Thursday, April 16, 2015

Upcoming Guests on Vexilla Regis Radio

Our first guest Friday, 4/17 will be world renowned Christian apologist Tal Brooke. Tal is Founder and Chairman of Spiritual Counterfeits Project, one of the foremost apologetics and culture watch organizations in America. He is the author of 9 books and listed in Who's Who in the World. A graduate of the University of Virginia and Princeton, Tal has spoken internationally, including prestigious college campuses such as Cambridge (7 times) and Oxford (4 times). He is the author of the best selling book "ONE WORLD".

Visit his website HERE



Our guest in the second hour will be Father Michael Wood. Fr. Michael is a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, and is at the forefront of the Western Orthodoxy restoration. A native of the United Kingdom, Father Michael is a student of the history of the church in the British Isles, and will discuss the mysteries of the Celtic Church.

Visit Father Michael's website HERE.

Grab a cup of your favorite coffee or tea, tune in and prepare to be both entertained and informed! Listen LIVE online at 8 p.m. eastern time. 


Thursday, April 2, 2015

To Bake, Or Not To Bake?

Recently the state of Indiana has found itself in the midst of a controversy over what is known as the "Religious Freedom Bill". The usual Progressive hysterics have come into play as they propagandize the situation as an attempt to discriminate against the LGBT community. And as usual the name calling and mud slinging has issued forth from the compassionate Left, as proponents of the bill are called "Nazis", "haters", etc. Never mind that the bill is almost word for word the same bill signed into law by former President Bill Clinton (hardly a right wing pundit). Riding on the wave of anti-Christian hatred that has come with this issue, a news crew sought out a pizza parlor in Indiana (that just happens to be an openly Christian owned business) to ask them if they would cater for a gay wedding. Of course the answer was no. It didn't matter that the parlor welcomes its gay customers, the owners of this pizza place crossed the line and actually had the audacity to stand for their deeply held religious beliefs. This is a "no-no" in the fascist world of Progressive politics. And as is par for the course with Progressives they've  harassed the restaurant with endless hateful phone calls and other business disruptions, causing them to close for at least two days.

This brings me to my point here. In a discussion with a fellow priest, we tossed back and forth the question of whether there is a legitimate and acceptable justification for a Christian to, for example, make a cake for a gay wedding. Could it be justified if the Christian took the money and gave it to a pro-traditional marriage group? Is there any justification?

My answer is as follows: 

A Christian could not make a cake for a gay wedding. Why? Two central reasons.

1. The Apostle Paul writes, "All things are allowable to me, but not all things are profitable." (I Corinthians 6:12) While one could argue there is no sin in baking the cake (a position I reject), at the very least one must ask if it is a profitable act. That is, does it do anything to promote love of God, love of neighbor as myself, or promote the Gospel? If we accept as a definition of love of God the following statement, "To love God is to self-sacrificially commit oneself to delight in Him, to rejoice in serving Him, to desire continually to please Him, to seek one’s happiness in Him, and to thirst day and night for a fuller enjoyment of Him.", the answer must be no. As to loving our neighbor; this means we are to seek his/her highest good. What is that highest good? Certainly in the Christian worldview the highest good is the salvation of their soul. Is the commandment of Jesus to love our neighbor as ourselves accurately carried out in the making of the cake? Again the answer must be a resounding no. It actually undermines the veracity of scripture (which states homosexuality is sinful), and therefor undermines the Gospel, since if we can ignore the parts we don't like, nothing is really sacred about Sacred Scripture.

2. The relationship itself violates God's created order found in the Book of Genesis; an order lent full support throughout the New Testament. Making the cake lends tacit support to that relationship and could potentially cause someone to either reject the Gospel, or think homosexuality is compatible with the Christian life. In I Corinthians 8:13, while Paul is speaking here of foods, the universal principle applies in this current situation. He writes that if what he eats (his actions) causes a brother or sister to "fall", he does not eat whatever it is. In other words, if his actions cause someone to stumble in their faith, he refrains from that action, even if it is permissible. He also explains that if our actions "wound their conscience", we "sin against Christ". In other words, you cannot bake the cake since to do so might cause a fellow Christian to stumble (or even a seeker), or it could actually violate another Christian's conscience, in which case YOU are guilty of sinning against Christ.

In closing, the final question that came to my mind as I contemplated this issue was this: Would Paul make a tent for a gay couple to celebrate their wedding in?

I think the answer is obvious. I'll stand with Paul.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bob Larson Playing Dress Up

As my readers know I am very critical of the antics of self proclaimed "exorcist" Bob Larson. Without going into his rather sordid history (see some of the previous articles here on him), let's just say the man is not what he purports to be.

Not to be deterred though, Larson now has a YouTube channel filled with videos offering his advice on everything from "generational curses", to how to fight the demon "Ramses" (yes, the Pharoah), to that old demoness Jezebel who seems to pop up everywhere Bob goes.

One of the things that troubles me most about Larson (one of many) is his donning of clerical garb. I have to ask, does this make him feel like he has validity when he wears priestly clothing? Who might be fooled by the facade of sacerdotal authority? The question of just what the motivation is behind this choice in garb is, I think, an honest one that any Catholic or Orthodox Christian would ask of a Protestant who almost certainly does not believe in Holy Orders whatsoever.

I posted on one of his videos asking these questions, as well as for clarification on what I understand is his mail order ordination from some Protestant group.

Have a look yourself and feel free to add your own comments. And don't worry- while he calls himself "the REAL exorcist", you won't be offending a REAL PRIEST to confront him.

Bob Larson on YouTube

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Paranormal Query

I am often asked why I do not appear at the various paranormal events around the country, as do some of the other "clergy" (loosely used) who frequent such conventions. While it is true that I have appeared on paranormal television a few times, as well as acted as a consultant for various media outlets and television programs, I have tended to keep the paranormal subculture at an arms length, and here is why.

1. Mythicists- The paranormal subculture is filled with myth. That is, there are certain mythological beliefs that are held as undeniable fact. When an orthodox clergyman comes along and challenges those myths he at once becomes the scourge of all the paranormal community embraces. Anyone who knows me or has attended the rare seminars I have given will tell you I deal honestly and perhaps brutally with these myths. Paranormal conventions thrive on myth and mythmakers. I'm obviously not one of them.

2. Occultism- The paranormal subculture is filled with occultism. The voices that gain the most attention and most recognition are those that offer up occult answers to spiritual issues. Thus you find self proclaimed shamans, wiccans, psychics, sensitives, remote viewers, channelers, etc. who are the darlings of the paranormal subculture. Again, I am not one to condone such occult activity and so I am not invited to speak at such conventions.

