands, for we both have had the experience of these colors. But if I talk of the colors to a colorblind person, there is a lack of common experience. I could tell him the wavelengths of each color, but that would be far from giving him the impression a normal person gets from my words. Similarly, if a person who has had the special experience of infused contemplation talks to one who has not had it-there is almost nothing common in their experience, and so no words suffice. However, if two persons who have both had that experience talk together, they will have a struggle with language, but they will be able to make themselves understood, and to compare notes. For they have had a common experience.
But, further, not everything that is known by any soul in the vision of God is vague and generic. That vision does contain all knowledge. Crowe appeals to a reply given by St. Thomas in Summa I.12.8 ad 4, in which Thomas seems to say that souls see only generic things in the vision of God. Unfortunately, Crowe neglects the context. Thomas says souls see all they desire to see. They do not desire every last detail in the universe. So they are content with generalities on many things. Yet, in the body of the same article Thomas gives the fundamental principle: "A soul knows the more things, the more perfectly it sees God!"
So there are specific facts in the vision of God. Many of these are readily expressible, because the needed words are found in human language, e.g., the notion of Messiah, Son of God, date of the parousia, and the like.
How many of these things should the human soul of Jesus see? There are two criteria. First, as we saw, Thomas says that the more perfectly a soul sees God, the more it will know. Now the ability to see in that vision is in proportion to grace (or the light of glory). But the soul of Jesus was most full of grace. Hence it was fitted to see more than any other soul ever did or will see in that vision. Further, His mode of contact with the divinity, as it were, is greater than that of any soul-for He is joined even in the unity of one Person (as we shall see more fully presently).
The second criterion is this: any soul ought to see in that vision all that pertains to it, for we can be confident that God will by grace (light of glory) make a soul capable of seeing all that pertains to it. But to Jesus there pertained all that belonged to His mission. And that should include the fullness of truth in religious matters, and who He was, what He was to do.
Crowe's third analogy is feeble indeed. For some persons are far from unable to say anything appropriate on great occasions such as disaster and death, love, success and triumph.
Finally, and very importantly, Crowe like Rahner, has neglected to note that the Magisterium insists that Jesus' soul did see countless distinct things: He knew and loved each one of us from the first instant of His conception. He knew the day of the parousia. Further, the Magisterium does call that vision beatific, a point explictly denied by Rahner and Crowe.
3. Jacques Maritain
Maritain had intended his Peasant of the Garonne to be his last book, yet decided to add another, On the Grace and Humanity of Jesus.36 He takes his start from the important text of Luke 2:52 saying that Christ "grew in wisdom, in age, and in grace before God and before men." The Fathers, as we saw in chapter 6, understand this of growth in manifestation, not of growth in actual knowledge and grace. St. Thomas too, speaks in accord with the Fathers.37 But Maritain says that the Fathers "have but a human authority,"38 so that if they conflict with St. Luke, they, and St. Thomas too, must be brushed aside. Maritain is certain that, "St. Luke is not thinking of the effects and of the works produced; he is thinking of the grace and of the wisdom themselves...."39 But, St. Thomas, "lacked the philosophical instrument of which I have just spoken" which is the notion of a " supraconscious."40
Christ's human soul was divided, Maritain thinks, by a "partition"41 into two realms of consciousnesses, "the divinized supraconscious" and the "crepuscular" consciousness-the latter comparable to the dim light just before dawn, or at sunset.42 The supraconscious realm has the beatific vision; the crepuscular realm does not: "There was, so to speak, a partition between the world of the Beatific Vision and that of the conscious faculties."43
