Summa Th. II-II EN Qu.84 a.3
Objection: 1. It would seem that adoration does not require a definite place. It is written (Jn 4,21): "The hour cometh, when you shall neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, adore the Father"; and the same reason seems to apply to other places. Therefore a definite place is not necessary for adoration.
2. Further, exterior adoration is directed to interior adoration. But interior adoration is shown to God as existing everywhere. Therefore exterior adoration does not require a definite place.
3. Further, the same God is adored in the New as in the Old Testament. Now in the Old Testament they adored towards the west, because the door of the Tabernacle looked to the east (Ex 26,18 seqq.). Therefore for the same reason we ought now to adore towards the west, if any definite place be requisite for adoration.
On the contrary It is written (Is 56,7): "My house shall be called the house of prayer," which words are also quoted (Jn 2,16).
I answer that As stated above (Article ), the chief part of adoration is the internal devotion of the mind, while the secondary part is something external pertaining to bodily signs. Now the mind internally apprehends God as not comprised in a place; while bodily signs must of necessity be in some definite place and position. Hence a definite place is required for adoration, not chiefly, as though it were essential thereto, but by reason of a certain fittingness, like other bodily signs.
Reply to Objection: 1. By these words our Lord foretold the cessation of adoration, both according to the rite of the Jews who adored in Jerusalem, and according to the rite of the Samaritans who adored on Mount Garizim. For both these rites ceased with the advent of the spiritual truth of the Gospel, according to which "a sacrifice is offered to God in every place," as stated in Malach. 1:11.
2. A definite place is chosen for adoration, not on account of God Who is adored, as though He were enclosed in a place, but on account of the adorers; and this for three reasons. First, because the place is consecrated, so that those who pray there conceive a greater devotion and are more likely to be heard, as may be seen in the prayer of Solomon (1R 8). Secondly, on account of the sacred mysteries and other signs of holiness contained therein. Thirdly, on account of the concourse of many adorers, by reason of which their prayer is more likely to be heard, according to Mt 18,20, "Where there are two or three gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them."
3. There is a certain fittingness in adoring towards the east. First, because the Divine majesty is indicated in the movement of the heavens which is from the east. Secondly, because Paradise was situated in the east according to the Septuagint version of Gn 2,8, and so we signify our desire to return to Paradise. Thirdly, on account of Christ Who is "the light of the world" [*Jn 8,12 Jn 9,5], and is called "the Orient" (Zach. 6:12). Who mounteth above the heaven of heavens to the east (Ps 67,34), and is expected to come from the east, according to Mt 24,27, "As lightning cometh out of the east, and appeareth even into the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be."
In due sequence we must consider those acts whereby external things are offered to God. These give rise to a twofold consideration: (1) Of things given to God by the faithful; (2) Of vows, whereby something is promised to Him.
Under the first head we shall consider sacrifices, oblations, first-fruits, and tithes. About sacrifices there are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether offering a sacrifice to God is of the law of nature?
(2) Whether sacrifice should be offered to God alone?
(3) Whether the offering of a sacrifice is a special act of virtue?
(4) Whether all are bound to offer sacrifice?
Objection: 1. It would seem that offering a sacrifice to God is not of the natural law. Things that are of the natural law are common among all men. Yet this is not the case with sacrifices: for we read of some, e.g. Melchisedech (Gn 14,18), offering bread and wine in sacrifice, and of certain animals being offered by some, and others by others. Therefore the offering of sacrifices is not of the natural law.
2. Further, things that are of the natural law were observed by all just men. Yet we do not read that Isaac offered sacrifice; nor that Adam did so, of whom nevertheless it is written (Sg 10,2) that wisdom "brought him out of his sin." Therefore the offering of sacrifice is not of the natural law.
3. Further, Augustine says (De Civ. Dei x, 5,19) that sacrifices are offered in signification of something. Now words which are chief among signs, as he again says (De Doctr. Christ. ii, 3), "signify, not by nature but by convention," according to the Philosopher (Peri Herm. i, 2). Therefore sacrifices are not of the natural law.
