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Supernatural Order


That suitable arrangement by God of proportionate means in view of man's attainment of his supernatural destiny. Its author and architect is the Father who, through Christ in the Holy Ghost, makes men His adoptive sons (Gal 4.48; Eph 1.314) and joint heirs with Christ (Rom 8.17) to the patrimony of the beatific vision. Its beneficiary is man. All the public and visible means for reaching the goal are held by the Church, membership in which is the authentic way of being in Christ and of enjoying also the private and hidden means of sal vation: grace, infused virtues, and the seven gifts (see holy spirit, gifts of). Because the Word took flesh, all reality has an Incarnational structure, and the Church is the continuation of Christ in history.

The magisterium frequently alludes to some distinction between natural and supernatural orders (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. A. Schönmetzer 1934, 1936, 1938, 2439, 2441, 2623, 3236, 3238, 3891); indeed its denial would jeopardize the very concept of the supernatural. To acknowledge a distinction, however, is not to affirm a real separation. In fact, never has man existed in a purely natural order; never has his end been other than supernatural, to gain which he has had at hand sufficient means (1 Tm 2.37; Jn 1.9). The super-natural is embedded in the natural: grace needs the soul to lodge in; faith, the mind; charity, the will. Between natural and supernatural, while there is ceaseless traffic, there is no pantheistic fusion (Enchiridion symbolorum, 3814): deified man is still man, not God. If his will maliciously forfeits charity, he tends toward his natural level. Faith and hope may maintain man in the supernatural order, in which, besides, he is anchored by his summons to the beatific vision and any sacramental character he may possess. The supernatural order so trenches on the natural as to (1) supplant man's connatural end; (2) to affect even the infrapersonal world, which, existing for man's sake, is mysteriously caught up into the travail of human history (Rom 8.1925) and restored to equilibrium under Christ [νακεφαλαιώσασθαι τά πάντα ν τ[symbol omitted] χριστ[symbol omitted] (Eph 1.10)]; and to (3) make it precarious for reason unenlightened by revelation to ascertain what is purely natural in the concrete.

See Also: desire to see god, natural; elevation of man; grace and nature; man, 3; obediential potency; pure nature, state of; supernatural existential; temporal values, theology of.

Bibliography: a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., (Paris 190350) 14:284959. k. rahner, Schriften zur Theologie (Einsiedeln 1954) 1:323345; 3:3560; v.1 tr. c. ernst, Theological Investigations (Baltimore 1961) 297317. j. p. kenny, Australasian Catholic Record 33 (1956) 1122.

[j. p. kenny]

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