Dr. Mark Miravalle – Franciscan Thesis and the Test of the Angels

Dr. Mark Miravalle, one of my professors of Theology when I was an undergraduate student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, speaks of the moral test of the Angels. Why are there Holy Angels and fallen angels? What proved the good Angels to be “good” and the fallen angels to be “evil”? Why is there a spiritual war raging between Lucifer and St. Michael?

From beginning to end the Bible tells us that the battle has to do with the Woman and her Offspring (cf. Gen 3:15 and Apoc 12). The Evil One, “that great dragon…, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world… stood before the Woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her Son” (Apoc 12:7,4) – spiritual warfare is centered on the mystery of the Incarnation.

This is not a coincidence. According to the Franciscan school Satan (and a third of the angelic host with him) was condemned to Hell forever and lost his glorious light because he refused to serve Christ as King and Our Lady as Queen: non serviam! I even wonder if this is the reason that he goes after Eve, the first woman, instead of Adam in the garden of Eden… he either suspected her to be “the Woman” or despised her because she represented that Woman. Although I treat of this and draw upon the writings of Fr. Gabriel Amorth and the Ven. Mother Mary of Agreda here, here and here, nonetheless, the topic is always fresh and worthy of further meditation. I am posting a 10 minute presentation where Dr. Miravalle gives insights into Mary’s role as Queen of the Angels. After the introduction to the topic he speaks of the Franciscan thesis and how the Incarnation of Christ and the divine maternity of Mary were presented to the Angels, that it was revealed to them that they would have the joy and privilege of serving Christ as King and Mary as Queen if they accepted God’s marvelous plan. The Holy Angels are the ones who embraced the will of God and make up the nine choirs of Angels in Heaven. Here is Dr. Miravalle’s reflection:

Pope Benedict XVI – Monastic life and the absolute primacy of Christ

On November 20th, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI mentioned the “absolute primacy” of Christ in his address to the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Besides his reference to the absolute primacy of Christ (clearly a reference to the Franciscan and Benedictine tradition of Christ’s primacy quite apart from any consideration of sin – Pope Benedict has spoken very highly of the Benedictine Abbot Rupert of Deutz and specifically underscores his Christology), note how this entire paragraph regarding religious life stands on its own quite apart from any mention of Christ’s redemptive work:

Christo omnino nihil praeponere [prefer nothing to Christ] (cf. Rule of Benedict 72, 11; Augustine, Enarr. in Ps 29: 9; Cyprian, Ad Fort 4). These words which the Rule of St Benedict takes from the previous tradition, clearly express the precious treasure of monastic life lived still today in both the Christian West and East. It is a pressing invitation to mould monastic life to the point of making it an evangelical memorial of the Church and, when it is authentically lived, “a reference point for all the baptized” (cf. John Paul II, Orientale lumen, n. 9). By virtue of the absolute primacy reserved for Christ, monasteries are called to be places in which room is made for the celebration of God’s glory, where the mysterious but real divine presence in the world is adored and praised, where one seeks to live the new commandment of love and mutual service, thus preparing for the final “revelation of the sons of God” (Rm 8: 19). When monks live the Gospel radically, when they dedicate themselves to integral contemplative life in profound spousal union with Christ, on whom this Congregation’s Instruction Verbi Sponsa (13 May 1999) extensively reflected, monasticism can constitute for all the forms of religious life and consecrated life a remembrance of what is essential and has primacy in the life of every baptized person: to seek Christ and put nothing before his love.

Pope Benedict XVI underscores a point that is central to the doctrine of the absolute primacy of Christ, namely that the primary reason Christ came in the flesh, and the primary reason that the Angels and the elect exist, is for the glory of God – ad majorem gloriam Dei as St. Ignatius of Loyola puts it. The Incarnate Word gives the maximum glory to God in His Sacred Humanity; we are called to give glory to God per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso, viz. through Him, with Him and in Him as we pray in the Sacred Liturgy. This is God’s plan, sin or no sin, and the Pope’s words ring true not only for monks and nuns, but for all the faithful: By virtue of the absolute primacy reserved for Christ, monasteries [and by way of extension families, parishes, our souls, etc.] are called to be places in which room is made for the celebration of God’s glory, where the mysterious but real divine presence in the world is adored and praised, where one seeks to live the new commandment of love and mutual service, thus preparing for the final “revelation of the sons of God” (Rm 8: 19).

He mentions adoration and praise of the divine presence. Sin or no sin, we were created to adore and praise God. Our Lord Himself tells the Samaritan woman, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeks such to worship Him. God is spirit, and they who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4: 23-24). Christ, then, who tells us that He is that truth (cf. Jn 14:6), is the Mediator, the High Priest, the one through whom we can adore the Living God. Christ exists for the glory of God; we also exist for the glory of God, but for us that glory is given to Christ and through Him to the entire Trinity. For this reason, as Pope Benedict XIV states, “a profound spousal union with Christ” reveals “what is essential and has primacy in the life of every baptized person: to seek Christ and put nothing before His love.”

According to Franciscan Christology these beautiful expressions would hold true even if Adam had not sinned – in other words, in a sinless world we would still be called to seek Christ and put nothing before His love and to give glory to God through, with and in Christ. Because of sin Christ comes in passible, mortal flesh and works out our Redemption on Calvary. The divine design is the same – man is called to glorify God and be one with Him through the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – but because of sin Christ had to suffer, die and rise from the dead to conquer sin, Satan and eternal death forever [for more on this topic, including diagrams and a video click here].

