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Whether Any Procession in God Can Be Called Generation?

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C.f., SCG4.C10-11; QDePot.Q2.A1; DeRatio.C3; CT.BookI.C40, 43; Col.C1.L4


After considering the concept procession in general, we can consider the formal character of each in particular. In revelation, we are told that there are two processions in God. First, there is a procession that links the "Father" to the "Son," From God I proceeded (John 8:42). Second, there is a procession that links the "Father" and "Son" to the "Spirit," I will send you [the Spirit of truth] from the Father...who proceedeth from the Father (John 15:26). 


This first procession is, more particularly, revealed to be the type of procession called "generation" or "begetting." That which is the terminus of this procession is revealed to be "Word" or "Son."


In our consideration of procession in general, we saw that this procession must be one that is a spiritual, not corporeal (using the example of intellectual procession). Further, It is revealed that the terminus of the procession spoken of in John 8:42 is also the "Word" spoken of in John 1. Thus, we can conclude that the formal (rather than metaphorical) character of the procession of the Son is one of "intellection." For, the terminus of the act of the intellect is a mental word. 


That is, the Father, in exercising the faculty of the intellect, has completely communicated the Divinity to the Word. In us, in exercising the faculty of the intellect (in considering ourselves), we merely produce some likeness to ourselves that exists in our intellects. It is dependent on previous images and is accidental to ourselves. Yet, in the perfection of the procession spoken of above, the Father does not produce a word that is accidental, dependent, and imperfect, as we do, rather, the Father produces another Person who is a complete sharer in His Divinity. 


This profoundly answers the question of why this procession is specifically referred to "begetting" and the terminus as "Son."


In our consideration of created things, we see that begetting is a special type of procession. The man "makes" the car, the dog "begets" the puppy. Begetting takes upon the special note of "specific likeness," i.e., the living thing re-produces itself. The mother and father come together to produce another human. 


Yet, the likeness is only "specific," i.e., of species. The mother and father produce some OTHER of the same KIND. Yet, the procession is still transitive. In God, we cannot posit a mere "specific likeness," i.e., we cannot say that the Father begets a second God. Therefore, we must remove the imperfection of transitiveness present in our created notion of begetting. Thus, we are able to say that the Father begets a Son in the manner of absolute perfection, i.e., communicates all that He is to the Son in that they are of the same nature. 


How can this be? For, in intellection, one merely produces the concept of the thing thought of, not the thing itself. 


The answer is given by St. Thomas in multiple places (c.f., ST.I.Q14.A4). In us, we have many diverse attributes and action that only involve and express a part of who we are. Yet, God is a simple and pure spirit. Thus, His act of understanding involves the fullness of what He is. Therefore, we can say that God IS His act of understanding. Thus, the term of His intellect reflecting upon Himself will not only be a conceptual representation of Himself, but will be the fullness of Himself. 


This consideration profoundly expresses why the terminus of our intellectual acts are called "concepts" whereas the terminus of God's understanding of Himself is called "begotten."


For, if we look at the material acts from which these terms take their primary signification, we see that there is a twofold process in bringing forth another living thing by generation. First, at the beginning of the process, the mother conceives the child within her womb. Then there is a process of 9 months before the child can be said to be "generated" or "begotten" or "born." During these 9 months, the child goes from a state of imperfection to perfection. 


In a similar fashion does our thinking "conceive" of things within the depths of our intellects. For, we bring forth the thing, yet in an imperfection form. When I think of a horse I "conceive" the horse, for, that which is in my mind is not the horse in its fullness, but the "concept" of a horse. To say that I "generated" a horse by the act of my intellect would be false and confusing. 


The distinction present in natural things between conception (which is imperfect) and begetting (which is perfect) is mirrored by the difference between our intellect and God's intellect. Whereas we produce a "concept" of ourselves when we think of ourselves, God perfectly produces Himself when he thinks of Himself. Thus, the term of the intellectual procession is not only called "Word" but also "Son" and such procession of the intellect is not called "conception," but "begetting."


We can deepen our reflection by considering the placement of the terminus of the procession of begetting and intellection. For, in the process of begetting, where there is the perfection of a communication of nature rather than likeness, yet there is an imperfection of a transient procession. But, in intellection, where there is the imperfection of a mere production of likeness, there is a perfection of an immanent procession. Thus, the procession must be both begetting (to highlight the fullness of the communication) and intellection (to highlight the immanent nature of the procession). 


St. Thomas summarizes this when he states that, 


> The divine nature itself is its intellectuality; and in this way, a communication that takes place through an intellectual mode is also a communication through the mode of nature, so that it can be called a 'begetting.' (QDePot.Q2.A1.C.12)


At this point, we run into a difficulty. It has been said that the Word is the "mental enunciation" of the Father by way of intellection. Yet, as we will discuss further on, the three persons share the same intellect. Why, then, do each of the three persons not enunciate their own Word? 


This is where the distinction between understanding and enunciation comes into play. To illustrate, say we have a teacher and a group of students. Most of the time, upon giving his lesson, the students have many question. They seek clarification on certain points spoken of by the teacher. Yet, we know that this is an imperfection in two aspects, 1. on the part of the teacher who enunciates, 2. on the part of the students who understand. 


Now, imagine we have a perfect teacher with perfect students. The teacher could, in one "word" enunciate all that he knows AND the students could, in one act of understanding, understand all that the teacher enunciates. It is such in God. The Father enunciates all that the Godhead is in one mental act, 1. producing a perfect Word, and 2. exhausing the infinite "fecundity" of the faculty of the intellect. It is as if the teacher, 1. enunciated that perfect word that the students could understand in one mental act, AND 2. completely exhaused all the power of his intellect in doing it. 


Thus, when the numerically one Divine intellect is communicated to the Son (and the Spirit) there is no more enunciation to do, further, there could be no enunciation, for, the fecundity of the Divine intellect has been "exhaused" in producing this Word. Thus, all there is to do is to understand through that Word once and eternally enunciated. 


CONNECTION: The production of a subsisting word, rather than some impressed/expressed species connects back to some of the reflections which were had on the necessity of the union of God with the intellect in the beatific vision in Q. 14


Respondeo: The procession of the Word in God is called generation. In proof whereof we must observe that generation has a twofold meaning:


one common to everything subject to generation and corruption; in which sense generation is nothing but change from non-existence to existence.


In another sense it is proper and belongs to living things; in which sense it signifies the origin of a living being from a conjoined living principle; and this is properly called birth. Not everything of that kind, however, is called begotten; but, strictly speaking, only what proceeds by way of similitude. Hence a hair has not the aspect of generation and sonship, but only that has which proceeds by way of a similitude. Nor will any likeness suffice; for a worm which is generated from animals has not the aspect of generation and sonship, although it has a generic similitude; for this kind of generation requires that there should be a procession by way of similitude in the same specific nature; as a man proceeds from a man, and a horse from a horse.


So in living things, which proceed from potential to actual life, such as men and animals, generation includes both these kinds of generation. But if there is a being whose life does not proceed from potentiality to act, procession (if found in such a being) excludes entirely the first kind of generation; whereas it may have that kind of generation which belongs to living things. So in this manner the procession of the Word in God is generation; for He proceeds by way of intelligible action, which is a vital operation:—from a conjoined principle (as above described):—by way of similitude, inasmuch as the concept of the intellect is a likeness of the object conceived:—and exists in the same nature, because in God the act of understanding and His existence are the same, as shown above (Q. 14, A. 4). Hence the procession of the Word in God is called generation; and the Word Himself proceeding is called the Son.

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