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St. Thomas Aquinas: Meditations for Each Day of Lent - Printable Version

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RE: St. Thomas Aquinas: Meditations for Each Day of Lent - Stone - 03-09-2021

Tuesday After the Third Sunday
Christ is truly our Redeemer

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You were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled.--I Pet. 1. 19.

By the sin of our first parents, the whole human race was alienated from God, as is taught in the second chapter 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 himself 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.

RE: St. Thomas Aquinas: Meditations for Each Day of Lent - Stone - 03-10-2021

Wednesday After the Third Sunday
The Price of Our Redemption

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You are bought with a great price.--I Cor. vi. 20

The indignities and sufferings anyone suffers are measured according to the dignity of the person concerned. If a king is struck in the face he suffers a greater indignity than does a private person. But the dignity of Christ is infinite, for He is a divine person. Therefore, any suffering undergone by Him, even the least conceivable suffering, is infinite. Any suffering at all, then, undergone by Him, without His death, would have sufficed to redeem the human race.

St. Bernard says that the least drop of the blood of Christ would have sufficed for the redemption of us all. And Christ could have shed that one drop without dying. Therefore, even without dying he could, by some kind of suffering, have redeemed, that is, bought back, all mankind.

Now in buying two things are required, an amount equal to the price demanded and the assigning of that amount to the purpose of buying. For if a man gives a price that is not equal in value to the thing to be bought, we do not say that he has bought it, but only that he has partly bought it, and partly been given it. For example, if a man buys for ten shillings a book that is worth twenty shillings, he has partly bought the book and it has, partly, been given to him. Or again, if he puts together a greater price but does not assign it to the buying, he is not said to buy the book. If therefore when we speak of the redemption and buying back of the human race we have in view the amount of the price, we must say that any suffering undergone by Christ, even without His death, would have sufficed, because of the infinite worth of His person. If, however, we speak of the redemption with reference to the setting of the price to the purpose in hand, we have then to say that no other suffering of Christ less than His death, was set by God and by Christ as the price to be paid for the redemption of man kind. And this was so for three reasons:

1. That the price of our redemption should not only be infinite in value, but be of the same kind as what it bought, i.e., that it should be with a death that He bought us back from death.

2. That the death of Christ would be not only the price of our redemption but also an example of courage, so that men would not be afraid to die for the truth. St. Paul makes mention of this and the preceding cause when he says, That, through death, He might destroy him who had the empire of death (this is the first cause), and might deliver them, who throug the fear of death were all their lifetime subject to servitude (this for the second cause) (Heb. ii. 14, 15)

3. That the death of Christ might be a sacrament to work our salvation; we, that is, dying to sin, to bodily desires and to our own will through the power of the death of Christ. These reasons are given by St. Peter when he says, Christ who died once for our sins, the just for the unjust; that He might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit (1 Pet. iii. 18).

And so it is that mankind has not been redeemed by any other suffering of Christ without His death.

But, as a matter of fact, Christ would have paid sufficiently for the redemption of mankind not only by giving His own life but by suffering any suffering no matter how slight, if this slight suffering had been the thing divinely appointed, and Christ would thereby have paid sufficiently because of the infinite worth of His person.

RE: St. Thomas Aquinas: Meditations for Each Day of Lent - Stone - 03-11-2021

Thursday After the Third Sunday
The Preaching of the Samaritan woman

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The woman therefore left her water-pot, and went her way into the city.--John iv. 28.

This woman, once Christ had instructed her, became an apostle. There are three things which we can gather from what she said and what she did.

1. The entirety of her surrender to Our Lord. This is shown:

(i) From the fact that she left lying there, almost as if forgotten, that for which she had come to the well, the water and the water-pot. So great was her absorption. Hence it is said, The woman left her water-pot and went away into the city, went away to announce the wonderful works of Christ. She cared no longer for the bodily comforts in view of the usefulness of better things, following in this the example of the Apostles of whom it is said that, Leaving their nets they followed the Lord (Mark 1. 18).

The water-pot stands for fashionable desire, by means of which men draw up pleasures from those depths of darkness signified by the well, that is, from practices which are of the earth earthy. Those who abandon such desires for the sake of God are like the woman who left her water-pot.

(ii) From the multitude of people to whom she tells the news, not to one nor to two or three but to a whole city. This is why she went away into the city.

2. A method of preaching.

She saith to the men there: Come, and see a man who has told me all things whatsoever I have done. Is not He the Christ?--John iv. 29.

(i) She invites them to look upon Christ: Come, and see a man--she did not straightway say that they should give themselves to Christ, for that might have been for them an occasion for blasphemy, but, to begin with, she told them things about Christ which were believable and open to observation. She told them He was a man. Nor did she say, Believe, but come and see, for she knew that if they, too, tasted of that well, looking that is upon Our Lord, they, too, would feel all she had felt. And she follows the example of a true preacher in that she attracts the men not to herself but to Christ.

(ii) She gives them a hint that Christ is God when she says, A man who has told me all things whatsoever I have done, that is to say, how many husbands she had had. She is not ashamed to bring up things that make for her own confusion, because the soul, once it is lighted up with the divine fire, in no way looks to earthly values and standards, cares neither for its own glory nor its shame, but only for that flame which holds and consumes it.

(iii) She suggests that this proves the majesty of Christ, saying, Is not he the Christ? She does not dare to assert that He is the Christ, lest she have the appearance of wishing to teach others, and the others, irritated thereat, refuse to go out to Him. Nor, on the other hand, does she leave the matter in silence, but she puts it before them questioningly, as though she left it to their own judgment. For this is the easiest of all ways of persuasion.

3. The Fruit of Preaching.

They therefore went out of the city and came unto Christ.--John iv. 30.

Hereby it is made clear to us that if we would come to Christ, we too must go out of the city, which is to say, we must lay aside all love of bodily delights.

Let us go forth therefore to Him without the camp (Heb. xiii. 13).

RE: St. Thomas Aquinas: Meditations for Each Day of Lent - Stone - 03-11-2021

Friday After the Third Sunday
It is by the Passion of Christ that we have been freed from the punishment due to sin

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Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows.--Isaias liii. 4.

By the Passion of Christ we are freed from the liability to be punished for sin with the punish ment that sin calls for, in two ways, directly and indirectly.

We are freed directly inasmuch as the Passion of Christ made sufficient and more than sufficient satisfaction for the sins of the whole human race. Now once sufficient satisfaction has been made, the liability to the punishment mentioned is destroyed.

We are freed indirectly inasmuch as the Passion of Christ causes the sin to be remitted, and it is from the sin that the liability to the punishment mentioned derives.

Souls in hell, however, are not freed by the Passion of Christ, because the Passion of Christ shares its effect with those to whom it is applied by faith and by charity and by the sacraments of faith. Therefore the souls in hell, who are not linked up with the Passion of Christ in the way just mentioned, cannot receive its effects.

Now although we are freed from liability to the precise penalty that sin deserves, there is, nevertheless, enjoined on the repentant sinner a penalty or penance of satisfaction. For in order that the effect of the Passion of Christ be fully worked out in us, it is necessary for us to be made of like form with Christ. Now we are made of like form with Christ in baptism by the sacrament, as is said by St. Paul, We are buried together with him by baptism into death (Rom. vi. 4). Whence it is that no penalty of satisfaction is imposed on those who are baptised. Through the satisfaction made by Christ they are wholly set free. But since Christ died once for our sins (1 Pet. iii. 18), once only, man cannot a second time be made of like form with the death of Christ through the sacrament of baptism. Therefore those who, after baptism, sin again, must be made like to Christ in His suffering, through some kind of penalty or suffering which they endure in their own persons.

If death, which is a penalty due to sin, continues to subsist, the reason is this: The satisfaction made by Christ produces its effect in us in so far as we are made of one body with Him, in the way limbs are one body with the head. Now it is necessary that the limbs be made to conform to the head. Wherefore since Christ at first had, together with the grace in His soul, a liability to suffer in His body, and came to His glorious immortality through the Passion, so also should it be with us, who are His limbs. By the Passion we are indeed delivered from any punishment as a thing fixed on us, but we are delivered in such a way that it is in the soul we first receive the spirit of the adoption of sons, by which we are put on the list for the inheritance of eternal glory, while we still retain a body that can suffer and die. It is only afterwards, when we have been fashioned to the likeness of Christ in His sufferings and death, that we are brought into the glory of immortality. St. Paul teaches this when he says, If sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him (Rom. viii. 17).

RE: St. Thomas Aquinas: Meditations for Each Day of Lent - Stone - 03-13-2021

Saturday After the Third Sunday
The Passion of Christ Reconciles us to God

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We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.--Rom. v. 10

The Passion of Christ brought about our reconciliation to God in two ways.

