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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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  • THE FOURTH ARTICLE: "Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and
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The first evil that man incurs by sin is the defilement of his soul. Just

as virtue gives the soul its beauty, so sin makes it ugly. "How happened

it, O Israel, that thou art in thy enemies' land? . . . Thou art defiled

with the dead."4 But all this is taken away by the passion of Christ,

whereby Christ poured out His blood as a laver wherein sinners are

cleansed: "Who hath loved us and washed us from our sins in His own

blood."5 So, too, the soul is washed by the blood of Christ in baptism

because then a new birth is had in virtue of His blood, and hence when one

defiles one's soul by sin, one offers insult to Christ and sins more

gravely than before one's baptism. "A man making void the law of Moses

dieth without any mercy under two or three witnesses. How much more, do you

think, he deserveth worse punishments, who hath trodden underfoot the Son

of God and hath esteemed the blood of the testament unclean!"6


Secondly, we commit an offense against God. A sensual man loves the beauty

of the flesh, but God loves spiritual beauty, which is the beauty of the

soul. When, however, the soul is defiled by sin, God is offended and the

sinner incurs His hatred: "To God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful

alike."7 This also is removed by the passion of Christ, which made

satisfaction to God the Father for sin - a thing which man of himself could

never do. The charity and obedience of Christ in His suffering were greater

than the sin and disobedience of the first man: "When we were enemies, we

were reconciled to God by the death of His Son."8


Thirdly, we have been weakened by sin. When a person sins the first time,

he believes that he will thereafter keep away from sin, but what happens is

the very opposite. This is because by that first sin he is weakened and

made more prone to commit sins, and sin more and more has power over him.

Such a one, as far as he alone is concerned, has lowered himself to such a

condition that he cannot rise up, and is like to a man who jumps into a

well from which, without God's help, he would never be rescued. After the

fall of man, our nature was weakened and corrupted, and we were made more

prone to sin. Christ, however, lessened this sickness and weakness,

although He did not entirely take it away. So now man is strengthened by

the passion of Christ, and sin is not given such power over him. Moreover,

he can rise clean from his sins when aided by God's grace conferred by the

Sacraments, which receive their efficacy from the passion of Christ: "Our

old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin may be destroyed."9

Indeed, before the passion of Christ few there were who lived without

falling into mortal sin; but afterwards many have lived and are living

without mortal sin.


Fourthly, we incur the punishment due to sin. For the justice of God

demands that whosoever sins must be punished. This punishment, however, is

in proportion to the guilt. But the guilt of mortal sin is infinite,

because it is an offense against the infinite good, namely, God, whose

commandments the sinner holds in contempt. Therefore, the punishment due to

mortal sin is infinite. Christ, however, through His passion has taken away

this punishment from us and borne it Himself: "Who His own self bore our

sins in His body upon the tree."10 "Our sins [that is, the punishment due

to sin] His own self bore in His body." The passion of Christ was of such

value that it sufficed to expiate for all the sins of the whole world, even

of a hundred thousand worlds. And so it is that, when a man is baptized, he

is released from all his sins; and so also is it that the priest forgives

sins; and, again, the more one conforms himself to the passion of Christ,

the greater is the pardon and the grace which he gains.


Fifthly, we incur banishment from the kingdom of heaven. Those who offend

kings are compelled to go into exile. Thus, man is expelled from heaven on

account of sin. Adam was driven out of paradise immediately after his sin,

and the gate of paradise was shut. But Christ by His sufferings and death

opened this gate and recalled all the exiles to the kingdom. With the

opening of the side of Christ, the gate of paradise is opened; and with the

pouring out of His blood, guilt is washed away, satisfaction is made to

God, infirmity is removed, punishment is expiated, and the exiles are

called back to the kingdom. Hence, the thief received the immediate

response: "This day thou shalt be with Me in paradise."11 Never before was

this spoken to anyone, not to Adam, not to Abraham, not to David; but this

day (i.e., as soon as the gate is opened) the thief, having asked for

pardon, received it: "Having a confidence in the entering into the holies

by the blood of Christ."12


4. Bar., iii. 10-11.


5. Apoc., i. 5.


6. Heb., x. 28-29.


7. Wis., xiv. 9.


8. Rom., v. 10.


9. Rom., vi. 6.


10. I Pet., ii. 24.


11. Luke, xxiii. 43.


12. Heb., x. 19


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