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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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"Thou shalt not have strange gods before Me." As we have already said, the

First Commandment forbids us to worship other than the one God. We shall

now consider five reasons for this.


God's Dignity. - The first reason is the dignity of God which, were it

belittled-in any way, would be an injury to God. We see something similar

to this in the customs of men. Reverence is due to every degree of dignity.

Thus, a traitor to the king is he who robs him of what he ought to

maintain. Such, too, is the conduct of some towards God: "They changed the

glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a

corruptible man."14 This is highly displeasing to God: "I will not give My

glory to another, nor My praise to graven things."15 For it must be known

that the dignity of God consists in His omniscience, since the name of God,

Deus, is from "seeing," and this is one of the signs of divinity: "Show the

things that are to come hereafter, and we shall know that ye are gods."16

"All things are naked and open to His eyes."17 But this dignity of God is

denied Him by practitioners of divination, and of them it is said: "Should

not the people seek of their God, for the living and the dead?"18


God's Bounty. - We receive every good from God; and this also is of the

dignity of God, that He is the maker and giver of all good things: "When

Thou openest Thy hand, they shall all be filled with good."19 And this is

implied in the name of God, namely, Deus, which is said to be distributor,

that is, "dator" of all things, because He fills all things with His

goodness. You are, indeed, ungrateful if you do not appreciate what you

have received from Him, and, furthermore, you make for yourself another

god; just as the sons of Israel made an idol after they had been brought

out of Egypt: "I will go after my lovers."20 One does this also when one

puts too much trust in someone other than God, and this occurs when one

seeks help from another: "Blessed is the man whose hope is in the name of

the Lord."21 Thus, the Apostle says: "Now that you have known God . . . how

turn you again to the weak and needy elements? . . . You observe days and

months and times and years."22


The Strength of Our Promise. - The third reason is taken from our solemn

promise. For we have renounced the devil, and we have promised fidelity to

God alone. This is a promise which we cannot break: "A man making void the

law of Moses dieth without mercy under two or three witnesses. How much

more think ye he deserveth punishment who hath trodden under foot the Son

of God, and hath esteemed the blood of the testament unclean, by which he

was sanctified, and hath offered an affront to the Spirit of grace!"23

"Whilst her husband liveth, she shall be called an adulteress, if she be

with another man."24 Woe, then, to the sinner who enters the land by two

ways, and who "halts between two sides."25


Against Service of the Devil. - The fourth reason is because of the great

burden imposed by service to the devil: "You shall serve strange gods day

and night, who will give you no rest."26 The devil is not satisfied with

leading to one sin, but tries to lead on to others: "Whosoever sins shall

be a slave of sin."27 It is, therefore, not easy for one to escape from the

habit of sin. Thus, St. Gregory says: "The sin which is not remitted by

penance soon draws man into another sin."28 The very opposite of all this

is true of service to God; for His Commandments are not a heavy burden: "My

yoke is sweet and My burden light."29 A person is considered to have done

enough if he does for God as much as what he has done for the sake of sin:

"For as you have yielded your members to serve uncleanness and iniquity,

unto iniquity; so now yield your members to serve justice unto

sanctification."30 But on the contrary, it is written of those who serve

the devil: "We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity and destruction,

and have walked through hard ways."31 And again: "They have labored to

commit iniquity."32


Greatness of the Reward. - The fifth reason is taken from the greatness of

the reward or prize. In no law are such rewards promised as in the law of

Christ. Rivers flowing with milk and honey are promised to the Mohammedans,

to the Jews the land of promise, but to Christians the glory of the Angels:

"They shall be as the Angels of God in heaven."33 It was with this in mind

that St. Peter asked: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of

eternal life."34






14. Rom., i. 23.


15. Isa., xlii. 8.


16. "Ibid.," xli. 23.


17. Heb., iv. 13.


18. Isa., viii. 19.


19. Ps. ciii. 28.


20. Osee, ii. 5.


21. Ps. xxxix. 5.


22. Gal., iv. 9, 10.


23. Heb., x. 28-29.


24. Rom., vii. 3.


25. III Kings, xviii. 21.



26. Jerem., xvi. 13.


27. John, viii.


28. "Super Ezech.," xi.


29. Matt., xi. 30.


30. Rom., vi. 19.


31. Wis., v. 7.


32. Jerem., ix. 5.


33. Matt., xxii, 30.


34. John, vi. 69. "The faithful should continually remember these words, 'I

am the Lord thy God.' They will learn from these words that their Lawgiver

is none other than their Creator, by whom they were made and are preserved.

. . . 'Who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of

bondage' appear at first to relate solely to the Jews liberated from the

bondage of Egypt. But if we ponder on the meaning of the salvation of the

entire human race, these words will be seen to apply still more

specifically to all Christians who are liberated by God, not from the

bondage ot Egypt, but from the bondage of sin and 'the powers of darkness,

and are translated into the kingdom of His beloved Son' (Col., i. 13). . .

. And when it is said, 'Thou shalt not have strange gods before Me,' it is

the same as to say: 'Thou shalt worship Me who am the true God, thou shalt

not worship strange gods.' . . . It should be accurately taught that the

veneration and invocation of the Angels, of the Saints, and of the blessed

souls who enjoy the glory of heaven - and, moreover, the honor which the

Catholic Church has always paid even to the bodies and ashes of the Saints-

-are not forbidden by this Commandment" ("Roman Catechism," "First

Commandment," 1, 2, 5, 8).

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