QUESTION 82: OF DEVOTION
We must now consider the acts of religion. First, we shall consider the
interior acts, which, as stated above, are its principal acts; secondly,
we shall consider its exterior acts, which are secondary. The interior
acts of religion are seemingly devotion and prayer. Accordingly we shall
treat first of devotion, and afterwards of prayer.
Under the first head there are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether devotion is a special act?
(2) Whether it is an act of religion?
(3) Of the cause of devotion?
(4) Of its effect?
ArticlE 1: Whether devotion is a special act?
Objection 1: It would seem that devotion is not a special act. That which
qualifies other acts is seemingly not a special act. Now devotion seems
to qualify other acts, for it is written (2 Paralip 29:31): "All the
multitude offered victims, and praises, and holocausts with a devout
mind." Therefore devotion is not a special act.
Objection 2: Further, no special kind of act is common to various genera of
acts. But devotion is common to various genera of acts, namely, corporal
and spiritual acts: for a person is said to meditate devoutly and to
genuflect devoutly. Therefore devotion is not a special act.
Objection 3: Further, every special act belongs either to an appetitive or to
a cognitive virtue or power. But devotion belongs to neither, as may be
seen by going through the various species of acts of either faculty, as
enumerated above (FP, Questions , seqq.; FS, Question , Article ). Therefore devotion
is not a special act.
I answer that, Devotion is derived from "devote" [*The Latin 'devovere'
means 'to vow']; wherefore those persons are said to be "devout" who, in
a way, devote themselves to God, so as to subject themselves wholly to
Him. Hence in olden times among the heathens a devotee was one who vowed
to his idols to suffer death for the safety of his army, as Livy relates
of the two Decii (Decad. I, viii, 9; x, 28). Hence devotion is apparently
nothing else but the will to give oneself readily to things concerning
the service of God. Wherefore it is written (Ex. 35:20,21) that "the
multitude of the children of Israel . . . offered first-fruits to the
Lord with a most ready and devout mind." Now it is evident that the will
to do readily what concerns the service of God is a special kind of act.
Therefore devotion is a special act of the will.
Reply to Objection 1: The mover prescribes the mode of the movement of the thing
moved. Now the will moves the other powers of the soul to their acts, and
the will, in so far as it regards the end, moves both itself and whatever
is directed to the end, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ). Wherefore,
since devotion is an act of the will whereby a man offers himself for the
service of God Who is the last end, it follows that devotion prescribes
the mode to human acts, whether they be acts of the will itself about
things directed to the end, or acts of the other powers that are moved by
Reply to Objection 2: Devotion is to be found in various genera of acts, not as a
species of those genera, but as the motion of the mover is found
virtually in the movements of the things moved.
Reply to Objection 3: Devotion is an act of the appetitive part of the soul, and
is a movement of the will, as stated above.
Article 2: Whether devotion is an act of religion?
Objection 1: It would seem that devotion is not an act of religion. Devotion,
as stated above (Article ), consists in giving oneself up to God. But this is
done chiefly by charity, since according to Dionysius (Div. Nom. iv) "the
Divine love produces ecstasy, for it takes the lover away from himself
and gives him to the beloved." Therefore devotion is an act of charity
rather than of religion.
Objection 2: Further, charity precedes religion; and devotion seems to precede
charity; since, in the Scriptures, charity is represented by fire, while
devotion is signified by fatness which is the material of fire [*Cant.
8:6; Ps. 52:6]. Therefore devotion is not an act of religion.
Objection 3: Further, by religion man is directed to God alone, as stated
above (Question , Article ). But devotion is directed also to men; for we speak
of people being devout to certain holy men, and subjects are said to be
devoted to their masters; thus Pope Leo says [*Serm. viii, De Pass. Dom.]
that the Jews "out of devotion to the Roman laws," said: "We have no king
but Caesar." Therefore devotion is not an act of religion.
On the contrary, Devotion is derived from "devovere," as stated (Article ).
