St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #17

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Third Tuesday

CHRIST is TRULY OUR REDEEMER

You were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled.  1Peter 1:19.

By the sin of our first parents, the whole human race was alienated from God, as is taught in the second hapter of the epistle to the Ephesians. It was not from God s power that we were thereby cut off, but from that sight of God s face to which His children and His servants are admitted. Then again we descended beneath the usurped power of the devil. Man had consented to the devil s will and, thereby, had made imself subject to the devil ; subject, that is to say, as far as lay in man s power, for since he was not his own property, but the property of another, he could not really give himself away to the devil. By His Passion, then, Christ did two things. He freed us from the power of the enemy, conquering him by virtues which were the very contraries to the vices by which he had conquered man by humility, namely, by obedience and by an austerity of suffering that was in direct opposition to the enjoyment of forbidden food. Furthermore, by making satisfaction for the sin committed, Christ joined man with God and made him the child and servant of God. This emancipation had about it two things that make it a kind of buying. Christ is said to have bought us back or to have redeemed us inasmuch as he snatched us from the power of the devil, as a king is said, by hard-fought battles, to redeem his kingdom that the enemy has occupied. Christ is again said to have redeemed us inasmuch as He placated God for us, paying as it were the price of His satisfaction on our behalf, that we might be freed both from the penalty and from the sin.

This price, His precious blood, he paid that he might make satisfaction for us not to the devil but to God. Again, by the victory that His Passion was, he took us away from the devil.The devil had indeed had dominion over us, but unjustly, since what power he had was usurped. Nevertheless, it was but just that we should fall under his yoke, seeing that it was by him we were overcome. This is why it was necessary that the devil should be overcome by the very contrary of the forces by which he had himself overcome. For he had not overcome by violence, but by a lying persuasion to sin.

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St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #16

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Third Week in Lent Sunday

IT IS THE PASSION OF CHRIST THAT HAS FREED US FROM SIN

He hath loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood (Revelations 1:5)

The Passion of Christ is the proper cause of the remission of our sins, and that in three ways:

1. Because it provokes us to love God. St.Paul says, God commends his charity towards us; because when as yet we were sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).Through charity we obtain forgiveness for sin, as it says in the gospel, Many sins are forgiven here because she has loved much (Luke 8:47).

2. The Passion of Christ is the cause of the forgiveness of sins because it is an act of redemption. Since Christ is himself our head, he has,by his own Passion undertaken from love and obedience delivered us his members from our sins, as it were at the price of his Passion. Just as a man might by some act of goodness done with his hands buy himself off for a wrong thing he had done with his feet. For as man’s natural body is a unity, made up of different limbs, so the whole Church, which is the mystical body of Christ, is reckoned as a single person with its own head, and this head is Christ.

3. The Passion of Christ was a thing equal to its task. For the human nature through which Christ suffered his Passion is the instrument of His divine nature. Whence all the actions and all the sufferings of that human nature wrought to drive out sin, are wrought by a power that is divine. Christ, in His Passion, delivered us from our sins in a causal way, that is to say, he set up for us a thing which would be a cause of our emancipation, a thing whereby any sin might at any time be remitted, whether committed now, or in times gone by, or in time to come : much as a physician might make a medicine from which all who are sick may be healed, even those sick in the years yet to come. But since what gives the Passion of Christ its excellence is the fact that it is the universal cause of the forgiveness of sins, it is necessary that we each of us ourselves make use of it for the forgiveness of our own particular sins. This is done through Baptism, Penance and the other sacraments, whose power derives from the Passion of Christ. By faith also we make use of the Passion of Christ, in order to receive its fruits, as St. Paul says, Christ Jesus, whom God has proposed to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood (Romans3:25). But the faith by which we are cleansed from sin is not that faith which can exist side by side with sin the faith called formless but faith formed, that is to say, faith made alive by charity. So that the Passion of Christ is not through faith applied merely to our understanding but also to our will. Again it is from the power of the Passion of Christ that  the sins are forgiven which are forgiven by faith in this way.

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #15

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HOW ARE WE TO SERVE GOD ?

