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CHAPTER XV. The Holy Spirit (56) and the Church (57-60)

56. Now, when we have spoken of Jesus Christ, the only Son of God our Lord, in the brevity befitting our confession of faith, we go on to affirm that we believe also in the Holy Spirit, as completing the Trinity which is God; and after that we call to mind our faith "in holy Church." By this we are given to understand that the rational creation belonging to the free Jerusalem ought to be mentioned in a subordinate order to the Creator, that is, the supreme Trinity. For, of course, all that has been said about the man Christ Jesus refers to the unity of the Person of the Only Begotten.

Thus, the right order of the Creed demanded110110Reading the classical Latin form poscebat (as in Scheel and PL) for the late form poxebat (as in Rivière and many old MSS.). that the Church be made subordinate to the Trinity, as a house is subordinate to him who dwells in it, the temple to God, and the city to its founder. By the Church here we are to understand the whole Church, not just the part that journeys here on earth from rising of the sun to its setting, praising the name of the Lord111111Cf. Ps. 113:3. and singing a new song of deliverance from its old captivity, but also that part which, in heaven, has always, from creation, held fast to God, and which never experienced the evils of a fall. This part, composed of the holy angels, remains in blessedness, and it gives help, even as it ought, to the other part still on pilgrimage. For both parts together will make one eternal consort, as even now they are one in the bond of love—the whole instituted for the proper worship of the one God.112112Here reading unum deum (with Rivière and PL) against deum (in Scheel). Wherefore, neither the whole Church nor any part of it wishes to be worshiped as God nor to be God to anyone belonging to the temple of God—the temple that is being built up of "the gods" whom the uncreated God created.113113A hyperbolic expression referring to "the saints." Augustine's Scriptural backing for such an unusual phrase is Ps. 82:6 and John 10:34 f. But note the firm distinction between ex diis quos facit and non factus Deus. Consequently, if the Holy Spirit were creature and not Creator, he would obviously be a rational creature, for this is the highest of the levels of creation. But in this case he would not be set in the rule of faith before the Church, since he would then belong to the Church, in that part of it which is in heaven. He would not have a temple, for he himself would be a temple. Yet, in fact, he hath a temple of which the apostle speaks, "Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God?"114114I Cor. 6:19. In another place, he says of this body, "Know you not that your bodies are members of Christ?"115115I Cor. 6:15. How, then, is he not God who has a temple? Or how can he be less than Christ whose members are his temple? It is not that he has one temple and God another temple, since the same apostle says: "Know you not that you are the temple of God," and then, as if to prove his point, added, "and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"

God therefore dwelleth in his temple, not the Holy Spirit only, but also Father and Son, who saith of his body—in which he standeth as Head of the Church on earth "that in all things he may be pre-eminent"116116Col. 1:18.—"Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again."117117John 2:19. Therefore, the temple of God—-that is, of the supreme Trinity as a whole—is holy Church, the Universal Church in heaven and on the earth.

57. But what can we affirm about that part of the Church in heaven, save that in it no evil is to be found, nor any apostates, nor will there be again, since that time when "God did not spare the sinning angels"—as the apostle Peter writes—"but casting them out, he delivered them into the prisons of darkness in hell, to be reserved for the sentence in the Day of Judgment"118118II Peter 2:4 (Old Latin).?

58. Still, how is life ordered in that most blessed and supernal society? What differences are there in rank among the angels, so that while all are called by the general title "angels"—as we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews, "But to which of the angels said he at any time, 'Sit at my right hand'?"119119Heb. 1:13.; this expression clearly signifies that all are angels without exception—yet there are archangels there as well? Again, should these archangels be called "powers" [virtutes], so that the verse, "Praise him all his angels; praise him, all his powers,"120120Ps. 148:2 (LXX). would mean the same thing as, "Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his archangels"? Or, what distinctions are implied by the four designations by which the apostle seems to encompass the entire heavenly society, "Be they thrones or dominions, principalities, or powers"121121Co1. 1:16.? Let them answer these questions who can, if they can indeed prove their answers. For myself, I confess to ignorance of such matters. I am not even certain about another question: whether the sun and moon and all the stars belong to that same heavenly society—although they seem to be nothing more than luminous bodies, with neither perception nor understanding.

59. Furthermore, who can explain the kind of bodies in which the angels appeared to men, so that they were not only visible, but tangible as well? And, again, how do they, not by impact of physical stimulus but by spiritual force, bring certain visions, not to the physical eyes but to the spiritual eyes of the mind, or speak something, not to the ears, as from outside us, but actually from within the human soul, since they are present within it too? For, as it is written in the book of the Prophets: "And the angel that spoke in me, said to me . . ."122122Zech. 1:9. He does not say, "Spoke to me" but "Spoke in me." How do they appear to men in sleep, and communicate through dreams, as we read in the Gospel: "Behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying . . ."123123Matt. 1:20.? By these various modes of presentation, the angels seem to indicate that they do not have tangible bodies. Yet this raises a very difficult question: How, then, did the patriarchs wash the angels' feet?124124Gen. 18:4; 19:2. How, also, did Jacob wrestle with the angel in such a tangible fashion?125125Gen. 32:24.

To ask such questions as these, and to guess at the answers as one can, is not a useless exercise in speculation, so long as the discussion is moderate and one avoids the mistake of those who think they know what they do not know.


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