But a vow is an act of religion. Therefore devotion is also an act of
I answer that, It belongs to the same virtue, to will to do something,
and to have the will ready to do it, because both acts have the same
object. For this reason the Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 1): "It is
justice whereby men both will end do just actions." Now it is evident
that to do what pertains to the worship or service of God, belongs
properly to religion, as stated above (Question ). Wherefore it belongs to
that virtue to have the will ready to do such things, and this is to be
devout. Hence it is evident that devotion is an act of religion.
Reply to Objection 1: It belongs immediately to charity that man should give
himself to God, adhering to Him by a union of the spirit; but it belongs
immediately to religion, and, through the medium of religion, to charity
which is the principle of religion, that man should give himself to God
for certain works of Divine worship.
Reply to Objection 2: Bodily fatness is produced by the natural heat in the
process of digestion, and at the same time the natural heat thrives, as
it were, on this fatness. In like manner charity both causes devotion
(inasmuch as love makes one ready to serve one's friend) and feeds on
devotion. Even so all friendship is safeguarded and increased by the
practice and consideration of friendly deeds.
Reply to Objection 3: Devotion to God's holy ones, dead or living, does not
terminate in them, but passes on to God, in so far as we honor God in His
servants. But the devotion of subjects to their temporal masters is of
another kind, just as service of a temporal master differs from the
service of God.
Article 3: Whether contemplation or meditation is the cause of devotion?
Objection 1: It would seem that contemplation or meditation is not the cause
of devotion. No cause hinders its effect. But subtle considerations about
abstract matters are often a hindrance to devotion. Therefore
contemplation or meditation is not the cause of devotion.
Objection 2: Further, if contemplation were the proper and essential cause of
devotion, the higher objects of contemplation would arouse greater
devotion. But the contrary is the case: since frequently we are urged to
greater devotion by considering Christ's Passion and other mysteries of
His humanity than by considering the greatness of His Godhead. Therefore
contemplation is not the proper cause of devotion.
Objection 3: Further, if contemplation were the proper cause of devotion, it
would follow that those who are most apt for contemplation, are also most
apt for devotion. Yet the contrary is to be noticed, for devotion is
frequently found in men of simplicity and members of the female sex, who
are defective in contemplation. Therefore contemplation is not the proper
cause of devotion.
On the contrary, It is written (Ps. 38:4): "In my meditation a fire
shall flame out." But spiritual fire causes devotion. Therefore
meditation is the cause of devotion.
I answer that, The extrinsic and chief cause of devotion is God, of Whom
Ambrose, commenting on Lk. 9:55, says that "God calls whom He deigns to
call, and whom He wills He makes religious: the profane Samaritans, had
He so willed, He would have made devout." But the intrinsic cause on our
part must needs be meditation or contemplation. For it was stated above
(Article ) that devotion is an act of the will to the effect that man
surrenders himself readily to the service of God. Now every act of the
will proceeds from some consideration, since the object of the will is a
good understood. Wherefore Augustine says (De Trin. ix, 12; xv, 23) that
"the will arises from the intelligence." Consequently meditation must
needs be the cause of devotion, in so far as through meditation man
conceives the thought of surrendering himself to God's service. Indeed a
twofold consideration leads him thereto. The one is the consideration of
God's goodness and loving kindness, according to Ps. 72:28, "It is good
for me to adhere to my God, to put my hope in the Lord God": and this
consideration wakens love [*'Dilectio,' the interior act of charity; cf.
Question ] which is the proximate cause of devotion. The other consideration
is that of man's own shortcomings, on account of which he needs to lean
on God, according to Ps. 120:1,2, "I have lifted up my eyes to the
mountains, from whence help shall come to me: my help is from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth"; and this consideration shuts out presumption
whereby man is hindered from submitting to God, because he leans on His
Reply to Objection 1: The consideration of such things as are of a nature to
awaken our love [*'Dilectio,' the interior act of charity; cf. Question ] of
God, causes devotion; whereas the consideration of foreign matters that
distract the mind from such things is a hindrance to devotion.
Reply to Objection 2: Matters concerning the Godhead are, in themselves, the
strongest incentive to love ['dilectio,' the interior act of charity; cf.
