Saturday, 1 October 2016

Devotion to The Sacred Heart, Its Theology, History and Philosophy part 36.

By  Rev. Joseph J. C. Petrovits, J.C.B., S.T.L.

St Paul in his well-known text strikes the chord of the fundamental teaching of Christianity, when he exhorts the Philippians to practise the virtue of humility and thus imitate the example of Christ:

"Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man." The first of the two verses establishes the consubstantiality of Christ with God, and the second asserts His human nature. The words taking the form of a servant imply a pre-existence, the nature of which is explained by the words that precede, vis., being in the form of God.

Thus the eighth verse implies on the part of Christ the assumption of something He did not possess before. The Kenosis does not constitute a change as to His participation in the nature of God. The ex-inanition does not mean a defection from, or a diminution of, the prerogatives of the Divinity. Nor does the self-emptying convey the idea of an effacement of the essence of His pre-existent nature. St. Hilary in his work on the Blessed Trinity explains the mystery of the Incarnation by pointing out that Christ, retaining the form of God (forma Dei), took upon Himself the form of a servant (forma servi). The annihilation means simply that He remained what He was, but concealed His infinite power and majesty under the garb of a humble appearance.

St. Ambrose expresses this truth in words that are most unequivocal: "Far from discontinuing to remain what He was, but assuming something that He was not, because He took upon Himself the form of a servant."

Perhaps the most perspicuous text we can glean from Patristic literature to prove the pre-existence of the divine Person in Christ is that of Victorinus in his controversy against the Arians. " Those who say that Jesus proceeds only from man, know that they utter a blasphemy against Christ, who was in the form of God. When did He so exist? Before He came in the body. He said that He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant. Therefore, He existed before He became man. And in what form? In the form of God, of the Word of God {Logos Dei, forma Dei). He claimed an equality with God. This implies power, substance. He did not say like to God, for that fails to convey the idea of substance. Since He retained His Divinity, and became incarnate, according to His human nature He is less than Himself, according to His divine nature He is more than Himself.