Saint Teresa of Jesus

“But now* the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, though testified to by the law and the prophets...” (Romans 3:21.)

Origen of Alexandria (part 2 of Pope Benedict’s reflections on Origen) comments on this verse from the First Reading proclaimed at Mass today:

“We have just said that in the above verses Paul was speaking about the natural law and not about the law of Moses, but now it appears that there can be no doubt that he is referring to the law of Moses, by which the righteousness of God is made manifest through faith in Christ Jesus in all who believe, whether they are Jews or Gentiles, and who are justified not by works but by the grace of God, who has redeemed them in Jesus Christ. Does this mean that our interpretation of the foregoing was mistaken? . . . Just as there is nothing in this verse which makes it possible for us to argue that it is talking about the natural law and not about the law of Moses, so there is nothing in the preceding verses to indicate that they are talking about the law of Moses and not about the natural law. Thus we would argue that just as the foregoing cannot be used to interpret what we now have before us, so neither should our interpretation of it be altered simply because what follows cannot be read in the same way.

Does this mean that the apostle has contradicted himself? There are plenty of people who would like to think so! But we shall try to show how this passage does not go against our interpretation of the foregoing one. We have often said, and have expounded this most clearly in the preface, that the apostle mentions many different kinds of law in this epistle, and only the most attentive reader will be able to detect when he is shifting from one to another. The law of nature was able to explain the nature of sin and give us some knowledge of it, but the righteousness of God is above and beyond this, and the human mind is unable to attain it by its natural senses. For this the law of Moses was required, to teach us what God’s righteousness is. Do not be surprised that the word law is used here in two different senses! Moreover, there is a way to tell which meaning of the word law is intended. The Greek language uses articles in front of proper names. Thus when the law of Moses is intended, the article is used, but when the natural law is meant, the article is omitted.” (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans)

O God,
Who through Your Spirit
raised up Saint Teresa of Jesus
to show the Church the way to seek perfection,
grant that we may always be nourished
by the food of her heavenly teaching
and fired with longing for true holiness.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen