Abbot Rupert of Deutz, O.S.B. (+1129): Sin or no sin, God’s design was to send Christ as King and Head of the Elect

In Book 13 of his work De Gloria et Honore Filii Hominis sup. Matth. the great Abbot, Rupert of Deutz, establishes that all things were created for Christ and goes on to give an excellent argument demonstrating that the primary motive of the Incarnation was by no means the remedy of man’s fall. Amazingly, the 1531 printing of the entire book can be found online and I took the liberty to take snapshots of the two pertinent passages (to see the passages in context and even the entire book, just click on the image).

[To see Pope Benedict XVI’s comments on the Christology of Abbot Rupert of Deutz click here. I’ve also put the video of Pope Benedict XVI on Abbot Rupert at the bottom of this post.]

From the Abbot’s pen (my translation):

Now in regard to this one should recall the extremely important and memorable chapter of the Apostle which says: For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, who had brought many children into glory, to perfect the Author of their salvation, by His passion (Heb 2:10). In the first place it should be asked whether this Son of God, to whom this passage refers, would have become man or not even if sin – as a result of which we die – were not to have taken place. Now that He would not have become a mortal man, that He would not have assumed a mortal body, unless man had fallen into sin – as a result of which we all become mortal – no one has any doubt, that is, unless he be an unparalleled infidel. Let us ask whether this future event [the Incarnation] was necessary to the human race in a different way, namely, that the God man should become head and king of all, which He now is; and what would be the response to this? Without a doubt it is certain of all the Saints and Elect that they would all have been born, and they alone, if the fall into sin of the first transgression had not occurred. Hence Father Augustine in the fourteenth book [Ch.23] of The City of God : “But he who says that there should have been neither copulation nor generation but for sin, virtually says that man’s sin was necessary to complete the number of the saints. For if these two by not sinning should have continued to live alone, because, as is supposed, they could not have begotten children had they not sinned, then certainly sin was necessary in order that there might be not only two but many righteous men. And if this cannot be maintained without absurdity, we must rather believe that the number of the saints fit to complete this most blessed city would have been as great though no one had sinned, as it is now that the grace of God gathers its citizens out of the multitude of sinners, so long as the children of this world generate and are generated.”

Therefore, there is no doubt that all the Saints and Elect would have been born right up to the number predetermined by the purpose of God who before sin blessed thus: “Increase and multiply” (Gen 1:28), and it would be absurd to hold that, on account of this blessing, sin was necessary in order for them to be born. Similarly, it would be absurd to hold that He who is the Head and King of all of the elect, both angels and men, would not have been born unless there had been sin as the most necessary cause. He came in order to be a man among men taking His delight through charity with the children of men. He is, therefore, that Wisdom of God of whom the Lord says in this regard: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His ways, before He made any thing from the beginning…” and concludes thus: “When He prepared the heavens, I was present… and my delights were to be with the children of men” (Prov 8).

If Adam had not sinned, how would Christ have come?

St. Thomas Aquinas (see Summa Theo., P.III, Q.I, Art. 3), St. Bonaventure, Bl. John Duns Scotus, and many others asked the question, “If Adam had not sinned would God have become Incarnate?” -They did this NOT as a hypothetical question, but rather because the answer to the question dilineated what the primary motive of the Incarnation was in God’s plan.

If we follow the “yes” crowd who speak of an unconditional Incarnation: St. Maximus the Confessor, Abbott Rupert of Deutz, Bishop Robert Grosseteste, St. Albert the Great, Fr. Alexander Hales, Bl. John Duns Scotus, St. Bernardine of Sienna, St. John of the Cross, St. Francis de Sales, St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Pope Benedict XVI, etc., then one might ask how would Christ have come? In flesh capable of suffering and dying? Incapable of suffering and dying? In a glorious state?

While this is true speculation since we don’t have any immediate knowledge of exactly how the Incarnation would have taken place in a sinless world, nonetheless it seems clear enough that A) Our Lord would not have come in passible flesh since there would have been no need to redeem the human race by suffering and death, B) Our Lord would not, according to the common opinion of the scotistic school, have come in a glorious state because if He did, He would in no way have been able to merit grace and glory for Angels and mankind.

So the Word would have become flesh in an impassible state had Adam not sinned. Thus not in the likeness of sinful flesh, as St. Paul dubs it, nor in a glorified state incapable of merit.

In a recent correspondence I had with my great Professor in Dogmatic Theology, Fr. Peter M. Fehlner, F.I., on how Christ would have merited for us if He did not come in passible flesh, he wrote me that:

Adam and Eve were impassible before they sinned; so were the Angels before completing their trials. But no one thinks they were not in the state of viator and so incapable of meriting.

In addition Christ would have come in the state of viator, even if Adam had not sinned, because Adam still had to be saved (even if not redeemed) by the merits of Christ by way of an impassibilis sacrifice. But in this scenario human salvation is for the sake of the Incarnation, not vice versa, just as creation is for the sake of the Incarnation and not vice versa.

This is the position of the great Scotists especially of the 17th century… The state of Christ’s coming as man had Adam not sinned is always described as impassible, not glorious.

On the theme of salvation vs. redemption according to the mind of St. Irenaeus, one can read more here.

