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
Hom. in Ex.
8, 1: PG 12, 350; cf.
26 St. Irenaeus,
4, 16, 3-4: PG 7/1, 1017-1018.