On the contrary At all times and among all nations there has always been the offering of sacrifices. Now that which is observed by all is seemingly natural. Therefore the offering of sacrifices is of the natural law.
I answer that Natural reason tells man that he is subject to a higher being, on account of the defects which he perceives in himself, and in which he needs help and direction from someone above him: and whatever this superior being may be, it is known to all under the name of God. Now just as in natural things the lower are naturally subject to the higher, so too it is a dictate of natural reason in accordance with man's natural inclination that he should tender submission and honor, according to his mode, to that which is above man. Now the mode befitting to man is that he should employ sensible signs in order to signify anything, because he derives his knowledge from sensibles. Hence it is a dictate of natural reason that man should use certain sensibles, by offering them to God in sign of the subjection and honor due to Him, like those who make certain offerings to their lord in recognition of his authority. Now this is what we mean by a sacrifice, and consequently the offering of sacrifice is of the natural law.
Reply to Objection: 1. As stated above (I-II 95,2), certain things belong generically to the natural law, while their determination belongs to the positive law; thus the natural law requires that evildoers should be punished; but that this or that punishment should be inflicted on them is a matter determined by God or by man. In like manner the offering of sacrifice belongs generically to the natural law, and consequently all are agreed on this point, but the determination of sacrifices is established by God or by man, and this is the reason for their difference.
2. Adam, Isaac and other just men offered sacrifice to God in a manner befitting the times in which they lived, according to Gregory, who says (Moral. iv, 3) that in olden times original sin was remitted through the offering of sacrifices. Nor does Scripture mention all the sacrifices of the just, but only those that have something special connected with them. Perhaps the reason why we read of no sacrifice being offered by Adam may be that, as the origin of sin is ascribed to him, the origin of sanctification ought not to be represented as typified in him. Isaac was a type of Christ, being himself offered in sacrifice; and so there was no need that he should be represented as offering a sacrifice.
3. It is natural to man to express his ideas by signs, but the determination of those signs depends on man's pleasure.
Objection: 1. It would seem that sacrifice should not be offered to the most high God alone. Since sacrifice ought to be offered to God, it would seem that it ought to be offered to all such as are partakers of the Godhead. Now holy men are made "partakers of the Divine nature," according to 2P 1,4; wherefore of them is it written (Ps 81,6): "I have said, You are gods": and angels too are called "sons of God," according to Jb 1,6. Thus sacrifice should be offered to all these.
2. Further, the greater a person is the greater the honor due to him from man. Now the angels and saints are far greater than any earthly princes: and yet the subjects of the latter pay them much greater honor, by prostrating before them, and offering them gifts, than is implied by offering an animal or any other thing in sacrifice. Much more therefore may one offer sacrifice to the angels and saints.
3. Further, temples and altars are raised for the offering of sacrifices. Yet temples and altars are raised to angels and saints. Therefore sacrifices also may be offered to them.
On the contrary It is written (Ex 22,20): "He that sacrificeth to gods shall be put to death, save only to the Lord."
I answer that As stated above (Article ), a sacrifice is offered in order that something may be represented. Now the sacrifice that is offered outwardly represents the inward spiritual sacrifice, whereby the soul offers itself to God according to Ps 50,19, "A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit," since, as stated above (Question , Article ; Question , Article ), the outward acts of religion are directed to the inward acts. Again the soul offers itself in sacrifice to God as its beginning by creation, and its end by beatification: and according to the true faith God alone is the creator of our souls, as stated in the I 90,3; I-II 118,2, while in Him alone the beatitude of our soul consists, as stated above (I-II 1,8; I-II 2,8; I-II 3,1 I-II 3,7 I-II 3,8). Wherefore just as to God alone ought we to offer spiritual sacrifice, so too ought we to offer outward sacrifices to Him alone: even so "in our prayers and praises we proffer significant words to Him to Whom in our hearts we offer the things which we designate thereby," as Augustine states (De Civ. Dei x, 19). Moreover we find that in every country the people are wont to show the sovereign ruler some special sign of honor, and that if this be shown to anyone else, it is a crime of high-treason. Therefore, in the Divine law, the death punishment is assigned to those who offer Divine honor to another than God.