3. Relativism- The paranormal subculture is filled with relativism. The featured speakers at paranormal gatherings all have one thing in common- they all view spirituality as relative and deny the primacy of Christianity, or any other religion. For them, truth is all a matter of personal perspective. I find such a notion absurd, illogical and quite opposed to the natural God given sense of truth and falsehood. Truth is one and it is absolute, and it has a name- Christianity. Again, I do not meet the criteria for such conventions.

4. Calumny- The paranormal subculture is filled with calumny. It is a community that thrives on malicious gossip. If you look around at the various websites, Facebook groups, and other internet venues where paranormal types like to discuss their myths, you'll almost always find entire threads and articles dedicated to intentionally malicious gossip, and even outright lies about individuals or groups who for some reason have fallen out with the other, or who simply do not walk the subcultural line and maintain the mythology. Having been the  target of such campaigns for no other reason than standing up for Christian orthodoxy, I am not invited to speak at such conventions.

5. Heretical "Clergy"- The paranormal subculture is filled with heretical clergy. Beyond the occultists who permeate the paranormal world, there are the oddball clergy who cater to the previously mentioned silliness. These tend to be Old Catholics (long ago declared invalid, illicit and nothing more than laity playing dress up by legitimate Church authorities), self proclaimed evangelical ministers, self proclaimed demonologists, and self proclaimed "Christian" experts of every variety. As has been pointed out many times on this website, and as has been confirmed by the Orthodox Church, these people are heretics, schismatics and by virtue of the relativism inherent in their spiritual approach, they are in fact non-Christians, regardless of their misappropriation of the title. To knowingly associate with these people would be a violation of my expected conduct as both an orthodox clergyman and a disciple of Christ. I cannot knowingly participate in something that lends support to such individuals.

For these reasons you will never see me invited to speak at such events, nor would I want to. My ministry has led me to do far more important and substantive things than wasting precious time hanging out with ghost chasers, occultists, and frauds. Our Lord has provided me multiple platforms whereby I can share the Gospel, teach the Orthodox Faith, and maintain fidelity to Christ and His Church. For that I am grateful and plan to do what He has given me to do. It might not seem "successful" to some, it might not be as exciting to others, but if I please my Lord, that is all I care about.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The New Paganism

Our civilization developed as a Catholic civilization. It developed and matured as a Catholic thing. With the loss of the Faith it will slip back not only into Paganism, but into barbarism with the accompaniments of Paganism, and especially the institution of slavery. It will find gods to worship, but they will be evil gods as were those of the older savage Paganism before it began its advance towards Catholicism. The road downhill is the same as the road up the hill. It is the same road, but to go down back into the marshes again is a very different thing from coming up from the marshes into pure air. All things return to their origin. A living organic being, whether a human body or a whole state of society, turns at last into its original elements if life be not maintained in it. But in that process of return there is a phase of corruption which is very unpleasant. That phase the modern world outside the Catholic Church has arrived at.

We call Paganism an absence of the Christian revelation. That is why we distinguish between Paganism and the different heresies; that is why we give the name of Christian to imperfect and distorted Christians, who only possess a part of Catholic truth and usually add to it doctrines which are contradictory of Catholic truth. Moreover, the word "Christian" though so vague as to be dangerous, has this much reality about it, that there is something different between the general atmosphere or savor of any society or person or literature which can be called Christian at all and those which are wholly lacking in any part of Christian doctrine. For a Christian man or society is one that has some part of Catholicism left in him. But when every shred of Catholicism is lost we call that state of things "Unchristian."

Now, it must be evident to everybody by this time that, with the attack on Faith and the Church at the Reformation, the successful rebellion of so many and their secession from United Christendom, there began a process which could only end in the complete loss of all Catholic doctrine and morals by the deserters. That consummation we are today reaching. It took a long time to come about, but come about it has. We have but to look around us to see that there are, spreading over what used to be the Christian world, larger and larger areas over which the Christian spirit has wholly failed; is absent. I mean by "larger areas" both larger moral and larger physical areas, but especially larger moral areas. There are now whole groups of books, whole bodies of men, which are definitely Pagan, and these are beginning to join up into larger groups. It is like the freezing over of a pond, which begins in patches of ice; the patches unite to form wide sheets, till at last the whole is one solid surface. There are considerable masses of literature in the modern world, of philosophy and history [and especially of fiction], which are Pagan and they are coalescing-----to form a corpus of anti-Christian influence. It is not so much that they deny the Incarnation and the Resurrection, not even that they ignore doctrine. It is rather that they contradict and oppose the old inherited Christian system of morals to which people used to adhere long after they had given up definite doctrine.


This New Paganism is already a world of its own. It bulks large, and it is certainly going to spread and occupy more and more of modern life. It is exceedingly important that we should judge rightly and in good time of what its effects will probably be, for we are going to come under the influence of those effects to some extent, and our children will come very strongly under their influence. Those effects are already impressing themselves profoundly upon the Press, conversation, laws, building, and intimate habits of our time. 

There are two ways in which this is happening; according to whether the New Paganism is at work in a Catholic or a non-Catholic country. It is happening in Catholic countries by the separation of a Pagan set from the rest of the citizens. In those countries the full body of Christian doctrine, that is, Catholicism, puts up a permanent and successful resistance. Its consequences in morals are accepted by masses of people who do not practice the Catholic religion or who are indifferent to its doctrines, and this resistance shows no sign of weakening; not everywhere are the governments of Catholic countries in sympathy with Catholic tradition, however vague, but in these countries the laws defending morals and the general habits of people outside the Pagan set may properly be called anti-Pagan.


But though the way in which the New Paganism is establishing itself differs according to whether the society in which it takes root was originally Catholic or Protestant, it is everywhere of much the same tone, and its effects are very similar, whether you find them in Italy or in Berlin, in an English novel or a French one; and the marks peculiar to Paganism are very clearly apparent in all. Of these marks the two most prominent are, first, the postulate that man is sufficient to himself-----that is, the omission of the idea of Grace; the second [a consequence of this], despair.

The New Paganism is the resultant of two forces which have converged to produce it: appetite and the sense of doom. Of the forces which impelled it into being, the appeal of the senses to be released from restriction through the denial of the Faith is so obvious that none will contest it, the only controversy being upon whether this removal of restriction upon sensual enjoyment, declining every form of reticence and exercising the fullest license for what is called "self-expression," is of good or of evil effect upon the individual and upon society. The Christian scheme is still close enough even to the most Pagan of the New Pagans to be familiar, and the social atmosphere which it created still endures as a memory, or as a rejected experience, in their lives. That social atmosphere insisted on a number of restrictions. Of course, no society could exist in which there were not a great number of restrictions, but the restrictions imposed by Christian morals were severe and numerous, and most of them are meaningless to those who have abandoned Christian doctrine, because morals are the fruit of doctrine.