According to the Franciscan school God willed one economy of grace which He offers to Angels and the elect through Christ (gratia Christi) and not two economies, one for Angels and Adam and Eve before sin (gratia Dei) and another “better” economy for Adam and Eve and their progeny after sin (gratia Christi), a sort of “plan A”, but because of sin God gives an even better “plan B”. Bl. John Duns Scotus points out that “there could never be but one Head in the Church from which there is derived the influx of graces upon the members.” (Ordinatio, III, d.13, q.4, n.8.).  So Jesus is the Head (Col. 1:18); in Him dwells the fullness of Divinity corporally (2:9); from Him, as the Head, the whole body is supplied and built up (2:19). That is God’s eternal decree, sin or no sin.

The primacy of Christ and scandal

St. Peter Damian

“Truly, this vice [of homosexuality] is never to be compared with any other vice because it surpasses the enormity of all vices.… It defiles everything, stains everything, pollutes everything. And as for itself, it permits nothing pure, nothing clean, nothing other than filth.…”  St. Peter Damian, Doctor of the Church

It has been a sad week for the Roman Catholic Church, especially in the United States, and the reports of scandals among the priests, even Bishops… even Cardinals – ex-Cardinal Mccarrick (now more accurately known as Uncle Ted) and Cardinal Wuerl’s negligences which will probably be exposed by the PA Grand Jury in the weeks to come, have reached the ears even of this hermit. The scandals are part of the ongoing spiritual and moral crisis both in our society and within the Church.

Personal encounters with scandal

I saw that some priests, like Fr. Desmond Rossi (see here), Fr. Roman Manchester (see here), former priest Peter Mitchell (see here), former seminarians John Monaco (see here), John DeFilippis (see here), and an anonymous H.R. (see here) have gone public with the gay culture they encountered as seminarians, and even Michael Voris has shared how he was harassed by a priest (Fr. Richard McBrien?) at Notre Dame (see here). I too experienced being groomed by a Jesuit priest during high school. Fortunately no crime or sin was committed, but the diabolical disorder and seductive methods of these homosexual priests is frightening and deserves to be exposed. As St. Maximus the Confessor once wrote, “He who puts on a show of friendship in order to do his neighbor some injury is a wolf hiding his wickedness under sheep’s clothing” (Ad Thalassium, 25). So let me describe exactly what happened to me…

Fr. Joseph Casey, SJ

It was 1984. I was 15 or 16 years old and a sophomore at Brebeuf Preparatory School in Indianapolis, IN, which was run by the Jesuits. I don’t remember the circumstances, but one day a priest, Fr. Joseph Casey, SJ, (who happened to be the President of the school) said hello to me and invited me to stop by his office sometime. He didn’t mingle with the students much because he was usually in his office, so the encounter was strange to begin with. I was a straight A student at the time and so, being asked by a priest and the President of the school to come by his office, I felt it was my duty to stop by. I did. I had no idea why he wanted to see me, but I expected it to be like my other encounters with the faculty – academic or business oriented. Well, he told me that he had seen me at the school dance and that I was a very good dancer. I had the bizarre feeling that this priest was stalking me.

I was on the swim team at that time. One afternoon we had a swim meet and as we were piling onto the bus there was Fr. Casey. Apparently he was coming to cheer us on. Really, no one came to our swim meets and certainly no one traveled on the bus with the team, so this was quite unusual. It never occurred to me during the swim meet that he was coming to watch me – like he had done at the school dance – only now with nothing but a Speedo swimsuit on. After the swim meet we all piled back onto the bus. Fr. Casey got on the bus and made it a point to sit next to me – I was basically trapped between him and the window. It was very dark and the windows were all steamy because it was so cold outside. I put my knees up against the back of the seat in front of me and tried to get some rest because I was exhausted. Fr. Casey never said anything or did anything, but I felt awkward and tense for the entire bus ride… Fortunately my tale ends here. Nothing happened. I never went to his office again and he never reappeared in my life. But when I look back, especially in light of all that has come to the fore in the last 20 years, it makes me tremble. I was so, so vulnerable at that time. Besides being a teenager, my parents had just divorced. It would have been devastating for me if anything had happened.

Brebeuf, as it turns out, has always been notorious for abuse. The Dean of Students in the 1970’s, Fr. James Grear, molested boys (see here); in my freshman year in 1984 I remember Michelle, a cheerleader, telling us that the computer teacher, James West, had taken her into his office and offered her an “A” if she would let him spank her; a credible accusation was made against Fr. Bernard Knoth, SJ, for sexually abusing a student in 1986 (see here) when Knoth was Principal of the school; Rick Doucette, a religion teacher (full blown heresy, by the way) and wrestling coach, would frequently take the wrestlers and other boys to hotels for overnights and even “chaperoned” a trip to Italy – he was released from Brebeuf and later caught red handed molesting a minor twice as soccer coach (see here). [N.B. during all 4 years that I was at Brebeuf (1983-87) the Principal, President and only male religion teacher were all homosexuals and all secretly preying on male students]

After my own conversion to Christ and His Church in 1988 (before I knew about his misbehavior), I met with Fr. Bernard Knoth, SJ, twice as I myself had started discerning the priesthood. In my first meeting with him he confided to me how, as a Jesuit seminarian, he had been raped by another seminarian. In my second meeting with him he told me that the Eucharist was not the Real Presence and that Confession was just a psychological phenomenon – in other words, he had lost his faith but continued to “function” as a Jesuit priest. My heart goes out to him and many others who, through being molested, lost their faith and went on to hurt others. Pray we must, for both victim and perpetrator.

