Tuesday, March 13, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #16

Third Tuesday
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 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.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #16

Third Week in Lent Sunday
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.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #15

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.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #14

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).

Monday, March 5, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #13

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)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #12

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)

Friday, March 2, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #11

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)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #10

He that spared not even his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how has he not also, with him, given us all things? Romans 8:32.
1. Since the Apostle makes mention of many sons when he says (ibid. v. 15), You have receivedthe spirit of adoption of sons, he now separates this Son from all these by saying his own Son, that is to say, not an adoptive son, but a son of his own nature, co-eternal with him, that son of whom the Father says, in St. Matthew (3:17), This is my beloved Son. The words he spared not mean only that God did not exempt Him from the penalty, for there was not in Him any fault to be matter for sparing. God the Father did not withhold from his Son an exemption from the penalty as a way of adding anything to himself. God is perfect. But he so acted, subjecting his Son to the Passion, because this was useful for us. This is why St. Paul adds, but delivered him up for us as meaning that God exposed Christ to the Passion for the expiation of all our sins. He was delivered for our sins, says Isaiah, and the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 3: 5,6). God the Father delivered him over to death, decreeing him to take flesh and to suffer, inspiring his human will with a burning love by which, eagerly, he would undergo his Passion. He delivered himself for us, St. Paul says of Our Lord (Ephesians v.2). Judas, too, and the Jews delivered him, but by an activity external to His. There is something else to notice in the words, He that spared not his own Son. It is as though it said: Not only has God given other saints over to suffering for the benefit of mankind, but even his own, proper Son.

2. God s own Son, then, being made over for us, all things have been given us, for St. Paul adds, How has he not also with him, that is, in giving Him to us, given us all things. In other words, all things thereby are turned to our profit. We are given the highest things of all, namely the Divine Persons, for our ultimate joy. We are given reasoning minds in order to live together with them now. We are given the lower things of creation for our use, not only the things which appeal to us but the things which are hostile. All things are yours, says St. Paul to us, and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s (1 Corinthians 3: 22, 23). Whence we may see how evidently true are the words of the Psalm (Psalm 33:10), There is no want to them that fear him. (In Romans 8.)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #9

The Sower went out to sow his seed. Luke 8:4.
1. The keenness of the sower. It is Christ who goes forth, and in three ways. He goes from the bosom of the Father, and yet without a change of place; from Jewry to the Gentiles ; fromthe private depths of wisdom to the public life of teaching. It is Christ who sows. Now the seed is the source ot fruit. Whence every good action is clue to God. What is it that He sows ? His own seed, says the gospel. That seed is the Word of God. And what does it produce ? It produces others, like unto Him from whom itself proceeds, for it makes them sons of God.
2. The obstacle in the way of the seed. The obstacle is threefold, because for the growth of the seed three conditions are necessary, namely it must be remembered, it must take root in love, it must have loving care. The growth is therefore hindered if in place of the first condition there is flightiness of mind, instead of the second there is hardness of heart, and if, in place of the loving care, there is a development of vices.
(a) Some fell by the wayside. As the way is free for all who care to walk, so does the heart lie open to every chance thought. So it is that when the word of God falls upon a heart that is careless and vain, it falls by the wayside and is doubly imperiled. St. Matthew speaks of one danger only, that the birds of the air came and ate it up. St. Luke speaks of two, for the seed is trampled into the ground as well as carried off by the birds. So when the careless receive the word of God it is crushed by their worthless thoughts or their evil company. Whence great joy for the devil if only he can steal away this seed and trample upon it.
(b) Hardness of heart. This is contrary to charity, for it is in the nature of love to melt things. Hardness means locked up in itself narrowed within its own limits; and love, since it causes the lover to be moved to what he loves, is a thing that liberates, widens, pours itself out. St. Matthew says therefore, some fell upon stony ground, and Ezechiel, I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh (Ezech. 37:26). For there are some men whose hearts are so deprived of love of any kind that they are scarcely flesh and blood at all. There are others who have indeed a natural affection but it is slight and has no deepness. To have deepness is to have a power of loving deeply. The man may be said to love deeply who loves all things and whatever he loves for the love of God, and who puts the love of God before all else. There is another type of man that does indeed delight in God, but delights more in things. Men of this sort do not pour themselves out, nor have they much deepness of earth. The gospel continues, And they spring up immediately for they who think deeply, think long, but they whose thought is shallow plunge into action at once, and inevitably pass away quickly. So these men hear quickly, but take no root in what they hear, for they have no deepness of earth, that is in the earth of loving charity.
(c) Destruction of the fruit. The fruit is lost because when there arises tribulation each man snatches for what he most loves, and the man who loves wealth looks only to his riches. And when the sun was up they were scorched, that is, because they lacked strength. And because they had not root, they withered away, for God was not their root. Others fell among thorns, anxieties, quarrels and such like things. And the thorns grew up and choked them. (In Matthew 13)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #8

