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

The divine decrees classified according to “instances”

Ven. Mother Mary of Agreda, after her vision of the Trinity in His eternal beatitude, speaks of God’s decision to create. As we have noted, she expresses this decision to create as His decree “to communicate His perfections as a free gift” ad extra. God is love, and God wants to communicate that love outside of Himself. Ergo, creation.

Within this plan of creation there is a hierarchy, a priority. Although the entire plan is willed at once, nonetheless, not all of creation is willed with the same dignity and importance and role. In order to speak of this priority in God’s creative plan, we must use human terminology (like “before”, “after”, “first”, “then”, etc.). The Venerable, after noting that God knows everything “conjointly all at once, without before or after” (n.31), writes:

In this knowledge of God… we must… not overlook a certain succession, not indeed of time, but of nature. Hence we perceive that the act of intelligence preceded by its nature the act of the will… In this first stage or instant the three Persons through an act of intelligence confirmed the opportuneness of the work ad extra and of all creatures, which have been, are, and are to be. (n.32)

At this point the Venerable, humbly but boldly, petitioned Our Lord to know the position of the Mother of God in the divine intelligence. He deigned to answer her, and in order to express this knowledge she employs the terminology “moments” or “instants”. Here is her explanation:

I will state what He answered me and manifested to me and I will also say something of the order which I perceived by the help of God in these ideas. I divide them according to moments or instants, for it is impossible to accommodate the knowledge of this divine science to our capacity in any other way. (n.33)

Again she explains:

Although this divine knowledge is one, most simple and indivisible, nevertheless, since the things which I see are many, and since there is a certain order, by which some are first and some come after, it is necessary to divide the knowledge of God’s intelligence and the knowledge of His will into many instants, or into many different acts, according as they correspond to the diverse orders of created things. (n.34)

What we have here is a mystic who has seen a vision of God’s intention in creating. While the intention is all at once, there are priorities in that intention. The example which I have frequently made use of is the sculptor who decides to carve a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. When he forms this intention he wills the statue in its final, perfect form; he wills the masterpiece; but he also wills everything that is included in making the statue – finding the wood, tools, carving, etc. He also wills all that will surround his masterpiece and be subordinate to it, like the niche, the lighting, etc. In a word, the artist wills the entire project all at once when he forms the intention to create his masterpiece, yet there is a succession in the execution and a hierarchy – the statue is primary, first, everything else is secondary and subordinate. While the analogy has its limits, nonetheless it can help to understand what our Venerable is trying to communicate to us. She writes: “Accordingly we say that God intended and decreed this before that, the one on account of the other; and that if He had not desired or included in the science of vision the one, He would not have desired the other” (n.34).

So, as Bl. John Duns Scotus emphasizes, God wills in an orderly fashion – ordinate volens (Ordinatio, III, d.7, q.3; Opus Parisiense, Lib III, d.7, q.4). And Ven. Mary of Agreda will now explain this order with the term “instants”.

The first “instant”:

I understood that this order comprises the following instants. The first instant is: God recognizing His infinite attributes and perfections together with the propensity and the ineffable inclination to communicate Himself outwardly. This knowledge of God as being communicative ad extra comes first. The Majesty of God, beholding the nature of His infinite perfections, their virtue and efficacy operating with magnificence, saw that it was just and most proper, and, as it were, a duty and a necessity, to communicate Himself and to follow that inclination of imparting and exercising His liberality and mercy, by distributing outside of Himself with magnificence the plenitude of the infinite treasures, contained in the Divinity. […] All this did God see in the first instant after the communication ad intra by means of the eternal emanations (n.35-36)

The second “instant”:

The second instant was to confirm and determine the object and intention of this communication of the Divinity ad extra, namely, that it should redound to His greater glory and to the exaltation of His Majesty and the manifestation of His greatness. This, His own exaltation, God saw as the end, for which He would communicate Himself, make Himself known by His liberality in the distribution of His attributes, and set in motion His Omnipotence in order that He might be known, praised and glorified. (n.38)

Note the raison d’etre of all creation: the greater glory of God. God, in creating, wishes to communicate His grace and glory to His creatures and wishes to be glorified by them. In creation, what would be the most perfect way that the Divinity could communicate His divine life and receive the maximum glory?

The third “instant”:

The third instant consisted in selecting and determining the order and arrangement, or the mode of this communication, so as to realize in an adequate manner the most exalted ends. The order namely, which it is proper should be maintained in regard to the communications of the Godhead and its divine attributes; so that this activity of the Lord may have its proper reasons and objects, and so that it might proceed with the most beautiful and admirable sequence, harmony and subordination. In this instant was decreed first of all, that the divine Word should assume flesh and should become visible. The perfection and the composition of the most holy Humanity of Christ our Lord was decreed and modeled in the divine intelligence. Secondarily, also were formed the ideals of the rest of men in imitation of the First. The divine mind prearranged the harmony and adornment of the human nature composed of an organic body and a vivifying soul, endowed with faculties to know and enjoy its Creator, to discern between good and evil, and with a free will to love that same Lord. (n.39) [emphasis added]

Ven. Mary of Agreda is emphatic on this point, as we shall see. This is partly so because it is so controversial. She sought confirmation in prayer and was given divine insight into Proverbs 8:22ff (Chapter V). She even petitioned Our Lord as to why so many great Doctors, Saints and theologians of Holy Mother Church were not given to understand this fundamental truth of the absolute primacy of Christ in creation (Chapter VI). So her explanations will be ample and the confirmations from “on high” will be multiplied. At any rate, after noting this primacy of Christ in creation in the “third instant”, she gives a marvelous explanation of why this is so. I quote her at length:

This hypostatic union of the second Person of the most holy Trinity I understood necessarily to have been the first incentive and object on account of which, before all others, the divine intelligence and will issued ad extra; and the reasons are most exalted, so that I cannot explain. One of these reasons is, that God, having in Himself known and loved Himself, should, according to right order, know and love that, which approaches most intimately to His Divinity, as is the case in the hypostatic union. Another reason is, that the Divinity, having communicated Itself ad intra, should also communicate Itself ad extra; for thus the divine will and intention would begin to execute its works with the highest end in view, and His attributes would be communicated in the most beautiful order. The fire of the Divinity expended itself in its fullest measure on that which was most immediately connected with It, namely, the hypostatically united humanity; and His Divinity communicated Itself in the highest and most excellent degree to Him, who was to be closest to God in divine knowledge and love, and share the works and the glory of the Deity. For God (speaking according to our lowly comprehension) could not endanger the attainment of this end, since He alone could be an object proportionate and worthy of so wonderful an operation. It was also befitting and, as it were, necessary, that if God should create many creatures, He should create them in such harmony and subordination, as would be the most admirable and glorious within the reach of possibility. In conformity with this therefore, they must be subordinate to a supreme Chief, who should be as far as possible united immediately with God, so that through Him they may have communication and connection with His Divinity. For these and for other reasons (which I cannot explain), the dignity of the works of God could be provided for only by the Incarnation of the Word; through Him creation should possess the most beautiful order, which without Him was impossible. (n.40)

Before continuing with the next “instant” which speaks of the gifts bestowed upon the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord, we do well to note the terminology of the Venerable “intention” and “execution”. This was the terminology utilized by the Subtle Doctor to explain why Christ, the first willed by God in all creation, came “in the last times” (Heb 1:2; cf. 1 Pt 1:20). His explanation, simplified, is that what is first in the intention is last in the execution. Like the example of the sculptor who intends to carve a statue of the Sacred Heart: he begins first with the masterpiece in his mind (primacy!), then he starts the execution of the work. God, the Divine Artist, first wills and sees the Word Incarnate, then He begins creating with Christ in mind. This theme is also developed here and here.

The fourth “instant”:

The fourth instant was to determine the gifts and graces, which were to be conferred upon the humanity of Christ, our Lord, in union with the Divinity. here the Most High opened the liberal hands of His Omnipotence and His other attributes, in order to enrich the most sacred humanity and the soul of Christ with the highest possible plenitude of His gifts and graces. Then was fulfilled what afterward David said: “The stream of the river maketh the city of God joyful” (Ps 45:5). When the stream of His gifts flowed toward the humanity of the Word, communicating to it all the infused science, the grace and goodness of which his blessed soul was capable, and which fitted that Being, which was to be God and true man, and at the same time, the Head of all creatures capable of grace and glory, in order that from this impetuous stream they might partake in the manner in which it afterwards really happened. (n.41)

Here the Venerable confirms yet another aspect of the Franciscan school, namely, that all creatures capable of grace and glory are under the headship of Christ. This point is important in that the good Angels, if they are under the headship of Christ, are so not because of any need for Redemption, but simply because God willed Christ as King first, then He willed Angels and men to be blessed in and through Him. This is clearly the teaching of St. Paul who notes that all of the Angels are subject to Christ. This discussion is developed here.

At this point, we have, in a certain sense found what we were looking for. But we do well to complete the picture. To this fourth “instant”, Ven. Mary Agreda explains,”also, and, as it were, in natural sequence, pertain the decree and predestination of the Mother of the Divine Word Incarnate; for here, I understand, was ordained that pure creature before aught else whatever” (n.42). Thus she found what she was looking for… and wept for joy at the gift and in sorrow for man’s ingratitude. Interestingly, the doctrine of the joint predestination of Jesus and Mary has been repeated by the Magisterium frequently in the last two centuries. Perhaps the two most solemn statements are that of Bl. Pius IX in Ineffabilis Deus in 1854 where he writes, “And hence the very words with which the Sacred Scriptures speak of Uncreated Wisdom and set forth his eternal origin, the Church, both in its ecclesiastical offices and in its liturgy, has been wont to apply likewise to the origin of the Blessed Virgin, inasmuch as God, by one and the same decree, had established the origin of Mary and the Incarnation of Divine Wisdom.” In confirmation of the Tradition we find this beautiful statement regarding Our Lady in Lumen Gentium: “Predestined from eternity by that decree of divine providence which determined the incarnation of the Word to be the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin was on this earth the virgin Mother of the Redeemer, and above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord” (n.61).

The “fifth” instant:

I pass over to the fifth instant, although in reality I have found that, which I sought. In this fifth decree the creation of the angelic nature which is more excellent and more like unto the spiritual being of the Divinity, was determined upon, and at the same time the division or arrangement of the angelic hosts into nine choirs and three hierarchies, was provided and decreed. As they are created first of all for the glory of God, to assist before His divine Majesty and to know and love Him, so secondarily they are ordained to assist, glorify and honor, reverence and serve the deified humanity of the eternal Word, recognizing Him as Head, and honoring Him also in His Mother, the most holy Mary, Queen of these same Angels.

Implicitly we see here that the test of the Angels was in serving Jesus and Mary. This is developed more at length in the section on Colossians and the headship of Christ over them.