1. We must serve God both by external acts and by internal acts. We are possessed of a double nature, we are intellectual beings and sentient beings also. We should therefore offer to God a double adoration a spiritual adoration, consisting in the interior devotion of the mind, and a bodily adoration made up of the external humiliation of the body. And since in all acts done in acknowledgment that God is God the external act depends on the internal for the internal act is the more important so the external acts of adoration are done for the sake of the internal adoration. That is to say, that it is by our gestures of humility that we are moved to subject ourselves to God in our inclinations and our will. This is due to our nature being what it is, for it is natural to man to proceed to things that can only be known through the intelligence from the starting point of things seen, felt, heard and known by the senses. So, just as prayer has its origin as something in  the mind, and is only in the second place expressed in words, adoration also consists, primarily and in its origin, in an internal reverence of God and only secondarily in certain bodily signs that we are humbling ourselves : such bodily signs, for example, as genuflections to show our weakness by comparison with God, or prostrations to show that we are nothing of ourselves. (2-2 84 n.)

2. In doing external acts we must use a certain measure of discretion. The attitude of a religious man towards the acts by which he acknowledges God to be God, is quite different according as those acts are internal or external. It is principally in the internal acts, the acts by which he believes, hopes and loves, that man s good consists and what makes man good in God s sight. Whence it is written, The kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21). Man’s good and what makes man good in God s sight does not, principally, consist in external acts. The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, says St. Paul (Romans 15:17). Whence the internal acts are as the end, the thing that is to say, which is sought for its own sake : the external acts, through which the body is shown as God s creature, are but as means, i.e., things directed to and existing for the sake of the end. Now when it is a question of seeking the end we do not measure our energy or resource, but the greater the end the better our endeavor. When, on the other hand, it is a question of things we only seek because of the end, we measure our energy according to the relation of the things to the end. Thus a physician restores health as much as he possibly can. He does not give as much medicine as he possibly can, but only just so much as he sees to be necessary for the attainment of health. In a similar way man puts no measure to his faith, his hope, and his charity, but the more he believes, hopes and loves, so much the better man he is. That is why it is said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength (Deuteronomy 6:5).But in the external actions we must use discretion and make charity the measure of our use of them. (In Romans 12.)

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #14

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THE WORSHIP DUE TO GOD

Thou shalt not have strange Gods before me. Exodus 20:3 .

We are forbidden to worship any but the one God, and there are five things which show the prohibition to be reasonable.

1. God s dignity. If this is disregarded we insult God. To all dignity is due proper reverence. And we call a man a traitor who refuses to do the King due reverence. This is what some men do with respect to God. They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man, and of birds, and of four footed beasts, and of creeping things, says St. Paul (Romans 1: 23). And this is the most serious of all offences against God.

2. God’s bountifulness. Every good thing we possess comes from God. It is in fact part of God s dignity that he is the maker and giver of all good things. When thou opens thy hand, all things shall be filled with good (Psalm53:28). You are therefore ungrateful beyond measure if you do not recognize that the good you have is his gift. Nay, you make to yourself another god as truly as the children of Israel, delivered from Egypt, made themselves an idol. This is to be like the harlot of whom the prophet writes, I will go after my lovers that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink (Osee 2:5). This sin is also committed by those who place their hope in another than God, that is, when they seek help from another in preference to asking it from God. Blessed is the man whose trust is in the name of the Lord (Psalm 36:5), and St. Paul marvels at the Galatians, But now, after that you have known God, or are rather known by God, how turn you again to the weak and needy elements, which you desire to serve again? (Galatians 8:9).

 

3. Our promises. We have renounced the devil and pledged our fidelity to God alone. This pledge we must keep unbroken. A man making void the law of Moses, died without any mercy, under two or three witnesses. How much more do you think he deserves worse punishment, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and bath esteemed the blood of the testament unclean, by which he was sanctified, and has offered an affront to the Spirit of Grace ? (Hebrews 10:28-29)The woman that has an husband, while her husband is living she shall be called an adulteress, if she be with another man (Romans7:3), and such deserves to be burned. Woe to the sinner, to whoever enters the land by a double way, to those who limp one foot on each side of the division.