Fr. Matthias M. Sasko: Primary Motive of the Incarnation… the maximum glory of God

Fr. Matthias Mary concisely sums up the teaching of Bl. John Duns Scotus on the primary motive of the Incarnation in a short homily on the Solemnity of the Annunciation. He points out that the primary motive of the Incarnation is the maximum glory of God and that the Son of God did not become man because the sin of Adam, but despite the sin of Adam.

To view and hear the homily at AirMaria.com please click on the image:

St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Doctor of the Church

St. Lawrence of Brindisi (+1619) was a true champion of the absolute primacy of Christ. Below are some quotes I have translated from his Mariale. In some spots I have inserted the lacking Scripture reference or have written out the Scripture text referred to. To see the Latin quotes as they are reported in Fr. Dominic Unger’s Franciscan Christology click here.

The king loves the only son more than all his servants. Christ was not predestined for the Elect; but the all the Elect for Christ, unto the glory of Christ. Hence St. Paul to the Ephesians 1:3-6: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing on high in Christ. Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in His sight in love. He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as His sons, according to the purpose of His will, unto the praise of the glory of His grace, with which He has favored us in His beloved Son.” Here Paul clearly [manifeste] teaches that all of the Elect are predestined unto the glory of Christ. Even in the First Letter to the Corinthians 3:22-23: “For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas; or the world, or life, or death; or things present, or things to come – all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” Everything exists for you, but you exist for Christ. Hence all are servants of Christ, even the Angels: “… in order that through the Church there be made known to the Principalities and the Powers in the heavens the manifold wisdom of God according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph 3:10-11); “… so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven…” [Phil 1:10]. And to the Hebrews 1:2 he says, “… whom He appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the world…” Writing as well to the Colossians he taught that everything was created for Christ, therefore he says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For in Him were created all things in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether Thrones, or Dominations, or Principalities, or Powers. All things have been created through and unto Him, and He is before all creatures, and in Him all things hold together” (Col 1:15-17). (Mariale, vol I, p.79)

Christ is the foundation of all creatures, all graces, all glory, because He is the end of all things, [the one] for whom all things were created. (Mariale, vol I, p.80)

Not only is He the first predestined creature, but even the final cause of the predestination of the Saints. Thus Paul says, “For those whom He has foreknown He has also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He should be the firstborn among many brethren..” (Rm 8:29). Paul here declares Christ to be the final cause [of the predestination of the Elect] from eternity when he says “that He should be the firstborn,” in dignity and honor, “among many brethren,” that is, in all God’s Elect whom He has adopted as sons. (Mariale, vol I, p.80)

Therefore to Christ be the glory: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High” (Lk 1:32). God created the universe for the honor and glory of Christ. Just as the entire, most august edifice of the temple was undertaken by Solomon in exceeding and immeasurable pains for the Ark of the Covenant; so for Christ, who is the ark of the Divinity, everything in the world – heaven and earth – was created, with everything contained in the heavenly realm. Whoever is in the kingdom serves the king, is for the king; but Christ says, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Mt 28:18). The Angels in Heaven were created to be servants of Christ; man was formed from the earth in order to be the image of Christ. Thus Paul calls Adam an image of the of the Future One [“a figure of Him who was to come”] (Rm 5:14); thus for the greater glory of Christ man was permitted to be tempted and defeated by the Devil, in order that Christ, in working the salvation of the human race, might show forth the infinite treasures of His divine power. (Mariale, vol I, p.86)

Although this is already quoted on this website here, I thought it well to quote it again in conjunction with the four quotes above:

Therefore, God ordained from all eternity to communicate the infinite treasures of His goodness, to show forth the infinite charity of His mystery by this divine Incarnation in order that Christ might be great and might sit as King at the right hand of God. (Mariale, vol I, p.81-82)

William Gilson Humphry: A Summary of the Franciscan Thesis

I found this on Frank Weathers website Why I am Catholic. It is an excerpt from A Digest of the Doctrine of St. Thomas on the Incarnation by the Anglican cleric William Gilson Humphry written in 1868 which sums up excellently the doctrine of Bl. John Duns Scotus on the Incarnation:

The third view of the Incarnation is that taken by the Scotists, by Suarez, and by many other theologians both ancient and modern. It teaches—and so far in accordance with Thomist theology, that Jesus came principally to save sinners, and for that end came in passible flesh; but here its agreement ceases. It asserts that even if Adam had never sinned, Jesus would yet have come, and come by means of Mary, in impassible flesh; that He was predestinated the Firstborn of creatures before the decree which permitted sin; that the Incarnation was from the first an intentional and integral part of the scheme of creation; that it was not merely occasioned by sin, but that sin only determined the manner of it, and its accompaniments of suffering and death. And it is as regards the manner of the Incarnation alone, as speaking of our Lord’s coming in passible and mortal flesh, that the Scotists understand those passages in Holy Scripture, in the writings of the Fathers, and in the Office Books of the Church, which at first sight seem to make for the Thomist view. The Scotists dwell very much on the doctrine that Jesus was decreed before all creation, and therefore before the permission of sin. They hold that all men exist because of Christ, and not Christ because of them, that all creation was for Him, and was not only decreed subsequently to His predestination, but for His sole sake.

They found again upon His being the First Begotten and Exemplar of the predestinate. And they go on to establish their view by arguments drawn from reason, from the natural order of things, from the relative value of means and ends, from the grace of the unfallen Adam, which is alleged to have been conferred on him because of Christ, from the Incarnation having, as St. Thomas teaches, been revealed to Adam, who, although he lost hope and the love of God when he sinned, did not lose his faith.