And finally, the sixth “instant” (mankind, obviously, but also the fall is foreseen and its remedy decreed):

In the sixth instant was decreed the creation of a people and congregation of men for Christ, who was already formed in the divine mind and will, and according to whose image and likeness man was to be made, in order, that the incarnate Word might find brethren, similar but inferior to Himself and a people of His own nature, of whom He might be the Head. In this instant was determined the order of the creation of the whole human race, which was to begin from one man and woman and propagate itself, until the Virgin and her Son should be born in the predestined order. On account of the merits of Christ, our Savior, the graces and gifts were prearranged, and also original justice, if they would only preserve it. The fall of Adam was foreseen and in him that of all others, except of the Queen, who did not enter into this decree. As a remedy was it ordained, that the most holy humanity should be capable of suffering.

As we can see, God’s plan for creation starts with the Incarnation of the Word and finishes with the foreseen fall of Adam and the choice to remedy that fall by sending Christ in passible flesh so “that the most holy humanity should be capable of suffering” and of death. Scotus speculates that had Adam not sinned and lost the state of original justice, then Christ would have come just the same (uniting the human and divine natures in His divine Person), but in a glorious mode: “And He would not have come as a suffering and redeeming Mediator unless someone had first sinned; nor would the glory of the body have been delayed unless there were people to be redeemed. Rather the whole Christ would have been immediately glorified” (Opus Parisiense, Lib III, d.7, q.4).

Be that as it may, the point here is that while God foresaw the fall of Adam and His need for Redemption, this was not the primary motive of the Incarnation. The primary motive was the maximum glory of God and for this reason the Incarnation was willed first and in sui juris – for its own sake. As Scotus points out, “I declare, however, that the fall was not the cause of Christ’s predestination. In fact, even if no man or angel had fallen, nor any man but Christ were to be created, Christ would still have been predestined this way” (Lib III, d.7, q.4).

Let me conclude this post by repeating that in order to speak intelligently about God’s plan for sending His only begotten (whether primarily for the maximum glory of God or primarily for the Redemption of man), both St. Thomas Aquinas and Bl. John Duns Scotus have to speak of order or priority in God’s decree (what Ven. Mary of Agreda has expressed by using the term “instants”).

It goes without saying – as the Venerable points out at length – that there is no “first” and “second” and “third” and “then” in God who is outside of time. This is true indeed; however, there is priority in God’s plan and we simply have to use human terms to communicate this, terms like “first”, “before”, “then”, “after”. While St. Thomas Aquinas and Bl. John Duns Scotus both speak of a priority in the divine decree of creation, they are also both fully aware that God did not “think out” His plan of creation in successive moments because God transcends time. Both Doctors are agreed that God willed in an orderly fashion without succession of moments; however, they disagree about what that orderly fashion is. For more on this one can read the post: Dumb ox or dunce – Part II D.

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

God ab intra first, then His creation ad extra

Before looking directly at Ven. Mary of Agreda’s writings, we do well to underscore the divine vantage point from which flows the doctrine of the absolute primacy of Christ. In this way we will be in a better position to appreciate more fully the revelations of the Venerable. In my treatise on the absolute primacy of Christ according to the teachings of Bl. John Duns Scotus I wrote:

As we shall see, one of the most beautiful aspects of the Subtle Doctor’s teaching on the absolute primacy of Christ is that it begins from above (with God’s plan), and not from below (with man’s need). Scotus’ theology seeks to see the created world from God’s point of view, ad mentem Dei, and not to subordinate His eternal decrees to man’s temporal and spiritual needs. God’s works are not conditioned. God is God; then God, in His goodness, freely wills to create the universe according to a fixed plan.

It is a fact that dogmatic theology tends to go in this order: God the Trinity, creation, the fall, then Christology. Why? Because it is presupposed (clearly a thomistic presupposition) that Christ comes as a remedy for man’s sin. But from the Franciscan perspective this is putting the cart before the horse.

The Franciscan scheme of things would look like this: God the Trinity, Christ, the rest of creation in and for Christ, the fall, then soteriology. God, knows and loves Himself ab intra in the eternal now of His divine beatitude. Then (we are speaking of priority, not of time) He wills to communicate His love and truth ad extra in the most perfect way possible, namely by uniting a created nature to the Divinity in the Incarnation of the Word. Christ indeed is the beginning of God’s creation. After Christ, but in the same decree, God wills and predestines the Virgin Mary to be His Mother and the elect to be His Angels and Saints (filial adoption: He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world… to be His children. See Eph 1:4). In other words, creation hinges upon the predestination of Christ to grace and glory; everything is created for Him (Col 1:16-17). It is in the context of the absolute primacy of Christ that the Franciscan school speaks of the fall and the Redemption, whereas the thomistic school would speak of Christ’s coming and primacy within the context of the fall and man’s need for Redemption.

Here are two pertinent quotes of Scotus showing the priority of the Incarnation in the divine decree of creation (prior to any consideration of man’s sin):

“I prove this as follows: because everyone who wills in an orderly manner, wills first the end, then more immediately those things which are closer to the end; but God wills in a most orderly manner; therefore, that is the way He wills.  In the first place, then, He wills Himself, and immediately after Him, ad extra, is the soul of Christ.  Therefore, after first willing those objects intrinsic to Himself, God willed this glory for Christ.  Therefore, before any merit or demerit, He foresaw that Christ would be united with Him in the oneness of Person.” (Opus Parisiense, Lib III, d.7, q.4)

And again:

“Therefore, since the positive act of the divine will regarding the predestined in common precedes all the acts of His will concerning either the reprobate or the fall of anyone whatever, it does not seem that the predestination of Christ to be the Head of the heavenly court was occasioned by the fall or by the demerit of the reprobate. Therefore, God first loves Himself, and nearest in relation to this is his love for the soul of Christ that is to have the greatest glory in the world. And among all created things to be willed, this was first willed—an existence foreseen prior to all merit and hence prior to all demerit.” (Reportatio Barcinonensis, II, d.7, q.3)

