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2 replies, 2 voices Last updated by  David W. Emery 8 years, 11 months ago
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    I Thessalonians 5.23 seems to distinguish 3 parts of the complete person:  spirit (pneuma), soul (psyche) and body (soma).

    The catechism says:

    “367 Sometimes the soul is distinguished from the spirit: St. Paul for instance prays that God may sanctify his people “wholly”, with “spirit and soul and body” kept sound and blameless at the Lord's coming.236 The Church teaches that this distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul.237 “Spirit” signifies that from creation man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God.238

    236 1 Thess 5:23.
    237 Cf. Council of Constantinople IV (870): DS 657.
    238 Cf. Vatican Council I, Dei Filius: DS 3005; GS 22 § 5; Humani Generis: DS 3891.”

    Source: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p1s2c1p6.htm#365

    The Council of Constantinople IV rules that there are not two “souls” in the human person, but doesn't address the meaning of spirit:

    “Though the old and new Testament teach that a man or woman has one rational and intellectual soul, and all the fathers and doctors of the church, who are spokesmen of God, express the same opinion, some have descended to such a depth of irreligion, through paying attention to the speculations of evil people, that they shamelessly teach as a dogma that a human being has two souls, and keep trying to prove their heresy by irrational means using a wisdom that has been made foolishness. “

    Source:  http://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/CONSTAN4.HTM#2

    Having looked at the sources for footnote 238, I don't see the subject of spirit defined in the way the Catechism defines it:

    “Spirit” signifies that from creation man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God

    As Greek distinguishes soul and spirit by different words: pysche vs. pneuma, so Hebew also distinguishes soul and spirit: nephesh vs. ruach

    What is the Roman Catholic teaching about human and animal natures:  Is soul distinguished from spirit?  Or regarded as synonymous?  Or “trinitarian”, so that spirit, soul and body are a unity?

    What degree of difference of opinion on the subject is allowed within the scope of defined dogma?



    David W. Emery
    @David W. Emery

    What is the Roman Catholic teaching about human and animal natures: Is soul distinguished from spirit? Or regarded as synonymous? Or “trinitarian”, so that spirit, soul and body are a unity?

    The Church teaches, in union with the ancient Jewish tradition, that the nature of man is holistic, and that man should be understood as an integrated whole rather the sum of various separable parts. Sometimes a twofold distinction is made between the (spiritual) soul and the (material) body, and sometimes (following Greek practice) the distinction is threefold: spirit, soul and body. So there is latitude for differences of opinion — or perhaps better put, differences of point of view, so long as man is seen as an integrated whole, wherein soul and body (and spirit) together constitute the human being.

    Spiritual writers also use the terms in a number of ways. Here are examples from St. John of the Cross. He first uses the term “spirit” to distinguish the divine principle dwelling within the soul (grace, or sometimes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) from the created principle, which he styles “soul.”

    Thus the spirit of God, insofar as it is hidden in the veins of the soul, is like soft refreshing water that satisfies the thirst of the spirit; insofar as it is exercised in the sacrifice of loving God, it is like living flames of fire.… Since in the communication of the spirit of these lamps, the soul is inflamed and placed in the activity of love, in the act of love, it calls them lamps rather than waters, saying: “O lamps of fire!” – Living Flame of Love 3.1

    In another place, St. John uses the terms “spirit” and “soul” to distinguish the higher, rational part of the soul, especially in its faculty of communion with God — what other writers such as St. Francis de Sales call the “apex” or “summit” of the soul — (spirit), from the lower, or sensitive part (soul).

    …[The soul] is aware of the delicate wound… as though it were a sharp point in the substance of the spirit, in the heart of the pierced soul. …[T]his intimate point of the wound, …seems to make its mark in the middle of the heart of the spirit, there where the soul experiences the excellence of the delight. The soul feels that the point is like a tiny mustard seed.… For the soul beholds itself converted into the immense fire of love that emanates from that enkindled point at the heart of the spirit. – Living Flame of Love 2.1

    And in this third example, St. John of the Cross uses the word “spirit” to indicate the life of grace, as opposed to the natural (“psychic”) life, or “flesh.” This follows a common usage whose origin can be found in the Apostle St. Paul. St. John the Apostle, however, prefers in this sense the term “life” or “eternal life” for what Paul calls “spirit” and reserves the term “spirit” as a synonym for “soul.”

    …[W]hen the wound is made only in the soul without being communicated outwardly, the delight can be more intense and sublime. Since the flesh bridles the spirit, when the goods of the spirit are communicated also to the flesh, the flesh pulls the reins, pulls back at the mouth of this swift horse of the spirit, and restrains its wild impetuosity; for if the spirit makes use of its power the reins will break. Yet until the reins are broken the flesh does not fail to oppress the spirit’s freedom, as the Wise Man asserts: The corruptible body is a load on the soul, and the earthly dwelling oppresses the spiritual mind which of itself comprehends many things (Wisdom 9:15). – Living Flame of Love 2.1




    Thanks, David!

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