Listers, during Christmastime Catholics are often struck by the humility of God to wrap himself in human nature. It is normally reserved for Lent and Easter to reflect upon the mission of Christ, and the effects of his death upon the Cross. However, the Incarnation, the Cross, and the Resurrection are three mysteries that holistically articulate the entirety of Christ’s mission. In furthering the understanding of Christology, St. Thomas Aquinas speak to the effects of the Incarnation.
An SPL Introduction
Often times, the salvific effects of the Cross and Resurrection overshadow the more nuanced effects of the Incarnation. However in St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, the Angelic Doctor catalogues five reasons the Incarnation moved humanity toward the Goodness of God, and five reasons the Incarnation drew us from Evil. Each point is supported by a quote by St. Augustine, if not entirely articulated by him.1
1. Drawn From the Bodiless Demons
First, because man is taught by it not to prefer the devil to himself, nor to honor him who is the author of sin; hence Augustine says (De Trin. xiii, 17): “Since human nature is so united to God as to become one person, let not these proud spirits dare to prefer themselves to man, because they have no bodies.”
2. Drawn From Sin to Great Dignity
Secondly, because we are thereby taught how great is man’s dignity, lest we should sully it with sin; hence Augustine says (De Vera Relig. xvi): “God has proved to us how high a place human nature holds amongst creatures, inasmuch as He appeared to men as a true man.” And Pope Leo says in a sermon on the Nativity (xxi): “Learn, O Christian, thy worth; and being made a partner of the Divine nature, refuse to return by evil deeds to your former worthlessness.”
3. Drawn From the Presumption of Man
Thirdly, because, “in order to do away with man’s presumption, the grace of God is commended in Jesus Christ, though no merits of ours went before,” as Augustine says (De Trin. xiii, 17).
4. Drawn From Pride to Humility
Fourthly, because “man’s pride, which is the greatest stumbling-block to our clinging to God, can be convinced and cured by humility so great,” as Augustine says in the same place.
5. Drawn From the Thralldom of Sin
Fifthly, in order to free man from the thralldom of sin, which, as Augustine says (De Trin. xiii, 13), “ought to be done in such a way that the devil should be overcome by the justice of the man Jesus Christ,” and this was done by Christ satisfying for us. Now a mere man could not have satisfied for the whole human race, and God was not bound to satisfy; hence it behooved Jesus Christ to be both God and man.
Hence Pope Leo says in the same sermon: “Weakness is assumed by strength, lowliness by majesty, mortality by eternity, in order that one and the same Mediator of God and men might die in one and rise in the other–for this was our fitting remedy. Unless He was God, He would not have brought a remedy; and unless He was man, He would not have set an example.”
- Sources: The list is found in St. Thomas’ Summa Theologica III.I.II (Third Part – First Question – Second Article) and is also articulated and commented upon by the astute Dominican, Fr. Romanus Cessario, O.P. in his wonderful work The Godly Image: Christ and Salvation in Catholic Thought from Anselm to Aquinas, pp. 126-127. [↩]