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One of our readers asked a question about the commentary two weeks ago that should be answered: You wrote . . . : “Adam, as head of the human race, chose to reject God knowing it would be the cause of death spiritually and physically for himself and all posterity.” I can’t recall any other writings that say Adam knew the effect of his sin would pass to all his posterity, and for my own information I’m just wondering if you can provide me with a reference source. Thank you!
In response, first God gave a clear command to Adam: And the Lord God took man, and put him into the paradise of pleasure, to dress it, and to keep it. And he commanded him, saying: Of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat: But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death. (Genesis 2:16-17) As Saint Paul gives testimony, Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned. (Rom. 5:12)
God created Adam and Eve as mature adults, not dependent on any other. They would, according to common sense and God’s providence, have been infused with the knowledge needed to live a happy life, as well as the knowledge of their supernatural end. That knowledge is expressed in the words of Scripture: And the Lord God having formed out of the ground all the beasts of the earth, and all the fowls of the air, brought them to Adam to see what he would call them: for whatsoever Adam called any living creature the same is its name. And Adam called all the beasts by their names, and all the fowls of the air, and all the cattle of the field. (Gen. 2:19-20)
He is to dress and keep the garden, which involves a deep understanding of the natural world and he begins by naming the creatures God has created. Again, when God presented Adam with the woman, Adam is able to express the perfect understanding of her relationship with him: And Adam said: This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh. (ibid. 2:23-24) The words of Ecclesiasticus apply here: He created of him a helpmate like to himself: he gave them counsel, and a tongue, and eyes, and ears, and a heart to devise: and he filled them with the knowledge of understanding. He created in them the science of the spirit, he filled their heart with wisdom, and shewed them both good and evil. He set his eye upon their hearts to shew them the greatness of his works: That they might praise the name which he hath sanctified: and glory in his wondrous acts, that they might declare the glorious things of his works. Moreover he gave them instructions, and the law of life for an inheritance. (17:5-9)
According to St. Cyril of Alexandria, Adam, the head of the race, was perfect in knowledge immediately from the first moment of his emergence (In loan. 1, 9). St. Thomas, in his dialectical method states: Now no one can instruct others unless he has knowledge, and so the first man was established by God in such a manner as to have knowledge of all those things for which man has a natural aptitude. And such are whatever are virtually contained in the first self-evident principles, that is, whatever truths man is naturally able to know. Moreover, in order to direct his own life and that of others, man needs to know not only those things which can be naturally known, but also things surpassing natural knowledge; because the life of man is directed to a supernatural end: just as it is necessary for us to know the truths of faith in order to direct our own lives. Wherefore the first man was endowed with such a knowledge of these supernatural truths as was necessary for the direction of human life in that state. But those things which cannot be known by merely human effort, and which are not necessary for the direction of human life, were not known by the first man; such as the thoughts of men, future contingent events, and some individual facts, as for instance the number of pebbles in a stream; and the like. (S. th. I 94, 3.)
Though the modern mind might want to think itself wiser and more knowledgeable than our first father, it would be the same claim as any child who thinks himself smarter than one’s father, acting foolish. God is just and cannot punish one for what one is not culpable. God did not take anything away from humanity except His gifts; and in leaving mankind to one’s own nature mankind would understand that humanity is dependent upon God: Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man, speaking by the Spirit of God, saith Anathema to Jesus. And no man can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost. (1 Cor. 12:3) for every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration. (James 1:17)
As always, enjoy the readings and commentaries provided for your benefit. —The Editor
WHAT IS THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION?
by Rev. Courtney Edward Krier
Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Sacrament of Confirmation
Saint Thomas is living at a time when everyone generally received this Sacrament and there appear some who would want to deny the Sacrament of Confirmation to the general populace. Therefore, providentially, this question arises in Article 8: Whether this sacrament should be given to all? Those set out to be denied the Sacrament are the poor, the children, the women and the dying as seen in the following objections:
Objection 1. It seems that this sacrament should not be given to all. For this sacrament is given in order to confer a certain excellence, as stated above (Article 11, Reply to Objection 2). But all are not suited for that which belongs to excellence. Therefore this sacrament should not be given to all.
