Friday, May 20, 2011

How Jesus is the Way, and how he is the Truth and the Life. On the Gospel for the 5th Sunday of Easter


5th Sunday of Easter, John 14:1-12
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Our Savior tells St. Thomas the Apostle, I am the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6), but we might ponder in what sense the Lord is each of these three. Is Christ the Way in the same sense that he is the Truth and the Life? What is it about the Lord that makes him to be the Way, and what makes him to be the Truth and the Life?
The greatest Catholic biblical scholar and theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas, plumbs the depths of this mystery as he comments on this verse from St. John’s Gospel. As we consider our Savior’s words, under the guidance of the Angelic Doctor (cf. Vatican II, Optatum Totius 16), we will find who our Lord wants to be for us, and who we are called to be in him.

Jesus is not the Way as God
It would be misleading and would probably draw us into heresy to claim that Jesus is the Way in his divinity. As God, the Son is not the Way to the eternal Father; for the Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son. Moreover, though it is true that there is an order in the Most Holy Trinity (the Son proceeding from the Father), yet we must be very cautious when we try to draw conclusions about the relation which men have to the internal life of the Triune God. If the Son is truly and fully God, then he cannot be subordinated to the Father in his divinity. If the Son is divine, then he is himself man’s happiness and is not merely a medium through which men come to the Father.
No, indeed, Jesus is not the Way according to his divinity – at least, it would be misleading to speak of him as the Way to the Father in his divinity. Rather, our Savior is the Way in his human nature – he is the Way as man, not as God. In his humanity, Christ our Lord is the Way through which all men are to come to God. The human nature of Christ is the medium through which all men may attain to communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – not merely with the person of the Father, but with the whole God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
How essential is the humanity of Jesus to our salvation! Though his humanity is not our salvation in and of itself, it is nevertheless the instrument of our salvation and through it we come into a real and living communion with God. The humanity of Christ is what the Angel of the Schools (i.e. St. Thomas Aquinas) has called “the united instrument of our salvation” – meaning, Jesus humanity is united to the divinity in the person of the Word and, through this union, serves as the instrument of the salvation of all men. The instrumental role of the humanity of Christ leads us to say that he is the Way in his human nature, though we might not want to claim that he is the Way from his human nature (since it is from the union which his nature has with the divinity and not from the humanity per se). 
St. Paul teaches likewise stating, A new and living way which he hath dedicated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh (Hebrews 10:20). Christ is that living Way in his human flesh and by his human blood. In his humanity, the Savior is our Way to God.
Jesus is the Truth and the Life as God
But the Lord does not merely tell us I am the way, he adds further and the truth, and the life. The Savior is not only our Way to salvation, but he is that salvation. However, in his humanity, Christ is not our salvation; for human nature cannot be the end toward which all come, since human nature cannot be infinite goodness. Nevertheless, he who is perfect man is also perfect God and, in his divinity, he is the Truth and the Life.
As man, Christ is our Way. As God, he is our destination and our goal which is Truth and Life. Moreover, St. Thomas Aquinas shows that it is particularly fitting to identify the Word as the Truth and the Life – though, of course, the whole Trinity is the Truth and the Life of men.
The words of the Common Doctor: “Note that both truth and life belong properly and essentially (per se) to Christ. Truth belongs essentially to him because he is the Word. Now truth is the conformity of a thing to the intellect, and this results when the intellect conceives the thing as it is. Therefore, the truth of our intellect belongs to our word, which is its conception. Yet although our word is true, it is not truth itself, since it is not true of itself but because it is conformed to the thing conceived. And so the truth of the divine intellect belongs to the Word of God. But because the Word of God is true of itself (since it is not measured by things, but things are true in the measure that they are similar to the Word) the Word of God is truth itself. And because no one can know the truth unless he adheres to the truth, it is necessary that anyone who desires to know the truth adhere to this Word.
“Life also belongs properly to Christ: for everything which has some activity from itself is said to be living, while non living things do not have motion from themselves. Among the activities of life the chief are the intellectual activities. Thus, the intellect itself is said to be living, and its activities are a certain kind of life. Now in God the activity of understanding and the intellect itself are the same. Thus it is clear that the Son, who is the Word of the intellect of the Father, is his own life.
“This is the reason why Christ referred to himself as the way, united to its destination: because he is the destination, containing in himself whatever can be desired, that is, existing truth and life.” (Commentary on John XIV.2)
Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life for you
Again the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, as he follows the opinion of St. Augustine: “If then, you ask which way to go, accept Christ, for he is the way: This is the way, walk in it (Is 30:21). And Augustine says: ‘Walk like this human being and you will come to God. It is better to limp along on the way than to walk briskly off the way.’ For one who limps on the way, even though he makes just a little progress, is approaching his destination; but if one walks off the way, the faster he goes the further he gets from his destination.
“If you ask where to go, cling to Christ, for he is the truth which we desire to reach: My mouth will utter truth (Prv 8:7). If you ask where to remain, remain in Christ because he is the life: He who finds me finds life and shall have salvation from the Lord (Prv 8:35). Therefore, cling to Christ if you wish to be secure, for you cannot get off the road because he is the way. And so those who hold on to him are not walking off the road but on the right road: I have taught you the way of wisdom (Prv 4:11). But some are just the opposite: They did not find the way of truth to dwell in (Ps 107:4).
“Augustine says that when our Lord said I am the way, and the truth, and the life, he was saying in effect: How do you want to go? I am the way. Where do you want to go? I am the truth. Where do you want to remain? I am the life.” (Commentary on John XIV.2)