Reply to Objection: 1. The name of the Godhead is communicated to certain ones, not equally with God, but by participation; hence neither is equal honor due to them.
2. The offering of a sacrifice is measured not by the value of the animal killed, but by its signification, for it is done in honor of the sovereign Ruler of the whole universe. Wherefore, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei x, 19), "the demons rejoice, not in the stench of corpses, but in receiving divine honors."
3. As Augustine says (De Civ. Dei viii, 19), "we do not raise temples and priesthoods to the martyrs, because not they but their God is our God. Wherefore the priest says not: I offer sacrifice to thee, Peter or Paul. But we give thanks to God for their triumphs, and urge ourselves to imitate them."
Objection: 1. It would seem that the offering of sacrifice is not a special act of virtue. Augustine says (De Civ. Dei x, 6): "A true sacrifice is any work done that we may cleave to God in holy fellowship." But not every good work is a special act of some definite virtue. Therefore the offering of sacrifice is not a special act of a definite virtue.
2. Further, the mortification of the body by fasting belongs to abstinence, by continence belongs to chastity, by martyrdom belongs to fortitude. Now all these things seem to be comprised in the offering of sacrifice, according to Rm 12,1, "Present your bodies a living sacrifice." Again the Apostle says (He 13,16): "Do not forget to do good and to impart, for by such sacrifices God's favor is obtained." Now it belongs to charity, mercy and liberality to do good and to impart. Therefore the offering of sacrifice is not a special act of a definite virtue.
3. Further, a sacrifice is apparently anything offered to God. Now many things are offered to God, such as devotion, prayer, tithes, first-fruits, oblations, and holocausts. Therefore sacrifice does not appear to be a special act of a definite virtue.
On the contrary The law contains special precepts about sacrifices, as appears from the beginning of Leviticus.
I answer that As stated above (I-II 18,6 I-II 18,7), where an act of one virtue is directed to the end of another virtue it partakes somewhat of its species; thus when a man thieves in order to commit fornication, his theft assumes, in a sense, the deformity of fornication, so that even though it were not a sin otherwise, it would be a sin from the very fact that it was directed to fornication. Accordingly, sacrifice is a special act deserving of praise in that it is done out of reverence for God; and for this reason it belongs to a definite virtue, viz. religion. But it happens that the acts of the other virtues are directed to the reverence of God, as when a man gives alms of his own things for God's sake, or when a man subjects his own body to some affliction out of reverence for God; and in this way the acts also of other virtues may be called sacrifices. On the other hand there are acts that are not deserving of praise save through being done out of reverence for God: such acts are properly called sacrifices, and belong to the virtue of religion.
Reply to Objection: 1. The very fact that we wish to cling to God in a spiritual fellowship pertains to reverence for God: and consequently the act of any virtue assumes the character of a sacrifice through being done in order that we may cling to God in holy fellowship.
2. Man's good is threefold. There is first his soul's good which is offered to God in a certain inward sacrifice by devotion, prayer and other like interior acts: and this is the principal sacrifice. The second is his body's good, which is, so to speak, offered to God in martyrdom, and abstinence or continency. The third is the good which consists of external things: and of these we offer a sacrifice to God, directly when we offer our possession to God immediately, and indirectly when we share them with our neighbor for God's sake.
3. A "sacrifice," properly speaking, requires that something be done to the thing which is offered to God, for instance animals were slain and burnt, the bread is broken, eaten, blessed. The very word signifies this, since "sacrifice" is so called because a man does something sacred [facit sacrum]. On the other hand an "oblation" is properly the offering of something to God even if nothing be done thereto, thus we speak of offering money or bread at the altar, and yet nothing is done to them. Hence every sacrifice is an oblation, but not conversely. "First-fruits" are oblations, because they were offered to God, according to Dt 26, but they are not a sacrifice, because nothing sacred was done to them. "Tithes," however, are neither a sacrifice nor an oblation, properly speaking, because they are not offered immediately to God, but to the ministers of Divine worship.
