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from issue no. 04/05 - 2011

Spiritual Reading/42

Decretum de peccato originali*

3. Si quis hoc Adae peccatum, quod origine unum est et propagatione, non imitatione transfusum omnibus inest unicuique proprium, vel per humanae naturae vires, vel per aliud remedium asserit tolli, quam per meritum unius mediatoris Domini nostri Iesu Christi, qui nos Deo reconciliavit in sanguine suo, «factus nobis iustitia, sanctificatio et redemptio» (1Cor 1, 30); aut negat, ipsum Christi Iesu meritum per baptismi sacramentum, in forma Ecclesiae rite collatum, tam adultis quam parvulis applicari: anathema sit. Quia «non est aliud nomen sub caelo datum hominibus, in quo oporteat nos salvos fieri» (At 4, 12). Unde illa vox: «Ecce agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi» (Gv 1, 29). Et illa: «Quicumque baptizati estis, Christum induistis» (Gal 3, 27).


* Denzinger 1513.



Decree on Original Sin

3. If any one asserts, that this sin of Adam, which is single in its origin and, being transmitted into all by propagation not by imitation, is in each one as his own, is taken away either by the powers of human nature, or by any other remedy than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ, who has reconciled us to God through His blood, “made unto us justice, sanctification, and redemption” (1Cor 1, 30); or affirm that the said merit of Jesus Christ is not applied both to adults and to infants by the sacrament of baptism rightly administered in the form of the Church; let him be anathema: For “there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we may be saved” (Acts 4, 12). Whence the expression: “Behold the lamb of God behold him who taketh away the sins of the world” (Jn 1, 29); and the other: “All those who have been baptized, have put on Christ” (Gal 3, 27).


The third canon of the Decree on Original Sin of the Council of Trent that we propose as the spiritual reading of this issue prompts us to reprint, by way of comment, two passages from Pope Paul VI.
The first piece is an excerpt from a speech opening the second session of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, 29 September 1963, in which Paul VI indicates the purpose of that twenty-first Ecumenical Council.

“From where does our journey begin?”; “What path does it intend to take?”; “What end does it aim at?”.
“These three questions, very simple and primary, have, as we know well, only one answer, that here, in this very hour, we must proclaim to ourselves and to the world around us: Christ! Christ, our beginning, Christ, our way and our guide! Christ, our hope and our goal.
Oh! May this Council have full awareness of this manifold and unique, fixed and challenging, mysterious and most clear, compelling and beatifying relationship between us and the Blessed Jesus, between this holy and living Church, that we are, and Christ, from whom we come, for whom we live, and to whom we go. May no other light be shed on this gathering, that is not Christ, the light of the world; may no other truth interest our soul, than the words of the Lord, our only Master; may no other aspiration guide us than the desire to be absolutely faithful to Him; may no other faith sustain us except that which rescues, through His word, our desolate weakness: ‘Et ecce Ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus usque ad consummationem seculi’ [‘Behold I am with you all days even until the end of the world’] (Mt 28, 20).
Oh! Were we able in this work to raise to Our Lord Jesus Christ a voice worthy of Him! We will say with that sacred liturgy: ‘Te, Christe, solum novimus; – te mente pura et simplici – flendo et canendo quaesumus – intende nostris sensibus! [‘You alone, O Christ, do we know; we beseech You, with pure and simple heart, in weeping and in joy; come to the aid of our senses!’]”.



The second passage is taken from the Creed of the People of God of 30 June 1968, in which Paul VI quotes word for word the third canon of the Decree on Original Sin of the Council of Trent.

“We believe that in Adam all have sinned, which means that the original offense committed by him caused human nature, common to all men, to fall into a state in which it bears the consequences of that offense, and which is no longer the state in which it was at the start in our first parents – established as they were in holiness and justice, and in which man knew neither evil nor death. It is human nature so fallen, stripped of the grace that clothed it, wounded in its own natural powers and subjected to the dominion of death, that is transmitted to all men; and it is in this sense that every man is born in sin. We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that Original Sin is transmitted with human nature, ‘not by imitation, but by propagation’ and that it is thus ‘proper to everyone’.
We believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the Sacrifice of the Cross redeemed us from Original Sin and all the personal sins committed by each one of us, so that, in accordance with the word of the apostle, ‘where sin abounded, grace did more abound’ [cf. Rm 5, 20]”.

From 29 September 1963 to 30 June 1968 not even five years had passed. Yet in his two speeches, we seem to glimpse how the story of Paul VI in those years is the same experience as that lived by the first of the apostles, Peter, in the way the Gospel documents it. A journey that, starting from the very human enthusiasm for the recognition of Jesus – which is a gift of the Father (“Blessed are you, Simon, ... because neither flesh nor blood has revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven”, Mt 16, 17), where Peter’s whole initiative is at stake – arrives at the actual experience of “our desolate weakness”, so that the whole initiative is left to the Lord, and Peter humbly teaches “only what has been transmitted” (Dei Verbum, n.10).
Unparagoned here is the commentary of St Augustine on the words spoken by Jesus to Peter, when afterwards, at Caesarea Philippi, the apostle had recognized Him (cf. Mk 8, 27-33): Dominus Christus ait: “Vade post me, satanas” / And Christ the Lord said, “Get thee behind me, Satan”. / Quare satanas? / Why Satan? / Quia vis ire ante me / Because you want to go before me” (Sermones 330, 4).
Peter and his successor have thus learned to leave all the initiative to the action to the Lord. They have learned that to us it is only given to recognize and follow the workings of the Lord.

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