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Life in Christ


Since there was a passing from the paradise of freedom to

the slavery of this world, in punishment for sin, the first

phrase of the Decalogue, the first word of God’s command­

ments, bears on freedom: “I am the Lord your God, who

brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of




The Commandments properly so-called come in the sec­

ond place: they express the implications of belonging to God

through the establishment of the covenant. Moral existence is a


to the Lord’s loving initiative. It is the acknowledgement

and homage given to God and a worship of thanksgiving. It is

cooperation with the plan God pursues in history.


The covenant and dialogue between God and man are also

attested to by the fact that all the obligations are stated in the first

person (“I am the Lord.”) and addressed by God to another per­

sonal subject (“you”). In all God’s commandments, the


personal pronoun designates the recipient. God makes his will

known to each person in particular, at the same time as he makes

it known to the whole people:

The Lord prescribed love towards God and taught justice

towards neighbor, so that man would be neither unjust, nor

unworthy of God. Thus, through the Decalogue, God pre­

pared man to become his friend and to live in harmony with

his neighbor. . . . Thewords of theDecalogue remain likewise

for us Christians. Far from being abolished, they have re­

ceived amplification and development from the fact of the

coming of the Lord in the flesh.


The Decalogue in the Church’s tradition


In fidelity to Scripture and in conformity with the example

of Jesus, the tradition of the Church has acknowledged the primor­

dial importance and significance of the Decalogue.


Ever since St. Augustine, the Ten Commandments have occupied

a predominant place in the catechesis of baptismal candidates and the faith­

ful. In the fifteenth century, the custom arose of expressing the command­

ments of the Decalogue in rhymed formulae, easy to memorize and in

positive form. They are still in use today. The catechisms of the Church have

often expounded Christian morality by following the order of the Ten


25 Origen,

Hom. in Ex.

8, 1: PG 12, 350; cf.





26 St. Irenaeus,

Adv. haeres.,

4, 16, 3-4: PG 7/1, 1017-1018.