Objection: 1. It would seem that all are not bound to offer sacrifices. The Apostle says (Rm 3,19): "What things soever the Law speaketh, it speaketh to them that are in the Law." Now the law of sacrifices was not given to all, but only to the Hebrew people. Therefore all are not bound to offer sacrifices.
2. Further, sacrifices are offered to God in order to signify something. But not everyone is capable of understanding these significations. Therefore not all are bound to offer sacrifices.
3. Further, priests [*'Sacerdotes': Those who give or administer sacred things (sacra dantes): cf. 1Co 4,1] are so called because they offer sacrifice to God. But all are not priests. Therefore not all are bound to offer sacrifices.
On the contrary The offering of sacrifices of is of the natural law, as stated above (Article ). Now all are bound to do that which is of the natural law. Therefore all are bound to offer sacrifice to God.
I answer that Sacrifice is twofold, as stated above (Article ). The first and principal is the inward sacrifice, which all are bound to offer, since all are obliged to offer to God a devout mind. The other is the outward sacrifice, and this again is twofold. There is a sacrifice which is deserving of praise merely through being offered to God in protestation of our subjection to God: and the obligation of offering this sacrifice was not the same for those under the New or the Old Law, as for those who were not under the Law. For those who are under the Law are bound to offer certain definite sacrifices according to the precepts of the Law, whereas those who were not under the Law were bound to perform certain outward actions in God's honor, as became those among whom they dwelt, but not definitely to this or that action. The other outward sacrifice is when the outward actions of the other virtues are performed out of reverence for God; some of which are a matter of precept; and to these all are bound, while others are works of supererogation, and to these all are not bound.
Reply to Objection: 1. All were not bound to offer those particular sacrifices which were prescribed in the Law: but they were bound to some sacrifices inward or outward, as stated above.
2. Though all do not know explicitly the power of the sacrifices, they know it implicitly, even as they have implicit faith, as stated above (Question , Articles 6,7).
3. The priests offer those sacrifices which are specially directed to the Divine worship, not only for themselves but also for others. But there are other sacrifices, which anyone can offer to God for himself as explained above (Articles ,3).
We must next consider oblations and first-fruits. Under this head there are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether any oblations are necessary as a matter of precept?
(2) To whom are oblations due?
(3) of what things they should be made?
(4) In particular, as to first-fruits, whether men are bound to offer them?
Objection: 1. It would seem that men are not bound by precept to make oblations. Men are not bound, at the time of the Gospel, to observe the ceremonial precepts of the Old Law, as stated above (I-II 103,3 I-II 103,4). Now the offering of oblations is one of the ceremonial precepts of the Old Law, since it is written (Ex 23,14): "Three times every year you shall celebrate feasts with Me," and further on (Ex 23,15): "Thou shalt not appear empty before Me." Therefore men are not now under a necessity of precept to make oblations.
2. Further, before they are made, oblations depend on man's will, as appears from our Lord's saying (Mt 5,23), "If . . . thou offer thy gift at the altar," as though this were left to the choice of the offerer: and when once oblations have been made, there is no way of offering them again. Therefore in no way is a man under a necessity of precept to make oblations.
3. Further, if anyone is bound to give a certain thing to the Church, and fails to give it, he can be compelled to do so by being deprived of the Church's sacraments. But it would seem unlawful to refuse the sacraments of the Church to those who refuse to make oblations according to a decree of the sixth council [*Can. Trullan, xxiii], quoted I, qu. i, can. Nullus: "Let none who dispense Holy Communion exact anything of the recipient, and if they exact anything let them be deposed." Therefore it is not necessary that men should make oblations.
On the contrary Gregory says [*Gregory VII; Concil. Roman. v, can. xii]: "Let every Christian take care that he offer something to God at the celebration of Mass."