Be not conformed to this world, but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God. Romans 12: 2.
1. What is forbidden is the forming of one self after the pattern of the world. Be not conformed to this world, that is, to the things which pass away with time. For this present world is a kind ofmeasure of those tilings which pass away with time. A man forms himself after the pattern of things transitory when, willingly and lovingly, he gives himself to serve them. Those also form themselves after that pattern who imitate the lives of the worldly, This then I say and testify in the Lord : That henceforward you walk not as also the Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind (Ephesians4: 17).

2. We are bidden to undertake a reformation of the interior man when it is said, But be reformed in the newness of your mind. By mind is here meant the reason, considered as the faculty by which man makes judgments about what he ought to do. In man, as God first created him, this faculty existed in all the completeness and vigor it could need. Holy Scripture tells us of our first parents that God filled their hearts with wisdom and showed them both good and evil (Ecclesiastics.17:6). But through sin this faculty declined in power and, as it were, grew old, losing its beauty and its brilliance. The Apostle warns us to form ourselves again, that is, to recover that completeness and distinction of mind that once was ours. This can indeed be regained by the grace of the Holy Ghost, and we should therefore use every endeavor to share in that grace those who lack that grace that they may obtain it, and those who already have gained it faithfully to progress and persevere. Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, says St. Paul (Ephesians 4:23). Or again, in another sense, be renewed in your external actions, that is to say, in the newness of your mind i.e., according to the new thing, grace, which you have internally received.
3. The reason for this warning is that you may prove what is the will of God. We know what befalls a man whose sense of taste suffers in an illness, how he ceases to have a true judgment of flavors and begins to loathe pleasantly-tasting things and to crave for what is loathsome. So it is with the man whose inclinations are corrupted from his conforming himself to the things of this world. He has no longer a true judgment where what is good for him is concerned. It is only the man whose inclinations are healthy and well directed, whose mind is made new again by grace, who can truly judge what is good and what is not. Therefore on this account is it written, Be not conformed to this world, but be reformed in the newness of your mind that you may prove, that is, that you may know by experience. As again it says in the psalm, Taste and see that the Lord is sweet (Psalm32:9). What is the will of God: that is, to say the will by which he wills us to be saved. This is the will of God your sanctification (1 Thessolonians4:3). The will of God is good, because God wills that we should will to do what is good, and He leads us to this through His commandments. I will show thee, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of thee (Micah 6: 8). The will of God is agreeable in as much as to him who is rightly ordered it is a pleasure to do what God wills us to do. Nor is the will of God merely useful as a means to achieve our destiny, it is a link joining us with our destiny and in that respect it is perfect. Such then is the will of God as those experience it who are not formed after the pattern of this world, but are formed over again in the newness of their minds. As to those who remain in the old staleness, fashioned after the world, they judge the will of God not to be a good but a burden and useless. (In Romans 17)


Monday, February 27, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #7

Wherefore he that thinks himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 12:1.
1.The case of the Jews who, in punishment, were overthrown in the desert (ibid verse 5)is a warning for us. These words of the Scripture contain four things which should attract the wise man’s attention, namely the multitude of those who fell, for it says Wherefore ; then the uncertainty of those who still stand, for it adds he that thinks himself to stand and thirdly, the need for caution, for it adds let him take heed and finally the ease with which disaster comes, for it says lest he fall. St. Paul says wherefore as if to say these men, for all that they have had the advantage of God’s gifts, nevertheless, because of their sins, perished, wherefore, bearing this in mind, he that thinks himself, by whatever kind of subtle reasoning, to stand, that is, to be in a state of grace and charity, let him take heed, diligently attending to it, lest he fall, whether by sinning himself or by inducing others to sin. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer says Isaiah (24:12), and the Psalmist, A thousand shall fall at thy side (Psalm90:7), and St. Paul himself, in another place, says therefore, See how you walk, circumspectly (Ephesians 5:15).
2. We must note that the things which drive us to a fall are numerous.
(a) Weakness, lack of strength ; as children, the aged and the sick fall in the natural life. AsIsaiah says, They shall fall through infirmity (Isaiah. 40:30). This happens to us through lukewarmness in well doing and through too frequent changing.
(b) We fall under the weight of our sins, as asses fall under a load that is too heavy. The workers of iniquity have fallen (Psalms 35:13). And this happens through our neglect to repent.
(c) Through a multitude of things drawing us, as a tree or a house falls over on the crowd that tugs at it. We fall in this way by the on rush of enemies.
(d) The slipperiness of the road, and so we fall as travelers fall into the mud. Take heed lest thou slip with thy tongue and fall (Ecclesiastics. 28:30). We fall thus through carelessness in guarding our senses.
(e) A variety of traps and we fall like the bird taken in the nets. A just man shall fall seven times (Proverbs24:16). And this happens through the corruption of created things.
(f) Ignorance of what one ought to do, and we fall easily as do the blind. If the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit (Matthew 15:14). This comes about through our not learning things necessary to us.
(g) The example of others who fall, as the angels fell by the example of Lucifer. A justman falling down before the wicked, is as a fountain troubled by the foot, a spring that has suffered defilement (Proverbs24:26). And this happens when we imitate the wicked.
(h) The heaviness of the flesh : for the body when corrupted weighs down the soul, as does a stone that hangs at the neck of a swimmer. A mountain in falling cometh to naught (Job 14: 18). And this is what comes of pampering the body. (In 1 Corinthians 10.)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations on Lent #6

Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labor. 1Corinthinians 3:8.

1. This reward is at once common to all men and particular to each.

(a) It is common to all because that which all shall see and all enjoy is the same, that is to say
God, Then shalt thou abound in delights in the almighty (Job 22:26). In that day the Lord of hosts
shall be a crown of glory, and a garland of joy to the residue of his people (Isaiah 27:5). And therefore St. Matthew says (20: 9) that to every laborer in the vineyard there is given one penny.
(b) The reward is yet special for each individual. One man shall see more clearly than another, and shall enjoy more fully, according to the measure allotted him. Hence the words in St. John (14:2), In my father s house there are many mansions for which reason too, it was said, Everyone shall receive his own reward. St. Paul shows how the extent of each one’s reward will be measured when he says, according to his own labor. Not that by this is meant an equality as between the amount of labor and the amount of the reward, for as it is said in 2 Corinthians 4:17, That which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, works for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory. The equality promised is the equality of proportion, an equality such that, where there has been greater labor there will be greater reward.
2. The labor can be considered as greater in three ways:
(1) According to the degree of love that inspires it. It is to this indeed that the essence
of the reward the vision and enjoyment of God makes a return. St. John (12:21) says, He that loves me, shall be loved of my Father : and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Whence it follows that he who labors with greater love, even though the labor entailed is less, will receive more of the essential reward.
(2) According to the kind of work it is. As in human enterprises the greater rewards go to those whose labor is itself of a more noble character (for example, the architect, though he labors less with his body, receives more than the manual worker), so it is in spiritual matters. He who is engaged in a work itself more noble, even though it be that he has labored less with his body, will receive a greater reward at any rate as far as some accidental privilege of glory. Thus there is a special splendor reserved for those who teach, for the virgins and for the martyrs.
(3) According to the amount of work done and this can be understood in two ways. Some times it is the actual larger amount of work which merits the larger reward. This is especially true in what concerns remission of punishment; the longer one fasts, for example, or the more distant the place of one’s pilgrimage, the greater the remission merited. So too, there is a greater joy from the greater amount of work done. Sometimes however, the labor is greater from lack of will to do the work, for the things we do willingly are less laborious in the doing. And in such cases the amount of the labor does not increase the reward. Rather does it reduce thereward. As Isaiah says (19:31), They shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint, and in the preceding verse warning us, youths shall faint-, and labor, and young men shall fall by infirmity. (In 1 Corinthians 3.)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations for Lent #5

