ASK FATHER: Is Jesus a human person? Catechism 101

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

Did Jesus Christ true God and true man, become a human person?

No.

The Second Person, the Eternal Son, God from God, took our human nature into an indestructible bond with His divinity and was born of the Virgin Mary, who, with Joseph His legal father, named Him Jesus.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father, now incarnate.  Thus, Jesus is a Divine Person, just as the Father is a Divine Person.  Though Christ had a human mother, He did not have a human Father.  He is a Divine Person, not a human person, as you and I are, having both mother and father.  Jesus has our human nature from His mother, but He is a divine Person.

Jesus is consubstantial with His Father.  Jesus is consubstantial with His mother.

Mary gave birth to the Divine Person, Jesus.  Therefore, since she is the mother of a Divine Person, and not just of His human nature, she is rightly called Mother of God, as defined by the Council of Ephesus in 431.

We do not make errors about this, as Nestorius and the Nestorians, who thought wrongly that Jesus was two persons, one divine and one human.  The Council of Ephesus in 431 settled this.

The Council of Chalcedon in 451 further clarified that Jesus has two distinct natures, Divine and human, and that these two natures are inseparably joined in one Divine person while not being confused with each other.

Neither do we fall into the error of Monophysitism, which was a heretical overreaction to Nestorianism.  Eutyches, sharply reacting to the heresy of Nestorius that Christ was effectively two persons with human and divine natures, asserted that Christ was one person having one nature, a fusion of human and divine in some way.  In Greek, “one” mono, and “nature” physis gives us Monophysitism.

There were also Ebionites and Adoptionists who thought that Christ was merely human but was adopted by God for a great purpose.  But I have answered the question and we don’t have to deal with them.

Although… I wonder if we don’t have quite a few de facto Ebionites and Adoptionists in our pulpits and chanceries.  I wonder.  That would explain a lot of liturgical choices, certain suggestions about who can receive the Eucharist, etc. Sometimes you will hear modern day heretics or people in serious error float the notion that Jesus didn’t really know who He was, slowly figured things out, blah blah, which comes pretty close to a denial of His divine nature. So, what would Mass be? What would the Eucharist be? Adoptionism, a 2nd century heresy, asserted that Jesus was merely a human man adopted as God’s Son sometimes along the way, for example, at his baptism. Ebionites were Jewish Christians who thought Jesus was the Messiah but denied His divinity. These heretics thought that Jesus was a human person.

Don’t be an Ebionite!

Jesus is a Divine Person, who still has two natures, Divine and human.  Jesus is a Divine Person, not a human person.  He is a Divine person who shares our humanity.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Jesus Christ is true God and true man, in the unity of his divine person; for this reason he is the one and only mediator between God and men.”

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41 Responses to ASK FATHER: Is Jesus a human person? Catechism 101

  1. The Masked Chicken says:

    I was confused by the original question. It was not clear to me if the questioner asked if Jesus became human, as in having human DNA, or became merely human and no longer Divine, or what. The notion of personhood has very specific philosophical background that isn’t used in common language, so it wasn’t clear what the person who asked meant by person.

    I wish there were a book that collected all of the heresies in one place. There is an encyclopedia of heresies, but it it too broad in its focus.

    The Chicken

  2. TawdryPenitent says:

    Thank you Father Z for the succinct clarity of your answer.
    As a convert who went through RCIA, I’ve asked this question more than once and never got the same answer twice. I have learned so much more from you and your readers than I ever did in my time (more than one go round) in RCIA.
    Thank you again.

  3. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Thanks for this one – really nicely put together . . . I’m saving it. I can’t recall having heard/read it expressed precisely that way before , that Jesus is also “consubstantial with His mother.” But it makes perfect sense (I guess I have to read more ). :)

    Mention of that floated notion that “Jesus didn’t really know who He was”, brought back a few smiles . My initial reply to someone who says “Jesus didn’t really know who He was” would’ve usually been, “Oh, and you do ?”

