QUESTION 62: OF THE PERFECTION OF THE ANGELS IN THE ORDER OF GRACE AND OF GLORY
In due sequence we have to inquire how the angels were made in the order
of grace and of glory; under which heading there are nine points of
(1) Were the angels created in beatitude?
(2) Did they need grace in order to turn to God?
(3) Were they created in grace?
(4) Did they merit their beatitude?
(5) Did they at once enter into beatitude after merit?
(6) Did they receive grace and glory according to their natural
(7) After entering glory, did their natural love and knowledge remain?
(8) Could they have sinned afterwards?
(9) After entering into glory, could they advance farther?
Article 1: Whether the angels were created in beatitude?
Objection 1: It would seem that the angels were created in beatitude. For it
is stated (De Eccl. Dogm. xxix) that "the angels who continue in the
beatitude wherein they were created, do not of their nature possess the
excellence they have." Therefore the angels were created in beatitude.
Objection 2: Further, the angelic nature is nobler than the corporeal
creature. But the corporeal creature straightway from its creation was
made perfect and complete; nor did its lack of form take precedence in
time, but only in nature, as Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. i, 15).
Therefore neither did God create the angelic nature imperfect and
incomplete. But its formation and perfection are derived from its
beatitude, whereby it enjoys God. Therefore it was created in beatitude.
Objection 3: Further, according to Augustine (Gen. ad lit. iv, 34; v, 5), the
things which we read of as being made in the works of the six days, were
made together at one time; and so all the six days must have existed
instantly from the beginning of creation. But, according to his
exposition, in those six days, "the morning" was the angelic knowledge,
according to which they knew the Word and things in the Word. Therefore
straightway from their creation they knew the Word, and things in the
Word. But the bliss of the angels comes of seeing the Word. Consequently
the angels were in beatitude straightway from the very beginning of their
On the contrary, To be established or confirmed in good is of the nature
of beatitude. But the angels were not confirmed in good as soon as they
were created; the fall of some of them shows this. Therefore the angels
were not in beatitude from their creation.
I answer that, By the name of beatitude is understood the ultimate
perfection of rational or of intellectual nature; and hence it is that it
is naturally desired, since everything naturally desires its ultimate
perfection. Now there is a twofold ultimate perfection of rational or of
intellectual nature. The first is one which it can procure of its own
natural power; and this is in a measure called beatitude or happiness.
Hence Aristotle (Ethic. x) says that man's ultimate happiness consists in
his most perfect contemplation, whereby in this life he can behold the
best intelligible object; and that is God. Above this happiness there is
still another, which we look forward to in the future, whereby "we shall
see God as He is." This is beyond the nature of every created intellect,
as was shown above (Question , Article ).
So, then, it remains to be said, that, as regards this first beatitude,
which the angel could procure by his natural power, he was created
already blessed. Because the angel does not acquire such beatitude by any
progressive action, as man does, but, as was observed above (Question , Articles ,4), is straightway in possession thereof, owing to his natural dignity.
But the angels did not have from the beginning of their creation that
ultimate beatitude which is beyond the power of nature; because such
beatitude is no part of their nature, but its end; and consequently they
ought not to have it immediately from the beginning.
Reply to Objection 1: Beatitude is there taken for that natural perfection which
the angel had in the state of innocence.
Reply to Objection 2: The corporeal creature instantly in the beginning of its
creation could not have the perfection to which it is brought by its
operation; consequently, according to Augustine (Gen. ad. lit. v, 4,23;
viii, 3), the growing of plants from the earth did not take place at once
among the first works, in which only the germinating power of the plants
was bestowed upon the earth. In the same way, the angelic creature in the
beginning of its existence had the perfection of its nature; but it did
not have the perfection to which it had to come by its operation.
Reply to Objection 3: The angel has a twofold knowledge of the Word; the one
which is natural, and the other according to glory. He has a natural
knowledge whereby he knows the Word through a similitude thereof shining
in his nature; and he has a knowledge of glory whereby he knows the Word
through His essence. By both kinds of knowledge the angel knows things in
the Word; imperfectly by his natural knowledge, and perfectly by his
knowledge of glory. Therefore the first knowledge of things in the Word
was present to the angel from the outset of his creation; while the
second was not, but only when the angels became blessed by turning to the
good. And this is properly termed their morning knowledge.
