Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Light of Glory


1.  In the fifth article of this question, St. Thomas looks into the nature of the light by which the divine essence is made intelligible to created intellects, which is called the “light of glory”.  That there is such a light is defined by the Council of Vienne (the 15th Ecumenical Council of the Church) in the decree Ad nostrum qui. (Cf. DH 895, where the proposition is condemned “Quod quaelibet intellectualis natura in se ipsa naturaliter est beata, quodque anima non indiget lumine gloriae, ipsam elevante ad Deum videndum et eo beate fruendum.”  That any intellectual nature is blessed in itself, and the soul does not require the light of glory elevating it to God in order to see him or enjoy him beatifically.)  It is also referenced (as St. Thomas notes) in St. John’s Apocalypse 21:23.

2.  He gives three objections:  First, that God is supremely intelligible in himself and does not require any other light by which to be seen, just as we could not possibly render the sun visible by holding a candle to it.  Second, that if God is seen through a created medium, then he is not seen through his essence.  Third, that if the essence of God is seen through some created thing, then that created thing would not need anything further to see the essence of God, which would make it naturally adequate to this knowledge, which we have just shown is impossible.

3.  The Sed Contra is from Psalm 35 (36), In lumine tuo videbimus lumen.

4.  In the Corpus he explains somewhat what is meant by the “light of glory”.  In the second article of this question he had said that the intellectual power is a kind of light, and the intellects of creatures are like created lights.  Hence when we speak of the “light of glory” we don’t mean a separate entity or subsisting medium by which God’s Essence is communicated to the intellect of a creature.  Rather, the light of glory is the augmentation of the power of the intellectual light of the created intellect that makes it receptive to the Divine Essence, so that it can know God directly.  It is not correct to call the light of glory a “medium” of knowledge except secundum quid, inasmuch as it is the dispositive cause by which the intellect is made capable of receiving beatific knowledge.  And this light is necessary because the power of the intellect is so inferior to the Essence of God that without direct supernatural intervention it would be impossible for a creature to know God as he is in himself.

5.  To the objections he says first, that the light of glory makes the creature receptive to the Divine Essence; it does not augment God’s intrinsic intelligibility.  Second, that the light of glory is not a likeness through which God is seen, but a perfection of the intellect that gives it the strength to see God directly.  Third, he points out that the disposition to know God through his essence can only belong by nature to a creature that is adequate to know that essence by nature.  But there is no such creature.  Hence the disposition is supernatural in everything that receives it.


- God is supremely intelligible, and needs no light to make him intelligible.
- If he is known through a medium, then he is not known through his essence.
- If he is known through some created thing, then that creature is naturally adequate to know God through his essence, which is impossible.

- The created intellect is like a light, which illuminates to the creature only those things to which its light is adequate.
- God is the supreme light, and thus to be adequate to know God, the created intellect must receive an augmentation to its power that makes it ready to receive the Divine Essence intellectually.
- This dispositive cause of the vision of the divine essence in creatures is called the light of glory.

- The light of glory does not make God more intelligible; it makes the creature more capable of receiving that intelligibility.
- The light of glory is not a likeness of God, but a perfection of the intellect that makes it receptive to God.
- No created thing could have in its nature the stable disposition to receive the divine essence, unless it were naturally apt to know God through his essence, which is impossible.

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