    But holding to that theme of reading more for a moment, I’ve never understood how any “learned” person – even in error, could come up with such an idea.

    The finding in the temple : When Our Blessed Mother asked Jesus “Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” -Luke 2:48

    The child Jesus replies, “How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father’s business?” -Luke 2:49

    Our Lord’s answer couldn’t have been so if He didn’t know who He was, nor Who His Father was , nor what His mission was. One is left wondering precisely what the people who come up with such ideas are reading – if anything at all – if they even do read at all.

    And strangely, while they seem ever-ready to advance such a hole-filled theory that Jesus didn’t really know who He was , it’s done without ever being able to propose to us exactly when Jesus finally did know who He was.

    The Divine Identity Crisis – good luck trying to launch that one.

  4. Facta Non Verba says:

    Thanks. I’ve been puzzled since Easter, when Father’s homily said that the resurrection was not about resurrection of a corpse — but then he didn’t explain what he meant. I think your explanation today helps me understand what Father was saying at Easter.

  5. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Okay, yes, He knew Who he was and what He had to do. Did He have to LEARN Hebrew with the other boys? Or Greek? Or how to tie his sandals? Or which way to saw wood? Did He really not know who in the crowd touched Him when power went out?

  6. Titus says:

    I wish there were a book that collected all of the heresies in one place. There is an encyclopedia of heresies, but it it too broad in its focus.

    You want The History of Heresies and Their Refutation, by St. Alphonsus (which will be a Christmas present in my house this year).

    Jesus is consubstantial with His mother.

    I don’t want to be troublesome, but is this . . . correct? Christ’s substance, in the sense that the term is used in the Creed, is His Divine substance, shared with the Father and the Holy Spirit. But even if Christ’s human nature were a substance in the same sense (and I don’t know whether it is or not), it wouldn’t be the same as that of Mary, would it? It would simply be of the same kind (to wit, human), no? Of course, maybe I’m missing or forgetting something, in which case I would love to be enlightened.

  7. ASPM Sem says:

    A fellow seminarian told me a story of another seminarian who was practicing either for Mass practicum or homiletics – in any case, he was practicing preaching in front of his seminary professors. At some point in the homily, the nervous seminarian (deacon?) said something about the human person of Christ (fully meaning to say nature, but under pressure). One of the old priests observing stood up, yelled “That’s a damn heresy!” in the middle of the homily, and then sat right back down.

  8. Titus says:

    I wish there were a book that collected all of the heresies in one place. There is an encyclopedia of heresies, but it it too broad in its focus.

    I forgot: for the ten-cent-tour version, there is this fantastic old pamphlet: http://store.casamaria.org/products/The-Triumph-of-the-Church.html

  9. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Chicken: Alphonsus Liguori penned a 2 Volume “History of Heresies” but it does not include more modern heresies after his time.

  10. mark says:

    To Grumpy Beggar:- Pope Francis made that point too – for example in his homily of December 17, 2013, when he said that “Jesus is consubtantial with God, the Father, but also consubstantial with his mother, a woman. And this is his consubtantiality with his mother: God entered history, God wanted to become history. He is with us. He has journeyed with us”.

  11. gracie says:

    “Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father, now incarnate.” – Fr. Z

    “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” – Luke 1: 36.

    “Conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.” Apostles Creed

    The above has always confused me. We say that Jesus is the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father. At the same time, we say that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit – doesn’t that make the Holy Spirit the Father of the Incarnate Jesus? Or is the Most High the Father and was Jesus conceived by Him instead of by the Holy Spirit? If that’s so, then why do we call Mary the spouse of the Holy Spirit instead of the spouse of the Father? Or if Jesus’ Incarnate Father is the Holy Spirit, then doesn’t Jesus have two Divine Fathers – one for His Divine Nature and one for His human nature? Or does Jesus have two fathers for His human nature – the Father *and* the Holy Spirit?