Question ] and consequently to devotion, because God is supremely lovable.
Yet such is the weakness of the human mind that it needs a guiding hand,
not only to the knowledge, but also to the love of Divine things by means
of certain sensible objects known to us. Chief among these is the
humanity of Christ, according to the words of the Preface [*Preface for
Christmastide], "that through knowing God visibly, we may be caught up to
the love of things invisible." Wherefore matters relating to Christ's
humanity are the chief incentive to devotion, leading us thither as a
guiding hand, although devotion itself has for its object matters
concerning the Godhead.
Reply to Objection 3: Science and anything else conducive to greatness, is to man
an occasion of self-confidence, so that he does not wholly surrender
himself to God. The result is that such like things sometimes occasion a
hindrance to devotion; while in simple souls and women devotion abounds
by repressing pride. If, however, a man perfectly submits to God his
science or any other perfection, by this very fact his devotion is
Article 4: Whether joy is an effect of devotion?
Objection 1: It would seem that joy is not an effect of devotion. As stated
above (Article , ad 2), Christ's Passion is the chief incentive to devotion.
But the consideration thereof causes an affliction of the soul, according
to Lam. 3:19, "Remember my poverty . . . the wormwood and the gall,"
which refers to the Passion, and afterwards (Lam. 3:20) it is said: "I
will be mindful and remember, and my soul shall languish within me."
Therefore delight or joy is not the effect of devotion.
Objection 2: Further, devotion consists chiefly in an interior sacrifice of
the spirit. But it is written (Ps. 50:19): "A sacrifice to God is an
afflicted spirit." Therefore affliction is the effect of devotion rather
than gladness or joy.
Objection 3: Further, Gregory of Nyssa says (De Homine xii) [*Orat. funebr. de
Placilla Imp.] that "just as laughter proceeds from joy, so tears and
groans are signs of sorrow." But devotion makes some people shed tears.
Therefore gladness or joy is not the effect of devotion.
On the contrary, We say in the Collect [*Thursday after fourth Sunday of
Lent]: "That we who are punished by fasting may be comforted by a holy
I answer that, The direct and principal effect of devotion is the
spiritual joy of the mind, though sorrow is its secondary and indirect
effect. For it has been stated (Article ) that devotion is caused by a
twofold consideration: chiefly by the consideration of God's goodness,
because this consideration belongs to the term, as it were, of the
movement of the will in surrendering itself to God, and the direct result
of this consideration is joy, according to Ps. 76:4, "I remembered God,
and was delighted"; but accidentally this consideration causes a certain
sorrow in those who do not yet enjoy God fully, according to Ps. 41:3,
"My soul hath thirsted after the strong living God," and afterwards it is
said (Ps. 41:4): "My tears have been my bread," etc. Secondarily devotion
is caused as stated (Article ), by the consideration of one's own failings;
for this consideration regards the term from which man withdraws by the
movement of his devout will, in that he trusts not in himself, but
subjects himself to God. This consideration has an opposite tendency to
the first: for it is of a nature to cause sorrow directly (when one
thinks over one's own failings), and joy accidentally, namely, through
hope of the Divine assistance. It is accordingly evident that the first
and direct effect of devotion is joy, while the secondary and accidental
effect is that "sorrow which is according to God" [*2 Cor. 7:10].
Reply to Objection 1: In the consideration of Christ's Passion there is something
that causes sorrow, namely, the human defect, the removal of which made
it necessary for Christ to suffer [*Lk. 24:25]; and there is something
that causes joy, namely, God's loving-kindness to us in giving us such a
Reply to Objection 2: The spirit which on the one hand is afflicted on account of
the defects of the present life, on the other hand is rejoiced, by the
consideration of God's goodness, and by the hope of the Divine help.
Reply to Objection 3: Tears are caused not only through sorrow, but also through
a certain tenderness of the affections, especially when one considers
something that gives joy mixed with pain. Thus men are wont to shed tears
through a sentiment of piety, when they recover their children or dear
friends, whom they thought to have lost. In this way tears arise from