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Catechism of the Catholic Church.


1846 The Gospel is the revelation in Jesus Christ of God's mercy to sinners. 113 The angel announced to Joseph: "You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." 114 The same is true of the Eucharist, the sacrament of redemption: "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." 115

1847 "God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us." 116 To receive his mercy, we must admit our faults. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 117

1848 As St. Paul affirms, "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more." 118 But to do its work grace must uncover sin so as to convert our hearts and bestow on us "righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ ourLord." 119 Like a physician who probes the wound before treating it, God, by his Word and by his Spirit, casts a living light on sin:

Conversion requires convincing of sin; it includes the interior judgment of conscience, and this, being a proof of the action of the Spirit of truth in man's inmost being, becomes at the same time the start of a new grant of grace and love: "Receive the Holy Spirit." Thus in this "convincing concerning sin" we discover a double gift: the gift of the truth of conscience and the gift of the certainty of redemption. The Spirit of truth is the Consoler. 120


1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as "an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law." 121

1850 Sin is an offense against God: "Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight." 122 Sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become "like gods," 123 knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus "love of oneself even to contempt of God." 124 In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation. 125

1851 It is precisely in the Passion, when the mercy of Christ is about to vanquish it, that sin most clearly manifests its violence and its many forms: unbelief, murderous hatred, shunning and mockery by the leaders and the people, Pilate's cowardice and the cruelty of the soldiers, Judas' betrayal - so bitter to Jesus, Peter's denial and the disciples' flight. However, at the very hour of darkness, the hour of the prince of this world, 126 the sacrifice of Christ secretly becomes the source from which the forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly.


1852 There are a great many kinds of sins. Scripture provides several lists of them. The Letter to the Galatians contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit: "Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God." 127

1853 Sins can be distinguished according to their objects, as can every human act; or according to the virtues they oppose, by excess or defect; or according to the commandments they violate. They can also be classed according to whether they concern God, neighbor, or oneself; they can be divided into spiritual and carnal sins, or again as sins in thought, word, deed, or omission. The root of sin is in the heart of man, in his free will, according to the teaching of the Lord: "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man." 128 But in the heart also resides charity, the source of the good and pure works, which sin wounds.


Against You Alone Have I Sinned
by Pope John Paul II

1. We have just heard the Miserere, one of the most famous prayers of the Psalter, the most intense and commonly used penitential psalm, the hymn of sin and pardon, a profound meditation on guilt and grace. The Liturgy of the Hours makes us pray it at Lauds every Friday. For centuries the prayer has risen to heaven from the hearts of many faithful Jews and Christians as a sigh of repentance and hope poured out to a merciful God.

From David to prophetic awareness of new heart created by the Spirit.

The Jewish tradition placed the psalm on the lips of David, who was called to repentance by the severe words of the prophet Nathan (cf. vv. 1-2; 2 Sam 11-12), who rebuked him for his adultery with Bathsheba and for having had her husband Uriah killed. The psalm, however, was enriched in later centuries, by the prayer of so many other sinners, who recovered the themes of the "new heart" and of the "Spirit" of God placed within the redeemed human person, according to the teaching of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel (cf. v. 12; Jer 31,31-34; Ez 11,19. 36,24-28).

Original Sin.

2. Psalm 50 (51) outlines two horizons. First, there is the dark region of sin (cf. vv. 3-11) in which man is placed from the beginning of his existence: "Behold in guilt I was born, a sinner was I conceived" (v. 7). Even if this declaration cannot be taken as an explicit formulation of the doctrine of original sin as it was defined by Christian theology, undoubtedly it corresponds to it: indeed, it expresses the profound dimension of the innate moral weakness of the human person. The first part of the Psalm appears to be an analysis of sin, taking place before God. Three Hebrew terms are used to define this sad reality, which comes from the evil use of human freedom.

Three Hebrew terms for sin.

3. The first term, hatta, literally means "falling short of the target": sin is an aberration which leads us far from God, the fundamental goal of our relations, and, consequently, also from our neighbour.

The second Hebrew term is "awon, which takes us back to the image of "twisting" or of "curving". Sin is a tortuous deviation from the straight path; it is an inversion, a distortion, deformation of good and of evil; in the sense declared by Isaiah: "Woe to those who call good evil and evil good, who change darkness into light and light into darkness" (Is 5,20). Certainly, for this reason in the Bible conversion is indicated as a "return" (in Hebrew shub) to the right way, correcting one's course.

The third term the psalmist uses to speak of sin is pesha. It expresses the rebellion of the subject toward his sovereign and therefore an open challenge addressed to God and to his plan for human history.

Saving justice of God recreates sinful humanity.

4. If, however, man confesses his sin, the saving justice of God is ready to purify him radically. Thus we come to the second spiritual part of the psalm, the luminous realm of grace (cf. vv. 12-19). By the confession of sins, for the person who prays there opens an horizon of light where God is at work. The Lord does not just act negatively, eliminating sin, but recreates sinful humanity by means of his life-giving Spirit: he places in the human person a new and pure "heart", namely, a renewed conscience, and opens to him the possibility of a limpid faith and worship pleasing to God.

Origen spoke of a divine therapy, which the Lord carries out by his word and by the healing work of Christ: "As God prepares remedies for the body from therapeutic herbs wisely mixed together, so he also prepared for the soul medicines with the words he infused, scattering them in the divine Scriptures.... God gave yet another medical aid of which the Lord is the Archetype who says of himself: "It is not the healthy who have need of a physician but the sick". He is the excellent physician able to heal every weakness, and illness" (Origen, Homilies on the Psalms, From the Italian edition, Omelie sui Salmi, Florence, 1991, pp. 247-249).

Sense of sin: "against you alone have I sinned" and appeal to mercy
5. The richness of Psalm 50 (51) merits a careful exegesis of every line. It is what we will do when we will meet it again at Lauds on successive Fridays. The overall view, which we have taken of this great Biblical supplication, reveals several fundamental components of a spirituality which should permeate the daily life of the faithful. There is above all a lively sense of sin, seen as a free choice, with a negative connotation on the moral and theological level: "Against you, you alone, have I sinned, I have done what is evil in your sight" (v. 6).

There is also in the psalm a lively sense of the possibility of conversion: the sinner, sincerely repentant, (cf. v 5), comes before God in his misery and nakedness, begging him not to cast him out from his presence (v. 13).

Finally, in the Miserere, a rooted conviction of divine pardon " cancels, washes, cleanses" the sinner (cf. vv. 3-4) and is able to transform him into a new creature who has a transfigured spirit, tongue, lips and heart (cf. 4-19). "Even if our sins were as black as the night, divine mercy is greater than our misery. Only one thing is needed: the sinner has to leave the door to his heart ajar.... God can do the rest.... Everything begins and ends with his mercy", so writes St Faustina Kowalska (M. Winowska, The Ikon of Divine Mercy, the Message of Sister Faustina, from the Italian version, L'Icona dell'Amore Misericordioso. Il messaggio di Suor Faustina, Rome, 1981, p. 271).

Theological Discussion:

Nature of sin.

Since sin is a moral evil, it is necessary in the first place to determine what is meant by evil, and in particular by moral evil. Evil is defined by St. Thomas (De malo, 2:2) as a privation of form or order or due measure. In the physical order a thing is good in proportion as it possesses being. God alone is essentially being, and He alone is essentially and perfectly good. Everything else possesses but a limited being, and, in so far as it possesses being, it is good. When it has its due proportion of form and order and measure it is, in its own order and degree, good. (See GOOD.) Evil implies a deficiency in perfection, hence it cannot exist in God who is essentially and by nature good; it is found only in finite beings which, because of their origin from nothing, are subject to the privation of form or order or measure due them, and, through the opposition they encounter, are liable to an increase or decrease of the perfection they have: "for evil, in a large sense, may be described as the sum of opposition, which experience shows to exist in the universe, to the desires and needs of individuals; whence arises, among human beings at least, the suffering in which life abounds" (see EVIL).

According to the nature of the perfection which it limits, evil is metaphysical, physical, or moral. Metaphysical evil is not evil properly so called; it is but the negation of a greater good, or the limitation of finite beings by other finite beings. Physical evil deprives the subject affected by it of some natural good, and is adverse to the well-being of the subject, as pain and suffering. Moral evil is found only in intelligent beings; it deprives them of some moral good. Here we have to deal with moral evil only. This may be defined as a privation of conformity to right reason and to the law of God. Since the morality of a human act consists in its agreement or non-agreement with right reason and the eternal law, an act is good or evil in the moral order according as it involves this agreement or non-agreement. When the intelligent creature, knowing God and His law, deliberately refuses to obey, moral evil results.

Sin is nothing else than a morally bad act (St. Thomas, "De malo", 7:3), an act not in accord with reason informed by the Divine law. God has endowed us with reason and free-will, and a sense of responsibility; He has made us subject to His law, which is known to us by the dictates of conscience, and our acts must conform with these dictates, otherwise we sin (Romans 14:23). In every sinful act two things must be considered, the substance of the act and the want of rectitude or conformity (St. Thomas, I-II:72:1). The act is something positive. The sinner intends here and now to act in some determined matter, inordinately electing that particular good in defiance of God's law and the dictates of right reason. The deformity is not directly intended, nor is it involved in the act so far as this is physical, but in the act as coming from the will which has power over its acts and is capable of choosing this or that particular good contained within the scope of its adequate object, i.e. universal good (St. Thomas, "De malo", Q. 3, a. 2, ad 2um). God, the first cause of all reality, is the cause of the physical act as such, the free-will of the deformity (St. Thomas I-II:89:2; "De malo", 3:2). The evil act adequately considered has for its cause the free-will defectively electing some mutable good in place of the eternal good, God, and thus deviating from its true last end.

In every sin a privation of due order or conformity to the moral law is found, but sin is not a pure, or entire privation of all moral good (St. Thomas, "De malo", 2:9; I-II:73:2). There is a twofold privation; one entire which leaves nothing of its opposite, as for instance, darkness which leaves no light; another, not entire, which leaves something of the good to which it is opposed, as for instance, disease which does not entirely destroy the even balance of the bodily functions necessary for health. A pure or entire privation of good could occur in a moral act only on the supposition that the will could incline to evil as such for an object. This is impossible because evil as such is not contained within the scope of the adequate object of the will, which is good. The sinner's intention terminates at some object in which there is a participation of God's goodness, and this object is directly intended by him. The privation of due order, or the deformity, is not directly intended, but is accepted in as much as the sinner's desire tends to an object in which this want of conformity is involved, so that sin is not a pure privation, but a human act deprived of its due rectitude. From the defect arises the evil of the act, from the fact that it is voluntary, its imputability.

Division of sin.

As regards the principle from which it proceeds sin is original or actual. The will of Adam acting as head of the human race for the conservation or loss of original justice is the cause and source of original sin. Actual sin is committed by a free personal act of the individual will. It is divided into sins of commission and omission. A sin of commission is a positive act contrary to some prohibitory precept; a sin of omission is a failure to do what is commanded. A sin of omission, however, requires a positive act whereby one wills to omit the fulfilling of a precept, or at least wills something incompatible with its fulfillment (I-II:72:5). As regards their malice, sins are distinguished into sins of ignorance, passion or infirmity, and malice; as regards the activities involved, into sins of thought, word, or deed (cordis, oris, operis); as regards their gravity, into mortal and venial. This last named division is indeed the most important of all and it calls for special treatment. But before taking up the details, it will be useful to indicate some further distinctions which occur in theology or in general usage.

Material and formal sin.