It is not only in sexual matters [the first that will be cited in this connection], but in canons of taste, in social conduct, traditional canons of beauty in verse, prose, or the plastic arts that there is outbreak. The restriction and, therefore, the effort necessary for lucidity in prose, for scansion in poetry and, according to our tradition, for rhyme in most poetry-----the restrictions imposed by reverence for age, for certain relationships such as those between parent and child, for the respect of property as a right-----and all the rest of it are broken through. A license in act and a necessarily more extended license in speech are therefore the mark of the New Paganism.

But to this negative force must be added a positive one to explain what is happening, and that positive one is a philosophy which may be called Monist, or Fatalist, or Determinist, or by one of any number of names all signifying either the absence of conscious Will from the universe or the presence of only one such Will therein.

The true origin of this attitude of mind in modern times is the powerful genius of Calvin, though those who most suffer his influence would most strenuously deny their subjection to it, partly because they have never read him, much more because they do not see it in their daily papers, and most of all because Calvin is vaguely mixed up in their minds with an interest in theology, which science is thought to have exploded-----there is also perhaps some little distaste for Calvin because he was a Frenchman, but as that deplorable fact is never emphasized it cannot count for much. Calvin, then, is at the fountainhead of this new sense of Doom. But behind Calvin the fatalist attitude is an attitude as old, of course, as the hills. It is a temptation to which the human intellect has yielded on important occasions from as far back as we can trace its recorded experience and definitions. To the mind in that mood all things are part of an unchangeable process following from cause to effect immutably.

What else may have produced this positive force of fatalism, itself a main factor in the new Paganism, I will not here discuss; I have said more about it in my essay on "Science as the Enemy of Truth." I am here only concerned with observing its presence; but I will say this much: that one very powerful agent in producing this mood is the desire to be rid of responsibility.

A direct consequence of this philosophy, though again it is a consequence furiously denied by its victims, is the elimination of right and wrong. Our actions do not depend upon our own wills; those who think that they proceed from an act of the will suffer an illusion; human action, from what used to be called the noblest self-sacrifice to the basest commercial swindling, is the inevitable result of forces over which the perpetrator has no control-----or, as Dean Swift has admirably put it in that great masterpiece, The Tale of a Tub, "It was ordained some three days before the Creation that my nose should come against this lamp post."

It is true that the professors of this creed are illogical; for no one gives louder vent to moral indignation than themselves, especially when they are denouncing the cruelties or ineptitudes of believers in moral responsibility, but then, as the denial of the human reason is also part of their creed, or, at any rate, the denial of its value as the instrument for the discovery of truth, they will not be seriously disturbed by the incongruity of their outbursts; for what is incongruous or illogical is not to them blameworthy or ridiculous-----rather in their mouths does the word "logical" connote something absurd and empty.

Now, it is with this element of Monism that there enters a highly practical consideration in our survey of the New Paganism. It is this: the New Paganism is in process of building up a society of its own, wherein will be apparent two features novel in what used to be Christendom. Those two features have already appeared and will spread each in its own sphere, the one in the sphere of law-----that is, of coercive enactment-----the other in the sphere of status, that is, in the organization of society.

In the first sphere, that of positive law, the New Paganism has already begun to produce and cannot but produce more and more a mass of restrictive legislation. [emphasis added] It is a paradox, of course, that such restrictive legislation should be bred from a mood which proceeded originally from rebellion against restriction, but the fact is undoubted-----it is before all our eyes. With the denial of the will there necessarily appears the questioning of any content to the word "freedom." In a Christian society you were free to do a number of acts, for some of which you could be punished under Christian laws, for others of which no state or other authority could punish you, but which were opposed to the social atmosphere in which you lived. But the New Paganism will tend, not to punish, but to restrain with fetters; to prevent action, to impose coercive bonds. It will be at issue more and more with human dignity. It has already, in certain provinces [the Calvinist canton of Vaud in Switzerland is an example], enacted what is called "the sterilization of the unfit" as a positive law. It has not yet enacted, though it has already proposed and will certainly in time enact, legislation for the restriction of births. Not only in these, but in many other departments of life, one after another, will this mechanical network spread and bind those subject to it under a compulsion which cannot be escaped.

In the sphere of social texture the New Paganism must also inevitably and of its nature, wherever it gives its tone to society, reintroduce that status of slavery from which our civilization sprang and which only very gradually disappeared under the influence of the Christian ethic.

This revival of slavery must not be confused with the spread of mechanical restriction applicable to all. They are cousins, but they are not identical. Slavery is the compulsion of one man or set of men to work for the benefit of others. It is a compulsion to work, backed by the arms of the State. The way has been prepared for it by that already half-Pagan thing-----industrial capitalism, of which I write on a later page; and the steps whereby the New Paganism will achieve slavery develop naturally from industrial capitalism. It is a thesis I have developed at greater length in my book, The Servile State; I here only touch on it as a main social result to which the New Paganism will give birth. That this novel status will bear the name "slavery" I doubt; for it is in the nature of mankind, when they are proceeding to call that good which once they called evil, to avoid the old evil name. In the same way fornication is not called fornication but "companionate marriage." 


Probably slavery, when it comes, will be called "permanent employment"; and a century hence, a rich man will say to his friends, talking of his new gardener: "He's a permanent. Paid for him at the Bureau only last Thursday." 


In the form of security and sufficiency for the men who labor to the profit of others, and in the form of registering and controlling them in the form of an organized public supervision of their labor, slavery is already afoot. When slavery shall succeed it will succeed through the acquiescence of those who will be enslaved, for they will prefer sufficiency and security with enslavement, to freedom, responsibility, insecurity and the threat of insufficiency.


As yet, during the transition, there is an illogical, and therefore an ephemeral mixture of the old and the new. The old freedom sufficiently survives in the mind of the wage earner to give him the illusion that, while accepting insurance and maintenance from the capitalist state, he can still be a full citizen. He thinks he can have his cake and eat it too. He is mistaken. The great capitalists who procured these regulations from the politicians knew what they were at. They were catching their proletariat in a net, and now they hold it fast.

The New Paganism will then, I say, give us, in those societies over which it shall obtain the control of the mind, increasing restriction against general freedom and increasing restriction against the particular freedom which left some equality between the man who worked and the man who exploited him under a contract-----it will replace that idea of contract by the older idea of status. In saying this, my object is to point out that the discussion of the New Paganism is not a mere academic discussion, but, as I have called it, one of immediate practical importance. If we adopt it we must be prepared for its consequences; if we abhor those consequences, it is our business to fight the New Paganism vigorously.