4. The weight of the devil’s yoke. You shall serve strange gods day and night, says the Prophet, which shall not give you any rest (Jerimiah16:13). For the devil does not rest content with one sin, but, the first sin committed, strives all the more to induce us to another. Whoever commits sin is the slave of sin. Hence it is not an easy thing to find one’s way out from sin. St. Gregory says, The sin which is not lightened by penance, soon, by its very weight, drags us to further sin. It is the very contrary that is characteristic of God s dominion over us. For God’s commands are not burdensome. My yoke is sweet and my burden is light (Matthew 11:30). A man is accounted as doing enough if he does for God as much as he has done for sin. St. Paul, for example, says, as you have yielded your members to serve uncleanness and iniquity, unto iniquity ; so now yield your members to serve justice, unto sanctification (Romans 6:19).But of the slaves of the devil the Scripture says, We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity and destruction, and have walked through hard ways (Wisdom36:7), and also, They have labored to commit iniquity (Jeremiah 9:5).

5. The immensity of our reward. No law promises so great a recompense as that which we are promised in the law of Christ. To the Saracens are offered rivers of milk, and honey, to the Jews the promised land. But to Christians angelic glory. They shall be as the angels of God in heaven (Matthew 22: 30). Thinking on this St. Peter says, in the Gospel, Lord to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life (John 7: 69).

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #13

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OUR WATCH MUST BE CEASELESS

But this know ye, that if the good man of the house knew at what hour the thief would come, he would certainly watch, and not suffer his house to be broken open. Matthew24:43.

Since we are uncertain which hour it will be, we must watch the whole night long. The house is the soul. Therein man should be at rest. When I go into my house, that is, into my conscience, I shall repose myself with her (Wisdom 8: 16). The good man of the house is as that king, that sits on the throne of judgment, who scatters away all evil with his look (Proverbs20:8). Sometimes a thief breaks into the house. The thief is any plausible false theory, or indeed any temptation. It is said to be a thief in the sense of the gospel, He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up another way, the same is a thief and a robber (John10:1). The door is an excellent name for natural knowledge or natural rights. Whoever enters through his reason, enters through the door. But whoever comes in through desires, or through wrath or the like, is a thief. Thieves work by night. We have no fear of what comes to us in the day. So it is that temptations never come to the man whose mind is given to contemplation of divine things. Let him however slacken in that service and presently comes temptation. Hence the timely prayer of Holy Scripture, When my strength shall jail, do not Thou forsake me (Psalms70:9). We must then watch, since we know not when the Lord shall come, shall come that is, to judgment. Or perhaps we may refer it to the day we shall die. For yourselves know perfectly, that the day of the Lord shall so come as a thief in the night, for when they shall say peace and security, then shall sudden destruction come upon them (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Wherefore, says Our Lord, be you also ready, because at what hour you know not the Son of Man shall come(Matthew 24: 44). St. John Chrysostom notes that men attached to their property will sit up all the night to watch over it. If they can be so watchful for the things that pass away, how much more should they not be watchful over spiritual treasures. We may notice also a parable of St. Augustine’s. There are three servants and they look forward affectionately to the return of their master. The first says, My lord will come quickly, therefore I shall watch for him. The second says, My lord will be late, but I will watch none the less. The third says, At what hour my lord will come I know not, and for this reason I will take care to; Which servant spoke best ? St. Augustine says the third. The first risks a sad deception, for if he thinks the lord will soon arrive, and in fact the lord is delayed, the servant runs the danger of sleeping through weariness. The second, too, may find he has made a mistake, but he runs no danger. But it is the third who does well, for being uncertain he is continually on the alert. It is therefore a misfortune to fix in our minds any special time. (In Matthew 25)

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #12

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 THE NEED TO BE WATCHFUL

Watch ye therefore because you know not what hour your Lord will come. Matthew 24:42.