  12. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    “Don’t be an Ebionite!” Amen! And don’t be a Marcionite!

    Raymond Brown in his Antioch and Rome: New Testament Cradles of Catholic Christianity says that the early Church in the first two centuries divided into four groups: (1) the proto-Ebionites, the “Judaizers”, who wanted an identification with Judaism with Our Lord as (only) the Messiah; (2) the proto-Marcionites, who want absolutely no identification with Judaism, including eliminating the entire Old Testament and everything from the NT except Luke-Acts and Paul; (3) Those who leaned toward #1 (St. Peter before his vision of the conversion of Cornelius); and (4) those who leaned toward #2 (the St Paul of Galatians). St Paul wrote Romans to separate himself from #2.

    I’m not sure the Ebionism is much of a problem today, except among certain Liberals. Alas, I have found among certain anti-Liberals a Marcionism– a total unwillingness to acknowledge the Jewish roots of the Faith.

    I ask that Marcionism not become a rabbit hole. I only want to add to Fr. Z’s post that Ebionism and Marcionism are extremes, both of which are to be avoided.

  13. A.D. says:

    Thank you for the clarification on the person of Jesus.

    I was meditating this morning on how close the BVM must be to God in Heaven, but “consubstantial with his mother”. WOW!!!

  14. greenlight says:

    If Jesus is a Divine Person, as distinct from a human person, but nevertheless “became man”, would it be correct to say that he’s “fully human”, even though he also has a divine nature in addition to his human nature?

  15. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Being fully human is having a human nature and a human soul, Nature is a “what”. Personhood is a “who” as only “who”s can experience things. Jesus was fully human by nature, but never experienced his humanity as a human a person.

    My question for Fr. Z or the good Dr. Peters is how did the duplication of intellects and memories play out in the Incarnate Word? Jesus had a human soul with rational powers of memory, intellect and will. We hear in scripture how Jesus human will could be directed toward not receiving the cup of crucifixion while He conceded to the Divine Will of the Father in perfect obedience. But could Jesus human intellect miscalculate sums or his human memory forget whether the moon was waxing or waning on a cloudy night? Were his human rational powers separate enough from his Divine omnipotence to make benign human “mistakes”, scripture seems to indicate his human will could desire something different than the Divine will…hopefully I didn’t say anything heretical in that….mea culpa if I did.

  16. Imrahil says:

    Dear greenlight,

    not only correct, but absolutely required. It’s 100-100, not 50-50.

  17. Giuseppe says:

    As Jesus was not a human person, would he have been covered under ‘personhood amendments’?

    As Chicken notes, the philosophical term of ‘person’ can be very confusing. Re. whether or not Jesus was a human being, he was true man (creed), and so he must have had human DNA.

    The question of whether Jesus’s Y chromosome came via miracle from Joseph or whether it was created de novo by God and inserted via the Spirit for this purpose fueled some fascinating late night college debates way back in the day.

    Once you break the reality plane and go miracles, the idea of putting Joseph to sleep and have the Holy Spirit remove a specific line of David sperm cell that the Holy Spirit could invisibly put into the womb of Mary at the moment God announces the news to her had a poetic echo of Adam and the rib, that I prefer that explanation. Unless it’s heresy, of course, in which case I obviously would not prefer it.

  18. KM Edwards says:

    Excellent post Fr Z. For completeness sake, we should add that Jesus Christ also had TWO WILLS, a human will and a Divine Will.

    This is relevant in one sense to the discussions pertaining dominating Catholic blogs at this time.

    Pope Honorius I was posthumously condemned a ‘heretic’ at the 6th ecumenical council in 680AD – not for formally espousing heresy – but for abetting it and failing to ‘preserve the purity’ of the faith. The heresy was MONOTHELETISM, the error that Christ had only 1 will. If Pope Honorius I was condemned for failing to preserve the purity of the faith, what can we say for the current Pope who directly attacks the faith by condemning as obsessive, neo-pelagians those who attempt to defend it?? Seriously.