In Ven. Mary of Agreda’s first book on Mary’s Conception, after describing the reason that she, an “ignorant woman” as she calls herself, would dare to write on the life and privileges of the Blessed Virgin Mary, she plunges into the most sublime theology: the divine Trinity in Himself, whose ways are inscrutable. She describes, with a theological precision that is astonishing, the life of the Blessed Trinity ab intra. “I saw the Lord as He was before He had created anything,” she writes (n.30). And here is what she saw (and I quote at length):

“I saw the Most High, at the same time understanding how His Majesty is in Himself; I received a clear intelligence and a true perception of what is meant by a God, infinite in His substance and attributes, eternal, exalted above all, being three in Person, and one true God. Three in Person, because of the three activities of knowing, comprehending and loving each other; one, so as to secure the boon of eternal unity. It is the Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. The Father is not made, nor created, nor begotten, nor can He be generated or have a beginning. I perceived that the Son derives His origin from the Father alone by eternal generation; and that They are equal in their duration from eternity; and that He is begotten by the fecundity of the intelligence of the Father. The Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son through love. In their indivisible Trinity there is nothing which can be called first or last, greater or smaller: all three Persons are equally eternal and eternally equal; there is unity of essence in a trinity of Persons. Nor are the Persons mingled in order to form one God, nor the divine substance separated or divided in order to form three Persons, being distinct as the Father, as the Son and as the Holy Ghost. They are nevertheless one and the same Divinity, equal in Each is the glory, and majesty, the power, the eternity, the immensity, the wisdom and sanctity, and all the attributes. And though there are three Persons, in whom these infinite perfections subsist, He is the one and true God, the Holy, the Just, the powerful, the Eternal and Measureless. (n.27)

It is in this context – God knowing, comprehending and loving within Himself – that the decree of creation issues forth. Notice the motivation for creating in the Venerable’s description:

“I understood that the Most High was in the quiescent state of His own Being, when the three Persons (according to our way of understanding things), decreed to communicate His perfections as a free gift. For greater clearness, I must remark, that God comprehends in Himself all things by one indivisible, most simple and instantaneous act. He does not go on from the understanding of one thing to the understanding of another like we do, distinguishing and perceiving first one thing by an act of understanding, and after that proceeding to the knowledge of others by their connection with those already known. God knows them conjointly all at once, without before or after, since all are together and at once contained in the divine and uncreated knowledge and science, just as they are comprehended and enclosed in His infinite Being, as in their first beginning. (n.31)

Note two things: First, she affirms that creation was “decreed to communicate His perfections as a free gift.” God, in His love and goodness, wills creation so as to communicate Himself ad extra. And the most perfect way to communicate Himself would be??? Ah, yes, by the Incarnation! But I anticipate (this is precisely what St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church, taught, by the way).

Secondly, she struggles to deal with the problem of God’s timelessness and the priority He had in creating. Priority, while it does not imply time, can only be expressed by us using limited human language. So while God wills everything simultaneously, there is a priority of importance, a primacy, and the absolute primacy in God’s creative plan is Jesus Christ.

This latter point is very important because many who oppose the Franciscan thesis use this as an escape hatch to avoid the argument at hand. They say that God is outside of time and would have foreseen Adam’s sin and hence could have willed Christ even before Adam’s fall because God foresaw His fall outside of time. But the thing they don’t acknowledge is that in saying that Christ came primarily as a remedy for sin they themselves are speaking of a priority in God’s creative plan – it’s a different priority, but a priority nonetheless. So no matter how you slice it (thomistically or scotistically), one has to speak of priority in the divine plan. What was God’s primary reason in creating, in willing the Incarnation? Both schools of thought have an answer and both acknowledge that God is outside of time and foresaw everything. So there is no escape hatch; either Christ was willed first and absolutely, or He was willed as a remedy to man’s sin and thus relative to man’s need for Redemption.

Because this is essential to grasping the “divine instances” revealed to Ven. Mary of Agreda, you might want to take a look at this before plunging into Part III…

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

Ven. Mary of Agreda and the Absolute Primacy of Christ

In the spiritual life we say ad Jesum per Mariam (To Jesus through Mary) because, as we know, Jesus is the sole Mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Tm 2:5) and therefore Mary’s role in the spiritual life is to lead us to union with God in Christ Jesus. She facilitates this communion with Our Lord by her maternal mediation, just as Christ facilitates our union with the entire Trinity by His priestly mediation.

However, when it comes to understanding the role and position of the Blessed Virgin Mary in God’s plan the approach is vice versa: ad Mariam per Jesum (To Mary through Jesus). The study of Mary – a.k.a. Mariology – is a department of Christology. In other words, we cannot know who Mary is in God’s plan without first grasping who Christ is. The result is that we have to establish the position of Jesus in the divine economy if we are going to understand Mary’s position. It was precisely for this reason that the Apostles and early Christian writers, while never denying or downplaying Mary’s role, were primarily focused on proclaiming Christ to a non-Christian world (Gentiles and Jews alike). We can only understand who Mary is through first understanding who Jesus is.

This is precisely what Ven. Mary of Agreda was inspired to do in writing about Our Lady. Her eight books on the life of the Virgin Mary, entitled the Mystical City of God (usually printed in 4 volumes in English), began with divine revelations on the absolute primacy of Christ. Then, within this framework, she penetrated into the life and virtues of the Virgin Mary from her Immaculate Conception to her Coronation in Heaven.

It is a fact that when one denies the absolute primacy of Christ (namely, to deny that the Incarnation is willed apart from any consideration of sin), then theologians conclude that her role in salvation history is the direct result of Adam and Eve’s original sin – they say that she is indebted to Adam’s sin for being chosen to be the Theotokos, that she solely exists for sinners and owes all of her greatness to man’s fall, and they even arrive at saying that she owes her very existence to original sin [this is one of the weaknesses, in my opinion, of the Thomistic position (St. Thomas held no sin, no Incarnation)].