1. It removed the sin that had made the human race God's enemy, as it says in Holy Scripture, To God the wicked and his wickedness are alike hateful (Wis. xiv. 9), and again, Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity (Ps. v. 7).

Secondly, the Passion was a sacrifice most acceptable to God. It is in fact the peculiar effect of sacrifice to be itself a thing by which God is placated: just as a man remits offences done against him for the sake of some acknowledgment, pleasing to him, which is made. Whence it is said, If the Lord stir thee up against me, let him accept of sacrifice (1 Kings xxvi. 19). Likewise, the voluntary suffering of Christ was so good a thing in itself, that for the sake of this good thing found in human nature, God was pleased beyond the totality of offences committed by all mankind, as far as concerns all those who are linked to Christ in His suffering by faith and by charity.

When we say that the Passion of Christ reconciled us to God we do not mean that God began to love us all over again, for it is written, I have loved thee with an everlasting love (Jer. xxxi. 3). We mean that by the Passion the cause of the hatred was taken away, on the one hand by the removal of the sin, on the other hand by the compensation of a good that was more than acceptable.

2. As far as those who slew Our Lord were concerned the Passion was indeed a cause of wrath.

But the love of Christ suffering was greater than the wickedness of those who caused Him to suffer. And therefore the Passion of Christ was more powerful in reconciling to God the whole human race, than in moving God to anger.

God's love for us is shown by what it does for us. God is said to love some men because He gives them a share in His own goodness, in that vision of His very essence from which there follows this that we live with Him, in His company, as His friends, for it is in that delightful condition of things that happiness (beatitude) consists.

God is then said to love those whom He admits to that vision, either by giving them the vision directly or by giving them what will bring them to the vision as when he gives the Holy Spirit as a pledge of the vision.

It was from this sharing in the divine goodness, from this vision of God's very essence, that man, by sin, had been removed, and it is in this sense that we speak of man as deprived of God's love.

And inasmuch as Christ, making satisfaction for us by His Passion, brought it about that men were admitted to the vision of God, therefore it is that Christ is said to have reconciled us to God.

RE: St. Thomas Aquinas: Meditations for Each Day of Lent - Stone - 03-14-2021

Fourth Week in Lent Sunday
Christ by His Passion opened to us the gates of Heaven

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We have a confidence in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ.--Heb. x. 19.

The closing of a gate is an obstacle hindering men's entrance. Now men are hindered from entrance to the heavenly kingdom by sin, for Isaias says, It shall be called the holy way : the unclean shall not pass over it (Is. xxxv. 8).

Now the sin that hinders man's entrance into heaven is of two kinds. There is, first of all, the sin of our first parents. By this sin access to the kingdom of heaven was barred to man. We read in Genesis (iii. 24) that after the sin of our first parents God placed before the paradise of pleasure Cherubim and a flaming sword, turning every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. The other kind of hindrance arises from the sins special to each individual, the sins each man commits by his own particular action.

By the Passion of Christ we are freed not only from the sin common to all human nature, and this both as to the sin and as to its appointed penalty, since Christ pays the price on our behalf, but also we are delivered from our personal sins if we are numbered among those who are linked to the Passion by faith, by charity and by the sacraments of the Faith. Thus it is that through the Passion of Christ the gates of heaven are thrown open to us. And hence St. Paul says that Christ, being come an high priest of the good things to come, by His onw blood entered once into the holies, having obtained a redemption that is eternal (Heb. ix. 11).

And this was foreshadowed in the Old Testament, where we read (Num. xxxv. 25, 28), the man-slayer shall abide there, that is, in the city of refuge, until the death of the high priest, that is anointed with holy oil. And after he is dead, then shall the man-slayer return to his own country.

The holy fathers who (before the coming of Christ wrought works of justice earned their entrance into heaven through faith in the Passion of Christ, as is written, The saints by faith conquered kingdoms, wrought justice (Heb. xi. 33). By faith, too, it was that individuals w r ere cleansed from the sins they had individually committed. But faith or goodness, no matter who the person was that possessed it, was not enough to be able to move the hindrance created by the guilty state of the whole human creation. This hindrance was only removed at the price of the blood of Christ. And therefore before the Passion of Christ no one could enter the heavenly kingdom, to obtain that eternal happiness that consists in the full enjoyment of God.