I answer that As stated above (Question , Article , ad 3), the term "oblation" is common to all things offered for the Divine worship, so that if a thing be offered to be destroyed in worship of God, as though it were being made into something holy, it is both an oblation and a sacrifice. Wherefore it is written (Ex 29,18): "Thou shalt offer the whole ram for a burnt-offering upon the altar; it is an oblation to the Lord, a most sweet savor of the victim of the Lord"; and (Lv 2,1): "When anyone shall offer an oblation of sacrifice to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour." If, on the other hand, it be offered with a view to its remaining entire and being deputed to the worship of God or to the use of His ministers, it will be an oblation and not a sacrifice. Accordingly it is essential to oblations of this kind that they be offered voluntarily, according to Ex 25,2, of "every man that offereth of his own accord you shall take them." Nevertheless it may happen in four ways that one is bound to make oblations. First, on account of a previous agreement: as when a person is granted a portion of Church land, that he may make certain oblations at fixed times, although this has the character of rent. Secondly, by reason of a previous assignment or promise; as when a man offers a gift among the living, or by will bequeaths to the Church something whether movable or immovable to be delivered at some future time. Thirdly, on account of the need of the Church, for instance if her ministers were without means of support. Fourthly, on account of custom; for the faithful are bound at certain solemn feasts to make certain customary oblations. In the last two cases, however, the oblation remains voluntary, as regards, to wit, the quantity or kind of the thing offered.
Reply to Objection: 1. Under the New Law men are not bound to make oblations on account of legal solemnities, as stated in Exodus, but on account of certain other reasons, as stated above.
2. Some are bound to make oblations, both before making them, as in the first, third, and. fourth cases, and after they have made them by assignment or promise: for they are bound to offer in reality that which has been already offered to the Church by way of assignment.
3. Those who do not make the oblations they are bound to make may be punished by being deprived of the sacraments, not by the priest himself to whom the oblations should be made, lest he seem to exact, something for bestowing the sacraments, but by someone superior to him.
Objection: 1. It would seem that oblations are not due to priests alone. For chief among oblations would seem to be those that are deputed to the sacrifices of victims. Now whatever is given to the poor is called a "victim in Scripture according to He 13,16, "Do not forget to do good and to impart, for by such victims [Douay: 'sacrifices'] God's favor is obtained. Much more therefore are oblations due to the poor.
2. Further, in many parishes monks have a share in the oblations. Now "the case of clerics is distinct from the case of monks," as Jerome states [*Ep. xiv, ad Heliod.]. Therefore oblations art not due to priests alone.
3. Further, lay people with the consent of the Church buy oblations such as loaves and so forth, and they do so for no other reason than that they may make use thereof themselves. Therefore oblations may have reference to the laity.
On the contrary A canon of Pope Damasus [*Damasus I] quoted X, qu. i [*Can. Hanc consuetudinem], says: "None but the priests whom day by day we see serving the Lord may eat and drink of the oblations which are offered within the precincts of the Holy Church: because in the Old Testament the Lord forbade the children of Israel to eat the sacred loaves, with the exception of Aaron and his sons" (Lv 24,8-9).
I answer that The priest is appointed mediator and stands, so to speak, "between" the people and God, as we read of Moses (Dt 5,5), wherefore it belongs to him to set forth the Divine teachings and sacraments before the people; and besides to offer to the Lord things appertaining to the people, their prayers, for instance, their sacrifices and oblations. Thus the Apostle says (He 5,1): "Every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins." Hence the oblations which the people offer to God concern the priests, not only as regards their turning them to their own use, but also as regards the faithful dispensation thereof, by spending them partly on things appertaining to the Divine worship, partly on things touching their own livelihood (since they that serve the altar partake with the altar, according to 1Co 9,13), and partly for the good of the poor, who, as far as possible, should be supported from the possessions of the Church: for our Lord had a purse for the use of the poor, as Jerome observes on Mt 17,26, "That we may not scandalize them."
Reply to Objection: 1. Whatever is given to the poor is not a sacrifice properly speaking; yet it is called a sacrifice in so far as it is given to them for God's sake. In like manner, and for the same reason, it can be called an oblation, though not properly speaking, since it is not given immediately to God. Oblations properly so called fall to the use of the poor, not by the dispensation of the offerers, but by the dispensation of the priests.
