The Church teaches that the unity of body and soul is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the ‘form’ of the body. It is because of its spiritual soul that the body, made of matter, becomes a living human body. Spirit and matter in man are not two natures united but rather their union forms a single nature – one that it is immortal. (Catechism: 366, p 93)
It’s obvious that mere words cannot express what is imagined regarding what is unseen or invisible, such as certain hypothetical particles proposed as the fundamental units of matter or what the “minds eye” sees when conjuring the idea of invisibility, like the air, the wind, or the “dark matter” in space.
Healthy brain function can invent or contrive images in the mind aided by memory retrieval. The stream of images brought to consciousness by the mind is part of the arbitrating, thinking process enabling a person, from his or her sense history and from a free-imagination to “create” new and different combinations of thought.
I think it’s fair to say that one individual’s thought processes and patterns are unlike any other. Every individual has a different chronology and experiential history. If we all thought the same there would be no dynamic and progressive interaction. We are all different as created creatures.
Now, this seems simple enough, basic, if you will, but it becomes a little more complex when you consider us thinking about what exists – but is not seen. How can we form a vision in the mind of what has not been experienced by the senses or which has not been brought up to the conscious mind from the subconscious part of the mind?
If the Church is correct, and the soul is the form of the body, we see the soul of a person or any living thing, by seeing its extension, its body.
St. Thomas says:
It [the soul] comes new into existence, being neither eternal or preexistent, therefore it comes into being by creation.” that the soul is not created by generation of the body.
In other words it is imparted to the body at conception immediately.
St. Thomas continues:
The soul has this peculiarity to distinguish it from other forms, that it is a subsistent being; and the existence which is proper to it communicates to the body.
We have to do a bit of lexicon snooping here with the verb “subsist”. To subsist means, 1. To exist or to continue to exist, or, 2. To maintain life, i.e., “To subsist on one meal a day.” When using the word “subsistent” as a noun, from the Latin (subsistentia), it means a real being, existence. It appears that the word subsistence has a double meaning; on the one side it means: being, beingness, existence; on the other side it means: survival or endurance. St. Thomas, in my understanding was using the former rather than the latter.
It so happens that the word “hypostasis” n; Gr. has much the same meaning as subsistence, and was used by the early theologians to denote any one of the three persons of the Godhead; Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit as the One God. It was also employed to explain, as well as could be expected, the mystery of Christ being both human and divine in the one person of Jesus; one person two natures. Now we can see a little more clearly, at least from a language stand point, how the soul and body are considered one.
Essentially, the soul then, is the life of the body, and has been thought of as such even by proto-man judging from the evidence of pre history. We have to stand on the fact that we see souls when we observe other human beings; that is if you subscribe to the belief system of the better part of humanity from time immemorial. In effect, you are seeing an invisible soul in the life of a person, surely as my soul is the life in me.
This begins to open the door to what Jesus meant when he spoke about he being “in” the Father and the Father “in” him and he “in” us. The Apostles reported seeing him in his “glorified state” after the resurrection. He kept his wounded body in some form, visible to them before his departure to the Father, although the Father was in him and he in the Father in the Spirit. This, indeed included the Apostles and through them, with the Spirit, in us.
It is difficult for human intelligence to wrap around the idea of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit having a “nature”. There are so many ways the mind reflects on the word nature. In one case it means type or quality, which, I think, lets God out of that definition. Another definition would be “the cause of something”; like the nature of things. For me that’s a little too close to terrestrial thinking to cover the Being who created what is seen and unseen. When the word is used to denote everything that has already been created, like Nature itself, that could be the Pantheism that some assume God is.
Rightly, when we speak of Our Lord as both God and Man at the same time, his “hypostasis”, we are, in fact, speaking Trinitarian – since the three persons are One. This is the mystery fully outlined by Jesus in scripture with his statements such as: “When you see me you have seen the Father” or “The Father and I are One”. Human intelligence will never resolve that issue. Only a leap of faith, a submission, which has always been the key to “religion”, brings us into “The Kingdom of God” for which Jesus so earnestly pled and so passionately bled. When the Apostles saw him and touched him in his “glorified state” they understood what the word “salvation” meant. Jesus the God man offered mankind life everlasting for those who kept his commandments, who loved the Father through him, and resolve to live a life of love, of, and for others. All this was brought to us with a sense of mercy and reconciliation, because mankind had been blind, deaf, and immobile in spiritual ways by not recognizing the grace and love pouring from the Father. That is, the life of God joined in each and every one of us. Jesus paid the price for us all on the cross. Enter the word redemption.
Pre Adam instinctive animal man, as was the case with “Original Selfishness”, was forever changed when we understood that our human freedom was for the purpose of love and obedience to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit, so that God, as St. Paul said, “will be all in all” (Corinthians 15: 27: 29). Were it not for St. Paul’s advise I suppose you could say that many of us would still be worshiping sticks and stones, or the sun and the moon, or even be turning our backs on worship all together. All this from a cult of Christians transformed into a universal Church in a little over two thousand years. This brings into sharp focus how the unseen Spirit works in a grand way, and how scripture was fulfilled by the Incarnation. True belief in the unseen may be more evident than we think, that is, if we take the time we providentially have to think at all.
Saturday, the feast of St. Anthony; the first Saturday in Ordinary Time, 2009