Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Merit according to St. Thomas, notes on articles 1-4

(My goal in reading St. Thomas today is to better understand the nature of merit, with a view to better understanding the title "Co-Redemptrix" which is often given to Mary. After looking at merit in general, I will look at the articles about Christ's merit and the work of redemption. Note: I'm going to use the Scripture tag for this and just about any post on theology. For isn't Scripture the font of all theology?)

(from I-II, q. 114)
Whether man is able to merit something from God?
It seems not:
When you do all that is commanded, say "We are useless servants. We did what we ought to do."
Man merits from one he benefits. We cannot benefit God.
Also, God would then owe us. But God cannot be a debtor.
Respondeo: "You work shall be rewarded." (Jeremiah 31:16)
  • Merit and reward refer to the same.
  • A reward is given to someone for some work of labor.
  • This is an act of justice.
  • Justice is a certain equality.
  • Where there is simple equality, there is simple justice.
  • Where there is not, there is a certain mode of justice.
  • In the way a son merits/something from his father, a slave from his lord.
  • Between God and man is the greatest inequality.
  • (For the whole good of man is from God.)
  • So there is not justice according to simple equality, but according to a certain proportion.
  • The reward of man from God would not be, except by presupposing God's ordinance that it be so.

So the conclusion is that we are able to "deserve" something from God, but only because he has himself established such rewards. He is the source of all our goodness and so there is no equality between God and man. It must also be remembered that we are only able to merit/deserve because of the grace of God itself. The passage quoted from Jeremiah is in a chapter that starts, "The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness." (Jer. 31:2)

Art. 2 Notes
No created nature is a sufficient principle of an act meritorious of eternal life, except that some supernatural gift be added to it (which is called grace).
In our fallen state, we have the additional impediment of sin, which requires grace to remove.
quis prior dedit ei, et retribuetur illi?
Art. 3 Notes
New vocabulary: ex condigno
Used in a sentence: "non sunt condignae passiones huius temporis ad futuram gloriam quae revelabitur in nobis."
An English rendition: "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18)
So condigno has something to do with worth. Co-worthiness? Worthiness/worth might be good enough.
That which someone merits co-worthily, is not from mercy, but from merit. But, etc.
Sed contra
  • That which is rendered according to a just judgment, seems to be a worthy reward.
  • But judgment is rendered by God according to a just judgment.
  • Therefore man merits eternal life worthily.
(I'm going to render ex condigno as worthily. The prepositional phrase is adverbial, so that should work pretty well. We'll see if it breaks...)
  • Meritorious work of man considered in 2 ways:
  • (1) As it proceeds from free will.
  • (2) As it proceeds from the grace fo the Holy Spirit.
  • According to (1), man's work does not have the worth for eternal life due to the inequality. Though there may be congruity due to a kind of proportion.
  • According to (2), man's work is worthily meritorious of eternal life.
  • fiet in eo fons aquae salientis in vitam aeternam (John 4)
  • So there really is something in us with is a font unto eternal life. We are really made sharers of the divine nature, adopted into a son of God, to which is due the inheritance from the law of adoption. If sons, heirs.
The grace we have in the present time is not actually, but virtually equal to the glory of eternal life, as the seed to the tree. Holy Spirit is the pledge of our inheritance (2 Cor. 1:22)

Art. 4
Acts from charity are principally meritorious.
The act of charity is turning the mind to the enjoyment of God, so etc.
Also what is done from charity is most voluntary, which voluntariness is a prereq for meriting.
An interesting little passage for those caught up in Kantian moral teachings:
"Ad secundum dicendum quod opus aliquod potest esse laboriosum et difficile dupliciter. Uno modo, ex magnitudine operis. Et sic magnitudo laboris pertinet ad augmentum meriti. Et sic caritas non diminuit laborem, immo facit aggredi opera maxima; magna enim operatur, si est, ut Gregorius dicit in quadam homilia. Alio modo ex defectu ipsius operantis, unicuique enim est laboriosum et difficile quod non prompta voluntate facit. Et talis labor diminuit meritum, et a caritate tollitur."

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