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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > K > Kenosis

Kenosis

A term derived from the discussion as to the real meaning of Phil. 2:6 sqq.: "Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied [ekenosen] himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as man."

Protestant opinions

The early Reformers, not satisfied with the teaching of Catholic theology on this point, professed to a deeper meaning in St. Paul's words, but Luther and a Melanchton failed in their speculations. John Brenz (d. 10 September, 1570), of Tübingen, maintained that as the Word assumed Christ's human nature, so His human nature not only possessed the Divinity, but also had the power to make use of the Divinity, though it freely abstained from such a use. Chemnitz differed from this view. He denied that Jesus Christ possessed the Divinity in such a way as to have a right to its use. The kenosis, or the exinanition, of His Divine attributes was, therefore, a free act of Christ, according to Brenz; it was the connatural consequence of the Incarnation, according to Chemnitz.

Among modern Protestants the following opinons have been the most prevalent:

Catholic teaching

According to Catholic theology, the abasement of the Word consists in the assumption of humanity and the simultaneous occultation of the Divinity. Christ's abasement is seen first in His subjecting Himself to the laws of human birth and growth and to the lowliness of fallen human nature. His likeness, in His abasement, to the fallen nature does not compromise the actual loss of justice and sanctity, but only the pains and penalties attached to the loss. These fall partly on the body, partly on the soul, and consist in liability to suffering from internal and external causes.

As to the body, Christ's dignity excludes some bodily pains and states. God's all-preserving power inhabiting the body of Jesus did not allow any corruption; it also prevented disease or the beginning of corruption. Christ's holiness was not compatible with decomposition after death, which is the image of the destroying power of sin. In fact, Christ had the right to be free from all bodily pain, and His human will had the power to remove or suspend the action of the causes of pain. But He freely subjected Himself to most of the pains resulting from bodily exertion and adverse external influences, e.g. fatigue, hunger, wounds, etc. As these pains had their sufficient reason in the nature of Christ's body, they were natural to Him.

Christ retained in Him also the weaknesses of the soul, the passions of His rational and sensitive appetites, but with the following restrictions: (a) Inordinate and sinful motions are incompatible with Christ's holiness. Only morally blameless passions and affections, e.g. fear, sadness, the share of the soul in the sufferings of the body, were compatible with His Divinity and His spiritual perfection. (b) The origin, intensity, and duration of even these emotions were subject to Christ's free choice. Besides, He could prevent their disturbing the actions of His soul and His peace of mind.

To complete His abasement, Christ was subject to His Mother and St. Joseph, to the laws of the State and the positive laws of God; He shared the hardships and privations of the poor and the lowly. (See COMMUNICATO IDIOMATUM.)

Sources

Lombard, lib. III, dist. XV-XVI, and Bonav., Scot., Biel on these chapters; St. Thomas, III, Q XIV-XV, and Salm., Suar., IV, xi-xii; Scheeben, Dogmatick, III, 266-74; Bruce, Humiliations of Christ, 113 sqq.; Gobe, Bampton Lectures (1891), 147; Hanna in The New York Review, I, 303 sqq.; the commentators on Phil., ii, 6, sqq.

About this page

APA citation. Maas, A. (1910). Kenosis. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08617a.htm

MLA citation. Maas, Anthony. "Kenosis." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08617a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Richard R. Pettys, Jr.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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