2. Monks or other religious may receive oblations under three counts. First, as poor, either by the dispensation of the priests, or by ordination of the Church; secondly, through being ministers of the altar, and then they can accept oblations that are freely offered; thirdly, if the parishes belong to them, and they can accept oblations, having a right to them as rectors of the Church.
3. Oblations when once they are consecrated, such as sacred vessels and vestments, cannot be granted to the use of the laity: and this is the meaning of the words of Pope Damasus. But those which are unconsecrated may be allowed to the use of layfolk by permission of the priests, whether by way of gift or by way of sale.
Objection: 1. It would seem that a man may not make oblations of whatever he lawfully possesses. According to human law [*Dig. xii, v, de Condict. ob. turp. vel iniust. caus. 4] "the whore's is a shameful trade in what she does but not in what she takes," and consequently what she takes she possesses lawfully. Yet it is not lawful for her to make an oblation with her gains, according to Dt 23,18, "Thou shalt not offer the hire of a strumpet . . . in the house of the Lord thy God." Therefore it is not lawful to make an oblation of whatever one possesses lawfully.
2. Further, in the same passage it is forbidden to offer "the price of a dog" in the house of God. But it is evident that a man possesses lawfully the price of a dog he has lawfully sold. Therefore it is not lawful to make an oblation of whatever we possess lawfully.
3. Further, it is written (Ml 1,8): "If you offer the lame and the sick, is it not evil?" Yet an animal though lame or sick is a lawful possession. Therefore it would seem that not of every lawful possession may one make an oblation.
On the contrary It is written (Pr 3,9): "Honor the Lord with thy substance." Now whatever a man possesses lawfully belongs to his substance. Therefore he may make oblations of whatever he possesses lawfully.
I answer that As Augustine says (De Verb. Dom. Serm. cxiii), "shouldst thou plunder one weaker than thyself and give some of the spoil to the judge, if he should pronounce in thy favor, such is the force of justice that even thou wouldst not be pleased with him: and if this should not please thee, neither does it please thy God." Hence it is written (Si 34,21): "The offering of him that sacrificeth of a thing wrongfully gotten is stained." Therefore it is evident that an oblation must not be made of things unjustly acquired or possessed. In the Old Law, however, wherein the figure was predominant, certain things were reckoned unclean on account of their signification, and it was forbidden to offer them. But in the New Law all God's creatures are looked upon as clean, as stated in Titus 1:15: and consequently anything that is lawfully possessed, considered in itself, may be offered in oblation. But it may happen accidentally that one may not make an oblation of what one possesses lawfully; for instance if it be detrimental to another person, as in the case of a son who offers to God the means of supporting his father (which our Lord condemns, Mt 15,5), or if it give rise to scandal or contempt, or the like.
Reply to Objection: 1. In the Old Law it was forbidden to make an offering of the hire of a strumpet on account of its uncleanness, and in the New Law, on account of scandal, lest the Church seem to favor sin if she accept oblations from the profits of sin.
2. According to the Law, a dog was deemed an unclean animal. Yet other unclean animals were redeemed and their price could be offered, according to Lv 27,27, "If it be an unclean animal, he that offereth it shall redeem it." But a dog was neither offered nor redeemed, both because idolaters used dogs in sacrifices to their idols, and because they signify robbery, the proceeds of which cannot be offered in oblation. However, this prohibition ceased under the New Law.
3. The oblation of a blind or lame animal was declared unlawful for three reasons. First, on account of the purpose for which it was offered, wherefore it is written (Malach. 1:8): "If you offer the blind in sacrifice, is it not evil?" and it behooved sacrifices to be without blemish. Secondly, on account of contempt, wherefore the same text goes on (Ml 1,12): "You have profaned" My name, "in that you say: The table of the Lord is defiled and that which is laid thereupon is contemptible." Thirdly, on account of a previous vow, whereby a man has bound himself to offer without blemish whatever he has vowed: hence the same text says further on (Ml 1,14): "Cursed is the deceitful man that hath in his flock a male, and making a vow offereth in sacrifice that which is feeble to the Lord." The same reasons avail still in the New Law, but when they do not apply the unlawfulness ceases.