    So Jesus Christ – one DIVINE person, two NATURES, two WILLS. [If Christ has two natures, ergo…]

  19. Matt R says:

    Of course, this business of hypostasis (which is equivalent to “person” in Greek) made for some challenges along the way. It was used to define the Trinity at Constantinople I, following the lead of the Cappodocian Fathers who were defending the true divinity of the Holy Spirit. The Nicene Creed ended with “We believe in the Holy Spirit,” and it is then followed by canons and anathemas. The divinity of the Spirit was not yet in question, so it was not addressed. But its definition used in the 380s did not work so well to describe the person of Christ, which led to the Nestorian heresy, the Monophysite heresy, and others which addressed the nature and person of Christ. Eventually, the doctrine of the hypostatic union was adopted, and by the early 7th century an otherwise-obscure theologian named Leontius of Jerusalem found the language to explain how Christ’s human nature and will could be present alongside his divine nature and will but only be in a divine person. Using the original definition of hypostasis, Christ was required to have 2 persons and 2 natures.

  20. joeclark77 says:

    Fr. Z, begging your pardon, I’m sure you’re right but I don’t understand your answer to the post. What does it mean to say that our Lord is “fully human” but “not a human person”? I think what I’m looking for is a definition of the word “person” in this context.

  21. St. Rafael says:

    Here’s a sermon from an FSSP priest on this topic:
    On the dual nature of Jesus
    http://www.romans10seventeen.org/audio-files/20060305-On-the-dual-nature-of-Jesus.mp3

  22. robtbrown says:

    The Masked Chicken says:

    I was confused by the original question. It was not clear to me if the questioner asked if Jesus became human, as in having human DNA, or became merely human and no longer Divine, or what. The notion of personhood has very specific philosophical background that isn’t used in common language, so it wasn’t clear what the person who asked meant by person.

    I wish there were a book that collected all of the heresies in one place. There is an encyclopedia of heresies, but it it too broad in its focus.

    Assuming that Person refers to a rational subject of action

    Sometimes we can know what is by eliminating what cannot be:

    1. Is Christ is both a Human and Divine Person? Oops. That posits two different subjects for one act–which doesn’t make sense. It’s also Nestorianism.

    2. Is Christ is a Human Person? If so, what happens to the Divine Person? How can a Divine Person be usurped by a Human Person?

    3. That leaves Divine Person. But what happens to Christ’s Human Nature? This is where St Thomas’ concept of instrumentum coniunctum enters the question. His Human Nature is conjoined to His Divine Nature as an instrument, in the same manner as a hammer is an instrument of someone hammering. His human nature, however, is a rational instrument, having an intellect and will–a human personality elevated by virtue of its relation (cf. hypostatic union) to the Divine Nature.

    Thus, both Christ’s Human and Divine Natures are preserved (unlike Monophysitism and Monotheletism), yet He remains a single subject of an action.

  23. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Perhaps we should be introducing the ‘Theandric’ terminology…

    What is a human person, speaking in terms of theological anthropology?

    Are human persons in the image of Divine Persons (in important senses)?

    Would we normally speak in terms of ‘human substance’ or ‘ousia’ being enhypostasized by a ‘human person’? (In analogy with Each Divine Person fully and distinctly Enhypostasizing the Divine Substance?)

    Could we say that Jesus’ full humanity resulted from the Person of the Son Enhypostasizing His Human Nature?

    I think in saying the Incarnate Son is consubstantial with His Mother with respect to His Human Nature, one is also saying the she was the sole source of His Humanity and that His being a Human Male is miraculous within that context rather than any other.

    All of the above subject to correction!

