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Reparation to the Sacred Heart
Fr. Raoul Plus, S. J.
II: The Doctrine of
Our Lord's Reparation
IN the question of our Lord's reparation there
five points to be dealt with:
Reparation and sin.
The morality of reparation.
The reparation of Christ.
Why not a free pardon?
Why the Cross?
Reparation is necessary only because of sin; and because in sin there
are two elements there will be two elements in reparation.
Every sin consists in some inordinate pleasure which is indulged in
against the law of God. In sin there is pleasure and disobedience:
forbidden pleasure, and violation of God's command. Evidently,
therefore, to wipe out sin there must be something to counterbalance
the forbidden pleasure, and something to compensate for the offence
committed against God. Hence the two elements: pain and repentance. The
former without the latter would be simply an affliction devoid of any
moral significance. It is repentance that gives to suffering its true
value, which consists in its being willingly and heartily accepted.
Had there been no sin, there would be no reason for the virtue of
penitence; there would be question only of the virtue of temperance,
understood in a broad sense as the virtue that regulates our appetites
and desires. But sin happened, man's will deviated from the straight
path, indulged in a pleasure to which it had no right, and so offended
the sovereign will of God. The equilibrium of a pendulum requires an
equal swing in either direction; so in the moral order; since in the
disorder of sin there are two elements (forbidden pleasure and offence
against God) there will be two elements in the process necessary to
establish moral equilibrium. And as the essential part of sin lies in
the offence, the disobedience to God, the evil consent of the will, so
the essential element in reparation will be in the change of heart, in
the sorrow for the offence. Punishment alone might expiate the
forbidden pleasure; but if the heart is not changed and does not accept
the punishment willingly, this material expiation which is called for
by the very order of things, would have no moral significance, and sin
would remain. This is exactly what happens in the case of the damned in
Hell. Why is it that Hell, which is a place of penal expiation, is not
a place of true and meritorious reparation? Because the pains of Hell,
being undergone by constraint and not in a spirit of repentance and
love, do not justify the sinner. For the soul of the damned, since his
will is rooted in evil, reparation will never begin, and it is in this
sense that when it crossed Hell's threshold, it left all hope behind.
Thus certain terms are elucidated. The punishment that is undergone to
compensate for the forbidden pleasure is called expiation.
If this compensating punishment is accompanied by certain internal
dispositions, viz. voluntary acceptance, sorrow for the sin committed,
then we have reparation, and
and if the reparation made is complete, proportionate to the offence,
it is more exactly called satisfaction.
1 In the
expiation only justice is
satisfied (the objective order of things); in the case of
reparation the sinner is re-established in the state of love, and if
the motive that determined his return to God is of the highest order,
we have charity, or perfect contrition (sorrow for offending so good a
God), if the motive is of a lower order (fear, not purely servile, but
filial) we have imperfect contrition, or attrition.
We may here consider an objection which is made by certain modern
opponents of Christianity. They refuse to admit that there is any need
to compensate by punishment for the forbidden pleasure taken in sin,
unless, that punishment serves to amend the sinner or to deter others
from a like offence. Why, they ask, does an infringement of order call
for compensation in the shape of punishment? Is this not to add a
further disorder to that already existing. "Vengeance," writes one of
We might well ask those who favour secular morality to agree among
themselves. One of them finds in the punishment of the guilty a moral
disorder. Another (Bayet) maintains that even for an involuntary wrong
a person is bound to make reparation, even before the sentence of the
judge. It is difficult to harmonize these two theses. In the name of
the ideal beauty of human morality, on the one hand you reject
vindictive justice with horror, while on the other, you want to punish
one who in conscience is not, guilty at all. The true doctrine is that
expiation, far from being a disorder, re-establishes order; but this
expiation is only necessary in conscience when in conscience there has
been some fault. Every good moralist distinguishes between the moral
law and the penal law. It is a principle of natural law that a moral
obligation arises only from a moral act, that is, an act which is
conscious and free.