As if this wasn’t enough, my spiritual director who helped me discern the Franciscans informed me in 1997 that his Bishop threatened to suspend him as a priest if he would not perform homosexual acts with him. My director refused and was indeed suspended as a priest. It turns out that the Bishop had also been going on a regular basis to the red light district and hiring men and woman prostitutes. They called him “the Bish” and knew that they would get wined and dined like kings or queens before the dirty work would begin. My director, after getting nowhere with Rome, went public (anonymously) with The Wanderer around that time of 1997-1998 and finally Bishop Daniel Ryan resigned in late 1999 (see here).

I could go on (just with examples I have come to know about personally, let alone what’s hitting the news and what you can find in books like Goodbye, Good Men), but it would be pointless.

A particular problem: Sodomy

Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

As noted, the problem is a spiritual and moral crisis in the world and in the Church. But most of the priest scandals in the Church are specifically related to the sin of sodomy (see Fr. Regis Scanlon’s article which calls a spade a spade). While this sin is nothing new (think of Sodom and Gomorrah), we are living in a society that is telling us on all sides that homosexuality and gender-confusion is not a disorder, but just part of an enlightening evolutionary process and that everyone needs to be open minded to where that process is leading us.

The fact is that pedophiles are sodomites whose disordered passions lead them to seep down into lower age brackets. In the world it is legal for a young man to look at internet pornography, but not child pornography. Well it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that as long as there is no restraint in looking at pornography there will continue to be a market for child pornography. Similarly, as long as homosexual priests are not disciplined (like Fr. Fred Daley who for 14 years now has been publicly professing himself to be a gay priest) there will continue to be those who prey on children (not to mention teenagers and seminarians). Enough is enough! If a priest does not accept the perennial teaching of the Scripture and the Church he should be shown the door; and if he does not live that teaching he should be disciplined; and “pink” seminaries should be shut down. Otherwise the accusations and lawsuits will continue to plague the Church and her credibility will continue to crumble.

The solution: Jesus Christ

One of the beauties of the doctrine of the absolute primacy of Christ is that He became flesh to glorify the Father in the most perfect way possible in a created universe. “And where sin abounded, grace did more abound” (Rm 5:20)… in other words, nothing will eclipse the perfect glory given to God in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Christ invites us to be forgiven and freed from our sins and to glorify God through, with and in Him. But even if nobody were to accept His invitation, perfect glory would still be given to God in His Sacred Humanity. Sin never has the upper hand in God’s plans; sin never has the last word.

Christ does not need us; we need Him. Will we follow Him? Will we take up our Cross and be His disciples? Will we be pure of heart so that we can see God? The merciful invitation to repent and believe remains. And whether individuals (including clerics) respond to that invitation or not, He will nonetheless come in glory to judge the living and the dead. Then He will submit all to His Father for His eternal glory: “And when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be made subject to Him who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

Dr. John Crosby – Christ’s Kingship rooted in the original plan of creation

In an essay in First Things back in 1991 entitled Education and the Mind Redeemed, my Philosophy professor at Franciscan University, Dr. John Crosby (the first to introduce me to Bl. John Henry Newman), draws out the fact that “certain theological traditions” uphold an “incarnational humanism” because Jesus, by virtue of His absolute primacy in the divine plan, belongs to the very order of creation and not just to the order of redemption. Here is the paragraph where he speaks of this:

It is perhaps worth observing that there are certain theological traditions that have a particular reason to make their own the incarnational humanism taught by the Council. Even before the Blessed John Duns Scotus, the great medieval Franciscan theologian of the fourteenth century, but especially after him, the doctrine of what is called the “absolute primacy of Christ” has been dear to many theologians, including, I believe, certain Protestants, among them Karl Barth. They disagree with those who say that the incarnation of the Son in Jesus Christ belongs only to the order of redemption and not to the order of creation, and that, apart from the fall of man, there would have been no incarnation. They hold instead that Jesus Christ belongs to the order of creation no less than to the order of redemption, that God in His original plan of creation, and not just as a response to human sin, created the world for the God-man, and destined it to be subject to His kingship (as St. Paul seems to teach in Col. 1:15-18 and elsewhere). And it should be especially clear why everything human is ordered to Jesus Christ and can be fulfilled only in Him: for His kingship over creation is rooted not only in the economy of our salvation, but in the original plan of creation. And it should be especially clear why for Christians life in Christ should not compete with our love of His creation, but should rather support our commitment to “build up the earth” in and with and through Him.

St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Doctor of the Church – Christ willed “for His own sake”

A noteworthy quote of St. Lawrence of Brindisi (+1619), Doctor of the Church, was posted at AirMaria.com two years ago here. It gives marvelous insight into the Franciscan thesis which says that the Incarnation of Christ was willed for its own sake and not primarily as a remedy to Adam’s fall. St. Lawrence says,

God is love, and all His operations proceed from love. Once He wills to manifest that goodness by sharing His love outside Himself, then the Incarnation becomes the supreme manifestation of His goodness and love and glory. So, Christ was intended before all other creatures and for His own sake. For Him all things were created and to Him all things must be subject, and God loves all creatures in and because of Christ. Christ is the first-born of every creature, and the whole of humanity as well as the created world finds its foundation and meaning in Him. Moreover, this would have been the case even if Adam had not sinned.