    Epiphanius of Salamis is a Patristic author of a compendious work on heresies, the Panarion. The English Wikipedia article gives publication details of what it describes as its first two English translations, as well as Patrologia details. The Internet Archive has various editions on the Greek text, including at least one with Latin translation. (I did not check other languages’ Wikipedia articles for possible translations into other modern languages.)

    ‘Ut unam sint’ 62 (with its footnotes) is worth (re)reading with respect to Christological recognitions with what are often called ‘non-Calcedonian Churches’, not all of which are ‘Monophysite’.

  24. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    My apologies: ‘non-Chalcedonian’

  25. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    My rusty Christology tells me that the Pope misused the term “consubstantial” in saying that “Jesus is consubstantial with Mary.”

    The three Persons of the Trinity are the ONLY Persons who are “consubstantial.”

    God is one substance. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are not three substances. They are “consubstantial.”

    Jesus and Mary are two distinct substances with the same human nature, in precisely the same way that Peter and Paul are two distinct substances. Jesus is NOT “consubstantial” with Mary, as Peter is NOT “consubstantial” with Paul.

    In other words, the word “consubstantial” is properly used ONLY of the three divine Persons, because of all persons, only they are of one substance.

    All human persons are distinct substances sharing a human nature. The divine Person who became man is of one substance with the Father and the Spirit, but of one nature with the rest of us humans. The reason for the Incarnation is to make it possible for us humans to share in the divine nature, though we remain creatures, distinct substances, not “consubstantial” with God.

    Angels are persons who are distinct substances, NOT sharing the same nature. Each angel is a distinct substance with his own nature, not shared with any other being. The use of the term “angel” for all of them does not signify a nature that they share with one another. The way one angel differs in nature from another angel totally escapes our experience and our ability to conceptualize, and so we apply just one term to them all.

    [Studer, Basil, “Consubstantialis Patri, Consubstantialis Matri. REAug 18 (1972), 87-115. HERE]

  26. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: Jesus learning – I think He didn’t need to learn knowledge. But the actual experience of doing stuff Himself in a body, as opposed to knowing how to do it and everything about how every other human ever has done it — well, that does constitute learning. Same thing when He was learning to talk. He probably knew exactly how and why and how much to babble Aramaic, so that His human lips and tongue would be able to speak; but He still had to do it, because that’s how He designed our bodies and His. For all I know, He still had to memorize stuff so that His human brain would work correctly, even though He Himself knew all about it.

    (And this is why He didn’t tell everybody He was God, because He would have been pestered to death by ancient philosophy of mind guys, before He ever got a chance to be crucified.)

    Re: “House of David sperm cell” – Actually, teleportation of a sperm cell, or even a chromosome, isn’t a good plan. There are some obscure ways in nature to make a female have a virgin birth (although it only produces XX and not XY), and Mary was also a member of the House of David. And frankly, a sperm donor is a father, so that would kinda mess up the whole concept of Jesus being Mary’s son by birth and Joseph’s adoptive son. So you probably need divine engineering of the Y chromosome, or Him making one from scratch – but making one from scratch would mean part of Jesus wasn’t descended from Adam and Eve, which is also not a good plan because it messes up salvation history. So it’s much more likely that God just said to Mary’s egg, “One of you X chromosomes turn into a Y and start dividing.”

    But of course God has much better ideas than me, and I will believe whatever He chose to do! (If it’s my business, which it probably isn’t.)

  27. 1Hope4All says:

    I had to explain to a new Catholic that it’s okay for us to say “Holy Mary mother of God” in the Hail Mary prayer. They were reluctant to say that part of the prayer.

  28. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    The whole point of Jesus’ taking his entire human nature from Mary is that His human flesh is taken from a person uncorrupted by Original Sin or any of its effects. This rules out any theory that Jesus is the biological son of Joseph–even if by some miraculous bio-engineering.

