Becoming Sharers of the Spirit and not the Letter of the Law

Fr. Elias L. Ayuban, Jr., CMF
An Abstract

The letter of the law versus the spirit of the law is an idiomatic antithesis. When one obeys the letter of the law, but not the spirit, one is following the literal interpretation of the words (the “letter”), but not necessarily the intent of the legislator of the law (the “spirit”). Thus, we need to look into the mens legis, that is: the purpose, spirit or intention of the law for the intent of the law is not the law (ratio legis non est lex).

Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Mt. 5:7). He urges us to look beyond the “letter” to be able to embrace the “spirit” of the law which can be summed up in our love for God and neighbor (Dt. 6:5; Lv. 19:18; Jn. 13:34). The popular story of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37) and canon 1752 of the New Code of Canon Law which says that “the salvation of souls is the supreme law” (Salus animarum suprema lex) can be our points of reference.


Fr. Elias L. Ayuban, Jr., CMF

is the present Provincial Superior of the Claretian Philippine Province. Prior to his election, Fr. Elias was a member of the Instituto Giuridico Claretiano in Rome, Italy and worked at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL). He also served as a professor in Claretianum in Rome and he is a doctor of Canon Law. He is the author of Canonical Issues Related to Religious Life: 200 Plus Practical Questions and Answers (2005) and Selected Canonical Issues Related to Religious Life Vol. 2: Practical Cases, Questions and Answers (2016), both published by Claretian Publications. These books help clarify some doubts and issues related to Religious Life that pertain to Canon Law such as: issues on deliberations, norms and regulations, dismissal, leave of absence, and many more.

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