I have translated a few other quotes pertinent to the primacy of Christ from the Latin Mariale of the Saint which can be found at this link. I consider St. Lawrence of Brindisi a “heavyweight” when it comes to the Franciscan thesis because of his theological erudition and his deeply contemplative and penitential spirit as part of the Capuchin reform.

Msgr. Charles Pope – Would Jesus Have Come If Adam Had Not Sinned?

On the website “Community in Mission” Msgr. Charles Pope brought up the question which the Medieval theologians had used to determine the primary motive of the Incarnation: If Adam had not sinned, would Christ have come in the flesh? His answer was to cite St. Thomas Aquinas on the subject and then to add his own personal commentary. You can see the original post in its entirety here (and notice the stir it created in the combox!). Since I have already posted St. Thomas’ position with commentary elsewhere I will limit this post to Msgr. Pope’s personal commentary. He writes:

While theological speculation may have its place, it is most certain that the Incarnation was instituted by God first and foremost as a remedy for sin. And while the Incarnation offers more than is required to remedy sin (e.g., an increase in human dignity (since God joined our family), God’s visitation, the opening of a heavenly (not merely earthly) paradise), Scripture presents remedy for sin as God’s primary motive. In remedying our sin, God shows the greatness of His mercy, because He does not merely restore us but elevates us to a higher place than before. The least born in to the Kingdom of God is greater than the exemplar of the Old Covenant, John the Baptist. Had we not sinned and had God merely wanted to elevate us, He could have done so in other ways. Hence, St. Thomas’ position is best suited to the evidence.

First, let me address his conclusion: Hence, St. Thomas’ position is best suited to the evidence. What evidence? Not a single Scripture quote is proffered; with the exception of St. Thomas no Saint, Doctor of the Church, or magisterial document is cited to confirm this “evidence”; not even logic is offered – we are simply told that this position is “most certain”.

Now let’s look at this line by line…

While theological speculation may have its place, it is most certain that the Incarnation was instituted by God first and foremost as a remedy for sin.

“Speculation”: This seems to be the constant lament of Thomists who do not want to discuss the matter any further, namely, that it is all speculative and hypothetical (I tackle this head on here). In reality the Franciscan position is not hypothetical at all: Christ’s predestination was willed before the creation of the world and God willed to give us every spiritual blessing through Him the one Mediator between God and man (cf. Eph 1:3-5; Mt. 11:27; Jn. 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24). To say that Christ would NOT have come… now that is the height of speculation. Where in the Scripture does it speak of an economy of grace without Christ? Even the Angels are under His headship as the God-Man (cf. Col 1:15:18; 2:10 – see Fr. Gabriel Amorth on this point).

“It is most certain that the Incarnation was instituted by God first and foremost as a remedy for sin”: This requires proof. Scripture, from Genesis to Apocalypse, was written after the fall and it is no surprise that God’s Word to us is dominated by our need for Redemption. So I think we all agree that it is absolutely certain that after the fall Christ came to save sinners (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15; Gal. 4:4-5; Heb. 9:26). But it does not follow that the Incarnation was instituted “first and foremost as a remedy for sin.” St. Thomas argues that this is “more probable” whereas the contrary position is “probable”. Thomas never cites his position as certain.

For Bl. John Duns Scotus what is certain is this: “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. (from his Ordinatio).

And while the Incarnation offers more than is required to remedy sin (e.g., an increase in human dignity (since God joined our family), God’s visitation, the opening of a heavenly (not merely earthly) paradise), Scripture presents remedy for sin as God’s primary motive.

As noted above, the Scriptures were written after the fall of man and God’s Word to fallen man is frequently dominated by the revelation of our need for Redemption in Christ, without which we could not be saved. But nowhere does the Sacred Page say that Christ was sent primarily, let alone exclusively, to save man from sin. There are many passages that would indicate the opposite (and this website is chalked full of them!). To say that “Scripture presents remedy for sin as God’s primary motive” as if this were indisputable fact is misleading. St. Thomas does not say that remedy for sin is the “primary” reason and he notes that he feels that his position is “more in accordance” – not certain.

In remedying our sin, God shows the greatness of His mercy, because He does not merely restore us but elevates us to a higher place than before.

Those who hold the Franciscan thesis totally agree that in redeeming mankind God shows the greatness of His mercy; but to say that “He elevates us to a higher place than before” is pure speculation. From the Franciscan perspective we must say this: If we were always predestined to be God’s adopted children in Christ, as St. Paul affirms, then there is only one economy of grace – that which is offered to us by God through Christ Jesus. No other economy of grace has been revealed to us and Adam’s sin does not open the door to a higher elevation in Christ. An example of this is Pope St. John Paul II’s teaching on the Theology of the Body: “…before sin, man bore in his soul the fruit of eternal election in Christ, the eternal Son of the Father…” (see more on this here). How does this reconcile with the thomistic position?

