Summa Th. III EN Qu.39 a.5

Whether the heavens should have been opened unto Christ at His baptism?

Objection: 1. It would seem that the heavens should not have been opened unto Christ at His baptism. For the heavens should be opened unto one who needs to enter heaven, by reason of his being out of heaven. But Christ was always in heaven, according to Jn 3,13: "The Son of Man who is in heaven." Therefore it seems that the heavens should not have been opened unto Him.
2. Further, the opening of the heavens is understood either in a corporal or in a spiritual sense. But it cannot be understood in a corporal sense: because the heavenly bodies are impassible and indissoluble, according to Jb 37,18: "Thou perhaps hast made the heavens with Him, which are most strong, as if they were of molten brass." In like manner neither can it be understood in a spiritual sense, because the heavens were not previously closed to the eyes of the Son of God. Therefore it seems unbecoming to say that when Christ was baptized "the heavens were opened."
3. Further, heaven was opened to the faithful through Christ's Passion, according to He 10,19: "We have [Vulg.: 'Having'] a confidence in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ." Wherefore not even those who were baptized with Christ's baptism, and died before His Passion, could enter heaven. Therefore the heavens should have been opened when Christ was suffering rather than when He was baptized.

On the contrary It is written (Lc 3,21): "Jesus being baptized and praying, heaven was opened."
I answer that As stated above (Article [1]; Question [38], Article [1]), Christ wished to be baptized in order to consecrate the baptism wherewith we were to be baptized. And therefore it behooved those things to be shown forth which belong to the efficacy of our baptism: concerning which efficacy three points are to be considered. First, the principal power from which it is derived; and this, indeed, is a heavenly power. For which reason, when Christ was baptized, heaven was opened, to show that in future the heavenly power would sanctify baptism.Secondly, the faith of the Church and of the person baptized conduces to the efficacy of baptism: wherefore those who are baptized make a profession of faith, and baptism is called the "sacrament of faith." Now by faith we gaze on heavenly things, which surpass the senses and human reason. And in order to signify this, the heavens were opened when Christ was baptized.Thirdly, because the entrance to the heavenly kingdom was opened to us by the baptism of Christ in a special manner, which entrance had been closed to the first man through sin. Hence, when Christ was baptized, the heavens were opened, to show that the way to heaven is open to the baptized.Now after baptism man needs to pray continually, in order to enter heaven: for though sins are remitted through baptism, there still remain the fomes of sin assailing us from within, and the world and the devils assailing us from without. And therefore it is said pointedly (Lc 3,21) that "Jesus being baptized and praying, heaven was opened": because, to wit, the faithful after baptism stand in need of prayer. Or else, that we may be led to understand that the very fact that through baptism heaven is opened to believers is in virtue of the prayer of Christ. Hence it is said pointedly (Mt 3,16) that "heaven was opened to Him"---that is, "to all for His sake." Thus, for example, the Emperor might say to one asking a favor for another: "Behold, I grant this favor, not to him, but to thee"---that is, "to him for thy sake," as Chrysostom says (Hom. iv in Matth. [*From the supposititious Opus Imperfectum]).

