Epistle of Saint Agatha

I Corinthians 1:26-31

Brethren: See your vocation, that there are not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble: but the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that He may confound the wise, and the weak things of the world hath God chosen that He may confound the strong; and the base things of the world, and the things that are contemptible hath God chosen, and things that are not, that He might bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His sight. But of Him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and justice, and sanctification, and redemption; that as it is written: He that glorieth may glory in the Lord.


Verse 26-28. Vocation, is here used for the called, as Rom. iii. 30. circumcision for the circumcised, (ibid. xi. 7.) election for the elected. V. — Consider your manner of being called; not many, hitherto, of those who have believed, or of those who have preached the gospel, are wise according to the flesh, or as to worldly wisdom; and in the esteem of men, not many mighty, not many noble. God hath chosen such as are looked upon as illiterate, without power, without riches, without human wisdom, to confound the great and wise men: He hath chosen the things that are not, that is, says S. Chrys. men reputed as nothing, of no consideration, to confound, to destroy, to make subject to him, and to the gospel, men who had the greatest worldly advantages, that no flesh, no men how great, wise, rich, or powerful soever, might glory in his sight, or attribute their call, and their salvation to their own merits. — From him you are in Christ Jesus brought to believe in him, who is made to us wisdom, acknowledged to be the wisdom of his eternal Father, by whom we have been justified, sanctified, redeemed. We have nothing of ourselves to boast of, and can only glory in the Lord. Wi. — And the mean things. In the beginning of Christianity, it was frequently objected to the Christians, that they had none but men of the basest extraction. The emperor Julian likewise made the Catholics the same reproach. Grot. — But this objection was not founded; for we find many persons of consideration mentioned in the Scriptures, who had embraced Christianity. Witness, v. 1. of this chap. Sosthenes, the head of the synagogue at Corinth, and some in the very palace of Cæsar.

Verse 29. Glory in his sight. God wished it to be known, that the establishment of his Church was not the work of human wisdom or power, but of the omnipotent power of his divinity. Calmet.

We may here admire, (v. 1.) the happiness of those who, like S. Paul, are called to the sacred ministry, not through human respects, nor by any influence of parents, but by the vocation of heaven. — V. 2. We have here the model and origin of all future pastoral letters. — V. 3. &c. he gives thanks to God for past favours, and prays for a continuation of graces and blessings. — V. 10. He begs that there be no schisms found among them, but that unanimity of sentiment and disposition may reign among them, certain and unequivocal marks of truth. V. 12. &c. He shews that both pastors and flocks should look up to God, as the only source of truth and grace; that it is a crying injustice to withdraw any share of our heart and confidence from God, to fix it on any thing that is not God; as it is to attach ourselves to the ministers of truth, and not to the Truth itself. Therefore, concludes S. Paul, though the Jews call for miracles, and the Gentiles lean upon worldly wisdom, Christians must seek their strength and success in the weakness of the cross, and their glory in the ignominy of Christ crucified, to whom alone be all the honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.


550: The Satisfaction of Christ, the Treasure of the Church; Indulgences

CLEMENT VI 1342-1352
[From the Bull of jubilee,
"Unigenitus Dei Filius,"
Jan. 25, 1343]

The only begotten Son of God… “made unto us from God, wisdom, justice, sanctification and redemption” [1 Cor. 3], “neither by the blood of goats or of calves, but by His own blood entered once into the holies having obtained eternal redemption” [Heb. 9:12]. “For not with corruptible things as gold or silver, but with the precious blood of His very (Son) as of a lamb unspotted and unstained He has redeemed us” [cf. 1 Pet. 1:18-19], who innocent, immolated on the altar of the Cross is known to have poured out not a little drop of blood, which however on account of union with the Word would have been sufficient for the redemption of the whole human race, but copiously as a kind of flowing stream, so that “from the soles of His feet even to the top of His Head no soundness was found in Him” [Is. 1:6]. Therefore, how great a treasure did the good Father acquire from this for the Church militant, so that the mercy of so great an effusion was not rendered useless, vain or superfluous, wishing to lay up treasures for His sons, so that thus the Church is an infinite treasure to men, so that they who use it, become the friends of God [Wis. 7:14].

790: Original Sin

PAUL III 1534-1549
Ecumenical XIX
(Contra Novatores 16 cent.)
Session v (June 17, 1546)

If anyone asserts that this sin of Adam, which is one in origin and transmitted to all is in each one as his own by propagation, not by imitation, is taken away either by the forces of human nature, or by any remedy other than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ, who has reconciled us to God in his own blood, “made unto us justice, sanctification, and redemption” [1 Cor. 1:30]; or if he denies that that merit of Jesus Christ is applied to adults as well as to infants by the sacrament of baptism, rightly administered in the form of the Church: let him be anathema. “For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved…” [Acts 4:12]. Whence that word: “Behold the lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sins of the world” [John 1:29]. And that other: “As many of you as have been baptized, have put on Christ” [Gal. 3:27].