Where in the Holy Bible does it tell us of two economies of divine grace – one for the good Angels and for Adam and Eve before the fall, and another economy for sinful man after the fall? St. Paul proposes only one economy of grace: “by justice unto life everlasting through Jesus Christ” (Rm 5:21 – one can read this commentary on justification through faith – sin or no sin). Even St. Bernard of Clairvaux saw that the good Angels were preserved from sin by the God-Man (see here). And Our Lady… is she elevated to a higher place than before the fall because of Adam’s sin? In a certain sense she is more indebted to God’s mercy than all of us sinners because of the singular grace of the Immaculate Conception where she was preserved free from all taint of original and actual sin (as opposed to being given a remedy or restoration from sin after having contracted it). Clearly Our Lady was elevated above us without being liberated from sin. Unlike the Thomists, the Franciscan school does not hold that Mary receives her singular graces because of the sin of Adam, but that these graces were given because of her eternal predestination in Christ to be His Mother (whether Adam had fallen or not). In other words, after the grace and glory given to the Humanity of Christ no one had a higher place in God’s designs than the Blessed Virgin Mary. Hence Thomists are basically saying that God’s greatest masterpieces in all creation, namely Jesus and Mary, were occasioned by sin and are indebted to Adam for transgressing against God because without his transgression, say the Thomists, Jesus and Mary would not have been predestined to the maximum grace and glory (Christ in His Humanity, Mary as His Mother). According to the logic of Bl. John Duns Scotus it would be “absurd” to say that Jesus, Mary or any Saint was predestined to glory because of another person’s fall.

The least born in to the Kingdom of God is greater than the exemplar of the Old Covenant, John the Baptist.

I’m not sure how this confirms the thomistic position. The people of the Old Covenant lacked the plenitude which came in the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4) in Christ’s coming and after the establishment of the Sacraments and the Church – but this does not prove that the graces of the Old Covenant were not graces distributed in view of the merits of Christ. Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception is a grace given prior to the Incarnation in view of Christ’s merits and, according to the Franciscan school, all graces to Angels and men from the beginning are bestowed through Christ. To study this more in depth one can download Fr. Dominic Unger’s treatment of Franciscan Christology.

Had we not sinned and had God merely wanted to elevate us, He could have done so in other ways.

True, but He chose to do it this way – the most perfect way. St. Francis de Sales wrote on this very topic (Treatise on Divine Love, Book II, Ch.IV). According to this Doctor of the Church the primary reason for the Incarnation was that God “might communicate Himself” outside Himself (ad extra). From all eternity He saw that the most excellent way to do this was in “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.” This is the primary reason God willed the Incarnation. Then through Christ and “for His sake” God willed to pour out His goodness on other creatures thus choosing to “create men and angels to accompany His Son, to participate in His grace and glory, to adore and praise Him forever.” What the Thomist is saying when denying the absolute predestination of Christ is that God chose to elevate us in the most perfect way because of Adam’s sin; if Adam had not sinned He would have done it in a less perfect way and would not have predestined the Sacred Humanity to grace and glory nor Mary to be the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God.

While theological speculation may have its place, it is most certain that the Incarnation was instituted by God first and foremost as a remedy for sin… Hence, St. Thomas’ position is best suited to the evidence.

In other words, just follow St. Thomas’ position – no need to speculate any further. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the fear of the Thomists is that bright minds will continue to study, reflect upon and discuss the primary motive of the Incarnation; whereas the fear of the Scotists (at least myself) is that bright minds will bury their heads in the sand and cease to study, reflect upon and discuss the primary motive of the Incarnation. In the end it is not about “winning” an argument, but about the truth of God’s revelation being fully known. I’m not alone in believing that we have the key to understanding the entire history of the universe because the “mystery which has been hidden for eternity in God” has now been revealed (Eph 3:9; cfr. Col 1:26; Rm 16:25; 1 Cor 2:7; Eph 1:9; etc.).

Fr. Josemaria Barbin, F.I. – The Primacy of Charity, the Primacy of Christ

Below is a presentation – as simple as it is profound – of the Franciscan position on the primacy of charity and the primacy of Christ by a young priest with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, Fr. Josemaria Barbin. Noteworthy is the parallel he draws out between the seven days of creation and Galatians 4 (Time, Space, Life). There is a humorous, spontaneous Q/A section at the end. I will point out that most reputable Scotists hold that if Christ came into a sinless world He would NOT have come in a glorified body, but like Adam in original innocence, viz. as a wayfarer capable of merit with an impassible, immortal body (see Fr. Peter Fehlner’s comments on this here). I should also note that Fr. Josemaria in his brief responses was not able to go into detail about the actual theology of the absolute primacy which is found in Ven. Mary of Agreda’s work The Mystical City of God, something which I have treated more in-depth on this website. Another point which is brought out in the Q/A is the test of the Angels; for more information on this one can read here, here and here. And without further ado, here is Father’s presentation…

ChurchMilitant.com – Would Jesus Have Become Human if Man Had Not Fallen?

True to form, Michael Voris and ChurchMilitant.com were not afraid to step into the fray of controversy… this time regarding the primacy of Christ. They simply present the fact that many Saints responded “yes” – Christ would have become man even if Adam had not fallen – and synthesize some of the logic of the Subtle Doctor, Bl. John Duns Scotus, on the nature of the absolute predestination of Christ’s Sacred Humanity to glory. The original post can be found HERE (with lots of heated discussion in the combox!). The following is the text posted on ChurchMilitant.com:

Some theologians say yes

Most Catholics think the Incarnation is something that happened because of the sin of Adam: God became man to save man from sin. They will often quote the Exsultet to support this position: “O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the death of Christ! O happy fault, which merited for us so glorious a Redeemer!”

This position, however, is not held by all the Saints. In fact, this is a point of theological dispute among the Scholastics. One such scholar, Blessed John Duns Scotus, a 13th-century Franciscan, argued that Christ would indeed have become incarnate, even if man had not fallen.