Reply to Objection: 1. According to Chrysostom (Hom. iv in Matth.; from the supposititious Opus Imperfectum), as Christ was baptized for man's sake, though He needed no baptism for His own sake, so the heavens were opened unto Him as man, whereas in respect of His Divine Nature He was ever in heaven.
2. As Jerome says on Mt 3,16-17, the heavens were opened to Christ when He was baptized, not by an unfolding of the elements, but by a spiritual vision: thus does Ezechiel relate the opening of the heavens at the beginning of his book. And Chrysostom proves this (Hom. iv in Matth.; from the supposititious Opus Imperfectum) by saying that "if the creature"---namely, heaven---"had been sundered he would not have said, 'were opened to Him,' since what is opened in a corporeal sense is open to all." Hence it is said expressly (Mc 1,10) that Jesus "forthwith coming up out of the water, saw the heavens opened"; as though the opening of the heavens were to be considered as seen by Christ. Some, indeed, refer this to the corporeal vision, and say that such a brilliant light shone round about Christ when He was baptized, that the heavens seemed to be opened. It can also be referred to the imaginary vision, in which manner Ezechiel saw the heavens opened: since such a vision was formed in Christ's imagination by the Divine power and by His rational will, so as to signify that the entrance to heaven is opened to men through baptism. Lastly, it can be referred to intellectual vision: forasmuch as Christ, when He had sanctified baptism, saw that heaven was opened to men: nevertheless He had seen before that this would be accomplished.
3. Christ's Passion is the common cause of the opening of heaven to men. But it behooves this cause to be applied to each one, in order that he enter heaven. And this is effected by baptism, according to Rm 6,3: "All we who are baptized in Christ Jesus are baptized in His death." Wherefore mention is made of the opening of the heavens at His baptism rather than at His Passion.Or, as Chrysostom says (Hom. iv in Matth.; from the supposititious Opus Imperfectum): "When Christ was baptized, the heavens were merely opened: but after He had vanquished the tyrant by the cross; since gates were no longer needed for a heaven which thenceforth would be never closed, the angels said, not 'open the gates,' but 'Take them away.'" Thus Chrysostom gives us to understand that the obstacles which had hitherto hindered the souls of the departed from entering into heaven were entirely removed by the Passion: but at Christ's baptism they were opened, as though the way had been shown by which men were to enter into heaven.

Whether it is fitting to say that when Christ was baptized the Holy Ghost came down on Him in the form of a dove?

Objection: 1. It would seem that it is not fitting to say that when Christ was baptized the Holy Ghost came down on Him in the form of a dove. For the Holy Ghost dwells in man by grace. But the fulness of grace was in the Man-Christ from the beginning of His conception, because He was the "Only-begotten of the Father," as is clear from what has been said above (Question [7], Article [12]; Question [34], Article [1]). Therefore the Holy Ghost should not have been sent to Him at His baptism.
2. Further, Christ is said to have "descended" into the world in the mystery of the Incarnation, when "He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant" (Ph 2,7). But the Holy Ghost did not become incarnate. Therefore it is unbecoming to say that the Holy Ghost "descended upon Him."
3. Further, that which is accomplished in our baptism should have been shown in Christ's baptism, as in an exemplar. But in our baptism no visible mission of the Holy Ghost takes place. Therefore neither should a visible mission of the Holy Ghost have taken place in Christ's baptism.
4. Further, the Holy Ghost is poured forth on others through Christ, according to Jn 1,16: "Of His fulness we all have received." But the Holy Ghost came down on the apostles in the form, not of a dove, but of fire. Therefore neither should He have come down on Christ in the form of a dove, but in the form of fire.

On the contrary It is written (Lc 3,22): "The Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape as a dove upon Him."
I answer that What took place with respect to Christ in His baptism, as Chrysostom says (Hom. iv in Matth. [*From the supposititious Opus Imperfectum]), "is connected with the mystery accomplished in all who were to be baptized afterwards." Now, all those who are baptized with the baptism of Christ receive the Holy Ghost, unless they approach unworthily; according to Mt 3,11: "He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost." Therefore it was fitting that when our Lord was baptized the Holy Ghost should descend upon Him.