  29. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Suburbanbanshee: a human egg is a haploid cell, meaning it contains only one copy of each human chromosome from the woman (23 chromosomes total), this in contradistinction to an adult human cell of every other tissue in the body which is diploid containing a copy of each chromosome from both parents (46 chromosomes). Thus from a biological perspective, there was not a second “X” chromosome for the Holy Spirit to convert into a “Y” as you suggested. Something much more miraculous and less scientifically explainable must have occurred by God’s Providence.

  30. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda,

    Well elucidated! I think it was implicit in what Suburbanbanshee said about ways “in nature to make a female have a virgin birth (although it only produces XX not XY)” – since the haploid becomes diploid by duplicating its 23 chromosomes. Should something like that take place with a human ovum, there would then be a second X chromosome, but there could only in the ‘ordinary way’ be that: so, embryonic female. If a Y chromosome ‘arose’ from the haploid becoming diploid, something very unusual would be occurring. If that be the ‘scientific account’ of Our Lord’s Humanity, then, as you say, “Something much more miraculous and less scientifically explainable must have occurred by God’s Providence.”

  31. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    robtbrown,

    I have not yet ried to find the discussion you refer to concerning ‘instrumentum coniunctum’ in St, Thomas, but did happen to encounter a quotation from St. Athanasius, “Discourses Against the Arians”, III, 31, “Being God, He had His own body, and using this as an instrument, He became man for our sakes.”

    I also met with this from St. Augustine, “Tractates on the Gospel of St. John”, no. 49, section 18:
    “Anima et caro Christi cum Verbo Dei una persona est, unus Christus est” (translated at New Advent as, “The soul and flesh of Christ is one person with the Word of God, one Christ”).

  32. Giuseppe says:

    Suburbanbanshee, Fr. Fitzpatrick, and Atra Dicenda,

    Thank you for thoughts about this. Could it be possible that even the egg was not Mary’s, but rather, sat the moment that Gabriel spoke, the Holy Spirit enabled the 2nd Person of the Trinity, a newly begotten embryo, a “new Adam” into Mary’s womb. Thus, Jesus would not be of the chromosomal line of David, but obviously born of Mary and adopted by Joseph, and thus a truly of the line of David. Although this lessens the germ-line need to have Mary Immaculately Conceived, as part of the reason for that is that her egg from which Jesus grew, would have had to be free of Original Sin. Nonetheless, Mary needed to be Immaculately Conceived, as she herself provided food and shelter to in her body, the home of the King for 9 months. Once that initial cell divides, it needs to take in water, minerals, proteins, carbs, lipids, and genetic building blocks (A, C, T, G, U) – and these came from Mary’s body. Thus, the need for her being free from Original Sin to house the newly created Adam.

    I really love the biological speculations about creation and theology, but regardless of where speculations go, I humbly submit to and embrace the teaching of the church.

  33. Giuseppe says:

    Corrections
    “sat” should be “at”
    “newly created” – “new” (remove ‘created’)

  34. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Giuseppe,

    The first Adam is recounted as being materially derivative from the creation preexisting him. Thereafter, it has always been human procreation – with the exception of Christ. Are you suggeting that the Second Adam is a very specific new creation ex nihilo? If not, from what does He derive? And why that, in preference to His Mother? How, if radically separately, though interactively, Human, would/does He save ‘first-creation’ humans?

  35. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Jesus and Mary are two distinct substances with the same human nature, in precisely the same way that Peter and Paul are two distinct substances. Jesus is NOT “consubstantial” with Mary, as Peter is NOT “consubstantial” with Paul.”

    I think the proper word is connatural. Jesus and Mary are connatural with Mary, in His humanity, but not in his personhood.

    The Chicken

  36. The Masked Chicken says:

    Should read:

    I think the proper word is connatural. Jesus is connatural with Mary, in His humanity, but not in his personhood.

