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CHAPTER CXIXThat by certain Sensible Rites our mind is directed to God

BECAUSE it is connatural to man to gather his knowledge through the senses, and most difficult for him to transcend sensible things God has provided for man that even in sensible things there should be made for him a commemoration of things divine. To this end sensible sacrifices have been instituted, which man offers to God, not as though God needed them, but to bring home to man the lesson that he ought to offer himself and all he has to God, his end, Creator, Ruler, and Lord of all. There are also exercised upon man certain hallowings through certain sensible things, whereby man is washed, or anointed, or given to eat and drink, along with the utterance (prolatione) of audible words, to represent to man by these sensible signs the augmentation of spiritual gifts wrought in him from without, namely, by God, whose name is expressed in audible words. Also certain sensible rites are performed by men, not to rouse God to action,746746St Thomas is thinking of such a rite as that described in 3 (1) Kings xviii, 26-28. but to prompt themselves to divine service. Of this nature are prostrations, genuflections, vocal cries and chants: which things are not done as though God had need of them, who knows all, even the affection of the mind, — whose will is unchangeable (Chap. XCV), and who moreover does not accept the movement of the body for its own sake:747747I conceive that the insertion, et cujus voluntas est immutabilis, should stand after et affectum mentis, not before. If God does not accept the heart’s affection for its own sake, what does he accept for its own sake that man can give? Moreover a special title of God is that of ’searcher of hearts’. but we do these things on our own behalf, that by these sensible rites our intention may be directed to God and our affection inflamed. At the same time also we hereby make profession of God being author of our soul and body, in that we pay Him acts of homage spiritual and bodily.748748This last sentence is important to exclude a misconception. See Ethics and Natural Law, pp. 194-5, article 6.

Hence it is not surprising that the [Manichean] heretics, who say that God is not the author of our body, blame these bodily observances being paid to God. In which censure they evidently fail to remember that they themselves are men, not seeing that sensible representations are necessary to us for inward knowledge and affection. For it is experimentally shown that our soul is excited by bodily acts to think and feel: hence we properly use such acts to raise our mind to God.

In the payment of these bodily observances the cult, or worship, of God is said to consist. For we are said to cultivate those objects to which we pay attention by our works. Now we busy ourselves in paying attention to the things of God, not as though we were of service to Him, as is the case when we are said to tend, or cultivate, other things by our attentions, but because such actions are of service to ourselves, enabling us to come nearer to God.749749This is the answer to the enquiry, started by Plato, Euthyphro, 13, 14. The answer lies in a mean between the savage notion of gods hungering after the reek and savour of sacrificial meats, and the Epicurean poco-curante intermundane deum natura nihil indiga nostri, set forth in Lucretius I, 61. And because by inward acts we go straight to God, therefore it is by inward acts properly that we worship God: nevertheless outward acts also belong to the cult, or worship, of God, inasmuch as by such acts our mind is raised to God, as has been said.

Hence the worship of God is also called religion, because by such acts a 280man in some sort binds (ligat) himself, that his thought may not wander astray from God; and also because by a sort of natural instinct he feels himself bound (obligatum) to God, that in such manner as he can he should pay reverence to Him from whom is the origin of his being and of all his good.750750From Lewis and Short’s Dictionary, s.v. religio: “Cicero derives it from relegere, an opinion favoured by the verse, religentem esse oportet, religiosum nefas: whereas Servius, Lactantius, Augustine, assume religare as the primitive, and for this derivation Lactantius cites the expression of Lucretius, religionum nodis animos exsolvere. Modern etymologists mostly agree with this latter view, assuming as root lig (to bind), whence also lex: hence religio sometimes means the same as obligatio.”

Hence also religion has received the name of piety, for piety is that whereby we pay due honour to parents: hence aptly the honour paid to God, parent of all, is taken to be a part of piety, and they who oppose the worship of God are called impious.

But because not only is God cause and origin of our being, but our whole being is in His power, and all that is in us is His due, and thereby He is truly our Lord and Master, therefore what we perform in honour of God is called service. Now God is our master not by accident, as one man is another’s master, but by nature; and therefore the service that we owe to God is quite different from that whereby we are accidentally subject to a man, the dominion of man over man being partial, and derivative from God. Hence the service specially due to God is called among the Greeks latria.751751The word in Greek means either hired service or religious service, anyhow the service of one permanently retained by and bound to another. Hence the chained Prometheus says, τῇδε λατρεύω πέτρᾳ, I do my fixed duty by this rock, P.V. 968).

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