Was there intercommunication between the two worlds? Not to any extent: "There was also a certain incommunicability between them, which caused that the content of the supraconscious heaven of the soul was retained [held back], could not pass into the world of consciousness, of the here-below, except...by mode of general influx, and of comforting and of participated light."44 Further, "This Paradise was there because Christ was comprehensor [had beatific vision]. It was closed because Christ was viator [still on the way to the final goal]."45 Even the comforting influence was shut off during the Passion, for He was "barred from it by uncrossable barriers; this is why He feels himself abandoned."46
This barrier or partition was so great that Maritain can refer to the supraconscious47 as "a preconscious...of the spirit, "48 and can even say: "With regard to this 'terrestrial' or 'crepuscular' consciousness the world of the celestial or 'solar' consciousness, the world of the divinized supraconscious was from the point of view of man-viator a sort of total 'unconscious', but in a sense entirely different from that in which this word is said of the infraconscious."49
How is it that there was such incomunicability? Here we reach the very heart of Maritain's position: "This Vision... is absolutely simple (indivisible) and absolutely inexpressible in any concept, any idea, even as to the particular things which it makes known. How has one been able sometimes to forget this? As if the Vision was not absolutely indivisible and could be parcelled out! It is precisely for this reason that...absolutely nothing of that which was known by Him in the Vision could directly pass into the sphere of consciousness, be directly known by Him in such a way that He might express it to Himself and express it to others-whether it is a question of His own divinity or of the moment when the Second Coming will take place."50
He seems to mean this: When we know in this human life, in which our spiritual intellect has to function together with our physical part, we need concepts, with sensory images. But the beatific vision contains no such things. And it cannot be divided, it is simple and indivisible. Hence the barrier. Hence the need to suppose two realms.
Maritain seems to propose a way of getting knowledge into the lower realm. He explains that if one has a thousand dollar bill and stands before a vending machine that takes only quarters, he cannot get orange juice, or anything else, from it. He must first kind a money-changer.51 But there seems to be one: "That which is the case of Christ played the role of money-changer, and enabled Him to know in the sphere of His consciousness, and to express to Himself and to express to others something that He knew already...in His Beatific Vision was His infused science [knowledge]. "52
Twice we underscored the word seems because the solution is not really so helpful as it might appear to be. For Maritain insists that even the infused knowledge of Jesus is divided into the two worlds, or is in "two different states in the heaven of His soul and in the here
Hence there had to be a second state of infused knowledge: "It was necessary that this infused science [knowledge] not find itself only in the supraconscious paradise of the soul of Christ; it was necessary that, in proportion as the sphere of the consciousness or of the here-below of the soul of Christ forms itself, His infused science hold sway in this other sphere, where it is subject to the regime connatural to the human soul and where...it could use instrumentally concepts formed under the light of the agent intellect.... " 55
We note Maritain said in this last quotation that there was a development in the lower sphere "in proportion as the sphere of the consciousness or of the here-below of the soul of Christ forms itself."
Hence Maritain asserts that this awareness of His own divinity, "developed during the childhood of Jesus probably very quickly"56 and after that "it is absolutely necessary also that it should have grown progressively at the same time as developed His consciousness of Himself, and that the idea of God took better and better shape in His mind."57
Unfortunately, Maritain has made a preliminary mistake in his almost fundamentalistic use of Luke 2:52. The Fathers, as we saw in chapter 6, do understand this text of growth only in manifestation and effects, not of actual growth in wisdom and grace. But Maritain dismisses the Fathers as having, "but a human authority."58 In contrast, Vatican II, as the Church has always done, considers the Fathers as a major part of Tradition, one of the sources of divine revelation,59 and adds that in interpreting Scripture we must take diligent account of the "living Tradition of the whole Church and the analogy of faith."60 The analogy of faith bids us understand things in Scripture in the light of how they fit with the entire body of our teachings.