And here I have, as on so many other points, a quarrel with those moderns who will make of religion an individual thing [and no Catholic can evade the corporate quality of religion], telling us that its object being personal holiness and the salvation of the individual soul, it can have no concern with politics. On the contrary, the concern of religion with politics is inevitable. Not that the Christian doctrine and ethic rejects anyone of the three classical forms of government-----democracy, aristocracy or monarchy, or any mixture of them-----but that it does reject certain features in society which are opposed to the Christian social products, and are opposed to them because they spring from a denial of free will.

The battle for right doctrine in theology is always also a battle for the preservation of definite social things [institutions, habits] following from right doctrine; nor is there anything more contemptible intellectually than the attitude of those who imagine that because doctrine must be stated in abstract terms it therefore has no practical application nor any real fruit in the real world of real men. Contrariwise, difference in doctrine is at the root of all political and social differences; therefore is the struggle for or against true doctrine the most vital of struggles.

But apart from these aspects of the New Paganism there is another which I confess I happen to feel myself closely concerned with. It is the connection between the New Paganism and that lure of the antique world, which is of such power over all generous minds, and especially upon those who are in love with beauty.

It is in my judgment an argument which has certainly been of powerful effect in the immediate past, and will continue for some time longer, even in our declining culture, to be of powerful effect, that Paganism is to be sought, respected and achieved because our race, before the advent of the Catholic Church, wrote what it did, built what it did, chiseled what it did, and everywhere created the loveliness to which we Christians are the heirs. Yet this attraction of the antique world I conceive to be a dangerous decoy, leading us on to things very different from and very much worse than that classic Paganism from which we all descend.

I know that to affirm the connection between the New Paganism and a wistfulness for the Old will sound in most modern ears fantastic, because most modern people who fall into the New Paganism know nothing about the Paganism of antiquity; there never was a time when educated men had a larger proportion among them ignorant of Latin and Greek, since first Greek was taught in the universities of Western Europe; and there was certainly never a time during the last two thousand years when the mass of people, the workers, were given less knowledge of the past and were less in sympathy with tradition.

Nonetheless, it is true that the idea of Pagan antiquity as a model runs through the whole new movement. With a few scholars it is at first-hand, with most people at second, third, fourth or fifth; but it is there with everyone. There is a general knowledge that men were once free from the burden of Christian duty, and a widespread belief that when men were free from it, life was better because it was more rational and directed to things which they could all be sure of and test for themselves, such as the health of the body and physical comforts and pleasant surroundings, and the rest. To direct life again to these objects, making man once more sufficient to himself and treating temporal good as the supreme good, is the note of the New Paganism.

Now what seems to me by far the most important thing to point out in this connection is that the underlying assumption in all this is false. The New Paganism differs, and must differ radically, from the Old; its consequences in human life will be quite different; presumably much worse, and increasingly worse.

The reason of this is that you cannot undo an experience. You cannot cut off a man or a society from their past, and the world of Christendom has had the experience of the Faith. When it moves away from the Faith to return to Paganism again it is not doing the same thing, not producing the same emotions, not passing through the same process, not suffering the same reactions, as the old Paganism did, which was moving towards the Faith. It is one thing to go south from the Arctic towards the civilized parts of Europe; it is quite another thing to go north from the civilized parts of Europe to the Arctic. You are not merely returning to a place from which you started, you are going through a contrary series of emotions the whole time.

The New Paganism, should it ever become universal, or over whatever districts or societies it may become general, will never be what the Old Paganism was. It will be other, because it will be a corruption. The Old Paganism was profoundly traditional; [emphasis added] indeed, it had no roots except in tradition. Deep reverence for its own past and for the wisdom of its ancestry and pride therein were the very soul of the Old Paganism; that is why it formed so solid a foundation on which to build the Catholic Church, though that is also why it offered so long and determined a resistance to the growth of the Catholic Church. But the New Paganism has for its very essence contempt for tradition and contempt of ancestry. It respects perhaps nothing, but least of all does it respect the spirit of "Our fathers have told us."

The Old Paganism worshiped human things, but the noblest human things, particularly reason and the sense of beauty. In these it rose to heights greater than have since been reached, perhaps, and certainly to heights as great as were ever reached by mere reason or in the mere production of beauty during the Christian centuries.


But the New Paganism despises reason, and boasts that it is attacking beauty. It presents with pride music that is discordant, building that is repellent, pictures that are a mere chaos, and it ridicules the logical process, so that, as I have said, it has made of the very word "logical" a sort of sneer.

The Old Paganism was of a sort that would be open, when due time came, to the authority of the Catholic Church. It had ears which at least would hear and eyes which at least would see; but the New Paganism not only has closed its senses, but is atrophying them, so that it aims at a state in which there shall be no ears to hear and no eyes to see.


The one was growing keener in its sight and its hearing; the other is declining towards a condition where the society it informs will be blind and deaf, even to the main natural pleasures of life and to temporal truths. It will be incapable of understanding what they are all about.

The Old Paganism had a strong sense of the supernatural. This sense was often turned to the wrong objects and always to insufficient objects, but it was keen and unfailing; all the poetry of the Old Paganism, even where it despairs, has this sense. And you may read in those of its writers who actively opposed religion, such as Lucretius, a fine religious sense of dignity and order. The New Paganism delights in superficiality, and conceives that it is rid of the evil as well as the good in what it believes to have been superstitions and illusions.


There it is quite wrong, and upon that note I will end. Men do not live long without gods; but when the gods of the New Paganism come they will not be merely insufficient, as were the gods of Greece, nor merely false; they will be evil.  One might put it in a sentence, and say that the New Paganism, foolishly expecting satisfaction, will fall, before it knows where it is, into Satanism. 

                                                                                                                          - Hilaire Belloc 1931

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Grace and Conversion

The following is excerpted from The Three Ways of Spiritual Life, by Rev. Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

THE interior life is for all the one thing necessary. It ought to be constantly developing in our souls; more so than what we call our intellectual life, more so than our scientific, artistic or literary life. The interior life is lived in the depths of the soul; it is the life of the whole man, not merely of one or other of his faculties. And our intellectual life would gain immeasurably by appreciating this; it would receive an inestimable advantage if, instead of attempting to supplant the spiritual life, it recognized its necessity and importance, and welcomed its beneficial influence -- the influence of the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. How deeply important our subject is may be seen in the very words we have used: Intellectuality and Spirituality. And it is important to us not only as individuals, but also in our social relations, for it is evident that we can exert no real or profound influence upon our fellow-men unless we live a truly interior life ourselves.

The necessity of the interior life.