Christ by His Passion merited for us an entrance into heaven, and removed what stood in our way. By His Ascension, however, He, as it were, put mankind in possession of heaven. And therefore it is that He ascended opening the way before them.

RE: St. Thomas Aquinas: Meditations for Each Day of Lent - Stone - 03-15-2021

Monday After the Fourth Sunday
Christ by His Passion merited to be exalted

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He became obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross: for which cause God hath exalted Him.--Phil. ii. 8.

Merit is a thing which implies a certain equality of justice. Thus St. Paul says, To him that worketh the reward is reckoned according to debt (Rom. iv. 4).

Now since a man who commits an injustice takes for himself more than is due to himself, it is just that he suffer loss even in what is actually due to him. If a man steals one sheep, he shall give back four as it says in Holy Scripture (Exod. xxii. i). And this is said to be merited inasmuch as in this way the man's evil will is punished. In the same way the man who acts with such justice that he take less than what is due to him, merits that more shall be generously superadded to what he has, as a kind of reward for his just will. So, for instance, the gospel tells us, He that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Luke xiv. 11).

Now in His Passion Christ humbled Himself below His dignity in four respects:

(i) In respect of His Passion and His death, things which He did not owe to undergo.

(ii) In respect to places, for His body was placed in a grave and his soul in hell.

(iii) In respect to the confusion and shame that He endured.

(iv) In respect to His being delivered over to human authority, as He said Himself to Pilate, Thou shouldst not have any power against me, unless it were given thee from above (John xix. 11).

Therefore, on account of His Passion, He merited a fourfold exaltation:

(i) A glorious resurrection. It is said in the Psalm (Ps. cxxxviii. 1), Thou hast known my sitting down, that is, the humiliation of my Passion, and my rising up.

(ii) An ascension into heaven. Whence it is said, He descended first into the lower parts of the earth: He that descended is the same also that ascended above all the heavens (Eph. iv. 9, 10).

(iii) To be seated at the right hand of the Father, with His divinity made manifest. Isaias says, He shall be exalted, and extolled, and shall be exceeding high. As many have been astonished at thee, so shall his visage be inglorious among men, and St. Paul says, He became obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God hath exalted Him and hath given Him a name which is above all names (Phil. ii. 8, 9), that is to say, He shall be named God by all, and all shall pay Him reverence as God. And this is why St. Paul adds, That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth (ibid. x).

(iv) A power of judgment. For it is said, Thy cause hath been judged as that of the wicked. Cause and judgment thou shalt recover (Job xxxvi. 17).

RE: St. Thomas Aquinas: Meditations for Each Day of Lent - Stone - 03-16-2021

Tuesday After the Fourth Sunday

The Example of Christ Crucified

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Christ assumed human nature in order to restore fallen humanity. He had therefore to suffer and to do, according to human nature, the things which could serve as a remedy against the sin of the fall.

Man's sin consists in this that he so cleaves to bodily goods that he neglects what is good spiritually. It was therefore necessary for the Son of God to show this in the humanity He had taken, through all He did and suffered, so that men should repute temporal things, whether good or evil, as nothing, for otherwise, hindered by an exaggerated affection for them, they would be less devoted to spiritual things.

Christ therefore chose poor people for His parents, people nevertheless perfect in virtue, so that none of us should glory in the mere rank or wealth of our parents.

He led the life of a poor man, to teach us to set no store by wealth.

He lived the life of an ordinary man, without any rank, to wean men from an undue desire for honours.

Toil, thirst, hunger, the aches of the body, all these He endured, to encourage men, whom pleasures and delights attract, not to be deterred from virtue by the austerity a good life entails.

He went so far as to endure even death, lest the fear of death might at any time tempt man to abandon the truth. And lest any of us might dread to die even a shameful death for the truth, He chose to die by the most accursed death of all, by crucifixion.

That the Son of God, made man, should suffer death was also fitting for this reason, that by His example He stimulates our courage, and so makes true what St. Peter said, Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow His steps (I Pet. ii. 21).