This distinction is based upon the difference between the objective elements (object itself, circumstances) and the subjective (advertence to the sinfulness of the act). An action which, as a matter of fact, is contrary to the Divine law but is not known to be such by the agent constitutes a material sin; whereas formal sin is committed when the agent freely transgresses the law as shown him by his conscience, whether such law really exists or is only thought to exist by him who acts. Thus, a person who takes the property of another while believing it to be his own commits a material sin; but the sin would be formal if he took the property in the belief that it belonged to another, whether his belief were correct or not.

Internal sins.

That sin may be committed not only by outward deeds but also by the inner activity of the mind apart from any external manifestation, is plain from the precept of the Decalogue: "Thou shalt not covet", and from Christ's rebuke of the scribes and pharisees whom he likens to "whited sepulchres... full of all filthiness" (Matthew 23:27). Hence the Council of Trent (Sess. XIV, c. v), in declaring that all mortal sins must be confessed, makes special mention of those that are most secret and that violate only the last two precepts of the Decalogue, adding that they "sometimes more grievously wound the soul and are more dangerous than sins which are openly committed". Three kinds of internal sin are usually distinguished:

delectatio morosa, i.e. the pleasure taken in a sinful thought or imagination even without desiring it;
gaudium, i.e. dwelling with complacency on sins already committed; and
desiderium, i.e. the desire for what is sinful.
An efficacious desire, i.e. one that includes the deliberate intention to realize or gratify the desire, has the same malice, mortal or venial, as the action which it has in view. An inefficacious desire is one that carries a condition, in such a way that the will is prepared to perform the action in case the condition were verified. When the condition is such as to eliminate all sinfulness from the action, the desire involves no sin: e.g. I would gladly eat meat on Friday, if I had a dispensation; and in general this is the case whenever the action is forbidden by positive law only. When the action is contrary to natural law and yet is permissible in given circumstances or in a particular state of life, the desire, if it include those circumstances or that state as conditions, is not in itself sinful: e.g. I would kill so-and-so if I had to do it in self-defence. Usually, however, such desires are dangerous and therefore to be repressed. If, on the other hand, the condition does not remove the sinfulness of the action, the desire is also sinful. This is clearly the case where the action is intrinsically and absolutely evil, e.g. blasphemy: one cannot without committing sin, have the desire -- I would blaspheme God if it were not wrong; the condition is an impossible one and therefore does not affect the desire itself. The pleasure taken in a sinful thought (delectatio, gaudium) is, generally speaking, a sin of the same kind and gravity as the action which is thought of. Much, however, depends on the motive for which one thinks of sinful actions. The pleasure, e.g. which one may experience in studying the nature of murder or any other crime, in getting clear ideas on the subject, tracing its causes, determining the guilt etc., is not a sin; on the contrary, it is often both necessary and useful. The case is different of course where the pleasure means gratification in the sinful object or action itself. And it is evidently a sin when one boasts of his evil deeds, the more so because of the scandal that is given.

The capital sins or vices
According to St. Thomas (II-II:153:4) "a capital vice is that which has an exceedingly desirable end so that in his desire for it a man goes on to the commission of many sins all of which are said to originate in that vice as their chief source". It is not then the gravity of the vice in itself that makes it capital but rather the fact that it gives rise to many other sins. These are enumerated by St. Thomas (I-II:84:4) as vainglory (pride), avarice, gluttony, lust, sloth, envy, anger. St. Bonaventure (Brevil., III, ix) gives the same enumeration. Earlier writers had distinguished eight capital sins: so St. Cyprian (De mort., iv); Cassian (Institutes 5, Conferences 5); Columbanus ("Instr. de octo vitiis princip." in "Bibl. max. vet. patr.", XII, 23); Alcuin (De virtut. et vitiis, xxvii sqq.). The number seven, however, had been given by St. Gregory the Great (Lib. mor. in Job. XXXI, xvii), and it was retained by the foremost theologians of the Middle Ages.

It is to be noted that "sin" is not predicated univocally of all kinds of sin. "The division of sin into venial and mortal is not a division of genus into species which participate equally the nature of the genus, but the division of an analogue into things of which it is predicated primarily and secondarily" (St. Thomas, I-II:88:1, ad 1um). "Sin is not predicated univocally of all kinds of sin, but primarily of actual mortal sin ... and therefore it is not necessary that the definition of sin in general should be verified except in that sin in which the nature of the genus is found perfectly. The definition of sin may be verified in other sins in a certain sense" (St. Thomas, II, d. 33, Q. i, a. 2, ad 2um). Actual sin primarily consists in a voluntary act repugnant to the order of right reason. The act passes, but the soul of the sinner remains stained, deprived of grace, in a state of sin, until the disturbance of order has been restored by penance. This state is called habitual sin, macula peccati. reatus culpæ (I-II:87:6).

The division of sin into original and actual, mortal and venial, is not a division of genus into species because sin has not the same signification when applied to original and personal sin, mortal and venial. Mortal sin cuts us off entirely from our true last end; venial sin only impedes us in its attainment. Actual personal sin is voluntary by a proper act of the will. Original sin is voluntary not by a personal voluntary act of ours, but by an act of the will of Adam. Original and actual sin are distinguished by the manner in which they are voluntary (ex parte actus); mortal and venial sin by the way in which they affect our relation to God (ex parte deordinationis). Since a voluntary act and its disorder are of the essence of sin, it is impossible that sin should be a generic term in respect to original and actual, mortal and venial sin. The true nature of sin is found perfectly only in a personal mortal sin, in other sins imperfectly, so that sin is predicated primarily of actual sin, only secondarily of the others. Therefore we shall consider: first, personal mortal sin; second, venial sin.

Mortal Sin

Mortal sin is defined by St. Augustine (Reply to Faustus XXII.27) as "Dictum vel factum vel concupitum contra legem æternam", i.e. something said, done or desired contrary to the eternal law, or a thought, word, or deed contrary to the eternal law. This is a definition of sin as it is a voluntary act. As it is a defect or privation it may be defined as an aversion from God, our true last end, by reason of the preference given to some mutable good. The definition of St. Augustine is accepted generally by theologians and is primarily a definition of actual mortal sin. It explains well the material and formal elements of sin. The words "dictum vel factum vel concupitum" denote the material element of sin, a human act: "contra legem æternam", the formal element. The act is bad because it transgresses the Divine law. St. Ambrose (De paradiso, viii) defines sin as a "prevarication of the Divine law". The definition of St. Augustine strictly considered, i.e. as sin averts us from our true ultimate end, does not comprehend venial sin, but in as much as venial sin is in a manner contrary to the Divine law, although not averting us from our last end, it may be said to be included in the definition as it stands. While primarily a definition of sins of commission, sins of omission may be included in the definition because they presuppose some positive act (St. Thomas, I-II:71:5) and negation and affirmation are reduced to the same genus. Sins that violate the human or the natural law are also included, for what is contrary to the human or natural law is also contrary to the Divine law, in as much as every just human law is derived from the Divine law, and is not just unless it is in conformity with the Divine law.

Biblical description of sin

In the Old Testament sin is set forth as an act of disobedience (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:11; Isaiah 1:2-4; Jeremiah 2:32); as an insult to God (Numbers 27:14); as something detested and punished by God (Genesis 3:14-19; Genesis 4:9-16); as injurious to the sinner (Tobit 12:10); to be expiated by penance (Psalm 1:19). In the New Testament it is clearly taught in St. Paul that sin is a transgression of the law (Romans 2:23; 5:12-20); a servitude from which we are liberated by grace (Romans 6:16-18); a disobedience (Hebrews 2:2) punished by God (Hebrews 10:26-31). St. John describes sin as an offence to God, a disorder of the will (John 12:43), an iniquity (1 John 3:4-10). Christ in many of His utterances teaches the nature and extent of sin. He came to promulgate a new law more perfect than the old, which would extend to the ordering not only of external but also of internal acts to a degree unknown before, and, in His Sermon on the Mount, He condemns as sinful many acts which were judged honest and righteous by the doctors and teachers of the Old Law. He denounces in a special manner hypocrisy and scandal, infidelity and the sin against the Holy Ghost. In particular He teaches that sins come from the heart (Matthew 15:19-20).

Systems which deny sin or distort its true notion

All systems, religious and ethical, which either deny, on the one hand, the existence of a personal creator and lawgiver distinct from and superior to his creation, or, on the other, the existence of free will and responsibility in man, distort or destroy the true biblico-theological notion of sin. In the beginning of the Christian era the Gnostics, although their doctrines varied in details, denied the existence of a personal creator. The idea of sin in the Catholic sense is not contained in their system. There is no sin for them, unless it be the sin of ignorance, no necessity for an atonement; Jesus is not God (see GNOSTICISM). Manichaeism with its two eternal principles, good and evil, at perpetual war with each other, is also destructive of the true notion of sin. All evil, and consequently sin, is from the principle of evil. The Christian concept of God as a lawgiver is destroyed. Sin is not a conscious voluntary act of disobedience to the Divine will. Pantheistic systems which deny the distinction between God and His creation make sin impossible. If man and God are one, man is not responsible to anyone for his acts, morality is destroyed. If he is his own rule of action, he cannot deviate from right as St. Thomas teaches (I:63:1). The identification of God and the world by Pantheism leaves no place for sin.

There must be some law to which man is subject, superior to and distinct from him, which can be obeyed and transgressed, before sin can enter into his acts. This law must be the mandate of a superior, because the notions of superiority and subjection are correlative. This superior can be only God, who alone is the author and lord of man. Materialism, denying as it does the spirituality and the immortality of the soul, the existence of any spirit whatsoever, and consequently of God, does not admit sin. There is no free will, everything is determined by the inflexible laws of motion. "Virtue" and "vice" are meaningless qualifications of action. Positivism places man's last end in some sensible good. His supreme law of action is to seek the maximum of pleasure. Egotism or altruism is the supreme norm and criterion of the Positivistic systems, not the eternal law of God as revealed by Him, and dictated by conscience. For the materialistic evolutionists man is but a highly-developed animal, conscience a product of evolution. Evolution has revolutionized morality, sin is no more.

Kant in his "Critique of Pure Reason" having rejected all the essential notions of true morality, namely, liberty, the soul, God and a future life, attempted in his "Critique of the Practical Reason" to restore them in the measure in which they are necessary for morality. The practical reason, he tells us, imposes on us the idea of law and duty. The fundamental principle of the morality of Kant is "duty for duty's sake", not God and His law. Duty cannot be conceived of alone as an independent thing. It carries with it certain postulates, the first of which is liberty. "I ought, therefore I can", is his doctrine. Man by virtue of his practical reason has a consciousness of moral obligation (categorical imperative). This consciousness supposes three things: free will, the immortality of the soul, the existence of God, otherwise man would not be capable of fulfilling his obligations, there would be no sufficient sanction for the Divine law, no reward or punishment in a future life. Kant's moral system labours in obscurities and contradictions and is destructive of much that pertains to the teaching of Christ. Personal dignity is the supreme rule of man's actions. The notion of sin as opposed to God is suppressed. According to the teaching of materialistic Monism, now so widespread, there is, and can be, no free will. According to this doctrine but one thing exists and this one being produces all phenomena, thought included; we are but puppets in its hands, carried hither an thither as it wills, and finally are cast back into nothingness. There is no place for good and evil, a free observance or a wilful transgression of law, in such a system. Sin in the true sense is impossible. Without law and liberty and a personal God there is no sin.