The pressing need of devoting ourselves to the consideration of the one thing necessary is especially manifest in these days of general chaos and unrest, when so many men and nations, neglecting their true destiny, give themselves up entirely to acquiring earthly possessions, failing to realize how inferior these are to the everlasting riches of the spirit.

And yet St. Augustine's saying is so clearly true, that ' material goods, unlike those of the spirit, cannot belong wholly and simultaneously to more than one person. ' [[1]] The same house, the same land, cannot belong completely to several people at once, nor the same territory to several nations. And herein lies the reason of that unhappy conflict of interests which arises from the feverish quest of these earthly possessions.

On the other hand, as St. Augustine often reminds us, the same spiritual treasure can belong in its entirety to all men, and at the same time to each, without any disturbance of peace between them. Indeed, the more there are to enjoy them in common the more completely do we possess them. The same truth, the same virtue, the same God, can belong to us all in like manner, and yet none of us embarrasses his fellow-possessors. Such are the inexhaustible riches of the spirit that they can be the property of all and yet satisfy the desires of each. Indeed, only then do we possess a truth completely when we teach it to others, when we make others share our contemplation; only then do we truly love a virtue when we wish others to love it also; only then do we wholly love God when we desire to make Him loved by all. Give money away, or spend it, and it is no longer yours. But give God to others, and you possess Him more fully for yourself. We may go even further and say that, if we desired only one soul to be deprived of Him, if we excluded only one soul -- even the soul of one who persecutes and calumniates us -- from our own love, then God Himself would be lost to us.

This truth, so simple and yet so sublime, gives rise to an illuminating principle: it is that whereas material goods, the more they are sought for their own sake, tend to cause disunion among men, spiritual goods unite men more closely in proportion as they are more greatly loved. This principle helps us to appreciate how necessary is the interior life; and, incidentally, it virtually contains the solution of the social question and of the economic crisis which afflicts the world to-day. The Gospel puts it very simply: ' Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. ' If the world to-day is on its death-bed, it is because it has lost sight of a fundamental truth which for every Christian is elementary.

The profoundest truths of all, and the most vital, are in fact those elementary verities which, through long meditation and deep thought, have become the norm of our lives; those truths, in other words, which are the object of our habitual contemplation.

God is now showing men what a great mistake they make when they try to do without Him, when they regard earthly enjoyment as their highest good, and thus reverse the whole scale of values, or, as the ancient philosophers put it, the subordination of ends. As though in the hope of compensating for the poor quality of earthly goods, men are striving to increase their quantity; they are trying to produce as much as possible in the order of material enjoyment. They are constructing machinery with the object of increasing production at a greater profit. This is the ultimate objective. But what is the consequence ? The surplus cannot be disposed of; it is wasted, and unemployment is the result. The worker starves in enforced idleness while others die of surfeit. The present state of the world is called a crisis. But in fact it is more than a crisis; it is a condition of affairs which, if men only had eyes to see, ought to be revealing, it ought to show men that they have sought their last end where it is not to be found, in earthly enjoyment -- instead of God. They are seeking happiness in an abundance of material possessions which are incapable of giving it; possessions which sow discord among those that seek them, and a greater discord according as they are sought with greater avidity.

Do what you will with these material goods: share them out equally, make them the common property of all. It will be no remedy for the evil; for, so long as earthly possessions retain their nature and man retains the nature which is his, he will never find his happiness in them. The remedy is this, and this only: to consider the one thing necessary, and to ask God to give us saints who live only on this thought, saints who will give the world the spirit that it needs. God has always sent us saints in troubled times. We need them especially to-day.

The principle of the interior life.

It is all the more important to recall the necessity and the true nature of the interior life, because the true conception of it, as given to us in the Gospel, in the Epistles of St. Paul and in the whole of Tradition, has been partially obscured by many false ideas. In particular it is evident that the notion of the interior life is radically corrupted in the Lutheran theory of justification or conversion. According to this theory the mortal sins of the convert are not positively blotted out by the infusion of the new life of grace and charity; they are simply covered over, veiled by faith in the Redeemer, and they cease to be imputed to the person who has committed them. There is no intrinsic justification, no interior renewal of the soul; a man is reputed just merely by the extrinsic imputation of the justice of Christ. According to this view, in order to be just in the eyes of God it is not necessary to possess that infused charity by which we love God supernaturally and our fellowmen for God's sake. Actually, according to this conception, however firmly the just man may believe in Christ the Redeemer, he remains in his sin, in his corruption or spiritual death. [[2]]

This grave misconception concerning our supernatural life, reducing it essentially to faith in Christ and excluding sanctifying grace, charity and meritorious works, was destined to lead gradually to Naturalism; it was to result finally in considering as ' just ' the man who, whatever his beliefs, valued and practised those natural virtues which were known even to the pagan philosophers who lived before Christ. [[3]]

In such an outlook, the question which is actually of the first importance does not even arise: Is man capable in his present state, without divine grace, of observing all the precepts of the natural law, including those that relate to God ? Is he able without grace to love God the sovereign Good, the author of our nature, and to love Him, not with a merely inoperative affection, but with a truly efficacious love, more than he loves himself and more than he loves anything else ? The early Protestants would have answered in the negative, as Catholic theologians have always done. [[4]] Liberal Protestantism, the offspring of Luther's theology, does not even ask the question; because it does not admit the necessity of grace, the necessity of an infused supernatural life.

Nevertheless, the question still recurs under a more general form: Is man able, without some help from on high, to get beyond himself, and truly and efficaciously to love Truth and Goodness more than he loves himself ?

Clearly, these problems are essentially connected with that of the nature of our interior life; for our interior life is nothing else than a knowledge of the True and a love of the Good; or better, a knowledge and love of God.

In order fully to appreciate the lofty conception which the Scriptures, and especially the Gospels, give us of the interior life, it would be necessary to study a theological treatise on justification and sanctifying grace. Nevertheless, we may here emphasize a fundamental truth of the Christian spiritual life, or of Christian mysticism, which has always been taught by the Catholic Church.