But the most basic error underlying the entire position of Maritain is his insistence that since the beatific vision is simple and indivisible-which is true-that therefore, "absolutely nothing of that which was known by Him in the Vision could be directly known by Him in such a way that He might express it to Himself and express it to others."61 Maritain fails to note that although such concepts are not formally present in the vision, they can be its effects, caused by it through the action of human faculties. St. Thomas clearly holds this. He uses a comparison: Just as our image-making power can take our concepts or images of a mountain and of gold, and put them together, to get the image or concept of a golden mountain, and just as from an image of a statue we can form the image of him whom the statue represents: "thus [St.] Paul, or anyone else, by seeing God, from the vision itself of the divine essence can form in himself likenesses of the things that are seen in the divine essence. These remained in Paul even after he stopped seeing the essence of God."62
Hence St. Thomas, speaking of the beatific knowledge of the human soul of Christ, said that by this vision it knew, "All things that in any way are, or will, or were done or said or thought by anyone, at any time. And so it is to be said that the soul of Christ knew all [actual! things in the Word."63 St. Thomas continues, adding that His soul did not know all possibles-this would be to have infinite knowledge. No created soul, not even His, can contain infinite knowledge.
In regard to Maritain's restriction on Christ's infused knowledge, St. Thomas teaches that the human soul of Christ, by infused knowledge, could know even without the need or use of sensory images.64
Maritain calls the notion of the supraconscious a modern one, and says it replaces the older concept of the higher part of the soul.65 In a note on page 40 he refers us to another work of his, Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry. There he distinguishes: "There are two kinds of unconscious, two great domains of psychological activity screened from the grasp of the conscious: the preconscious [same as the supraconscious] of the spirit in its living springs, and the unconscious of blood and flesh, instincts, tendencies, complexes, repressed images and desires, traumatic memories...."66 The higher of these two is what psychologists commonly call our subconscious-hardly a place for the beatific vision! And there is not really an uncrossable barrier at all between our subconscious and our conscious. As soon as an idea has germinated, as it were, in the subconscious, it literally pops, suddenly, into our consciousness, as a bright thought, in a form we can readily use.
Further, the classic concept, held by St. Thomas and mystical theologians in general67 of the higher part of the soul does not at all represent an inaccessible region-it is simply a higher realm of operation, which we very much perceive, which gives a peace which nothing can take away even in the midst of deep distress on the lower levels.
Finally, Maritain's picture breaks the unity of Christ, makes Him almost schizoid.
4. Raymond Brown's Objection
Brown has made no substantive contribution to theological speculation on this problem. He seems to have accepted Rahner's view that Jesus had "some sort of intuition or immediate awareness of who he was, but...that the ability to express this in a communicable way had to be acquired gradually."68 Brown, however, proposes an objection from St. Thomas, which he may have taken from an article by A. Durand.69 Thomas, as translated by Brown, says: "If there had not been in the soul of Christ some other knowledge besides his divine knowledge, he would not have known anything. Divine knowledge cannot be act of the human soul of Christ; it belongs to another nature. "70 First of all, the translation given is inexact. We italicized the pronoun he-the Latin would have permitted a rendering of the pronoun by it, which would refer to the human soul of Christ. St. Thomas clearly meant the latter, for to say "He would know nothing: would be heretical, since the He is a divine Person. We do not at all suggest Fr. Brown meant heresy; no, it was merely careless language, for Brown seems eager to find reasons that would at least limit the knowledge that registered in the human soul of Jesus.
Brown is fond of saying that texts are "historically conditioned". That is true of texts of St. Thomas. If we examine the actual setting, we find that Thomas is referring to and answering an old theory of John of Ripa. Thomas is saying that the human intellect of Jesus could not be actuated by an infinite act. That of course is Aristotelian language. It means this: the human intellect of Jesus has a potency (capacity) for knowledge. But that capacity at any one moment is finite, for a human intellect is created and finite. So divine knowledge, which is infinite, could not be the fulfillment (actualization) of that capacity. Brown conveniently omits to note that the same St. Thomas insistently teaches that the human soul of Jesus had the beatific vision, and that from that vision it did register all that God has actually done and made, though not all that God could do or make (for such is infinite).71
5. Toward a Solution
Before advancing a solution to the problems surrounding Christ's consciousness, some preliminary comments are in order on the compatibility between Christ's freedom and meriting on the one hand and His enjoyment of the beatific vision on the other. The New Testament frequently testifies to the providential dispensation that Jesus died as an act of obedience to the Father's will. Hence a problem arises: since His human soul had the beatific vision, was He really free in obeying that will?72 The Scotists say the beatific vision does not compel souls to love God. Dominicans have proposed either of two solutions. First, there are two acts of love in Jesus, one regulated by the beatific vision, and so necessary; the other, by His infused knowledge, and so free. Others say that the objects loved need to be distinguished, i.e., His human soul could not help loving God; but it might not love all things other than God.
