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40. Divine Relations and Divine Persons

1. Boethius says that in God what is andwhereby it is are the same. The Father is the Father bythe divine relation of paternity; the what is the Father;the whereby is the relation of paternity; these are thesame. In God, the subsistent real relations are the same as thePersons. Even the relation consequent upon spiration is identifiedwith the Father and with the Son without involving the identity ofthese two divine Persons as persons.

2. But, though the divine relations are the same as thedivine Persons, in our human way of understanding we distinguishthe Persons one from another by the divine relations. It is thevery notion of paternity in contrast with filiation that makes usaware of the distinct Persons of Father and Son.

3. We cannot think of Father except as one generating orbegetting, nor of Son except as one generated or begotten.Therefore we cannot remove the divine relations from our idea orconcept of the divine Persons without removing the Personsthemselves and thus nullifying our idea of the Trinity.

4. It has been said that, in our human way ofunderstanding, the thought of generating precedes the thought ofpaternity; that is, in technical words, "notional acts precedethe relations." Generating as a "notional act" isour mental grasp of an operation; paternity is a relation. Thesaying, "notional acts precede relations," means that ourgrasp of the operation carries us on to the grasp of the operator.But this saying is not correct. It is not true that"generating precedes paternity in the order of humanunderstanding." On the contrary, the human mind is aware of aperson acting before it is aware of his action; or rather, theoperator is there before we are aware of his operation. Hence, thePersons (that is, the subsistent relations which are the same asthe Persons) precede the "notional acts" by which weconceive of the Persons as acting. Thus, the relation of paternity(which is the Father) precedes our notional act of generating. Wereverse the saying that "notional acts precede therelations," and say, "the relations precede the notionalacts."

"Those who love God are always happy, because their whole happiness is to fulfill, even in adversity, the will of God."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. "
Thomas á Kempis

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"The one thing necessary which Jesus spoke of to Martha and Mary consists in hearing the word of God and living by it."
R. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP

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