The Incarnation

Nativity by John Singleton Copley

The Dominican Father Thomas Pegues discusses St. Thomas Aquinas’ Treatise on the Incarnation (Summa Theologica III, 1-59).

Father Pegues defines the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God as “that truth, absolutely incomprehensible for us on earth, according to which the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, namely, the Word or the only Son of God, existing from all eternity together with the Father and the Holy Ghost, the same, one, and only true God, the Creator and Sovereign Master of all things, came, in time, upon this earth by His Incarnation in the womb of the Virgin Mary of whom He was born.”

The Incarnation itself consists in this: “that the divine nature and a human nature, each preserving what was proper to each, were substantially and indissolubly united in the unity of the one and same divine Person, which is the Person of the Son of God.”

“The incarnate Son of God has then a body like to ours, of flesh and bone, with the same members, senses, and organs.” He has also “a soul like to ours, with the same parts and faculties, and with an intellect and a will like to ours.”

“There is in Him an individual human nature, but not a human individual or a human person; for the nature He took was united to His divine Person, so that in the Incarnation there is only one person.” And this person is the Word of God, the Son of God.

The union of divine and human natures took place in the Person of the Son rather than in the Person of the Father or the Person of the Holy Spirit, and this for two reasons. First, since God created all things through the Son, it is “especially fitting” that the fallen human race be restored through Him. Second, since the Son proceeds from the Father, “He could be sent by the Father, and He, in His turn, could send us His Spirit as the fruit of His Redemption.”

The Incarnation is plausible and in accord with what we know about God. “We know that God is goodness itself. . . . We know that goodness endeavours to communicate some of its perfection to others. . . . God could not communicate Himself to His creatures in a way more marvellous than by His Incarnation.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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