We will not enter into a detailed discussion of these views, since we intend to propose a very different though not necessarily contradictory solution. We do hold that a soul krowing God so directly could not help loving Him, the infinite Good. We agree there is a distinction between loving God Himself and other things. Yet, where there is a command, we think that love of God consists precisely (though not formally) in obedience. In general, love is a desire for the happiness and well-being of another. John 3:16 says God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten that men might not perish but might have eternal life. In other words, God's love was such that He went that far to bring happiness, eternal happiness, to men. If that was the effect of His love, then, clearly, the cause of His action was His intense desire or will for man's eternal beatitude. It should be clear, then, that love is a desire for the well-being and happiness of another.73
But this definition needs adjustment, or must be taken analogously when we speak of our love for God. For we, clearly, cannot say to Him: "I hope you are well off and happy and that you get all you need to be so." Yet, Scripture depicts God as pleased when we obey, displeased when we do not. He is pleased for a twofold reason: (1) He loves what is objectively right.74 It is right that creatures obey their Creator. (2) Even though He cannot receive anything from our obedience, yet He, being generosity, is pleased to be able to give. His giving would be in vain if we were not open to receive His gifts. Obedience makes us open. Hence, even though not formally, yet practically, obedience becomes identified with love when we speak of loving God. 2 John 6 says explicitly: "This is love [namely] that we wall according to His commands. "
Hence a soul that cannot help loving the God seen directly, cannot refuse His commands.
The proposal that there are two acts of love in Jesus, one regulated by the beatific vision, and therefore necessary, the other by His infused knowledge, and therefore free-this does not seem viable. As already noted, Rahner was wrong in objecting to what he called "an artif cial layer
psychology." For there are many levels of operation within a human being, and so there can be different experiences, ranging from bliss to distress, simultaneously on different levels. Mystical theology and the actual experience of mystics show this is true. But the case of the will of Jesus is not parallel in regard to obedience, for there are many levels in a human being as we said, but only one human will. Having two sources of knowledge does not change the fact that one human will, and one Person too, are affected by both the beatific vision and by infused knowledge. So this solution would fall under Rahner's stricture.
We know for certain that Jesus was free, since He merited for us,75 and that He had the beatific vision. It is one thing to know the fact, another to explain the how.
We shall attempt a new solution. First, notice that there can be no command in the strict sense, i.e., a command exactly of the same sort as God gives us. For He Himself was God. God cannot, does not command God! So we must understand the word command analogously.
It is best to approach the matter by way of Scripture. Although there are several aspects to the redemption, a most basic, though neglected aspect, is that of covenant. Both the new covenant and the Sinai covenant were bilateral pacts.76 In proposing the Sinai covenant, God is reported to have said (Exod 19:5-6): "If you really obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own people." In other words, each party was obligated only conditionally, and only if the other party carried out its part. Jer 31:31-34 fortells a new covenant which is to be parallel to the old, especially in that both bring into being a favored people, and both do so on condition of obedience, even though in the new, the law is to be written on hearts, not on stone tablets. Vatican II reiterates that Jesus inaugurated the new covenant.77 So, the command laid upon Jesus was a conditioned command: If you wish to acquire a new, favored people in the fullest way, you must do this, must die.