Reply to Objection: 1. As Augustine says (De Trin. xv): "It is most absurd to say that Christ received the Holy Ghost, when He was already thirty years old: for when He came to be baptized, since He was without sin, therefore was He not without the Holy Ghost. For if it is written of John that 'he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb,' what must we say of the Man-Christ, whose conception in the flesh was not carnal, but spiritual? Therefore now," i.e. at His baptism, "He deigned to foreshadow His body," i.e. the Church, "in which those who are baptized receive the Holy Ghost in a special manner."
2. As Augustine says (De Trin. ii), the Holy Ghost is said to have descended on Christ in a bodily shape, as a dove, not because the very substance of the Holy Ghost was seen, for He is invisible: nor as though that visible creature were assumed into the unity of the Divine Person; since it is not said that the Holy Ghost was the dove, as it is said that the Son of God is man by reason of the union. Nor, again, was the Holy Ghost seen under the form of a dove, after the manner in which John saw the slain Lamb in the Apocalypse (5:6): "For the latter vision took place in the spirit through spiritual images of bodies; whereas no one ever doubted that this dove was seen by the eyes of the body." Nor, again, did the Holy Ghost appear under the form of a dove in the sense in which it is said (1Co 10,4): "'Now, the rock was Christ': for the latter had already a created existence, and through the manner of its action was called by the name of Christ, whom it signified: whereas this dove came suddenly into existence, to fulfil the purpose of its signification, and afterwards ceased to exist, like the flame which appeared in the bush to Moses."Hence the Holy Ghost is said to have descended upon Christ, not by reason of His being united to the dove: but either because the dove itself signified the Holy Ghost, inasmuch as it "descended" when it came upon Him; or, again, by reason of the spiritual grace, which is poured out by God, so as to descend, as it were, on the creature, according to Jc 1,17: "Every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights."
3. As Chrysostom says (Hom. xii in Matth.): "At the beginning of all spiritual transactions sensible visions appear, for the sake of them who cannot conceive at all an incorporeal nature . . . so that, though afterwards no such thing occur, they may shape their faith according to that which has occurred once for all." And therefore the Holy Ghost descended visibly, under a bodily shape, on Christ at His baptism, in order that we may believe Him to descend invisibly on all those who are baptized.
4. The Holy Ghost appeared over Christ at His baptism, under the form of a dove, for four reasons. First, on account of the disposition required in the one baptized---namely, that he approach in good faith: since! as it is written (Sg 1,5): "The holy spirit of discipline will flee from the deceitful." For the dove is an animal of a simple character, void of cunning and deceit: whence it is said (Mt 10,16): "Be ye simple as doves."Secondly, in order to designate the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are signified by the properties of the dove. For the dove dwells beside the running stream, in order that, on perceiving the hawk, it may plunge in and escape. This refers to the gift of wisdom, whereby the saints dwell beside the running waters of Holy Scripture, in order to escape the assaults of the devil. Again, the dove prefers the more choice seeds. This refers to the gift of knowledge, whereby the saints make choice of sound doctrines, with which they nourish themselves. Further, the dove feeds the brood of other birds. This refers to the gift of counsel, with which the saints, by teaching and example, feed men who have been the brood, i.e. imitators, of the devil. Again, the dove tears not with its beak. This refers to the gift of understanding, wherewith the saints do not rend sound doctrines, as heretics do. Again, the dove has no gall. This refers to the gift of piety, by reason of which the saints are free from unreasonable anger. Again, the dove builds its nest in the cleft of a rock. This refers to the gift of fortitude, wherewith the saints build their nest, i.e. take refuge and hope, in the death wounds of Christ, who is the Rock of strength. Lastly, the dove has a plaintive song. This refers to the gift of fear, wherewith the saints delight in bewailing sins.Thirdly, the Holy Ghost appeared under the form of a dove on account of the proper effect of baptism, which is the remission of sins and reconciliation with God: for the dove is a gentle creature. Wherefore, as Chrysostom says, (Hom. xii in Matth.), "at the Deluge this creature appeared bearing an olive branch, and publishing the tidings of the universal peace of the whole world: and now again the dove appears at the baptism, pointing to our Deliverer."Fourthly, the Holy Ghost appeared over our Lord at His baptism in the form of a dove, in order to designate the common effect of baptism---namely, the building up of the unity of the Church. Hence it is written (Ep 5,25-27): "Christ delivered Himself up . . . that He might present . . . to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing . . . cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life." Therefore it was fitting that the Holy Ghost should appear at the baptism under the form of a dove, which is a creature both loving and gregarious. Wherefore also it is said of the Church (Ct 6,8): "One is my dove."But on the apostles the Holy Ghost descended under the form of fire, for two reasons. First, to show with what fervor their hearts were to be moved, so as to preach Christ everywhere, though surrounded by opposition. And therefore He appeared as a fiery tongue. Hence Augustine says (Super Joan., Tract. vi): Our Lord "manifests" the Holy Ghost "visibly in two ways"---namely, "by the dove corning upon the Lord when He was baptized; by fire, coming upon the disciples when they were met together . . . In the former case simplicity is shown, in the latter fervor . . . We learn, then, from the dove, that those who are sanctified by the Spirit should be without guile: and from the fire, that their simplicity should not be left to wax cold. Nor let it disturb anyone that the tongues were cloven . . . in the dove recognize unity."Secondly, because, as Chrysostom says (Gregory, Hom. xxx in ): "Since sins had to be forgiven," which is effected in baptism, "meekness was required"; this is shown by the dove: "but when we have obtained grace we must look forward to be judged"; and this is signified by the fire.

