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Sunday, 12 April 2015

Musings on Mercy and The Incarnation

Some Catholics are confused about the coming of Christ into the world and the fall of Lucifer. For clarification, one can look at the early commentators and Doctors of the Church. Some commentators on the Scriptures have indicated that Lucifer foresaw the creation of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, and hated the thought of a human woman being so perfect, that he rebelled in his arrogance.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux indicates that Lucifer saw the Incarnation, that Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity would become Man, and rebelled, again, out of disgust that God Himself would take on humanity.

The Lord, as St. Bernard notes, descended not merely to earth, but to hell, in the Harrowing of Hell, in order to free all those who died before His Salvific Action of the Passion. Only a few were spared hell, Elijah, Moses, and Enoch. Some modern lay persons have suggested that St. Joseph did not have to endure hell, but there is no Scriptural, nor ancient tradition of this, and in my mind, it must be ignored as fantasy.

God decided who endured this first limbo, or part of hell.

If Adam had not sinned, would Christ have come? Some theologians, such as Blessed Duns Scotus, states yes, and here is part of his various writings on this point found here.

“If man had not sinned, there would have been no need for our redemption.  But that God predestined this soul [of Christ] to so great a glory does not seem to be only on account of that [redemption], since the redemption or the glory of the soul to be redeemed is not comparable to the glory of Christ’s soul.  Neither is it likely that the highest good in creation is something that was merely occasioned only because of some lesser good; nor is it likely that He predestined Adam to such good before He predestined Christ; and yet this would follow [were the Incarnation occasioned by Adam’s sin].  In fact, if the predestination of Christ’s soul was for the sole purpose of redeeming others, something even more absurd would follow, namely, that in predestining Adam to glory, He would have foreseen him as having fallen into sin before He predestined Christ to glory.
“It can be said, therefore, that with a priority of nature God chose for His heavenly court all the angels and men He wished to have with their various degrees of perfection before He foresaw either sin or the punishment for sinners; and no one has been predestined only because somebody else’s sin was foreseen, lest anyone have reason to rejoice over the fall of another.”[1]
“I say that the Incarnation of Christ was not foreseen as something occasioned [by sin], but that it was foreseen by God from all eternity and as a good more immediately proximate to the end…  Hence this is the order followed in God’s prevision. First, God understood Himself as the highest good.  In the second instant[2] He understood all creatures.  In the third He predestined some to glory and grace, and concerning some He had a negative act by not predestining.[3]  In the fourth, He foresaw that all these would fall in Adam.  In the fifth He preordained and foresaw the remedy—how they would be redeemed through the Passion of His Son, so that, like all the elect, Christ in the flesh was foreseen and predestined to grace and glory before Christ’s Passion was foreseen as a medicine against the fall, just as a physician wills the health of a man before he wills the medicine to cure him.”[4]
St. Francis de Sales notes this about the Incarnation, that God meant to join with man for love:
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 honour 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 Saviour, 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 by 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 Saviour of our souls should not only be man, but a child of the human race.
So, it is possible, especially seeing the Fall of Lucifer, that Christ would have come to earth Incarnated.
He also clearly foresaw that the first man would abuse his liberty and forsaking grace would lose glory, yet would he not treat human nature so rigorously as he determined to treat the angelic. It was human nature of which he had determined to take a blessed portion to unite it to his divinity. He saw that it was a feeble nature, a wind which goeth and returneth not,57 that is, which is dissipated as it goes. He had regard to the surprise by which the malign and perverse Satan had taken the first man, and to the greatness of the temptation which ruined him. He saw that all the race of men was perishing by the fault of one only, so that for these reasons he beheld our nature with the eye of pity and resolved to admit it to his mercy. But in order that the sweetness of his mercy might be adorned with the beauty of his justice, he determined to save man by way of a rigorous redemption. And as this could not properly be done but by his Son, he settled that he should redeem man not only by one of his amorous actions, which would have been perfectly sufficient to ransom a million million of worlds: but also by all the innumerable amorous actions and dolorous passions which he 76 would perform or suffer till death, and the death of the cross, to which he destined him. He willed that thus he should make himself the companion of our miseries to make us afterwards companions of his glory, showing thereby the riches of his goodness, by this copious, abundant, superabundant, magnificent and excessive redemption, which has gained for us, and as it were reconquered for us, all the means necessary to attain glory, so that no man can ever complain as though the divine mercy were wanting to anyone.
It is interesting to note, as an aside, that St. Francis indicates that like St. John the Baptist, who was freed from Original Sin in the womb and born free of it, so too was Jeremiah. But, enough for now on the mystery of the Incarnation.