His argument can be summarized in the following syllogism:

  • If man had not fallen, Christ would not have become Man.
  • If Christ had not become Man, there would not be any bridge between God and creation. God is no longer the “perfect Man” uniting creation to Himself.
  • This means that what would have been the highest good of creation (i.e., Christ’s human nature) would no longer exist.
  • Therefore, what is in fact the highest good of creation, Our Blessed Lord’s human nature, is the result of an accident, an “occasion of a lesser good,” as Scotus says.
  • But the wise man does not leave the greatest good to chance; on the contrary, it is first in his intention.
  • But if a wise man intends the greatest good, then a fortiori God, Who is Wisdom Itself, intends the greatest good of creation.

Thus the hypostatic union could not be a result of an accident, and hence its cause cannot be the fall of man, which is clearly not necessary (or else God would directly intend evil, which is absurd). Therefore, God intended to assume human nature and become Man, regardless of whether man fell.

In short, Scotus is saying that God would not leave the greatest work of His creation to chance. For though the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity is not created, the human nature of Christ is created (albeit in some mysterious, unknowable way).

The point is this: God has predestined certain men to eternal glory (Heaven), and this includes Our Blessed Lord, who is truly Man. In fact, the predestination of Our Lord is prior to every other saint since He is “before all else that is” and “in all things He has primacy” (Colossians 1:17–18).

But the predestination of the saints to glory is not dependent on the Fall of man (it’s not as if man needed to fall in order for the saints to attain Heaven). Therefore, Scotus argues, if their glory is not dependent on the Fall, then much less is Christ’s glory dependent on the Fall. Therefore, Christ would have become Man had man not fallen.

What about the Exsultet, the happy fault of Adam?

The words of the Easter Vigil hymn do not say Adam’s sin was necessary to make God Man, but rather to merit us a Redeemer. If we take this for exactly what it says, then there need not be any contradiction. For had Adam not sinned, we certainly would not have needed a Redeemer. But because Adam did sin, we now have a most glorious Redeemer, Who triumphed over sin and death and crushed the skull of the serpent at the place of the skull.

from ChurchMilitant.com

[For more on the “happy fault” of the Exultet you can see my reflections and a short video on the subject here]

Carmelites on the Absolute Primacy of Christ

Like all of the Religious Orders you will find Carmelites on both sides of the fence when it comes to the absolute vs. relative primacy of Christ. I know that in Divine Intimacy Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, O.C.D., clearly stands with the thomistic school – no sin, no Incarnation. But there are some noteworthy voices from the Carmelite Order who would beg to differ.

St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi says:  “If Adam had not sinned, the Word would have become incarnate just the same.”[Oeuvres…, p.3, c.3 (trans. from the Italian by A. Bruniaux; Paris, 1873) II, 35]. Leave it to a Mystic to state it so succinctly 🙂

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, O.C.D., although not explicit on this point, nonetheless shares the same feast day as Bl. John Duns Scotus (November 8th) and repeatedly reflects on her eternal predestination in Christ according to St. Paul’s stupendous canticle in Eph. 1:3-10 (you can see my commentary on this passage here). She underscores the fact that we must always live in His presence and that we must do this in Love, namely in Him who is Love. She says that this call “in Him” is the “divine and eternal unchanging plan” (Last Retreat – 2nd day) – a turn of phrase which would indicate that our predestination in Christ is not conditioned, but divine, eternal and immutable simply because it is His plan from the beginning.

My all time favorite is the line of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, O.C.D. (a.k.a. Edith Stein). I read this in the National Catholic Register back in 1998 at the time of her beatification. After translating several volumes of St. Thomas Aquinas into German, one of the nuns of her community asked the Saint during recreation what she thought of St. Thomas’ writings. She responded more or less like this, “I agree with him in everything; but when it comes to the Incarnation, I follow Scotus.”

St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church, gives us a unique view into the primary motive of the Incarnation in his usual poetic and mystical style. He wrote a series of “Romances” describing the inner life of the Trinity, creation and the Incarnation. Here are some of the pertinent verses:

“My Son, I wish to give you
a bride who will love you.
Because of you she will deserve
to share our company,

and eat at our table,
the same bread I eat,
that she may know the good
I have in such a Son;
and rejoice with me
in your grace and fullness.”

“I am very grateful,”
the Son answered;
“I will show my brightness
to the bride you give me,

so that by it she may see
how great my Father is,
and how I have received
my being from your being.

I will hold her in my arms
and she will burn with your love,
and with eternal delight
she will exalt your goodness.”

In Romance 7 on the Incarnation he continues:

“Now you see, Son, that your bride
was made in your image,
and so far as she is like you
she will suit you well;

yet she is different, in her flesh,
which your simple being does not have.
In perfect love
this law holds:
that the lover become
like the one he loves;
for the greater their likeness
the greater their delight.

Surely your bride’s delight
would greatly increase
were she to see you like her,
in her own flesh.”
“My will is yours,”
the Son replied…

In this beautiful series of poems we have a mystical, poetic expression of a Doctor of the Church on the inner life of the Trinity, the creation of the universe as willed by the Father to be the Bride of the Son (so all things exist for Christ prior to any consideration of sin) and so that He can share with creation the joy that He finds in His Only-Begotten, the Incarnation as the coming of the Bridegroom who ever wishes to become “like the one He loves” and to consummate the mystical espousals with His Bride. Obviously St. John does not neglect the Redemption nor downplay it, put simply squares it away in the framework of the immutable divine decree to so love the Son as to create the world (and more specifically the Church) as His Bride and to so love the world as to send His Only-Begotten Son so as to delight the beautiful Bride who, after the fall, is stained with sin and must be sanctified by the Son delivering Himself up for her, “cleansing her in the bath of water by means of the word; in order that He might present to Himself the Church in all her glory, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:26-27).