Article 2: Whether an angel needs grace in order to turn to God?
Objection 1: It would seem that the angel had no need of grace in order to
turn to God. For, we have no need of grace for what we can accomplish
naturally. But the angel naturally turns to God: because he loves God
naturally, as is clear from what has been said (Question , Article ). Therefore
an angel did not need grace in order to turn to God.
Objection 2: Further, seemingly we need help only for difficult tasks. Now it
was not a difficult task for the angel to turn to God; because there was
no obstacle in him to such turning. Therefore the angel had no need of
grace in order to turn to God.
Objection 3: Further, to turn oneself to God is to dispose oneself for grace;
hence it is said (Zach. 1:3): "Turn ye to Me, and I will turn to you."
But we do not stand in need of grace in order to prepare ourselves for
grace: for thus we should go on to infinity. Therefore the angel did not
need grace to turn to God.
On the contrary, It was by turning to God that the angel reached to beatitude. If, then, he had needed no grace in order to turn to God, it would follow that he did not require grace in order to possess everlasting life. But this is contrary to the saying of the Apostle (Rm. 6:23): "The grace of God is life everlasting."
I answer that, The angels stood in need of grace in order to turn to
God, as the object of beatitude. For, as was observed above (Question , Article )
the natural movement of the will is the principle of all things that we
will. But the will's natural inclination is directed towards what is in
keeping with its nature. Therefore, if there is anything which is above
nature, the will cannot be inclined towards it, unless helped by some
other supernatural principle. Thus it is clear that fire has a natural
tendency to give forth heat, and to generate fire; whereas to generate
flesh is beyond the natural power of fire; consequently, fire has no
tendency thereto, except in so far as it is moved instrumentally by the
Now it was shown above (Question , Articles ,5), when we were treating of God's
knowledge, that to see God in His essence, wherein the ultimate beatitude
of the rational creature consists, is beyond the nature of every created
intellect. Consequently no rational creature can have the movement of the
will directed towards such beatitude, except it be moved thereto by a
supernatural agent. This is what we call the help of grace. Therefore it
must be said that an angel could not of his own will be turned to such
beatitude, except by the help of grace.
Reply to Objection 1: The angel loves God naturally, so far as God is the author
of his natural being. But here we are speaking of turning to God, so far
as God bestows beatitude by the vision of His essence.
Reply to Objection 2: A thing is "difficult" which is beyond a power; and this
happens in two ways. First of all, because it is beyond the natural
capacity of the power. Thus, if it can be attained by some help, it is
said to be "difficult"; but if it can in no way be attained, then it is
"impossible"; thus it is impossible for a man to fly. In another way a
thing may be beyond the power, not according to the natural order of such
power, but owing to some intervening hindrance; as to mount upwards is
not contrary to the natural order of the motive power of the soul;
because the soul, considered in itself, can be moved in any direction;
but is hindered from so doing by the weight of the body; consequently it
is difficult for a man to mount upwards. To be turned to his ultimate
beatitude is difficult for man, both because it is beyond his nature, and
because he has a hindrance from the corruption of the body and infection
of sin. But it is difficult for an angel, only because it is supernatural.
Reply to Objection 3: Every movement of the will towards God can be termed a
conversion to God. And so there is a threefold turning to God. The first
is by the perfect love of God; this belongs to the creature enjoying the
possession of God; and for such conversion, consummate grace is required.
The next turning to God is that which merits beatitude; and for this
there is required habitual grace, which is the principle of merit. The
third conversion is that whereby a man disposes himself so that he may
have grace; for this no habitual grace is required; but the operation of
God, Who draws the soul towards Himself, according to Lam 5:21: "Convert
us, O Lord, to Thee, and we shall be converted." Hence it is clear that
there is no need to go on to infinity.
Article 3: Whether the angels were created in grace?
Objection 1: It would seem that the angels were not created in grace. For
Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. ii, 8) that the angelic nature was first
made without form, and was called "heaven": but afterwards it received
its form, and was then called "light." But such formation comes from
grace. Therefore they were not created in grace.