In the first place it is clear that according to the Scriptures the justification or conversion of the sinner does not merely cover his sins as with a mantle; it blots them out by the infusion of a new life. ' Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy, ' so the Psalmist implores; ' and according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my iniquity. Wash me yet more from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.... Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop and I shall be cleansed; thou shalt wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow.... Blot out all my iniquities. Create a clean heart in me, O God; and renew a right spirit within my bowels. Cast me not away from thy face, and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit. ' [[5]]

The Prophets use similar language. Thus God says, through the prophet Isaias: ' I am he that blot out thy iniquities for my own sake. ' [[6]] And the same expression recurs throughout the Bible: God is not content merely to cover our sins; He blots them out, He takes them away. And therefore, when John the Baptist sees Jesus coming towards him, he says: ' Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who taketh away the sin of the world ! ' We find the same idea in St. John's first Epistle: [[7]] 'The blood of Jesus Christ... cleanseth us from all sin. ' St. Paul writes, similarly, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians :[[8]] ' Not the effeminate nor the impure nor thieves nor covetous nor drunkards nor railers nor extortioners shall possess the kingdom of God. And such some of you were. But you are washed; but you are sanctified; but you are justified; in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God. '

If it were true that by conversion sins were only veiled, and not blotted out, it would follow that a man is at once both just and ungodly, both justified, and yet still in the state of sin. God would love the sinner as His friend, despite the corruption of his soul, which He is apparently incapable of healing. The Saviour would not have taken away the sins of the world if He had not delivered the just man from the servitude of sin. Again, for the Christian these truths are elementary; the profound understanding of them, the continual and quasi-experimental living of them, is what we call the contemplation of the saints.

The blotting out and remission of sins thus described by the Scriptures can be effected only by the infusion of sanctifying grace and charity -- which is the supernatural love of God and of men for God's sake. Ezechiel, speaking in the name of God, tells us that this is so: ' I will pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness; and I will cleanse you from all your idols. And I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit in the midst of you; and I will cause you to walk in my commandments. ' [[9]]

This pure water which regenerates is the water of grace, of which it is said in the Gospel of St. John: [[10]] ' Of his fulness we have all received; and grace for grace. ' ' By (our Lord Jesus Christ) we have received grace, ' we read in the Epistle to the Romans ;[[11]]... ‘the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost who is given to us ' ;[[12]] and in the Epistle to the Ephesians: ' To every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the giving of Christ. ' [[13]]

If it were otherwise, God's uncreated love for the man whom He converts would be merely an idle affection, and not an effective and operative love. But God's uncreated love for us, as St. Thomas shows, is a love which, far from presupposing in us any lovableness, actually produces that lovableness within us. His creative love gives and preserves in us our nature and our existence; but his life-giving love gives and preserves in us the life of grace which makes us lovable in His eyes, and lovable not merely as His servants but as His sons. (I, Q. xx, art. 2).

Sanctifying grace, the principle of our interior life, makes us truly the children of God because it makes us partakers of His nature. We cannot be sons of God by nature, as the Word is; but we are truly sons of God by grace and by adoption. And whereas a man who adopts a child brings about no interior change in him, but simply declares him his heir, God, when He loves us as adoptive sons, transforms us inwardly, giving us a share in His own intimate divine life.

Hence we read in the Gospel of St. John: [[14]] ' (The Word) came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them he gave the power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name. Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. ' And our Lord Himself said to Nicodemus [[15]] ' Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Wonder not that I said to thee: You must be born again. '

St. John himself, moreover, writes in his first Epistle [[16]] ' Whosoever is born of God committeth not sin; for God's seed abideth in him. And he cannot sin because he is born of God. ' In other words, the seed of God, which is grace -- accompanied by charity, or the love of God -- cannot exist together with mortal sin which turns a man away from God; and, though it can exist together with venial sin, of which St. John had spoken earlier, [[17]] yet grace is not the source of venial sins; on the contrary, it makes them gradually disappear.

Still clearer, if possible, is the language of St. Peter, who writes :[[18]] ' By (Christ) he hath given us most great and precious promises, that by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature '; and St. James [[19]] thus expresses the same idea: ' Every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration. For of his own will hath he begotten us by the word of truth, that we might be some beginning of his creature. '

Truly sanctifying grace is a real and formal participation of the divine nature, for it is the principle of operations which are specifically divine. When in heaven it has reached its full development, and can no longer be lost, it will be the source of operations which will have absolutely the same formal object as the eternal and uncreated operations of God's own inner life; it will make us able to see Him immediately as He sees Himself, and to love Him as He loves Himself: ' Dearly beloved, ' says St. John, [[20]] ' we are now the sons of God; and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when it shall appear we shall be like to him, for we shall see him as he is. '

This is what shows us, better than anything else, in what the true nature of sanctifying grace, the true nature of our interior life, consists. We cannot emphasize it too much. It is one of the most consoling truths of our faith; it is one of those vital truths which serve best to encourage us in the midst of the trials of our life on earth.

The beginning of eternal life.

To understand what our interior life is in itself and in its various phases, we must consider it not merely in its seed, but in its full and complete development. Now, if we ask the Gospel what our interior life is, it tells us that the life of grace, given to us in Baptism and nourished by the Eucharist, is the seed or germ of eternal life.

According to St. Matthew's account of the Sermon on the Mount, preached by Christ at the beginning of His ministry, our Lord says to His hearers (and it is the burden of the whole of His discourse): ' Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. ' He does not say: ' Be ye as perfect as the angels, ' but ' as your heavenly Father is perfect. ' [[21]] It follows, therefore, that Christ brings to men a principle of life which is a participation of the very life of God. Immeasurably above the various kingdoms of nature: the mineral kingdom, the vegetable, the animal kingdom, and even above the kingdom of man and above the natural activity of the angels, is the life of the kingdom of God. And this life in its full development is called, not the future life -- of which even the better among the pre-Christian philosophers spoke-but eternal life; a life measured, like that of God, not by future time, but by the one instant of motionless eternity.

The future life of which the philosophers speak is a natural life, similar almost to the life of the angels; whereas eternal life, of which the Gospel speaks, is essentially supernatural, as much for the angels as for us. It is not merely superhuman, it is superangelic, truly divine. It consists in seeing God immediately as He sees Himself, and in loving Him as He loves Himself. This is the reason why our Lord can say to you: ' Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect '; because you have received a participation in His inner life.

While the Old Testament speaks of eternal life only in figure, under the symbol of the Promised Land, the New Testament, and especially the Gospel of St. John, speaks of it continually; and from that time forth it has become almost impossible to conclude a sermon without mentioning eternal life, as that supreme beatitude to which we are called and destined.

But the Gospels, and especially the Gospel of St. John, tell us more about grace; we are told that grace is eternal life already begun.

