Posted on 9/23/2017, 12:31:27 PM by Salvation
Begotten Son Jesus Christ shares in the nature of the Father from whom all fatherhood has its origin Msgr. Charles Pope8/23/2017
Question: In the Nicene Creed, a line confuses me about Jesus: “… the only begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.” If Jesus was eternally with the Father before his incarnation, how can we say he is “begotten … before all ages”? His physical body was only conceived in time. — Richard Smith, Garden Valley, Idaho
Answer: You imply by your question that only human beings are begotten, and this somehow is tied only to our physical existence. But this is to misunderstand the term. To say that one is begotten is to say that he or she shares in the nature of the one who begot them. This is different than being “made” by someone. For example, a potter may make a jar. But the jar is just clay. But if the potter has a son, he begets him; he does not make him. The son shares in the human nature of his father and so is begotten, not merely made.
And this is true in the Godhead as well. The Latin word in the Creed to which you refer is unigenitum (literally, “only begotten”). What this means is that the Second Person of the Trinity (the Son) is begotten, not made, because he shares the same divine nature as his Father. The word “genus,” from which “genitum” comes, means “nature.” To say that Jesus is begotten (“unigenitum”) is to say he is Son and also that he is God, since a son is not made but is begotten and shares his father’s nature.
In the well-known hymn Tantum Ergo, St. Thomas Aquinas speaks of the Trinity in this way: “Genitori, Genitoque, laus et jubilation … Procendenti ab utroque, compar sit laudatio,” which means, “To Generator and to the Generated, be praise and jubilation. And to the One proceeding from them both be equal praise.” And thus St. Thomas speaks to the eternal processions within the Godhead. The Father eternally begetting the Son, the Son being eternally begotten, and the Holy Spirit proceeding from them both.
Thus, limiting the term “begotten” only to human existence is to miss the Fatherhood of God from whom all fatherhood has its origin.