Objection 2. Further, by this sacrament man advances spiritually to perfect age. But perfect age is inconsistent with childhood. Therefore at least it should not be given to children.
Objection 3. Further, as Pope Melchiades says (Ep. ad Episc. Hispan.) “after Baptism we are strengthened for the combat.” But women are incompetent to combat, by reason of the frailty of their sex. Therefore neither should women receive this sacrament.
Objection 4. Further, Pope Melchiades says (Ep. ad Episc. Hispan.): “Although the benefit of Regeneration suffices for those who are on the point of death, yet the graces of Confirmation are necessary for those who are to conquer. Confirmation arms and strengthens those to whom the struggles and combats of this world are reserved. And he who comes to die, having kept unsullied the innocence he acquired in Baptism, is confirmed by death; for after death he can sin no more.” Therefore this sacrament should not be given to those who are on the point of death: and so it should not be given to all.
The twist is that Pope Melchiades, who had been quoted in supporting Confirmation in previous articles, is now taken to limit Confirmation. Here, then, Saint Thomas turns to Scripture—not in the sense that Scripture supersedes Papal teaching (infallibility demonstrates there can be no contradiction), but that Church teaching must be understood in light of Scripture and Scripture in light of Church teaching. Saint Thomas occasionally takes the objections drawn from writings of Saint Augustine and then points to Saint Augustine teaching otherwise knowing that the whole must be read, not just a part. Here is the response of the Doctor:
On the contrary, It is written (Acts 2:2) that the Holy Ghost in coming, “filled the whole house,” whereby the Church is signified; and afterwards it is added that “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” But this sacrament is given that we may receive that fulness. Therefore it should be given to all who belong to the Church.
I answer that, As stated above (Article 1), man is spiritually advanced by this sacrament to perfect age. Now the intention of nature is that everyone born corporally, should come to perfect age: yet this is sometimes hindered by reason of the corruptibility of the body, which is forestalled by death. But much more is it God’s intention to bring all things to perfection, since nature shares in this intention inasmuch as it reflects Him: hence it is written (Deuteronomy 32:4): “The works of God are perfect.” Now the soul, to which spiritual birth and perfect spiritual age belong, is immortal; and just as it can in old age attain to spiritual birth, so can it attain to perfect (spiritual) age in youth or childhood; because the various ages of the body do not affect the soul. Therefore this sacrament should be given to all.
Reply to Objection 1. This sacrament is given in order to confer a certain excellence, not indeed, like the sacrament of order, of one man over another, but of man in regard to himself: thus the same man, when arrived at maturity, excels himself as he was when a boy.
Reply to Objection 2. As stated above, the age of the body does not affect the soul. Consequently even in childhood man can attain to the perfection of spiritual age, of which it is written (Wisdom 4:8): “Venerable old age is not that of long time, nor counted by the number of years.” And hence it is that many children, by reason of the strength of the Holy Ghost which they had received, fought bravely for Christ even to the shedding of their blood.
Reply to Objection 3. As Chrysostom says (Hom. i De Machab.), “in earthly contests fitness of age, physique and rank are required; and consequently slaves, women, old men, and boys are debarred from taking part therein. But in the heavenly combats, the Stadium is open equally to all, to every age, and to either sex.” Again, he says (Hom. de Militia Spirit.): “In God’s eyes even women fight, for many a woman has waged the spiritual warfare with the courage of a man. For some have rivaled men in the courage with which they have suffered martyrdom; and some indeed have shown themselves stronger than men.” Therefore this sacrament should be given to women.
Reply to Objection 4. As we have already observed, the soul, to which spiritual age belongs, is immortal. Wherefore this sacrament should be given to those on the point of death, that they may be seen to be perfect at the resurrection, according to Ephesians 4:13: “Until we all meet into the unity of faith . . . unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ.” And hence Hugh of St. Victor says (De Sacram. ii), “It would be altogether hazardous, if anyone happened to go forth from this life without being confirmed”: not that such a one would be lost, except perhaps through contempt; but that this would be detrimental to his perfection. And therefore even children dying after Confirmation obtain greater glory, just as here below they receive more grace. The passage quoted is to be taken in the sense that, with regard to the dangers of the present combat, those who are on the point of death do not need this sacrament.