Whether the dove in which the Holy Ghost appeared was real?

Objection: 1. It would seem that the dove in which the Holy Ghost appeared was not real. For that seems to be a mere apparition which appears in its semblance. But it is stated (Lc 3,22) that the "Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape as a dove upon Him." Therefore it was not a real dove, but a semblance of a dove.
2. Further, just as "Nature does nothing useless, so neither does God" (De Coelo i). Now since this dove came merely "in order to signify something and pass away," as Augustine says (De Trin. ii), a real dove would have been useless: because the semblance of a dove was sufficient for that purpose. Therefore it was not a real dove.
3. Further, the properties of a thing lead us to a knowledge of that thing. If, therefore, this were a real dove, its properties would have signified the nature of the real animal, and not the effect of the Holy Ghost. Therefore it seems that it was not a real dove.

On the contrary Augustine says (De Agone Christ. xxii): "Nor do we say this as though we asserted that our Lord Jesus Christ alone had a real body, and that the Holy Ghost appeared to men's eyes in a fallacious manner: but we say that both those bodies were real."
I answer that As stated above (Question [5], Article [1]), it was unbecoming that the Son of God, who is the Truth of the Father, should make use of anything unreal; wherefore He took, not an imaginary, but a real body. And since the Holy Ghost is called the Spirit of Truth, as appears from Jn 16,13, therefore He too made a real dove in which to appear, though He did not assume it into unity of person. Wherefore, after the words quoted above, Augustine adds: "Just as it behooved the Son of God not to deceive men, so it behooved the Holy Ghost not to deceive. But it was easy for Almighty God, who created all creatures out of nothing, to frame the body of a real dove without the help of other doves, just as it was easy for Him to form a true body in Mary's womb without the seed of a man: since the corporeal creature obeys its Lord's command and will, both in the mother's womb in forming a man, and in the world itself in forming a dove."

Reply to Objection: 1. The Holy Ghost is said to have descended in the shape or semblance of a dove, not in the sense that the dove was not real, but in order to show that He did not appear in the form of His substance.
2. It was not superfluous to form a real dove, in which the Holy Ghost might appear, because by the very reality of the dove the reality of the Holy Ghost and of His effects is signified.
3. The properties of the dove lead us to understand the dove's nature and the effects of the Holy Ghost in the same way. Because from the very fact that the dove has such properties, it results that it signifies the Holy Ghost.

Whether it was becoming, when Christ was baptized that the Father's voice should be heard, bearing witness to the Son?

Objection: 1. It would seem that it was unbecoming when Christ was baptized for the Father's voice to be heard bearing witness to the Son. For the Son and the Holy Ghost, according as they have appeared visibly, are said to have been visibly sent. But it does not become the Father to be sent, as Augustine makes it clear (De Trin. ii). Neither, therefore, (does it become Him) to appear.
2. Further, the voice gives expression to the word conceived in the heart. But the Father is not the Word. Therefore He is unfittingly manifested by a voice.
3. Further, the Man-Christ did not begin to be Son of God at His baptism, as some heretics have stated: but He was the Son of God from the beginning of His conception. Therefore the Father's voice should have proclaimed Christ's Godhead at His nativity rather than at His baptism.

On the contrary It is written (Mt 3,17): "Behold a voice from heaven, saying: This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."
I answer that As stated above (Article [5]), that which is accomplished in our baptism should be manifested in Christ's baptism, which was the exemplar of ours. Now the baptism which the faithful receive is hallowed by the invocation and the power of the Trinity; according to Mt 28,19: "Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Wherefore, as Jerome says on Mt 3,16-17: "The mystery of the Trinity is shown forth in Christ's baptism. our Lord Himself is baptized in His human nature; the Holy Ghost descended in the shape of a dove: the Father's voice is heard bearing witness to the Son." Therefore it was becoming that in that baptism the Father should be manifested by a voice.

