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!