Objection 2: Further, grace turns the rational creature towards God. If,
therefore, the angel had been created in grace, no angel would ever have
turned away from God.
Objection 3: Further, grace comes midway between nature and glory. But the
angels were not beatified in their creation. Therefore it seems that they
were not created in grace; but that they were first created in nature
only, and then received grace, and that last of all they were beatified.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xii, 9), "Who wrought the
good will of the angels? Who, save Him Who created them with His will,
that is, with the pure love wherewith they cling to Him; at the same time
building up their nature and bestowing grace on them?"
I answer that, Although there are conflicting opinions on this point,
some holding that the angels were created only in a natural state, while
others maintain that they were created in grace; yet it seems more
probable, and more in keeping with the sayings of holy men, that they
were created in sanctifying grace. For we see that all things which, in
the process of time, being created by the work of Divine Providence, were
produced by the operation of God, were created in the first fashioning of
things according to seedlike forms, as Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. viii,
3), such as trees, animals, and the rest. Now it is evident that
sanctifying grace bears the same relation to beatitude as the seedlike
form in nature does to the natural effect; hence (1 Jn. 3:9) grace is
called the "seed" of God. As, then, in Augustine's opinion it is
contended that the seedlike forms of all natural effects were implanted
in the creature when corporeally created, so straightway from the
beginning the angels were created in grace.
Reply to Objection 1: Such absence of form in the angels can be understood either
by comparison with their formation in glory; and so the absence of
formation preceded formation by priority of time. Or else it can be
understood of the formation according to grace: and so it did not precede
in the order of time, but in the order of nature; as Augustine holds with
regard to the formation of corporeal things (Gen. ad lit. i, 15).
Reply to Objection 2: Every form inclines the subject after the mode of the
subject's nature. Now it is the mode of an intellectual nature to be
inclined freely towards the objects it desires. Consequently the movement
of grace does not impose necessity; but he who has grace can fail to make
use of it, and can sin.
Reply to Objection 3: Although in the order of nature grace comes midway between nature and glory, nevertheless, in the order of time, in created nature, glory is not simultaneous with nature; because glory is the end of the operation of nature helped by grace. But grace stands not as the end of operation, because it is not of works, but as the principle of right operation. Therefore it was fitting for grace to be given straightway with nature.
Article 4: Whether an angel merits his beatitude?
Objection 1: It would seem that the angel did not merit his beatitude. For
merit arises from the difficulty of the meritorious act. But the angel
experienced no difficulty in acting rightly. Therefore righteous action
was not meritorious for him.
Objection 2: Further, we do not merit by merely natural operations. But it was
quite natural for the angel to turn to God. Therefore he did not thereby
Objection 3: Further, if a beatified angel merited his beatitude, he did so
either before he had it, or else afterwards. But it was not before;
because, in the opinion of many, he had no grace before whereby to merit
it. Nor did he merit it afterwards, because thus he would be meriting it
now; which is clearly false, because in that case a lower angel could by
meriting rise up to the rank of a higher, and the distinct degrees of
grace would not be permanent; which is not admissible. Consequently the
angel did not merit his beatitude.
On the contrary, It is stated (Apoc. 21:17) that the "measure of the
angel" in that heavenly Jerusalem is "the measure of a man." Therefore
the same is the case with the angel.
I answer that, Perfect beatitude is natural only to God, because
existence and beatitude are one and the same thing in Him. Beatitude,
however, is not of the nature of the creature, but is its end. Now
everything attains its last end by its operation. Such operation leading
to the end is either productive of the end, when such end is not beyond
the power of the agent working for the end, as the healing art is
productive of health; or else it is deserving of the end, when such end
is beyond the capacity of the agent striving to attain it; wherefore it
is looked for from another's bestowing. Now it is evident from what has
gone before (Articles ,2; Question , Articles ,5), ultimate beatitude exceeds both
the angelic and the human nature. It remains, then, that both man and
angel merited their beatitude.
And if the angel was created in grace, without which there is no merit,
there would be no difficulty in saying that he merited beatitude: as
also, if one were to say that he had grace in any way before he had glory.
