We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.
Last week Thomas began building towards the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son. This week he continues, by showing that the love one finds in God is best described as “spirit”. We’ll break it down piece by piece.
Since the object known is in the knower and the beloved is in the lover, the different ways of existing in something must be considered in the two cases before us. The act of understanding takes place by a certain assimilation of the knower to the object known; and so the object known must be in the knower in the sense that a likeness of it is present in him.
To know something, I must have something within me (an idea or concept or image) that resembles the external object that I know. My dog Skipper died almost two decades ago, but he lives on in my memory; something there is in me that resembles him, that is like him, though imperfectly. And similarly, because I loved my dog Skipper, he was in me in a different way: as the will to take care of him and make him happy. Thomas says that the beloved draws the lover to it. And the more perfect the love engendered by the beloved, the more strongly the lover is drawn.
But the act of loving takes place through a sort of impulse engendered in the lover by the beloved: the beloved draws the lover to himself. Accordingly the act of loving reaches its perfection, not in a likeness of the beloved, in the way that the act of understanding reaches perfection in a likeness of the object understood, but in a drawing of the lover to the beloved in person.
And hence, scripture says that Jesus draws all things to Himself. But I digress.
So God’s knowledge of Himself is in God, and we call that knowledge the Word, the Son of God, because when what is generated is of the same kind as that which generated it we call it begetting.
The transferring of the likeness of the original is effected by univocal generation whereby, among living beings, the begetter is called father, and the begotten is called son. Among such beings, moreover, the first motion occurs conformably to the species. Therefore, as within the Godhead the way whereby God is in God as the known in the knower, is expressed by what we call “Son,” who is the Word of God, so the way by which God is in God as the beloved is in the lover is brought out by acknowledging in God a Spirit, who is the love of God. And so, according to the rule of Catholic faith, we are directed to believe in the Spirit.
And in a similar way, then, the Father’s love of the Son is in God; and we call it a Spirit, or rather The Spirit, and and identify the Spirit as the love of God.
photo credit: Public Domain; source Wikimedia Commons