4 comments:

Reginaldus said...

St Thomas Aquinas (Commentary on John 14.2): "He is the way by reason of his human nature, and the destination because of his divinity. Therefore, as human, he says 'I am way'; as God, he adds 'and the truth, and the life'."

Also Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange (Three Ages of the Interior Life - Part I, chapter 5): "He is the way according to his humanity; as God, he is the very essence of truth and life."

lantal said...

When St. Thomas Aquinas plumbs the depths of this mystery: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), it was common to beleive in the Lord. Alas today, to beleive neither in the Lord, nor in the way, and the truth, and the life is the common everywhere.

And to disappear tracelessly is also What is common today. Think of the internet: trillions of thoughts, ideas and feelings pour out endlessly for becoming archives within seconds. These very characters you read have become already sunken into the deep bosom of bits archived.

Is out there a Way at all tenacious of these desperatelly swarming streams? Is out there a Judge at all appreciative to the Truth of those trillions of thoughts, ideas and feelings? Is out there a Life at all retentive them from oblivion?

Knowledge has no solutions since silicon wears out, battery dries up, mechanical parts are to break. Faith only would let one belive in "My mouth will utter truth" (Prv 8:7).

One is however falls prey to Knowledge which excites him to loose his thoughts, ideas and feelings while putting a gloss on the facts Knowledge itself represents. Poor one who takes - alike to Hawking - the lead again and again, while the statemnets did seem already to rest deep in the bit's cemetery.

What a notion is there then to hold on? What a word to gain comfort in? I could not find other than the word Love who allows one to wander many ways, to test many truth along one's single life.(To have many 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.)

Tender Love who suffers such vast amount of rejection, irony and rebuff from proud knowledge.

Anthony

Reginaldus said...

The following comments have been transfered from another post (as they are more appropriate here):

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Anonymous said...
There is a certain contradiction in your theological positions on the knowledge of Christ. First, you do not seem to permit any difference between the knowledge ‘in’ Christ’s human nature and that in His Divine Nature, except the comprehension of the Divine Nature. You claim that any other difference would imply a division of Christ into two persons: one human and the other Divine. And yet on the topic of salvation, you do not allow that Christ is our salvation ‘in’ His human nature, and you do not allow that the Divine Nature is the Way, nor do you allow that the human nature of Christ is the Truth and the Life. In short, you make the same type of division between the human nature and Divine Nature of Christ which, on the subject of knowledge, you say implies heresy.

If saying that the knowledge of Christ ‘in’ His human nature is limited is a heresy, because it separates (implicitly) the two natures into two persons, then the same would be true of your position about the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

St. Thomas More.
May 23, 2011 2:54 PM



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Reginaldus said...
@Thomas More (Anonymous),
You misunderstand my earlier article (whether accidentally or out of malice, I do not know).

When I said that the humanity of Christ, in itself, is not the Truth or the Life this was meant in the sense that the humanity of Jesus is the "united instrument of salvation". It is not our salvation in itself, but it is the means to salvation which is united to that salvation.