They urge further, that on the Thomist view, Christ was only an “occasioned good,” and, a still more unworthy supposition, occasioned by sin; or again, that Christ would have to rejoice in Adam’s sin, as owing to it His existence, grace, and His glory as man.

Again, it is said, that if Christ was decreed after us, and because of us, and only to redeem us, three monstrous consequences would follow:

1. That Christ would owe us a debt of gratitude.

2. That we should in certain respects be more excellent than He.

3. That sin was necessary to His existence.

On the Scotist view of the Incarnation the following would be the order of the Divine Decrees—the order of intention, that is, for there can of course be no order of time with God.

1. God understood Himself as the Sovereign Good.

2. He understood all creatures.

3. He predestinated creatures to grace and glory.

4. He foresaw men falling in Adam.

5. He pre-ordained the Passion of Christ as the remedy for this fall.

Thus Christ in the Flesh, and all the elect members of His mystical Body also, were foreseen and predestined to grace and glory, before the foresight either of sin or of the Passion.

It will be observed that both Thomists and Scotists lay the utmost stress on the doctrine that Jesus came, as He has come, expressly and principally to redeem mankind from sin, and that consequently a remedial character pervades all His mysteries, both such as have to do with His being our example, and such as have to do with His being our atonement, while the same character is stamped also upon His enactments as our legislator.

Further, the Thomists allow that redemption from sin was by no means the sole end of the Incarnation. They admit that the manifestation of the Divine Omnipotence, Wisdom, and Goodness was one end, and the Headship of the whole Church of angels and men was another.

Pope Francis: Col 1:16 refers to Christ

Pope Francis and the Dove

In his encyclical Laudato si Pope Francis confirms the christocentric reading of Colossians 1. Although this is nothing new (see HERE), it is an important confirmation that “all things” [Gk – τὰ πάντα / Latin – universa] are created through and for Christ, the Word Incarnate (sin or no sin). Here is the Pope’s text:

“In the Christian understanding of the world, the destiny of all creation is bound up with the mystery of Christ, present from the beginning: ‘All things have been created though him and for him’ (Col 1:16).”  (Laudato si, n.99).

Noteworthy, also, is his affirmation of the presence of the mystery of Christ “from the beginning,” a theme which I have elaborated on at length elsewhere (see HERE). Since all creation has been created through and for Christ, it follows that creation is a gift of God which exists primarily for Christ and which has been entrusted to our care. The universe exists primarily to give glory to God through, with and in Christ Jesus, but it also exists to serve our needs and to draw us from the beauty of creation to Beauty Himself, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, who utterly transcends all that is created.

Ave Maria!

Ven. Mary of Agreda – Absolute Primacy of Christ – Part VI

In the beginning, men and angels were created to be under the leadership of the Incarnate Word

We now enter into Chapter VII of the first book of The Mystical City of God. In the first paragraphs Ven. Mary of Agreda explains the creation of the heavens and the earth ex nihilo  – while the earth was empty, the heavens on the other hand were populated with the radiant spirits of the angels. She describes the trial of the angels, and in particular that of Lucifer and how he, on account of his own beauty and gifts, fell into the most hideous self love and pride. While he adored the Triune God (the first test of the angels), out of a sense of compulsion rather than charity and gratitude, his fall came from the second and third test. The Venerable describes it thus:

In the second place, the angels were informed that God was to create a human nature and reasoning creatures lower than themselves, in order that they too should love, fear and reverence God, as their Author and eternal Good. They were informed that these were to stand in high favor, and that the second Person of the blessed Trinity was to become incarnate and assume their nature, raising it to the hypostatic union and to divine Personality; that therefore they were to acknowledge Him as their Head, not only as God, but as God and man, adoring Him and reverencing Him as God-man. Moreover, these same angels were to be His inferiors in dignity and grace and were to be His servants. God gave them an intelligence of the propriety and equity, of the justice and reasonableness of such a position. For the acceptation of the merits foreseen of this Man-God was exhibited to them as the source of the grace which they now possessed and of the glory which they were to obtain. They understood also that they themselves had been, and all the rest of the creatures should be created for His glory, and that He was to be their Head. All those that were capable of knowing and enjoying God, were to be the people of the Son of God, to know and reverence Him as their Chief. These commands were at once given to the angels. (n. 89)

The paragraph above is loaded, one to be read through carefully and reflected upon. As my algebra teacher used to tell us about story problems: “Read, reread it, and re-reread it.” It is pointless to start the algebra if the story is not clear!

The main theme is this – the headship of Christ over the Angels. Revealing this to the angels was indeed a failproof test of their humility and charity. They knew the divine beauty of their Creator, the Most Holy Trinity; they also knew their own dignity and beauty as His illustrious creatures; but now they would see the humility of their Creator and be called to humbly serve. The decree of God, even before creating, was that the second Person of the Trinity should be incarnate of the Virgin Mary and that all creation should be subject to Him as King and Head. In effect, this meant that a lower nature, namely that of man which is made up of spirit and matter, was to be exalted above the purely spiritual nature of the angels and that the angels were to serve and adore Him – not only as their God, but even in His human nature, that is, they were to be subject to Him as both God and man.