Moreover, redemption, even infinite redemption, was possible in other ways. A finite redemption could have been accepted if the Father had so willed-perhaps just by an Old Testament type sacrifice. But even an infinite redemption would have been possible without death. Jesus could have been born in luxury, not a stable. He could have redeemed the world by simple petition such as, "Father, forgive them," and then He could have ascended without dying. Such a prayer, from an infinite Person, would have had infinite worth. Hence the redemption would have been infinite.
So the Cross would register on Jesus' mind as a good, but not as good in all aspects; for redemption, even infinite redemption, could have been achieved without it. In brief: the command was analogous and conditional: If you want redemption in the fullest possible way-then do this. Such a conditional command does not tale away freedom even from one whose will is perfectly united to the will of the Father.
We find a sort of confirmation of this view in Mt 26:53, "Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?" If the Father was prepared to do that, the command was definitely conditional. There is probably a similar implication in Is 53:10, "Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise Him...when [if] he males himself an offering for sin, he shall see..."
So, with a conditional command that was analogously a command, a command that left room for an alternative mode of redemption, even infinite redemption, there is ample room for freedom.
But the merit of Christ also raises questions about His enjoyment of the beatific vision. We have seen He did have true freedom, even in the presence of the command of the Father. But we can merit only when we are on the way to the beatific vision, not when we have attained it.
We could reply simply that Jesus had a twofold character, in one aspect He was still on the way, in the other, He had already attained the vision.
But again, we prefer a different approach. Merit is not a claim on God in any fundamental or basic sense; no conceivable creature could generate any sort of claim on God. It is only on a secondary level. and presupposing a special pact with God, that we can speak of having any sort of claim at all.
We can see the two levels clearly in the old and new covenants. If we ask on the basic level why God gave His favors under the covenant, the answer can only be that He did it out of generosity, the generosity that He is. For the observance of the covenant condition had no power of itself to "move" Him, to generate a claim on Him. However, once He freely decided to enter into such a pact, then He was bound. Not that He even then owed anything to a creature formally. But He did owe it to Himself to keep His pledged word-and in practice the effect is the same.
The redemption constituted a new covenant. The claim on the Father is only on the secondary level, even here in the redemption. That claim is produced by obedience within the covenant- essentially, the obedience of Christ; to this, according to the Father's will, the obedience of Mary (on Calvary) and of the members of Christ (at Mass) must be joined. Really, the redemption (the death of Jesus) did not move the Father to stop being "angry" with us. The Father did not begin to love us again because Jesus came and died. Rather the reverse is true: Jesus came and died because the Father always loved us. So even the death of Jesus worked on the secondary level.
What sort of things can the Father pick as conditions for a claim on the secondary level? We cannot set limits for Him. For us God has limited the scope for merit to the present life. But He can pick whatever conditions He wills. He picked the obedience unto death of His Son as the covenant condition, even though the Son was in one aspect one who already enjoyed the beatific vision. Since the Father willed to establish that sort of condition, that condition generated a claim. That claim was merit.
Understanding these things, we may propose a positive solution. Many authors of heresies have erred precisely because they saw more vividly than most men some one aspect of a truth, and became preoccupied with it to such an extent that they lost balance and damaged the full Christian heritage. Such was the case with Apollinaris. He realized that if one takes two absolutely complete beings, and tries to put them together, there will be no unity. It is like trying to mix lead shot and marbles in a bucket: there never will be any unity. So Apollinaris saw that if there were a fully complete divine nature, and a fully complete human nature, the result would be a conglomerate, not a unity. Apollinaris tried to solve the problem by saying that Jesus lacked a human rational soul.
Of course that was an error, and the Church condemned it. Jesus could not lack any of the essential components of humanity and still be true man. So, what could He lack? The answer of the Church was that there is no human person in Jesus. There is only one Person, a divine Person. And so, similarly, His humanity has no separate existence; it is hypostatically one with the God-man.
