신앙과 교리

Home > 신앙과 교리 > 미사강론

제목 On the First Commandment - 1st part(2016-01-10)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2016-01-11



On the First Commandment -1st part (2016-01-10)


My dear brethren,
We have seen that the Commandments of God are the path to heaven, that they essentially consist in imitating our Lord Jesus Christ, living of His life, or rather Him living in us and continuing His virtues in us. It is necessary to obey the Ten Commandments in order to reach eternal life. But they themselves are “commandments of life”.

God is the living, and the source of all life. Now the life of God is not animal life, sensual life, but rather the supreme spiritual life. In what consists the life of God? God is a pure spirit, the supreme intelligence and Will: His life is a life of knowledge of the supreme Truth, which is Himself, and of love of the True infinite Good, which is also Himself.


The life of God is a contemplative life. God is so great, so perfect that no created intelligence can express adequately what He is: not the greatest scientist, not the greatest theologian, not even the highest seraph or cherub, not even the Blessed Virgin Mary in Heaven. Only God can say adequately what He is; and He does say what He is in an Eternal Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn. 1:1).


That Word of God is a “Word breathing Love” as St Thomas Aquinas says : the Father and the Son together “breathe” the Holy Ghost, Spirit of Love, Love of God above all things and of all things for God. For all eternity the Father says the Son, His Word, and the Father and the Son together breathe their common Spirit of Love, the Holy Ghost. This is the eternal Life of God! The Saints are given to see that and to be rapt in that most marvellous contemplation for ever! “Now this is eternal life: That they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (Jn. 17:3). “We shall be like to him: because we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2)

Thus when Jesus starts living in us, the first thing He does is to make us live entirely for His Father, entirely for God, as a temple of God. And this is the first Commandment. God is the “Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Apoc. 22:13). He deserves the first place in our life and is our ultimate end: He deserves the first place in our heart and will not settle for the second. We must prefer him even over all things, including over our own selves. He must reign in us. “Thy kingdom come! Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!” (Mt. 6:10)


To give to a creature the dignity of ultimate end is a kind of idolatry, and is strictly forbidden by the First commandment. Many people think “I don’t kill, I don’t steal, so I am a good person…” but their ultimate goal is not set in God: they pursue riches, pleasures, or other created goals: this is an offense against the very first Commandment. They do not give to God the first place in their life. They “worship the Golden Calf” or their own selves rather than the one true God.

Now the reign of God over us is primarily interior: over our intelligence and over our will. God reigns in our intelligence by the virtue of Faith, when we adhere to God as the Supreme Truth who revealed Himself in our Lord Jesus Christ. God reigns over our will by the virtues of hope and Charity, when we love Him above all things, and love all other things for His sake. These are thus the first two duties imposed by the First Commandment: duty to adhere to the true Faith, the Catholic faith, and duty to love God above all things. In this consists the spiritual life, a life of loving contemplation of the most Holy Trinity by the true faith and charity.

A lot of people in the modern world think God is indifferent to what we believe, even to what we believe about Him. Such a “god” would not be the true God. The True God is necessarily the Supreme Intelligence, who knows all truth, and above all created truth, He knows Himself. When He deigns to reveal His secrets to men, to speak about His own self, He is not indifferent to whether we believe what He says or not: He does want us to believe what He says.


He wants ALL humans to believe what He said. Not that He would be less good if some people would not believe in Him, but that it is bad for us when we do not believe in Him, because then we are in darkness, in ignorance of the truth – and some are even in a state of rejection of the known truth (which is a sin against the Holy Ghost). Because He loves us, He does not want us to remain in that ignorance, but rather He “will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). The truth is what He revealed, and what He entrusted to His Church, which He helps to keep that “good deposit” of Faith (see 2 Tim. 1:14). Our Lord Jesus Christ, being the Son of God, brought revelation to its perfection; after Him nobody can add to what He revealed, including the Revelation to St John. The “deposit of Faith” is closed at the death of the last Apostle, St John. All men are bound to believe it.

It does not mean that it is necessary for each man to know by heart every single word of the bible… but by believing “what the Church teaches”, and knowing explicitly the mystery of the Holy Trinity, of the Incarna-tion and of the Redemption, then we have the faith necessary for salvation. Similarly in the Old Testament, it was sufficient for the people to “have the Faith of Moses and of the Prophets”, and even before Abraham it was sufficient to believe what God had revealed to Adam and had been handed down as “the primitive revelation”, that includes the knowledge of the Saviour as the “Seed of the Woman”.


To people of good will, God will provide that they get to know the Revelation in its essential elements, at least through the ministry of Angels if needed, but usually through missionaries and the witnessing of good Catholic. Believing all that God has revealed, because of the authority of God Who revealed, this is the virtue of Faith, and the true faith is necessary for salvation: “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6).