That said, establishing the absolute primacy of Christ is of great importance to understanding everything in creation. If creation was made with Christ in mind, then Christ (and specifically His Sacred Humanity, since His Divine Person is uncreated) was willed first by God and everything else was created in and for Him. A beautiful example of this is found in the work of Fr. Gabriel Amorth An Exorcist Tells His Story where, before speaking of the evil spirits and his personal encounters with them, he establishes their relation to Christ. Their rebellion, according to Fr. Amorth, was precisely against Jesus.

The posts that will follow, then, will be focused on the revelations given to Ven. Mary of Agreda found in Book 1, Chapters 3-13 about God’s immutable decree which willed the Incarnation of the Word absolutely and unconditionally. We will also see God’s explanation to her of why so many – even great Doctor’s of the Church – were wrong on this point (like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Alphonsus Liguori, just to name two of the greats).

Christ the King… even if Adam had not sinned!

St. Francis of Assisi spoke of how we were made in the image of Christ in his fifth Admonition:

Consider, O man, how great the excellence in which the Lord has placed you because He has created and formed you to the image of His beloved Son according to the body and to His own likeness according to the spirit.

This dignity of man in view of the Incarnation is a seminal affirmation of what would be developed scholastically by Bl. John Duns Scotus and would be championed by the Franciscan school of theology, namely, that the primacy of Christ in all creation (especially seen in St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, Romans, and Ephesians) is absolute. In other words, in God’s initial plan the “chief cornerstone”, as it were, of His work of creation was always Christ. Sin or no sin, Christ was willed to recapulate all creation in Himself and offer perfect praise and glory to the Most Holy Trinity as high priest and mediator on behalf of and in union with all of creation.

Bl. John Duns Scotus expresses it in this way:

“At this point, however, two questions arise. First, whether this predestination [of Christ] necessarily presupposes the fall of human nature; which is what many authorities seem to be saying, to the effect that the Son of God would never have become incarnate if man had not fallen.

“Without attempting to settle the matter dogmatically, one may state in accord with the last mentioned opinion in distinction 41 of the First Book [of Sentences] that, in so far as the objects intended by God are concerned, since the predestination in general of anyone to glory is prior by nature to the prevision of anyone’s sin or damnation, this is all the more so true of the predestination of that soul chosen for the greatest glory. For it appears to be universally true that He who wills in an orderly manner intends first that which is nearest the end. And so just as He first intends one to have glory before grace, so also among those predestined to glory, He who wills in an orderly fashion would seem to intend first the glory of the one He wishes to be nearest the end. Thus, He wills glory for this soul before He wills glory for any other soul, and for every other soul He wills glory and grace before He foresees those things which are the opposite of these habits [i.e. sin or damnation]…

“If man had not sinned, there would have been no need for our redemption. But that God predestined this soul [of Christ] to so great a glory does not seem to be only on account of that [redemption], since the redemption or the glory of the soul to be redeemed is not comparable to the glory of Christ’s soul. Neither is it likely that the highest good in creation is something that was merely occasioned only because of some lesser good; nor is it likely that He predestined Adam to such good before He predestined Christ; and yet this would follow [were the Incarnation occasioned by Adam’s sin]. In fact, if the predestination of Christ’s soul was for the sole purpose of redeeming others, something even more absurd would follow, namely, that in predestining Adam to glory, He would have foreseen him as having fallen into sin before He predestined Christ to glory.

“It can be said, therefore, that with a priority of nature God chose for His heavenly court all the angels and men He wished to have with their various degrees of perfection before He foresaw either sin or the punishment for sinners; and no one has been predestined only because somebody else’s sin was foreseen, lest anyone have reason to rejoice over the fall of another.”

(All of Scotus’ writings on this topic can be found here).

Because of sin we had need of Redemption, without which we could never have profited from the Incarnation of Christ in the womb of the ever Virgin Mary. Scotus maintains that if man not sinned, Christ would not have come as Redeemer, but that He would have come nonetheless as King and Mediator. Sin did not change the substance of God’s eternal decree which willed Christ first and then all creation in and for Him. After the fall of Adam and Eve the plan remains the same, but now God manifests His “most ardent and tender flames of divine love” in the Passion.

Ven. Mary of Jesus of Agreda

While there are many Saints and theologians who uphold and proclaim the absolute primacy of Christ, I would like to draw attention in the next few posts to a mystic whose revelations about the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary affirm that the Incarnation was an immutable decree of God before any consideration of sin. Before studying these revelations more in-depth, this video explains well the amazing story of her books known as the “The Mystical City of God” and why they are of such great value to the patrimony of the Church. May she be beatified and canonized soon!

Towards the Triumph

Ave Maria!

For those longing for the fulfillment of Our Lady’s Fatima prophecy of the triumph of her Immaculate Heart which would necessarily mean the triumph of Christ the King and the greatest glory of God, you might want to check this out:

What can you and I do to help bring about the triumph of the Immaculate Heart in the world?

Read this little booklet “Towards the Triumph” by Fr. Maximilian M. Dean and find out!

Evolution vs. God

On this website, dedicated to the primacy of Christ, we have indicated in many ways the importance of the doctrine of creation as presented by Sacred Scripture and Tradition. If Adam is not a real, historical person, then this mars our belief in the New Adam, Jesus Christ. If the body of Adam was not created from the elements of the earth directly by God with all of its dignity, we offend Christ who took the body of Adam’s race in the Incarnation. If Adam’s body was not formed from the terra virgo – the virgin earth, then the entire Scriptural-Patristic parallel of the New Adam being made from from the Virgin Mary is thrown out the window.

