Duration of the Hypostatic Union
1. The Hypostatic union means the union of the human and Divine natures in and under the one person of the Word, so that Christ is true God and true Man. When at the Annunciation the angel had concluded his heavenly message, and when the Blessed Virgin had pronounced the assenting words, "Be it done to me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38), at that moment the Son of God was, through the supernatural activity of the Holy Ghost, conceived in Mary's Womb. The conception of Christ implies three factors: the creation of Christ's human soul; the infusion of that soul into and union with Christ's body which had been fashioned and prepared for its reception by the activity of the Holy Ghost; and, lastly, the assumption of that human nature by the Person of the Word.
These three events were simultaneous: not the slightest fraction of time intervened between them. The human nature of Christ never had its co-natural human personality - there were not two persons in Christ - but as soon as Christ's human nature was constituted by the union of His soul and body, at that very instant it was placed under the dominion of the Person of the Word. The Divine Person, Who contained within Himself in an eminent manner all the perfections of a human personality, communicated to that human nature His own existence and made it intimately His own. Henceforth the Incarnate Word could say in all truth: I walk, I suffer, this is my body.
This doctrine is well expressed by St. Leo the Great and by Pope St. Gregory in his letter to the bishops of Ireland, both of whom say in substance: "The human nature of Christ was not first created and then assumed (by the Person of the Word), but it was created in the very act of being assumed."
As a matter of fact, the Son Whom the Blessed Virgin conceives and to Whom she gives birth, is at the same time represented and declared in the Gospels to be the Son of God: "Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High" (Luke 1:31-32). Shortly after the Annunciation Elizabeth, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, saluted Mary as the Mother of God: "And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me" (Luke 1:43)?
2. What, it may be asked, happened to the hypostatic union during the triduum of Christ's death? The Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, which are infallible documents of faith, tell us that after His death Christ descended into hell and that He was buried. These statements presuppose that the Word remained united both to the soul which descended into the limbo of the just and to the body which was buried in the sepulchre. Besides, death could take place without destroying the hypostatic union, for death did not consist in a separation of the humanity from the Divinity but in a separation of the soul from the body. Hence the soul and the body could be separated from each other without being disjoined from the Word.
At this point several interesting questions immediately arise. How could Christ's body in the sepulchre be united to the Word, the Source and Fountain of all life, and yet be dead and lifeless? The solution to this problem lies in a proper understanding of the manner in which God is the Author of life.
The Word, it is true, is the Source of all life in the universe, especially of that of the human soul. As far as the human body is concerned, the Divine disposition by creation is such that the body lives only when united to the soul. Hence although the Word is the Source of all life, it does not vivify the body except through the soul. Since Christ's body in the tomb was separated from the soul - although united to the Word - it was not a living body.
During the Sacred Passion, our Lord shed His blood with great profusion and generous prodigality. The various stages of the Passion and especially of the Way of the Cross constituted a veritable procession of the Precious Blood. The question whether every single drop of Christ's blood, shed during the Passion remained hypostatically united to the Person of the Word during the triduum, was debated during the Middle Ages with great vehemence and vigor between members of the Franciscan and Dominican Orders. The prevailing opinion among theologians today is to the effect that during the triduum of Christ's death, the Person of Christ remained hypostatically united at least with that portion of His Precious Blood which He reassumed at the Resurrection.
Bruges, Beyreuth, Jerusalem and several other places maintain or at one time claimed to possess true relics of Christ's Precious Blood. If these relics are true, is the blood of Christ which they contain still united to the Person of Christ? Is it consequently deserving of Divine worship? This problem has likewise been the subject of extensive and prolonged discussion. At present the generally accepted doctrine is the following: If these relics are the blood shed by our Lord during His Passion, these particles of Christ's Blood were not reassumed at the Resurrection but permanently separated from Christ's Person; they are not to be worshiped but only venerated like particles of the Holy Cross.
The blood which is said to have flown miraculously from consecrated Hosts or images of Christ is not the blood of Christ at all. Since the Resurrection, Christ is in a glorified state and "dieth now no more." Hence He cannot bleed in a consecrated Host where He is present in the same glorified state.
If a fluid, the chemical ingredients of which are the same as those of human blood, should appear on the consecrated Host, the phenomenon would be a miracle - a didactic miracle teaching us the truth of the Real Presence.