But if he had no grace before entering upon beatitude, it would then
have to be said that he had beatitude without merit, even as we have
grace. This, however, is quite foreign to the idea of beatitude; which
conveys the notion of an end, and is the reward of virtue, as even the
Philosopher says (Ethic. i, 9). Or else it will have to be said, as some
others have maintained, that the angels merit beatitude by their present
ministrations, while in beatitude. This is quite contrary, again, to the
notion of merit: since merit conveys the idea of a means to an end; while
what is already in its end cannot, properly speaking, be moved towards
such end; and so no one merits to produce what he already enjoys. Or else
it will have to be said that one and the same act of turning to God, so
far as it comes of free-will, is meritorious; and so far as it attains
the end, is the fruition of beatitude. Even this view will not stand,
because free-will is not the sufficient cause of merit; and,
consequently, an act cannot be meritorious as coming from free-will,
except in so far as it is informed by grace; but it cannot at the same
time be informed by imperfect grace, which is the principle of meriting,
and by perfect grace, which is the principle of enjoying. Hence it does
not appear to be possible for anyone to enjoy beatitude, and at the same
time to merit it.
Consequently it is better to say that the angel had grace ere he was
admitted to beatitude, and that by such grace he merited beatitude.
Reply to Objection 1: The angel's difficulty of working righteously does not come
from any contrariety or hindrance of natural powers; but from the fact
that the good work is beyond his natural capacity.
Reply to Objection 2: An angel did not merit beatitude by natural movement
towards God; but by the movement of charity, which comes of grace.
The answer to the Third Objection is evident from what we have said.
Article 5: Whether the angel obtained beatitude immediately after one act of merit?
Objection 1: It would seem that the angel did not possess beatitude instantly
after one act of merit. For it is more difficult for a man to do well
than for an angel. But man is not rewarded at once after one act of
merit. Therefore neither was the angel.
Objection 2: Further, an angel could act at once, and in an instant, from the
very outset of his creation, for even natural bodies begin to be moved in
the very instant of their creation; and if the movement of a body could
be instantaneous, like operations of mind and will, it would have
movement in the first instant of its generation. Consequently, if the
angel merited beatitude by one act of his will, he merited it in the
first instant of his creation; and so, if their beatitude was not
retarded, then the angels were in beatitude in the first instant.
Objection 3: Further, there must be many intervals between things which are
far apart. But the beatific state of the angels is very far remote from
their natural condition: while merit comes midway between. Therefore the
angel would have to pass through many stages of merit in order to reach
On the contrary, Man's soul and an angel are ordained alike for
beatitude: consequently equality with angels is promised to the saints.
Now the soul separated from the body, if it has merit deserving
beatitude, enters at once into beatitude, unless there be some obstacle.
Therefore so does an angel. Now an angel instantly, in his first act of
charity, had the merit of beatitude. Therefore, since there was no
obstacle within him, he passed at once into beatitude by only one
I answer that, The angel was beatified instantly after the first act of
charity, whereby he merited beatitude. The reason whereof is because
grace perfects nature according to the manner of the nature; as every
perfection is received in the subject capable of perfection, according to
its mode. Now it is proper to the angelic nature to receive its natural
perfection not by passing from one stage to another; but to have it at
once naturally, as was shown above (Article ; Question , Articles ,4). But as the
angel is of his nature inclined to natural perfection, so is he by merit
inclined to glory. Hence instantly after merit the angel secured
beatitude. Now the merit of beatitude in angel and man alike can be from
merely one act; because man merits beatitude by every act informed by
charity. Hence it remains that an angel was beatified straightway after
one act of charity.
Reply to Objection 1: Man was not intended to secure his ultimate perfection at
once, like the angel. Hence a longer way was assigned to man than to the
angel for securing beatitude.
Reply to Objection 2: The angel is above the time of corporeal things; hence the
various instants regarding the angels are not to be taken except as
reckoning the succession of their acts. Now their act which merited
beatitude could not be in them simultaneously with the act of beatitude,
which is fruition; since the one belongs to imperfect grace, and the
other to consummate grace. Consequently, it remains for different
instants to be conceived, in one of which the angel merited beatitude,
and in another was beatified.
Reply to Objection 3: It is of the nature of an angel instantly to attain the
perfection unto which he is ordained. Consequently, only one meritorious
act is required; which act can so far be called an interval as through it
the angel is brought to beatitude.
