Old Law, New Law
- Fr. Roy Cimagala (The Freeman) - October 3, 2013 - 12:00am

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a section that talks about the Old Law and the New Law. It's an interesting section that, to me, deserves to be known by everyone.

For sure, that section, which is located in the division about Christian morality, is not simply meant to be theoretical. It precisely is meant to guide us in our behavior and actuations, which is what morality is all about.

And morality should be a grave concern for all of us, since our behavior and actuations can either build up or destroy our humanity and Christianity. Our human acts, or those free acts we do for which we are responsible, can either enhance or harm our dignity.

That section about the Old Law and the New Law is therefore meant to be practical, to help us see the path toward our true human development and Christian perfection, our authentic joy and fulfillment.

It offers us fundamental information meant to form in us the proper attitudes and the accompanying skills, virtues and practices we need to affirm our human and Christian identity in our actions or in the whole of our moral life.

We have to remember that since we are intelligent and free beings precisely because we have been created in the image and likeness of God, we are the only creatures, aside from the angels, who can either build up our nature or destroy it. In the other creatures, this concern about affirming or violating their nature is irrelevant.

There is an over-all law that governs all creatures. There is first the eternal law of God who creates and governs everything both in time and in eternity. Every creature has part of this law in him. This is called the natural law.

But in our case, this natural law, while written in our heart, is something that we can be aware of, precisely because of how we are-that we are intelligent and free beings. We can know it by our reason, and because of our free will, we can either follow it or go against it. Our natural law is more properly called natural moral law.

Now, given our wounded nature that affects our capacity to know the natural law entirely and correctly, our Christian faith tells us that this natural moral law needed to be articulated in an explicit way. This is where the Old Law comes in.

The Old Law refers to the Ten Commandments. It is the law revealed to us through Moses, addressed first to the Chosen People (the Israelites) but actually meant for all of us. It has a universal scope. It's not only for some. It's for all. It's not only for some period of time. It's for all time.

It articulates the way we should be, how we should act, what we can do and what we should not do, what is good and what is evil for us. It precisely spells out our nature insofar as our behavior and actuations are concerned.

But it does not tell us what we can do if we happen to violate our nature. It has no corrective dimension. It does not tell us how our attitude should be and how to suffer meaningfully the consequences of our transgressions against our nature.

This is where the New Law comes in. It offers us the way to recover and even to enhance our dignity as persons and children of God to a level higher than the original. It is the law of our Christian perfection through our redemption. It has the power to forgive sins and to suffer sins' consequences gainfully.

It is articulated in many ways. One is the new commandment Christ told his disciples: "Love one another as I have loved you." But this love is more articulated in the Sermon of the Mount where we are told about the beatitudes and about our duty to love even our enemies, to be willing to offer the other cheek if we are slapped in one, etc.

The New Law is actually about having a living unity with Christ who is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" for us. No one goes to the Father, he said, except through him. And so we have to understand that the New Law embraces everything that Christ taught us to do, and to make use of everything that he left us with the Church, the sacraments, the doctrine of our faith, etc.

But the New Law does not do away with the Old Law. The New stands on the Old.


E-mail: roycimagala@gmail.com


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