Part III – Bl. Gabriel Allegra, OFM: The Primacy of Christ in St. Paul & Duns Scotus

“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

Ave Maria!
Behold, the Third Part! Here the grand Scotist in Bl. Gabriel Allegra shines forth. In explaining Bl. John Duns Scotus’ doctrine of the absolute primacy of Christ the King in creation he makes every effort not to isolate it from the whole of Scotus’ Christology which, obviously, includes Christ’s redeeming work on the Cross. What he shows is that according to the Franciscan thesis we are even more indebted to Jesus the Redeemer because His work of Redemption was a supreme, free act of pure and ardent love.

To accomplish his task, Bl. Gabriel Allegra isolates five Latin quotes of Bl. John Duns Scotus and comments on each of them. So this section will be broken down into 5 chapters.


In Corde Matris,
Fr. Maximilian M. Dean

Il primato di Cristo in San Paolo e Duns Scoto

(Edizioni Porziuncola, 2011)
by Blessed Gabriel M. Allegra, OFM

Translation of pertinent passages:

Section III

The key phrases [of Scotus] on the doctrine of the absolute Primacy of Christ and of the Redemption as a work of pure, ardent love are:


[1. The greatest work of God cannot be occasioned/conditoned]

I. Regarding the first assertion, which to me is as clear as the sun… please allow me to read the judgment of the Anglican convert, Fr. Faber: “If Christ was decreed after us, three monstrous consequences would follow: first , that Christ would have a debt of gratitude to us; second, that in certain aspects we would be greater than Him; third, that sin was necessary for His existence.”

I would add that if sin and its consequent redemption is the occasion, or as they say, the motive of the Incarnation, it would follow that the entire activity of God ad extra converges on man. Thus the end of God’s activity ad extra would not be the manifestation and communication of His goodness, but the salvation of the human race, as if God could not accomplish His external glorification except through the praise and love of the human creature. But what is the love of all of the Angels and Saints in comparison to Christ’s love for the Father? to the glory which the Heart of Christ renders to the Father? to His adoration?

Ven. John Scotus says: The glory of all the others put together does not equal that of the glory of Christ, that is, the glory which Christ gives to God the Father. To say that God would have neglected to bring about such a great work in the hypothesis that Adam had not sinned seems extremely irrational (videtur valde irrationabile). And if St. Paul, by way of hypothesis, were to descend from Heaven and we were to ask him: For what reason did the Incarnation take place? Would he who preached that in all things Christ has the Primacy ever respond that the Word was incarnate only to redeem humanity and that without sin we would not have the Christ of whom he says, like God the Father, He must be all in all things, whose “fullness” is the very fullness of God?


[2. God willed to be loved by another who in himself was capable of loving in the highest degree, in the sense of the love of someone extrinsic to Himself]

II.  …In a word, anyone who loves understands: “Da mihi amantem et novit quid dico” (St. Augustine); and it is not a coincidence that the mystics and Saints are moved in a particular way by this principle in order to accept and live the doctrine of the primacy of Christ. This principle, for me, is the most logical outcome of the other: God is Infinite Love; Christ was willed by God the Father because, being Infinite Love, He desires infinite love. If all of creation is soaked in love, if the creation of intelligent creatures is, besides being an act of love, a desire to receive love, as St. Bonaventure says, if the highest love towards God-Charity could only be rendered by the Word Incarnate as the only one capable of loving and glorifying God in the highest degree, that is, in a measure which is adequate, infinite, worthy of the Father who is totius bonitatis, then it is necessary that Christ be the primum volitum inter omnia creata volita, that He be the foundation and raison d’étre of the counsel of the Eternal which unfurls and actualizes the universe…


[3. All of the authorities/authors – auctoritates – can be explained in this way: Christ would not have come as Redeemer if man had not fallen…]

III.  On to the third assertion of Scotus: “The entire witness of the Scriptures and the Fathers which seem to confirm the contrary, namely that Christ would not have been incarnate if Adam had not sinned, can be understood in the sense that Christ would not have come as Redeemer if man had not fallen; perhaps in such a case He would not have come in passible flesh, it not being necessary for Christ’s soul – glorious from the beginning and preordained by God to such a great glory – to have been united to a passible body.” In this assertion, I say, we have the synthesis of the two revealed data: the absolute Primacy of Christ (the primary end of the Incarnation) and the Redemption of the human race (a secondary end). But this synthesis had already been made by St. Paul in his prophetic-oracular style;  during that time he was the preacher of Christ, Rex totius universitatis, and the preacher of Jesus, and Him crucified.


