- The Trinitarian Christology of St. Thomas Aquinasby Dominic Legge
The author's main ambition is to show the profoundly Trinitarian cast of Aquinas's presentation of Christ; the title, then, is nicely descriptive of the contents of the book. Asecondary purpose is to call into question a modern [End Page 295]assessment, as in Karl Rahner (on the Catholic side), that Aquinas has separated talk of Christ from Trinitarian discourse, driven a wedge between the economic and the immanent Trinity—as if one could know the latter apart from the former—and failed to do justice to the Incarnation of, precisely, the second divine person.
The book is divided into three main parts. The first is given over to Aquinas's Trinitarian teaching, focusing on the missions. The missions are patterned on the eternal processions and manifest them, extending them, as it were, into time and the created world. By mission, a divine person who is eternally from another (the second person from the first) or from others (the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Word) is sent and becomes present in a new way, in a temporal effect. Thus the Word, who is eternally spoken by the Father, becomes incarnate as sent by the Father and is the term of the taking up of human nature (the second person's visible mission). The Holy Spirit, the Love eternally breathed forth by the Father and the Word, is present to those who are marked by God's love, imparting the grace and infused virtues and gifts that make possible the return of rational creatures to God as their end (the Spirit's invisible mission). The second person also has an invisible mission, being present to the intellect in wisdom. The third person also has a visible mission, as in the appearance in the form of a dove at Jesus' baptism (see too the transfiguration). Here, and elsewhere in the book, Legge insists on the inseparability of the missions, mirroring the eternal generation and procession: the sending forth of the Word into the world is accompanied by the breathing forth of the Spirit into the world.
Part 2 is on the Incarnation of the second divine person, who as incarnate is fully and truly human. Legge is adept in presenting Aquinas's version of the hypostatic union and is especially good at explaining why for Aquinas it was most fitting that the second person be the term of the assumption of human nature (when it could have been one of the other divine persons).
The book's final part examines what Aquinas has to say about the incarnate Word in relation to the third person, the Holy Spirit. It looks at Christ as under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and as endowed with the Spirit's spiritual aids, which are essential to the salvific work of the Word become incarnate. Legge in this connection can legitimately refer—and does so repeatedly—to Aquinas's Christology as a "Spirit Christology." Indeed, part 3 of the book looks at Christ as the giver of the Spirit in the application of his spiritual benefits to those for whom the Word came, lived, suffered, died, and was raised. Legge is consistent and resolute in showing as the book proceeds how what is said of the Word incarnate vis-à-vis the Spirit echoes and is rooted in the inner life of the triune God and is patterned on the generation of the second divine person and the procession of the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son.
The teaching on the Trinity and Christ as found in Aquinas's masterwork, the Summa theologiae(in the Primaand the Tertia pars), is highlighted and is [End Page 296]the consistent point of reference in the book. Question 43 of the Prima pars(on the missions); question 3, article 8 of the Tertia pars(on the especial fittingness of the second person as the term of the...