If any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stoves, wood, hay, stubble, every man’s work shall be manifest. 1 Corinthians 3: 12-13.
1. The works that man relies on in matters spiritual and divine are compared to gold, silver and precious stones, things substantial, brilliant and precious, yet they are compared in such a way that gold symbolizes those things by which man tends to God Himself by contemplation and love. I counsel thee to buy of me gold fire-tried (Revelation 3:18), that is, wisdom with charity. Bysilver are meant those acts by which man clings to the spiritual realities he must believe, love and contemplate. So it is that silver is interpreted as referring to love of one’s neighbor. By precious stones is to be understood the work of the different virtues with which man’s soul is decked.
Those human activities, on the other hand, by means of which man acquires material goods, are compared to stubble, or chaff, worthless rubbish, glittering and easily burnt. There are however grades in this rubbish, some things being more stable than others, some things more easily consumed than the rest. Men themselves, for example, are more worthy than other carnal things, and, by succession, humanity escapes destruction. Men are hence compared to wood. Man’s flesh however is easily corrupted, by sickness and by death, whence it is compared to hay. All things which make for the glory of such a being speedily come to naught, whence they are compared to chaff or stubble.
To build with gold, silver and precious stones is therefore to build, upon the foundation of faith, something related to the contemplation of the wisdom of divine things, to try love of God, to following of the saints, to the service of one’s neighbor and to the exercise of virtues. To build with wood, hay and chaff is to build according to plans that are no more than human, for the convenience of the body, and for outward show.
2. That men occupy themselves with purely human things may come about in three ways :
(1) They may place the whole ultimate purpose of their life in the satisfaction of bodily needs.
Now to do this is a mortal sin, and therefore in this way a man does not so much build as destroy the foundation, and lay another of a different kind. For the end or ultimate purpose is the foundation in all that relates to desires.
(2) They may in using purely corporal things have nothing else in view but the glory of God.
In this case they are not building with wood, hay and chaff, but with gold, silver and precious stones.
(3) Although they do not place in purely corporal things the ultimate purpose of life, nor because of them will to act against God, they are more influenced by these things than they ought to be. The result is that they are thereby held back somewhat from a care for the things that are God s, and thus they sin venially. And it is this which is really meant by the phrase about building with wood, hay, and chaff, because activities that relate merely to the care of earthly goods have about them something of a venial fault, since they provoke a love of earthly things that is greater than it should be. It is in fact this love which, according to the degree of its tenacity, is compared to wood, to hay and to chaff. (In 1 Corinthians 3)

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations for Lent #4

1. And going a little further He fell upon his face, praying and saying : My Father. (Matthew 27:39)
Our Lord here recommends to us three conditions to be observed when we pray.
(1) Solitude: because going a little further he separated himself even from those whom he had chosen. When thou shalt pray enter into thy chamber and having shut the door pray to thy Father in secret (Matthew6:6). But notice he went not far away but a little, that He might show that he is not far from those who call upon Him, and also that they might sec him praying and learn to pray in like fashion.
(2) Humility: He fell upon his face, giving there by an example of humility. This because humility is necessary for prayer and because Peter had said : Yea, though I should die with thee, I mil not deny thee (Matthew 26:35). Therefore did Our Lord fall, to show us we should not trust in our own strength.
(3) Devotion: when He said My Father. It is essential that when we pray we pray from devotion. He says My Father because He is uniquely God’s Son; we are God’s children by adoption only. (In Matthew 26:2.)
If it be possible let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will but as Thou wilt (Matthew26:39).
Here we consider the tenor of prayer. Christ was praying according to the prompting of his sense nature, in so far, that is, as his prayer, as advocate for his senses, was expressing the inclinations of his senses, proposing to God, by prayer, what the desire of his senses suggested.
And He did this that He might teach us three things :
(1) That he had taken a true human nature with all its natural inclinations.
(2) That it is lawful for man to will, according to his natural inclination, a thing which God does not will.
(3) That man ought to subject his own inclination to the divine will.
Whence St. Augustine says: Christ, living as a man, showed a certain private human willingness when he said, Let this chalice pass from me. This was human willingness, a man’s own will and, so to say, his private desire. But Christ, since He wills to be a man of right heart, a man directed to God, adds, never the less, not as I will but as thou wilt.
And in this he teaches by example how we should arrange our inclinations so that they do not come into conflict with the divine rule. Whence we learn that there is nothing wrong in our shrinking from what is naturally grievous, so long as we bring our emotion into line with the divine will. Christ had two wills, one from his Father in so far as he was God and the other in so far as he was man. This human will he submitted in all things to his Father, giving us in this an example to do likewise, I came down from heaven, not to do my will, for the will of him that sent me (John 6:.38). (In Matthew 26.)

