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Summa Theologica by Aquinas

Whether a character is a spiritual power?

Objection 1: It seems that a character is not a spiritual power. For |character| seems to be the same thing as |figure|; hence (Heb.1:3), where we read |figure of His substance, |for |figure| the Greek has {charakter}. Now |figure| is in the fourth species of quality, and thus differs from power which is in the second species. Therefore character is not a spiritual power.

Objection 2: Further, Dionysius says (Eccl. Hier. ii): |The Divine Beatitude admits him that seeks happiness to a share in Itself, and grants this share to him by conferring on him Its light as a kind of seal.| Consequently, it seems that a character is a kind of light. Now light belongs rather to the third species of quality. Therefore a character is not a power, since this seems to belong to the second species.

Objection 3: Further, character is defined by some thus: |A character is a holy sign of the communion of faith and of the holy ordination conferred by a hierarch.| Now a sign is in the genus of |relation,| not of |power.| Therefore a character is not a spiritual power.

Objection 4: Further, a power is in the nature of a cause and principle (Metaph. v). But a |sign| which is set down in the definition of a character is rather in the nature of an effect. Therefore a character is not a spiritual power.

On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Ethic. ii): |There are three things in the soul, power, habit, and passion.| Now a character is not a passion: since a passion passes quickly, whereas a character is indelible, as will be made clear further on (A). In like manner it is not a habit: because no habit is indifferent to acting well or ill: whereas a character is indifferent to either, since some use it well, some ill. Now this cannot occur with a habit: because no one abuses a habit of virtue, or uses well an evil habit. It remains, therefore, that a character is a power.

I answer that, As stated above (A), the sacraments of the New Law produce a character, in so far as by them we are deputed to the worship of God according to the rite of the Christian religion. Wherefore Dionysius (Eccl. Hier. ii), after saying that God |by a kind of sign grants a share of Himself to those that approach Him,| adds |by making them Godlike and communicators of Divine gifts.| Now the worship of God consists either in receiving Divine gifts, or in bestowing them on others. And for both these purposes some power is needed; for to bestow something on others, active power is necessary; and in order to receive, we need a passive power. Consequently, a character signifies a certain spiritual power ordained unto things pertaining to the Divine worship.

But it must be observed that this spiritual power is instrumental: as we have stated above (Q, A) of the virtue which is in the sacraments. For to have a sacramental character belongs to God's ministers: and a minister is a kind of instrument, as the Philosopher says (Polit. i). Consequently, just as the virtue which is in the sacraments is not of itself in a genus, but is reducible to a genus, for the reason that it is of a transitory and incomplete nature: so also a character is not properly in a genus or species, but is reducible to the second species of quality.

Reply to Objection 1: Configuration is a certain boundary of quantity. Wherefore, properly speaking, it is only in corporeal things; and of spiritual things is said metaphorically. Now that which decides the genus or species of a thing must needs be predicated of it properly. Consequently, a character cannot be in the fourth species of quality, although some have held this to be the case.

Reply to Objection 2: The third species of quality contains only sensible passions or sensible qualities. Now a character is not a sensible light. Consequently, it is not in the third species of quality as some have maintained.

Reply to Objection 3: The relation signified by the word |sign| must needs have some foundation. Now the relation signified by this sign which is a character, cannot be founded immediately on the essence of the soul: because then it would belong to every soul naturally. Consequently, there must be something in the soul on which such a relation is founded. And it is in this that a character essentially consists. Therefore it need not be in the genus |relation| as some have held.

Reply to Objection 4: A character is in the nature of a sign in comparison to the sensible sacrament by which it is imprinted. But considered in itself, it is in the nature of a principle, in the way already explained.

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