    The Chicken

  37. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    This reading-up is rewarding! St. John of Damascus, “A Exposition of the Orthodox Faith”, III, 3, includes “Christ is not an individual. For there is no predicable form of Christlihood, so to speak, that He possesses. And therefore we hold that there has been a union of two perfect natures, one divine and one human […] by synthesis; that is, in subsistence, without change or confusion or alteration or difference or separation, and we confess that in two perfect natures there is but one subsistence of the Son of God incarnate; holding that there is one and the same subsistence belonging to His divinity and His humanity, and granting that the two natures are preserved in Him after the union, but we do not hold that each is separate and by itself, but that they are united to each other in one compound subsistence.”

    And “in the matter of essence, we hold that Christ unites in Himself two extremes: in respect of His divinity He is connected with the Father and the Spirit, while in respect of His humanity He is connected with His mother and all mankind. And in so far as His natures are united, we hold that He differs from the Father and the Spirit on the one hand, and from the mother and the rest of mankind on the other. For the natures are united in His subsistence, having one compound subsistence, in which He differs from the Father and the Spirit, and also from the mother and us.”

    (As translated at New Advent: I have not tried to puzzle over the original!)

  38. Grumpy Beggar says:

    ZENIT has an article by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university – where Father McNamara addresses the question of the meaning of “consubstantial” as it applies to the Creed. It isn’t too long and touches on several different aspects which members have mentioned as this thread progressed. A reader had asked Fr. McNamara :”I am asking you to give an explanation of its meaning in ordinary English which parishioners can understand. I have tried to give the theological meaning to people, but without success.”

    In the hope that it can simplify without adding confusion to a subject which requires considerable reading in order to to wrap one’s mind around it, here’s a link to the article is included just below this excerpt. It contains interesting mention of the Council of “Chalcedon’s double use of consubstantial, with God and us. . .”

    Excerpt: “. . . “For another thing, the current translation to the contrary notwithstanding, ‘being’ and ‘substance’ aren’t the same thing. Being means ‘existence.’ And while one trembles at the challenge of trying to say in a few words what ‘substance’ means as a term in metaphysics, it signifies something like the unique, singular identity of a thing.”

    There seems, therefore, to be no way of avoiding the need to delve into philosophy, history and theology when explaining the creed.

    One text that might help clarify the concept is that of the Council of Chalcedon in 451. In this text the word consubstantial refers to Christ in two ways:

    “We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.”

    Chalcedon’s double use of consubstantial, with God and us, could help clarify its meaning in the Nicene Creed. It is perhaps easier for people to overcome the limited idea of substance mentioned by our reader by starting from Our Lord as consubstantial with us. That is, he shares with us that unique singular identity which makes us human beings. From here one could go back to the divinity. Since the creed affirms that “We believe in one God, the Father,” and later that Christ is consubstantial with the Father, then “consubstantial” means that both Father and Son possess the unique singular divine identity.

    The fact that the Holy Spirit also possesses this unique singular divine identity leads us into Trinitarian theology of three Persons in one God, but that would require a treatise way beyond the scope of the present article.

    The creed does not use consubstantial in referring to the Holy Spirit. This is probably due to the particular historical development of the creed, which responded directly to Christological heresies and did not initially develop the theology of the Holy Spirit.”

    http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/what-consubstantial-means

    Re: Our Blessed Lord’s words in the Garden of Gethsemani where His sweat became as drops of blood – “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” [ Luke 22:42 ]

    * A French document was referenced earlier in the thread. It might also be worth noting that the corresponding phrase of the Nicene creed in common use in the French language is “de même nature que le Père ” , which literally means, “of the same nature as the Father.”

  39. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Sorry guys, talking about confusion (doh !) , I didn’t mean to include that part about the Garden of Gethsemeni in the previous post . . . thought I had deleted it before posting. (definitely time for a break)
    But I may as well finish the thought for you: It appears to be the best practical example we have in sacred scripture indicating to us that our Lord had both a human will, and a divine will, and that it was with His human will that He obeyed His divine will. When our Lord speaks in scripture, it is always for our benefit – not His. Here’s a meditation on that part of His Agony in the Garden as presented by EWTN on the sorrowful mysteries Sorrowful Mysteries :

    ” The Suffering and Death of Christ in the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary

    by Dom Columba Marmion, O.S.B.
    Abbot of Maredsous

    1. The Agony in the Garden

    It is for the love of His Father above all else that Jesus willed to undergo His Passion.

