The Socratic Catholic: St. Francis De Sales and the Franciscan Thesis

Lucas Westman at The Socratic Catholic created a post on the Franciscan school of philosophical and theological thought. He cites Dr. J. Isaac Goff:

Discovering St. Bonaventure and Bl. John Duns Scotus, the two great intellectual lights of the Lesser Brothers, early on in my theological and philosophical studies, I was immediately taken by the integrity, versatility, depth, width, breadth and beauty of the theologico-mystical vision out lined by these early intellectual and spiritual successors of the Poor Man from Assisi. Their common emphasis upon charity, person and wisdom, unmistakable in what became the two defining pillars of the Franciscan vision of the economy or theologia de contingentibus – the Absolute Predestination of Jesus Christ and His Mother as the Immaculate Conception – prompted me to seek to better understand their undersanding of such loving goodness and beauty: the Deum esse et trinum.

In a follow up The Socratic Catholic recently posted the passage from the Treatise on Divine Love (Book II, Ch. IV) on the essential reason God willed the Incarnation.

St. Francis De Sales (+1622), Bishop and Doctor of the Church, was known for his zealous defense of the Catholic Faith (The Controversies) at a time when heresy was spreading like wildfire, for his pastoral genius in guiding souls (Introduction to the Devout Life, Spiritual Conferences and his Letters), and for his ability to articulate the origins of Divine Love, the divine plan for creation, and how we are called to correspond to that loving plan (Treatise on Divine Love). In the latter work he clearly upholds the Franciscan thesis regarding the Incarnation.

Before citing the passage from St. Francis De Sales, The Socratic Catholic offers a brief introduction which is as precise as it is profound and is worthy of our attention. He writes:

Saint Anselm once asked the question, Cur Deus Homo? Why the God-man? The Franciscan thesis on this matter, systematically articulated by Bl. John Duns Scotus, is that the Incarnate Christ, the God-man would have taken place in salvific history with or without sin the sin of Adam. That is, the Incarnation is not contingent upon the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.

Saint Francis de Sales offered his support to the Franciscan thesis in his book, Treatise on the Love of God:

“All of God’s works are ordained to the salvation of men and angels; and the order of his providence is this, as far as, by attention to the Holy Scriptures and the doctrine of the Fathers, we are able to discover and our weakness permits us to describe it.

God knew from all eternity that he could make an innumerable multitude of creatures with divers perfections and qualities, to whom he might communicate himself, and considering that amongst all the different communications there was none so excellent as that of uniting himself to some created nature, in such sort that the creature might be engrafted and implanted in the divinity, and become one single person with it, his infinite goodness, which of itself and by itself tends towards communication, resolved and determined to communicate himself in this manner. So that, as eternally there is an essential communication in God by which the Father communicates all his infinite and indivisible divinity to the Son in producing him, and the Father and the Son together producing the Holy Ghost communicate to him also their own singular divinity; – so this sovereign sweetness was so perfectly communicated externally to a creature, that the created nature and the divinity, retaining each of them its own properties, were notwithstanding so united together that they were but one same person.

Now of all the creatures which that sovereign omnipotence could produce, he thought good to make choice of the same humanity which afterwards in effect was united to the person of God the Son; to which he destined that incomparable honor of personal union with his divine Majesty, to the end that for all eternity it might enjoy by excellence the treasures of his infinite glory. Then having selected for this happiness the sacred humanity of our Savior, the supreme providence decreed not to restrain his goodness to the only person of his well-beloved Son, but for his sake to pour it out upon divers other creatures, and out of the mass of that innumerable quantity of things which he could produce, he chose to create men and angels to accompany his Son, participate in his graces and glory, adore and praise him for ever. And inasmuch as he saw that he could in various manners form the humanity of this Son, while making him true man, as for example by creating him out of nothing, not only in regard of the soul but also in regard of the body; or again by forming the body of some previously existing matter as he did that of Adam and Eve, or by way of ordinary human birth, or finally be extraordinary birth from a woman without man, he determined that the work should be effected by the last way, and of all the women he might have chosen to this end he made choice of the most holy virgin Our Lady, through whom the Savior of our souls should not only be man, but the child of the human race.”

One can see the passage of St. Francis De Sales in its entirety here or even access the entire Treatise here. The question of St. Anselm, Cur Deus-Homo?, continues to be an important one as the reflections of Dr. J. Isaac Goff, Lucas Westman and St. Francis De Sales make manifest.

The Franciscan thesis upholds that Christ came primarily to glorify the Father and be glorified by the Father, as He Himself says in His priestly prayer in the Cenacle: “I have glorified Thee on earth; I have accomplished the work that Thou hast given Me to do. And now do Thou, Father, glorify Me with Thyself, with the glory that I had with Thee before the world existed” (Jn. 17:5). One can read more about this here or watch this little video:

May Christ our King reign in our hearts!