Since Jesus' humanity lacked separate personality and separate existence, it must have had that lack supplied by the second Person of the Trinity, the Word. That is, His humanity had its existence and personality only in the Word.
We leave these conclusions to one side for the moment as we explore more fully the nature of the beatific vision. We already recalled that, according to the teaching of Benedict XII, there is no image or other object between God and the soul in that vision. So, the divinity joins itself directly to the soul, doing, as it were, the work that an image does in any other form of communication. Hence, this direct union of the human soul to the divinity is one requisite for the beatific vision.
There is obviously another requirement: the beatific vision is something immeasurably beyond the natural capacities of a human soul or any conceivable created soul. Therefore, the soul that is to have it must have its capacity or power "elevated", so as to be capable of the vision. That elevation is achieved radically through grace in this present life, and actually in the future life, through the results or consequences of that grace (which is sometimes called the light of glory).
So, clearly, there are two requirements for the beatific vision in an ordinary soul: the elevation of its capacity by grace, and the joining of the divinity to the soul without any intermediary.
Now if we compare the structure, as it were, of Jesus, and these two requirements, we male a fascinating discovery. The first requirement, grace to elevate the powers of the soul, He quite obviously possessed in its fullness. Did He have also the second, the union of His human soul with the divinity, without any intermediary? He not only actually fulfilled that requirement, but could not conceivably have done otherwise. It was inevitable because of His structure or make
up. For the divinity was joined directly, without any intermediary, to His entire humanity-a humanity that lacked separate existence and separate personality. So, since the divinity of the Word was joined to His entire humanity, clearly it was also joined to His human soul and to His human intellect. Some theologians have supposed it was only most highly fitting that He have that vision in his human soul. It was indeed fitting. But we must say more; we must say that in view of His structure, He could not conceivably have lacked that vision.
Further, we may say He had something actually beyond the ordinary beatific vision. For when the ordinary soul receives that vision, it is joined with the divinity in such a way that both remain separate persons-God and the human being. But in Jesus, the union is such that there is only one Person, only one existence. There is no separate human existence or separate human person at all.
Here we have the answer to Galtier's worries that Jesus' human soul may have seen the answer (that He was the Son of God) as if displayed on a TV screen, but that He might not have had a direct consciousness of it. With a mere beatific vision, if we may coin the expression, that could have been true. But when the vision is beyond the mere beatific because the vision inevitably results from the very structure of Jesus (when there is only one Person, even only one existence), then it becomes evident that no greater directness could be conceived.
We have taken special care to express our theory without using the terminology or framework of any school of philosophy or theology. This is simply the basic truth about the divinity, in non
We could, however, express the same theory in the language of Thomistic Aristotelianism: Within the hypostatic union the humanity of Jesus lacks its own existence, subsistence, and personality. These are supplied by the Word into which it is assumed.
For the beatific vision there are two requisites: (1) the elevation of the obediential potency of the human intellect by grace; (2) the joining of the divinity to that intellect, without any image, in such a way that the divinity performs the function of the intellectual form.
In Jesus these conditions are most fully verified: (1) His humanity is full of grace: (2) His entire humanity, not just His intellect, is joined, without intermediary, to the divinity of the Word so as to form one Person, the humanity lacking its own existence and subsistence. Hence that vision is more than an ordinary beatific vision, and has the greatest conceivable directness. Hence it is not merely something highly fitting and superadded by mere positive decision: it is the inevitable consequence of His very metaphysical structure.
The result is obvious: reason concurs with what the documents of revelation and the Church have taught us, namely, that the human soul and mind of Jesus, from the first instant of its existence, enjoyed the Vision of God. In it Jesus could not help but see His own divinity, and have all knowledge available to Him, as it related to any matter to which He turned His attention. His consciousness was, therefore, fully in keeping with His two natures-human and divine-in one Divine Person.