Login
Vol I No. 1
From the Quarterly

Fourth Friday in Lent: Thomas Aquinas and Commentary

by William J. Martin

SASSETTA_St_Thomas_Before_The_Cross

IT is BY THE PASSION OF CHRIST THAT WE HAVE

BEEN FREED FROM THE PUNISHMENT DUE TO SlN

 

Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows. Isaias liii. 4.

Christ Jesus wants to take us into himself and bear our infirmities, weaknesses, wounds, hurts, pains, temptations, and all struggles of the body, soul, and spirit. Christ wants to realign our minds and hearts with our Heavenly Father’s will for us. And thus we must offer to Him the whole of our being. The whole of our being is not our Sunday best; it is each one of us at his worst. We must come to the Cross of Jesus that our temptation not to forgive and not to be forgiven and whatever generates the will to both be crucified in Him. The Crucifixion is not past history as some Christians conveniently conjecture. The Crucifixion is now since you and I are members of the Body of Christ. Christ is our Head and His Body continues to suffer crucifixion to sin on earth. ‘The disciple is not above his master; but everyone that is perfect shall be as his master.’ (St. Luke vi. 40) Let us enter into the life of the Crucified One that He may bring us into His death. Let us enter into the death of the Crucified One that we may begin to rise into the new life that He makes, beginning only with His Calvary.

By the Passion of Christ we are freed from the liability to be punished for sin with the punishment that sin calls for, in two ways, directly and indirectly. We are freed directly inasmuch as the Passion of Christ made sufficient and more than sufficient satisfaction for the sins of the whole human race. Now once sufficient satisfaction has been made, the liability to the punishment mentioned is destroyed.

Christ died once for all for the sins of the whole world. First He brings our old human nature to Death. He pays the price for sin. He frees us from the punishment that human nature deserves in its collective sin against God through disobedience and idolatry. He has made sufficient satisfaction for all sin in all time. He has become the price that sin must pay, in His one oblation of Himself once offered, as the only full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world. So in Him human nature takes on sin, takes in sin, and thus destroys it through a heart perfectly united to the Father’s will and thus in whom and for whom sin and death will die. ‘Therefore He said…A body thou hast prepared for me.’ (Hebr. X. 15) The new body of human nature is dead to the world, the flesh, the devil, and itself. The new body of human nature is alive to the Father. In Him, sin, death, and Satan are dead. Will we enter into this Death that is new life? Will we experience the power of this Death that grinds to powder all that threatens to trample down the plantation of God’s Grace in our souls? Will we allow this Death to drive away the birds of prey that would devour His sacrifice in us? Will we become enter into this Death that we may participate in the new body of human nature that Jesus is forever making?

We are freed indirectly inasmuch as the Passion of Christ causes the sin to be remitted, and it is from the sin that the liability to the punishment mentioned derives. Souls in hell, however, are not freed by the Passion of Christ, because the Passion of Christ shares its effect with those to whom it is applied by faith and by charity and by the sacraments of faith. Therefore the souls in hell, who are not linked up with the Passion of Christ in the way just mentioned, cannot receive its effects.

Will we go to Hell or come into the Death that leads to everlasting life. Christ’s Sacrificial Death frees us ‘indirectly’ because for the remission of our sins to be perfected, we must embrace repentance, sorrow, contrition, and satisfaction. We cannot enter the Death of the new body of human nature unless we turn from all idolatry and idiolatry. We cannot pay the price for our sins. But we can see them, know them, name and claim them, and then release them into the Body of Christ’s death. For the Crucified One to make His Death effectual for us, we must desire to enter into His death. We are not the puppets or tools of a cruel and unpredictable God. We have the minds to see the Dying Jesus and to seeing our dying selves. If we would cleave to the one and reject the other, we must freely will or choose to become living members of the Body of Christ. Thus upon entering this Body, we shall die as Christ begins to come alive. Thus His Holy Spirit brings us into Crucifixion. Those in Hell have not desired to be members of this Body because they have not believed and hoped in God’s saving charity and love. But we need not wonder who they are. It is none of our business. Our business is to be freed from sin by paying attention to our own. We must confess and repent in order that the Christ’s Death may become our own. We must leave no stone unturned in the examination of our past sinful lives. We must confess that we have hurt not only ourselves but many others. We must confess that we are ‘chief, the chiefest, the greatest of sinners’. We must ask Christ to make some small place or space for us, underneath the feet of His elect, to do some menial but useful chore in the Body of His Death.

Now although we are freed from liability to the precise penalty that sin deserves, there is, nevertheless, enjoined on the repentant sinner a penalty or penance of satisfaction. For in order that the effect of the Passion of Christ be fully worked out in us, it is necessary for us to be made of like form with Christ. Now we are made of like form with Christ in baptism by the sacrament, as is said by St. Paul, We are buried together with him by baptism into death (Rom. vi. 4). Whence it is that no penalty of satisfaction is imposed on those who are baptised. Through the satisfaction made by Christ they are wholly set free. But since Christ died once for our sins (i Pet. iii. 18), once only, man cannot a second time be made of like form with the death of Christ through the sacrament of baptism. Therefore those who, after baptism, sin again, must be made like to Christ in his suffering, through some kind of penalty or suffering which they endure in their own persons.

Practically speaking the aforementioned reconciliation with God through the Death of Christ must be embraced externally and visibly in the new body of human nature, which is the Church. So in Holy Baptism our Original Sin is eradicated. We are regenerated and born again and anew from above by the Holy Spirit of God the Father and God the Son. Truly we become members of the Body of Christ Crucified. We must be incorporated into the Body of Christ through Sacraments since we are not meant to be men of fear who come to Jesus under the covering of night, like Nicodemus. We must ‘not hide our candles under a bushel’ (St. Luke xi. 33) but let them shine into the world ‘that they who come us may see the light’, And so we should ‘not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under his banner, against sin, the world, and the devil; and to continue Christ’s faithful soldiers and servants unto [our] life’s end.’ (BCP 1928, p.280) But our new birth into the new body of human nature must be protected and defended so that we can grow up and into adulthood as mature members of the same body. If we sin, we must endure the punishment for our sins and suffer the correction and discipline that our spiritual elders and mentors lay upon us for the riddance of vice and the generation of virtue. If we are not punished for our sins, we cannot be made better. We must feel the shame, guilt, and horror that accompany their arrival and presence in our lives. We must feel the shame, guilt, and horror of having chosen to embrace them while claiming to have been born again and from above through Baptism. And so we must endure the punishment necessary for their eradication and annihilation in our lives. Punishment and suffering enable us to be more reliable and ready members of the new body of human nature. Punishment and suffering enable us to desire the therapeutic motions of the Holy Spirit which incorporate us into the Death of Jesus Christ. ‘Speak death to my sins’ we plea. And He does if we are resolute and determined.

©wjsmartin