Faith in evolution – and due to the lack of evidence one has to believe in it – places more credence in an unscientific theory of fallible men than in God who reveals Himself as the Creator, in Jesus the Son of God who confirms that “the Creator, from the beginning, made them male and female” (Mt 19:4), in the Church who has never ceased to proclaim the special creation of Adam, father of the entire human race, and in empirical science which, by definition, is the study of things that can be observed and reproduced.

Please keep your eye on this and watch how the mass media will try anything to cover up, defame, discredit, etc. the evidence against evolution which this film makes apparent:

 

More sin, more grace? A comment on Romans 5:20 and the primacy of Christ

In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans he writes, “But where the offense has abounded, grace has abounded yet more” (Rm 5:20) – more commonly translated, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” This inspired phrase of the Holy Apostle is frequently presented as meaning that the more sin there is, the more God piles on His grace and mercy.

After all, in the episode of the Gospel of St. Luke with Our Lord, Simon and the sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and anointed them with costly ointment, Our Lord seems to have taught this very message in the form of a parable: “A certain money-lender had two debtors; the one owed five hundred denarii, the other fifty. As they had no means of paying he forgave them both. Which of them, therefore, will love him more?” And the response indicates that the more sin-debt one has, the more forgiveness and grace he receives, and therefore the more he will love the Divine Master who pardons: “Wherefore I say to thee, her sins, many as they are, shall be forgiven her, because she has loved much. But he to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” (cf. Lk 7:36-50).

Does grace and our loving response to the Incarnate Word depend upon sin? Does sin increase grace, love and mercy in His disciples?
St. Paul makes it clear that his statement about the abundance of grace where sin is abounding does not mean we should therefore sin all the more, as if sin increased grace in our souls and the world around us. He writes, “What then shall we say? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means. For how shall we who are dead to sin still live in it?” (Rm 6:1-2). Clearly, then, he does not intend to link the superabundant grace of Jesus Christ with our measure of sin.

Rather, the Apostle indicates that the reign of justice in Christ Jesus exceeds the reign of sin. This superabundant grace is not because of sin – as if the grace of Christ was a consequence of sin, but – as I will propose – it is superabundant because it precedes, excels and repairs sin. The largesse of divine grace can be understood from the preceding primacy of Christ (sin or no sin). Our justice before God (sin or no sin) comes through the grace of filial adoption in Christ Jesus. Here are Paul’s words, “so that as sin has reigned unto death, so also grace may reign by justice unto life everlasting through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rm 5:21). If Adam had not sinned, the Franciscan perspective is that grace would have reigned by justice unto life everlasting through Jesus Christ just the same.

Meet the fully-graced one: χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη
A case-end-point is the Immaculate Virgin Mary. She was neither contaminated by sin nor committed any personal sin, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (490-493) teaches us:

To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.” The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”. In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace. Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.” The “splendor of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son”. The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love.” The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature”. By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.

The Blessed Virgin was sinless, and yet she alone is the human person who is fully-graced. Indeed it is a greater grace, a greater mercy, to be preserved from sin (preservative redemption) than to be liberated from sin (liberative redemption). She, above all creatures, is indebted to Jesus for His grace; she, more than all of the Angels and Saints put together, could rejoice in the Divine Mercy – not because she had sinned much and been forgiven, but because she had received a greater grace to be preserved from all stain of sin (original and personal). Certainly the Mother of Jesus did not love Him the less for not having sinned!

Meet St. Therese
Even among the Saints there is an awareness of this. One recalls St. Therese of Lisieux whose Confessor “spoke the most consoling words I ever heard in my life: ‘In the presence of God, the Blessed Virgin, and all the Saints, I DECLARE THAT YOU HAVE NEVER COMMITTED A MORTAL SIN. . . . Thank God for what He has done for you.’ … and gratitude flooded my soul.” She points out emphatically that “… Jesus has forgiven me more than St. Mary Magdalene since He forgave me in advance by preventing me from falling. I was preserved from it only through God’s mercy!” (You can see my full article on St. Therese and the Virgin Mary here: Mirror of the Blessed Virgin)

The point here is that grace and mercy do not become more abundant simply because we are pardoned for more sins. The greater grace is that of not sinning, of being preserved from sin like Our Lady (original and actual sin) and like St. Therese (from mortal sin). This is Divine Mercy in its fullness.

Meet the Holy Angels
In support of this we can also consider the grace of the Angels. According to the absolute primacy of Christ, the Angels fall under the headship of Christ. Those who submitted and served Jesus and Mary are the good Angels; those who rebelled and said non serviam are the damned spirits. How is it that the good Angels did not fall into the sin of pride and disobedience like Satan and the other demons? St. Bernard provides an interesting answer:

You say, ‘I don’t see how it could be possible that there was a redemption for the Angels. The authority of the Scriptures, in fact, does not seem to uphold anywhere that they were imprisoned by sin or subject to death so as to need redemption – except, perhaps, those who were carried away by the irreparable sin of pride and do not merit to be redeemed. If, therefore, the Angels were never redeemed – the good because they had no need of it, the bad because the do not deserve it; the former because they did not fall, the latter because they are not capable of forgiveness – in what sense do you maintain that Christ the Lord was redemption for them?’ Listen for a minute. He who lifted fallen man up again assigned him to an Angel who is at his side so that he may not fall, thus freeing man from slavery and preserving the angel from entering into it. In this sense He was redemption equally for both of them, freeing the former and preserving the latter. It is clear, therefore, that Christ the Lord was, for the Angels, redemption, justification, wisdom and sanctification. (Sermon on the Song of songs, XXII, 6).

