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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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  • THE THIRD COMMANDMENT: "Remember that You Keep Holy the Sabbath Day."
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"Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day." We have already said that

man must keep the feast days holy; and that "holy" is considered in two

ways, namely, "pure" and "consecrated to God." Moreover, we have indicated

what things we should abstain from on these days. Now it must be shown with

what we should occupy ourselves, and they are three in number.


The Offering of Sacrifice. - The first is the offering of sacrifices.37 In

the Book of Numbers (xxviii) it is written how God ordered that on each day

there be offered one lamb in the morning and another in the evening, but on

the Sabbath day the number should be doubled. And this showed that on the

Sabbath we should offer sacrifice to God from all that we possess: "All

things are Thine; and we have given Thee what we received from Thy hand."38

We should offer, first of all, our soul to God, being sorry for our sins:

"A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit;"39 and also pray for His

blessings: "Let my prayer be directed as incense in Thy sight."40 Feast

days were instituted for that spiritual joy which is the effect of prayer.

Therefore, on such days our prayers should be multiplied.


Secondly, we should offer our body, by mortifying it with fasting:41 "I

beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your

bodies a living sacrifice,"42 and also by praising God: "The sacrifice of

praise shall honor Me."43 And thus on these days our hymns should be more

numerous. Thirdly, we should sacrifice our possessions by giving alms: "And

do not forget to do good, and to impart; for by such sacrifice God's favor

is obtained."44 And this alms ought to be more than on other days because

the Sabbath is a day of common joys: "Send portions to them that have not

prepared for themselves, because it is the holy day of the Lord."45


Hearing of God's Word. - Our second duty on the Sabbath is to be eager to

hear the word of God. This the Jews did daily: "The voices of the prophets

which are read every Sabbath."46 Therefore Christians, whose justice should

be more perfect, ought to come together on the Sabbath to hear sermons and

participate in the services of the Church! "He that is God, heareth the

words of God."47 We likewise ought to speak with profit to others: "Let no

evil speech proceed from your mouth; but that which is good unto

sanctification."48 These two practices are good for the soul of the sinner,

because they change his heart for the better: "Are not My words as a fire,

saith the Lord, and as a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?"49 The

opposite effect is had on those, even the perfect, who neither speak nor

hear profitable things: "Evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake,

ye just, and sin not."50 "Thy words have I hidden in my heart."51 God's

word enlightens the ignorant: "Thy word is a lamp to my feet."52 It

inflames the lukewarm: "The word of the Lord inflamed him."53


37. For the Catholic, of course, the great Sacrifice is that of the Mass.

And we are bound to assist at Mass on Sundays and Holydays of obligation

unless we are excused for serious reason. "The pastor should not omit to

teach the faithful what words and actions they should perform on the

festival days. These are: to go to church and there with true piety and

devotion assist at the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; and

to approach frequently the Sacraments of the Church which were instituted

for our salvatlon" ("Roman Catechism," "Third Commandment," 25).


38. I Paral., xxix. 14.


39. Ps. l. 19.


40. Ps. cxl. 2.


41. St. Thomas here refers not to the "fast of affliction" ("jejunium

afflictionis") but to the "fast of joy" ("iejunium exultationis"), which is

a joyful lifting of the mind to higher things and proceeds from the Holy

Ghost who is the spirit of liberty (cfr. "Summa Theol.," III, Q. cxlvii,

art. 5).


42 Rom., xii. 1.


43. Ps. xlix. 23.


44. Heb., xiii. 16.


45. II Esdras, viii. 10.


46. Acts, xiii. 27.


47. John, viii. 47.


48. Eph., iv. 29.


49. Jerem., xxiii. 29.


50. I Cor., xv. 33.


51. Ps. cxviii. 11.


52. "Ibid.," 105.


53. Ps. civ. 19.


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