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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Tuesday after the Second Sunday of Lent
That the Passion of Christ Caused Our Salvation in the Mode of Merit
Grace was bestowed upon Christ, not only as an individual, but inasmuch as He is the Head of the Church, so that it might overflow into His members; and therefore Christ’s works are referred to Himself and to His members in the same way as the works of any other man in a state of grace are referred to himself. But it is evident that whosoever suffers for justice’s sake, provided that he be in a state of grace, merits his salvation thereby, according to Matt. 5:10: Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’s sake. Consequently Christ by His Passion merited salvation, not only for Himself, but likewise for all His members.
From the beginning of His conception Christ merited our eternal salvation; but on our side there were some obstacles, whereby we were hindered from securing the effect of His preceding merits: consequently, in order to remove such hindrances, it was necessary for Christ to suffer (Luke 24:26).
And although the charity of Christ was not increased more in the Passion than before, yet the Passion of Christ had some effect which the preceding merits had not; not on account of greater charity, but because of the nature of the work, which was suitable for such an effect, as is clear from the arguments brought forward above on the fittingness of Christ’s Passion. (ST.III.Q48.A1)
The members and the head pertain to the same person. This is why, since Christ was our head on account of his divinity and the fullness of his grace overflowing into others, whereas we are his members, his merit is not external to us. Rather, it redounds to us on account of the unity of the Mystical Body. (Sentences Commentary, III.D18.A6.Quaest1.ad2)
2. It must be known, however, that although Christ sufficiently merited his death for the human race, yet each one must seek the means of remedy of his own salvation. Christ’s death is by way of being a universal cause of salvation, just as the sin of the first man was like a universal cause of damnation. Now a universal cause needs to be applied to each individual, that the latter may have its share in the effect of the universal cause.
Accordingly, the effect of the sin of our first parent reaches each individual through carnal origin: and the effect of Christ’s death reaches each individual through spiritual regeneration, whereby man is united to and incorporated with Christ. Therefore, each one must seek to be regenerated by Christ, and to receive the other things in which the power of Christ’s death is effective. (SCG4.C55.35)