    Behold Jesus Christ in His agony. For three long hours weariness, grief, fear and anguish sweep in upon His soul like a torrent; the pressure of this interior agony is so immense that blood bursts forth from His sacred veins. What an abyss of suffering is reached in this agony! And what does Jesus say to His Father? ‘Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me.’ Can it be that Jesus no longer accepts the Will of His Father? Oh! certainly He does. But this prayer is the cry of the sensitive emotions of poor human nature, crushed by ignominy and suffering. Now is Jesus truly a ‘Man of Sorrows.’ Our Savior feels the terrible weight of His agony bearing down upon His shoulders. He wants us to realize this; that is why He utters such a prayer.

    But listen to what He immediately adds: ‘Nevertheless, Father, not My will but Thine be done.’ Here is the triumph of love. Because He loves His Father, He places the Will of His Father above everything else and accepts every possible suffering in order to redeem us. ”

    http://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/rdmpb4.htm

  40. The Cobbler says:

    But Father, but Father! How could you leave out the Arians?

    Re. chromosomes, doesn’t Thomistic/moderate realist philosophy hold that in the creation of an ordinary human being the prime matter is unchanged qua matter (but becomes part of a new, different being), the soul (the essence of life in the being) is newly created as it is the being’s substantial form (if I recall correct — or maybe it was essential form? I want to say essential form would suggest man’s nature in general but substantial form would suggest both common nature and individual being, but I could very well be wrong, as it’s been a while since I studied this and I got most of it second-hand), but the body isn’t entirely distinct/separate (I feel like I’m missing the right word there) from either of those two? Prime matter and substantial form/soul are two different things, while the body (which is concrete, material and rather particular) and the spirit (which is immaterial and, while individual, can hold universals such as concepts) likewise are two different things, right? I want to say (hoping I’ve understood the philosophy correctly) that, unlike prime matter which doesn’t change in and of itself but does become a part of other things, and also unlike the soul which is (at least as an individual) entirely new, the body in a sense already exists (like the matter) but changes from what it was before (a couple of cells belonging to two other people) to the body of the new being. So… well, I’m not sure at all how much of that applies to the hypostatic union even assuming I presented it accurately so far; but I guess my main point is, it’s not as though Christ’s body is a separate being separately created — it only becomes Christ’s body in the hypostatic union, right? (This is, of course, not to say that chromosome theories of the “howness” of the physical side of things aren’t applicable — as far as I know the matter could still have been preexisting matter changed from whatever it was into Christ’s body just like the matter that’s changed into a new human being in the conception of ordinary men. I’m just looking for some perspective on where that would even fit in in the grand scheme of things.)

    …I should probably shut up and let somebody who actually studied the philosophers firsthand talk about this instead, I suppose. ;^)

  41. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Cobbler,
    From one non-expert to another…

    “it’s not as though Christ’s body is a separate being separately created” and “the matter could still have been preexisting matter changed from whatever it was into Christ’s body just like the matter that’s changed into a new human being in the conception of ordinary men” both sound correct as far as I can judge.

    I understand that any and all kinds of ‘adoptionism’ have been anathematized, and suppose we could say “there was not a time when Christ’s Full Humanity was not Christ’s”.

    Assuming modern human biology is correct as far as it goes, Christ’s “consubstantialis Matri” would seem most probably to involve something miraculous affecting one of her ova, producing His male chromosomal fullness where before was only the purely female chromosomal half-ness of her gamete.

    The ‘data’ of Virginal conception of Full Humanity only ever and always Christ’s having been Divinely effected remain, however ’empirical science’ changes.