This dogmatic poetry of St. John of the Cross, while having unique nuances of its own, clearly syncs up with the Franciscan school. From the first moment of creation everything is directed towards Christ the King who will be born of a Virgin at Bethlehem; from the first matrimony of Adam and Eve every marriage is to be a reflection of “the great mystery” of the nuptials of Christ with His Bride the Church (Eph 5:21ff).

Abba Father – sons in the Son

A Jewish father with his son at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem

It was 1992. I found myself in a suffocating, noisy crowd of Hasidic Jews with no seats available. I was exhausted. El Al security was ruthless – three interrogations with trick questions; then a body search from head to toe; then meticulously poring over every millimeter of my baggage. Standard fare for a lone traveler on El Al who doesn’t speak Hebrew and, I suppose, for one wearing a Franciscan habit. Having made it through security with only 10 minutes before boarding, I decided to sit on the floor against the wall to recuperate and pray for a few minutes. My flight was heading to the Holy Land out of JFK airport. As I sat there marveling at the whole scene, something very beautiful happened… A little Jewish boy – a chip off the old block with his little suit, hat and even phylacteries – tugged on his father’s suit coat and his words penetrated deep into my heart: “Abba, Abba…” he said. “Daddy, Daddy…” Abba is the word that the little Hebrew children use to this day for “daddy.” That moment is engraved in my heart. It spoke to me about what my relationship with God is supposed to look like, even sound like.

That same year a startling, unprecedented event took place. Olympic runner Derek Redmond fell injured during the 400 meter run. After a moment of agony he got up and began hobbling towards the distant finish line. Out of nowhere a man rushed to his side to help him finish the race. But the man that came to his side wasn’t just any man, it was his father; he had run through the stands, jumped into the field and passed his way through the security guards to help his son finish the race. It is perhaps one of the most stirring father-son moments captured on film and a parable of what God the Father wants to do for us. Please take 4 minutes to watch the video below, then continue reading.

[Due to Olympic copyrights the video can only be watched on Youtube HERE]

The father-son crisis

We live in an age when, more than ever, sons have been let down, wounded or even abandoned by their fathers. According to the U.S. Census 43% of children in the United States live without their father and the consequences, even just on a sociological level, are devastating. The following story [cited from this blog post] is very indicative:

A few years ago, author Gordon Dalbey led one of our men’s retreats and he told us a story about a Catholic nun who worked in a men’s prison. One day, she said, a prisoner asked her to buy him a Mother’s Day card for his mother.

She did, and the word got out to other prisoners, and pretty soon this nun was deluged with requests, so she put in a call to Hallmark Cards, who donated to the prison several large boxes of Mother’s Day cards. The warden arranged for each inmate to draw a number, and they lined up through the cellblocks to get their cards.

Weeks later, the nun was looking ahead on her calendar, and decided to call Hallmark again and ask for Father’s Day cards, in order to avoid another rush. As Father’s Day approached, the warden announced free cards were again available at the chapel. To the nun’s surprise, not a single prisoner ever asked her for a Father’s Day card.

Coincidence? Not by a long shot. When children are not loved, protected and guided well by their fathers they receive a fatal blow to their hearts [John Eldredge calls this “the wound” and this 40 minute video with him and his “Band of Brothers” on their wound is both heart-wrenching and inspiring]. And, let’s face it, even if our fathers were good fathers, saintly fathers, they were nonetheless imperfect fathers. It is no secret that each and every one of our fathers is a son of Adam, viz. born with a fallen human nature. Fathers are so important, but even the best of them falls short – oftentimes because their fathers fell short. Where does that leave us? Is there any hope?

The Gospel

Ευαγγελιον – Good News: we are children of God our heavenly Father – filii in Filio – sons in the Son. Our earthly fathers, while they were meant to have a key role in initiating us into life and into our relationship with God, they are not the ultimate reason we exist nor should their imperfections, failures or absence stop us from living the life that God has given to us in Christ Jesus and living this to the full. And what is that supernatural life found in souls in sanctifying grace if not life as children of God? St. John the Beloved Apostle is at pains to communicate this to us: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are… Beloved, now we are the children of God…” (1 Jn 3:1,2). And in the Prologue to his Gospel he tells us two striking truths, that Christ came to reveal to us the Father: “No one has at any time seen God. The Only-Begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has revealed Him” (Jn 1:18), and that He came to make us children of the Father: “But to as many as received Him He gave the power of becoming sons of God” (Jn 1:12).

It is noteworthy that In the Gospel of St. Luke the first and last words of Christ speak of His Father. When St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary found Jesus in the Temple we hear the first recorded words roll off our Savior’s lips: “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Lk 2:49). At the end of His life, hanging on the Cross and gasping for air as His Precious Blood flowed to the ground in atonement for our sins, “Jesus cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.’ And having said this, He expired” (Lk 23:46). The entire life of Jesus Christ on earth can be summed up in this: a life of communion with the Father. Our Lord’s life, from beginning to end, was characterized by His love for the Father who sent Him.

We must never, ever lose sight of the fact that God Himself is CHARITY (1 Jn 4:8,16). Everything He does is an act of divine love, and this means that He “loved” us into existence; He freely chose to include us in a gripping story of love and war – God the Father’s immense love for us in Christ and the raging battle against our souls by His infernal enemy the devil, who, “like a roaring lion, goes about seeking someone to devour” (1 Pt 5:8) and wages “war with the rest of her [Mary’s] offspring, who keep the commandments of God, and hold fast to the testimony of Jesus” (Apoc 12:17). God will later say to the Beloved Apostle, “he who overcomes shall possess these things, and I will be His God and he shall be my son” (Apoc 21:7).