Conclusion: grace precedes sin and therefore is superabundant
The conclusion is that the reason grace abounds all the more is because of the primacy of Christ and of His grace. The elect have been predestined in Christ before the foundations of the world (Eph 1:4) and neither the sin of Adam nor his progeny is greater than the grace of Christ. Bl. John Duns Scotus and the Franciscan school uphold that Christ’s coming did not depend on sin, that His primacy is absolute (sin or nor sin, Christ was willed as King of all creation). As a result, sin does not have the upper hand. Nonetheless, sin is a reality and to remedy this breech God the Father freely willed that His Son would ransom us from the slavery to sin and preserve Our Lady and the Holy Angels from sin through the merits of His Passion.

In this world “the offense has abounded” (and continues to do so), but the grace of Christ the King preceded the offense, excelled it, repaired it and will always be superabundant when compared to sin.

Laudetur Jesus Christus!

The Patristic view of the universe: Adam – Christ

Ave Maria!

We have seen how Christ is the beginning of God’s creation and how Adam was created with a view to Christ. Theistic evolution, if accepted, throws the entire Adam-Christ parallel of the Scripture and the Church Fathers into tilt; it imposes an entirely different world view upon us which overturns the Christocentric worldview and replaces it with a scientific theory which, in many cases, attempts to uphold an evolutionary process in the formation of man’s body as dogmatically true and creation as a mere fable.

In a straightforward presentation Hieromonk Ambrose (an Russian Orthodox priest and monk) shows the importance and the ramifications of embracing the Christocentric view of the cosmos as presented by the Church Fathers. Please take the time to listen to his insights.

Creation vs. Evolution by Hieromonk Ambrose (aka. Fr. Alexey Young)

Description from the website:

Today the modern theory of evolution is accepted by most people as hard science, even by many Orthodox Clergy and Laity. However, this lecture exposes the doctrine of Evolution as a great error which is not based upon science at all, but upon a false Atheistic Faith and erroneous fabrications. The patristic view of a universe created by God is set forth, and the felt need of many Christians to harmonize these two incompatible faiths is also dismissed. (audio time 55:46) This lecture has been posted with the blessing of Hieromonk Ambrose (Father Alexey Young) and made available in mp3 format.

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[BTW they make the BEST incense ever!!! Check out their store.]

Holy Cross Monastery
R.R.2 Box 2343
Wayne, WV 25570
U.S.A.

Creation’s full meaning in Christ alone

Ave Maria!

I have been reading a short book called The Creation by Trophime Mouiren. It is not a famous book, to be sure! But it is a gem. It was written in French in 1961 and translated into English in 1962. I’d like to share a couple of beautiful quotes from it which underscore the Christocentric nature of all of creation.

In speaking about the biblical passages on creation, Mouiren writes:

We can now read the texts, for we know that our faith must go beyond the words themselves and the situations they describe, to the person of Christ, to his mystery, which alone can throw a full light on the creative act and give it its full meaning.

Since everything was created in, through and for Christ, we have the key to understanding creation and all of salvation history. In Christ we see everything in that “full light” and are able to grasp its “full meaning.” This is especially true if we are to fully understand the great moment of the creation of Adam by God. Adam prefigured Christ, was the father of the human race from which the Word would assume His Sacred Humanity. Mouiren says:

Adam is only known in the light of the new Adam, Christ. To know Adam as he came from the Creator’s hands we need the light of the mystery of Christ[…]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church n.359, in fact, quotes Vatican II and St. Peter Chrysologus on on this point and states:

“In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear.” (GS 22 # 1) “St. Paul tells us that the human race takes its origin from two men: Adam and Christ. . . the first man, Adam, he says, became a living soul, the last Adam a life-giving spirit. the first Adam was made by the last Adam, from whom he also received his soul, to give him life… the second Adam stamped his image on the first Adam when he created him. That is why he took on himself the role and the name of the first Adam, in order that he might not lose what he had made in his own image. the first Adam, the last Adam: the first had a beginning, the last knows no end. the last Adam is indeed the first; as he himself says: I am the first and the last.” (St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 117: PL 52, 520-521)

The recapitulation of all things in Christ is especially realized in His Resurrection from the dead and His Ascension into Heaven. Obviously, the consummation of submitting all to the Father will be on the last day, the day of our resurrection, judgment, and through the mercy of God – let us pray- our glorification with Him in the everlasting Beatific Vision.

Pope Francis, Eucharistic Miracle in Buenos Aires, Argentina

When we meditate on the primacy of Christ in all creation we cannot help but marvel at how He draws all things to Himself when He is lifted up in the Holy Eucharist where He is really present with His body, blood, soul and divinity. Although substantially present, nonetheless the appearance or accidents of bread and wine miraculously remain. In this way we eat of His flesh and drink of His blood in Holy Communion and He truly becomes our food and drink in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

On rare occasions Our Lord works what is called a eucharistic miracle whereby not only the substance changes – transubstantiation – but even the accidents. In 1996 in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Argentina, when the present Pope Francis was Auxiliary Bishop under Cardinal Quarracino, an amazing eucharistic miracle took place. He himself had it photographed and investigated and the results are astonishing. The video below draws this out:

Here is a segment describing the event written by Fr. M. Piotrowski:

Eucharistic Miracle in Buenos Aires

The weakening of faith in the real presence of the Risen Christ in the Eucharist is one of the most significant aspects of the current spiritual crisis. Jesus wants to strengthen our faith in His Eucharistic presence. That is why from time to time in the history of the Catholic Church He gives us signs–Eucharistic miracles that clearly underscore the fact that He, the Risen Lord Himself in the mystery of His Divinity and glorified humanity, is truly present in the Eucharist. The most recent Eucharistic miracle recognized by the Church authorities occurred in 1996 in the capital of Argentina–Buenos Aires.