These points are excellent, because it is not the body that is saved, but the soul. It is not a perfection of the body, but the soul. Equality lies in the soul that only becomes distinguished by the good or bad a person accomplishes: There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28; cf. Rom. 10:12 and Col. 3:11)
To understand the following argument, one must remember that in the Greek Church various parts of the body are anointed as in the Sacrament of Extreme Unction: on his forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, ears, chest, hands and feet. In the Roman Rite of Confirmation, the anointing is only administered on the forehead. Therefore, Article 9. asks: Whether this sacrament should be given to man on the forehead? It is not a rejection of the Oriental Rite, for which they have their apostolic tradition.
Objection 1. It seems that this sacrament should not be given to man on the forehead. For this sacrament perfects Baptism, as stated above (III:65:3-4). But the sacrament of Baptism is given to man over his whole body. Therefore this sacrament should not be given on the forehead only.
Objection 2. Further, this sacrament is given for spiritual strength, as stated above (Article 1-Article 2-Article 4). But spiritual strength is situated principally in the heart. Therefore this sacrament should be given over the heart rather than on the forehead.
Objection 3. Further, this sacrament is given to man that he may freely confess the faith of Christ. But “with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation,” according to Romans 10:10. Therefore this sacrament should be given about the mouth rather than on the forehead.
Saint Thomas Aquinas presents, as a response, the apostolic tradition in the administration of the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Roman Church and the understanding that has been attached:
On the contrary, Rabanus says (De Instit. Cleric. i): “The baptized is signed by the priest with chrism on the top of the head, but by the bishop on the forehead.”
I answer that, As stated above (Art. 1 and 4), in this sacrament man receives the Holy Ghost for strength in the spiritual combat, that he may bravely confess the Faith of Christ even in face of the enemies of that Faith. Wherefore he is fittingly signed with the sign of the cross on the forehead, with chrism, for two reasons. First, because he is signed with the sign of the cross, as a soldier with the sign of his leader, which should be evident and manifest. Now, the forehead, which is hardly ever covered, is the most conspicuous part of the human body. Wherefore the confirmed is anointed with chrism on the forehead, that he may show publicly that he is a Christian: thus too the apostles after receiving the Holy Ghost showed themselves in public, whereas before they remained hidden in the upper room.
Secondly, because man is hindered from freely confessing Christ’s name, by two things—by fear and by shame. Now both these things betray themselves principally on the forehead on account of the proximity of the imagination, and because the (vital) spirits mount directly from the heart to the forehead: hence “those who are ashamed, blush, and those who are afraid, pale” (Ethic. iv). And therefore man is signed with chrism, that neither fear nor shame may hinder him from confessing the name of Christ.
Though this passage in Ezechiel, Go through the midst of the city and mark Thau upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and mourn for all the abominations that are committed in the midst thereof. . . but upon whomsoever thou shalt see Thau, kill him not (9:14ff), is generally applied to the baptized, it may also reflect on the confirmed, because they are signed on the forehead with Chrism in the form of a cross; the baptized are signed with the thumb in the form of a cross. Why it applies to the baptized is because the reflection is upon the Hebrews in Egypt where the blood of the sacrificed lamb was sprinkled on the doorposts and the blood shall be unto you for a sign in the houses where you shall be: and I shall see the blood, and shall pass over you: and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I shall strike the land of Egypt. (Exod. 12:13) The replies to the objections are:
- By baptism we are regenerated unto spiritual life, which belongs to the whole man. But in Confirmation we are strengthened for the combat; the sign of which should be borne on the forehead, as in a conspicuous place.
- The principle of fortitude is in the heart, but its sign appears on the forehead: wherefore it is written (Ezekiel 3:8): “Behold I have made . . . thy forehead harder than their foreheads.” Hence the sacrament of the Eucharist, whereby man is confirmed in himself, belongs to the heart, according to Psalm 103:15: “That bread may strengthen man’s heart.” But the sacrament of Confirmation is required as a sign of fortitude against others; and for this reason it is given on the forehead.
- This sacrament is given that we may confess freely: but not that we may confess simply, for this is also the effect of Baptism. And therefore it should not be given on the mouth, but on the forehead, where appear the signs of those passions which hinder free confession.(To be continued)
Dr. Pius Parsch
The Church’s Year of Grace (1959)
TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
A tax-gatherer in the Temple of God!