Reply to Objection: 1. The visible mission adds something to the apparition, to wit, the authority of the sender. Therefore the Son and the Holy Ghost who are from another, are said not only to appear, but also to be sent visibly. But the Father, who is not from another, can appear indeed, but cannot be sent visibly.
2. The Father is manifested by the voice, only as producing the voice or speaking by it. And since it is proper to the Father to produce the Word---that is, to utter or to speak---therefore was it most becoming that the Father should be manifested by a voice, because the voice designates the word. Wherefore the very voice to which the Father gave utterance bore witness to the Sonship of the Word. And just as the form of the dove, in which the Holy Ghost was made manifest, is not the Nature of the Holy Ghost, nor is the form of man in which the Son Himself was manifested, the very Nature of the Son of God, so neither does the voice belong to the Nature of the Word or of the Father who spoke. Hence (Jn 5,37) our Lord says: "Neither have you heard His," i.e. the Father's, "voice at any time, nor seen His shape." By which words, as Chrysostom says (Hom. xl in Joan.), "He gradually leads them to the knowledge of the philosophical truth, and shows them that God has neither voice nor shape, but is above all such forms and utterances." And just as the whole Trinity made both the dove and the human nature assumed by Christ, so also they formed the voice: yet the Father alone as speaking is manifested by the voice, just as the Son alone assumed human nature, and the Holy Ghost alone is manifested in the dove, as Augustine [*Fulgentius, De Fide ad Petrum] makes evident.
3. It was becoming that Christ's Godhead should not be proclaimed to all in His nativity, but rather that It should be hidden while He was subject to the defects of infancy. But when He attained to the perfect age, when the time came for Him to teach, to work miracles, and to draw men to Himself then did it behoove His Godhead to be attested from on high by the Father's testimony, so that His teaching might become the more credible. Hence He says (Jn 5,37): "The Father Himself who sent Me, hath given testimony of Me." And specially at the time of baptism, by which men are born again into adopted sons of God; since God's sons by adoption are made to be like unto His natural Son, according to Rm 8,29: "Whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of His Son." Hence Hilary says (Super Matth. ii) that when Jesus was baptized, the Holy Ghost descended on Him, and the Father's voice was heard saying: "'This is My beloved Son,' that we might know, from what was accomplished in Christ, that after being washed in the waters of baptism the Holy Ghost comes down upon us from on high, and that the Father's voice declares us to have become the adopted sons of God."


Having considered those things which relate to Christ's entrance into the world, or to His beginning, it remains for us to consider those that relate to the process of His life. And we must consider (1) His manner of life; (2) His temptation; (3) His doctrine; (4) His miracles.

Concerning the first there are four points of inquiry:

(1) Whether Christ should have led a solitary life, or have associated with men?

(2) Whether He should have led an austere life as regards food, drink, and clothing? Or should He have conformed Himself to others in these respects?

(3) Whether He should have adopted a lowly state of life, or one of wealth and honor?

(4) Whether He should have lived in conformity with the Law?

Whether Christ should have associated with men, or led a solitary life?

Objection: 1. It would seem that Christ should not have associated with men, but should have led a solitary life. For it behooved Christ to show by His manner of life not only that He was man, but also that He was God. But it is not becoming that God should associate with men, for it is written (Da 2,11): "Except the gods, whose conversation is not with men"; and the Philosopher says (Polit. i) that he who lives alone is "either a beast"---that is, if he do this from being wild---"or a god," if his motive be the contemplation of truth. Therefore it seems that it was not becoming for Christ to associate with men.
2. Further, while He lived in mortal flesh, it behooved Christ to lead a most perfect life. But the most perfect is the contemplative life, as we have stated in the II-II 182,1 II-II 182,2. Now, solitude is most suitable to the contemplative life; according to Os 2,14: "I will lead her into the wilderness, and I will speak to her heart." Therefore it seems that Christ should have led a solitary life.
3. Further, Christ's manner of life should have been uniform: because it should always have given evidence of that which is best. But at times Christ avoided the crowd and sought lonely places: hence Remigius [*Cf. Catena Aurea, Matth. 5:1], commenting on Matthew, says: "We read that our Lord had three places of refuge: the ship, the mountain, the desert; to one or other of which He betook Himself whenever he was harassed by the crowd." Therefore He ought always to have led a solitary life.

