August 25, 2012

The First Commandment

Catechism Readings:  Paragraphs 2052 - 2141

This week we began the study of the Ten Commandments.  The opening paragraphs define the Commandments in total, and then we began a study of the various implications of the First Commandment.

We open with Jesus’ words from Matthew, where he answers the rich man’s question:  “What must I do…? Jesus’ reply is that he obey the commandments, and more, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess … and come, follow me.”  (Mt 19:16-19)  The catechism explains this answer: “The Law has not been abolished, but rather man is invited to rediscover it in the person of his Master who is its perfect fulfillment.  Jesus’ call to the rich young man to follow him … is joined to the call to poverty and chastity.  The evangelical counsels are inseparable from the Commandments. 2053  The word “Decalogue” means literally “ten words.”  God revealed these ten words to his people on the holy mountain, … but it is in the New Covenant in Jesus Christ that their full meaning will be revealed. 2056  The Decalogue must first be understood in the contest of the Exodus, … the “ten words” point out the conditions of a life freed from the slavery of sin.  The Decalogue is a path for life: If you love the LORD you God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statues and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply.” 2057

“The first phrase of the Decalogue, the first word of God’s commandments, bears on freedom: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  The Commandments properly so-called come in the second place: they express the implications of belonging to God through the establishment of the covenant.  Moral existence is a response to the Lord’s loving initiative.  The covenant and dialogue between God and man are also attested to by the fact that ll the obligations are stated in the first person (I or you). 2061-3  The Ten commandments state what is required in the love of God and love of neighbor.  The first three concern love of God, and the other seven love of neighbor. … The Ten Commandments were themselves given on two tablets.  Three were written on one tablet and seven on the other.” 2067 

“To transgress one commandment is to infringe all the others.  One cannot honor another person without blessing God his Creator.  One cannot adore God without loving all men, his creatures.  The Decalogue brings man’s religious and social life into unity. 2069  The commandments of the Decalogue, although accessible to reason alone, have been revealed: A full explanation of the commandments of the Decalogue became necessary in the state of sin because the light of reason was obscured and the will had gone astray.”  2071

“Since they express man’s fundamental duties towards God and towards his neighbor, the Ten Commandments reveal, in their primordial content, grave obligations.  They are fundamentally immutable, and they oblige always and everywhere.  No one can dispense from them.  The Ten Commandments are engraved by God in the human heart. 2072

You Shall Love the Lord Your God
with All Your Heart, and with All Your
Soul, and with All Your Mind

“God’s first call and just demand is that man accept him and worship him (the opposite of which was the original sin in the Garden of Eden). 2084  Man’s vocation is to make God manifest by acting in conformity with his creation “in the image and likeness of God.” 2085

“The first commandment embraces faith, hope, and charity. 2086  FAITH: St Paul speaks of the ‘obedience of faith’ as our first obligation.  He shows that ‘ignorance of God’ is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations. (Rom 1:18-32)  Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him.  2087  HOPE: Hope is the confident expectation of divine blessing and the beatific vision of God; it is also the fear of offending God’s love and incurring punishment.  2090  The first commandment is also concerned with sins against hope, namely, despair and presumption.  By despair man ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God, contrary to his goodness, to his justice, and to his mercy. 2091 There are two kinds of presumption.  Either man presumes upon his own capacities (to save himself) or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit).2092  CHARITY: The first commandment enjoins us to love God above everything and all creatures for him and because of him.  One can sin against God’s love in various ways:  indifference, ingratitude, lukewarmness, or acedia (or spiritual sloth), or hatred of God.” 2093-4

“The theological virtues of faith, hope and charity inform and give life to the moral virtues.  Thus charity leads us to render to God what we as creatures owe him in all justice.  2095  ADORATION: To adore God is to acknowledge, in respect and absolute submission, the ‘nothingness of the creature,’ who would not exist but for God.  To adore God is to praise and exalt him and to humble oneself. 2097  PRAYER: The acts of faith, hope, and charity enjoined by the first commandment are accomplished in prayer ( via prayers of praise, thanksgiving, intercession and petition). 2098  SACRIFICE: Outward sacrifice, to be genuine, must be the expression of spiritual sacrifice.  The prophets of the Old Covenant often denounced sacrifices that were not from the heart or not coupled with love of neighbor.  The only perfect sacrifice is the one that Christ offered on the cross.  By uniting ourselves with his sacrifice we can make our lives a sacrifice to God.” 2100

“All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and his Church, and to embrace it and hold on to it as they come to know it.  The duty of offering God genuine worship concerns man both individually and society. 2104-5  Nobody may be forced to act against his convections in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others, within due limits.  This right is based on the very nature of the human person, whose dignity enables him freely to assent to the divine truth which transcends the temporal order. 2106  The right to religious liberty is neither a moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error, but rather a natural right of the human person to civil liberty, i.e., immunity, within just limits, from external constraint in religious matters by political authorities.” 2108 

“The first commandment forbids honoring gods other than the one Lord who has revealed himself to his people.”  2110  Forbidden sins include: superstition, idolatry, divination and magic, irreligion, sacrilege, simony, atheism, or agnosticism --- all of which are explained in detail in the catechism (2111-28).  “The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols.  Indeed, ‘the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,’ and ‘whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.’  The honor paid to sacred images is a ‘respectful veneration,’ not the adoration due to God alone.  Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate.  The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is. (Thomas Aquinas) 2132

Next week we move on to the second and third commandments.     

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