In the fourth Gospel our Lord is recorded as saying no fewer than six times: ' He that believeth in me hath eternal life. ' [[22]] And it is not only in the future that he will have it, if he perseveres; in a sense he possesses it already: ' He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life, and I will raise him up in the last day. '[[23]] What is the meaning of these words ? Our Lord explains them later: ' Amen, amen, I say to you: If any man keep my word he shall not see death for ever. The Jews therefore said: Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest: If any man keep my word he shall not taste death for ever.... Whom dost thou make thyself ? ' It was then that Jesus said: ' Before Abraham was, I am. '[[24]]

What, then, does our Lord mean when He says: ' He that believeth in me hath eternal life ' ? He means: He that believes in Me with a living faith, that is, with a faith which is united with charity, with the love of God and the love of his neighbour, possesses eternal life already begun. In other words: He who believes in Me has within himself in germ a supernatural life which is fundamentally the same as eternal life. Our spiritual progress cannot tend in the direction of the life of eternity unless it presupposes the seed of it already existing in us, a seed of the same nature as the life towards which we are tending. In the natural order, the germ which is contained in the acorn could never grow into an oak tree unless it were of the same nature as the oak, if it did not contain the life of the oak in a latent state. The little child, likewise, could never become a man if it had not a rational soul, if reason were not already latent within it. In the same way, a Christian on earth could never become one of the blessed in heaven unless he had already received the divine life in Baptism.

And just as it is impossible to know the nature of the germ enclosed within the acorn unless we study it in its perfect state in the oak tree, so we cannot know the life of grace unless we consider it in its ultimate development, in that glory which is the consummation of grace. ' Grace, ' says the whole of Tradition, ' is the seed of glory. '

Fundamentally, it is always the same supernatural life, the same sanctifying grace and the same charity, but with two differences. Here on earth we know God supernaturally, but not in the clearness of vision; we know Him in the obscurity of faith. Moreover, while we hope one day to possess Him finally and definitively, here on earth it is always possible for us to lose Him by a mortal sin. But, in spite of these two differences, relating to faith and hope, it is the same life, the same sanctifying grace, and the same charity. And so our Lord said to the Samaritan woman: ' If thou didst know the gift of God and who he is that saith to thee: Give me to drink; thou perhaps wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.... He that shall drink of the water that I will give him shall not thirst for ever. But the water that I will give him shall become in him a fountain of water springing up into life everlasting. ' [[25]] And in the Temple, on the last day of the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, not merely for the benefit of privileged souls, but for all: ' If any man thirst let him come to me and drink He that believeth in me... out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. ' [[26]] ' Now this he said, ' adds St. John, ' of the Spirit which they should receive who believed in him. ' And in fact the Holy Ghost is called fons vivus fons vitae: the living fountain, the fountain of life.

Again Jesus says: ' If any one love me he will keep my word (faith alone, then, is not enough), and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and will make our abode with him. ' [[27]] Who will come ? Not only grace, God's created gift, but the divine Persons will come: the Father and the Son, and also the promised Holy Spirit. Thus the Holy Trinity dwells in us, in the obscurity of faith, in very much the same way as It dwells in the souls of the saints in heaven who see It face to face. ' He that abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him. '[[28]]

It is much more wonderful than any miracle, this supernatural life. A miracle is an exercise of the divine omnipotence by which God signifies that one of His servants speaks in His name, or that he is of eminent sanctity. But even the raising of the dead to life, the miracle by which a corpse is reanimated with its natural life, is almost nothing in comparison with the resurrection of a soul, which has been lying spiritually dead in sin and has now been raised to the essentially supernatural life of grace.

Grace, then, is eternal life already begun within us, and this is why Christ says: ' The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. Neither shall they say: Behold here or behold there. For lo, the kingdom of God is within you. '[[29]] It is there, hidden within you, like the grain of mustard seed, like the leaven which will cause the whole of the meal to rise, like the treasure hidden in a field, like the source from which gushes a river of water that will never fail. ' We know, ' says St. John, ' that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren '; [[30]] and ' these things I write to you that you may know that you have eternal life, you that believe in the name of the Son of God. ’[[31]] And Christ, His beloved master, had said: ' This is eternal life: that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. '[[32]]

St. Thomas expresses this doctrine in the brief statement: ' Gratia nihil aliud est quam quaedam inchoatio gloriae in nobis ': Grace is nothing else but a certain beginning of glory within us. ' [[33]] And Bossuet says the same thing: ' Eternal life in its beginnings consists in knowing God by faith (united with charity); in its consummation eternal life consists in seeing God face to face, unveiled. Jesus Christ gives us both the one and the other, because He has merited it for us and because He is the source of it in all the members to which He gives life. ' [[34]]

And therefore the Liturgy tells us, in the Preface used for the Mass of the Dead. ' Tuis enim fidelibus, Domine, vita mutatur, non tollitur ': ' From them that believe in thee, O Lord, life is not taken away; it is changed and transformed. '

The importance of true conversion.

We are thus able to appreciate something of the importance of true conversion, by which a man passes from the state of mortal sin to the state of grace. In the former state his energies were dissipated and he was indifferent in regard to God; now he loves God more than he loves himself, more than he loves anything else; at any rate he esteems God beyond all earthly things, even though his love of God may not be free from all selfish motives. The state of sin was a state of spiritual death; a state in which, more or less consciously, he made himself the centre of all his activities and the end of all his desires; in which he was actually the slave of everything, the slave of his passions, of the spirit of the world, of the spirit of evil. The state of grace, on the other hand, is a state of life in which man begins seriously to tend beyond himself and to make God the centre of his activities, loving God more than himself. The state of grace is entrance into the kingdom of God, where the docile soul begins to reign with God over its own passions, over the spirit of the world and the spirit of evil.

We may well understand, therefore, how St. Thomas could write: ' Bonum gratiae unius majus est quam bonum naturae totius universi' The lowest degree of grace in a soul, for example in that of a small child after its baptism, is of greater value than the natural goodness of the whole universe. This grace alone is worth more than all created natures together, including even the angelic natures. For the angels, too, stood in need, not of redemption, but of the gratuitous gift of grace in order to tend to the supernatural beatitude to which God called them. St. Augustine says that when God created the nature of the angels He also gave them the gift of grace: ' Simul in eis condens naturam et largiens gratiam ';[[35]] and he maintains that ' the justification of the ungodly is something greater than the creation of heaven and earth, greater even than the creation of the angels. ' [[36]]

St. Thomas adds. ' The justification of the sinner is proportionately more precious than the glorification of the just; because the gift of grace more greatly transcends the state of the sinner, who is deserving of punishment, than the gift of glory transcends the state of the just man, who, by reason of his justification, is worthy of the gift of glory. ' [[37]] There is a much greater distance between the nature of man, or even between the nature of the highest of the angels, and grace, than there is between grace itself and glory. No created nature, however perfect, is the germ of grace, whereas grace is indeed the germ or the seed of eternal life, semen gloriae. Hence when a sinner is absolved in the confessional, an event occurs which is proportionately of greater importance than the entrance of a just soul into heaven.

