Fr. Matthias M. Sasko: Primary Motive of the Incarnation… the maximum glory of God

Fr. Matthias Mary concisely sums up the teaching of Bl. John Duns Scotus on the primary motive of the Incarnation in a short homily on the Solemnity of the Annunciation. He points out that the primary motive of the Incarnation is the maximum glory of God and that the Son of God did not become man because the sin of Adam, but despite the sin of Adam.

To view and hear the homily at AirMaria.com please click on the image:

St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Doctor of the Church

St. Lawrence of Brindisi (+1619) was a true champion of the absolute primacy of Christ. Below are some quotes I have translated from his Mariale. In some spots I have inserted the lacking Scripture reference or have written out the Scripture text referred to. To see the Latin quotes as they are reported in Fr. Dominic Unger’s Franciscan Christology click here.

The king loves the only son more than all his servants. Christ was not predestined for the Elect; but the all the Elect for Christ, unto the glory of Christ. Hence St. Paul to the Ephesians 1:3-6: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing on high in Christ. Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in His sight in love. He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as His sons, according to the purpose of His will, unto the praise of the glory of His grace, with which He has favored us in His beloved Son.” Here Paul clearly [manifeste] teaches that all of the Elect are predestined unto the glory of Christ. Even in the First Letter to the Corinthians 3:22-23: “For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas; or the world, or life, or death; or things present, or things to come – all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” Everything exists for you, but you exist for Christ. Hence all are servants of Christ, even the Angels: “… in order that through the Church there be made known to the Principalities and the Powers in the heavens the manifold wisdom of God according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph 3:10-11); “… so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven…” [Phil 1:10]. And to the Hebrews 1:2 he says, “… whom He appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the world…” Writing as well to the Colossians he taught that everything was created for Christ, therefore he says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For in Him were created all things in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether Thrones, or Dominations, or Principalities, or Powers. All things have been created through and unto Him, and He is before all creatures, and in Him all things hold together” (Col 1:15-17). (Mariale, vol I, p.79)

Christ is the foundation of all creatures, all graces, all glory, because He is the end of all things, [the one] for whom all things were created. (Mariale, vol I, p.80)

Not only is He the first predestined creature, but even the final cause of the predestination of the Saints. Thus Paul says, “For those whom He has foreknown He has also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He should be the firstborn among many brethren..” (Rm 8:29). Paul here declares Christ to be the final cause [of the predestination of the Elect] from eternity when he says “that He should be the firstborn,” in dignity and honor, “among many brethren,” that is, in all God’s Elect whom He has adopted as sons. (Mariale, vol I, p.80)

Therefore to Christ be the glory: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High” (Lk 1:32). God created the universe for the honor and glory of Christ. Just as the entire, most august edifice of the temple was undertaken by Solomon in exceeding and immeasurable pains for the Ark of the Covenant; so for Christ, who is the ark of the Divinity, everything in the world – heaven and earth – was created, with everything contained in the heavenly realm. Whoever is in the kingdom serves the king, is for the king; but Christ says, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Mt 28:18). The Angels in Heaven were created to be servants of Christ; man was formed from the earth in order to be the image of Christ. Thus Paul calls Adam an image of the of the Future One [“a figure of Him who was to come”] (Rm 5:14); thus for the greater glory of Christ man was permitted to be tempted and defeated by the Devil, in order that Christ, in working the salvation of the human race, might show forth the infinite treasures of His divine power. (Mariale, vol I, p.86)

Although this is already quoted on this website here, I thought it well to quote it again in conjunction with the four quotes above:

Therefore, God ordained from all eternity to communicate the infinite treasures of His goodness, to show forth the infinite charity of His mystery by this divine Incarnation in order that Christ might be great and might sit as King at the right hand of God. (Mariale, vol I, p.81-82)

William Gilson Humphry: A Summary of the Franciscan Thesis

I found this on Frank Weathers website Why I am Catholic. It is an excerpt from A Digest of the Doctrine of St. Thomas on the Incarnation by the Anglican cleric William Gilson Humphry written in 1868 which sums up excellently the doctrine of Bl. John Duns Scotus on the Incarnation:

The third view of the Incarnation is that taken by the Scotists, by Suarez, and by many other theologians both ancient and modern. It teaches—and so far in accordance with Thomist theology, that Jesus came principally to save sinners, and for that end came in passible flesh; but here its agreement ceases. It asserts that even if Adam had never sinned, Jesus would yet have come, and come by means of Mary, in impassible flesh; that He was predestinated the Firstborn of creatures before the decree which permitted sin; that the Incarnation was from the first an intentional and integral part of the scheme of creation; that it was not merely occasioned by sin, but that sin only determined the manner of it, and its accompaniments of suffering and death. And it is as regards the manner of the Incarnation alone, as speaking of our Lord’s coming in passible and mortal flesh, that the Scotists understand those passages in Holy Scripture, in the writings of the Fathers, and in the Office Books of the Church, which at first sight seem to make for the Thomist view. The Scotists dwell very much on the doctrine that Jesus was decreed before all creation, and therefore before the permission of sin. They hold that all men exist because of Christ, and not Christ because of them, that all creation was for Him, and was not only decreed subsequently to His predestination, but for His sole sake.

They found again upon His being the First Begotten and Exemplar of the predestinate. And they go on to establish their view by arguments drawn from reason, from the natural order of things, from the relative value of means and ends, from the grace of the unfallen Adam, which is alleged to have been conferred on him because of Christ, from the Incarnation having, as St. Thomas teaches, been revealed to Adam, who, although he lost hope and the love of God when he sinned, did not lose his faith.

They urge further, that on the Thomist view, Christ was only an “occasioned good,” and, a still more unworthy supposition, occasioned by sin; or again, that Christ would have to rejoice in Adam’s sin, as owing to it His existence, grace, and His glory as man.

Again, it is said, that if Christ was decreed after us, and because of us, and only to redeem us, three monstrous consequences would follow:

1. That Christ would owe us a debt of gratitude.

2. That we should in certain respects be more excellent than He.

3. That sin was necessary to His existence.

On the Scotist view of the Incarnation the following would be the order of the Divine Decrees—the order of intention, that is, for there can of course be no order of time with God.

1. God understood Himself as the Sovereign Good.

2. He understood all creatures.

3. He predestinated creatures to grace and glory.

4. He foresaw men falling in Adam.

5. He pre-ordained the Passion of Christ as the remedy for this fall.

Thus Christ in the Flesh, and all the elect members of His mystical Body also, were foreseen and predestined to grace and glory, before the foresight either of sin or of the Passion.

It will be observed that both Thomists and Scotists lay the utmost stress on the doctrine that Jesus came, as He has come, expressly and principally to redeem mankind from sin, and that consequently a remedial character pervades all His mysteries, both such as have to do with His being our example, and such as have to do with His being our atonement, while the same character is stamped also upon His enactments as our legislator.

Further, the Thomists allow that redemption from sin was by no means the sole end of the Incarnation. They admit that the manifestation of the Divine Omnipotence, Wisdom, and Goodness was one end, and the Headship of the whole Church of angels and men was another.

St. Athanasius – Christ before the ages

In his 2nd Discourse against the Arians (nn.75-76) St. Athanasius, based on Prov 8:23-25, 2 Tim 1:8-10 and Eph 1:3-5, clearly affirms our predestination in Christ before the world was created. Although he doesn’t draw the same conclusion as St. Maximus and Bl. John Duns Scotus, namely, the absolute predestination of Christ even if Adam had not sinned, nonetheless he confirms that the tradition of the early Church Fathers always held the predestination of Christ prior to the fall, prior to creation itself. If we were predestined in Christ Jesus to be God’s adopted children before the creation of the world, before the ages, and thus before the fall, then it is reasonable to say that the Sacred Humanity of Christ was predestined to the glory of the hypostatic union prior to any consideration of sin. Here is the text of St. Athanasius of Alexandria (+373):

75. Nor let the words ‘before the world’ and ‘before He made the earth’ and ‘before the mountains were settled’ disturb any one; for they very well accord with ‘founded’ and ‘created;’ for here again allusion is made to the Economy according to the flesh. For though the grace which came to us from the Saviour appeared, as the Apostle says, just now, and has come when He sojourned among us; yet this grace had been prepared even before we came into being, nay, before the foundation of the world  […] He [the Christ] should have been created for us ‘a beginning of the ways,’ and He who was the ‘First-born of creation’ should become ‘first-born’ of the ‘brethren,’ and again should rise ‘first-fruits of the dead.’ This Paul the blessed Apostle teaches in his writings; for, as interpreting the words of the Proverbs ‘before the world’ and ‘before the earth was,’ he thus speaks to Timothy ; ‘Be partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has abolished death, and brought to light life’ (2 Tm 1:8-10). And to the Ephesians; ‘Blessed be God even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, according as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself’ (Eph 1:3-5).

