O Sacred Heart of Jesus, from whose fullness we have all received. Have mercy on us!
Many tend to presume presume that the Church’s doctrinal teaching on the perfection of Christ’s humanity carries with it the danger of removing our Lord too far from the natural experience common to (fallen) humanity. “Be careful,” they warn us, “lest you so elevate the Savior that he is no longer really human.” (They seem to think that a man is not human unless he suffers from the effects of sin)
In this regard, it is not uncommon for such persons to claim that the traditional teaching on our Savior’s knowledge – including, especially, that the Lord enjoyed not only the natural human (acquired) mode of knowledge, but also the beatific knowledge of the saints (i.e. the intimate vision of and communion with God) and also the infused knowledge of all the truths which the human mind is capable of knowing (i.e. the knowledge of all created reality, past, present and future) – to be harmful to the devotional life of the Christian: “How,” they question, “can we relate to the Lord, if he did not experience ignorance, doubt, and confusion?” And again, they are perplexed when they come to certain passages of the Scriptures which seem to indicate a degree of positive ignorance in the Savior: “Was not our Lord ignorant,” they say, “of the time of the Second Coming?” Or, “Did not the Christ feel abandoned by his Father when he suffered on the Cross?”
Contrary to the grumblings of such persons, the Church has always affirmed the perfections of Christ’s sacred humanity (and especially of his knowledge) as essential to his role as our Savior. And this is why the Catholic Church affirms (in her ordinary Magisterium) that our Lord knew and knows all things even as man: If Jesus saved us through his humanity, then it is necessary that this humanity be perfect.
The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus recognized the essential role of the humanity of the Lord as the instrument of our salvation, united to his divinity. The fullness of Christ’s Sacred Heart is the storehouse of all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Christ’s human knowledge is perfect
[these magisterial texts have been published in a previous article on why we must hold that our Savior knew the day and the hour of the second coming]
“If anyone says that the one Jesus Christ who is both true Son of God and true Son of man did not know the future or the day of the Last Judgment and that he could know only as much as the divinity, dwelling in him as in another, revealed to him, anathema sit.” (Pope Vigilius, Constitutum I of 14 May 553)
The following proposition is condemned: “The natural meaning of the Gospel texts cannot be reconciled with what our theologians teach about the consciousness and the infallible knowledge of Jesus Christ.” (Pope Pius X, Lamentabili of 1907)
The following proposition is condemned: “A critic cannot assert that Christ’s knowledge was unlimited, unless by making the hypothesis, which is historically inconceivable and morally repugnant, that Christ as man had God’s knowledge and yet was unwilling to communicate so much knowledge to his disciples and posterity.” (Pope Pius X, Lamentabili of 1907)
The following proposition is rejected: “The opinion cannot be declared certain, which holds that the soul of Christ was ignorant of nothing but from the beginning knew in the Word everything, past, present and future, that is to say everything which God knows with the ‘knowledge of vision’.” (Pope Benedict XV, Decree of the Holy Office of 1918)
The following proposition is rejected: “The recent opinion of some about the limited knowledge of the soul of Christ is not to be less favoured in Catholic schools than the ancient opinion about his universal knowledge.” (Pope Benedict XV, Decree of the Holy Office of 1918)
From these texts we learn that, even in his human intellect and soul, Christ Jesus knew – with an “unlimited,” “universal,” and “infallible” knowledge – “everything, past, present and future.” Most certainly, our Savior did and does not (in his human intellect) wholly comprehend the divine essence – and therefore, neither did he know all that God could have possibly created – but his vision of God (which is equal to and, in a certain respect, greater than the vision of the saints in heaven and even of the angels) was and is perfect insofar as it is the perfection of the human mind and of human knowing.
The knowledge of Christ as the cause of our salvation
St. Thomas Aquinas is often recognized as the fiercest defender of the perfection of Christ’s humanity – and this is especially the case in regard to his human knowledge. The Angel of the Schools holds not merely that our Lord enjoyed the beatific vision from the first moment of his conception (a teaching affirmed by Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis), but also that he possessed knowledge of all created truth through the infusion of knowledge into his human intellect by grace. In these two modes, according to St. Thomas, our Savior knew all created truths (past, present and future, both general and specific) from the first moment of his conception and through his whole life on earth, even in his dolorous passion.
When arguing for the traditional doctrine that our Lord enjoyed the beatific vision, St. Thomas does not invoke a blind metaphysical maximalism, but rather turns to the logic of the economy of salvation. Reminding us that the cause must be greater than the effect, the Common Doctor tells us that, if the humanity of Christ is the (instrumental) cause of the beatific vision, then he must have enjoyed the vision of the divine essence most perfectly throughout his life. (cf. ST III, qq.9-12, esp. q.9, a.2)
Moreover, it will not do for any to claim that the beatific vision was given to Christ only after his resurrection, since our Lord merited salvation for all believers throughout his whole life. In this way it is quite clear that we must hold that the Savior enjoyed the beatific vision even during the passion, since it was then more than ever that his humanity functioned as the united instrumental cause of the beatific vision for all the faithful – if the cause must be greater than the effect, then the Lord must have enjoyed the fulfillment of glory in his soul even while his body suffered greatly.
