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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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  • SECOND COMMANDMENT: "Thou Shalt Not Take the Name of the Lord Thy God in
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"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." However, the

name of God may be taken for six purposes. First, to confirm something that

is said, as in an oath. In this we show God alone is the first Truth, and

also we show due reverence to God. For this reason it was commanded in the

Old Law that one must not swear except by God.20 They who swore otherwise

violated this order: "By the name of strange gods you shall not swear."21

Although at times one swears by creatures, nevertheless, it must be known

that such is the same as swearing by God. When you swear by your soul or

your head, it is as if you bind yourself to be punished by God. Thus: "But

I call God to witness upon my soul."22 And when you swear by the Gospel,

you swear by God who gave the Gospel. But they sin who swear either by God

or by the Gospel for any trivial reason.


The second purpose is that of sanctification. Thus, Baptism sanctifies, for

as St. Paul says: "But you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are

justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of God."23

Baptism, however, does not have power except through the invocation of the

Trinity: "But Thou, O Lord, art among us, and Thy name is called upon by



The third purpose is the expulsion of our adversary; hence, before Baptism

we renounce the devil: "Only let Thy name be called upon us; take away our

reproach.25 Wherefore, if one return to his sins, the name of God has been

taken in vain.


Fourthly, God's name is taken in order to confess it: "How then shall they

call on Him, in whom they have not believed?"26 And again: "Whosoever shall

call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved."27 First of all, we confess

by word of mouth that we may show forth the glory of God: "And every one

that calleth upon My name, I have created him for My glory."28 Accordingly,

if one says anything against the glory of God, he takes the name of God in

vain. Secondly, we confess God's name by our works, when our very actions

show forth God's glory: "That they may see your good works, and may glorify

your Father who is in heaven."29 "Through you the name of God is blasphemed

among the Gentiles."30


Fifthly it is taken for our defense: "The name of the Lord is a strong

tower; the just runneth to it and shall be exalted."31 "In My name they

shall cast out devils."32 "There is no other name under heaven given to

men, whereby we must be saved.33


Lastly, it is taken in order to make our works complete. Thus says the

Apostle: "All whatsoever you do in word or work, do all in the name of the

Lord Jesus Christ."34 The reason is because "our help is in the name of the

Lord."35 Sometimes it happens that one begins a work imprudently by

starting with a vow, for instance, and then not completing either the work

or the vow. And this again is taking God's name in vain. "If thou hast

vowed anything to God, defer not to pay it."36 "Vow and pay to the Lord

your God; all ye that are round about Him bring presents."37 "For an

unfaithful and foolish promise displeaseth Him."38






20. Deut., vi. 13.


21. Exod., xxiii. 13.


22. Cor., i. 23.


23. I Cor., vi. 11.


24. Jerem., xiv. 9.


25. Isa., iv. 1.


26. Rom., x. 14.


27. "Ibid.," 13.


28. Isa., xliii. 7.


29. Matt., v. 16.


30. Rom., ii. 24.


31. Prov., xviii. 10.


32. Mark, xvi. 17.


33. Acts, iv. 12.


34. Col., iii. 17.


35. Ps. cxxiii. 8.


36. Eccles., v. 3.


37. Ps. lxxv. 12.


38. Eccles., v. 3.

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