If it were necessary to comment on Scotus, a comment which, nonetheless, as Grabmann notes, is valid for the whole scholastic world, it is the fact that he has recourse to theological reason rather than insisting upon and proving his assumption starting with the Scripture and Tradition; however, it would be incorrect to forget that this ratio teologica is the essence of his diuturnal and sublime meditations on the Bible and the Fathers. Only in the 16th century do his disciples begin to use a positive method of biblical-patristic research, a method which up to now has not been completely utilized, although here and there one can observe with satisfaction that it is bearing fruits. There comes to mind two writings, that of Lattanzi: Il Primato di Cristo nelle Sacre Scritture, and another by Hausherr, Un Precurseur de Scot: Isac Ninivite.


[4. Thus I maintain that all of the things which Christ accomplished for our Redemption were not necessary except for what concerns the preexistent, divine decree – nisi praesupposita ordinatione divina – which decreed/ordered that it be done in this way, and therefore Christ’s suffering was only necessary by way of a necessity of consequence… and therefore we are greatly indebted to Him – multum tenemur Ei. In fact, since man could have been redeemed in another manner and nonetheless God, in His free will, redeemed us in this way, we are much more indebted to Him for this than if we necessarily had to be redeemed in this fashion with no other alternative; He did this above all, as I believe, in order to attract us to His love and because He willed that man be even more bound to God.]

In this [assertion of Scotus] Christian anthropology and the mystery of the Cross are, in my opinion, integrally kept intact – no part of the revealed truth is lost or mitigated. Rather, the mystery of the Cross is actually immersed in the most ardent and tender flames of divine love. This is how Scotus argues, like a new John of Patmos: Given that a finite being cannot, in sinning, commit an offense which has an infinite malice; given that the abasement of the Incarnation in passible flesh was sufficient to reconcile us with God, or further still, that had God disposed it differently the satisfaction given by an Angel or man himself, strengthened anew by grace, would have been sufficient, it follows that the sorrows of the Son of God crucified were willed by God: ad alliciendum nos ad amore suum… et quia voluit hominem amplius teneri Deo, that is, these unspeakable sorrows were willed by the heavenly Father in order to attract us to His love and so that man might love God all the more. Therefore, Scotus continues, no grace which concerns salvation is given to man as wayfarer by the most Holy Trinity except through the merit of this oblation of Christ, consummated on the Cross, through a most beloved Person – the Son – and through the maximum love – the love of the Son.


Following this synthesis of Christology Christ is always the First, the One who is above all – proteuon en pasin. In the most tender and delightful mysteries: Bethlehem, Nazareth, Calvary, the Eucharist, and in His most glorious mysteries: the Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, the glory of His Immaculate Mother and that of His Church, His Sacred Humanity irresistably draws hearts to the love of the Father, of His Christ, of Mary and of His Church. And this is because: ad alliciendum nos ad amorem suum sic fecit… et quia voluit nos amplius teneri Deo… ideo multum tenemur Ei.


[5. Therefore, the Trinity did not lend any help for the salvation of the wayfarer except in virtue of Christ’s offering made on the Cross through a most loved Person and through the maximum love.]

…In the light of this doctrine, which always has for its setting the Christocentric thesis, the drama of Redemption changes from a drama of justice to a drama of most pure and ardent love. It seems to me, and I would like to have the grace to write something on this argument, that a plan of justice would thus be replaced by a perfect plan of salvation which is removed from all external influence and rooted exclusively in the Father’s love for the Son and the love of the Incarnate Son, the Christ, for the Father and for mankind.


And in believing in this doctrine St. Paul comes to my aid. He says that Jesus “who for the joy set before Him, endured a Cross, despising the shame” (Heb 12:2). Furthermore, it seems to me that in the light of this doctrine of Christocentrism and Redemption for pure love, Mary’s Immaculate Conception and the value of her Compassion as Coredemptrix would follow logically.  And finally, I deduce from this that for man nothing else remains but to realize that corollary – simple as it is demanding : ideo multum tenemur Ei. For this reason we are deeply indebted to Christ: we could have been redeemed in a different manner, and yet He willed to redeem us in this fashion! “In fact, since man could have been redeemed in another manner and nonetheless God, in His free will, redeemed us in this way, we are much more indebted to Him for this than if we necessarily had to be redeemed in this fashion with no other alternative; He did this above all, as I believe, in order to attract us to His love and because He willed that man be even more bound to God.”

p. 71

…Although in scholastic terminology, I have laid out how Scotus would speak of Christ as Alpha and Omega and as the Crucified Redeemer. It seems to me that he firmly maintains the two links of the chain; it seems to me that He brings about the powerful synthesis of the two truths which, in the end, form but one heavenly mystery of Christ.