On the contrary It is written (Baruch 3:38): "Afterwards He was seen upon earth and conversed with men."
I answer that Christ's manner of life had to be in keeping with the end of His Incarnation, by reason of which He came into the world. Now He came into the world, first, that He might publish the truth. thus He says Himself (Jn 18,37): "For this was I born, and for this came I into the world, that I should give testimony to the truth." Hence it was fitting not that He should hide Himself by leading a solitary life, but that He should appear openly and preach in public. Wherefore (Lc 4,42-43) He says to those who wished to stay Him: "To other cities also I must preach the kingdom of God: for therefore am I sent."Secondly, He came in order to free men from sin; according to 1Tm 1,15: "Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners." And hence, as Chrysostom says, "although Christ might, while staying in the same place, have drawn all men to Himself, to hear His preaching, yet He did not do so; thus giving us the example to go about and seek those who perish, like the shepherd in his search of the lost sheep, and the physician in his attendance on the sick."Thirdly, He came that by Him "we might have access to God," as it is written (Rm 5,2). And thus it was fitting that He should give men confidence in approaching Him by associating familiarly with them. Wherefore it is written (Mt 9,10): "It came to pass as He was sitting . . . in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came, and sat down with Jesus and His disciples." On which Jerome comments as follows: "They had seen the publican who had been converted from a sinful to a better life: and consequently they did not despair of their own salvation."

Reply to Objection: 1. Christ wished to make His Godhead known through His human nature. And therefore, since it is proper to man to do so, He associated with men, at the same time manifesting His Godhead to all, by preaching and working miracles, and by leading among men a blameless and righteous life.
2. As stated in the II-II 182,1; II-II 188,6, the contemplative life is, absolutely speaking, more perfect than the active life, because the latter is taken up with bodily actions: yet that form of active life in which a man, by preaching and teaching, delivers to others the fruits of his contemplation, is more perfect than the life that stops at contemplation, because such a life is built on an abundance of contemplation, and consequently such was the life chosen by Christ.
3. Christ's action is our instruction. And therefore, in order to teach preachers that they ought not to be for ever before the public, our Lord withdrew Himself sometimes from the crowd. We are told of three reasons for His doing this. First, for the rest of the body: hence (Mc 6,31) it is stated that our Lord said to His disciples: "Come apart into a desert place, and rest a little. For there were many coming and going: and they had not so much as time to eat." But sometimes it was for the sake of prayer; thus it is written (Lc 6,12): "It came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain to pray; and He passed the whole night in the prayer of God." On this Ambrose remarks that "by His example He instructs us in the precepts of virtue." And sometimes He did so in order to teach us to avoid the favor of men. Wherefore Chrysostom, commenting on Mt 5,1, Jesus, "seeing the multitude, went up into a mountain," says: "By sitting not in the city and in the market-place, but on a mountain and in a place of solitude, He taught us to do nothing for show, and to withdraw from the crowd, especially when we have to discourse of needful things."

Whether it was becoming that Christ should lead an austere life in this world?

Objection: 1. It would seem that it was becoming that Christ should lead an austere life in this world. For Christ preached the perfection of life much more than John did. But John led an austere life in order that he might persuade men by his example to embrace a perfect life; for it is written (Mt 3,4) that "the same John had his garment of camel's hair and a leathern girdle about his loins: and his meat was locusts and wild honey"; on which Chrysostom comments as follows (Hom. x): "It was a marvelous and strange thing to behold such austerity in a human frame: which thing also particularly attracted the Jews." Therefore it seems that an austere life was much more becoming to Christ.
2. Further, abstinence is ordained to continency; for it is written (Os 4,10): "They shall eat and shall not be filled; they have committed fornication, and have not ceased." But Christ both observed continency in Himself and proposed it to be observed by others when He said (Mt 19,12): "There are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven: he that can take it let him take it." Therefore it seems that Christ should have observed an austere life both in Himself and in His disciples.
3. Further, it seems absurd for a man to begin a stricter form of life and to return to an easier life: for one might quote to his discredit that which is written, Lc 14,30: "This man began to build, and was not able to finish." Now Christ began a very strict life after His baptism, remaining in the desert and fasting for "forty days and forty nights." Therefore it seems unbecoming that, after leading such a strict life, He should return to the common manner of living.