“What is in potentiality is reduced to act by what is in act; for that whereby things are heated must itself be hot. Now man is in potentiality to the knowledge of the blessed, which consists in the vision of God. […] Now men are brought to this end of beatitude by the humanity of Christ […] And hence it was necessary that the beatific knowledge, which consists in the vision of God, should belong to Christ pre-eminently, since the cause ought always to be more efficacious than the effect.” (ST III, q.9, a.2)
The perfection of Christ’s knowledge and the perfection of his love
St. Paul could say of Jesus: He loved me and died for me. This is the belief of the Church: Our Savior knew and loved each and every person, and he suffered and died for them all. As this love is not merely a general love (i.e. a love for humanity in the abstract), but was rather a specific love for each and every individual (such that St. Paul can claim that the lord died not merely for all, but also for me); it is also necessary that the Savior’s knowledge be not merely a general knowledge of all people, but rather a specific and most intimate knowledge of each person who have ever existed and who will ever exist.
Neither is it sufficient to claim that our Savior knew all people in his divinity alone, and not in his humanity. Rather, if the sacred humanity of Jesus is a true and free instrument of salvation – i.e. if Christ suffered willingly and lovingly for all – then it is necessary that the perfection of all knowledge rested in the human intellect of our Savior. In one moment, and in every moment of his whole life, the Good Jesus knew and loved each and every one of us in his humanity – and this was no mere generic knowledge, but included not only each of us individually, but also each and every aspect of our existence.
If our Lord is our Savior in his humanity, then (in his humanity) he must have known not only who each of us is in general, but also every detail of our lives. Jesus knew (always and in every moment) everything you and I have ever or will ever think, do, or desire. He knew all our sins, and he loved us. He knew all our good acts, for he merited for us the grace to accomplish them.
What is more, if Jesus is the true Lord of heaven and earth, the King of the universe, then it will be most fitting (and perhaps even necessary) that he possess an infused knowledge of everything which had ever and would ever exist. A good king must know all that is his, and so our Savior knew and knows (in his human intellect) every detail of the created universe. The Lord redeemed the whole world, and he most certainly knew what he redeemed.
“The knowledge and love of our Divine Redeemer, of which we were the object from the first moment of His Incarnation, exceed all the human intellect can hope to grasp. For hardly was He conceived in the womb of the Mother of God, when He began to enjoy the beatific vision, and in that vision all the members of His Mystical Body were continually and unceasingly present to Him, and He embraced them with His redeeming love.” (Pius XII, Mystici Corporis 75)
The Litany of the Sacred Heart
V/ Lord, have mercy.
R/ Lord, have mercy.
V/ Christ, have mercy.
R/ Christ, have mercy.
V/ Lord, have mercy.
R/ Lord, have mercy.
V/ Jesus, hear us.
R/ Jesus, graciously hear us.
R/ for ff: have mercy on us
God, the Father of Heaven,
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world,
God, the Holy Spirit,
Holy Trinity, One God,
Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father.
Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mother,
Heart of Jesus, substantially united to the Word of God,
Heart of Jesus, of Infinite Majesty,
Heart of Jesus, Sacred Temple of God,
Heart of Jesus, Tabernacle of the Most High,
Heart of Jesus, House of God and Gate of Heaven,
Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity,
Heart of Jesus, abode of justice and love,
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love,
Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues,
Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise,
Heart of Jesus, king and center of all hearts,
Heart of Jesus, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,
Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father was well pleased,
Heart of Jesus, of whose fullness we have all received,
Heart of Jesus, desire of the everlasting hills,
Heart of Jesus, patient and most merciful,
Heart of Jesus, enriching all who invoke you,
Heart of Jesus, fountain of life and holiness,
Heart of Jesus, propitiation for our sins,
Heart of Jesus, loaded down with opprobrium,
Heart of Jesus, bruised for our offenses,
Heart of Jesus, obedient to death,
Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance,
Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation,
Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection,
Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation,
Heart of Jesus, victim for our sins,
Heart of Jesus, salvation of those who trust in you,
Heart of Jesus, hope of those who die in you,
Heart of Jesus, delight of all the Saints,
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world.
R/ spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
R/ graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
R/ have mercy on us.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart.
R/ Make our hearts like to yours.
Let us pray. Almighty and eternal God, look upon the Heart of your most beloved Son and upon the praises and satisfaction which he offers you in the name of sinners; and to those who implore your mercy, in your great goodness, grant forgiveness in the name of the same Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you forever and ever.
Almighty and eternal God, look upon the Heart of Thy most beloved Son and upon the praises and satisfaction which He offers Thee in the name of sinners; and to those who implore Thy mercy, in Thy great goodness, grant forgiveness in the name of the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who livest and reignest with Thee forever and ever. Amen.