That God exists and can be known from His visible creation, that He has revealed the decrees of His eternal will to man, and is distinct from His creatures (Denzinger-Bannwart, "Enchiridion", nn. 1782, 1785, 1701), are matters of Catholic faith and teaching. Man is a created being endowed with free will (ibid., 793), which fact can be proved from Scripture and reason (ibid., 1041-1650). The Council of Trent declares in Sess. VI, c. i (ibid., 793) that man by reason of the prevarication of Adam has lost his primeval innocence, and that while free will remains, its powers are lessened (see ORIGINAL SIN).

Protestant Errors

Luther and Calvin taught as their fundamental error that no free will properly so called remained in man after the fall of our first parents; that the fulfillment of God's precepts is impossible even with the assistance of grace, and that man in all his actions sins. Grace is not an interior gift, but something external. To some sin is not imputed, because they are covered as with a cloak by the merits of Christ. Faith alone saves, there is no necessity for good works. Sin in Luther's doctrine cannot be a deliberate transgression of the Divine law. Jansenius, in his "Augustinus", taught that according to the present powers of man some of God's precepts are impossible of fulfilment, even to the just who strive to fulfil them, and he further taught that grace by means of which the fulfilment becomes possible is wanting even to the just. His fundamental error consists in teaching that the will is not free but is necessarily drawn either by concupiscence or grace. Internal liberty is not required for merit or demerit. Liberty from coercion suffices. Christ did not die for all men. Baius taught a semi-Lutheran doctrine. Liberty is not entirely destroyed, but is so weakened that without grace it can do nothing but sin. True liberty is not required for sin. A bad act committed involuntarily renders man responsible (propositions 50-51 in Denzinger-Bannwart, "Enchiridion", nn. 1050-1). All acts done without charity are mortal sins and merit damnation because they proceed from concupiscence. This doctrine denies that sin is a voluntary transgression of Divine law. If man is not free, a precept is meaningless as far as he is concerned.

Philosophical Sin

Those who would construct a moral system independent of God and His law distinguish between theological and philosophical sin. Philosophical sin is a morally bad act which violates the natural order of reason, not the Divine law. Theological sin is a transgression of the eternal law. Those who are of atheistic tendencies and contend for this distinction, either deny the existence of God or maintain that He exercises no providence in regard to human acts. This position is destructive of sin in the theological sense, as God and His law, reward and punishment, are done away with. Those who admit the existence of God, His law, human liberty and responsibility, and still contend for a distinction between philosophical and theological sin, maintain that in the present order of God's providence there are morally bad acts, which, while violating the order of reason, are not offensive to God, and they base their contention on this that the sinner can be ignorant of the existence of God, or not actually think of Him and His law when he acts. Without the knowledge of God and consideration of Him, it is impossible to offend Him. This doctrine was censured as scandalous, temerarious, and erroneous by Alexander VIII (24 Aug., 1690) in his condemnation of the following proposition: "Philosophical or moral sin is a human act not in agreement with rational nature and right reason, theological and mortal sin is a free transgression of the Divine law. However grievous it may be, philosophical sin in one who is either ignorant of God or does not actually think of God, is indeed a grievous sin, but not an offense to God, nor a mortal sin dissolving friendship with God, nor worthy of eternal punishment" (Denzinger-Bannwart, 1290).

This proposition is condemned because it does not distinguish between vincible and invincible ignorance, and further supposes invincible ignorance of God to be sufficiently common, instead of only metaphysically possible, and because in the present dispensation of God's providence we are clearly taught in Scripture that God will punish all evil coming from the free will of man (Romans 2:5-11). There is no morally bad act that does not include a transgression of Divine law. From the fact that an action is conceived of as morally evil it is conceived of as prohibited. A prohibition is unintelligible without the notion of some one prohibiting. The one prohibiting in this case and binding the conscience of man can be only God, Who alone has power over man's free will and actions, so that from the fact that any act is perceived to be morally bad and prohibited by conscience, God and His law are perceived at least confusedly, and a wilful transgression of the dictate of conscience is necessarily also a transgression of God's law. Cardinal de Lugo (De incarnat., disp. 5, lect. 3) admits the possibility of philosophical sin in those who are inculpably ignorant of God, but he holds that it does not actually occur, because in the present order of God's providence there cannot be invincible ignorance of God and His law. This teaching does not necessarily fall under the condemnation of Alexander VIII, but it is commonly rejected by theologians for the reason that a dictate of conscience necessarily involves a knowledge of the Divine law as a principle of morality.

Conditions of mortal sin: knowledge, free will, grave matter.

Contrary to the teaching of Baius (prop. 46, Denzinger-Bannwart, 1046) and the Reformers, a sin must be a voluntary act. Those actions alone are properly called human or moral actions which proceed from the human will deliberately acting with knowledge of the end for which it acts. Man differs from all irrational creatures in this precisely that he is master of his actions by virtue of his reason and free will (I-II:1:1). Since sin is a human act wanting in due rectitude, it must have, in so far as it is a human act, the essential constituents of a human act. The intellect must perceive and judge of the morality of the act, and the will must freely elect. For a deliberate mortal sin there must be full advertence on the part of the intellect and full consent on the part of the will in a grave matter. An involuntary transgression of the law even in a grave matter is not a formal but a material sin. The gravity of the matter is judged from the teaching of Scripture, the definitions of councils and popes, and also from reason. Those sins are judged to be mortal which contain in themselves some grave disorder in regard to God, our neighbour, ourselves, or society. Some sins admit of no lightness of matter, as for example, blasphemy, hatred of God; they are always mortal (ex toto genere suo), unless rendered venial by want of full advertence on the part of the intellect or full consent on the part of the will. Other sins admit lightness of matter: they are grave sins (ex genere suo) in as much as their matter in itself is sufficient to constitute a grave sin without the addition of any other matter, but is of such a nature that in a given case, owing to its smallness, the sin may be venial, e.g. theft.


That the act of the sinner may be imputed to him it is not necessary that the object which terminates and specifies his act should be directly willed as an ends or means. It suffices that it be willed indirectly or in its cause, i.e. if the sinner foresees, at least confusedly, that it will follow from the act which he freely performs or from his omission of an act. When the cause produces a twofold effect, one of which is directly willed, the other indirectly, the effect which follows indirectly is morally imputable to the sinner when these three conditions are verified:

first, the sinner must foresee at least confusedly the evil effects which follow on the cause he places;
second, he must be able to refrain from placing the cause;
third, he must be under the obligation of preventing the evil effect.
Error and ignorance in regard to the object or circumstances of the act to be placed, affect the judgment of the intellect and consequently the morality and imputability of the act. Invincible ignorance excuses entirely from sin. Vincible ignorance does not, although it renders the act less free (see IGNORANCE). The passions, while they disturb the judgment of the intellect, more directly affect the will. Antecedent passion increases the intensity of the act, the object is more intensely desired, although less freely, and the disturbance caused by the passions may be so great as to render a free judgment impossible, the agent being for the moment beside himself (I-II:6:7, ad 3um). Consequent passion, which arises from a command of the will, does not lessen liberty, but is rather a sign of an intense act of volition. Fear, violence, heredity, temperament and pathological states, in so far as they affect free volition, affect the malice and imputability of sin. From the condemnation of the errors of Baius and Jansenius (Denz.-Bann., 1046, 1066, 1094, 1291-2) it is clear that for an actual personal sin a knowledge of the law and a personal voluntary act, free from coercion and necessity, are required. No mortal sin is committed in a state of invincible ignorance or in a half-conscious state. Actual advertence to the sinfulness of the act is not required, virtual advertence suffices. It is not necessary that the explicit intention to offend God and break His law be present, the full and free consent of the will to an evil act suffices.


The true malice of mortal sin consists in a conscious and voluntary transgression of the eternal law, and implies a contempt of the Divine will, a complete turning away from God, our true last end, and a preferring of some created thing to which we subject ourselves. It is an offence offered to God, and an injury done Him; not that it effects any change in God, who is immutable by nature, but that the sinner by his act deprives God of the reverence and honor due Him: it is not any lack of malice on the sinner's part, but God's immutability that prevents Him from suffering. As an offence offered to God mortal sin is in a way infinite in its malice, since it is directed against an infinite being, and the gravity of the offence is measured by the dignity of the one offended (St. Thomas, III:1:2, ad 2um). As an act sin is finite, the will of man not being capable of infinite malice. Sin is an offence against Christ Who has redeemed man (Philippians 3:18); against the Holy Ghost Who sanctifies us (Hebrews 10:29), an injury to man himself, causing the spiritual death of the soul, and making man the servant of the devil. The first and primary malice of sin is derived from the object to which the will inordinately tends, and from the object considered morally, not physically. The end for which the sinner acts and the circumstances which surround the act are also determining factors of its morality. An act which, objectively considered, is morally indifferent, may be rendered good or evil by circumstances, or by the intention of the sinner. An act that is good objectively may be rendered bad, or a new species of good or evil may be added, or a new degree. Circumstances can change the character of a sin to such a degree that it becomes specifically different from what it is objectively considered; or they may merely aggravate the sin while not changing its specific character; or they may lessen its gravity. That they may exercise this determining influence two things are necessary: they must contain in themselves some good or evil, and must be apprehended, at least confusedly, in their moral aspect. The external act, in so far as it is a mere execution of a voluntary efficacious internal act, does not, according to the common Thomistic opinion, add any essential goodness or malice to the internal sin.


While every mortal sin averts us from our true last end, all mortal sins are not equally grave, as is clear from Scripture (John 19:11; Matthew 11:22; Luke 6), and also from reason. Sins are specifically distinguished by their objects, which do not all equally avert man from his last end. Then again, since sin is not a pure privation, but a mixed one, all sins do not equally destroy the order of reason. Spiritual sins, other things being equal, are graver than carnal sins. (St. Thomas, "De malo", Q. ii, a. 9; I-II.73.5).

Specific and numeric distinction of sin.

Sins are distinguished specifically by their formally diverse objects; or from their opposition to different virtues, or to morally different precepts of the same virtue. Sins that are specifically distinct are also numerically distinct. Sins within the same species are distinguished numerically according to the number of complete acts of the will in regard to total objects. A total object is one which, either in itself or by the intention of the sinner, forms a complete whole and is not referred to another action as a part of the whole. When the completed acts of the will relate to the same object there are as many sins as there are morally interrupted acts.

Subject causes of sin.

Since sin is a voluntary act lacking in due rectitude, sin is found, as in a subject, principally in the will. But, since not only acts elicited by the will are voluntary, but also those that are elicited by other faculties at the command of the will, sin may be found in these faculties in so far as they are subject in their actions to the command of the will, and are instruments of the will, and move under its guidance (I-II:74).

The external members of the body cannot be effective principles of sin (I-II:74:2, ad 3um). They are mere organs which are set in activity by the soul; they do not initiate action. The appetitive powers on the contrary can be effective principles of sin, for they possess, through their immediate conjunction with the will and their subordination to it, a certain though imperfect liberty (I-II:56:4, ad 3um). The sensual appetites have their own proper sensible objects to which they naturally incline, and since original sin has broken the bond which held them in complete subjection to the will, they may antecede the will in their actions and tend to their own proper objects inordinately. Hence they may be proximate principles of sin when they move inordinately contrary to the dictates of right reason.

