1. The next section of this question deals with the different qualities of the beatific vision of the divine essence. First, he asks whether one person sees God more perfectly than another through this vision. He gives three objections.
2. First, he quotes 1 John 3:2 again, and points out that God is in only one way, so that all must see him in the same way when they see him through his essence. Second, he quotes Augustine saying that one person cannot see the same thing more perfectly than another. The third objection is more complex. He points out that a thing can be seen more perfectly either on account of the visibility of the object or the seer’s power of vision. Since the visibility of the object cannot differ if God is seen through his essence, then any difference would have to arise on account of the difference of the power of those seeing God. But since men are promised equality with angels in beatitude, this inequality of power seems to be ruled out.
3. The Sed Contra is based on St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:41 when he is discussing the degrees of glory in the general resurrection.
4. In the Corpus he explains that of those who see the essence of God, one will see more perfectly than another, not because of a more perfect likeness, but because a greater share in the light of glory, which illuminates the intellect to receive the vision of God’s essence. And he says further that this difference as to illumination is on account of a greater share of charity, because the more charity there is, the more desire for union with God and this desire is a kind of receptivity to the perfection given in glory. Thus where there is greater charity, there will be greater illumination, and where there is greater illumination there will be greater perfection of vision.
5. He answers the objections briefly: first, that verse says “we shall see him as he is” to indicate that we shall see his existence itself. It dies not specify the degree of perfection of that vision. To the second he says that two people cannot understand the reality of a thing in contradictory ways (which is what Augustine means), but this does not mean that one person cannot grasp the reality more perfectly than another. To the third he says that the diversity of perfection in the vision of God arises neither on the part of the natural faculty of understanding nor on the part of the visible object, but on account of the degree of supernatural perfection given to the intellectual faculty in glory.
OUTLINE OF ARTICLE
- In knowing God essentially we can only know him one way.
- One cannot understand a thing more than another, says Augustine.
- Difference in understanding would have to be on the part of the natural power to understand, which is ruled out.
- One sees God’s Essence more perfectly than another, not on account of a more perfect likeness, nor on account of a greater natural perfection, but on account of a greater share in the supernatural illumination of the light of glory.
- The light of glory is received more by those who have a greater desire for God in charity.
- Only one way through his essence, but to different degrees.
- If one disagrees with the other about a thing, one of them is wrong, but one can understand better than another, and still be grasping the same thing.
- The difference is not on account of the perfection of the natural power but on account of the perfection of the power as supernaturally perfected in grace.