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from issue no. 12 - 2011


In the baptized concupiscence remains ad agonem / for the struggle, that is, for prayer

Jesus saving Peter from the waters, twelfth-century mosaic, Cathedral of Monreale (Palermo) [© Enzo Lo Verso]

Jesus saving Peter from the waters, twelfth-century mosaic, Cathedral of Monreale (Palermo) [© Enzo Lo Verso]



As commentary on Canon 5 of the Council of Trent’s Decree On Original Sin, which we publish below, we decided to repropose in the Nova et Vetera column some excerpts from Don Luigi Giussani on prayer (“Faith pleads” published in 30Days, No 1, 2008, pp. 34-43).

These excerpts show how the proprium of the response of human freedom to the attractiveness of grace is prayer. “Quod operum lex imperat hoc fidei lex impetrat / What the law requires faith requests”, says St Augustine (De Spiritu et littera 13, 22). “Et fides orat / faith also prays”, Augustine says (Enchiridion de fide, spe et caritate 2, 7). For faith is not in fact our possession or conquest, but it is recognition / confessio / that begs / supplex.

At the same time these excerpts reveal in a surprising way the heart of the Christian experience lived by Don Luigi Giussani. So, as the seventh anniversary of his death on 22 February approaches, the excerpts will help us grasp the heart of his experience, an experience that can be summarized in these words of his: “Prayer is not an activity, it is the activity of man according to all the aspects of his person, the activity that is not prayer is not human activity, it lacks truth in the beginning and truth in the ending”. These are the same words of Augustine, when he says that setting hope in prayer, represents “totum atque summum negotium / the all-encompassing and supreme activity” of the Christian life (De civitate Dei XV, 21).

In this regard, a note sent to 30Days by a person belonging to Memores Domini, in which one reads a sentence of Don Giussani from 1992, is very moving. He had gone to visit some people and, taking leave on the doorstep, said: “Think about that girl of fifteen or seventeen years [Mary] who lived everything as a prayer, who made everything rely on prayer: we must do as she. I’ve been repeating it for forty years and not even one person has yet taken me seriously”. Perhaps it took the persecution that Father Giussani foresaw in April 1992 (“The wrath of the world today does not rise up before the word Church, it is quiet also before the idea that someone should define himself Catholic, or before the figure of the Pope depicted as a moral authority. Indeed there is a formal deference, even sincere. The hatred is unleashed - barely contained, but soon it will overflow - before Catholics who present themselves as such, Catholics who act in the simplicity of Tradition” [L. Giussani, An event of life: a history that is, introduction by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Edit-Il Sabato, Rome 1993, p. 104]) so that someone, in the years following, be gifted in following him in making everything rely on prayer.



Decretum de peccato originali, can. 5 (Denzinger 1515)


Si quis per Iesu Christi Domini nostri gratiam, quae in baptismate confertur, reatum originalis peccati remitti negat, aut etiam asserit, non tolli totum id, quod veram et propriam peccati rationem habet, sed illud dicit tantum radi aut non imputari: anathema sit.

In renatis enim nihil odit Deus, quia «nihil est damnationis iis» (Rm 8, 1), qui vere «consepulti sunt cum Christo per baptisma in mortem» (Rm 6, 4), qui «non secundum carnem ambulant» (Rm 8, 4), sed veterem hominem exuentes et novum, qui secundum Deum creatus est, induentes (cfr. Ef 4, 22-24; Col 3, 9s), innocentes, immaculati, puri, innoxii ac Deo dilecti filii effecti sunt, «heredes quidem Dei, coheredes autem Christi» (Rm 8, 17), ita ut nihil prorsus eos ab ingressu caeli remoretur.


Manere autem in baptizatis concupiscentiam vel fomitem, haec sancta Synodus fatetur et sentit; quae cum ad agonem relicta sit, nocere non consentientibus et viriliter per Christi Iesu gratiam repugnantibus non valet. Quin immo «qui legitime certaverit, coronabitur» (2Tm 2, 5). Hanc concupiscentiam, quam aliquando Apostolus «peccatum» (cfr. Rm 6, 12-15; 7, 7.14-20) appellat, sancta Synodus declarat Ecclesiam catholicam numquam intellexisse peccatum appellari, quod vere et proprie in renatis peccatum sit, sed quia ex peccato est et ad peccatum inclinat. Si quis autem contrarium senserit: anathema sit.



Decree on Original Sin, Canon 5


If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted; or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; but says that it is only erased, or not imputed; let him be anathema.

For, in those who are born again, there is nothing that God hates; because, “there is no condemnation” (Rm 8, 1) to those “who are truly buried together with Christ by baptism into death” (Rm 6, 4), who “walk not according to the flesh” (cf. Rm 8, 4), but, putting off the old man, and putting on the new who is created according to God (cf. Eph 4, 22-24; Col 3, 9f), are made innocent, immaculate, pure, harmless, and beloved of God, “heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ” (Rm 8, 17); so that there is nothing whatever to retard their entrance into Heaven.


But this holy Council confesses and believes, that in the baptized there remains however concupiscence, or an incentive (to sin); which, whereas it is left for our struggle, cannot injure those who consent not, but resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ; indeed, “he who shall have striven lawfully shall be crowned” (2Tm 2, 5). This concupiscence, which the apostle sometimes calls “sin” (cf. Rm 6, 12-15; 7, 7.14-20), the holy Council declares that the Catholic Church has never understood it to be called sin, as being truly and properly sin in those born again, but because it is of sin, and inclines to sin. If anyone thinks otherwise, let him be anathema.

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