It is the right of reason to rule the lower faculties, and when the disturbance arises in the sensual part the reason may do one of two things: it may either consent to the sensible delectation or it may repress and reject it. If it consents, the sin is no longer one of the sensual part of man, but of the intellect and will, and consequently, if the matter is grave, mortal. If rejected, no sin can be imputed. There can be no sin in the sensual part of man independently of the will. The inordinate motions of the sensual appetite which precede the advertence of reason, or which are suffered unwillingly, are not even venial sins. The temptations of the flesh not consented to are not sins. Concupiscence, which remains after the guilt of original sin is remitted in baptism, is not sinful so long as consent is not given to it (Council of Trent, sess. V, can. v). The sensual appetite of itself cannot be the subject of mortal sin, for the reason that it can neither grasp the notion of God as an ultimate end, nor avert us from Him, without which aversion there cannot be mortal sin. The superior reason, whose office it is to occupy itself with Divine things, may be the proximate principle of sin both in regard to its own proper act, to know truth, and as it is directive of the inferior faculties: in regard to its own proper act, in so far as it voluntarily neglects to know what it can and ought to know; in regard to the act by which it directs the inferior faculties, to the extent that it commands inordinate acts or fails to repress them (I-II:74:7, ad 2um).

The will never consents to a sin that is not at the same time a sin of the superior reason as directing badly, by either actually deliberating and commanding the consent, or by failing to deliberate and impede the consent of the will when it could and should do so. The superior reason is the ultimate judge of human acts and has an obligation of deliberating and deciding whether the act to be performed is according to the law of God. Venial sin may also be found in the superior reason when it deliberately consents to sins that are venial in their nature, or when there is not a full consent in the case of a sin that is mortal considered objectively.

Causes of sin.

Under this head, it is needful to distinguish between the efficient cause, i.e. the agent performing the sinful action, and those other agencies, influences or circumstances, which incite to sin and consequently involve a danger, more or less grave, for one who is exposed to them. These inciting causes are explained in special articles on OCCASIONS OF SIN and TEMPTATION. Here we have to consider only the efficient cause or causes of sin. These are interior and exterior. The complete and sufficient cause of sin is the will, which is regulated in its actions by the reason, and acted upon by the sensitive appetites. The principal interior causes of sin are ignorance, infirmity or passion, and malice. Ignorance on the part of the reason, infirmity and passion on the part of the sensitive appetite, and malice on the part of the will. A sin is from certain malice when the will sins of its own accord and not under the influence of ignorance or passion.

The exterior causes of sin are the devil and man, who move to sin by means of suggestion, persuasion, temptation and bad example. God is not the cause of sin (Council of Trent, sess. VI, can. vi, in Denz.-Bann., 816). He directs all things to Himself and is the end of all His actions, and could not be the cause of evil without self-contradiction. Of whatever entity there is in sin as an action, He is the cause. The evil will is the cause of the disorder (I-II:79:2). One sin may be the cause of another inasmuch as one sin may be ordained to another as an end. The seven capital sins, so called, may be considered as the source from which other sins proceed. They are sinful propensities which reveal themselves in particular sinful acts. Original sin by reason of its dire effects is the cause and source of sin in so far as by reason of it our natures are left wounded and inclined to evil. Ignorance, infirmity, malice, and concupiscence are the consequences of original sin.

Effects of sin.

The first effect of mortal sin in man is to avert him from his true last end, and deprive his soul of sanctifying grace. The sinful act passes, and the sinner is left in a state of habitual aversion from God. The sinful state is voluntary and imputable to the sinner, because it necessarily follows from the act of sin he freely placed, and it remains until satisfaction is made (see PENANCE). This state of sin is called by theologians habitual sin, not in the sense that habitual sin implies a vicious habit, but in the sense that it signifies a state of aversion from God depending on the preceding actual sin, consequently voluntary and imputable. This state of aversion carries with it necessarily in the present order of God's providence the privation of grace and charity by means of which man is ordered to his supernatural end. The privation of grace is the "macula peccati" (St. Thomas, I-II.86), the stain of sin spoken of in Scripture (Joshua 22:17; Isaiah 4:4; 1 Corinthians 6:11). It is not anything positive, a quality or disposition, an obligation to suffer, an extrinsic denomination coming from sin, but is solely the privation of sanctifying grace. There is not a real but only a conceptual distinction between habitual sin (reatus culpæ) and the stain of sin (macula peccati). One and the same privation considered as destroying the due order of man to God is habitual sin, considered as depriving the soul of the beauty of grace is the stain or "macula" of sin.

The second effect of sin is to entail the penalty of undergoing suffering (reatus pænæ). Sin (reatus culpæ) is the cause of this obligation (reatus pænæ ). The suffering may be inflicted in this life through the medium of medicinal punishments, calamities, sickness, temporal evils, which tend to withdraw from sin; or it may be inflicted in the life to come by the justice of God as vindictive punishment. The punishments of the future life are proportioned to the sin committed, and it is the obligation of undergoing this punishment for unrepented sin that is signified by the "reatus poenæ" of the theologians. The penalty to be undergone in the future life is divided into the pain of loss (pæna damni) and the pain of sense (pæna sensus). The pain of loss is the privation of the beatific vision of God in punishment of turning away from Him. The pain of sense is suffering in punishment of the conversion to some created thing in place of God. This two-fold pain in punishment of mortal sin is eternal (1 Corinthians 6:9; Matthew 25:41; Mark 9:45). One mortal sin suffices to incur punishment. (See HELL.) Other effects of sins are: remorse of conscience (Wisdom 5:2-13); an inclination towards evil, as habits are formed by a repetition of similar acts; a darkening of the intelligence, a hardening of the will (Matthew 13:14-15; Romans 11:8); a general vitiating of nature, which does not however totally destroy the substance and faculties of the soul but merely weakens the right exercise of its faculties.

Venial Sin.

Venial sin is essentially different from mortal sin. It does not avert us from our true last end, it does not destroy charity, the principle of union with God, nor deprive the soul of sanctifying grace, and it is intrinsically reparable. It is called venial precisely because, considered in its own proper nature, it is pardonable; in itself meriting, not eternal, but temporal punishment. It is distinguished from mortal sin on the part of the disorder. By mortal sin man is entirely averted from God, his true last end, and, at least implicitly, he places his last end in some created thing. By venial sin he is not averted from God, neither does he place his last end in creatures. He remains united with God by charity, but does not tend towards Him as he ought. The true nature of sin as it is contrary to the eternal law, repugnant namely to the primary end of the law, is found only in mortal sin. Venial sin is only in an imperfect way contrary to the law, since it is not contrary to the primary end of the law, nor does it avert man from the end intended by the law. (St. Thomas, I-II.88.1; and Cajetan, I-II, Q. lxxxviii, a. 1, for the sense of the præter legem and contra legem of St. Thomas).


Since a voluntary act and its disorder are of the essence of sin, venial sin as it is a voluntary act may be defined as a thought, word or deed at variance with the law of God. It retards man in the attainment of his last end while not averting him from it. Its disorder consists either in the not fully deliberate choosing of some object prohibited by the law of God, or in the deliberate adhesion to some created object not as an ultimate end but as a medium, which object does not avert the sinner from God, but is not, however, referable to Him as an end. Man cannot be averted from God except by deliberately placing his last end in some created thing, and in venial sin he does not adhere to any temporal good, enjoying it as a last end, but as a medium referring it to God not actually but habitually inasmuch as he himself is ordered to God by charity. "Ille qui peccat venialiter, inhaeret bono temporali non ut fruens, quia non constituit in eo finem, sed ut utens, referens in Deum non actu sed habitu" (I-II:88:1, ad 3). For a mortal sin, some created good must be adhered to as a last end at least implicitly. This adherence cannot be accomplished by a semi-deliberate act. By adhering to an object that is at variance with the law of God and yet not destructive of the primary end of the Divine law, a true opposition is not set up between God and that object. The created good is not desired as an end. The sinner is not placed in the position of choosing between God and creature as ultimate ends that are opposed, but is in such a condition of mind that if the object to which he adheres were prohibited as contrary to his true last end he would not adhere to it, but would prefer to keep friendship with God. An example may be had in human friendship. A friend will refrain from doing anything that of itself will tend directly to dissolve friendship while allowing himself at times to do what is displeasing to his friends without destroying friendship.

The distinction between mortal and venial sin is set forth in Scripture. From St. John (1 John 5:16-17) it is clear there are some sins "unto death" and some sins not "unto death", i.e. mortal and venial. The classic text for the distinction of mortal and venial sin is that of St. Paul (1 Corinthians 3:8-15), where he explains in detail the distinction between mortal and venial sin. "For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: every man's work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it; because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." By wood, hay, and stubble are signified venial sins (St. Thomas, I-II:89:2) which, built on the foundation of a living faith in Christ, do not destroy charity, and from their very nature do not merit eternal but temporal punishment. "Just as", says St. Thomas, [wood, hay, and stubble] "are gathered together in a house and do not pertain to the substance of the edifice, so also venial sins are multiplied in man, the spiritual edifice remaining, and for these he suffers either the fire of temporal tribulations in this life, or of purgatory after this life and nevertheless obtains eternal salvation." (I-II:89:2)

The suitableness of the division into wood, hay, and stubble is explained by St. Thomas (iv, dist. 21, Q. i, a. 2). Some venial sins are graver than others and less pardonable, and this difference is well signified by the difference in the inflammability of wood, hay, and stubble. That there is a distinction between mortal and venial sins is of faith (Council of Trent, sess. VI, c. xi and canons 23-25; sess. XIV, de poenit., c. v). This distinction is commonly rejected by all heretics ancient and modern. In the fourth century Jovinian asserted that all sins are equal in guilt and deserving of the same punishment (St. Aug., "Ep. 167", ii, n. 4); Pelagius, that every sin deprives man of justice and therefore is mortal; Wyclif, that there is no warrant in Scripture for differentiating mortal from venial sin, and that the gravity of sin depends not on the quality of the action but on the decree of predestination or reprobation so that the worst crime of the predestined is infinitely less than the slightest fault of the reprobate; Hus, that all the actions of the vicious are mortal sins, while all the acts of the good are virtuous (Denz.-Bann., 642); Luther, that all sins of unbelievers are mortal and all sins of the regenerate, with the exception of infidelity, are venial; Calvin, like Wyclif, bases the difference between mortal sin and venial sin on predestination, but adds that a sin is venial because of the faith of the sinner. The twentieth among the condemned propositions of Baius reads: "There is no sin venial in its nature, but every sin merits eternal punishment" (Denz.-Bann., 1020). Hirscher in more recent times taught that all sins which are fully deliberate are mortal, thus denying the distinction of sins by reason of their objects and making the distinction rest on the imperfection of the act (Kleutgen, 2nd ed., II, 284, etc.).

Malice of venial sin.

The difference in the malice of mortal and venial sin consists in this: that mortal sin is contrary to the primary end of the eternal law, that it attacks the very substance of the law which commands that no created thing should be preferred to God as an end, or equalled to Him, while venial sin is only at variance with the law, not in contrary opposition to it, not attacking its substance. The substance of the law remaining, its perfect accomplishment is prevented by venial sin.


Venial sin is committed when the matter of the sin is light, even though the advertence of the intellect and consent of the will are full and deliberate, and when, even though the matter of the sin be grave, there is not full advertence on the part of the intellect and full consent on the part of the will. A precept obliges sub gravi when it has for its object an important end to be attained, and its transgression is prohibited under penalty of losing God's friendship. A precept obliges sub levi when it is not so directly imposed.


