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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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    • THE FIRST COMMANDMENT: "Thou Shalt Not Have Strange Gods Before Me."
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THE FIRST COMMANDMENT: "Thou Shalt Not Have Strange Gods Before Me."


The entire law of Christ depends upon charity. And charity depends on two

precepts, one of which concerns loving God and the other concerns loving

our neighbor.


Now God, in delivering the law to Moses, gave him Ten Commandments written

upon two tablets of stone. Three of these Commandments that were written on

the first tablet referred to the love of God; and the seven Commandments

written on the other tablet related to the love of our neighbor. The whole

law, therefore, is founded on these two precepts.1


The First Commandment which relates to the love of God is: "Thou shalt not

have strange gods." For an understanding of this Commandment, one must know

how of old it was violated. Some worshipped demons. "All the gods of the

Gentiles are devils."2 This is the greatest and most detestable of all

sins. Even now there are many who transgress this Commandment: all such as

practise divinations and fortune-telling. Such things, according to St.

Augustine, cannot be done without some kind of pact with the devil. "I

would not that you should be made partakers with devils."3


Some worshipped the heavenly bodies, believing the stars to be gods: "They

have imagined the sun and the moon to be the gods that rule the world."4

For this reason Moses forbade the Jews to raise their eyes, or adore the

sun and moon and stars: "Keep therefore your souls carefully . . . lest

perhaps lifting up thy eyes to heaven, thou see the sun and the moon, and

all the stars of heaven, and being deceived by error thou adore and serve

them, which the Lord thy God created for the service of all the nations."5

The astrologers sin against this Commandment in that they say that these

bodies are the rulers of souls, when in truth they were made for the use of

man whose sole ruler is God.


Others worshipped the lower elements: "They imagined the fire or the wind

to be gods."6 Into this error also fall those who wrongly use the things of

this earth and love them too much: "Or covetous person (who is a server of



Some men have erred in worshipping their ancestors. This arose from three



(1) From Their Carnal Nature. - "For a father being afflicted with a bitter

grief, made to himself the image of his son who was quickly taken away; and

him who then had died as a man, he began now to worship as a god, and

appointed him rites and sacrifices among his servants."8


(2) Because of Flattery. - Thus being unable to worship certain men in their

presence, they, bowing down, honored them in their absence by making

statues of them and worshipping one for the other: "Whom they had a mind to

honor . . . they made an image . . . that they might honor as present him

that was absent."9 Of such also are those men who love and honor other men

more than God: "He that loveth his father and mother more than Me, is not

worthy of Me."10 "Put your trust not in princes; in the children of man, in

whom there is no salvation."11


(3) From Presumption. - Some because of their presumption made themselves be

called gods; such, for example, was Nabuchodonosor (Judith, iii. 13). "Thy

heart is lifted up and thou hast said: I am God."12 Such are also those who

believe more in their own pleasures than in the precepts of God. They

worship themselves as gods, for by seeking the pleasures of the flesh, they

worship their own bodies instead of God: "Their god is their belly."13 We

must, therefore, avoid all these things.


1. "The Decalogue is the summary and epitome of the entire law of God," is

the opinion of St. Augustine (Quest. cxl super Exod., lib. ii). "Although

the Lord had spoken many things, yet He gave only two tablets of stone to

Moses. . . . If carefully examined and well understood, it will be found

that on them depend whatever else is commanded by God. Again, these ten

commandments are reducible to two, the love of God and our neighbor, on

which 'depend the whole law and the prophets' " ("Roman Catechism," "The

Decalogue," Chapter I, 1).


2. Ps. xcv. 5


3. I Cor., x. 20.


4. Wis., xiii. 2.


5. Deut., iv. 15, 19.


6. Wis., xiii. 2.


7. Eph., v. 5.


8. Wis., xiv. 15.


9. "Ibid.," 17.


10. Matt., x. 37.


11. Ps. cxlv. 3.


12. Ezech., xxviii. 2.


13. Phil., iii. 19.


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