“I see Scotus as the Doctor of the Immaculate Conception, of Christ as King of the universe, of the Church as the bride of Christ, as a defender of Christ’s Vicar on earth, as a theologian of the mystery of the Eucharist.”
— Bl. Gabriel M. Allegra, OFM
Here is Part II which is largely a scriptural presentation of the doctrine of the absolute primacy of Christ. The third part will be the pure ratio theologica of Bl. John Duns Scotus.
Il primato di Cristo in San Paolo e Duns Scoto
(Edizioni Porziuncola, 2011)
by Blessed Gabriel M. Allegra, OFM
Translation of pertinent passages:
St. Paul, just as he writes that in all things God the Creator and Father is all in all (1 Cor 15:28), so he adopts the same phrase in reference to Christ when he says to the Colossians (3:11), “Christ is all things and in all.” So too St. John speaks of God the Creator and Father as the Alpha and Omega (Apoc 1:8) and at the same time affirms this of Christ. Here are the two principle texts: In the Apocalypse (1:18) Jesus speaks thus to the Apostle: “Do not be afraid, I am the First and the Last, and He who lives; I was dead, and behold, I am living forevermore”; and in chapter 22:12-13 of the same mysterious book Jesus once again speaks: “Behold, I come quickly! And my reward is with Me, to render to each one according to his works. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first ant the last, the beginning and the end!”
Regarding St. Paul, I do not want to insist upon the text from the letter to the Colossians (3:11) where, in my opinion, the obvious sense would be as follows: as the head is everything for the body, so much so that the body without it cannot live, so it is with the members of the mystical body of Christ who, without distinction of race or social condition, each have in the body the dignity of being children of adoption; without Christ their head, from whom they receive grace upon grace, without remaining united to Him and living in Him and He in them, they are not alive, but dead, condemned to death. At any rate, if we reflect upon the psychological laws of the language and the author who makes use of it, I would have to say, with P. Bover, that it is not insignificant that Paul might be speaking of Christ in the same way as He speaks of God the Father. Stronger still, it would seem to me, is St. John’s position which gives the title of Alpha and Omega both to God the Creator and Father and to Christ.
Christ the Alpha: in the sense of the other denomination which is always read in the Apocalypse (3:14): E archè tes ktiseos tou Theou – the beginning of the creation of God; Christ the Omega: in the sense that He is the end for which everything was made and towards which the ages and all things tend…
But in order to return to St. Paul through St. John I would like to point out that the well beloved Apostle, in writing to the Churches of Asia that Christ is “the beginning of the creation of God,” is himself referring to the teaching which St. Paul had given to the Ephesians and, in a particular way, to the Colossians in the letter he wrote from his benevolent imprisonment in Rome. If you will permit me, I’d like to read the pericope of Col 1:15-20 and give a brief explanation of it which, following many exegetes, seems to me to be the most evident meaning. I cannot, however, overlook the fact that there is a strong exegetical current (dominated by the authority of St. Thomas, Prince of Theologians, and by the illustrious commentator on St. Paul’s Epistles, Estius) which would give an explanation which is different from that which I, with modesty, would like to propose, but also with a Pauline parresia [NT Greek: confidence/courage].
In this powerful and enlightening passage (Col 1:15-20) St. Paul speaks of Christ in relation to God, to creatures and to the Church. In relation to God, Christ is the living image of the invisible Father who dwells in inaccessible light: he who sees Christ, no so much with the eyes of the body, but with the eyes of the Faith, sees the Father.
In relation to creatures Christ is called by Paul: the Firstborn. The Patristic explanation of this title in comparison with the other title – the only Begotten – is, practically speaking, part of tradition. He is called only Begotten in so far as He is the Son of God; He is called Firstborn in so far as He is the Son of man: Mediator Dei et hominum homo Christus Jesus (1 Tm 2:5).
He is Firstborn not so much by His unique excellence which derives from the hypostatic Union, but because He is the Beginning of the ways of God, that is, of the action of God extra sé, the First One willed among all created beings. Actually, all beings have been willed and created for Him, in view of Him, and in Him they have their consistency: Kai ta panta en auto sunesteken.
With regards to the Church, He is the Head, the communicating Principle of the divine life because in Him dwells the fullness of the divinity and grace and because with His blood He obtained, continues to purify and sanctifies His beloved Bride.