Note once again that Mother Mary of Agreda presents to us a single economy of divine grace for men and angels, the grace of Christ – gratia Christi. From the beginning all graces and glory were given to both angels and men through Christ the Mediator. She notes that the grace of the angels came through “the merits foreseen of this Man-God,” that Christ was the “source of grace which they now possessed and of the glory which they were to obtain.” This is an important element of the doctrine of the absolute primacy of Christ, namely, that all of creation was given existence in the beginning with Christ, the Chief and Head, in mind and that all graces given to men and angels flow from the merits of Christ (Christ’s foreseen merits in the case of the angels and man until Christ’s coming, and Christ’s obtained merits for mankind at the time of His earthly sojourn until He comes in glory). [For more on a single economy of grace as opposed to two economies, one before the fall and one after the fall, see the links HERE and HERE and HERE]

So how did this test of the angels pan out? What was their response to the revelation of the Incarnation?

To this command all the obedient and holy Angels submitted themselves and they gave their full assent and acknowledgment with an humble and loving subjection of the will. But Lucifer, full of envy and pride, resisted and induced his followers to resist likewise, as they in reality did, preferring to follow him and disobey the divine command. This wicked prince persuaded them, that he would be their chief and that he would set up a government independent and separate from Christ. So great was the blindness which envy and pride could cause in an angel, and so pernicious was the infection that the contagion of sin spread among innumerable other angels. (n.89)

But as if this were not enough, God revealed the joint predestination of the Virgin Mary as Mother of the Incarnate Word and that they were to serve her, a mere creature without the hypostatic union, as their Queen. The Venerable recounts:

Then [after the revelation of the Incarnation] happened that great battle in heaven, which St. John describes (Apoc. 12). For the obedient and holy Angels, filled with an ardent desire of hastening the glory of the Most High and the honor of the incarnate Word, asked permission and, as it were, the consent of God, to resist and contradict the dragon, and the permission was granted. But also another mystery was concealed in all this: When it was revealed to the angels that they would have to obey the Incarnate Word, another, a third precept was given them, namely, that they were to admit as a superior conjointly with Him, a Woman, in whose womb the Only-begotten of the Father was to assume flesh and that this Woman was to be the Queen and Mistress of all the creatures. The good Angels by obeying this command of the Lord, with still increasing and more alert humility, freely subjected themselves, praising the power and the mysteries of the Most High. Lucifer, however, and his confederates, rose to a higher pitch of pride and boastful insolence. In disorderly fury he aspired to be himself the head of all the human race and of the angelic orders, and if there was to be a hypostatic union, he demanded that it be consummated in him. (n.90)

The decree constituting him inferior to the Mother of the Incarnate Word, our Mistress, he opposed with horrible blasphemies. Turning against the Author of these great wonders in unbridled indignation and calling upon the other angels, he exhorted them, saying: “Unjust are these commands and injury is done to my greatness; this human nature which Thou, Lord, lookest upon with so much love and which Thou favorest so highly, I will persecute and destroy. To this end I will direct all my power and all my aspirations. And this Woman, Mother of the Word, I will hurl from the position in which Thou hast proposed to place her, and at my hands, the plan, which Thou settest up, shall come to naught” (n.91)

This description of the Venerable certainly sheds light on the nefarious pride of Lucifer and discloses why he wanders about the world like a roaring lion seeking to devour souls (cf. 1 Pt 5:8). He loves himself in such a disorderly fashion that he cannot support anyone being above him, not even Christ or His Mother. In us, frail human beings, he sees an image of Christ and since he could not thwart the Incarnation he seeks to at least thwart its fruits in us. Destroying souls redeemed by Christ is, as it were, his diabolical way of “getting even” with God.

At this point, the Venerable narrates, God told Lucifer that the very Woman he refused to honor would crush his head (cf. Gen 3:15) and that if he brought death into the world this same Woman, in her humility, would offer the remedy in her Son. The test of the angels, according to the Venerable, concludes as follows:

The Almighty at this conjuncture worked another wonderful mystery. Having given to all the angels a sufficiently clear intelligence of the great mystery of the hypostatic union, He showed them the image of the most holy Virgin by means of an imaginary vision (I speak here according to our way of understanding such things). They were shown the perfection of the human nature in the revelation of an image representing a most perfect Woman, in whom the almighty arm of the Most High would work more wonderfully than in all the rest of the creatures. For therein He was to deposit the graces and gifts of His right hand in a higher and more eminent manner. This sign or vision of the Queen of Heaven and of the Mother of the Incarnate Word was made known and manifest to all the angels, good and bad. The good ones at the sign of it broke forth in admiration and in canticles of praise and from that time on began to defnd the honor of the God incarnate and of His holy Mother, being armed with ardent zeal and with the invincible shield of that vision. The dragon and his allies on the contrary conceived implacable hatred and fury against Christ and His most holy Mother. Then happened all that which is described in the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse, which I will explain, as far as it has been given me, in the following chapter. (n.93)

Certainly no theatrical drama can compare to the reality of these events! Angels and men alike will only find their salvation if they say, led by the Holy Spirit, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Lk 1:42). Indeed the Incarnation is at the center of God’s creation and we must believe in Christ Jesus if we are to be saved. The test of the angels is also our test. In Christ and His Church there is eternal salvation; outside of Christ and His Church there is eternal damnation. May the Mother of God and our Guardian Angel assist us to respond in love, humility and gratitude for the gift we have received in Jesus. “I count all things to be but loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ: And may be found in him, not having my justice, which is of the law, but that which is of the faith of Christ Jesus, which is of God, justice in faith” (Ph 3:8-9).

