Peter Kwasniewski

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Christ came not to free us from law, but to empower us to live it in truth

Peter Kwasniewski Peter Kwasniewski Follow Dr. Peter

July 9, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Moses, the greatest prophet of the Old Testament and a type of Christ the supreme Lawgiver, delivered one overarching message to the people of Israel:

Lay to heart all the words which I enjoin upon you this day, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no trifle for you, but it is your life, and thereby you shall live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to possess. (Dt 32:46–47)

When Our Lord dwelt among us on the earth, He solemnly stated: “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Mt 5:17). For this reason He says: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:17), and “If you love me, keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). 

The beloved disciple St. John writes in his first epistle: “By this we know that we have known him, if we keep his commandments. He who saith that he knoweth him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 Jn 2:3–4). And again: “For this is the charity of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not heavy” (1 Jn 5:3). 

Of St. Paul the Apostle, we read: “He went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches, commanding them to keep the precepts of the apostles and the ancients” (Acts 15:41).

The New Testament did not abolish the Old Testament or the teaching of Moses. Far from lessening the moral standards, the New Testament removes some of the exceptions and concessions that were made to the weakness of fallen men, because we are now in the era of Christ, who has won for us the grace we need to be holy and shares it with us in His seven sacraments and in the Holy Spirit poured forth upon us. Christ brought the old Law to its absolute perfection in His holocaust of love on the Cross, the reality of which is made present to us in the Holy Eucharist. 

The parts of the Law that merely prepared Israel for the Messiah’s coming came to an end in Christ, but the moral code of the Law was incorporated into the Gospel and raised to an even higher level. Thus, the emphasis on Law in the Old Testament – as in the great Psalm 118/119 – is not superseded by a supposed “freedom from law” in the New Testament. Divine revelation remains constant and consistent with itself, as does the moral law discernible to natural reason with God’s help. 

What changes, rather, is man’s ability to adhere to it, to remain faithful to it. Christ in His gift of sanctifying grace, in the gift of His sacraments and the power of His Holy Spirit, makes possible for us the living of the Law. With the finger of the Holy Spirit, the Father writes the Law not on tablets of stone but on the fleshy tablets of the heart (cf. 2 Cor 3:3). 

This is why John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor says that we must ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit, we must use all the means Our Lord has given us, if we are to conquer our sins and grow in holiness. It will never be easy, but it is now possible and desirable, and the saints show us it can be done.

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Peter Kwasniewski

Peter Kwasniewski holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Thomas Aquinas College in California and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. After teaching at the International Theological Institute in Austria and for the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austrian Program, he joined the founding team of Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming, where he taught theology, philosophy, music, and art history, and directed the Choir and Schola. He now works as a freelance author, public speaker, editor, publisher, and composer.

Dr. Kwasniewski has published five books: Wisdom’s Apprentice (CUA Press, 2007)On Love and Charity (CUA Press, 2008)Sacred Choral Works (Corpus Christi Watershed, 2014); Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church (Angelico Press, 2014); and most recently, Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages (Angelico Press, 2017)Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis has also been published in Czech, Polish, German, and Portuguese, and will soon appear in Spanish and Belarusian.

Kwasniewski is a board member and scholar of The Aquinas Institute for the Study of Sacred Doctrine, which is publishing the Opera Omnia of the Angelic Doctor, a Fellow of the Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies, and a Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center. He has published over 750 articles on Thomistic thought, sacramental and liturgical theology, the history and aesthetics of music, and the social doctrine of the Church.