The Catechism of St. Thomas Aquinas- THE TENTH ARTICLE
THE TENTH ARTICLE: “The Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of Sins.”
THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS: A REVIEW
This communication takes place through the Sacraments of the Church in which operate the merits of the passion of Christ, which in turn operates for the conferring of grace unto the remission of sins. These Sacraments of the Church are seven in number.
“Baptism.”–The first is Baptism which is a certain spiritual regeneration. Just as there can be no physical life unless man is first born in the flesh, so spiritual life or grace cannot be had unless man is spiritually reborn. This rebirth is effected through Baptism: “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” It must be known that, just as a man can be born but once, so only once is he baptized. Hence, the holy Fathers put into the Nicene Creed: “I confess one baptism.” The power of Baptism consists in this, that it cleanses from all sins as regards both their guilt and their punishment. For this reason no penance is imposed on those who are baptized, no matter to what extent they had been
sinners. Moreover, if they should die immediately after Baptism, they would without delay go to heaven. Another result is that, although only priests “ex officio” may baptize, yet any one may baptize in case of necessity, provided that the proper form of Baptism is used. This is: “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This Sacrament receives its power from the passion of Christ. “All we who are baptized in Christ Jesus are baptized in His death.” Accordingly there is a threefold immersion in water after the three days in which Christ was in the sepulchre.
“Confirmation.”–The second Sacrament is Confirmation. Just as they who are physically born need certain powers to act, so those who are reborn spiritually must have the strength of the Holy Spirit which is imparted to them in this Sacrament. In order that they might become strong, the Apostles received the Holy Spirit after the Ascension of Christ: “Stay you in the city till you be endowed with power from on high.” This power is given in the Sacrament of Confirmation. They, therefore, who have the care of children should be very careful to see that they be confirmed, because great grace is conferred in Confirmation. He who is confirmed will, when he dies, enjoy greater glory than one not confirmed, because greater grace will be his.
“Holy Eucharist.”–The Eucharist is the third Sacrament. In the physical life, after man is born and acquires powers, he needs food to sustain and strengthen him. Likewise in the spiritual life, after being fortified, he has need of spiritual food; this is the Body of Christ: “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you “ According to the prescribed law of the Church, therefore, every Christian must at least once a year receive the Body of Christ, and in a worthy manner and with a clean conscience: “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily [that is, by being conscious of unconfessed mortal sin on his soul, or with no intent to abstain from it] eateth and drinketh judgment to himself.”
“Penance.”–The fourth Sacrament is Penance. In the physical life, one who is sick and does not have recourse to medicine, dies; so in the spiritual order, one becomes ill because of sin. Thus, medicine is necessary for recovery of health; and this is the grace which is conferred in the Sacrament of Penance: “Who forgiveth all thy iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.” Three things must be present in the Sacrament of Penance: contrition, which is sorrow for sin together with a resolution not to sin again; confession of sins, as far as possible entire; and satisfaction which is accomplished by good works.
“Extreme Unction.”–Extreme Unction is the fifth Sacrament. In this life there are many things which prevent one from a perfect purification from one’s sins. But since no one can enter into eternal life until he is well cleansed, there is need of another Sacrament which will purify man of his sins, and both free him from sickness and prepare him for entry into the heavenly kingdom. This is the Sacrament of Extreme Unction. That this Sacrament does not always restore health to the body is due to this, that perhaps to live is not to the advantage of the soul’s
salvation. “Is any man sick amongst you? Let him bring in the priests of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick man. And the Lord shall raise him up; and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him.” It is now clear that the fullness of life is had from these five Sacraments.
“Holy Orders.”–It is necessary that these Sacraments be administered by chosen ministers. Therefore, the Sacrament of Orders is necessary, by whose powers these Sacraments are dispensed. Nor need one note the life of such ministers, if here and there one fail in his office, but remember the virtue of Christ through whose merits the Sacraments have their efficacy, and in whose Name the ministers are but dispensers: “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God.” This then is the sixth Sacrament, namely, Orders.
“Matrimony.”–The seventh Sacrament is Matrimony, and in it men, if they live uprightly, are saved; and thereby they are enabled to live without mortal sin. Sometimes the partners in marriage fall into venial sin, when their concupiscence does not extend beyond the rights of matrimony; but if they do go beyond such rights, they sin mortally.
THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS
By these seven Sacraments we receive the remission of sins, and so in the Creed there follows immediately: “the forgiveness of sins.” The power was given to the Apostles to forgive sins. We must believe that the ministers of the Church receive this power from the Apostles; and the Apostles received it from Christ; and thus the priests have the power of binding and loosing. Moreover, we believe that there is the full power of forgiving sins in the Church, although it operates from the highest to the lowest, i.e., from the Pope down through the prelates.
THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS
We must also know that not only the efficacy of the Passion of Christ is communicated to us, but also the merits of His life; and, moreover, all the good that all the Saints have done is communicated to all who are in the state of grace, because all are one: “I am a partaker of all them that fear Thee.” Therefore, he who lives in charity participates in all the good that is done in the entire world; but more specially does he benefit for whom some good work is done; since one man certainly can satisfy for another. Thus, through this communion we receive two benefits. One is that the merits of Christ are communicated to all; the other is that the good of one is communicated to another. Those who are excommunicated, however, because they are cut off from the Church, forfeit their part of all the good that is done, and this is a far greater loss than being bereft of all material things. There is a danger lest the devil impede this spiritual help in order to tempt one; and when one is thus cut off, the devil can easily overcome him. Thus it was in the primitive Church that, when one was excommunicated, the devil even physically attacked him.
(For “Questions for Discussion” see Chapter 6.)
1. Rom., xii. 5.
2. “The evangelist St. John, writing to the faithful on the divine mysteries, tells them that he undertook to instruct them on the subject; ‘that you,’ he says, ‘may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship be with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ’ (I John, i. 3). Now, this fellowship consists in the Communion of Saints. . . This Article is, as it were, a sort of explanation of the preceding one, which takes up the unity, sanctity, and catholicity of the Church. For the unity of the Spirit, by which she is governed, establisha among all her members a community of spiritual blessings, whereas the fruit of all the Sacraments, particularly Baptism, the door, as it were, by which we are admitted into the Church, are so many connecting links which blnd and unite them to Jesus Christ.” The “Roman Catechism” makes the Communion of Saints the last part of the Ninth Article of the Creed; and the Tenth Article is the forgiveness of Sins (“Roman Catechism,” “loc. cit.,” 24-25).
3. Eph. i. 22.
4. John iii. 5.
5. Rom., vi. 3.
6. Immersion is the act of dipping or plunging the subject into the water used in the administration of Baptism. It was a method generally employed in the early Church, and was still in vogue at the time ot St. Thomas. The Greek Church still retains it; but though valid, for obvious reasons immersion is practically no longer employed in the Latin Church. It is practiscd by some sects to-day in America.
7. Luke, xxiv. 49.
8. John, vi. 54
9. I Cor., xi. 29.
10. Ps. cii. 3.
11. James, v. 1 4- 15.
12. Cor., iv. 1.
13. See the “Explanation of the Sacraments,” p. 130; and “The Commandments.” p. 99.
14. Baptism and Penance are called Sacraments of the dead, because they take away sin and give the first grace of justification. The other five Sacraments are called Sacraments of the living, because one who receives them worthily is already living the life of grace. But the Sacraments of the living produce the first grace when the subject, guilty of a grievous fault, approaches the Sacraments in good faith, that is to say, with the invincible ignorance of his fault, and with attrition (cfr. Pourrat, “Theology of the Sacraments,” St. Louis, 1914, p. 201).
15. “For Our Lord did not give the power of so sacred a ministry to all, but to bishops and priests only. The same must be said regarding the manner in which the power is to be exercised; for sin can be forgiven only through the Sacraments, when duly administered. The Church has received no power otherwise to remit sins. Hence it follows that in the forgiveness of sins both priests and Sacraments are, as it were, the instruments which Christ, Our Lord, the Author and giver of
salvation, make use of to accomplish in us pardon of sin and the grace of justification” (“Roman Catechism.” loc. cit., 6).
16. Ps. cxviii. 63.
17. “But there is also another Communion in the Church which demands attention; every pious and holy action done by one belongs to and becomes profitable to all, through charity which ‘seeks not her own’ ” (“Roman Catechism,” “loc. cit.,” 25).
18. “The advantage of so many and such exalted blessings bestowed by Almighty God are especially enjoyed by those who lead a Christian life in charity and are just and beloved of God” (“Roman Catechism,” “loc. cit.,” 26).