76. How then has He chosen us, before we came into existence, but that, as he says himself, in Him we were represented beforehand? And how at all, before men were created, did He predestinate us unto adoption, but that the Son Himself was ‘founded before the world,’ taking on Him that economy which was for our sake? Or how, as the Apostle goes on to say, have we ‘an inheritance being predestinated,’ but that the Lord Himself was founded ‘before the world,’ inasmuch as He had a purpose, for our sakes, to take on Him through the flesh all that inheritance of judgment which lay against us, and we henceforth were made sons in Him? And how did we receive it ‘before the world was,’ when we were not yet in being, but afterwards in time, but that in Christ was stored the grace which has reached us? Wherefore also in the Judgment, when every one shall receive according to his conduct, He says, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ (Mt 25:34). How then, or in whom, was it prepared before we came to be, save in the Lord who ‘before the world’ was founded for this purpose; that we, as built upon Him, might partake, as well-compacted stones, the life and grace which is from Him? And this took place, as naturally suggests itself to the religious mind, that, as I said, we, rising after our brief death, may be capable of an eternal life, of which we had not been capable , men as we are, formed of earth, but that ‘before the world’ there had been prepared for us in Christ the hope of life and salvation. Therefore reason is there that the Word, on coming into our flesh, and being created in it as ‘a beginning of ways for His works,’ is laid as a foundation according as the Father’s will was in Him before the world, as has been said, and before land was, and before the mountains were settled, and before the fountains burst forth; that, though the earth and the mountains and the shapes of visible nature pass away in the fullness of the present age, we on the contrary may not grow old after their pattern, but may be able to live after them, having the spiritual life and blessing which before these things have been prepared for us in the Word Himself according to election. For thus we shall be capable of a life not temporary, but ever afterwards abide and live in Christ; since even before this our life had been founded and prepared in Christ Jesus.

Although St. Athanasius indicates that the Incarnation of the Word was occasioned by sin (the divine architect foreseeing the need for reparation), nonetheless he also points out theosis (or divinization) as another motive of the Incarnation, one which is so dear to the Orthodox. He writes, “For He was made man that we might be made God” (On the Incarnation, sect. 54); and again, “for as the Lord, putting on the body, became man, so we men are deified by the Word as being taken to Him through His flesh” (3rd Discourse Against the Arians, n.34). He, in essence, is reiterating the words of St. Irenaeus: “If the Word has been made man, it is so that men may be made gods” (Adv. Haer V, Pref.). The teaching of theosis is rooted in the apostolic teaching itself (cf. 2 Pt 1:4; Rm 8:9) and is exquisitely expressed in the Divine Liturgy of the East and West in the prayer during the mingling of the water and wine: “By the mystery of this water in wine, may we come to share in the Divinity of Christ, who humbled Himself to share in our humanity” (Roman Missal – deacon or priest at the Preparation of the Gifts); “You have united, O Lord, Your Divinity with our humanity and our humanity with Your Divinity; Your life with our mortality and our mortality with Your life. You have assumed what is ours and You have given us what is Yours for the life and salvation of our souls. To You be glory forever” (Rite of Intinction – Maronite Rite).

Pope Francis: Col 1:16 refers to Christ

Pope Francis and the Dove

In his encyclical Laudato si Pope Francis confirms the christocentric reading of Colossians 1. Although this is nothing new (see HERE), it is an important confirmation that “all things” [Gk – τὰ πάντα / Latin – universa] are created through and for Christ, the Word Incarnate (sin or no sin). Here is the Pope’s text:

“In the Christian understanding of the world, the destiny of all creation is bound up with the mystery of Christ, present from the beginning: ‘All things have been created though him and for him’ (Col 1:16).”  (Laudato si, n.99).

Noteworthy, also, is his affirmation of the presence of the mystery of Christ “from the beginning,” a theme which I have elaborated on at length elsewhere (see HERE). Since all creation has been created through and for Christ, it follows that creation is a gift of God which exists primarily for Christ and which has been entrusted to our care. The universe exists primarily to give glory to God through, with and in Christ Jesus, but it also exists to serve our needs and to draw us from the beauty of creation to Beauty Himself, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, who utterly transcends all that is created.

Ave Maria!