(Source: "Meditations for Lent from St. Thomas Aquinas", pp. 71-73, 1937 Imp.)
THE PASSION OF CHRIST BROUGHT ABOUT OUR
SALVATION BECAUSE IT WAS A MERITORIOUS ACT
1. Grace was given to Christ not only as to a
particular person, but also as far as he is the head
of the Church, in order that the grace might pass
over from him
to his members.
And the good works Christ performed, therefore,
stand in this same way in relation to him and to his
members, as the good works of any other man in
a state of grace stand to himself.
Now it is evident that any man who, in a state
of grace, suffers for justice sake, merits for himself,
by this very fact alone, salvation. As is said in
the gospel, Blessed are they that suffer persecution for
sake (Matt. v. 10).
Whence Christ by his Passion merited salvation
not only for himself but for all his members.
Christ, indeed, from the very instant of his
conception, merited eternal salvation for us. But
there still remained certain obstacles on our part,
obstacles which kept us from possessing our
of the effect of what Christ had merited.
Wherefore, in order to remove these obstacles,
it behoved Christ to suffer
(Luke xxiv. 46).
Now although the love of Christ for us was not
increased in the Passion, and was not greater in
the Passion than before it, the Passion of Christ
had a certain effect which His previous meritorious
activity did not have. The Passion produced
this effect not on account of any greater love shown
but because it was a kind of action fitted
to produce that effect, as is evident from what
has been said already on the fitness
of the Passion
(3 48 i.)
Head and members belong to one and the same
person. Now Christ is our head, according to
his divinity and to the fullness
of his grace which
overflows upon others also. We are his members.
What Christ then meritoriously acquires is not
something external and foreign to us, but, by
virtue of the unity of the mystical body, it over
flows upon us too (3 Dist. xviii. 6).
2. We should know, too, that although Christ
death acquired merit sufficient for the whole
human race, there are special things needed for
the particular salvation of
each individual soul,
and these each soul must itself seek out. The
death of Christ is, as it were, the cause of all sal-
vation, as the sin of the first man was the cause of
all condemnation. But if each individual man is
to share in the effect of a universal cause, the uni-
versal cause needs to be specially applied to each
Now the effect of the sin of the first parents is
transmitted to each individual through his
origin (i.e., through his being a bodily descendant
of the first man). The effect of the death of Christ
is transmitted to each man through a spiritual re-
birth, a re-birth in which man is, as it were, con-
joined with Christ and incorporated with him.
Therefore it is that each individual must seek to be
born again through Christ [this occurs in baptism],
and to receive those other things in which works the
power of the
death of Christ.
(Contra Gen. iv. 55.)