810: The Fruit of Justification, that is, the Merit of Good

PAUL III 1534-1549
SESSION VI (Jan. 13, 1547)
Decree On Justification

Nor indeed is this to be omitted, that although in the sacred Writings so much is ascribed to good works, that even “he that shall give a drink of cold water to one of his least ones” Christ promises “shall not lose his reward” [Matt. 10:42], and the Apostle testifies “that that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory” [2 Cor. 4:17]; nevertheless far be it that a Christian should either trust or “glory” in himself and not “in the Lord” [cf. 1 Cor. 1:31; 2 Cor. 10:17], whose goodness towards all men is so great that He wishes the things which are His gifts [see n. 141] to be their own merits [can. 32]. And whereas “in many things we all offend” [Jas. 3:2; can. 23], each one should have before his eyes the severity and judgment as well as mercy and goodness; neither ought anyone to judge himself, even though he be “not conscious to himself of anything,” since the whole life of men must be judged and examined not by the judgment of men, but of God, who “will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise from God” [1 Cor.4:4ff.], “who,” as it is written, “will render to every man according to his works” [Rom. 2:6].

After this Catholic doctrine of justification [can. 33]–which, unless he faithfully and firmly accepts it, no one can be justified–it seemed good to the holy Synod to add these canons, so that all may know, not only what they must hold and follow, but also what they ought to shun and avoid.

804: The Observance of the Commandments, and the Necessity and Possibility thereof

Council of Trent
SESSION VI (Jan. 13, 1547)
Decree On Justification
Chapter 11

But no one, however much justified, should consider himself exempt from the observance of the commandments [can. 20]; no one should make use of that rash statement forbidden under an anathema by the Fathers, that the commandments of God are impossible to observe for a man who is justified [can. 18 and 22: cf. n. 200]. “For God does not command impossibilities, but by commanding admonishes you both to do what you can do, and to pray for what you cannot do, and assists you that you may be able”; * “whose commandments are not heavy” [1 John 5:3], “whose yoke is sweet and whose burden is light” [Matt. 11:30]. For they who are the sons of God, love Christ: “but they who love him, (as He Himself testifies) keep his words” [John 14:23], which indeed with the divine help they can do. For although in this mortal life men however holy and just fall at times into at least light and daily sins, which are also called venial [can. 23], they do not for that reason cease to be just. For that word of the just, “Forgive us our trespasses” [Matt. 6:12; cf. n.107], is both humble and true. Thus it follows that the just ought to feel themselves more bound to walk in the way of justice, in that having been now “freed from sin and made servants of God” [Rom. 6:22], “living soberly and justly and piously” [Tit. 2:12], they can proceed onwards through Christ Jesus, through whom they “have access unto this grace” [Rom. 5:2]. For God “does not forsake those who have once been justified by His grace, unless He be first forsaken by them.” * And so no one should flatter himself because of faith alone [can. 9, 19, 20], thinking that by faith alone he is made an heir and will obtain the inheritance, even though he suffer not with Christ “that he may be also glorified” [Rom. 8:17]. For even Christ Himself (as the Apostle says), “whereas he was the Son of God, he learned obedience by the things which he suffered and being made perfect he was made to all who obey him the cause of eternal salvation” [Heb. 5:8 ff.] For this reason the Apostle himself admonishes those justified saying: “Know you not, that they who run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that you may obtain. I therefore so run, not as at an uncertainty, I so fight, not as one beating the air, but I chastise my body and bring it under subjection, lest perhaps when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway” [1 Cor. 9:24ff.]. So also the chief of the Apostles, Peter: “Labor the more, that by good works you may make sure your calling and election; for doing these things, you shall not sin at any time” [2 Pet. 1:10]. Thence it is clear that they are opposed to the teaching of orthodox religion who say that the just man sins at least venially in every good work [can. 25], or (what is more intolerable) that he merits eternal punishments; and that they also who declare that the just sin in all works, if in those works, in order to stimulate their own sloth and to encourage themselves to run in the race, with this (in view), that above all God may be glorified, they have in view also the eternal reward [can. 26, 31], since it is written: “I have inclined my heart to do thy justifications on account of the reward” [Ps. 118:112], and of Moses the Apostle says, that he “looked to the reward” [Heb. 11:26].

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