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

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas

Thursday After the Second Sunday

That the Passion of Christ brought about its effect
because it was a Sacrifice

A sacrifice properly so called is something done to render God the honour specially due to Him, in order to appease Him. St. Augustine teaches this, saying, “Every work done in order that we may, in a holy union, cleave to God is a true sacrifice every work, that is to say, related to that final good whose possession alone can make us truly happy.” Christ in the Passion offered Himself for us, and it was just this circumstance that He offered Himself willingly which was to God the most precious thing of all, since the willingness came from the greatest possible love. Whence it is evident that the Passion of Christ was a real sacrifice.

And as He Himself adds later. The former sacrifices of the saints were so many signs, of different kinds, of this one true sacrifice. This one thing was signified through many things, as one thing is said through many words, so that it may be repeated often without beginning to weary people.

St. Augustine speaks of four things being found in every sacrifice, namely a person to whom the offering is made, one by whom it is made, the thing offered and those on whose behalf it is offered. These are all found in the Passion of Our Lord. It is the same person, the only, true mediator Himself, who through the sacrifice of peace reconciles us to God, yet remains one with Him to whom He offers, who makes one with Him those for whom He offers, and is Himself one who both offers and is offered.

It is true that in those sacrifices of the old law which were types of Christ, human flesh was never offered, but it does not follow from this that the Passion of Christ was not a sacrifice. For although the reality and the thing that typifies it must coincide in one point, it is not necessary that they coincide in every point, for the reality must go beyond the thing that typifies it. It was then very fitting that the sacrifice in which the flesh of Christ is offered for us was typified by a sacrifice not of the flesh of man but of other animals, to foreshadow the flesh of Christ which is the most perfect sacrifice of all. It is the most perfect sacrifice of all.

(i) Because since it is the flesh of human nature that is offered, it is a thing fittingly offered for men and fittingly received by men in a sacrament.

(ii) Because, since the flesh of Christ was able to suffer and to die it was suitable for immolation. (iii) Because since that flesh was itself without sin, it had a power to cleanse from sin.

(iv) Because being the flesh of the very offerer, it was acceptable to God by reason of the unspeakable love of the one who was offering his own flesh.

Whence St. Augustine says, “What is there more suitably received by men, of offerings made on their behalf, than human flesh, and what is so suitable for immolation as mortal flesh? And what is so clean for cleansing mortal viciousness as that flesh born, without stain of carnal desire, in the womb and of the womb of a virgin? And what can be so graciously offered and received as the flesh of our sacrifice, the body so produced of our priest?”

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

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday After the Second Sunday

The Passion of Christ brought about our salvation
because it was an act of satisfaction

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for those of the whole world.–I John ii. 2.

Satisfaction for offences committed is truly made when there is offered to the person offended a thing which he loves as much as, or more than, he hates the offences committed.

Christ, however, by suffering out of love and out of obedience, offered to God something greater by far than the satisfaction called for by all the sins of all mankind, and this for three reasons. In the first place, there was the greatness of the love which moved Him to suffer. Then there was the worth of the life which He laid down in satisfaction, the life of God and man. Finally, on account of the way in which His Passion involved every part of His being, and of the greatness of the suffering he undertook.

So it is that the Passion of Christ was not merely sufficient but superabundant as a satisfaction for men’s sins. It would seem indeed to be the case that satisfaction should be made by the person who committed the offence. But head and members are as it were one mystical person, and therefore the satisfaction made by Christ avails all the faithful as they are the members of Christ. One man can always make satisfaction for another, so long as the two are one in charity.

2. Although Christ, by His death, made sufficient satisfaction for original sin, it is not unfitting that the penal consequences of original sin should still remain even in those who are made sharers in Christ’s redemption. This has been done fittingly and usefully, so that the penalties remain even though the guilt has been removed.

(i) It has been done so that there might be conformity between the faithful and Christ, as there is conformity between members and head. Just as Christ first of all suffered many pains and came in this way to His glory, so it is only right that His faithful should also first be subjected to sufferings and thence enter into immortality, themselves bearing as it were the livery of the Passion of Christ so as to enjoy a glory somewhat like to His.

(ii) A second reason is that if men coming to Christ were straightway freed from suffering and the necessity of death, only too many would come to Him attracted rather by these temporal advantages than by spiritual things. And this would be altogether contrary to the intention of Christ, who came into this world that He might convert men from a love of temporal advantages and win them to spiritual things.

(iii) Finally, if those who came to Christ were straightway rendered immortal and impassible, this would in a kind of way compel men to receive the faith of Christ, and so the merit of believing would be lessened. 

Saint Casimir

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Saint Casimir

King of Poland
(1458-1483)

Casimir, the second son of Casimir III, King of Poland, was born in 1458. From the custody of a very virtuous mother, Elizabeth of Austria, he passed to the guardianship of a devoted master, the learned and pious John Dugloss. Thus animated from his earliest years by precept and example, his innocence and piety soon ripened into the practice of heroic virtue.

In an atmosphere of luxury and magnificence the young prince fasted, wore a hair shirt, slept upon the bare earth, prayed by night, and watched for the opening of the church doors at dawn. He became so tenderly devoted to the Passion of Our Lord that at Mass he seemed quite rapt out of himself; his charity to the poor and afflicted knew no bounds. His love for our Blessed Lady he expressed in a long and beautiful hymn, familiar to us in English as Daily, Daily, Sing to Mary. At the age of twenty-five, sick with a long illness, he foretold the hour of his death, and chose to die a virgin rather than accept the life and health which the physicians held out to him in the married state.

The miracles wrought by his body after death fill an entire volume. The blind saw, the lame walked, the sick were healed, a dead girl was raised to life. At one time the Saint in glory, seen in the air by his army, led his Catholic countrymen to battle and delivered them by a wondrous victory from the schismatic Russian hosts.

One hundred and twenty-two years after his death Saint Casimir’s tomb in the cathedral church of Vilna was opened, that the holy remains might be transferred to the rich marble chapel where it now lies. The place was damp, and the very vault crumbled away in the hands of the workmen; yet the Saint’s body, wrapped in robes of silk, still intact, was found whole and incorrupt, and emitting a sweet fragrance which filled the church and refreshed all who were present. Under his head was found his hymn to Our Lady, which he had had buried with him.

Reflection. May the meditation of Saint Casimir’s life make us increase in devotion to the most pure Mother of God — a sure means of preserving holy purity in our own soul.

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).