Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas – Tuesday After the Second Sunday

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas

Tuesday After the Second Sunday

The Passion of Christ brought about our salvation
because it was a meritorious act

They shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to be mocked, and scourged and crucified.–Matt. xx. 19.

Grace was given to Christ not only as to a particular person, but also as far as He is the head of the Church, in order that the grace might pass over from Him to His members. And the good works Christ performed, therefore, stand in this same way in relation to Him and to His members, as the good works of any other man in a state of grace stand to himself.

Now it is evident that any man who, in a state of grace, suffers for justice sake, merits for himself, by this very fact alone, salvation. As is said in the gospel, Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice sake (Matt. v. 10). Whence Christ by His Passion merited salvation not only for Himself but for all His members.

Christ, indeed, from the very instant of His conception, merited eternal salvation for us. But there still remained certain obstacles on our part, obstacles which kept us from possessing ourselves of the effect of what Christ had merited. Wherefore, in order to remove these obstacles, it behoved Christ to suffer (Luke xxiv. 46).

Now although the love of Christ for us was not increased in the Passion, and was not greater in the Passion than before it, the Passion of Christ had a certain effect which His previous meritorious activity did not have. The Passion produced this effect not on account of any greater love shown thereby, but because it was a kind of action fitted to produce that effect, as is evident from what has been said already on the fitness of the Passion of Christ.

Head and members belong to one and the same person. Now Christ is our head, according to His divinity and to the fullness of Hhis grace which overflows upon others also. We are His members. What Christ then meritoriously acquires is not something external and foreign to us, but, by virtue of the unity of the mystical body, it over flows upon us too (3 Dist. xviii. 6).

We should know, too, that although Christ by His death acquired merit sufficient for the whole human race, there are special things needed for the particular salvation of each individual soul, and these each soul must itself seek out. The death of Christ is, as it were, the cause of all salvation, as the sin of the first man was the cause of all condemnation. But if each individual man is to share in the effect of a universal cause, the universal cause needs to be specially applied to each individual man.

Now the effect of the sin of the first parents is transmitted to each individual through his bodily origin (i.e., through his being a bodily descendant of the first man). The effect of the death of Christ is transmitted to each man through a spiritual rebirth, a re-birth in which man is, as it were, conjoined with Christ and incorporated with Him.

Therefore it is that each individual must seek to be born again through Christ, and to receive those other things in which works the power of the death of Christ. 

Saint Cunegundes

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Saint Cunegundes

Empress
(† 1040)

Saint Cunegundes was the daughter of Sigefried, the first Count of Luxemburg, and Hadeswige, his pious wife. From her cradle her virtuous parents instilled into their daughter the most tender sentiments of piety. When she was of an age to marry, they chose for her spouse Saint Henry, Duke of Bavaria, who at the death of the Emperor Otto III was named King of the Romans and crowned on the 6th of June, 1002. Queen Cunegundes was crowned at Paderborn on Saint Laurence’s day.

In the year 1014 she went with her husband to Rome and received the imperial crown with him from the hands of Pope Benedict VIII. With Saint Henry’s consent, before their marriage she had made a vow of perpetual virginity. Calumniators afterwards made vile accusations against her, and the holy Empress, to remove the scandal of such a slander, trusting in God to prove her innocence, walked over red-hot ploughshares without being hurt. The Emperor renounced and condemned his own too scrupulous fears and credulity, and from that time on they lived in the strictest union of heart, working together to promote piety and God’s honor in every sphere.

Going once to make a retreat in Hesse, Saint Cunegundes fell dangerously ill, and she made a vow to found a monastery at Kaffungen, in the diocese of Paderborn, if she recovered. This she executed in a stately manner, and gave it to nuns of the Order of Saint Benedict. Before it was finished, Saint Henry died in 1024. She earnestly recommended his soul to the prayers of the empire, and especially to her dear nuns, and expressed her longing desire to join the Sisters. She had already exhausted her treasures in founding bishoprics and monasteries and in relieving the poor, and she had therefore little left to give. But intending to embrace perfect evangelical poverty, to renounce all things in order to serve God without obstacle, she assembled a great number of prelates at the dedication of her church of Kaffungen, on the anniversary day of her husband’s death, 1025. After the Gospel was sung at Mass she offered on the altar a relic of the true cross, and then, putting off her imperial robes, clothed herself with a poor habit. Her hair was cut off, and the bishop gave her the veil and a ring as a pledge of her fidelity to her heavenly Spouse.

After she was consecrated to God in religion, she seemed to forget entirely that she had been an empress, and served as the last in the house, being persuaded that she was such, before God. She prayed and read a great deal, worked with her hands, and took singular pleasure in visiting and comforting the sick. In this way she passed the last fifteen years of her life.

When her last hour was drawing near, perceiving that they were preparing a cloth fringed with gold to cover her corpse after her death, she ordered it to be taken away; and she could not rest until the promise was given that she would be buried as a poor religious in her habit. She died on the 3rd of March, 1040. Her body was carried to Bamberg and buried near that of her husband. She was solemnly canonized by Innocent III, in 1200.

Reflection. Detachment of the spirit at least, is necessary for those who cannot undertake to enter religion. Every one of you, says Jesus Christ, who does not renounce all that he possesses, cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:33)

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).