Thus sins against faith are sins against the first Commandment. The first sin against faith is heresy, that is, picking and choosing what one wants in the Revelation, thus trusting one’s own judgement over the authority appointed by Christ to teach us, i.e. the authority of the Catholic Church. Note that ignorance is not heresy: some may be deceived by a preacher without picking and choosing himself. In such a case, there is a simple absence of knowledge of the true faith, without the formal sin of heresy.


This happens often for someone born outside the Catholic Church in a heretical sect, or someone converted from paganism to such a sect. However, if they truly search for God, for the truth, they will arrive sooner or later to the conclusion that this sect is not the Church founded by Christ. For some, such as Cardinal Newman, such search takes a long time and we should be patient with them, yet the while helping them to find the truth and encouraging them to make the move to the one true Church.

The second sin against faith is apostasy, which is the total rejection of the faith. After one has known the true faith, one cannot have a good reason to reject it, because there can be no good reason to reject the truth! Even the scandal of bad priests, which is a very grave responsibility for them, is not a reason to reject our Lord Jesus Christ, who still remains the Master who will eternally reward those who remain faithful to Him in spite of these bad priests.


One must not follow bad priests in their evil life; one must not follow bad priests when they teach novelties, etc., but one must remain faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ in spite of these bad priests and clerics. Apostasy is a very grievous sin: it is the complete rejection of God. Its cause is often the love of earthly things and pride. St Thomas Aquinas says: “the sin of unbelief arises from pride, through which man is unwilling to subject his intellect to the rules of faith, and to the sound interpretation of the Fathers” .

Now, since faith is the very first virtue in the spiritual life and somehow the root of all the other virtues, those who do not have the faith cannot live of the life of Christ. Hence not only heresy and apostasy are very grievous sins, but the very ignorance of the Faith is very damaging, and we should have mercy on those who are thus far from our Lord, and bring to them the light of Faith, by the zeal for the propagation of the faith, missionary zeal to convert souls to our Lord, sharing with them this great heavenly treasure of Faith.

The great model of Faith is the Blessed Virgin Mary, “Virgo Fidelis – Virgin most faithful”. St Elisabeth exclaimed to her: “blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord” (Lk. 1:45). She is the faithful virgin, who believed the good angel, repairing what the unfaithful virgin Eve had done, who did not believe the Word of God saying “dying you shall die if you eat of that fruit” but rather the word of the serpent. Our Lady is a beautiful model of faith and of contemplation: whenever she looked upon the Child Jesus, she remembered the word of the Angel: “He shall be called the Son of the Most High” and made an act of faith in the Divinity of Jesus, remaining faithful to Him even at the foot of the Cross, where she continued to believe that even there, He was “the Son of the Most High”.

The true Faith is the first virtue of the spiritual life, by which Jesus-Christ, the Word of God, abides in us and enlightens us. But it opens our eyes on the goal that God has prepared for us, eternal beatitude, and assures us that God cares so much for us to get there that He sent His only-begotten Son into this world to save us from sin and empower us to go to Heaven: hence faith leads to hope, i.e. the desire for God, longing for this beatific vision of God, longing for eternal life and confidence that with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we will get there. Hope is the second theological virtue: it is all directed towards God. We are here below like in an “exile”, in this “valley of tears” as we sing in the Salve Regina. How wrong it is to settle here below as if we would be there for ever! We are only very temporarily here below. Our whole life on earth should be a preparation for heaven, all directed towards Heaven. Through the virtue of Hope, our Lord Jesus Christ draws our heart to Him in a beautiful way.

The first sin against hope is despair. This often happens because one relies on one’s own strength to do good, and not succeeding, one gives up. Or one does pray and ask the grace of God to overcome this or that temptation, but one is not willing to put the price, to renounce oneself or to renounce affection to this or that earthly person or thing, and hence because of this unwillingness one does not succeed in overcoming temptation. Our Lord said indeed: “every one of you that doth not renounce all that he possesseth, cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:33).


God offers us eternal life, heavenly beatitude, enjoying the beatific vision of Himself, but He does require that we be ready to put the price, to carry our cross, to renounce ourselves. Our Yes to Him must be unlimited and unconditional; it must be a total surrender to His grace; then, we can experience the efficacy of His grace, of His help to lead us to Heaven. But if one is unwilling to surrender completely to Him, then such person finds himself weak in temptation, and falls easily and hence is tempted by despair.


St Augustine compares our Lord to an excellent Doctor: but the sick person must be docile to the Doctor’s prescriptions, otherwise he will not be healed. Now despair is a very grave sin in itself; moreover, it is very dangerous because it leads the soul to surrendering to all kinds of temptations, and throwing oneself into all kinds of vices, often degrading vices. The remedy is a wholehearted return to our Lord Jesus Christ, return to God, who will then clean and heal the soul.