But we can go beyond this answer ad
hominem. That indulgence in a
forbidden pleasure calls for a corresponding punishment is testified
"by conscience, by all religions, and by half the philosophers of
history" (Mgr. d'Hulst). "In regard to my duty, I am both bound and
free; hence I must answer for my choice; if I have chosen well I am the
creditor of God, the supreme legislator; if I have chosen ill I am His
debtor." Either God must regulate my conscience, or I must pay my debt;
there is no middle way. "This concatenation is so perfect that the last
term cannot be contested without denying the first: freedom to duty,
responsibility to merit, merit to sanction; the chain is complete and
Hear how St. Anselm explains this point in his dialogue with Boso (Cur Deus homo, I 13):
most intolerable of all things that the creature should deprive the
Creator of what is His due, and not, restore what had stolen.
therefore justice could never permit it.
Anselm. But you
would not claim that God should tolerate what justice
would not tolerate that the creature should not restore to God what he
had taken from Him.
is supremely great and good, sovereign justice must safeguard His
honour in the government of the world, and this
sovereign justice in none other than God Himself.
Anselm. But there is nothing that God more justly safeguards than the
honour due to His dignity.
think He would safeguard it if He allowed it to be taken
from Him without regaining it or without punishing the guilty one?
Boso. I do
think He would.
either the honour withheld must be repaid, or punishment
must be inflicted. Otherwise God would be unjust to Himself, or He
would show Himself to be powerless.
conclusion most reasonable. That there must be a punishment to
compensate for guilty enjoyment is the common doctrine of all the
their view may be summed up in this formula: it is just that man should
be to a greater or less extent deprived of the things that God allows;
according as he has allowed himself the things that God has
Justice is intransigent on this point. Whether from the
human or the Divine point of view, sin calls for expiation; the axiom
that there is no pardon without expiation admits of no exception. No
earthly judge, no confessor, will absolve a person who refuses to
make good the damage he has done; only the impossibility of making
restitution can excuse him.
This law of reparation has ever been graven on the hearts of men. From
the beginning of the world sinful man has felt the need to offer
sacrifices to the Divinity in compensation for his sins. So we see
sacrifice offered by Cain and Abel; later by Melchisedech, Abraham,
Moses, and so on.
What, then, is a sacrifice? Sacrifice, the essential act of religion,
is among other things a payment.
To appease the anger of God Whom they had offended, men offered Him
victims. These victims, whether animate or inanimate creatures, were
offered, immolated, burnt, destroyed. These oblations or holocausts,
costly and sumptuous acts of worship, but voluntary and meritorious,
were accepted by God when offered with the right dispositions; they
were the symbols of the great Sacrifice to come, that of the spotless
Lamb, our Lord.
Other opponents of this doctrine seem to see in it a mere caprice on
God's part, as if God were "touchy" in regard to His privileges; so
that punishment would be the outcome of a savage and transcendent
spirit of revenge. If this were so, punishment would indeed be a second
disorder added to the first. But it is nothing of the kind. The word
vindictive is perhaps an unfortunate one, because it would seem to
attribute to God a revengeful spirit; but when we seek to show the
reasonable character of vindictive punishment we do not attribute to
God any sentiment that is
unworthy of Him. We point simply to the exigencies of justice.
Punishment is demanded by the objective reality of things, not by a
God Who imitates our petty imperfections. An eminent theologian writing
on this subject says:
"We do not as we are sometimes accused of doing, attribute to God
any of the foolish sensitiveness of an earthly lord whose feelings have
been ruffled; and the reason is that the honour of God is not properly
speaking a personal right, or a haughty assertion of His superiority;
it is simply the law of the necessary subordination of beings, it is
what is called in a vague but true phrase, 'the order of things'." 4
So far we have arrived at the conclusion that just as in sin there is a
twofold element, pleasure and insult, so in the just reparation for sin
there are two corresponding, elements, punishment or expiation, and
compensating honour, or, as we may put it, "making amends".