Article 6: Whether the angels receive grace and glory according to the degree of their natural gifts?
Objection 1: It would seem that the angels did not receive grace and glory
according to the degree of their natural gifts. For grace is bestowed of
God's absolute will. Therefore the degree of grace depends on God's will,
and not on the degree of their natural gifts.
Objection 2: Further, a moral act seems to be more closely allied with grace
than nature is; because a moral act is preparatory to grace. But grace
does not come "of works," as is said Rm. 11:6. Therefore much less does
the degree of grace depend upon the degree of their natural gifts.
Objection 3: Further, man and angel are alike ordained for beatitude or grace.
But man does not receive more grace according to the degree of his
natural gifts. Therefore neither does the angel.
On the contrary, Is the saying of the Master of the Sentences (Sent. ii,
D, 3) that "those angels who were created with more subtle natures and of
keener intelligence in wisdom, were likewise endowed with greater gifts
I answer that, It is reasonable to suppose that gifts of graces and
perfection of beatitude were bestowed on the angels according to the
degree of their natural gifts. The reason for this can be drawn from two
sources. First of all, on the part of God, Who, in the order of His
wisdom, established various degrees in the angelic nature. Now as the
angelic nature was made by God for attaining grace and beatitude, so
likewise the grades of the angelic nature seem to be ordained for the
various degrees of grace and glory; just as when, for example, the
builder chisels the stones for building a house, from the fact that he
prepares some more artistically and more fittingly than others, it is
clear that he is setting them apart for the more ornate part of the
house. So it seems that God destined those angels for greater gifts of
grace and fuller beatitude, whom He made of a higher nature.
Secondly, the same is evident on the part of the angel. The angel is not
a compound of different natures, so that the inclination of the one
thwarts or retards the tendency of the other; as happens in man, in whom
the movement of his intellective part is either retarded or thwarted by
the inclination of his sensitive part. But when there is nothing to
retard or thwart it, nature is moved with its whole energy. So it is
reasonable to suppose that the angels who had a higher nature, were
turned to God more mightily and efficaciously. The same thing happens in
men, since greater grace and glory are bestowed according to the greater
earnestness of their turning to God. Hence it appears that the angels who
had the greater natural powers, had the more grace and glory.
Reply to Objection 1: As grace comes of God's will alone, so likewise does the
nature of the angel: and as God's will ordained nature for grace, so did
it ordain the various degrees of nature to the various degrees of grace.
Reply to Objection 2: The acts of the rational creature are from the creature
itself; whereas nature is immediately from God. Accordingly it seems
rather that grace is bestowed according to degree of nature than
according to works.
Reply to Objection 3: Diversity of natural gifts is in one way in the angels, who
are themselves different specifically; and in quite another way in men,
who differ only numerically. For specific difference is on account of the
end; while numerical difference is because of the matter. Furthermore,
there is something in man which can thwart or impede the movement of his
intellective nature; but not in the angels. Consequently the argument is
not the same for both.
Article 7: Whether natural knowledge and love remain in the beatified angels?
Objection 1: It would seem that natural knowledge and love do not remain in
the beatified angels. For it is said (1 Cor. 13:10): "When that which is
perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." But
natural love and knowledge are imperfect in comparison with beatified
knowledge and love. Therefore, in beatitude, natural knowledge and love
Objection 2: Further, where one suffices, another is superfluous. But the
knowledge and love of glory suffice for the beatified angels. Therefore
it would be superfluous for their natural knowledge and love to remain.
Objection 3: Further, the same faculty has not two simultaneous acts, as the
same line cannot, at the same end, be terminated in two points. But the
beatified angels are always exercising their beatified knowledge and
love; for, as is said Ethic. i, 8, happiness consists not in habit, but
in act. Therefore there can never be natural knowledge and love in the
On the contrary, So long as a nature endures, its operation remains. But
beatitude does not destroy nature, since it is its perfection. Therefore
it does not take away natural knowledge and love.
I answer that, Natural knowledge and love remain in the angels. For as
principles of operations are mutually related, so are the operations
themselves. Now it is manifest that nature is to beatitude as first to
second; because beatitude is superadded to nature. But the first must
ever be preserved in the second. Consequently nature must be preserved in
beatitude: and in like manner the act of nature must be preserved in the
act of beatitude.