As the Church has taught many many times, the salvation of man is the vision of the divine essence (i.e. the beatific vision). This is salvation: God himself as enjoyed by man.
Now, of course, the humanity of Christ always remains as the united instrument of salvation (as I said very clearly in the previous article) ... however, our salvation is not in the vision of Christ's humanity, but in the vision of the Trinity.

To claim that the beatific vision is the vision of a creature (and Christ's humanity is certainly a creature) is very close to the error of Gregory of Palamas.


So: Is Christ our salvation? Yes, in his divinity. In his humanity he is our way to salvation and is united as the instrument of that salvation.
May 23, 2011 3:05 PM




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Reginaldus said...
Thomas More (Anonymous),
When it comes to the human knowledge of Christ, however, we must admit that he knew the day and the hour in his humanity (though not from his humanity).

This flows precisely from the fact that the humanity of Christ is the united instrument of our salvation. Precisely because the humanity of Christ is the Way (though it is not itself the Truth and the Life) we must affirm that Jesus knew the day and the hour of the Judgment in his human intellect.

Your claim that my two articles are contradictory does not stand. In fact, the two articles build up and support one another.

This is the common mystery: The humanity of Christ is not the divinity of Christ (hence he is the Way as man, and the Truth and Life as God), but the humanity is united to the divinity as the instrument of salvation (hence, he knows the day and hour in his humanity though not from his humanity).
May 23, 2011 3:14 PM

Reginaldus said...

The following comments have been transfered from another post (as they are more appropriate here):

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Anonymous said...
To the contrary, Jesus Christ, the one Person with two natures, is our Way and our Truth and our Life, just as He plainly taught. When we arrive at everlasting happiness, is our happiness only in His Divine Nature, and not in His whole Person? Of course not. When the plan of God is completed, and all the faithful are happy forever, does the human nature of Christ become useless? Of course not. So the human nature of Christ is not merely the means to our salvation, it is part of our eternal happiness (just as the company of Mary and all the Saints and Angels is part of our eternal happiness). So the human nature Christ is not merely a means to salvation and happiness, but also a part of the end of salvation and happiness. And the human nature of Christ by itself could not save (could not really exist, since without the Divine Nature united to the human nature, it would not be of Christ). Christ saves as God Incarnate, so that the Divine Nature is both the means and the end, just as the human nature of Christ is both means and end. The fact that the human nature of Christ is finite does not prevent it from being, with the Divine Nature, in the One Person, a part of the means and a part of the end.

And therefore, when Jesus says “I am the Way….” He is referring to His whole Self, the one Person with two Nature. These two Natures are thoroughly united, but without detriment to either nature, in one Person. To separate them such that the Jesus would be said to be not the Way in His Divine Nature, or not our salvation in His human nature, is false.

St. Thomas More
May 23, 2011 3:26 PM



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Reginaldus said...
Thomas More (Anonymous),
Your way of reading Scripture is too facile....
There are many statements about/by Christ which must be attributed to him by virtue of only one of his two natures.

For example: "Jesus was born of Mary" ... this is attributed to the one person by virtue of the human nature.

"Before Abraham was I AM" ... this is attributed to the one person by virtue of the divine nature.

Examples abound.

There is no division in the unity of person by claiming that a statement is attributed by virtue of only one of the two natures.
Thus, I do not divide Christ (and neither does St. Thomas or Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange) when I say that he is the Way in his humanity and the Truth and Life in his divinity.


Moreover, while it is certain that there are many elements in heaven which add to our eternal happiness ... these are not, strictly speaking, our salvation. The Blessed Mother and the other saints are not our salvation -- they are certainly part of our beatitude (in a secondary sense), but they are not salvation itself.
I think that anyone who looks at the argument honestly and in charity can see that Mary and the Saints are not our eternal happiness in the same way that the vision of the divine essence is.

You said, "Christ saves as God Incarnate" ... Agreed! As God he is our salvation, and as man he is the united instrument of our salvation. So we can certainly say that we are saved by Christ in his humanity (which is an instrument of his divinity).


Are you claiming that the beatific vision is the vision of something other than the divine essence? Or, do you claim that salvation, strictly speaking, is something other than the beatific vision?

If the beatific vision is our salvation (strictly speaking) and the beatific vision is the vision of the divine essence, then it is quite clear that the humanity of Christ is not itself our salvation but is instead the united instrument of our salvation.
May 23, 2011 3:42 PM

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