Thursday, 2 June 2016

Hebrews 1:9b-14 - Christians are kings and priests

The opening verses of Hebrews 1 compares Christ's power of governance to the ministry of the angels.

Hebrews 1:1
and God, thy own God, has given thee an unction to bring thee pride, as none else of thy fellows. 
 propterea unxit te Deus, Deus tuus, oleo exultationis præ participibus tuis.

Christ’s fitness for accomplishing and governing. 

Aquinas: In those words He is speaking of a spiritual anointing, whereby Christ is filled with the Holy Spirit... It also befits Him to be anointed with the oil of holiness and gladness: for the sacraments, which are vessels of grace, were instituted by Him...

This anointing also befits Christians, for they are kings and priests: ‘You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood’ (1 Pt. 2:9); ‘You have made us a kingdom and priests for our God’ (Rev. 3:10). Furthermore, He has the Holy Spirit, Who is the spirit of prophecy: ‘I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy’ (Jl 2:28).

Therefore, all are anointed with an invisible anointing: ‘Now he that has confirmed us with you in Christ and that has anointed us is God: who has also sealed us and given the pledge of the Spirit in our hearts’ (2 Cor. 1:21); ‘But you have the unction from the Holy One and know all things’ (1 Jn. 2:20)...He has it principally and first, but we and others have it from Him...

Christ's power of acting
10 And elsewhere: Lord, thou hast laid the foundations of the earth at its beginning, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They will perish, but thou wilt remain; they will all be like a cloak that grows threadbare, and thou wilt lay them aside, like a garment, and exchange them for new; but thou art he who never changes, thy years will not come to an end.
 Et: Tu in principio, Domine, terram fundasti: et opera manuum tuarum sunt cæli. Ipsi peribunt, tu autem permanebis, et omnes ut vestimentum veterascent: et velut amictum mutabis eos, et mutabuntur: tu autem idem ipse es, et anni tui non deficient. 
Aquinas: Above, the Apostle mentioned four things in which Christ excelled the angels, and he proved two of them, namely, that He excels them, because He is the Son and because He is the heir. Now he proves the third, namely, that He excels them in His power of acting, because through Him the Father made the world.

...there is a difference between Creator and creature...in regard to two things which are proper to the Creator; the first is eternity; the second is immutability...Here he shows the permanence of the Creator. As if to say: ‘In you there is no change nor shadow of change’ (Jas. 1:17). This can be understood of Christ as man: ‘Jesus Christ, yesterday and today and forever’ (Heb. 13:8).

His dignity
13 Did he ever say to one of the angels, Sit on my right hand, while I make thy enemies a footstool under thy feet?14 What are they, all of them, but spirits apt for service, whom he sends out when the destined heirs of eternal salvation have need of them?
Ad quem autem angelorum dixit aliquando: Sede a dextris meis, quoadusque ponam inimicos tuos scabellum pedum tuorum? Nonne omnes sunt administratorii spiritus, in ministerium missi propter eos, qui hæreditatem capient salutis?
Aquinas: As if to say: It is not found that God said this to an angel, but He said it to Christ. And Christ Himself claims that this was said of Him.

Christ's power

But what He says, namely, sit at my right hand, can be referred to the divine nature in which Christ is equal to the Father, because He has judiciary and royal power equal to the Father: ‘All that the Father has are mine’ (Jn. 16:15). Indeed, the Father Himself said this from eternity, because He engendered the Son by speaking, and by engendering gave Him equality with the Father. It can also be referred to the human nature, according to which He sits near the transcendent goods of the Father. In this case the Father spoke, when He joined His Word to a human nature.

...it should be noted that something can be in someone’s power in two ways: in one way in regard to his authority, and then all things have been subject to the Son of God from all eternity, inasmuch as they were decreed to be done, and in the time they existed, they were subject to the Son of God as God, but to Him as man they were subject from the time of His conception as man...

Then he shows that this dignity does not belong to the angels, when he says, Are they not all ministering spirits?

Here he does three things: first, he indicated their function; secondly, the performance of that function (v. 14b); thirdly, the fruit of that performance (v. 14c).

Ministry of the angels

Then he shows that this dignity does not belong to the angels, when he says, Are they not all ministering spirits? Here he does three things: first, he indicated their function; secondly, the performance of that function (v. 14b); thirdly, the fruit of that performance (v. 14c).

Are they not all ministering spirits?His ministers who do his will’ (Ps. 102:21)...some carry out the divine commands, while others oversee and direct their performance...

Furthermore, the Lord Himself said: ‘Their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father’ (Mt. 18:10). Therefore, it must be admitted that all see God’s essence; just as God by knowing His essence also knows Himself and all things not Himself, so, too, the angels, seeing the essence of God, know it and all things in it. In this vision they are happy only because they see Him; not because they see other things in Him...But the vision by which they see God’s essence is common to the beatified. In the vision by which they know all other things in God one angel is above another, for the higher angels, being of a higher nature and intellect, see more in God than the intermediate do, and these more than the lowest. Hence, they see everything which pertains to their office and which are to be accomplished by the others.

the fruit of their activity: ...the purpose of their actions toward men is that the number of the elect be filled. And he says, for them, and not for all, because, although all are called, few are chosen, as it says in Mt. (22:14). He says, the inheritance, because only the sons obtain it: ‘But if sons, then heirs also’ (Rom. 8:17). He says, receive, because the kingdom of God is obtained by labor and sweat and solicitude: ‘The kingdom of God suffers violence’ (Mt. 11:12). Therefore, they will be saved, who take care to guard the divine illuminations and inspirations impressed by the good angels and to make them fructify; otherwise, they will hear what said in Jer (51:9): ‘We would have cured Babylon, but she is not healed.’

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