Ven. Mary of Agreda – Absolute Primacy of Christ – Part V

Concerning a doubt: why is there such a diversity of opinion on this doctrine?

Ven. Mary of Agreda, it would seem, was amazed at the doctrine of the absolute primacy of Christ and equally amazed that the primary reason commonly attributed to the Incarnation of the Word was man’s Redemption. She writes:

In regard to the significance of the doctrine contained in the last two Chapters [IV and V] a doubt occurred to me, and I have often heard and been informed by learned persons, that the same is discussed also in the schools. The doubt was as follows: If the principal motive of the incarnation of the Word, was to make Him Head and Firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15) and, through the hypostatic union with human nature, to communicate His attributes and perfections, in a manner befitting His grace and glory, to the predestined; and, if to assume flesh capable of suffering and dying for man was His secondary motive: then, if these assumptions are true, how comes it, that there is such a diversity of opinion in regard to it in the holy Church? The most common assumption is, that the eternal Word descended from Heaven expressly for the purpose of redeeming man through His most holy Passion and Death. (n.72)

Here, for the first time, she uses the term “motive” with regards to the Incarnation. In fact, in the theological schools from the time of Abbot Rupert of Deutz (+1129) and St. Anselm of Canterbury (+1109) there was a great deal of speculation as to the primary motive of the Incarnation. Abbot Rupert favored a motivation apart from sin so that even if Adam had not sinned Christ would have come; whereas St. Anselm in his famous Cur Deus Homo [Why the God-Man] laid out a Christology whereby only a God-Man could repair the sin of Adam and his Christology was so widely read and accepted that it sealed, as it were, the opinion that the primary reason for the Incarnation of the Word was to redeem fallen humanity.

As such the discussion of the primary motivation of the Incarnation, it’s raison d’etre, centered around the discussion of the counterfactual question: “If Adam had not sinned would Christ have come in the flesh.” Note well that both schools debated this using the hypothetical question because it singled out the primary motivation of the Incarnation in our present economy of grace and not because they wanted to know what might have happened. The real question was this: in the actual economy of grace in which we find ourselves, what is the primary motivation for God having willed the Incarnation of the Son of God? The hypothetical question serves only to elucidate this primary motivation. For more on this discussion one can read this post: Scotus’ doctrine of the primacy is ahistorical, counterfactual, and hypothetical in nature?!?

Ven. Mary of Agreda, aware of the many great Saints who did not hold that “the principal motive of the incarnation of the Word was to make Him Head and Firstborn of all creation,” as she so succinctly put it, had a doubt about what had been revealed to her. Personally, I thank God for this doubt which she “proposed humbly to the Lord,” because the response she received was so extraordinary and enlightening. What follows is basically a dictation, that is, a direct revelation from God to the Venerable regarding this doctrine – perhaps the only revelation of its kind on this subject. She writes, “After giving me an understanding and a great enlightenment by which I perceived and understood many mysteries, He condescended to answer me […] His answer was as follows:”

My spouse and dove, hear: for as a Father and a Teacher I will solve thy doubt and instruct thee in thy ignorance. Know, that the principal and legitimate end of the decree, which I had in view in resolving to communicate My Divinity in the hypostatic union of the Word with human nature, was the glory, which would redound to My Name through this communication, and also that which was to redound to the creatures capable thereof. This decree would without doubt have been executed in the Incarnation, even if the first man had not sinned: for it was an express decree, substantially independent of any condition. Therefore, the intention of My will, which was primarily to communicate Myself to the soul and humanity of the Word, was to be efficaciously fulfilled. This was conformable to the justice and rectitude of My works, and, although it was subsequent in its execution, it was nevertheless antecedent in My intention. If I waited before sending my Onlybegotten, it was because I had resolved to prepare for Him beforehand a holy and select congregation of the just, who, presupposing the fall of mankind, would be like roses among the thorns, that is, the sinners. Foreseeing the fall of the human race, I determined, by an express decree, that the Word should come in a form capable of suffering and death for the Redemption of His people, whose head He was to be. Thus My infinite love for man could be so much the more known and manifest and a just satisfaction would be rendered to My equity and justice; and if he, who was to be first in existence, was a sinner: He that was to be first in dignity, would be the Redeemer (1 Cor 15:21). […] (n.73)

First and foremost, we have here a confirmation that the primary motive of the Incarnation was the glory which would redound to the Most Holy Trinity in communicating Itself to the human nature of the Incarnate Word. This decree was “express,” that is, “substantially independent of any condition.” What is more, we have an affirmation of what Scotus taught: what was first in the intention came later in the execution. Note also that while the “substance” of the original decree remains always intact, namely the union of the Divinity with the Humanity in the Person of the Word; nonetheless, due to the foreseen fall of Adam, the “mode” of the Incarnation (a body capable of suffering and death) was determined so as to redeem fallen humanity.

