Fr. Alessandro M. Apollonio, F.I. – Salvation, Redemption, and the Primacy of Christ

Below are the first few paragraphs of a very erudite study of the great Italian Scotistic theologian Fr. Alessandro M. Apollonio on the Franciscan perspective of salvation and redemption. Salvation and redemption are not synonyms; rather, salvation is a much broader term – justification through faith in Christ (sin or no sin, whether Angels or men) which elevates the creature to a capacity to enjoy God in the everlasting Beatific Vision and to live in friendship with Him during the time of sojourn as His adopted children – while redemption is a more specific term – the salvation of fallen man from sin (for Our Lady a preservative redemption, for the rest of us a liberative redemption). His entire presentation on this subject can be read HERE. I have also treated this more generically in discussing Eph. 1:7 and will post my video at the end of this post where I touch upon this very subject.

From the pen of Fr. Alessandro…


The concept of redemption in the Franciscan school, above all in the form given it by Bl. John Duns Scotus, cannot be grasped apart from the Scotistic thesis concerning the absolute primacy of the Word Incarnate and His Virgin Mother, jointly predestined in one and the same decree absolutely: this means prior to any consideration of creation or of redemption, not relative to or consequent on creation or on redemption. It is important to note that the Scotistic form of this thesis is not only opposed to the position of those who hold that the Incarnation was willed by God only consequently on the divine prevision of Adam’s sin, but also to the naturalist or Pelagian school (especially in its evolutionary version as promoted by many calling themselves “transcendental Thomists”), who hold that the Incarnation was willed consequently on creation as its perfection, rather than creation for the glory of Jesus and Mary.1

In this scenario, so neatly outlined by Scotus, the predestination of the Word Incarnate to be Head and Savior of all the elect, angels and men, is pure grace or gift of the Father to his Son, for whom qua predestined the world was created. All the elect are predestined in Him (cf. Eph 1: 3), not as pure gift, but in view of and through the merits of Christ, Head and Savior of His body, the Church. Therefore, His predestination to be Incarnate Word is basis of His role as Mediator. His mediation is primarily a work of salvation of the elect: from absence of blessedness to the sharing in His blessedness as Word made flesh, this via cooperation in the work of salvation.

Scotus’ argumentation is both simple and profound: the lesser good, redemption, is ordered to the higher and absolutely perfect good, the salvation and enjoyment of the supreme Good in Christ qua Incarnate, according to Bonaventure and Thomas a “quasi-infinite,” greater than which nothing is possible in the order of divine works ad extra.2 A perfect Creator is perfectly rational in his choices, and the basis of all rational willing is the principle that the lesser is for the sake of the higher, and higher for the sake of the highest, in Bonaventurian terms “hierarchization” or sacred ordering.3

This “being saved” of all the elect by the merits of Christ, so as to be included with Christ in His predestination, also includes the Virgin Mary. “Being saved” through the merits of Christ the Head, means both being saved from the absence of perfect felicity unto perfect felicity as members of Christ. This is the root of elevating grace in the actual economy of salvation, both before as well as after original sin, for the angels as well as for mankind.

1. On this point cf. St. Bonaventure, III Sent., d. 1, a. 2, q. 2.
2. Summa Th., I, q. 25, a. 4.
3. Scotus, Ordinatio, III Sent., d. 7, q. 3. For a very readable overview of Scotus’ teaching on the absolute primacy of Jesus, see M. Dean, A Primer on the Absolute Primacy of Christ, New Bedford MA 2006. For Bonaventure on supreme hierarchization of Mary as intrinsic part of the order of the hypostatic union see II Sent., d. 9, q. 7. For commentary, see P. Fehlner, St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, Martyr of Charity, Pneumatologist. His Theology of the Holy Spirit, New Bedford MA 2004, pp. 70-74.

Fr. Alessandro M. Apollonio, F.I.

Here is my summary of this distinction from my Cornerstone series recorded in 2006-7…

[Erratum: please note that in the video below I mistakenly say that Christ was not born of the Father, but generated. In my post here one can see that the Church teaches that Christ has two births, namely, His eternal birth of the Father and His temporal birth of the Virgin Mother]