In Heaven but Truly Present

Aquinas, on the question whether an angel may truly be be said to be in any place:

I answer that, It is befitting an angel to be in a place; yet an angel and a body are said to be in a place in quite a different sense. A body is said to be in a place in such a way that it is applied to such place according to the contact of dimensive quantity; but there is no such quantity in the angels, for theirs is a virtual one. Consequently an angel is said to be in a corporeal place by application of the angelic power in any manner whatever to any place.

Accordingly there is no need for saying that an angel can be deemed commensurate with a place, or that he occupies a space in the continuous; for this is proper to a located body which is endowed with dimensive quantity. In similar fashion it is not necessary on this account for the angel to be contained by a place; because an incorporeal substance virtually contains the thing with which it comes into contact, and is not contained by it: for the soul is in the body as containing it, not as contained by it. In the same way an angel is said to be in a place which is corporeal, not as the thing contained, but as somehow containing it.

Therefore, though Christ’s human body is in heaven and so cannot be locally present on earth, his whole person, both human and divine, can by virtue of his divine omnipresence be truly present in a place, wherever through the Holy Spirit he is at work. And he is sacramentally at work here both to sanctify the physical elements for his spiritual uses and to give faith to those who hear the word. This is his presence with respect to his holy Supper, that he being both God and man worketh in our hearts to give us himself.


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