God continues His response to the Venerable:

And in order that thou mayest better understand the answer to thy doubt, remember, that there is neither any succession of time in My decrees, nor any need of it for the perception and the execution of them. Those that say that the Word became incarnate in order to redeem the world, saw well; and those that say, that He would have become incarnate also, if man had not sinned, likewise speak well, only it must be understood in the right way. For if Adam had not sinned, Christ would have descended from Heaven in that form, which would be suitable to the state of man’s innocence; but as Adam sinned, I resolved by the secondary decree, that He should be made of passible nature,; since foreseeing sin, it was proper, that it should be repaired in the way in which He has done it. And as you desire to know, how the mystery of the Incarnation would have taken place, if man had preserved the state of innocence, know, that the human substance would have been essentially the same as now, only it would be clothed with the gifts of impassibility and immortality, such as My Onlybegotten possessed after His Resurrection and before His Ascension. […] (n.74)

Clearly, God willed all of creation simultaneously from Christ the King down to the least element, yet this does not negate a priority in His creative plan. The result is that God did will the Incarnation of the Son of God for our Redemption from the beginning, but as a secondary motivation. Man’s fall, therefore, was not the cause of the Incarnation, but rather of the bitter suffering and shameful death of Jesus Christ. Had the first man not sinned, Christ would have come in human flesh which was impassible and immortal.

Now the Most High speaks of the difference in opinion largely due to the limited knowledge given to each person while in this earthly life:

The existence of different opinions regarding these sacraments and other mysteries of the Church, arises from the fact that I manifest and give light concerning one set of mysteries to some teachers, and illumine others concerning other mysteries; for mortals are not capable of receiving all the light. It is not expedient that the knowledge of all things be given to one man, as long as men are viators. For also in the state of comprehensors, they obtain them in parts and according to the state and the merits of each. But the plenitude of all gifts is due only to the humanity of My Onlybegotten and to His Mother in proper proportion. […] (n.75)

Some of the revealed reasons for this:
1. Redemption consummated and mentioned frequently in Sacred Scripture

One of the reasons why the opinion, that the Word came from Heaven mainly for the sake of redeeming the world, is more common can be partly explained by the fact, that the mystery of the Redemption with its object has already been consummated and has been mentioned so often in Scriptures, thus causing it to be better understood and manifested. The impassibility of Christ on the contrary was neither effected, nor was it simply and absolutely decreed. All that pertained to this state remains concealed and nobody could be sure of it, except those particular ones, whom I select for the reception of that light, and for the revelation of this decree of My love for man. And although this would certainly be capable of moving men, if they would ponder over it and penetrate it; yet the decree and the work of his Redemption from sin is more powerful and efficacious to move them toward some acknowledgment and return of My immense love; for this is the end, which prompts My works. […] (n.76)

2. Two results from one work

Advert also, that in one work two results can well be intended, when one of them is conditional. Thus it was that the Word would not have descended in passible flesh, if man had not sinned, and if he would sin, He would come in a body capable of suffering: whatever would happen the decree of the Incarnation would not be left unfulfilled. I desire, that the sacraments of the Redemption be recognized and held in esteem and that they be always remembered, in order that they may bring the proper fruit. But just as much I desire, that the mortals recognize the Word as their Head and as the final Object of all creation and of all the rest of the human race. For, conjointly with My own kindness, His formation was the principal motive for giving existence to the creatures. Therefore He should be honored, not only because He has redeemed the human race, but also because He furnished the motive for its creation. (n.76)

3. God permits varying opinions because the resulting discussions serve as a stimulus for better grasping the truths of Faith

Take notice also, My spouse, that very often I permit and cause differences of opinions among the doctors and teachers. […] By this varied light, truth is traced, and the mysteries of faith become more manifest. Doubt serves as a stimulus to the understanding for the investigation of truth. Therefore controversies of the teachers fulfill a proper and holy end. […] (n.77)

God concludes at length with showing how all of this is a work of His providence and how the “real science dwells in My Church more than in the combined study of all the holy and perfect teachers” (n.77).

There is more in the Venerable’s writings, but I fear that I will not be able to post these insights until October. At any rate, what has been posted is abundantly rich and anyone who simply cannot wait, the remaining sections are from Book I, Ch.VII-XIII which are probably even available online.

Ven. Mary of Agreda – Absolute Primacy of Christ – Part IV

Revelations about Proverbs 8:22-31

In the Old Testament there are several passages which speak of Christ as the created Wisdom who was with the Creator when He formed the world. I will not cite the key passages at length here since I simply want to glean from the Mystical City of God what was revealed to Ven. Mary of Agreda regarding the doctrine of the absolute primacy of Christ. However, if one desires to look over those passages the two primary ones are Proverbs 8:22-9:6 and Ecclesiasticus 24 (not to mention the whole notion of the Word Incarnate as the beginning of God’s creation). These passages clearly link with Colossians 1:15 regarding Christ as Head and Firstborn of all creatures.

The Venerable writes:

This is the portion of the Proverbs, of which the Most high gave me understanding. I understood at first, that it treats of the ideas or decrees, which were in the Divine Mind before the creation of the world; and that, in its literal sense, it speaks of the Person of the Incarnate Word and of His most holy Mother, while in its mystical sense it refers to the holy Angels and Prophets. For before decreeing or forming the ideals of the rest of the material creation, He formed and decreed their prototype, the most sacred humanity of Christ and of His purest Mother, and this is indicated by the first words. (n.54)
 
“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His ways” (Prov 8:22) […] In this beginning, before He formed any other ideal in His mind, because He desired to create paths and open ways in His mind for the communication of the Divinity, He decreed, as a beginning, the formation of the humanity of the Word, who was to be the highway, by which the other creatures might come to the Father (cf. Jn 14:6). (n.55)

It is in this way that we must understand Jesus’ own title given in the Apocalypse “the Beginning of the creation of God” (3:14). What Ven. Mary Agreda understood interiorly was not foreign to the deposit of the Faith. In fact many Doctors of the Church had clearly taught that Proverbs 8 specifically refers to the Incarnation (like Ss. Cyril of Alexandria, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Anselm, etc.).