Normally it is the duty of the offender to make reparation, to make
expiation and give satisfaction. Can another take his duty upon
himself? Is justice equally satisfied in that case? Evidently not; if
the other, being innocent, is seized against his will and forced to pay
for a fault that he has not committed. But yes, on the contrary, if he
freely allows himself to be substituted for the guilty one. The same
thing happens frequently in ordinary human life without anyone being
shocked. Why should it not happen also in the supernatural order? Why
should not friendship be allowed this most touching manifestation, that
of offering to pay the debts of a friend?
In the case of man's sin, we know that our Lord willed to take our
place and to offer to God the reparation that was necessary. He alone,
in fact, could offer adequate satisfaction. 5
An offence is measured by the dignity of him who is offended;
reparation on the contrary by the dignity of him who offers it. In the
offence there was something of the infinite. For, after all, what is
sin? It is man spurning the command of God, man telling God, if not
with his lips, with his actions: "I regard You as of no account, for me
You are as if You did not exist; my God is my own will; as far as I am
able, I suppress You, You do not exist." How make reparation for this?
How offer satisfaction which will give to God the infinite homage which
is His due? Only a being who possesses the infinite can do this.
In his dialogue with Boso St. Anselm forces his disciple to the
"Therefore none but God can make full satisfaction
for the sin of man." "Logically," answer's Boso.
"On the other
hand," says Anselm, "a man must offer it, otherwise satisfaction would
not be forthcoming from mankind." "Nothing," answers Boson, " could be
more certain." "Therefore only God can offer it, and a man must offer
it; hence it must be offered by One Who is both God and man."
Here then is the proof that the Incarnation, though not necessary, is
supremely appropriate. Clearly God could have chosen another way of
redeeming us. When Anselm speaks of necessity, he does not mean that
the Divine will was constrained; he wishes only to emphasize the
extremely reasonable motives to which in His goodness He deigned to
conform His will. In other words, given that God required adequate
reparation for sin, (though He ,vas not
bound to do so, since He might have chosen another plan
of Redemption) the Incarnation was necessary. In this sense the Roman
Catechism says: "Neither Angel nor man were capable of raising up the
human race." Only the Word Incarnate could do this.
There are some who misunderstand this substitution of our Lord in our
place in the great work of reparation for sin; the Protestants, for
example. On the pretext that our participation in the satisfaction
offered by Christ would diminish His merit, they refuse to admit that
we have any part in it. Our Lord did everything; His merits are applied
to us, whether we will it or not; those whom He has chosen are saved,
the rest are damned; we can do nothing in the matter.
No. We are free beings, and God Who has redeemed us without consulting
us, will not save us without our co-operation. Our Lord did not take
our place in the sense that we have nothing to do. The idea of
substitution must be supplemented by that of
solidarity. We shall see later that this solidarity does not only
demand that we should co-operate with our Lord to save our own souls;
if we understand our Christian doctrine aright, it will lead us to work
with Christ for the salvation of our brethren.
It might perhaps be asked why God, instead of planning the Redemption
as He did, should not have contented Himself with granting a free
pardon, without demanding any expiation at all. "You have done wrong;
but I condone it; let us say no more about it."
Obviously God was not in any way bound to act as He did. In the first
place He might have left no room for a redemption. We are so accustomed
to the idea of the Redemption accomplished by Christ that we can hardly
conceive the possibility of any other order of things. And yet, as St.
Ignatius remarks in one of his meditations" there was forgiveness for
man, but there was
none for the Angels. Why? The true reason is that God so willed it.
God might have left us in our unhappy state. He treated the Angels in
this way; for us He chose another way. Or God might have pardoned us
freely. He did not choose this way either. Or again He might have
willed to accept an inadequate satisfaction. Nor did He choose this
As a matter of fact, He chose, to demand an adequate satisfaction. Why?