On the contrary It is written (Mt 11,19): "The Son of Man came eating and drinking."
I answer that As stated above (Article [1]), it was in keeping with the end of the Incarnation that Christ should not lead a solitary life, but should associate with men. Now it is most fitting that he who associates with others should conform to their manner of living; according to the words of the Apostle (1Co 9,22): "I became all things to all men." And therefore it was most fitting that Christ should conform to others in the matter of eating and drinking. Hence Augustine says (Contra Faust. xvi) that "John is described as 'neither eating nor drinking,' because he did not take the same food as the Jews. Therefore, unless our Lord had taken it, it would not be said of Him, in contrast, 'eating and drinking.'"

Reply to Objection: 1. In His manner of living our Lord gave an example of perfection as to all those things which of themselves relate to salvation. Now abstinence in eating and drinking does not of itself relate to salvation, according to Rm 14,17: "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink." And Augustine (De Qq. Evang. ii, qu. 11) explains Mt 11,19, "Wisdom is justified by her children," saying that this is because the holy apostles "understood that the kingdom of God does not consist in eating and drinking, but in suffering indigence with equanimity," for they are neither uplifted by affluence, nor distressed by want. Again (De Doctr. Christ. iii), he says that in all such things "it is not making use of them, but the wantonness of the user, that is sinful." Now both these lives are lawful and praiseworthy---namely, that a man withdraw from the society of other men and observe abstinence; and that he associate with other men and live like them. And therefore our Lord wished to give men an example of either kind of life.As to John, according to Chrysostom (Hom. xxxvii super Matth.), "he exhibited no more than his life and righteous conduct . . . but Christ had the testimony also of miracles. Leaving, therefore, John to be illustrious by his fasting, He Himself came the opposite way, both coming unto publicans' tables and eating and drinking."
2. Just as by abstinence other men acquire the power of self-restraint, so also Christ, in Himself and in those that are His, subdued the flesh by the power of His Godhead. Wherefore, as we read Mt 9,14, the Pharisees and the disciples of John fasted, but not the disciples of Christ. On which Bede comments, saying that "John drank neither wine nor strong drink: because abstinence is meritorious where the nature is weak. But why should our Lord, whose right by nature it is to forgive sins, avoid those whom He could make holier than such as abstain?"
3. As Chrysostom says (Hom. xiii super Matth.), "that thou mightest learn how great a good is fasting, and how it is a shield against the devil, and that after baptism thou shouldst give thyself up, not to luxury, but to fasting---for this cause did He fast, not as needing it Himself, but as teaching us . . . And for this did He proceed no further than Moses and Elias, lest His assumption of our flesh might seem incredible." The mystical meaning, as Gregory says (Hom. xvi in Evang.), is that by Christ's example the number "forty" is observed in His fast, because the power of the "decalogue is fulfilled throughout the four books of the Holy Gospel: since ten multiplied by four amounts to forty." Or, because "we live in this mortal body composed of the four elements, and by its lusts we transgress the commandments of the Lord, which are expressed in the decalogue." Or, according to Augustine (Questions. lxxxiii, qu. 81): "To know the Creator and the creature is the entire teaching of wisdom. The Creator is the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Now the creature is partly invisible, as the soul, to which the number three may be ascribed, for we are commanded to love God in three ways, 'with our whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole mind'; and partly visible, as the body, to which the number four is applicable on account of its being subject to heat, moisture, cold, and dryness. Hence if we multiply ten, which may be referred to the entire moral code, by four, which number may be applied to the body, because it is the body that executes the law, the product is the number forty: in which," consequently, "the time during which we sigh and grieve is shown forth." And yet there was no inconsistency in Christ's returning to the common manner of living, after fasting and (retiring into the) desert. For it is becoming to that kind of life, which we hold Christ to have embraced, wherein a man delivers to others the fruits of his contemplation, that he devote himself first of all to contemplation, and that he afterwards come down to the publicity of active life by associating with other men. Hence Bede says on Mc 2,18: "Christ fasted, that thou mightest not disobey the commandment; He ate with sinners, that thou mightest discern His sanctity and acknowledge His power."

Summa Th. III EN Qu.39 a.5