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations for Lent #3

In doing good let us not fail. For in due time we shall reap, not failing. Galatians 11: 9.
In these words .St. Paul does three things:
1. He warns us that we must do good. For to do good is a duty seeing that all things, by their nature, teach us to do good. (a) They so teach us because they are themselves good. And God all the things that he hadmade, and they were very good (Gen. 1:. 31). Sinners have ample cause to make them blush in themultitude of created things all of them good, while sinners themselves are evil.
(b) Because all things, by their nature, do good. For every creature gives itself, and thisis a sign of their own goodness and of the goodness of their Creator. God is goodness,something which must diffuse itself St Augustine says, It is a great sign of the divine goodness, that every creature is compelled to give itself
(c) Because all things by their nature desire what is good and tend to the good. The good is,in fact, that for which everything longs.
2. St. Paul warns us, that in doing good we fail not.
There are three things which most of all cause a man to persevere in doing good:
(a) Assiduous and wholehearted prayer for help from God lest we yield when we are tempted,Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation (Matthew 26: 41).
(b) Unceasing fearfulness. As soon as a man feels confident he is safe, he begins to fail in doing good, Unless thou hold thyself diligently in the fear of the Lord, thy house shall quickly be overthrown (Sirach 27: 4). Fear of the Lord is the guardian of Life; without it speedily indeed and suddenly the house thrown down, that is to say, a dwelling place that is of this world.
(c) Avoidance of venial sins, for venial sins are the occasion of mortal sin and often undermine the achievement of good works. St. Augustine says, Thou hast avoided dangers that are great, beware lest thou fall victim to the sand
3. St. Paul offers a reward that is fitting, is generous and is everlasting. For in due time weshall reap not failing. Fitting : in due time, that is, at a fitting time, at the day of judgment when each shall receive what he has accomplished. So the farmer receives the fruit of his sowing, not immediately but in due time, The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth; patiently bearing till he receive the early and the latter rain (James 5: 7). Generous: We shall reap ; here it is the copiousness of the reward that is indicated. With the harvest and reaping we associate abundance, He who soweth in blessings, shall also reap blessings (2 Cor.9: 6). Your reward is very great in heaven (Matt, 5: 12) Everlasting : We shall reap, not failing. We ought then to do good not for an hour merely, but always and continually. In doing good let us not fail, that is to say, let us not fail in working, forwe shall not fail in reaping. Whatsoever thy hand is able to do, do it earnestly (Sirach 9: 10). Andright it is not to fail in working, for the reward to which we are looking is everlasting and unfailing.

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations for Lent #2

Going out about the third hour, he saw others standing in the market-place idle. And he said to them: Go you also into my vineyard and I will give you what shall be just. Matthew 20:3.
In these words we may notice four things:
3. The necessity of working in the vineyard of the Lord. Go you also into my vineyard. The vineyard into which the men are sent to work is the life of goodness, in which there are as many trees as there are virtues. We are to work in this vineyard in five ways : Planting in it good works and virtues ; rooting up and destroying the thorns, that is, our vices ; cutting down the superfluous branches, Every branch in me, that beareth fruit, he will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit (John xv. 2) ; keeping off the little foxes, that is, the devils ; and guarding it from the thieves, that is, keeping ourselves indifferent to the praise and the blame of mankind.
4. The usefulness of labour. The wage of those who labour in the vineyard is a penny that outvalues thousands of silver crowns. And this is what we are told in Holy Scripture, The peaceable had a vineyard, every man bringeth for the fruit thereof a thousandpieces of silver (Cant. viii. 1 1). The thousand crowns are the thousand joys of eternity, and these are signified by the penny.

St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations for Lent

Going out about the third hour, he saw others standing in the market-place idle. And he said to them: Go you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what shall be just. Matthew 20:3
In these words we may notice four things:
1. The goodness of the Lord, going out, that is, for his people s salvation. For that Christ should go out to lead men into the vineyard of justice was indeed an act of infinite goodness. Our Lord is five times said to have gone out. He went out in the beginning of the world, as a sower, to sow his creatures, The sower went out to sow his seed. Then in his nativity to enlighten the world, Until her just one come forth as brightness (Isaiah 42:1). In his Passion to save his own from the power of the devil and from all evil, My just one is near at hand, my savior is gone forth (Isa. li. 5). He goes out like the father of a family, caring for his children and his goods. The kingdom of heaven is like to an householder\ who went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard (Matt. xx. i.). Finally he goes out to judgment, to make most strict enquiry after the wicked, like some overseer, to beat down rebels, like some mighty fighter, and, like a judge, to punish as they merit, criminals and malefactors.
2. The foolishness of men. For nothing is more foolish than that in this present life, where men ought so to work that they may live eternally, men should live in idleness. He found them in the market place idle. That market-place is this, our present life. For it is in the market-place that men quarrel and buy and sell and so the market-places stands for our life of every day, full of affairs, of buying and selling and in which also the prospects of grace and heavenly glory are sold in exchange for good works. These laborers were called idle because they had already let slip a part of their life. And not evil-doers alone are called idle but also those who do not do good. And as the idle never attain their end, so will it be with these. The end of man is life eternal. He therefore who works in the proper way will possess that life if he is not an idler. It is great folly to live in idleness in this life; because from idleness, as from an evil teacher, we learn evil knowledge; because through idleness we come to lose the good that lasts forever; because through the short idleness of this life we incur a labor that is eternal.