A consecrated Host becomes flesh and blood

At seven o’clock in the evening on August 18, 1996, Fr. Alejandro Pezet was saying Holy Mass at a Catholic church in the commercial center of Buenos Aires. As he was finishing distributing Holy Communion, a woman came up to tell him that she had found a discarded host on a candleholder at the back of the church. On going to the spot indicated, Fr. Alejandro saw the defiled Host. Since he was unable to consume it, he placed it in a container of water and put it away in the tabernacle of the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.

On Monday, August 26, upon opening the tabernacle, he saw to his amazement that the Host had turned into a bloody substance. He informed Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Auxiliary Bishop at that time, now Pope Francis), who gave instructions that the Host be professionally photographed. The photos were taken on September 6. They clearly show that the Host, which had become a fragment of bloodied flesh, had grown significantly in size. For several years the Host remained in the tabernacle, the whole affair being kept a strict secret. Since the Host suffered no visible decomposition, Cardinal Bergoglio decided to have it scientifically analyzed.

On October 5, 1999, in the presence of the Cardinal’s representatives, Dr. Castanon took a sample of the bloody fragment and sent it to New York for analysis. Since he did not wish to prejudice the study, he purposely did not inform the team of scientists of its provenance. One of these scientists was Dr. Frederic Zugiba, the well-known cardiologist and forensic pathologist. He determined that the analyzed substance was real flesh and blood containing human DNA. Zugiba testified that, “the analyzed material is a fragment of the heart muscle found in the wall of the left ventricle close to the valves. This muscle is responsible for the contraction of the heart. It should be borne in mind that the left cardiac ventricle pumps blood to all parts of the body. The heart muscle is in an inflammatory condition and contains a large number of white blood cells. This indicates that the heart was alive at the time the sample was taken. It is my contention that the heart was alive, since white blood cells die outside a living organism. They require a living organism to sustain them. Thus, their presence indicates that the heart was alive when the sample was taken. What is more, these white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, which further indicates that the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest.”

Two Australians, journalist Mike Willesee and lawyer Ron Tesoriero, witnessed these tests. Knowing where sample had come from, they were dumbfounded by Dr. Zugiba’s testimony. Mike Willesee asked the scientist how long the white blood cells would have remained alive if they had come from a piece of human tissue, which had been kept in water. They would have ceased to exist in a matter of minutes, Dr. Zugiba replied. The journalist then told the doctor that the source of the sample had first been kept in ordinary water for a month and then for another three years in a container of distilled water; only then had the sample been taken for analysis. Dr. Zugiba’s was at a loss to account for this fact. There was no way of explaining it scientifically, he stated. Only then did Mike Willesee inform Dr. Zugiba that the analyzed sample came from a consecrated Host (white, unleavened bread) that had mysteriously turned into bloody human flesh. Amazed by this information, Dr. Zugiba replied, “How and why a consecrated Host would change its character and become living human flesh and blood will remain an inexplicable mystery to science—a mystery totally beyond her competence.”

Only faith in the extraordinary action of a God provides the reasonable answer—faith in a God, who wants to make us aware that He is truly present in the mystery of the Eucharist.

The Eucharistic miracle in Buenos Aires is an extraordinary sign attested to by science. Through it Jesus desires to arouse in us a lively faith in His real presence in the Eucharist. He reminds us that His presence is real, and not symbolic. Only with the eyes of faith do we see Him under appearance of the consecrated bread and wine. We do not see Him with our bodily eyes, since He is present in His glorified humanity. In the Eucharist Jesus sees and loves us and desires to save us.

In collaboration with Ron Tesoriero, Mike Willesee, one of Australia’s best-known journalists (he converted to Catholicism after working on the documents of another Eucharistic miracle) wrote a book entitled Reason to Believe. In it they present documented facts of Eucharistic miracles and other signs calling people to faith in Christ who abides and teaches in the Catholic Church. They have also made a documentary film on the Eucharist—based largely on the scientific discoveries associated with the miraculous Host in Buenos Aires. Their aim was to give a clear presentation of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the subject of the Eucharist. They screened the film in numerous Australian cities. The showing at Adelaide drew a crowd of two thousand viewers. During the commentary and question period that followed a visibly moved man stood up announcing that he was blind. Having learned that this was an exceptional film, he had very much wanted to see it. Just before the screening, he prayed fervently to Jesus for the grace to see the film. At once his sight was restored to him, but only for the thirty-minute duration of the film. Upon its conclusion, he again lost the ability to see. He confirmed this by describing in minute detail certain scenes of the film. It was an incredible event that moved those present to the core of their being.

Through such wondrous signs God calls souls to conversion. If Jesus causes the Host to become visible flesh and blood, a muscle that is responsible for the contraction of a human heart—a heart that suffers like that of someone who has been beaten severely about the chest, if He does such things, it is in order to arouse and quicken our faith in His real presence in the Eucharist. He thus enables us to see that Holy Mass is a re-presentation (i.e. a making present) of the entire drama of our salvation: Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. Jesus says to his disciples, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe” (Jn 4: 48). There is no need to actively seek out wondrous signs. But if Jesus chooses to give them to us, then it behooves us to accept them with meekness and seek to understand what He desires to tell us by them. Thanks to these signs, many people have discovered faith in God—the One God in the Holy Trinity, who reveals His Son to us: Jesus Christ, who abides in the sacraments and teaches us through Holy Scripture and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.