Venial sin does not deprive the soul of sanctifying grace, or diminish it. It does not produce a macula, or stain, as does mortal sin, but it lessens the lustre of virtue -- "In anima duplex est nitor, unus quiden habitualis, ex gratia sanctificante, alter actualis ex actibus virtutem, jamvero peccatum veniale impedit quidem fulgorem qui ex actibus virtutum oritur, non autem habitualem nitorem, quia non excludit nec minuit habitum charitatis" (I-II:89:1). Frequent and deliberate venial sin lessens the fervour of charity, disposes to mortal sin (I-II:88:3), and hinders the reception of graces God would otherwise give. It displeases God (Revelation 2:4-5) and obliges the sinner to temporal punishment either in this life or in Purgatory. We cannot avoid all venial sin in this life. "Although the most just and holy occasionally during this life fall into some slight and daily sins, known as venial, they cease not on that account to be just" (Council of Trent, sess. VI, c. xi). And canon xxiii says: "If any one declare that a man once justified cannot sin again, or that he can avoid for the rest of his life every sin, even venial, let him be anathema", but according to the common opinion we can avoid all such as are fully deliberate. Venial sin may coexist with mortal sin in those who are averted from God by mortal sin. This fact does not change its nature or intrinsic reparability, and the fact that it is not coexistent with charity is not the result of venial sin, but of mortal sin. It is per accidens, for an extrinsic reason, that venial sin in this case is irreparable, and is punished in hell. That venial sin may appear in its true nature as essentially different from mortal sin it is considered as de facto coexisting with charity (1 Corinthians 3:8-15). Venial sins do not need the grace of absolution. They can be remitted by prayer, contrition, fervent communion, and other pious works. Nevertheless it is laudable to confess them (Denz.-Bann., 1539).

Permission of sin and remedies.

Since it is of faith that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and all good it is difficult to account for sin in His creation. The existence of evil is the underlying problem in all theology. Various explanations to account for its existence have been offered, differing according to the philosophical principles and religious tenets of their authors. Any Catholic explanation must take into account the defined truths of the omnipotence, omniscience, and goodness of God; free will on the part of man; and the fact that suffering is the penalty of sin. Of metaphysical evil, the negation of a greater good, God is the cause inasmuch as he has created beings with limited forms. Of physical evil (malum pænæ) He is also the cause. Physical evil, considered as it proceeds from God and is inflicted in punishment of sin in accordance with the decrees of Divine justice, is good, compensating for the violation of order by sin. It is only in the subject affected by it that it is evil.

Of moral evil (malum culpæ) God is not the cause (Council of Trent, sess. VI, can. vi), either directly or indirectly. Sin is a violation of order, and God orders all things to Himself, as an ultimate end, consequently He cannot be the direct cause of sin. God's withdrawal of grace which would prevent the sin does not make Him the indirect cause of sin inasmuch as this withdrawal is affected according to the decrees of His Divine wisdom and justice in punishment of previous sin. He is under no obligation of impeding the sin, consequently it cannot be imputed to Him as a cause (I-II:79:1). When we read in Scripture and the Fathers that God inclines men to sin the sense is, either that in His just judgment He permits men to fall into sin by a punitive permission, exercising His justice in punishment of past sin; or that He directly causes, not sin, but certain exterior works, good in themselves, which are so abused by the evil wills of men that here and now they commit evil; or that He gives them the power of accomplishing their evil designs. Of the physical act in sin God is the cause inasmuch as it is an entity and good. Of the malice of sin man's evil will is the sufficient cause. God could not be impeded in the creation of man by the fact that He foresaw his fall. This would mean the limiting of His omnipotence by a creature, and would be destructive of Him. He was free to create man even though He foresaw his fall, and He created him, endowed him with free will, and gave him sufficient means of persevering in good had he so willed. We must sum up our ignorance of the permission of evil by saying in the words of St. Augustine, that God would not have permitted evil had He not been powerful enough to bring good out of evil. God's end in creating this universe is Himself, not the good of man, and somehow or other good and evil serve His ends, and there shall finally be a restoration of violated order by Divine justice. No sin shall be without its punishment. The evil men do must be atoned for either in this world by penance (see PENANCE) or in the world to come in purgatory or hell, according as the sin that stains the soul, and is not repented of, is mortal or venial, and merits eternal or temporal punishment. (See EVIL.) God has provided a remedy for sin and manifested His love and goodness in the face of man's ingratitude by the Incarnation of His Divine Son (see INCARNATION); by the institution of His Church to guide men and interpret to them His law, and administer to them the sacraments, seven channels of grace, which, rightly used, furnish an adequate remedy for sin and a means to union with God in heaven, which is the end of His law.

Sense of sin.

The understanding of sin, as far as it can be understood by our finite intelligence, serves to unite man more closely to God. It impresses him with a salutary fear, a fear of his own powers, a fear, if left to himself, of falling from grace; with the necessity he lies under of seeking God's help and grace to stand firm in the fear and love of God, and make progress in the spiritual life. Without the acknowledgment that the present moral state of man is not that in which God created him, that his powers are weakened; that he has a supernatural end to attain, which is impossible of attainment by his own unaided efforts, without grace there being no proportion between the end and the means; that the world, the flesh, and the devil are in reality active agents fighting against him and leading him to serve them instead of God, sin cannot be understood. The evolutionary hypothesis would have it that physical evolution accounts for the physical origin of man, that science knows no condition of man in which man exhibited the characteristics of the state of original justice, no state of sinlessness. The fall of man in this hypothesis is in reality a rise to a higher grade of being. "A fall it might seem, just as a vicious man sometimes seems degraded below the beasts, but in promise and potency, a rise it really was" (Sir O. Lodge, "Life and Matter", p. 79). This teaching is destructive of the notion of sin as taught by the Catholic Church. Sin is not a phase of an upward struggle, it is rather a deliberate, wilful refusal to struggle. If there has been no fall from a higher to a lower state, then the teaching of Scripture in regard to Redemption and the necessity of a baptismal regeneration is unintelligible. The Catholic teaching is the one that places sin in its true light, that justifies the condemnation of sin we find in Scripture.

The Church strives continually to impress her children with a sense of the awfulness of sin that they may fear it and avoid it. We are fallen creatures, and our spiritual life on earth is a warfare. Sin is our enemy, and while of our own strength we cannot avoid sin, with God's grace we can. If we but place no obstacle to the workings of grace we can avoid all deliberate sin. If we have the misfortune to sin, and seek God's grace and pardon with a contrite and humble heart, He will not repel us. Sin has its remedy in grace, which is given us by God, through the merits of His only-begotten Son, Who has redeemed us, restoring by His passion and death the order violated by the sin of our first parents, and making us once again children of God and heirs of heaven. Where sin is looked on as a necessary and unavoidable condition of things human, where inability to avoid sin is conceived as necessary, discouragement naturally follows. Where the Catholic doctrine of the creation of man in a superior state, his fall by a wilful transgression, the effects of which fall are by Divine decree transmitted to his posterity, destroying the balance of the human faculties and leaving man inclined to evil; where the dogmas of redemption and grace in reparation of sin are kept in mind, there is no discouragement. Left to ourselves we fall, by keeping close to God and continually seeking His help we can stand and struggle against sin, and if faithful in the battle we must wage shall be crowned in heaven.

Against Thee only have I Sinned

1. THOU, O Lord, after living a whole eternity in ineffable bliss, because Thou art the one and sole Perfection, at length didst begin to create spirits to be with Thee and to share Thy blessedness according to their degree; and the return they made Thee was at once to rebel against Thee. First a great part of the Angels, then mankind, have risen up against Thee, and served others, not Thee. Why didst Thou create us, but to make us happy? Couldest Thou be made more happy by creating us? and how could we be happy but in obeying Thee? Yet we determined not to be happy as Thou wouldest have us happy, but to find out a happiness of our own; and so we left Thee. O my God, what a return is it that we—that I—make Thee when we sin! what dreadful unthankfulness is it! and what will be my punishment for refusing to be happy, and for preferring hell to heaven! I know what the punishment will be; Thou wilt say, "Let him have it all {334} his own way. He wishes to perish; let him perish. He despises the graces I give him; they shall turn to a curse.

2. Thou, O my God, hast a claim on me, and I am wholly Thine! Thou art the Almighty Creator, and I am Thy workmanship. I am the work of Thy Hands, and Thou art my owner. As well might the axe or the hammer exalt itself against its framer, as I against Thee. Thou owest me nothing; I have no rights in respect to Thee, I have only duties. I depend on Thee for life, and health, and every blessing every moment. I have no more power of exercising will as to my life than axe or hammer. I depend on Thee far more entirely than anything here depends on its owner and master. The son does not depend on the father for the continuance of life—the matter out of which the axe is made existed first—but I depend wholly on Thee—if Thou withdraw Thy breath from me for a moment, I die. I am wholly and entirely Thy property and Thy work, and my one duty is to serve Thee.

3. O my God, I confess that before now I have utterly forgotten this, and that I am continually forgetting it! I have acted many a time as if I were my own master, and turned from Thee rebelliously. I have acted according to my own pleasure, not according to Thine. And so far have I hardened myself, as not to feel as I ought how evil this is. I do not understand how dreadful sin is—and I do not hate it, and fear it, as I ought. I have no horror of it, or loathing. I do not turn from it with indignation, as {335} being an insult to Thee, but I trifle with it, and, even if I do not commit great sins, I have no great reluctance to do small ones. O my God, what a great and awful difference is there between what I am and what I ought to be!

(2) Against Thee only have I Sinned
1. MY God, I dare not offend any earthly superior; I am afraid—for I know I shall get into trouble—yet I dare offend Thee. I know, O Lord, that, according to the greatness of the person offended against, the greater is the offence. Yet I do not fear to offend Thee, whom to offend is to offend the infinite God. O my dear Lord, how should I myself feel, what should I say of myself, if I were to strike some revered superior on earth? if I were violently to deal a blow upon some one as revered as a father, or a priest; if I were to strike them on the face? I cannot bear even to think of such a thing—yet what is this compared with lifting up my hand against Thee? and what is sin but this? To sin is to insult Thee in the grossest of all conceivable ways. This then, O my soul! is what the sinfulness of sin consists in. It is lifting up my hand against my Infinite Benefactor, against my Almighty Creator, Preserver and Judge—against Him in whom all majesty and glory and beauty and reverence and sanctity centre; against the one only God. {336}

2. O my God, I am utterly confounded to think of the state in which I lie! What will become of me if Thou art severe? What is my life, O my dear and merciful Lord, but a series of offences, little or great, against Thee! O what great sins I have committed against Thee before now—and how continually in lesser matters I am sinning! My God, what will become of me? What will be my position hereafter if I am left to myself! What can I do but come humbly to Him whom I have so heavily affronted and insulted, and beg Him to forgive the debt which lies against me? O my Lord Jesus, whose love for me has been so great as to bring Thee down from heaven to save me, teach me, dear Lord, my sin—teach me its heinousness—teach me truly to repent of it—and pardon it in Thy great mercy!

3. I beg Thee, O my dear Saviour, to recover me! Thy grace alone can do it. I cannot save myself. I cannot recover my lost ground. I cannot turn to Thee, I cannot please Thee, or save my soul without Thee. I shall go from bad to worse, I shall fall from Thee entirely, I shall quite harden myself against my neglect of duty, if I rely on my own strength. I shall make myself my centre instead of making Thee. I shall worship some idol of my own framing instead of Thee, the only true God and my Maker, unless Thou hinder it by Thy grace. O my dear Lord, hear me! I have lived long enough in this undecided, wavering, unsatisfactory state. I wish to be Thy good servant. I wish to sin no more. Be gracious to me, and enable me to be what I know I ought to be. {337}

(3) The Effects of Sin
1. MY Lord, Thou art the infinitely merciful God. Thou lovest all things that Thou hast created. Thou art the lover of souls. How then is it, O Lord, that I am in a world so miserable as this is? Can this be the world which Thou hast created, so full of pain and suffering? Who among the sons of Adam lives without suffering from his birth to his death? How many bad sicknesses and diseases are there! how many frightful accidents! how many great anxieties! how are men brought down and broken by grief, distress, the tumult of passions, and continual fear! What dreadful plagues are there ever on the earth: war, famine, and pestilence! Why is this, O my God? Why is this, O my soul? Dwell upon it, and ask thyself, Why is this? Has God changed His nature? yet how evil has the earth become!