The fact that the same passage refers to both Jesus and Mary should not surprise us since it is also part of the constant Tradition of the Church, especially in the Liturgy – lex orandi, lex credendi. Back to our Venerable…

Joined with this decree [of the Incarnation] was that of His most holy Mother, through whom His Divinity was to enter into the world, becoming man and being born from her as God and man; therefore it is said: “God possessed me” since both were possessed by His Majesty: for as to His Divinity, He was the possession, the property, and the treasure of the Father without possibility of separation, because Father and Son are One, of the same substance and Divinity with the Holy Ghost; and also as to His humanity, the Father possessed the Son; because He Himself knew and decreed the plenitude of grace and glory, which He was to bestow upon it at the moment of its creation and its hypostatical union. Moreover, as this decree and possession was to be brought about by the mediation of the Mother, who was to conceive and bring forth the Word (since He did not decide to create it out of nothing, nor for His soul and body out of any other material), it followed that He possessed her, who was to give Him the human form.[…] (n.55)

Although this might seem a bit confusing, it is rather simple: in willing the Incarnation both the Mother and the Son were present in the Divine Intellect. In willing the Incarnation the Divinity of Christ was present because One with the Father and the Holy Spirit; the humanity of Christ was present as the “Firstborn of all creatures”, the Alpha, the beginning of His creation; the Mother of God was present as the maternal Mediatrix chosen to bring about this union by the work of the Holy Spirit. In a word, the Virgin Mother of God is part of the decree of the Incarnation, inseparable from the mystery of Christ while remaining subordinate to Him.
 
The Venerable goes on to comment on the next verse, “Before He made anything from the beginning, I was set up from eternity and of old.” Christ was decreed “of old”, that is, before God created. Hence Christ (and His Mother) stand between eternity and time, between the uncreated Godhead in Himself and the work of creation ad extra. She explains:

Between these two extremes intervened the ideal of the hypostatic union which was to be verified ad extra through the intervention of most holy Mary. Both were ordained together, immediately next to God and before any other creature, and it was the most wonderful decree ever passed or ever to be passed. The first and most admirable image in the mind of God, next to the eternal generation, was that of Christ and next to it, that of His Mother.

Eloquent is her expression: the decree of the Incarnation which is the bridge between eternity and time, the Creator and the creature, “was the most wonderful decree ever passed or ever to be passed.” First Christ, then the rest of the universe in Him and for Him, and this indeed is the most wonderful decree possible.

It was for this reason that Bl. John Duns Scotus declared that it was absurd to say that God’s Masterpiece, the Incarnation, was occasioned by man’s need for a remedy for sin. He wrote: “If the fall were the reason for Christ’s predestination, it would follow that the greatest work of God [summum opus Dei—namely, the Incarnation] was essentially occasioned: greatest work, because the glory of all creation is not as great in intensity as is the glory of Christ. Hence, it seems very absurd to claim that God would have left so great a work [i.e. the Incarnation] undone on account of a good deed performed by Adam, such as Adam’s not sinning. Therefore, I declare the following: First, God loves Himself. Secondly, He loves Himself for others, and this is an ordered love. Thirdly, He wishes to be loved by Him who can love Him with the greatest love—speaking of the love of someone who is extrinsic to Himself. And fourthly, He foresees the union of that nature that must love Him with the greatest love even if no one had fallen.” (Opus Parisiense, Lib III, d.7, q.4)
 
Once again our Venerable notes that in the eternity of God there is no succession of moments or thoughts, yet there is supreme order and the hypostatic union has the primacy in God’s plan for creation:

And what other order could there be in God, in whom all that pertains to Him is present at one and the same time, so that no part of His being must await the perfection of another, or one perfection ever need succeed upon others? All is well ordered in His eternal nature, and so it was and will be forever. The new ordainment, however, was that the Person of the Son should become incarnate and that from His deified humanity should begin the order of God’s desires and of His decrees ad extra. He was to be the Head and Ideal of all other men and creatures; for this was the most appropriate order and harmony to be instituted among creatures, that they have One, who is the first and the highest, and that from Him should descend the order of all nature, and in a special manner, of the mortals. First among them all, however, was the Mother of the Man-God, as the supreme among mere creatures, following immediately upon Christ, and, through Him, upon the Divinity. Thus the conduits, which led the crystalline fountains of the Divinity from the eternal throne, meet first in the humanity of the Word and immediately thereafter in His holy Mother in the degree and in the manner, as it was possible for amere creature, and as it was proper for the mother of the Creator. […] This then was the order, so well instituted by the eternal wisdom: that all was to commence with Christ and His Mother. (n.57)

We see from the thought of Ven. Mary of Agreda that this divine design placed Christ first without any consideration of Adam’s sin. In God’s plan Christ has absolute primacy and it was “from His deified humanity” that the entire order of the cosmos should have its beginning. With Christ, yet subordinate to Him, the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God was willed. With Jesus and Mary, yet subordinate to Them, all of the elect – both Angels and Saints – were willed.
This order is also expressed by the order of predestination: first, the humanity of Christ is predestined to the maximum grace and glory through the hypostatic union; with and subordinate to Him is predestined the Holy Mother of God through her divine maternity; then the Angels are predestined to glory in Christ; and finally the Saints are predestined, chosen “in Him before the foundations of the world” (see the commentary on Eph 1:4). If we are predestined to be God’s adopted children in Christ Jesus it is not because of sin, but because of God’s good pleasure.