Reply to Objection 1: The advent of a perfection removes the opposite
imperfection. Now the imperfection of nature is not opposed to the
perfection of beatitude, but underlies it; as the imperfection of the
power underlies the perfection of the form, and the power is not taken
away by the form, but the privation which is opposed to the form. In the
same way, the imperfection of natural knowledge is not opposed to the
perfection of the knowledge in glory; for nothing hinders us from knowing
a thing through various mediums, as a thing may be known at the one time
through a probable medium and through a demonstrative one. In like
manner, an angel can know God by His essence, and this appertains to his
knowledge of glory; and at the same time he can know God by his own
essence, which belongs to his natural knowledge.
Reply to Objection 2: All things which make up beatitude are sufficient of
themselves. But in order for them to exist, they presuppose the natural
gifts; because no beatitude is self-subsisting, except the uncreated
Reply to Objection 3: There cannot be two operations of the one faculty at the
one time, except the one be ordained to the other. But natural knowledge
and love are ordained to the knowledge and love of glory. Accordingly
there is nothing to hinder natural knowledge and love from existing in
the angel conjointly with those of glory.
Article 8: Whether a beatified angel can sin?
Objection 1: It would seem that a beatified angel can sin. For, as was said
above (Article ), beatitude does not do away with nature. But it is of the
very notion of created nature, that it can fail. Therefore a beatified
angel can sin.
Objection 2: Further, the rational powers are referred to opposites, as the
Philosopher observes (Metaph. iv, text. 3). But the will of the angel in
beatitude does not cease to be rational. Therefore it is inclined towards
good and evil.
Objection 3: Further, it belongs to the liberty of free-will for man to be
able to choose good or evil. But the freedom of will is not lessened in
the beatified angels. Therefore they can sin.
On the contrary, Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. xi) that "there is in the
holy angels that nature which cannot sin." Therefore the holy angels
I answer that, The beatified angels cannot sin. The reason for this is,
because their beatitude consists in seeing God through His essence. Now,
God's essence is the very essence of goodness. Consequently the angel
beholding God is disposed towards God in the same way as anyone else not
seeing God is to the common form of goodness. Now it is impossible for
any man either to will or to do anything except aiming at what is good;
or for him to wish to turn away from good precisely as such. Therefore
the beatified angel can neither will nor act, except as aiming towards
God. Now whoever wills or acts in this manner cannot sin. Consequently
the beatified angel cannot sin.
Reply to Objection 1: Created good, considered in itself, can fail. But from its
perfect union with the uncreated good, such as is the union of beatitude,
it is rendered unable to sin, for the reason already alleged.
Reply to Objection 2: The rational powers are referred to opposites in the things
to which they are not inclined naturally; but as to the things whereunto
they have a natural tendency, they are not referred to opposites. For
the intellect cannot but assent to naturally known principles; in the
same way, the will cannot help clinging to good, formally as good;
because the will is naturally ordained to good as to its proper object.
Consequently the will of the angels is referred to opposites, as to doing
many things, or not doing them. But they have no tendency to opposites
with regard to God Himself, Whom they see to be the very nature of
goodness; but in all things their aim is towards God, which ever
alternative they choose, that is not sinful.
Reply to Objection 3: Free-will in its choice of means to an end is disposed just
as the intellect is to conclusions. Now it is evident that it belongs to
the power of the intellect to be able to proceed to different
conclusions, according to given principles; but for it to proceed to some
conclusion by passing out of the order of the principles, comes of its
own defect. Hence it belongs to the perfection of its liberty for the
free-will to be able to choose between opposite things, keeping the order
of the end in view; but it comes of the defect of liberty for it to
choose anything by turning away from the order of the end; and this is to
sin. Hence there is greater liberty of will in the angels, who cannot
sin, than there is in ourselves, who can sin.
Article 9: Whether the beatified angels advance in beatitude?
Objection 1: It would seem that the beatified angels can advance in beatitude.
For charity is the principle of merit. But there is perfect charity in
the angels. Therefore the beatified angels can merit. Now, as merit
increases, the reward of beatitude increases. Therefore the beatified
angels can progress in beatitude.
