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the grace of christ

If Christ is our source for the grace that helps us heal, live and grow into the self-aware, divinely happy beings that we are meant to become, it stands to reason that he would have such grace in the fullest sense possible, and this indeed is what Aquinas thinks.

grace

He says that Christ's soul is full of grace. He also points out that it is a human soul and needs grace to experience the divine bliss that is the inheritance of his divine nature; in our Christ of the two natures, the human nature therein needs a fullness of healing and growth in order to experience the happiness of the divine. And happiness he did experience, having as much beatitudo as a "creaturely human" can have. He had “... a created bliss in his human nature, bringing his soul to the ultimate goal of human life.” (3a, 9, 2) So Christ's human soul was fully healed, living, growing and blissful as a human soul can be.

Aquinas also thinks Christ was both a 'pilgrim' and a 'beholder,' another result (and interesting clue for us as we decode our own divinity) of the mystery of a human being with a divine nature. "People are called pilgrims because they are proceeding towards beatitude; they are called beholders because they have already obtained it.” (3a, 10, 1)

But unlike us, he had no need of faith and hope; he already knew. He “had images in his imagination in which he saw reflected the things of God.” (3A, 7, 7)

christ's grace as head of the church

Christ is "graced with a grace that could overflow to others" (3A, 7, 1 ) which is where we come in. The fact that Christ's grace can help us heal, live and grow is what is meant by Christ being the head of the church. "His own personal grace, by which is own soul is right, is the very grace which makes him the head of the church and the source of rightness for others." (3A, 8,5)

And when Aquinas says "church," what, exactly, does he mean? The Italian bureaucracy in Rome that we call the Vatican, and all the various diocese, bishops and clergy throughout the world? No, even though the too are part of the church.

When Aquinas speaks of the church, he means all of humankind, past, present, and future. This is what the nuns in the old days used to call "the Mystical Body of Christ." Aquinas describes it thusly (letting his "inner engineer" shine forth): "So there are potential members of the mystical body and actual members; some potential members will never be actual members, but those who will may be members at three levels: by faith, or by love as we know it on earth, or by the enjoyment of God in heaven." Christ is also the head of those "only potentially united but predestined to actual unity" and those who are not, so the future of humanity is covered as well as the past, as are those who believe and those who don't. "Unbelievers are potentially, even if not actually, members of the church: a potentiality based first on Christ's power to save the whole of mankind, and secondarily on their own free will." (all 3A, 8, 3) Basically, if you are human and have existed or will exist at any point in time, you have a shot at being a member of the church: at healing and growing towards the divine by sharing in the grace of Christ.

Finally Aquinas mentions what we tend to think of as the institution of the Church. "The interior flow of grace into us comes from Christ alone, for his human nature alone has the power to make us right, because of its union with the godhead. But as head he guides other members of the body in external ways also, and this headship he has shared with others. They too are heads, though not like Christ: for he is head of the whole church at all times in all places and at all stages, whereas others are local heads (like bishops) or temporary (like popes) or heads only over those at a certain stage (like those still living their earthly life). Christ is head in is own right and strength, others only stand in for him. But through Christ alone have we access to the grace in which we stand." (3A, 8, 6)

Christ is the source of the grace by which we can heal, live and grow into the divinely happy beings we were meant to be, both through his teachings and by the very fact of his existence as a model of how to be human.

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"What measures a form is its purpose, and the purpose of grace is to unite thinking creatures to God. Now one cannot conceive a greater unity between thinking creatures and God than their union in one person; so Christ's grace reaches the highest measure of grace."
(3A, 7, 12)

 

Christ’s inheritance, because of his Divine nature, is “the uncreated enjoyment of the uncreated activity of knowing and loving God, the same activity as that by which the Father knows and loves himself.”
(3a, 7, 1)

 
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