To say, as many exegetes do – most of them, in fact – that St. Paul is speaking first of the pre-existent Word of God and then of the Word Incarnate seems to me to do violence to the Greek syntax and, above all, to the thought of the Apostle. No, Paul speaks of the Son of God as Incarnate and Redeemer, absolutely willed by God the Father before the world was founded, as the Apostle teaches in his letter to the Ephesians; he speaks of the “Beloved” (egapemenos) in whom, before the world existed, we were blessed, chosen, predestined as adopted children, enriched which grace – even the fullness of Christ; in whom, by virtue of His Blood, we have received Redemption, the remission of our sins, the revelation of the mystery hidden in ages past, and the promised Holy Spirit: all unto the praise of the glory of Christ (Eph 1:1-14).
Christ’s entrance into the created universe was not occasioned [caused] by Adam’s sin, but to the contrary the universe exists for Christ and in view of Him.
It is Christ, I would say, who is the occasion [cause] of the existence of the universe which has its consistency [existence] in Him. He is the Revealer, He the Glorifier of the Father, He the Head of all creation, and in virtue of His Incarnation He was consecrated and continues to be consecrated by the Church which is a continuation of Christ, transcending time and space; or further still, drawing out the extreme consequences of Pauline thought: Creation is perennially consecrated by the Eucharist both with regards to the sacrifice which mystically perpetuates the oblation of Calvary and to the Sacrament which mystically perpetuates His presence until the Lord’s coming and which is the great sign of His presence, the indisputable pledge of His being Emmanuel: our God with us!…
The Incarnation is the greatest work of God, and thus irrepeatable, towards which everything converges: time and space; now the Word Incarnate holds the Primacy over all things which, each according to its own nature, owes its existence, grace and glory to Him: whether they dwell on our planet or our solar system or in some distant astral system at the farthest reaches of some distant galaxy; whether they are angels, men, irrational beings – even if they are different than us. The recapitulation – an unhappy translation of the Greek word – should not, it seems to me, be intended in the merely soteriological sense, but in the cosmic sense (Eph 1:10) and I find this same doctrine in the prologue to the Letter to the Hebrews where the Apostle teaches: “God… has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the world; who, being the brightness of His glory and the image of His substance, and upholding all things by the words of his power, has effected man’s purgation from sin and taken His seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:1-3)…
But I hear that exegesis and biblical Theology are on the verge of directing themselves twoards the doctrine of the absolute Primacy of Christ and that they will be forced to do so by the more accurate study of Wisdom in the Old Testament, by the harmony between the two Testaments, and, in the end, even by the research regarding the Gnosticism and Stoicism of the Christian Era. And who knows, perhaps there are even certain rabbinical texts which maintain that God had created the universe for the Messiah and with Him in mind; better studies could demonstrate that Paul, the disciple of the Rabbi Gamaliel, after being struck by lightning at Damascus and taken up later to the third heaven, possessed a powerful, supernatural vision which gave him the vigor and strength to contemplate the mystery of Christ, hidden in ages past, and reveal Him to us. I would also like to add that if Theologians will follow, even from a distance, even as amateurs, the prestigious progress of the sciences, they will have to give much attention to the doctrine of Christ as the Alpha and Omega, of Christ as King of the Universe, as Christ the all in all – like the Father, as St. Paul preached: ina genetai en pasin autos proteuon – “that in all things He may have the first place” (Col 1:18).
In the field of theology the Pauline-Johanine Christocentrism and Christofinalism should not supplant, but rather integrate the doctrinal, soteriological system by way of a larger and more worthy vision of Christ’s mission. In this integration traditional soteriology would not only remain intact, but would present to us – and of this I am sure – Christ’s love for the Father and for his brothers, humanity, in a more dazzling and ardent manner. What is needed, therefore, is to bring together a harmonious synthesis of all of the data of Revelation: the dogma of the Trinity, the inner life of God, the absolute Primacy of Christ and the mystery of the Cross, with another light, divine as well, which emanates from science. Perhaps that which the great Scholastics attempted and, in the field of the upholders of the absolute Primacy of Christ, Scotus, St. Bernardine, St. Lawrence of Brindisi, and St. Francis de Sales attempted would, today, given the immense extension of scientific research, be frightful or at least seem impossible; and yet the construction of a complete theological system which does not concentrate solely on one aspect, but all of the aspects of Revelation, the entire “truth which elevates us so much,” is the inevitable task of Theology in the near future.