The spirit of the liturgy last Sunday was grave, serious, sobering; the gateway to hell was opened a trifle and we were permitted to glance in through the slit. We saw the tears in the eyes of our Savior as He beheld Jerusalem and the sinful souls of men. Today, however, Mother Church shows us consolingly how God floods man’s sinful soul with divine grace if he but returns, humble and penitent. Humility is the liturgy’s principal lesson; humility, the signpost infallibly pointing the way to the kingdom of God. It may help to bring this fundamental virtue of Christian life more strikingly home to your heart if you turn the parable into a paradox: “A proud saint is a devil, a humble sinner is a saint.”
- Text Analysis. The present Sunday and the previous are in some ways related (as also the 7th and 8th). Numerical order is followed in regard to the Introit psalms (53 and 54); and the tenor is penitential. Does today’s Mass liturgy show unity in theme? Well, if the Gospel is taken as the mean of comparison, then the Collect and the Communion may be related to it. God is showing His mighty power through mercy and forgiveness (Coll.); He forgives and justifies the humble; accordingly we approach the Communion table in the spirit of penance (Ps. 50). However, it is only between these three texts that this relationship exists. The Alleluia takes us to the scene of the parable, Sion—Jerusalem. The remaining texts are quite general in thought content. It is rather difficult to fit the Epistle into the ensemble because its theme is foreign to all the other texts.
- Holy Mass (Cum clamarem).Our participation in the Mass will become easier and more fruitful if we put the Gospel parable in the center of things and clothe ourselves with the spirit of the tax-gatherer before we set out for church. Three times we will “go up to the temple to pray,” taking the role of the publican. The first time is at the beginning of the day’s liturgy. Conscious of our poverty and our sinfulness, we make our way to church. We bring nothing worthwhile, nothing except the conviction that of ourselves we are nothing. As expressions of our condition the texts of the Foremass serve well, with some exceptions; for they are the prayers of a humble soul. At the very entrance we “cast all our cares upon the Lord” and from Him await help and nourishment. At theKyrie we humbly call: Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. The same spirit continues in the Collect; God manifests His omnipotence best by forgiving and showing pity—it is the publican’s prayer in classic Latin phraseology. Perhaps even the Epistle, which seems so alien both to our way of thinking and to today’s Mass formulary, may offer some points, e.g., the Holy Spirit will enter only the humble soul, for He seeks vessels empty of all selfish leanings. It may well be that present-day Christians experience so rarely the special charisms of the Spirit simply because they rely too much upon their own abilities and love humility too little. Humbly, then, join your voice to that of the Church as she pleads: “Protect me as the apple of Your eye, O Lord. Hide me under the shadow of Your wings.” It is the still, small voice of the tax-gatherer praying within me.
Now it is time for the wonderful Gospel parable and its ringing climax: “He who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” It is a parable unique not merely for its fine artistry but primarily for a theology inexhaustibly profound. The parable is a resume of the whole story of God’s dealing with men, and it also unveils the story of my soul. On the great stage of history it reveals why Gentiles and sinners were called to grace and salvation, while the Jews, self-righteous and proud, fell from divine favor. As generations pass, the parable repeats itself in the life of each individual. To us it should bring home the lesson that the key to any supernatural progress is humility. What is humility but the revelation of God in Jesus Christ? This sublime virtue came to earth in the person of the God-Man; in it everything that is good and great and holy has its origin—all that pertains to the work of redemption.
With the Offertory there takes place the publican’s second “going up to the temple.” Self-surrender, the soul of any offering made to God, presupposes the virtues of humility and holy trust. Today’s Offertory antiphon (from Ps. 24- familiar to us from the first Sunday of Advent) is the prayer of a soul heroically humble and fully reliant upon God. It would be helpful to have read and studied the entire psalm beforehand. The gifts we bring, the Secret reminds us, were first given to us – a further reason for being humble. They were ordained for God’s honor and for our salvation. This, in fact, is the liturgy’s whole raison d’etre, i.e., God’s honor and man’s salvation.
