The following is from the easily followed book by Father John A. Hardon, S.J. I would like to present a few of the articles that have been troubling a number of folks recently concerning, grace, love, the moral law, the Old Law and the New Law etc. Depending on the response I shall reproduce a few of these to see if we can open a dialogue concerning these principles. The entire section I am working from Part Three: The Life in Christ, can be found here.
Article 1: The Moral Law
The moral law is the work of divine wisdom. It is at once a paternal instruction and a divine pedagogy. It prescribes for man the ways and rules of conduct that lead to the promised beatitude.
843. What is law?
Law is a rule of conduct decreed by the competent authority in view of the common good.
844. What does the moral law presuppose?
It presupposes the rational order established among creatures for their good and in view of their destiny by the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Creator.
845. Where does all law find its truth?
All law finds its first and last truth in the eternal law.
846. What are the expressions of the moral law?
They are varied and yet all interrelated. Thus, there are:
- the eternal law, the source in God of all laws;
- the natural law;
- the revealed law, which includes the Old Law and the New Law of the Gospel;
- the civil and ecclesiastical laws.
847. Where does the moral law find its fullness and unity?
In the person of Jesus Christ. He is at once the end or purpose of the law and the way of perfection. He alone teaches and confers the justice of God.
848. What is the natural law?
It is the law written in the soul of all men because our human reason orders us to do good and forbids sin. Its binding power comes from a higher Reason, which we are to obey.
849. Where do we find the principle commandments of the natural law?
We find them in the Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments, given to Moses and elevated by Christ in His Sermon on the Mount.
850. What are some notable features of the natural law?
The natural law is universal; its authority extends to all human beings. Its applications vary, but its basic principles unify the whole human race. It is unchangeable over the centuries of history, and even when denied or rejected, its basic principles cannot be destroyed.
851. What are the benefits of the natural law?
The natural law provides a solid foundation for guiding the human community in moral living. It gives the necessary grounds for civil laws and wise judicial decisions.
852. Are the precepts of the natural law perceived clearly and immediately by everyone?
No, because of the darkening of man’s intellect by sin. That is why God provided revelation and grace, so that the basic truths of religion and morality would “be known by everyone, with facility, with firm certitude, and with no admixture of error” (First Vatican Council, Dei Filius, 2).
853. What is the first stage of the revealed law?
It is the Old Law summed up in the Ten Commandments, given to Moses on Mount Sinai.
854. How is the Old Law imperfect?
It is imperfect because already before the coming of Christ it had to be completed by the prophetic and wisdom revelation of the Old Testament. But it is mainly imperfect because it had to be fulfilled by the teaching and life of Jesus Christ.
855. How is the Law of Moses a preparation for the Gospel?
It foretells the work of redemption of the Savior, and provides the New Testament with images, types, and symbols for expressing the life of the Spirit.
856. What is the New Law of the Gospel?
The New Law of the Gospel is the perfection here below of the natural and revealed divine law. Moreover:
- It is the grace of the Holy Spirit given to believers by their faith in Christ.
- It surpasses the Old Law, as seen in the Beatitudes, which direct God’s promises beyond this world to the kingdom of Heaven.
- In the Sermon on the Mount, it does not add new external precepts but reforms our actions in the heart.
- It directs our acts of religion to the Father, who sees in secret. Its prayer is the Our Father.
- It is summed up in Christ’s teaching to do everything to others as we would have them do to us.
- It is expressed in Christ’s new commandment that we should love one another as He has loved us.
857. How is Christ’s Sermon on the Mount amplified?
By the moral catechesis of the apostolic teaching, for example, the letters of St. Paul to the Romans, Corinthians, Colossians, and Ephesians. This catechesis shows that we are to treat cases of conscience in the light of our relation to Christ and the Church.
858. Why is the New Law called the law of love, grace, and freedom?
- It is called the law of love because it is animated by the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than by fear.
- It is called the law of grace because it confers the supernatural power of grace to observe the New Law by means of faith and the sacraments.
- It is called the law of freedom because it frees us from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law; it inclines us to act spontaneously under the impulse of charity; and it leads us from the state of servants to that of Christ’s friends.
859. What are the evangelical counsels?
They are invitations extended by Christ to His followers not only to avoid sin, or whatever is incompatible with love, but to choose ways that are more direct and means that are more effective expressions of love. The counsels seek to remove whatever would impede the development of charity.
860. Are the followers of Christ to practice the counsels?
Yes, but according to each person’s grace from God and vocation in life. In the words of St. Francis de Sales, God wants us to observe “only those appropriate to the diversity of persons, times, opportunities, and strengths, as love requires” (Love, 8,6).