1. Our Lord warns us to be watchful, placing before us our uncertainty as to when we shall die.He says to us, The day is not certain. Of two that are working one shall be taken and the other left and no man can be certain which of the two shall be his lot. Therefore you should be careful and watchful. Watch ye therefor; Then, too, as St. Jerome says, Our Lord left the moment of life’s ending uncertain to help us ever to be watchful. For there are three ways in which man may sin; his senses are idle, or he ceases to move, or he sleeps. Hence, Watch ye, that your senses may be lifted up in contemplation. I sleep, says Holy Scripture, but my heart watches (Canticles 2). Likewise, Watch ye, lest you sleep in death. Whoever occupies himself with good works may be said to watch. Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Again watch, lest you carelessly fall asleep. How long wilt thou sleep sluggard (Proverbs 6:9).

2. Because you know not what hour your Lord will come. St. Augustine says this is written for the Apostles, for those who lived before us, and for ourselves and it is necessary for all of us because Our Lord comes to all and comes in two ways.

He comes at the end of the world to all men generally, and he comes to each man at his own end,that is, at his death. There is thus a double coming and in each case God has willed that its hour should be uncertain. Moreover these two comings answer each to the other, for the second will find us as we were found at the first. As St. Augustine says, The world’s last day finds unprepared all those whom their own last day found in like condition.

Our Lord’s words, Watch ye therefore and the rest may also be understood with reference to the unseen coming of the Lord into our souls. If he come to me, it is written in Sacred Scripture, I shall not see him (Job 9:11) And so it is that He comes to many and they do not see Him. Therefore should we watch with much carefulness, so that when He knocks we may open to Him. Behold I stand at the gate and knock. If any man shall hear my voice and open to me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with me (Revelation 3:20). (In Matthew 24)

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #11

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THE REMEMBRANCE OF OUR LORD’S PASSION

Think diligently upon him that endured such opposition from sinners against himself ; that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds. Hebrews 12:3.

 

1. We are advised to think diligently that is, to think upon Him over and over again. In all thyways, says Holy Scripture, think upon him (Proverbs 3:6). The reason for which is that no matter what anxiety may befall us, we have a remedy in the cross. For there we find obedience to God. He humbled himself becoming obedient, says St. Paul (Philippians2:8).Likewise, we find a loving forethought for those akin to him, shown in the care he had, when upon the very cross, for his mother. We find, too, charity for his fellows, for on the cross he prayed for sinners, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). He showed, also, patience in suffering, I was dumb and was humbled,and kept silence from good things : and my sorrow was renewed (Psalm38:3). Finally he showed, in all things, a perseverance to the end, for he persevered until death itself. Father, into thy bands I commend my spirit (Luke 23:46). So, on the cross we find an example of all the virtues. As St. Augustine says, the cross was not only the gallows where Our Lord suffered in patience; it was a pulpit from which he taught mankind.

2. But what is it that we are to think, over and over again ?

Three things :

(a) The kind of Passion it was. He endured opposition that is, suffering from spoken words. For instance they said, you say that you can destroy the temple of God (Matthew 27:40). It is said in the Psalms (Psalms 17:44), Thou will deliver me from the contradictions of the people, and it was foretold that Our Lord should be, A. sign which shall be contradicted (Luke 2:34). St. Paul, in the text, says such opposition, meaning so grievous and so humiliating an opposition. all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow (Lamentations 1:12).

(b) From whom He suffered the Passion. It was from sinners, from those for whom He was suffering. Christ died once for our sins, the just for the unjust (1 Peter 3:18).

(c) Who it was that suffered. Before the Passion, from the beginning of the world he had suffered in his members, but in the Passion He (The word in the Latin text which St. Thomas has before him is contradiction) suffered in his own person. When the words against himself. Who his own se/f, says St. Peter (i Pet. ii. 24), bore our sins in his body upon the tree.. To think diligently upon Our Lord s Passion is a very profitable employment, which is why St. Paul adds that you be not wearied fainting in your minds. The Passion of Christ keeps us from fainting. St. Gregory says,  If we recall the Passion of Christ, nothing seems so hard that it cannot be borne with equanimity; You will not then fail, worn out in spirit, in loyalty to the true faith, nor in the prosecution of good works. St. Paul again gives a reason for our courageous perseverance when he says, in the following verse, You have not yet resisted unto blood (Hebrews7:4).As though he said, You must not faint at these anxieties your own troubles cause you. You have not yet borne as much as Christ. For He indeed shed his blood for us. (In Hebrews 12)

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