2. O my God, I know full well why all these evils are. Thou hast not changed Thy nature, but man has ruined his own. We have sinned, O Lord, and therefore is this change. All these evils which I see and in which I partake are the fruit of sin. They would not have been, had we not sinned. They are but the first instalment of the punishment of sin. They are an imperfect and dim image of what sin is. Sin is infinitely worse than famine, than war, than {338} pestilence. Take the most hideous of diseases, under which the body wastes away and corrupts, the blood is infected; the head, the heart, the lungs, every organ disordered, the nerves unstrung and shattered; pain in every limb, thirst, restlessness, delirium—all is nothing compared with that dreadful sickness of the soul which we call sin. They all are the effects of it, they all are shadows of it, but nothing more. That cause itself is something different in kind, is of a malignity far other and greater than all these things. O my God, teach me this! Give me to understand the enormity of that evil under which I labour and know it not. Teach me what sin is.

3. All these dreadful pains of body and soul are the fruits of sin, but they are nothing to its punishment in the world to come. The keenest and fiercest of bodily pains is nothing to the fire of hell; the most dire horror or anxiety is nothing to the never-dying worm of conscience; the greatest bereavement, loss of substance, desertion of friends, and forlorn desolation is nothing compared to the loss of God's countenance. Eternal punishment is the only true measure of the guilt of sin. My God, teach me this. Open my eyes and heart, I earnestly pray Thee, and make me understand how awful a body of death I bear about me. And, not only teach me about it, but in Thy mercy and by Thy grace remove it. {339}

(4) The Evil of Sin
1. MY God, I know that Thou didst create the whole universe very good; and if this was true of the material world which we see, much more true is it of the world of rational beings. The innumerable stars which fill the firmament, and the very elements out of which the earth is made, all are carried through their courses and their operations in perfect concord; but much higher was the concord which reigned in heaven when the Angels were first created. At that first moment of their existence the main orders of the Angels were in the most excellent harmony, and beautiful to contemplate; and the creation of man was expected next, to continue that harmony in the instance of a different kind of being. Then it was that suddenly was discovered a flaw or a rent in one point of this most delicate and exquisite web—and it extended and unravelled the web, till a third part of it was spoilt; and then again a similar flaw was found in human kind, and it extended over the whole race. This dreadful evil, destroying so large a portion of all God's works, is sin.

2. My God, such is sin in Thy judgment; what is it in the judgment of the world? A very small evil or none at all. In the judgment of the Creator it is that which has marred His spiritual work; it is a greater evil than though the stars got loose, and ran wild in heaven, and chaos came again. But man, {340} who is the guilty one, calls it by soft names. He explains it away. The world laughs at it, and is indulgent to it; and, as to its deserving eternal punishment, it rises up indignant at the idea, and rather than admit it, would deny the God who has said it does. The world thinks sin the same sort of imperfection as an impropriety, or want of taste or infirmity. O my soul, consider carefully the great difference between the views of sin taken by Almighty God and the world! Which of the two views do you mean to believe?

3. O my soul, which of the two wilt thou believe—the word of God or the word of man? Is God right or is the creature right? Is sin the greatest of all possible evils or the least? My Lord and Saviour, I have no hesitation which to believe. Thou art true, and every man a liar. I will believe Thee, above the whole world. My God, imprint on my heart the infamous deformity of sin. Teach me to abhor it as a pestilence—as a fierce flame destroying on every side; as my death. Let me take up arms against it, and devote myself to fight under Thy banner in overcoming it.

(5) The Heinousness of Sin
1. MY Lord, I know well that Thou art all perfect, and needest nothing. Yet I know that Thou hast taken upon Thyself the nature of man, and, not only so, but in that nature didst come {341} upon earth, and suffer all manner of evil, and didst die. This is a history which has hung the heavens with sackcloth, and taken from this earth, beautiful as it is, its light and glory. Thou didst come, O my dear Lord, and Thou didst suffer in no ordinary way, but unheard of and extreme torments! The all-blessed Lord suffered the worst and most various of pains. This is the corner truth of the Gospel: it is the one foundation, Jesus Christ and He crucified. I know it, O Lord, I believe it, and I put it steadily before me.

2. Why is this strange anomaly in the face of nature? Does God do things for naught? No, my soul, it is sin; it is thy sin, which has brought the Everlasting down upon earth to suffer. Hence I learn how great an evil sin is. The death of the Infinite is its sole measure. All that slow distress of body and mind which He endured, from the time He shed blood at Gethsemani down to His death, all that pain came from sin. What sort of evil is that, which had to be so encountered by such a sacrifice, and to be reversed at such a price! Here then I understand best how horrible a thing sin is. It is horrible; because through it have come upon men all those evils whatever they are, with which the earth abounds. It is more horrible, in that it has nailed the Son of God to the accursed tree.

3. My dear Lord and Saviour, how can I make light of that which has had such consequences! Henceforth I will, through Thy grace, have deeper views of sin than before. Fools make jest of sin, but {342} I will view things in their true light. My suffering Lord, I have made Thee suffer. Thou art most beautiful in Thy eternal nature, O my Lord; Thou art most beautiful in Thy sufferings! Thy adorable attributes are not dimmed, but increased to us as we gaze on Thy humiliation. Thou art more beautiful to us than before. But still I will never forget that it was man's sin, my sin, which made that humiliation necessary. Amor meus crucifixus est—"my Love is crucified," but by none other than me. I have crucified Thee, my sin has crucified Thee. O my Saviour, what a dreadful thought—but I cannot undo it; all I can do is to hate that which made Thee suffer. Shall I not do that at least? Shall I not love my Lord just so much as to hate that which is so great an enemy of His, and break off all terms with it? Shall I not put off sin altogether? By Thy great love of me, teach me and enable me to do this, O Lord. Give me a deep, rooted, intense hatred of sin.

(6) The Bondage of Sin
1. THOU, O my Lord and God, Thou alone art strong, Thou alone holy! Thou art the Sanctus Deus, Sanctus fortis—"Holy God, holy and strong!" Thou art the sanctity and the strength of all things. No created nature has any stay or subsistence in itself, but crumbles and melts away, if Thou art not with it, to sustain it. My God, Thou {343} art the strength of the Angels, of the Saints in glory—of holy men on earth. No being has any sanctity or any strength apart from Thee. My God, I wish to adore Thee as such. I wish with all my heart to understand and to confess this great truth, that not only Thou art Almighty, but that there is no might at all, or power, or strength, anywhere but in Thee.

2. My God, if Thou art the strength of all spirits, O how pre-eminently art Thou my strength! O how true it is, so that nothing is more so, that I have no strength but in Thee! I feel intimately, O my God, that, whenever I am left to myself, I go wrong. As sure as a stone falls down to the earth if it be let go, so surely my heart and spirit fall down hopelessly if they are let go by Thee. Thou must uphold me by Thy right hand, or I cannot stand. How strange it is, but how true, that all my natural tendencies are towards sloth, towards excess, towards neglect of religion, towards neglect of prayer, towards love of the world, not towards love of Thee, or love of sanctity, or love of self-governance. I approve and praise what I do not do. My heart runs after vanities, and I tend to death, I tend to corruption and dissolution, apart from Thee, Deus immortalis.

3. My God, I have had experience enough what a dreadful bondage sin is. If Thou art away, I find I cannot keep myself, however I wish it—and am in the hands of my own self-will, pride, sensuality, and selfishness. And they prevail with me more and more every day, till they are irresistible. In time the old Adam within me gets so strong, that I become {344} a mere slave. I confess things to be wrong which nevertheless I do. I bitterly lament over my bondage, but I cannot undo it. O what a tyranny is sin! It is a heavy weight which cripples me—and what will be the end of it? By Thy all-precious merits, by Thy Almighty power, I intreat Thee, O my Lord, to give me life and sanctity and strength! Deus sanctus, give me holiness; Deus fortis, give me strength; Deus immortalis, give me perseverance. Sanctus Deus, Sanctus fortis, Sanctus immortalis, miserere nobis.

(7) Every Sin has its Punishment
1. THOU art the all-seeing, all-knowing God. Thy eyes, O Lord, are in every place. Thou art a real spectator of everything which takes place anywhere. Thou art ever with me. Thou art present and conscious of all I think, say, or do. Tu Deus qui vidisti me—"Thou, God, who hast seen me." Every deed or act, however slight; every word, however quick and casual; every thought of my heart, however secret, however momentary, however forgotten, Thou seest, O Lord, Thou seest and Thou notest down. Thou hast a book; Thou enterest in it every day of my life. I forget; Thou dost not forget. There is stored up the history of all my past years, and so it will be till I die—the leaves will be filled and turned over—and the book at length finished. Quo ibo a Spiritu Tuo— "whither shall I {345} go from Thy Spirit?" I am in Thy hands, O Lord, absolutely.

2. My God, how often do I act wrongly, how seldom rightly! how dreary on the whole are the acts of any one day! All my sins, offences, and negligences, not of one day only, but of all days, are in Thy book. And every sin, offence, negligence, has a separate definite punishment. That list of penalties increases, silently but surely, every day. As the spendthrift is overwhelmed by a continually greater weight of debt, so am I exposed continually to a greater and greater score of punishments catalogued against me. I forget the sins of my childhood, my boyhood, my adolescence, my youth. They are all noted down in that book. There is a complete history of all my life; and it will one day be brought up against me. Nothing is lost, all is remembered. O my soul, what hast thou to go through! What an examination that will be, and what a result! I shall have put upon me the punishment of ten thousand sins—I shall for this purpose be sent to Purgatory—how long will it last? when shall I ever get out? Not till I have paid the last farthing. When will this possibly be?

3. O my dear Lord, have mercy upon me! I trust Thou hast forgiven me my sins—but the punishment remains. In the midst of Thy love for me, and recognising me as Thine own, Thou wilt consign me to Purgatory. There I shall go through my sins once more, in their punishment. There I shall suffer, but here is the time for a thorough repentance. Here is {346} the time of good works, of obtaining indulgences, of wiping out the debt in every possible way. Thy saints, though to the eyes of man without sin, really had a vast account—and they settled it by continual trials here. I have neither their merit nor their sufferings. I cannot tell whether I can make such acts of love as will gain me an indulgence of my sins. The prospect before me is dark—I can only rely on Thy infinite compassion. O my dear Lord, who hast in so many ways shown Thy mercy towards me, pity me here! Be merciful in the midst of justice.