Objection: 1. It would seem that men are not bound to pay first-fruits. After giving the law of the first-born the text continues (Ex 13,9): "It shall be as a sign in thy hand," so that, apparently, it is a ceremonial precept. But ceremonial precepts are not to be observed in the New Law. Neither therefore ought first-fruits to be paid.
2. Further, first-fruits were offered to the Lord for a special favor conferred on that people, wherefore it is written (Dt 26,2-3): "Thou shalt take the first of all thy fruits . . . and thou shalt go to the priest that shall be in those days, and say to him: I profess this day before the Lord thy God, that I am come into the land, for which He swore to our fathers, that He would give it us." Therefore other nations are not bound to pay first-fruits.
3. That which one is bound to do should be something definite. But neither in the New Law nor in the Old do we find mention of a definite amount of first-fruits. Therefore one is not bound of necessity to pay them.
On the contrary It is laid down (16, qu. vii, can. Decimas): "We confirm the right of priests to tithes and first-fruits, and everybody must pay them."
I answer that First-fruits are a kind of oblation, because they are offered to God with a certain profession (Dt 26); where the same passage continues: "The priest taking the basket containing the first-fruits from the hand of him that bringeth the first-fruits, shall set it before the altar of the Lord thy God," and further on (Dt 26,10) he is commanded to say: "Therefore now I offer the first-fruits of the land, which the Lord hath given me." Now the first-fruits were offered for a special reason, namely, in recognition of the divine favor, as though man acknowledged that he had received the fruits of the earth from God, and that he ought to offer something to God in return, according to 1Ch 29,14, "We have given Thee what we received of Thy hand." And since what we offer God ought to be something special, hence it is that man was commanded to offer God his first-fruits, as being a special part of the fruits of the earth: and since a priest is "ordained for the people "in the things that appertain to God" (He 5,1), the first-fruits offered by the people were granted to the priest's use." Wherefore it is written (Nb 18,8): "The Lord said to Aaron: Behold I have given thee the charge of My first-fruits." Now it is a point of natural law that man should make an offering in God's honor out of the things he has received from God, but that the offering should be made to any particular person, or out of his first-fruits, or in such or such a quantity, was indeed determined in the Old Law by divine command; but in the New Law it is fixed by the declaration of the Church, in virtue of which men are bound to pay first-fruits according to the custom of their country and the needs of the Church's ministers.
Reply to Objection: 1. The ceremonial observances were properly speaking signs of the future, and consequently they ceased when the foreshadowed truth was actually present. But the offering of first-fruits was for a sign of a past favor, whence arises the duty of acknowledgment in accordance with the dictate of natural reason. Hence taken in a general sense this obligation remains.
2. First-fruits were offered in the Old Law, not only on account of the favor of the promised land given by God, but also on account of the favor of the fruits of the earth, which were given by God. Hence it is written (Dt 26,10): "I offer the first-fruits of the land which the Lord hath given me," which second motive is common among all people. We may also reply that just as God granted the land of promise to the Jews by a special favor, so by a general favor He bestowed the lordship of the earth on the whole of mankind, according to Ps 113,24, "The earth He has given to the children of men."
3. As Jerome says [*Comment. in Ez 45,13-14; cf. Cap. Decimam, de Decim. Primit. et Oblat.]: "According to the tradition of the ancients the custom arose for those who had most to give the priests a fortieth part, and those who had least, one sixtieth, in lieu of first-fruits." Hence it would seem that first-fruits should vary between these limits according to the custom of one's country. And it was reasonable that the amount of first-fruits should not be fixed by law, since, as stated above, first-fruits are offered by way of oblation, a condition of which is that it should be voluntary.
Summa Th. II-II EN Qu.84 a.3