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De Imitatione Christi (On the Imitation of Christ)

Taken from Medulla S. Thomae Aquinatis which arranges various short texts from St. Thomas Aquinas' corpus based on the liturgical year. I will be posting the day's meditation each day and will be bringing it into print once I'm through it.

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February 8th

On the Imitation of Christ

For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also. (John 13:15)

I. When we are dealing with the conduct of people, example has more influence than words. A person chooses and does what seems good to him, and so what one chooses is a better indication of what is good than what one teaches should be chosen. This is why when someone says one thing and does another, what he does has more influence on others than what he has taught. Thus it is especially necessary to give example by one’s actions.

Now the example of a mere human being would not be adequate for the entire human race to imitate, both because human reason cannot take everything into account, and it does err in what it does take into account.

And so there was given to us the example of the Son of God, which cannot be in error and is adequate for all situations. Thus Augustine says: pride is not healed if it is not healed by the divine humility; and the same is true of avarice and the other vices.

Note that the Son of God is a fitting and sufficient example for us. For he is the art of the Father, and just as he was the model or pattern for every thing created, so he was the model for our justification: Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps (1 Pet 2:21); my foot has held fast to his steps, I have kept his way and have not turned aside (Job 23:11).

(Selections from Ioan.C13.L3)

II. Christ is an infallible example. For, he was not able to sin in any way. For he can be considered insofar as he is a wayfarer, or insofar as he is a comprehensor, or insofar as he is God.

Insofar as he is a wayfarer, he appears to be our general directing us according to the right path. Now, in every genus the first thing regulating it cannot be twisted, since otherwise there would be a deviation in all things that are regulated in virtue of it. And therefore Christ himself had such a fullness of glory that he, even as a wayfarer, could not sin. This is why even those who were close to him (such as the apostles, even while still wayfarers) were also strengthened so that they were unable to sin mortally, though they were able to sin venially.

But insofar as he was a comprehensor, his mind was wholly joined to the end, so that he could act only in accordance with the order to the end.

However, insofar as he was God, and his soul and body were, as it were, the organ of the Godhead, so much did the Godhead rule his soul, and his soul his body. Whence sin was unable to befall him, just as neither can God sin.

We too will be able to participate in some way (aliquo modo) in this inability (impotentiam) to sin, if we walk in the way of our leader, if we take care to unite our minds to the end, if God is permitted to rule in our souls.

(Selections from Sent.III.D12.Q2.A1)

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