Since the Holy Eucharist was established on the night of Holy Thursday, and since the regular celebration of Mass did not begin until some time after the Resurrection, theologians inquire what would have been the state of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist if the Apostles had consecrated on 1) Good Friday morning, 2) Holy Saturday morning, 3) Easter morning?
1) If the Apostles had consecrated on Good Friday morning, Christ Who at that time was in Himself passible would have been in the Holy Eucharist in an impassible manner. "It is clear," says St. Thomas, "that the very body of Christ which was perceived in its own nature by the disciples was also received in the sacramental species. The body which was perceived in its own nature was not impassible but rather prepared for the Passion. But that which in itself was passible was in an impassible manner in the Sacrament, just as that which in itself was visible existed invisible."
2) Let us suppose now that the Apostles had celebrated the Lord's Supper on Holy Saturday morning. At this time there existed a real separation between the constitutive elements of Christ. The Sacred Host would have contained (in an impassible manner) the bloodless, inanimate Body of Christ as it lay in the tomb. The Chalice would have held only the blood separated from His body duri.ng the Passion and absorbed by the earth. Both the body and the blood would have remained hypostatically united to the Divine Person. Christ's soul, sojourning in limbo, would have remained entirely excluded from the Eucharistic presence.
3.) If the Apostles had consecrated on Easter morning after Christ's Resurrection, Christ would have been in the Holy Eucharist in the same state as He is now - namely, in a glorified state. Christ Who "dieth now no more" has an animate body through whose veins courses His life's blood under the vivifying influence of the soul. Christ is present in each species wholly and entirely - body, blood, soul, humanity and Divinity.
4.) The hypostatic union will continue after the Resurrection for all eternity. The perpetual inseparability of our Lord's two natures is implied in Christ's eternal priesthood. The eternal existence of Christ is taught in the following passage in Hebrews: "Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today, and the same forever" (Hebrews 13:8). That the Apostle in this passage means the God-Man is evidenced by his teaching in regard to Christ's eternal priesthood: "But this (Christ), for that He continueth forever, hath an everlasting priesthood" (Hebrews 7:24). Since the exercise of Christ's priesthood is a theandric act, it necessarily presupposes the hypostatic union; and since Christ's priesthood is to endure forever, the hypostatic union itself will never cease. The exalted celestial priesthood of our Pontiff is not a mere empty title, but a complement of the Sacrifice of the Cross. Christ appears before His Father as the Victim of Calvary and adorned with the qualities of victim. He constantly presents to His Father the merits of His blood shed upon Calvary - everlastingly He is asserting the sacrifice of the Cross in behalf of those whom He redeemed. As St. Ambrose remarks: "He refused to relinquish the wounds which He had received for us, but preferred to take them with Him to Heaven, in order to exhibit them to his Heavenly Father as the purchase price of our liberty." In this way Christ is "always living to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25).
1. What is the hypostatic union?
2. What three factors does the Incarnation involve?
3. Did Christ ever have a human person?
4. How could a divine Person take the place of a human person?
5. What happened to the hypostatic union during the three days after Christ's death?
6. How could the body of Christ be united to His Person and still be dead?
7. Did all the Precious Blood shed during the Passion and Death of Christ remain hypostatically united to His Divine Person?
8. Are the relics of the Precious Blood deserving of Divine worship?
9. Can the Risen or Eucharistic Christ bleed?
10. What would have been the state of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist if the Apostles had consecrated on:
a) Good Friday morning;
b) Holy Saturday morning?
c) Easter morning?
11. Will the hypostatic union last forever?
12. In what sense is Christ making intercession for us in heaven?
13. Show how the hypostatic union is reproduced in the Holy Eucharist?
14. When you recite the Litany and prayers to the Sacred Heart, whither should you direct your petitions (where is the Sacred Heart of Christ now)?
1. I will have a great respect for the human body which was raised to so
high a dignity in the hypostatic union.
2. I will try to understand the oneness of Christ's Person and realize that the Christ Who is now present in the Blessed Sacrament is the very Christ Who suffered for me in Palestine.
3. I will cultivate a great devotion to the Five Wounds and ask that they would plead for me in the presence of the Blessed Trinity.