V. The Power of the Cross
1. MY God, who could have imagined, by any light of nature, that it was one of Thy attributes to lower Thyself, and to work out Thy purposes by Thy own humiliation and suffering? Thou hadst lived from eternity in ineffable blessedness. My God, I might have understood as much as this, viz. that, when Thou didst begin to create and surround Thyself with a world of creatures, that these attributes would show themselves in Thee which before had no exercise. Thou couldest not show Thy power when there was nothing whatever to exercise it. Then too, Thou didst begin to show thy wonderful and tender providence, Thy faithfulness, Thy solicitous care for those whom Thou hadst created. But who could have fancied that Thy creation of the universe implied and involved in it Thy humiliation? O my great God, Thou hast humbled Thyself, Thou hast stooped to take our flesh and blood, and hast been lifted up upon the tree! I praise and glorify Thee tenfold the more, because Thou hast shown Thy power by means of Thy suffering, than hadst Thou carried on Thy work without it. It is worthy of Thy infinitude thus to surpass and transcend all our thoughts. {348}

2. O my Lord Jesu, I believe, and by Thy grace will ever believe and hold, and I know that it is true, and will be true to the end of the world, that nothing great is done without suffering, without humiliation, and that all things are possible by means of it. I believe, O my God, that poverty is better than riches, pain better than pleasure, obscurity and contempt than name, and ignominy and reproach than honour. My Lord, I do not ask Thee to bring these trials on me, for I know not if I could face them; but at least, O Lord, whether I be in prosperity or adversity, I will believe that it is as I have said. I will never have faith in riches, rank, power, or reputation. I will never set my heart on worldly success or on worldly advantages. I will never wish for what men call the prizes of life. I will ever, with Thy grace, make much of those who are despised or neglected, honour the poor, revere the suffering, and admire and venerate Thy saints and confessors, and take my part with them in spite of the world.

3. And lastly, O my dear Lord, though I am so very weak that I am not fit to ask Thee for suffering as a gift, and have not strength to do so, at least I will beg of Thee grace to meet suffering well, when Thou in Thy love and wisdom dost bring it upon me. Let me bear pain, reproach, disappointment, slander, anxiety, suspense, as Thou wouldest have me, O my Jesu, and as Thou by Thy own suffering hast taught me, when it comes. And I promise too, with Thy grace, that I will never set myself up, never seek pre-eminence, never court any great thing of the world, {349} never prefer myself to others. I wish to bear insult meekly, and to return good for evil. I wish to humble myself in all things, and to be silent when I am ill-used, and to be patient when sorrow or pain is prolonged, and all for the love of Thee, and Thy Cross, knowing that in this way I shall gain the promise both of this life and of the next.

VI. The Resurrection
(1) The Temples of the Holy Ghost
1. I ADORE Thee, O Eternal Word, for Thy gracious condescension, in not only taking a created nature, a created spirit or soul, but a material body. The Most High decreed that for ever and ever He would subject Himself to a created prison. He who from eternity was nothing but infinite incomprehensible Spirit, beyond all laws but those of His own transcendent Greatness, willed that for the eternity to come He should be united, in the most intimate of unions, with that which was under the conditions of a creature. Thy omnipotence, O Lord, ever protects itself—but nothing short of that omnipotence could enable Thee so to condescend without a loss of power. Thy Body has part in Thy power, rather than Thou hast part in its weakness. For this reason, my God, it was, that Thou couldst not but rise again, if Thou wast to die—because Thy Body, once taken by Thee, never was or could be separated from Thee, even in the grave. It was Thy {351} Body even then, it could see no corruption; it could not remain under the power of death, for Thou hadst already wonderfully made it Thine, and whatever was Thine must last in its perfection for ever. I adore Thy Most Holy Body, O my dear Jesus, the instrument of our redemption!

2. I look at Thee, my Lord Jesus, and think of Thy Most Holy Body, and I keep it before me as the pledge of my own resurrection. Though I die, as die I certainly shall, nevertheless I shall not for ever die, for I shall rise again. My Lord, the heathen who knew Thee not, thought the body to be of a miserable and contemptible nature—they thought it the seat, the cause, the excuse of all moral evil. When their thoughts soared highest, and they thought of a future life, they considered that the destruction of the body was the condition of that higher existence. That the body was really part of themselves and that its restoration could be a privilege, was beyond their utmost imagination. And indeed, what mind of man, O Lord, could ever have fancied without Thy revelation that what, according to our experience, is so vile, so degraded, so animal, so sinful, which is our fellowship with the brutes, which is full of corruption and becomes dust and ashes, was in its very nature capable of so high a destiny! that it could become celestial and immortal, without ceasing to be a body! And who but Thou, who art omnipotent, could have made it so! No wonder then, that the wise men of the world, who did not believe in Thee, scoffed at the Resurrection. But I, by Thy grace, will ever keep before me how differently I have {352} been taught by Thee. O best and first and truest of Teachers! O Thou who art the Truth, I know, and believe with my whole heart, that this very flesh of mine will rise again. I know, base and odious as it is at present, that it will one day, if I be worthy, be raised incorruptible and altogether beautiful and glorious. This I know; this, by Thy grace, I will ever keep before me.

3. O my God, teach me so to live, as one who does believe the great dignity, the great sanctity of that material frame in which Thou hast lodged me. And therefore, O my dear Saviour! do I come so often and so earnestly to be partaker of Thy Body and Blood, that by means of Thy own ineffable holiness I may be made holy. O my Lord Jesus, I know what is written, that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost. Should I not venerate that which Thou dost miraculously feed, and which Thy Co-equal Spirit inhabits! O my God, who wast nailed to the Cross, confige timore tuo carnes meas—"pierce Thou my flesh with Thy fear;" crucify my soul and body in all that is sinful in them, and make me pure as Thou art pure. {353}

(2) God Alone
Thomas says to Him, "My Lord and my God."
1. I ADORE Thee, O my God, with Thomas; and if I have, like him, sinned through unbelief, I adore Thee the more. I adore Thee as the One Adorable, I adore Thee as more glorious in Thy humiliation, when men despised Thee, than when Angels worshipped Thee. Deus meus et omnia—"My God and my all." To have Thee is to have everything I can have. O my Eternal Father, give me Thyself. I dared not have made so bold a request, it would have been presumption, unless Thou hadst encouraged me. Thou hast put it into my mouth, Thou hast clothed Thyself in my nature, Thou hast become my Brother, Thou hast died as other men die, only in far greater bitterness, that, instead of my eyeing Thee fearfully from afar, I might confidently draw near to Thee. Thou dost speak to me as Thou didst speak to Thomas, and dost beckon me to take hold of Thee. My God and my all, what could I say more than this, if I spoke to all eternity! I am full and abound and overflow, when I have Thee; but without Thee I am nothing—I wither away, I dissolve and perish. My Lord and my God, my God and my all, give me Thyself and nothing else. {354}

2. Thomas came and touched Thy sacred wounds. O will the day ever come when I shall be allowed actually and visibly to kiss them? What a day will that be when I am thoroughly cleansed from all impurity and sin, and am fit to draw near to my Incarnate God in His palace of light above! what a morning, when having done with all penal suffering, I see Thee for the first time with these very eyes of mine, I see Thy countenance, gaze upon Thy eyes and gracious lips without quailing, and then kneel down with joy to kiss Thy feet, and am welcomed into Thy arms. O my only true Lover, the only Lover of my soul, Thee will I love now, that I may love Thee then. What a day, a long day without ending, the day of eternity, when I shall be so unlike what I am now, when I feel in myself a body of death, and am perplexed and distracted with ten thousand thoughts, any one of which would keep me from heaven. O my Lord, what a day when I shall have done once for all with all sins, venial as well as mortal, and shall stand perfect and acceptable in Thy sight, able to bear Thy presence, nothing shrinking from Thy eye, not shrinking from the pure scrutiny of Angels and Archangels, when I stand in the midst and they around me!

3. O my God, though I am not fit to see or touch Thee yet, still I will ever come within Thy reach, and desire that which is not yet given me in its fulness. O my Saviour, Thou shalt be my sole God!—I will have no Lord but Thee. I will break to pieces all idols in my heart which rival Thee. I will have nothing but Jesus and Him crucified. It shall be my life to pray to Thee, to offer myself to Thee, to keep {355} Thee before me, to worship Thee in Thy holy Sacrifice, and to surrender myself to Thee in Holy Communion.

(3) The Forbearance of Jesus
Videte manus meas, etc. Habetis aliquid quod manducetur?
See my hands, etc. Have you here anything to eat?
1. I ADORE Thee, O my Lord, for Thy wonderful patience and Thy compassionate tenderhearted condescension. Thy disciples, in spite of all Thy teaching and miracles, disbelieved Thee when they saw Thee die, and fled. Nor did they take courage afterwards, nor think of Thy promise of rising again on the third day. They did not believe Magdalen, nor the other women, who said they had seen Thee alive again. Yet Thou didst appear to them—Thou didst show them Thy wounds—Thou didst let them touch Thee—Thou didst eat before them, and give them Thy peace. O Jesu, is any obstinacy too great for Thy love? does any number of falls and relapses vanquish the faithfulness and endurance of Thy compassion? Thou dost forgive not only seven times, but to seventy times seven. Many waters cannot quench a love like Thine. And such Thou art all over the earth, even to the end—forgiving, sparing, forbearing, waiting, though sinners are ever provoking Thee; pitying and taking into account their ignorance, visiting all men, all Thine enemies, with the gentle pleadings of Thy grace, day after day, year after year, up to the hour of their death—for He {356} knoweth whereof we are made; He knoweth we are but dust.

2. My God, what hast Thou done for me! Men say of Thee, O my only Good, that Thy judgments are severe, and Thy punishments excessive. All I can say is, that I have not found them so in my own case. Let others speak for themselves, and Thou wilt meet and overcome them to their own confusion in the day of reckoning. With them I have nothing to do—Thou wilt settle with them—but for me the only experience that I have is Thy dealings with myself, and here I bear witness, as I know so entirely and feel so intimately, that to me Thou hast been nothing but forbearance and mercy. O how Thou dost forget that I have ever rebelled against Thee! Again and again dost Thou help me. I fall, yet Thou dost not cast me off. In spite of all my sins, Thou dost still love me, prosper me, comfort me, surround me with blessings, sustain me, and further me. I grieve Thy good grace, yet Thou dost give more. I insult Thee, yet Thou never dost take offence, but art as kind as if I had nothing to explain, to repent of, to amend—as if I were Thy best, most faithful, most steady and loyal friend. Nay, alas! I am even led to presume upon Thy love, it is so like easiness and indulgence, though I ought to fear Thee. I confess it, O my true Saviour, every day is but a fresh memorial of Thy unwearied, unconquerable love!

3. O my God, suffer me still—bear with me in spite of my waywardness, perverseness, and ingratitude! I improve very slowly, but really I am moving {357} on to heaven, or at least I wish to move. I am putting Thee before me, vile sinner as I am, and I am really thinking in earnest of saving my soul. Give me time to collect my thoughts, and make one good effort. I protest I will put off this languor and lukewarmness—I will shake myself from this sullenness and despondency and gloom—I will rouse myself, and be cheerful, and walk in Thy light. I will have no hope or joy but Thee. Only give me Thy grace—meet me with Thy grace, I will through Thy grace do what I can—and Thou shalt perfect it for me. Then I shall have happy days in Thy presence, and in the sight and adoration of Thy five Sacred Wounds.

VII. God with us
(1) The Familiarity of Jesus
1. THE Holy Baptist was separated from the world. He was a Nazarite. He went out from the world, and placed himself over against it, and spoke to it from his vantage ground, and called it to repentance. Then went out all Jerusalem to him into the desert, and he confronted it face to face. But in his teaching he spoke of One who should come to them and speak to them in a far different way. He should not separate Himself from them, He should not display Himself as some higher being, but as their brother, as of their flesh and of their bones, as one among many brethren, as one of the multitude and amidst them; nay, He was among them already. "Medius vestrum stetit, quem vos nescitis"—"there hath stood in the midst of you, whom you know not." That greater one called Himself the Son of man—He was content to be taken as ordinary in all respects, though He was the Highest. St. John and the other Evangelists, though so different in the {359} character of their accounts of Him, agree most strikingly here. The Baptist says, "There is in the midst of you One whom you know not." Next we read of his pointing Jesus out privately, not to crowds, but to one or two of his awn religious followers; then of their seeking Jesus and being allowed to follow Him home. At length Jesus begins to disclose Himself and to manifest His glory in miracles; but where? At a marriage feast, where there was often excess, as the architriclinus implies. And how? in adding to the wine, the instrument of such excess, when it occurred. He was at that marriage feast not as a teacher, but as a guest, and (so to speak) in a social way, for He was with His Mother. Now compare this with what He says in St. Matthew's Gospel of Himself: "John came neither eating nor drinking—The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say: Behold a man that is a glutton and wine-drinker." John might be hated, but he was respected; Jesus was despised. See also Mark i. 22, 27, 37, iii. 21, for the astonishment and rudeness of all about Him. The objection occurs at once, ii. 16. What a marked feature it must have been of our Lord's character and mission, since two Evangelists, so independent in their narrations, record it! The prophet had said the same (Isai. liii. "He shall," &c.).