Our Venerable continues her commentary:

“Before the earth was made; and the depths were not as yet and I was already conceived.” This earth was that of the first Adam; for before his creation was decreed, and before the abysses of the ideas ad extra were formed in the divine mind, the likenesses of Christ and of His Mother were already conceived.[…] Not only was the Word conceived before all these by eternal generation from the Father, but His temporal generation from the Virgin Mother full of grace, had already been decreed and conceived in the divine mind. (n.58) Before them [the Saints] the divine mind had conceived the most holy humanity united hypostatically with the Divine Word, and the Mother, who bore it. The Son and the Mother were conceived before the hierarchies of the angelic host […] Let all understand and know, that there is a God-man, who is above all angels and men, and that all are His inferiors and His servants, for being the first of men, He is God at the same time. He is the first in the divine mind and in the divine will, and with Him is associated and inseparably connected, one Woman and Virgin, His Mother, the exalted Queen of all creation. (n.60) And if man […] was crowned with glory and was constituted above all the works of the hand of the Lord, it was because the God-man, His Chief, had merited both this crown, and also that, which is borne by the angels. (n.61)

The glory and grace of man flows from the merits of Jesus Christ. From this perspective we can see that all graces, including the grace which Adam and Eve had in the state of original justice before the fall, are graces flowing from the Sacred Heart of Christ and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In other words, God willed one economy of grace from the beginning as opposed to a generic economy of grace before the fall and then a better one after the fall. This is an important distinction to note, because if Christ’s coming was due to man’s sin, then we would have to speak of two economies of grace and we would have to exclude the Angels from the grace of Christ since His coming would have been occasioned by Adam’s fall and not willed absolutely. For more on this subject of the economy of divine grace from the Franciscan vs. the Thomistic point of view, one can read the discussions here and here and here.

Our Venerable observes that before the world was created “the sacred humanity of the Word and the material from which it was to spring, namely the Virgin, was determined upon” (n.62). She goes on to say that “when He prepared and preordained the heaven and the reward, which was to be given to the just sons of the Church after their sojourn upon the earth, then already was decreed the union of the humanity with the Word, thereby meriting grace as their Head” (n.64). First Christ, then everything else in and for Him – this is the constant theme.

But Christ, being willed first in the intention and being brought about later in the execution, was the supreme Model before the divine mind when He created. He was the beginning in which God created all things. Ven. Mary of Agreda confirms this when she comments on the verse, “When He balanced the foundation of the earth I was with Him forming all things.” She explains:

The works ad extra are common to the three divine Persons, for They are one God, one wisdom, one power; therefore it was unavoidably necessary, that the Word, in whom according to the Divinity all things are made, should be in union with the Father in making them. But here more is meant, for also the incarnate Word was already present together with His most holy Mother in the divine will. Thus, just as through the Word, as far as He is God, all things were made, so also for Him, in the first place and because He is the most noble and most worthy end, were created the foundations of the earth and all that is contained in it. (n.67)

Her distinction is subtle, yet essential. Whenever the Scripture refers to Christ before creation, it is not a mere reference to the Divine Word, but to the fact that Jesus with His created Humanity was present to God first. Some examples:

  • “Even as He chose us in Him [Jesus Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in His sight in love” (Eph 1:4). In order for us to predestined in Jesus before the creation of the world it is clear that Christ, with His Sacred Humanity, was already decreed.
  • “For those whom He has foreknown He has also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He should be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rm 8:29). Again, the foreknown are predestined to be conformed to Christ who is the “firstborn” in the divine plan, not in chronological history. That this is a reference to Christ, the Word made flesh, is clearly demonstrated here.
  • “He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For in Him [Christ] were created all things in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether Thrones, or Dominations, or Principalities, or Powers. All things have been created through and unto Him [Christ], and He [Christ] is before all creatures, and in Him all things hold together” (Col 1:15-17ff). This Christological hymn of St. Paul makes no sense unless Christ was willed first with an absolute primacy. It is for this very reason that the Thomists have had to reinterpret Paul’s canticle as having two subjects: Christ in the flesh and the Eternal Word apart from the Incarnation. This canticle of Colossians is treated in depth here.
  • “Thus says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, who is the beginning of the creation of God” (Apoc 3:14). Jesus Christ in His Sacred Humanity is the beginning in which God the Trinity created the universe. Here is a diagram with many Scriptural references of Christ as the beginning.

Many other examples could be cited, but these are more than sufficient to see that if one does not accept the absolute primacy and predestination of Christ first in the divine designs, then the interpretation of these passages becomes riddled with difficulties and even contradictions.

While these are but the highlights of the Venerables commentary, nonetheless they capture the profound insight which was given to her regarding the absolute primacy of Christ. In the concluding paragraph of this Chapter she writes, “All His works, and the disposition of them as they were to be called into being, the Lord had in His mind ab initio, and He numbered and weighed them according to His equity and rectitude. He knew the constitution of the world before its creation, as it is written in the book of Wisdom (7,18 ff.).

More to come…