A third time we publicans approach the altar, to eat at the table of the Lord. As we draw close there rises from humble hearts the touching penitential psalm (50). It is the final act to the drama of the parable. The publican within me prays: “O Lord, I am not worthy that You should come into my presence.”
And while the Miserere rises from trusting hearts, the humble publican receives the pledge of his justification. It remains only for the priest to announce the lte, missa est before he may leave the temple and “go down to his house justified.” The more humble and destitute and meek of heart I came to church, the greater will be the gifts of grace with which I depart.
- Divine Office.The two greater antiphons bring to mind the Christian ideal exemplified in the humble publican. “The publican, however, stood afar off and would not so much as lift up his eyes toward heaven; he kept striking his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me the sinner” (Ben. Ant.). “This man returned to his house justified rather than the other, because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Magn. Ant.). In imitation of the publican we will pass this day, this whole week, deepening our spirit of humility.
The parable is commented upon by St. Augustine: “The Pharisee could at least have said: I am not as many men. What does as the rest of men mean, other than everyone except himself? I, he says, am just, all the rest are sinners. I am not as the rest of men, unjust, extortioners, adulterers. And at that very moment you take occasion for greater pride from your neighbor, the publican. As that publican, he says. I am unique, he thinks in his heart; he belongs to the crowd. I am not such as he is, for through my righteous acts I have proven that I am not unrighteous.
“I fast twice a week, I pay tithes on all that I possess. Try to find in his talk something he requests from God; you will discover nothing. He went up to pray? Certainly not to ask God for help but to praise himself. Not to petition God would not have been so bad, but to praise himself and moreover to mock another who did! But the publican stood afar off. It was he, nevertheless, who was really coming close to God. The voice of conscience kept him at a distance, while his piety urged him on. The publican stood afar off, but the Lord considered him very near. For the Lord is enthroned on high but looks kindly upon the lowly. The highbrows such as that Pharisee, He recognizes from afar. Yes, God knows such from afar, but He does not pardon them.
“Note now the publican’s humility. Is it a negligible point that he stood afar off? Or that he did not lift up his eyes to heaven? He did not look so that he could be looked upon. He did not dare to gaze upwards; although his conscience pressed him down, hope buoyed him up. Read further. He kept striking his breast. He would punish himself, and therefore the Lord took pity on him. He kept striking his breast, saying: Lord, have mercy on me the sinner. Now you see who it is that prays. Why are you surprised when God forgives after he confesses?”
- Meditation upon theSundayLiturgy. A. The Humble Soul. On past Sundays the Church etched life in the kingdom of God in contrast-pictures. We easily recall how slaves of sin were contrasted with the servants of God, how the man of the spirit stood counter to the men of the flesh, how the good tree differed from the bad tree, how the children of light contradicted the children of the world. A similar contrast occurs today in the true-to-life parable of the humble tax-gatherer and the proud Pharisee. Certain it is that Mother Church does not propose that we choose between them. No, we have already decided for Christ in baptism.
But if we look deeper into our hearts, we find enthroned there two principles, a lower one seeking to debase us and a higher one aspiring toward God, a pagan soul and a Christian soul, and each contends for mastery. Life’s task is to triumph more and more over the pagan soul and to aid the Christian soul in realizing full and sole command. Focusing her light upon the inmost depths of our being, the Church reveals the little, humble, publican-soul within us, as also the proud, arrogant Pharisee-soul. And she unites herself with the former and leads it to the house of God. Let us study these two souls more minutely.
The lower soul is by nature autocratic, arrogant, rebellious, ever striving to be her own god. She has inherited pride as a sad legacy from Adam and Eve; they received it from Lucifer, who cried to God: “I will not serve. I will elevate my throne over the throne of the Most High.” To our first parents Satan whispered: “You will be like God, knowing good and evil!” Pride is the mask of Satan’s kingdom. In due time Christ, the second Adam, came to earth in the garb of humility. His work of redemption was one great act of humility. How beautifully St. Paul put it: “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant … becoming obedient unto death, even to death on a Cross” (Phil. 2:7-8). In words first uttered by Mary, the Mother of God, holy Church daily at Vespers voices her gratitude for this basic virtue in her repertoire: “He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly” (Magn.).
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