Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION LXXXI.: OF RELIGION. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION LXXXI.: OF RELIGION. - St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2) 
Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas. A Translation of the Principal Portions of the Second part of the Summa Theologica, with Notes by Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (London: Burns and Oates, 1892).
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§ 5. Though all in general who worship God may be called religious, the name is specially given to such as dedicate their entire lives to the worship of God, keeping aloof from worldly business; as the name of contemplatives is bestowed, not simply on persons who contemplate, but on such as devote their whole lives to contemplation.
§ 3. It is a dictate of natural reason that a man should perform some acts by way of reverence to God. But that he should perform definitely these acts or those, is not a dictate of natural reason, but an institution of law, divine or human.1
Article III.—Is religion one virtue?
R. Habits are distinguished according to the different aspects of their objects. Now to religion it belongs to show reverence to the one God under one aspect, inasmuch as He is the first principle of the creation and government of things. Hence He Himself says: “If I be a father, where is my honour?”1 For it is the office of a father both to bring into being and to govern. And therefore religion is one virtue.
§ 3. Religious worship is not paid to images considered in themselves as things, but inasmuch as they are images leading on to the Incarnate God. And the movement of veneration to the image as such does not rest in it, but tends to that of which it is an image.
Article IV.—Is religion a special virtue distinct from others?
R. Since virtue is directed to good, there must be a special virtue where there is a special goodness. Now the good to which religion is directed, is to pay God due honour. Honour is due to a person by reason of his excellence. But to God a singular excellence attaches, inasmuch as He infinitely transcends all things in every manner of excellence. Hence there is due to Him a special honour; as in human society we see that different honour is given to the several excellences of several persons, one honour to a father, another to a king, and so of the rest. Hence it is manifest that religion is a special virtue.
§ 2. All acts done for the glory of God belong to religion, not as the virtue eliciting, but as the virtue commanding them. But those acts belong to religion as eliciting them, which specifically appertain to the reverencing of God.1
Article V.—Is religion a theological virtue?
R. Religion it is that offers due worship to God. There are two things then to consider in religion: one is what religion offers to God, namely, worship, and this stands as the matter and object of religion: the other is the being to whom it is offered, namely, God to whom the worship is paid: not that the acts whereby God is worshipped attain to God Himself; whereas when we believe God, in believing we do attain to God. Due worship is offered to God, by the doing of certain acts of worship, offering of sacrifice, and the like, by way of reverence to God. Hence clearly God does not stand to the virtue of religion as the matter or object of it, but as the end of it. And therefore religion is not a theological virtue, the object of which is the last end, but a moral virtue, the office whereof is to be concerned with what makes for that end.
Article VII.—Does religion involve any external act?
R. We pay reverence and honour to God, not for His sake, seeing that of Himself He is full of glory and can have nothing added to Him from the creature, but for our own sakes, because by reverencing and honouring God our mind is made subject to Him, and in that subjection its perfection consists. For everything is made perfect by being subjected to its superior, as the body by being animated by the soul, and the air by being illuminated by the sun. But the human mind, in order to be united to God, needs to be led as it were by the hand by the senses: because “the invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.”1 And therefore in divine worship it is necessary to use some corporal means, that by those means as by signs the mind of man may be prompted to spiritual acts, which unite it with God. And therefore religion involves interior acts as principal exercises, of themselves belonging to religion; and external acts as secondary, subordinated to the acts which are interior.
Article VIII.—Is religion the same as holiness?
R. The name of holiness seems to denote two ideas, the one of purity, the other of firmness. Under both the one and the other signification it is proper that holiness be attributed to the things that are applied to divine worship, so that not only men, but also the temple and vessels and other such things are said to be sanctified, or hallowed, by their application to divine worship. For purity is necessary for the mind to be applied to God, because the human mind is sullied by being bent upon inferior things, in the same way that anything else is defiled by the intermingling of an inferior substance, as silver by being mixed with lead. But the mind must be withdrawn from inferior things to enable it to be united with the Supreme Being; and therefore a mind without purity cannot be applied to God. Hence it is said: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see God.”1Firmness likewise is requisite for the application of the mind to God: for the mind is applied to Him as to the last end and first beginning; and such principles ought to be especially immovable. Hence the Apostle said: “I am sure that neither death nor life . . . shall separate me from the love of God.”2 Thus then by holiness we mean that disposition of the human mind by which it applies itself and its acts to God. Hence holiness does not differ from religion in essence, but only in our way of looking at it. For it is called religion, inasmuch as it pays to God due service in what appertains especially to divine worship, as in sacrifices, oblations, and the like. Again it is called holiness, inasmuch as man not only refers these things but also the works of other virtues to God; or inasmuch as a man disposes himself by certain works to divine worship.3
[1 ]See I-II. q. 94. art. 3. with note; Ethics and Natural Law, p. 197, and pp. 280, 281, n. 4. (Trl.)
[1 ]Malach. i. 6.
[1 ]Cf. II-II. q. 26. art. 7. note, for eliciting and commanding. (Trl.)
[1 ]Romans i. 20.
[1 ]Hebrews xii. 14.
[2 ]Romans viii. 38, 39.
[3 ]A person or thing then is holy by being abidingly set aside for the worship of God, as, to begin with, all Christians are by their baptism. So in the Good Friday service the multitude of the baptized, apart from the catechumens, are prayed for as “the holy people of God.” Within this “holy people” there are observable many grades of official holiness, according as by office or by state men are particularly set aside for the service of religion. There are also grades of personal holiness, discernible by God alone, according as different souls approach Him in different degrees of grace and virtue. Highest in official holiness, and in personal holiness presumably not the least of his brethren, is he who by office stands above all other men as the “man of God,” the Holy Father. (Trl.)