Objection 2: Further, Augustine says (De Doctr. Christ. i) that "God makes use
of us for our own gain, and for His own goodness. The same thing happens
to the angels, whom He uses for spiritual ministrations"; since "they are
all [*Vulg.: 'Are they not all . . . ?'] ministering spirits, sent to
minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation" (Heb. 1:14). This would not be for their profit were they not to merit thereby,
nor to advance to beatitude. It remains, then, that the beatified angels
can merit, and can advance in beatitude.
Objection 3: Further, it argues imperfection for anyone not occupying the
foremost place not to be able to advance. But the angels are not in the
highest degree of beatitude. Therefore if unable to ascend higher, it
would appear that there is imperfection and defect in them; which is not
On the contrary, Merit and progress belong to this present condition of
life. But angels are not wayfarers travelling towards beatitude, they are
already in possession of beatitude. Consequently the beatified angels can
neither merit nor advance in beatitude.
I answer that, In every movement the mover's intention is centered upon
one determined end, to which he intends to lead the movable subject;
because intention looks to the end, to which infinite progress is
repugnant. Now it is evident, since the rational creature cannot of its
own power attain to its beatitude, which consists in the vision of God,
as is clear from what has gone before (Question , Article ), that it needs to be
moved by God towards its beatitude. Therefore there must be some one
determined thing to which every rational creature is directed as to its
Now this one determinate object cannot, in the vision of God, consist
precisely in that which is seen; for the Supreme Truth is seen by all the
blessed in various degrees: but it is on the part of the mode of vision,
that diverse terms are fixed beforehand by the intention of Him Who
directs towards the end. For it is impossible that as the rational
creature is led on to the vision of the Supreme Essence, it should be led
on in the same way to the supreme mode of vision, which is comprehension,
for this belongs to God only; as is evident from what was said above
(Question , Article ; Question , Article ). But since infinite efficacy is required for
comprehending God, while the creature's efficacy in beholding is only
finite; and since every finite being is in infinite degrees removed from
the infinite; it comes to pass that the rational creature understands God
more or less clearly according to infinite degrees. And as beatitude
consists in vision, so the degree of vision lies in a determinate mode of
Therefore every rational creature is so led by God to the end of its
beatitude, that from God's predestination it is brought even to a
determinate degree of beatitude. Consequently, when that degree is once
secured, it cannot pass to a higher degree.
Reply to Objection 1: Merit belongs to a subject which is moving towards its end.
Now the rational creature is moved towards its end, not merely passively,
but also by working actively. If the end is within the power of the
rational creature, then its action is said to procure the end; as man
acquires knowledge by reflection: but if the end be beyond its power, and
is looked for from another, then the action will be meritorious of such
end. But what is already in the ultimate term is not said to be moved,
but to have been moved. Consequently, to merit belongs to the imperfect
charity of this life; whereas perfect charity does not merit but rather
enjoys the reward. Even as in acquired habits, the operation preceding
the habit is productive of the habit; but the operation from an acquired
habit is both perfect and enjoyable. In the same way the act of perfect
charity has no quality of merit, but belongs rather to the perfection of
Reply to Objection 2: A thing can be termed useful in two ways. First of all, as being on the way to an end; and so the merit of beatitude is useful. Secondly, as the part is useful for the whole; as the wall for a house. In this way the angelic ministerings are useful for the beatified angels, inasmuch as they are a part of their beatitude; for to pour out acquired perfection upon others is of the nature of what is perfect, considered as perfect.
Reply to Objection 3: Although a beatified angel is not absolutely in the highest
degree of beatitude, yet, in his own regard he is in the highest degree,
according to Divine predestination. Nevertheless the joy of the angels
can be increased with regard to the salvation of such as are saved by
their ministrations, according to Lk. 15:10: "There is [Vulg.'shall be']
joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance." Such joy
belongs to their accidental reward, which can be increased unto judgment
day. Hence some writers say that they can merit as to their accidental
reward. But it is better to say that the Blessed can in no wise merit
without being at the same time a wayfarer and a comprehensor; like
Christ, Who alone was such. For the Blessed acquire such joy from the
virtue of their beatitude, rather than merit it.