2. This was, O dear Lord, because Thou so lovest this human nature which Thou hast created. Thou didst not love us merely as Thy creatures, the work of Thy hands, but as men. Thou lovest all, for Thou hast created all; but Thou lovest man more than all. {360} How is it, Lord, that this should be? What is there in man, above others? Quid est homo, quod memor es ejus? yet, nusquam Angelos apprehendit— "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?" … "nowhere doth he take hold of the angels." Who can sound the depth of Thy counsels and decrees? Thou hast loved man more than Thou hast loved the Angels: and therefore, as Thou didst not take on Thee an angelic nature when Thou didst manifest Thyself for our salvation, so too Thou wouldest not come in any shape or capacity or office which was above the course of ordinary human life—not as a Nazarene, not as a Levitical priest, not as a monk, not as a hermit, but in the fulness and exactness of that human nature which so much Thou lovest. Thou camest not only a perfect man, but as proper man; not formed anew out of earth, not with the spiritual body which Thou now hast, but in that very flesh which had fallen in Adam, and with all our infirmities, all our feelings and sympathies, sin excepted.

3. O Jesu, it became Thee, the great God, thus abundantly and largely to do Thy work, for which the Father sent Thee. Thou didst not do it by halves—and, while that magnificence of Sacrifice is Thy glory as God, it is our consolation and aid as sinners. O dearest Lord, Thou art more fully man than the holy Baptist, than St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, than Thy own sweet Mother. As in Divine knowledge of me Thou art beyond them all, so also in experience and personal knowledge of my nature. Thou art my elder brother. How can I {361} fear, how should I not repose my whole heart on one so gentle, so tender, so familiar, so unpretending, so modest, so natural, so humble? Thou art now, though in heaven, just the same as Thou wast on earth: the mighty God, yet the little child—the all-holy, yet the all-sensitive, all-human.

(2) Jesus the Hidden God
Noli incredulus esse, sed fidelis.
Be not faithless, but believing.
1. I ADORE Thee, O my God, who art so awful, because Thou art hidden and unseen! I adore Thee, and I desire to live by faith in what I do not see; and considering what I am, a disinherited outcast, I think it has indeed gone well with me that I am allowed, O my unseen Lord and Saviour, to worship Thee anyhow. O my God, I know that it is sin that has separated between Thee and me. I know it is sin that has brought on me the penalty of ignorance. Adam, before he fell, was visited by Angels. Thy Saints, too, who keep close to Thee, see visions, and in many ways are brought into sensible perception of Thy presence. But to a sinner such as I am, what is left but to possess Thee without seeing Thee? Ah, should I not rejoice at having that most extreme mercy and favour of possessing Thee at all? It is sin that has reduced me to live by faith, as I must at best, and should I not rejoice in such a life, O {362} Lord my God? I see and know, O my good Jesus, that the only way in which I can possibly approach Thee in this world is the way of faith, faith in what Thou hast told me, and I thankfully follow this only way which Thou hast given me.

2. O my God, Thou dost over-abound in mercy! To live by faith is my necessity, from my present state of being and from my sin; but Thou hast pronounced a blessing on it. Thou hast said that I am more blessed if I believe on Thee, than if I saw Thee. Give me to share that blessedness, give it to me in its fulness. Enable me to believe as if I saw; let me have Thee always before me as if Thou wert always bodily and sensibly present. Let me ever hold communion with Thee, my hidden, but my living God. Thou art in my innermost heart. Thou art the life of my life. Every breath I breathe, every thought of my mind, every good desire of my heart, is from the presence within me of the unseen God. By nature and by grace Thou art in me. I see Thee not in the material world except dimly, but I recognise Thy voice in my own intimate consciousness. I turn round and say Rabboni. O be ever thus with me; and if I am tempted to leave Thee, do not Thou, O my God, leave me!

3. O my dear Saviour, would that I had any right to ask to be allowed to make reparation to Thee for all the unbelief of the world, and all the insults offered to Thy Name, Thy Word, Thy Church, and the Sacrament of Thy Love! But, alas, I have a long score of unbelief and ingratitude of my {363} own to atone for. Thou art in the Sacrifice of the Mass, Thou art in the Tabernacle, verily and indeed, in flesh and blood; and the world not only disbelieves, but mocks at this gracious truth. Thou didst warn us long ago by Thyself and by Thy Apostles that Thou wouldest hide Thyself from the world. The prophecy is fulfilled more than ever now; but I know what the world knows not. O accept my homage, my praise, my adoration!—let me at least not be found wanting. I cannot help the sins of others—but one at least of those whom Thou hast redeemed shall turn round and with a loud voice glorify God. The more men scoff, the more will I believe in Thee, the good God, the good Jesus, the hidden Lord of life, who hast done me nothing else but good from the very first moment that I began to live.

(3) Jesus the Light of the Soul
Mane nobiscum, Domine, quoniam advesperascit.
Stay with us, because it is towards evening.
1. I ADORE Thee, O my God, as the true and only Light! From Eternity to Eternity, before any creature was, when Thou wast alone, alone but not solitary, for Thou hast ever been Three in One, Thou wast the Infinite Light. There was none to see Thee but Thyself. The Father saw that Light in the Son, and the Son in the Father. Such as Thou wast in the beginning, such Thou art now. Most separate {364} from all creatures in this Thy uncreated Brightness. Most glorious, most beautiful. Thy attributes are so many separate and resplendent colours, each as perfect in its own purity and grace as if it were the sole and highest perfection. Nothing created is more than the very shadow of Thee. Bright as are the Angels, they are poor and most unworthy shadows of Thee. They pale and look dim and gather blackness before Thee. They are so feeble beside Thee, that they are unable to gaze upon Thee. The highest Seraphim veil their eyes, by deed as well as by word proclaiming Thy unutterable glory. For me, I cannot even look upon the sun, and what is this but a base material emblem of Thee? How should I endure to look even on an Angel? and how could I look upon Thee and live? If I were placed in the illumination of Thy countenance, I should shrink up like the grass. O most gracious God, who shall approach Thee, being so glorious, yet how can I keep from Thee?

2. How can I keep from Thee? For Thou, who art the Light of Angels, art the only Light of my soul. Thou enlightenest every man that cometh into this world. I am utterly dark, as dark as hell, without Thee. I droop and shrink when Thou art away. I revive only in proportion as Thou dawnest upon me. Thou comest and goest at Thy will. O my God, I cannot keep Thee! I can only beg of Thee to stay. "Mane nobiscum, Domine, quoniam advesperascit." Remain till morning, and then go not without giving me a blessing. Remain with me till death in this dark valley, when the darkness will {365} end. Remain, O Light of my soul, jam advesperascit! The gloom, which is not Thine, falls over me. I am nothing. I have little command of myself. I cannot do what I would. I am disconsolate and sad. I want something, I know not what. It is Thou that I want, though I so little understand this. I say it and take it on faith; I partially understand it, but very poorly. Shine on me, O Ignis semper ardens et nunquam deficiens!—"O fire ever burning and never failing"—and I shall begin, through and in Thy Light, to see Light, and to recognise Thee truly, as the Source of Light. Mane nobiscum; stay, sweet Jesus, stay for ever. In this decay of nature, give more grace.

3. Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as Thou shinest: so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from Thee. None of it will be mine. No merit to me. It will be Thou who shinest through me upon others. O let me thus praise Thee, in the way which Thou dost love best, by shining on all those around me. Give light to them as well as to me; light them with me, through me. Teach me to show forth Thy praise, Thy truth, Thy will. Make me preach Thee without preaching—not by words, but by my example and by the catching force, the sympathetic influence, of what I do—by my visible resemblance to Thy saints, and the evident fulness of the love which my heart bears to Thee.

VIII. God All-Sufficient
Ostende nobis Patrem et sufficit nobis …
Philippe, qui videt Me, videt et Patrem.
Show us the Father, and it is enough for us …
Philip, he that seeth Me, seeth the Father also.
1. THE Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son. O adorable mystery which has been from eternity! I adore Thee, O my incomprehensible Creator, before whom I am an atom, a being of yesterday or an hour ago! Go back a few years and I simply did not exist; I was not in being, and things went on without me: but Thou art from eternity; and nothing whatever for one moment could go on without Thee. And from eternity too Thou hast possessed Thy Nature; Thou hast been—this awful glorious mystery—the Son in the Father and the Father in the Son. Whether we be in existence, or whether we be not, Thou art one and the same always, the Son sufficient for the Father, the Father for the Son—and all other things, in themselves, but vanity. All things once were not, all things might not be, but it would be enough for the Father that He had begotten His co-equal consubstantial Son, and for the Son that He was embraced {367} in the Bosom of the Eternal Father. O adorable mystery! Human reason has not conducted me to it, but I believe. I believe, because Thou hast spoken, O Lord. I joyfully accept Thy word about Thyself. Thou must know what Thou art—and who else? Not I surely, dust and ashes, except so far as Thou tellest me. I take then Thy own witness, O my Creator! and I believe firmly, I repeat after Thee, what I do not understand, because I wish to live a life of faith; and I prefer faith in Thee to trust in myself.

2. O my great God, from eternity Thou wast sufficient for Thyself! The Father was sufficient for the Son, and the Son for the Father; art Thou not then sufficient for me, a poor creature, Thou so great, I so little! I have a double all-sufficiency in the Father and the Son. I will take then St. Philip's word and say, Show us the Father, and it suffices us. It suffices us, for then are we full to overflowing, when we have Thee. O mighty God, strengthen me with Thy strength, console me with Thy everlasting peace, soothe me with the beauty of Thy countenance; enlighten me with Thy uncreated brightness; purify me with the fragrance of Thy ineffable holiness. Bathe me in Thyself, and give me to drink, as far as mortal man may ask, of the rivers of grace which flow from the Father and the Son, the grace of Thy consubstantial, co-eternal Love.

3. O my God, let me never forget this truth—that not only art Thou my Life, but my only Life! Thou art the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Thou {368} art my Life, and the Life of all who live. All men, all I know, all I meet, all I see and hear of, live not unless they live by Thee. They live in Thee, or else they live not at all. No one can be saved out of Thee. Let me never forget this in the business of the day. O give me a true love of souls, of those souls for whom Thou didst die. Teach me to pray for their conversion, to do my part towards effecting it. However able they are, however amiable, however high and distinguished, they cannot be saved unless they have Thee. O my all-sufficient Lord, Thou only sufficest! Thy blood is sufficient for the whole world. As Thou art sufficient for me, so Thou art sufficient for the entire race of Adam. O my Lord Jesus, let Thy Cross be more than sufficient for them, let it be effectual! Let it be effectual for me more than all, lest I "have all and abound," yet bring no fruit to perfection.


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