Christ truly suffered for us, leaving us an example in anxieties, contempts, scourgings, the cross, death itself, that we might follow in His steps. If we endure for Christ our own anxieties and sufferings, we shall also reign together with Christ in the happiness that is everlasting. St. Bernard says, " How few are they, O Lord, who yearn to go after Thee, and yet there is no one that desireth not to come to Thee, for all men know that in Thy right hand are delights that will never fail. All desire to enjoy Thee, but not all to imitate Thee. They would willingly reign with Thee, but spare themselves from suffering with Thee. They have no desire to look for Thee, whom yet they desire to find."

RE: St. Thomas Aquinas: Meditations for Each Day of Lent - Stone - 03-17-2021

Wednesday After the Fourth Sunday
The Divine Friend

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His sisters sent to Him saying : Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick.--John xi. 3.

Three things here call for thought.

1. God's friends are from time to time afflicted in the body. It is not, therefore, in any way a proof that a man is not a friend of God that he is from time to time sick and ailing. Eliphaz argued falsely against Job when he said, Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished being innocent? or when were the just destroyed? (Job iv. 7).

The Gospel corrects this when it says, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick, and the Book of Proverbs, too, where we read, For whom the Lord loveth, He chastiseth: and as a father in the son He pleaseth himself (Prov. iii. 12).

2. The sisters do not say, "Lord, come and heal him." They merely explain that Lazarus is ill, they say, he is sick. This is to remind us that, when we are dealing with a friend, it is enough to make known our necessity, we do not need to add a request. For a friend, since he wills the welfare of his friend as he wills his own, is as anxious to ward off evil from his friend as he is to ward it off from himself. This is true most of all in the case of Him who, of all friends, loves most truly. The Lord keepeth all them that love him (Ps. cxliv. 20).

3. These two sisters, who so greatly desire the cure of their sick brother, do not come to Christ personally, as did the centurion and the man sick of the palsy. From the special love and familiarity which Christ had shown them, they had a special confidence in Him. And, possibly, their grief kept them at home, as St. Chrysostom thinks. A friend if he continue steadfast, shall be to thee as thyself, and shall act with confidence among them of thy household (Ecclus. vi. 11).

RE: St. Thomas Aquinas: Meditations for Each Day of Lent - Stone - 03-18-2021

Thursday After the Fourth Sunday
The Death of Lazarus

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Lazarus our friend sleepeth--(John xi. 11)

Our friend for the many benefits and services he rendered us, and therefore we owe it not to fail in his necessity. Sleepeth, therefore we must come to his assistance: a brother is proved in distress (Prov. xvii. 17).

He sleepeth, I say, as St. Augustine says, to the Lord. But to men he was dead, nor had they power to raise him.

Sleep is a word we use with various meanings. We use it to mean natural sleep, negligence, blameworthy inattention, the peace of contemplation, the peace of future glory, and we use it also to mean death. We will not have you ignorant, concerning the last sleep, that you be not sorrowful, even as others that have no hope, says St. Paul (i Thess. iv. 12).

Death is called sleep because of the hope of resurrection, and so it has been customary to give death this name since the time when Christ died and was raised again, I have slept and have taken my rest (Ps. iii. 6).

I go that I may awake him out of sleep--(John xi. n).

In these words Jesus gives us to understand that He could raise Lazarus from the tomb as easily as we raise a sleeper from his bed. Nor is this to be wondered at, for He is none other than the Lord who raiseth up the dead and giveth life (John v. 21). And hence He is able to say, The hour ccmeth when all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God (ibid. v. 28).

Let us go to him (John xi. 15).

Here it is the mercifulness of God that we are shown. Men, living in sin and as it were dead, unable to any power of their own to come to Him, He mercifully draws, anticipating their desire and need. Jeremias speaks of this when he says, Thus saith the Lord I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee (Jer. xxxi. 3).

Jesus therefore came and found that he had been four days already in the grave (John xi. 17).

St. Augustine sees in the four-days dead Lazarus a figure of the fourfold spiritual death of the sinner. He dies in fact through original sin, through actual sin, against the natural law, through actual sin against the written law, through actual sin against the law of the gospel and of grace.

Another interpretation is that the first day represents the sin of the heart, Take away the evil of your thoughts, says Isaias (i. 16) ; the second day represents sins of the tongue; Let no evil speech proceed from your mouth, says St. Paul (Eph. iv. 29); the third day represents the sins of evil action, Cease to do perversely (Isaias i. 16); the fourth day stands for the sins of wicked habit.

Whatever explanation we give, Our Lord at times does heal those who are four days dead, that is, those who have broken the law of the gospel and are bound fast by habits of sin.