In a most telling episode, St. Luke describes a scene where Jesus was wrapt in prayer. His disciples did not dare disturb Him in His profound, intimate communion with the Father. But “when He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray…’ And He said to them, ‘When you pray say: Father, hallowed by Thy Name…'” (Lk 11:1-2; cf. Mt 6:9). This is the longing of every boy and girl – to have the strongest, most loving father who thinks the world of him or her. God made us with this built in desire. And as the deer longing for water does so because water exists, because that deer was made to drink from flowing streams, so we too pine away within to be children who are loved – tenderly loved – protected and provided for by a father and that Father does exist: the Lord Jesus Himself tells us that His Father is our Father (cf. Jn 20:17) and that He would not leave us orphaned, but would give us the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 14:18), the Spirit of the Father (cf. Mt 10:20; Rom 8:11; 2 Cor 1:21-22; Eph 3:14-16; etc.).

Predestined to be children of God

The Apostle Paul was determined to drive home the truth of our divine filiation in Christ – and home is where the heart is, where this truth needs to sink in. This doctrine needs to travel that extremely long distance from our head down into our heart, into the very fabric of our being, because it defines who we are and what we are called to do. He tells us that all relationships find their origin in the Father-Son relationship of the Most Holy Trinity: “For this reason I bend the knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom all fatherhood in Heaven and on earth receives its name…” (Eph 3:14-15).

God’s eternal plan in creating the universe was that He might say of the Incarnate Word and of each of us who are baptized into Him, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17, 17:5; 2 Pt 2:17; etc.). This is why we exist. God created us to be His children in Christ. God, by creating us, is saying to each one of us ‘Thou art my beloved son.’ Listen to Paul’s uncontainable praise of this reality: “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.” (Eph 1:3-6).

Elsewhere, when speaking of our predestination in Christ, viz. “to be predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He should be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rm 8:29), the Apostle Paul explains that “whoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Now you have not received a spirit of bondage so as to be again in fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons, by virtue of which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit Himself giving testimony to our spirit that we are sons of God. But if we are sons, we are heirs also: heirs indeed of God and joint heirs with Christ, provided, however, we suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him” (Rm 8:14-17). This is so central to St. Paul that he speaks of it again emphasizing that the reason that God sent His son “in the fullness of time… born of a woman” (Gal 4:4) was that through His redemptive work “we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father.’ So that he is no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, an heir through God” (Gal 4:6-7).

Notice that the Holy Spirit is sent by God into our hearts to say Abba – that word that little Hebrew boys use to this day to get their father’s attention. While God is indeed “Our Father who art in Heaven,” we must not lose sight of what Paul, “circumcised on the eighth day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews” (Phil 3:5) is saying when he uses the word Abba. God the Father, in His Son, by the working of the Holy Spirit is calling us into an intimate, loving, conversational relationship with Him as His very dear children. If Christ prayed from His Sacred Heart to His Father (cf. Jn 17), then we too must enter into His Heart, into His prayer, into His relationship with God our most loving Father.

Returning to God our Father

How do we do this? Christ lived among us, but the Father seems so distant, so inapproachable. We must pray to the Holy Spirit given to us at Baptism and Confirmation and meditate deeply on John 14-17. I think all of us, at times, feel like St. Philip and cry out to Jesus from the depths of our heart: “Lord, show us the Father and it is enough!” (Jn 14:8). In the Cenacle, before His bitter Passion, the Savior Himself gave us His most intimate teaching; He gave us His Heart. He tells us that He goes to the Father to prepare a place for us and that it is God’s will that where He is (“in the bosom of the Father” Jn 1:18) we also shall be (cf. Jn 14:1-4). And the path? “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me” (Jn 14:6; cf. Mt 11:25-27). To see Christ is to see the Father: “He who sees Me sees also the Father… I am in the Father and the Father is in Me” (Jn 14:9-11). Indeed to know Christ is to know the Father: “If you had known Me, you would also have known the Father. And henceforth you do know Him, and you have seen Him” (Jn 14:7; cf. 16:3 and 1 Jn 2:22-25).

Jesus forever dwells “in the bosom of the Father” (Jn 1:12). This bestows a whole new depth to the scene where John and Andrew followed Christ after He was proclaimed by John the Baptist as the Lamb of God. Christ turned to them and asked, “What is it you seek?”, they responded “Rabbi, where dwellest Thou?” Our Lord’s response to them is an invitation to us: “Come and see” (Jn 1:38-39). We must follow Him there, where He dwells, in sinu Patris – in the bosom of the Father – “Dost thou not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?… Abide in Me… Abide in My love… Abide in His love” (Jn 14:10/11; 15:4; 15:9-10).

If we have been away from our “Abba Father” through sin or have experienced any obstacle in that relationship due to past hurts from the father figures in our lives, now is the time to come home; now is the acceptable time to let Him meet us along the way and clothe us anew with the dignity of being His children; now is the time to let Him place a ring on our finger and shoes on our feet, to kill the fatted calf and make merry with all of the heavenly court (cf. Lk 15:11-32). He is the prodigal Father who wants to bestow endless, ineffable blessings upon us in Christ. He created us so that we might eternally say, Abba, Abba… and might hear His voice announcing to all that we indeed are His beloved children in whom He finds His delight.