ON THE WISDOM OF CHRIST
Sr Valery Walker
ST THOMAS AQUINAS WEEKEND NOVEMBER 2016: A PERSONAL REFLECTION ON THREE TALKS AND A SERMON GIVEN BY FR.SIMON GAINE O.P
|Ten of us gathered in the lecture room at St Dominic’s Convent, Stone on Saturday November 26 to hear Fr.Simon Gaine O.P., speak on the wisdom of Our Lord and the sources of his knowledge. We hoped thereby to deepen our Faith in and love of our Saviour. In view of the difficulties of this topic, we were urged to keep in the front of our minds the Divine Person we would be talking about and the help of the Holy Spirit we needed to understand him better.|
What follows is by way of being a reflection on what we heard and learnt.
Fr.Simon began by emphasising the unity of the two disciplines of Biblical exegesis and theology. “I want to suggest,” he said, “that theology arises out of reading the Bible and returns us to the Bible with new light for reading the texts.” This, I think, is particularly useful and relevant for ‘lay people’ studying – as opposed to exegetes and theologians.
Two things in particular became clear.
Firstly, as the talk on the Fathers of the Church showed, the question of the sources of Our Lord’s knowledge were first fully discussed in their own right at the time of the scholastics and specifically, by St Thomas Aquinas. It was very interesting to be taken through the history of discussion of Christ’s Person and human nature – of which his knowledge was part – in the light of Scripture and Tradition, of the fathers of the Church; to hear how so many well-intentioned but faulty interpretations led the fathers, individually or in Councils, to clarify and widen the debate and sometimes to make definitions on which future generations– including St.Thomas-would build.
Secondly, we understood that this question of Our Lord’s knowledge should be studied in the context of the purpose of the Incarnation. That purpose was our salvation. There is no other reason given us as to why God became man than that he came to rescue us from “the bondage of sin” and so to restore us to grace and to friendship with Himself. His human nature was to be the instrument of that purpose and therefore would be equipped – suitably with what human nature is – to achieve the purpose for which it had been assumed. It would therefore be a perfect human nature: that is, a human nature arrived at the spiritual perfection which is the end-purpose of all human life, union with God; equipped not only to lead men and women to God but to bring about in them the necessary changes; namely, to be a source both of knowledge and grace. “I am the way, the truth and the life,” he said of himself. And again, Matt.23:8 “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher and you are all brethren.”
It seems to me that the Incarnation is well named the hypostatic union: a union in Person; so there are not two sons of God, one Divine and one human, but ONE Son, so that he had to have a human nature that ‘fitted’ as far as was humanly possible, the Person he was. Reading through the Gospels – especially after this weekend – it seems really difficult at times to distinguish the Divine from the human – what an amazing gift of God!
Over the weekend Fr Simon introduced the three sources, or kinds, of knowledge which it seems pretty clearly were given to the human mind of Christ. They all throw a stronger light on one’s reading of the Gospels:
Ø Beatific knowledge, such as the angels and saints have in Heaven: as God he had Divine knowledge; in his human nature the Divine Son had knowledge of his Father and the Holy Spirit appropriate to the Son-made-man.
Ø Infused knowledge of all human things: Jn.4:17 “Jesus said to her, You are right in saying ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you say truly.” This infused knowledge of everything is perhaps the most challenging to accept and yet it seems to me is in fact a logical deduction in view of WHO Jesus is, the Person, and his purpose in taking human nature. It could have been, some thought, knowledge in the way the prophets of old had it; but Jesus was/is not merely a prophet, he was/is the fulfilment of the prophecies.
Ø Acquired knowledge: Luke 2:52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature.” Jesus had a true human nature and acquired experience by means of his five senses. Because he was not only sinless but perfect in nature and holiness, he would have been a very quick and perceptive learner. I think Our Lady and St Joseph would have directed his learning, rather than actively teaching him.
In the 1960s and 70s we lay Catholics who were perhaps at school or college, came up against recent well meant but faulty attempts to ‘explain’ Christ and even to say that he lived by faith as we do. We were not well equipped to counter them. It is cheering and inspiring to hear the traditional and faith-filled teaching of the Church. Fr Simon mentioned that in recent years Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical Mystici Corporis, referred to Christ’s beatific knowledge. I have looked it up and find it moving, so I give it below.
Pope Pius XII Mystici Corporis
Now the only-begotten Son of God embraced us in His infinite knowledge and undying love even before the world began. And that He might give a visible and exceedingly beautiful expression to this love, He assumed our nature in hypostatic union: hence - as Maximus of Turin with a certain unaffected simplicity remarks - "in Christ our own flesh loves us." But the knowledge and love of our Divine Redeemer, of which we were the object from the first moment of His Incarnation, exceed all that the human intellect can hope to grasp. For hardly was He conceived in the womb of the Mother of God, when He began to enjoy the Beatific Vision, and in that vision all the members of His Mystical Body were continually and unceasingly present to Him, and He embraced them with His redeeming love. O marvelous condescension of divine love for us! O inestimable dispensation of boundless charity! In the crib, on the Cross, in the unending glory of the Father, Christ has all the members of the Church present before Him and united to Him in a much clearer and more loving manner than that of a mother who clasps her child to her breast, or than that with which a man knows and loves himself.