Propassions of Christ

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From the times of St. Jerome and St. John Damascene theologians have customarily used the term "propassions" to designate the functions of the concupiscible and irascible sensitive appetites of Christ's hypostatized human nature (e.g., love, desire, hope, fear, sadness). It is likely that the prefix pro (in place of, for, instead of) was originally employed by the early writers to deny to Christ the passions as then imperfectly understood. Because of the prevailing influence of Greek philosophy, and of Stoicism in particular, these lower powers of man were generally thought to involve, essentially, a state of irrationality or rebellion and opposition to the higher powers (reason).

St. Thomas Aquinas, arguing from the Aristotelian philosophical view that the passions are in themselves perfections of human nature, states (Summa theologiae, 3a, 15.4) that Christ truly possessed all the psychological or animal passions, properly understood, in a most perfect and eminent fashion.

Respectful, as always, of past traditions, however, Thomas retained the term "propassions" in order to stress the fact that in Christ the passions were always perfectly subject to reason and were never a source or result of sinful excess by reason of object, principle, or effect (ibid. ).

Modern psychological considerations of the unparalleled psychosomatic unity of Christ's sinless sensual faculties emphasize the resultant extreme sensitivity of these powers and, consequently, the intensity of Christ's suffering, especially in His Passion.

See Also: jesus christ (in theology) 3; impeccability of christ.

Bibliography: e. hugon, The Mystery of the Incarnation, tr a nun of st. dominic's priory, carisbrooke (London 1925) 228232. i. solano, Sacrae theologiae summa, ed. Fathers of the Society of Jesus, Professors of the Theological Faculties in Spain, 4 v. (Madrid 1961) 3.1:361369. a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350) 8.1:13232. b. m. xiberta y roqueta, Enchiridion de Verbo Incarnato (Madrid 1957), Index Doctrinarum 22.

[d. r. grabner]