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On Death: Ash Wednesday Reflection from St. Thomas

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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Ash Wednesday

On Death

Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death (Romans 5:12)

I. If any one, on account of his fault, be deprived of a favor bestowed on him the privation of that favor is a punishment of that fault. God bestowed this favor on man, in his primitive state, that as long as his mind was subject to God, the lower powers of his soul would be subject to his rational mind, and his body to his soul. But inasmuch as through sin man’s mind withdrew from subjection to God, the result was that neither were his lower powers wholly subject to his reason, whence there followed so great a rebellion of the carnal appetite against the reason: nor was the body wholly subject to the soul; whence arose death and other bodily defects. For life and soundness of body depend on the body being subject to the soul, as the perfectible is subject to its perfection. Consequently, on the other hand, death, sickness, and all defects of the body are due to the lack of the body’s subjection to the soul.

It is therefore evident that as the rebellion of the carnal appetite against the spirit is a punishment of our first parents’ sin, so also are death and all defects of the body.

II. The rational soul is, of itself, immortal: therefore death is not natural to man on the part of his soul, but, on the part of his body, that is composed of contraries, of which corruptibility is a necessary consequence, and in this respect death is natural to man. Now God Who is the author of man is all-powerful, wherefore when He first made man, He conferred on him the favor of being exempt from the necessity resulting from such a matter: which favor, however, was withdrawn through the sin of our first parents. Accordingly death is both natural on account of a condition attaching to matter, and penal on account of the loss of the Divine favor preserving man from death.

(Selections from ST.II-II.Q164.A1)

III. Both original and actual sin are removed by the same cause that removes these defects, according to the Apostle (Rom 8:11): He . . . shall quicken . . . your mortal bodies, because of His Spirit that dwelleth in you: but each is done according to the order of Divine wisdom, at a fitting time. Because it is right that we should first of all be conformed to Christ’s sufferings, before attaining to the immortality and impassibility of glory, which was begun in Him, and by Him acquired for us. Hence it behooves that our bodies should remain, for a time, subject to suffering, in order that we may merit the impassibility of glory, in conformity with Christ.

(Selections from ST.I-II.Q85.A5)

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