Because by this means He could show more wonderfully His love and his
First, His justice. God is good, indeed; He is infinitely good.
is infinitely wise. To have forgiven without demanding compensation
would have manifested wonderfully His infinite mercy and goodness. But
His justice would not have appeared. And might not this condonation of
the offence have tended to encourage man to sin. "If God pardons so
easily, why worry?" Doubtless for man thus to abuse God's mercy
would have be an abominable sin; but knowing man as we do, can we
suppose that such an attitude on his part would have been unlikely?
Even now that God threatens him with the rigorous sanctions of His
justice, he takes little trouble to lead a good life, hoping perhaps in
the last moment of his life to be pardoned by Him Whom he has spent
his life offending.
But did not God violate justice when He asked Christ, the Innocent
Lamb, to undertake the work of
reparation? No; because Christ offered spontaneously and
willingly to do so. But surely the idea is rather horrible. To choose
His Own Son and ask Him to make payment for us, miserable wretches that
we are. What selfishness! Because one has lost a little of one's
own glory, to recoup it through the humiliation of what one holds most
dear. Is this not unworthy of God?
On the contrary, what a marvellous display of love in this
fulfillment of perfect justice. God had to choose, so to speak, between
His Only-begotten Son and His adopted sons. JustIce claimed an
adequate satisfaction for sin, and only His Own Son could provide it.
At this price His adoptive sons could be saved, And God out of His
great love for us chose to help us by sacrificing His Own innocent
Son. In this work of love justice too is safeguarded, for on Christ's
part the offering was voluntary: "He was delivered up because He
Himself willed it."
It is strange, is it not, that there should not be a feast in the
liturgy in honour of the Father, especially to celebrate the infinite
love of Him Who is Infinite Goodness? In the Middle Ages at one time it
was proposed to set apart December 25 for this feast. Evidently in
popular devotion this date would always be associated with the Holy
Infant in the cradle. But it was a beautiful idea, this medieval
conception which above the cradle, above the Angels singing Gloria, saw
God the Father giving to mankind the royal gift of His Only-begotten
And together with this display of love in the Father, what a
manifestation of love in the Son! Before the Incarnation, in that
period to which the Evangelist refers when he says, "In the beginning
was the Word," the Word was already offering Himself. The holocausts
that ascended from the earth were insufficient. "Behold I come" says
the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Before the Incarnation this
is the relation of the Word to Us; He is the perpetual Offerer, He
says constantly to His Father: "Father, for Your glory, for their
happiness I deliver Myself up. On the day fixed in Your eternal decrees
I will descend upon the earth, and I will live among these little
beings called men, I will become one of them, and thus the honour which
they have taken from You will be restored, and the Divine life which
they have lost will be given back to them."
And so at the time appointed in God's decree the Word, without ceasing
to live in Eternity, began to live in Time. He became man, taking a
human body from one of the daughters of men. See Him as a child in the
manger, as a young boy, playing before the door of the house of His
foster-father Joseph; as a young man, His hands hardened by toil at the
carpenter's bench; as a grown man on the roads of Judaea and in the
country lanes of Galilee, uttering words which hitherto no man had
heard; see Him finally as He dies a cruel death on the Cross.
And all this for us; for me. All this for the sole purpose of making
reparation; the life and death of a God for the sin of men.
What a miracle of love! We can well understand why the devotion to the
Sacred Heart of Jesus is the centre of Christian cult and one of the
most suitable forms of reparation. To carry out His work of redemption
the Word united with Himself a human nature, and the loving power of
this human nature thus joined itself with the loving power of the Word,
and so were fused in the love of the God-man for us. Hence by this
devotion we worship first and principally the human love of our Lord
for mankind-----a love which is symbolised by His human
Heart-----and then in
consequence that Divine love for us which is the love of the Word
But, it may be asked further, why should the Word Incarnate go to such
lengths? Why the Cross? How could the Father have consented to such a
sacrifice? If the smallest act would have been sufficient, why all this
blood, why all this torture? St. Bernard in his discussion with
Abelard does not shirk the problem: "A word was enough, you say;
then why the shedding of blood?"