The second sin against hope is presumption: it is not so much an excess of hope (we cannot trust in God too much, nor rely too much on His help), but it is a distortion of hope: instead of being docile to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who leads us AWAY from sin, presumption pretends that one needs not get out of sin and could still go to Heaven!


That sin of presumption is typical of Protestants, who think that they are “already saved” as if they have nothing else to do, as if they are not required to obey the Commandments, as if they are sure to go to Heaven whatever they do; the modernist variation of that presumption is to claim that “God’s love is unconditional” and so that He will always forgive whatever one does.


This is a distortion of hope, completely disregarding the Holiness of God, who wants to make us holy because He is Holy: thus opposing the action of grace in the soul, resisting the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, instead of relying on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, presumption is not an excess of hope but rather a departure from true hope. It is also a very grievous sin, leading also to many other sins.


The great model of Hope is again the Blessed Virgin Mary: particularly at the foot of the Cross, when the Apostles had abandoned our Lord, she remained faithful and continued to hope in His Resurrection. This is the reason why, though she is the first at the foot of the Cross, she is not among those women who went to buy ointment to anoint our Lord: she knew and trusted He would rise!


The hope of eternal beatitude leads the soul to the virtue of Charity, which is the ultimate virtue of the spiritual life, virtue that unites with God: “God is charity: and he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him” (1 Jn. 4:16). Charity makes us love God for His own sake, taking our delights in Him, as the psalmist says: “I will take delight in the Lord” (Ps. 103:34). “Delight in the Lord, and he will give thee the requests of thy heart” (Ps. 36:4).

Charity is the object of the first and greatest Commandment. One day a doctor of the Law came to Jesus and asked him: “Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets” (Mt. 22:36-40).


Faith leads to hope; hope leads to charity. Faith, Hope and Charity are the three theological virtues, by which we can start contemplating the Most Holy Trinity here below, loving the truth of God and delighting in His light. St Paul tells us: “now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Cor. 13:13). Indeed, without Charity, faith and hope alone are not sufficient to go to Heaven. The same St Paul tells us: “if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2). Even natural good works, without charity, are not useful for salvation: “And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (1 Cor. 13:3).


The virtue of Charity is a marvellous virtue, that makes us love God for His own sake, above all things. It is the great gift of the Holy Ghost in us: “the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us” (Rom. 5:5). And the Holy Ghost transforms the soul: He is the “Sanctifyer”; by charity everything is transformed into love, every daily action is offered to God as an offering in odour of sweetness: “Be ye therefore followers of God, as most dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath delivered himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness” (Eph. 5:1-2). Thus charity is the source of merit, and ultimately it merits the eternal reward, because that which is done out of charity is deeply pleasing to God.


The virtue of charity leads the soul to pray, to contemplate; it is the heart of the spiritual life. With it, truly Jesus lives in us; we are “moved by the Holy Ghost” and thus are truly “sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). The virtue of charity leads to the fulfilment of all the commandments: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15). Obedience to the Commandments is a requirement of charity: “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them; he it is that loveth me. And he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father: and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (Jn. 14:21). “If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him” (Jn. 14:23).


Charity towards God requires the love of the neighbour, for God’s sake: “this commandment we have from God, that he, who loveth God, love also his brother” (1 Jn. 4:21). By charity, we want God for our neighbour; we want that our Lord Jesus Christ reigns in him; we want eternal beatitude for our neighbour. St Thomas sums it up thus: we want “ut in Deo sint - that they be in God”. Indeed “what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?” (Mt. 16:26). So it would not profit our neighbour anything if we would give them the whole world, and if they do not have our Lord Jesus Christ, if they do not possess God in their soul!


Hence charity for the neighbour is not self-centred at all; on the contrary, following the great example of our Lord Jesus Christ, one is willing to sacrifice oneself for the salvation of one’s neighbour. Hence “Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up; is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Cor. 13:4-7).


Any mortal sin is against charity, incompatible with Charity. But some are directly opposed to this great virtue: the hatred of God is the worst; but the hatred of the neighbour is more common, and is evidently incompatible with Charity.


These are the interior obligation of the first Commandment, truly a commandment of Life, in which our Lord Jesus Christ lives in us, the spiritual life that is a beginning of eternal life. On earth, a life of Faith, hope and charity, will blossom into eternal life in Heaven. The food of that spiritual life is the Holy Eucharist. Through this most excellent sacrament, our Lord Jesus Christ feeds us with His own body, blood, soul and divinity; He comes to live more and more in us, so that we may live more and more in Him: “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him” (Jn. 6:57). “God is charity: and he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him” (1 Jn. 4:16). “By this hath the charity of God appeared towards us, because God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we may live by him” (1 Jn. 4:9).


May the Blessed Virgin Mary help us to appreciate how much God cares for us, loves us, and wants us to live entirely for Him, as she did, so that we may go to Heaven! Amen.

Fr. F. Laisney (SSPX ASIA)