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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."

"As the flesh is nourished by food, so is man supported by prayers"
St Augustine

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"Lord, take from me everything that hinders me from going to You. give me all that will lead me to You. Take me from myself and give me to Yourself."
St Nicholas Flue

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"God commands not impossibilities, but by commanding he suggests to you to do what you can, to ask for what is beyond your strength; and he helps you, that you may be able."
St Augustine

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