The, best of all answers is that infinite Wisdom decreed that it
should be so. Let us never forget that we are nothing in God's sight.
Does the vessel say to the potter: Why hast thou made me thus?
Yet when we seek with all reverence to penetrate these secrets, does
not the mystery of the Cross, formidable though it is, seem less than
the mystery of the Cradle? The Incarnation itself is a far more
wonderful mystery than the death of the Word Incarnate on the Cross. It
is possible to find a generous man who will give up his life for his
brethren, it is possible to understand that a God made man should do
this; I have some analogies to help me. But that God should become a
little child in a manger, the Infinite a puling infant in a woman's
lap; I have no analogy which can help me to bridge this abyss between
the Infinite and the finite. It is the sight of the Word made man
seeking a resting place in this world that should fill us with
amazement. The Cross appalls us; but the mystery of the cradle should
bewilder us. To see an Incarnate God die is a lesser marvel than to see
a God be born as man.
None the less the mystery of the Cross is indeed overwhelming. How can
we understand that the Father, infinitely good as He is, infinitely
wise, loving the Word infinitely as He does, should have designed such
a plan of the Redemption? Is not the idea so barbarous that even to
think of it would be a blasphemy?
While considering the love of the Father and the Son perhaps we have to
some extent lost sight of His justice. The wonder of the plan of
redemption is that it so wonderfully combines both love and justice.
Just as love intervenes to make full justice possible, so justice finds
its place in the work of love. God withheld a free pardon in order that
His justice might be manifested. But if God had showed His justice
alone, man would have been crushed beneath it, lost for ever as
Lucifer was: So the Divine Love allows the Son to offer Himself, and
mankind is saved.
Yet in this
work of love God willed that His Justice should appear, and it appears
in the treatment meted out to the Word Incarnate. Not that the
scourging, the crowning with thorns, the crucifixion were absolutely
necessary for our redemption; for this the slightest act of the Son of
God would have sufficed-----but in this way sin appeared
to us more
dramatically horrible, and the love of the Word Incarnate showed itself
in all its royal splendour.
Hence we must not subject God to the rules of mathematics by
representing the death of Christ on the Cross as necessary. When the
Fathers-----in particular St. Anselm
of the necessity of Calvary for our
redemption, they do not mean that God was obliged to permit this. All
they mean is that the way which God chose for the Redemption was most
fitting; no method could have better combined love and justice. To us
these appear as two distinct and opposite attributes. In God they are
one and the same. God, in the one single act of His infinite being, is
both infinite justice and infinite love.
1. Evidently the word is not
taken in its
restricted sense as used in connection with the Sacrament of Penance.
2. Gabriel Seailles: Les affirmations de la conscience moderne,
3. See for example
Pastor. III, cap. 30.
4. J. Riviere: Le dogme de la Redemption, 2nd ed.,
p. 4. On the whole of this question see also the article Redemption by D'Ales in the Dictionnaire Apologetique
5. In his article
quotes the following very fair comment of a Protestant author: "It is
surprising to find that those who remain unmoved before the difficult
problems raised by the question of solidarity, cry out against us when
we mention the word 'substitution'. . . . When multitudes suffer
fault of one, they appeal to solidarity. But if an innocent person
offers voluntarily to take upon himself the sins of all others, he is
regarded as upsetting every law, ,human and Divine. That Divine
Providence, which has seen so many crimes committed on the earth,
should have allowed themost hateful and useless of all crimes, that
Divine justice should stand convicted of having left unheard the last
supplication of His Son on the Cross, this causes them no difficulty;
reason and conscience say to each other: solidarity! But when above
the hands that work iniquity, above the counsels of evil men, there is
revealed a Divine and eternal plan which is a supreme manifestation of
justice and grace, then, the scandal begins! Well, personally I confess
I am more shocked to see so many innocent ones suffer in the
of history than to see the free and sublime act of one who dies in the
place of another" (Gré
t. iv, p. 364).
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