Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION LXXXV.: OF SACRIFICE. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION LXXXV.: OF SACRIFICE. - 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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Article I.—Is it of the law of nature to offer sacrifice to God?
R. Natural reason dictates to man subjection to some higher power on account of the deficiencies which he experiences in himself, wherein he needs to be aided and guided by some one above himself; and whatever that higher power may be, that it is which amongst all men is called God. Natural reason dictates to man to show, in his own way, submission and honour to the power that is above man. Now it is a way befitting man to employ sensible signs to express his concepts, because his knowledge is derived from sensible objects. And therefore it comes of natural reason that a man should make use of sundry sensible things, offering them to God in token of due subjection and honour, after the likeness of those who offer sundry things to their lords in recognition of their seignorial rights.1 But this belongs to the nature of sacrifice; and therefore the offering of sacrifice is a part of the natural law.
§ 1. Some things are of natural law in some general sort, the specifications thereof being of positive law. Thus the natural law has it that evil-doers be punished; but their punishment by this or that penalty is of divine or human ordinance. In like manner also the offering of sacrifice is in some general sort of natural law: and therefore in this all men are agreed; but the specification of sacrifices is of human ordinance, or divine: and therefore in this men differ.1
§ 3. To signify his concepts is natural to man; but the specification of signs is according to human convention.
Article II.—Ought sacrifice to be offered to God alone?
R. The sacrifice that is offered outwardly, signifies the inward spiritual sacrifice whereby the soul offers itself to God. Now the soul offers itself to God in sacrifice as to the principle of its creation and the end of its beatitude. But God alone is the creator of our souls; and in Him alone does the happiness of our soul consist. And therefore as it is to God alone that we ought to offer the spiritual sacrifice, so it is to Him alone that we ought to offer exterior sacrifices. This too we see to be an observance in every commonwealth, that they honour the sovereign with some singular mark of reverence, which it would be treason to pay to any other.
§ 3. As Augustine says: “The priest does not say: I offer sacrifice to thee, Peter or Paul. But we render thanks to God for their victories, and exhort one another to imitation of them.”
Article III.—Is the offering of sacrifice a special act of virtue?
R. When the act of one virtue is directed to the end and purpose of another virtue, it participates in some manner in the species of the latter: just as when one steals to commit fornication, that theft assumes something of the deformity of fornication, so that if it were not otherwise a sin, it would be a sin by the mere fact of being referred to fornication. So then sacrifice is a special act, praiseworthy from being done in reverence of God: wherefore it belongs to a definite virtue, namely, to religion. But it may happen that the acts of other virtues are directed to the reverence of God; as when a person gives alms out of his own property for God’s sake, or afflicts his body out of reverence for God; and in this way even the acts of other virtues may be called sacrifices. There are however certain acts which are not praiseworthy on any other ground except that of their being done for reverence to God; and these acts are properly called sacrifices, and belong to the virtue of religion.
§ 3.Sacrifices properly so called are when something is done about things offered to God, as the old practice of slaying animals and burning their bodies; and again the breaking and eating and blessing of bread. And this the name itself expresses: for it is called sacrifice from man’s doing something sacred (facit aliquid sacrum). But an offering is directly so called when something is offered to God, even though nothing be done about it: as pence or loaves are said to be offered on the altar, nothing being done about them. Hence every sacrifice is an offering, but not vice versa. First-fruits are offerings, because they were offered to God,1 but not sacrifices, because nothing sacred was done about them. But tithes, properly speaking, are neither sacrifices nor offerings, because they are not paid immediately to God, but to the ministers of divine worship.
Article IV.—Are all persons bound to offer sacrifices?
R. There are two sorts of sacrifices, of which the first and principal is the inward sacrifice, to which all are bound: for all are bound to offer to God a devout mind. But there is another and outward sacrifice, divided into two kinds. One kind of sacrifice there is, which is praiseworthy only from the offering to God of some outward thing in protestation of subjection to God; and to this kind of sacrifice they who are under the New Law, or the Old, are bound in a different manner from those who are not under the Law. For those who are under the Law, are bound to offer fixed sacrifices according to the commandments of the Law: but those who were not under the Law, were bound to perform some outward acts to the honour of God in some decent and seemly fashion, suited to the society in which they lived, but without determination of these or those acts. There is another class of outward sacrifices, in which the outward acts of other virtues besides religion are taken up for reverence of God: of which acts some fall under precept, and all are bound to them; others are works of supererogation, to which not all are bound.
§ 3. Priests offer sacrifices, which are specially directed to divine worship, not for themselves only, but also for others. But there are certain other sacrifices which any one can offer for himself to God.1
[1 ]So in the feudal system, under which St. Thomas wrote.
[1 ]Cf. I-II. q. 94. art. 3. note. (Trl.)
[1 ]Deut. xxvi. 1—10.
[1 ]Namely, as explained above, the inward sacrifice of a devout mind, which is a point of religion, and the outward sacrifice of external acts of other virtues besides religion, done on a motive of religion, or done for the greater glory of God. (Trl.)