Meditation for Passiontide

…according to saint Thomas Aquinas

Our Lord said, when His Passion was drawing near:  “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out: and I, if I be lifted up from this earth, will draw all things to myself” (John 12, 31).

Now He was lifted up from earth by His Passion on the Cross. Therefore, by His Passion, the devil was deprived of his power over man.

There are three things to be considered regarding the power which the devil exercised over man previous to Christ’s Passion:

  1. The first is on man’s own part, who by his sin deserved to be delivered over the devil’s power, and was overcome by his tempting.
  2. Another point is on God’s part, Whom man had offended by sinning, and Who with justice left man under the devil’s power.
  3. The third is on the devil’s part, who from his most wicked will hindered man from securing his salvation.

AS TO THE FIRST POINT, by Christ’s Passion, man was delivered from the devil’s power, in so far as the Passion is the cause of the forgiveness of sin.

AS TO THE SECOND, it must be said that Christ’s Passion freed us from the devil’s power inasmuch as it reconciled us with God.

BUT AS TO THE THIRD, Christ’s Passion delivered us from the devil inasmuch as in Christ’s Passion he exceeded the limit of power assigned him by God, by conspiring to bring about Christ’s death, Who, being sinless did not deserve to die. Hence saint Augustine says:

“The devil was vanquished by Christ’s justice; because, while discovering in Him nothing deserving of death, nevertheless he slew Him. And it is certainly just that the debtors whom he held captive should be set at liberty, since they believed in God, Whom the devil slew, though He was not debtor.”

The devil is said even now to exercise such power over men, that with God’s permission, he can still tempt men’s souls and assault their bodies; yet there is a remedy provided for man through Christ’s Passion, whereby he can safeguard himself again the enemy’s assaults, so as not to be dragged down into the destruction of everlasting death. And all who resisted the devil previous to the Passion were enabled to do so through faith in the Passion, although it was not as yet accomplished. Yet in one respect no one was able to escape the devil’s hands – that is, so as not to descend into hell. But after Christ’s Passion, men can defend themselves from hell by the power of Our Lord’s Passion.

God permits the devil to deceive men by certain persons, and in time and places, according to the hidden motives of His judgments; still, there is always a remedy provided through Christ’s Passion, for defending themselves against the wicked snares of the demons, even in Antichrist’s time.  But if any man neglects to make use of this remedy, it detracts nothing from the efficacy of Christ’s Passion. (III, q. 49, ad. 2)

[From the book of Fr E. C. McENIRY O.P., Saint Thomas Aquinas Meditations for every day, Columbus (Ohio), Long’s College Book Company, 1951, p. 166.]

It is by the virtue of faith and by the sacraments of the holy Catholic Church, that we are united to the Passion of Our Lord.