This doctrine is expressed by Pascal in one of the finest pages of his Pensees, a page which summarises the teaching of St. Augustine and St. Thomas on this point: ' The infinite distance which separates bodies from spirits is a symbol of the infinitely more infinite distance which separates spirits from charity, for charity is supernatural. [[38]] The whole of the material creation together, the firmament, the stars, the earth and its kingdoms, is inferior to the least of the spirits; for he knows all this and he knows himself, whereas bodies know nothing. All bodies together, and all spirits together, and all that they can produce, are of less value than the smallest act of charity, because this is of an infinitely higher order. From all bodies together it would be impossible to extract a single thought, because a thought is of a higher order than they. From all bodies and all spirits together it would be impossible to extract one single act of true charity, because an act of charity is of the supernatural order. ' [[39]]

Luther erred fundamentally, therefore, when he tried to explain justification, not by the infusion of a grace and charity which remit sin, but merely by faith in Christ, without works and without love; making it consist simply in the extrinsic imputation of the merits of Christ, an imputation which covers sins without destroying them, and thus leaves the sinner in his filth and corruption. According to his view there was no regeneration of the will by the supernatural love of God and men. We have seen, on the contrary, what is the teaching of the Scriptures and of Tradition. Faith and the extrinsic imputation of the justice of Christ are not sufficient for the justification or conversion of the sinner. He must be willing, in addition, to observe the commandments, above all the two great commandments of the love of God and the love of one's neighbour: ' If any one love me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him. ' [[40]] ' He that abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him. ' [[41]]

According to the true teaching of Christ we are in an order far transcending natural morality. Our unaided reason tells us that it is our duty to love God, the author of our nature, and to love Him effectively, that is, by observing His commandments. But even this natural duty we are unable to fulfil without the help of God's grace, so weakened are our wills in consequence of original sin. Still less are we able by our natural powers alone to love God, the author of grace; for this love is of an essentially supernatural order, as supernatural for the angels as it is for us.

Such is the supernatural life which we received in Baptism; and this is what constitutes our interior life.

This beginning of eternal life, as we have called it, is a complete spiritual organism, which has to grow and develop until we enter heaven. The root principle of this undying organism is sanctifying grace, received in the very essence of the soul; and this grace would last for ever, were it not that sin, a radical disorder in the soul, sometimes destroys it. [[42]] From sanctifying grace, which is the germ of glory, proceed the infused virtues. First, the theological virtues, the greatest of which, charity, is destined to last for ever- ' Charity never falleth away, ' says St. Paul, ... ' Now there remain faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. '[[43]] Charity will remain for ever, after faith has disappeared to make room for vision; after hope has been displaced by the everlasting possession of God, seen face to face.

In addition to the theological virtues there are also the infused moral virtues, which perfect man in his use of the means of salvation, just as the former dispose him rightly in regard to his end. The infused moral virtues are like so many functions admirably adapted one to another, infinitely surpassing in perfection those of our physical organism; they are called- prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance... together with the other virtues which are associated with them.

Finally, in order to supply the deficiencies of these virtues which, in the twilight of faith and under the direction of prudence, still act in too human a fashion, we are given the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, who dwells in us. These are like the sails on a ship; they dispose us to receive obediently and promptly the breathing that comes from on high, the special inspirations of God; inspirations which enable us to act, no longer in merely human fashion, but divinely, with that alacrity which we need in order to run in the way of God, undismayed by any obstacles.

All these infused virtues and gifts grow with sanctifying grace and charity, says St. Thomas ;[[44]] they increase together just as the five fingers of the hand, or the organs of our body, develop simultaneously. Thus it is inconceivable that a soul should possess a high degree of charity without possessing at the same time a proportionate degree of the gift of wisdom; whether this exist under a definitely contemplative form, or in a practical guise, more directly adapted to action. The wisdom of a St. Vincent de Paul is unlike that of a St. Augustine; but the one and the other are equally infused.

In this way the whole of the spiritual organism develops simultaneously, though it may manifest its activity under various forms. And, from this point of view, since the infused contemplation of the mysteries of faith is an act of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, an act which disposes the soul to the beatific vision, must we not admit that such contemplation is in the normal way of sanctity ?. -- We merely mention the question here, without insisting further upon it. [[45]]

Let us now examine more closely the full development of our eternal life in heaven, in order that we may better appreciate the value of that sanctifying grace which is its beginning. In particular let us compare it with what would have been our beatitude and our reward if we had been created in a purely natural state.

If we had been created in a state of pure nature, with a spiritual and immortal soul, but without the life of grace, even then our intellect would have been made for the knowledge of the True and our will for the love of the Good. Our end would have been to know God, the Sovereign Good, the author of our nature, and to love Him above all things. But we should have known Him only in the reflection of His goodness in creatures, in the same way as the greatest among the pagan philosophers knew Him, though our knowledge would have been more certain than theirs, and free from any admixture of error. God would have been for us the First Cause and the Supreme Intelligence that orders all the things of creation.

We should have loved Him as the author of our nature, with that love which a subject has for his superior. It would not have been a love of friendship, but rather a sentiment compounded of admiration, respect and gratitude, yet lacking that happy and simple familiarity which rejoices the hearts of the children of God. We should have been God's servants, but not His children.

This natural end is already a sublime destiny. It could never bring satiety, just as the eye never tires of contemplating the blue vault of heaven. Moreover, it is a spiritual end, and therefore, unlike material goods, can be possessed at once by all and by each, without possession on the part of one being prejudicial to possession on the part of another, and thus without causing jealousy or discord.

But this abstract and mediate knowledge of God would have left many obscurities in the human mind, especially as regards the mutual compatibility of the divine perfections. We should forever have remained at the stage of counting singly and enumerating these absolute perfections; we should forever have wondered how it was possible to reconcile the almighty goodness of God with His permission that evil should exist; an evil, too, which is sometimes so great as to disconcert the human mind. We should have asked ourselves, moreover, how His infinite mercy could be truly consistent with His infinite justice. Even though we enjoyed this natural beatitude, we should still be urged to say: ' If only I could see this God, who is the source of all truth and goodness; if I could see Him as He sees Himself ! '

What the most brilliant of human minds, what even the intelligence of the angels could never have discovered, divine Revelation has disclosed to us. Revelation tells us that our last end is essentially supernatural and that it consists in seeing God immediately, face to face, as He is: sicuti est ' (God) has predestinated (us) to be made conformable to the image of his Son; that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. ' [[46]] ' Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him. [[47]]

We are destined to see God, not merely in the mirror of creatures, however perfect these may be, but to see Him immediately, without the intermediary of any creature, and even without the medium of any created idea; for no created idea, however perfect, could ever represent as He really is One who is Thought itself, infinite Truth, the eternally subsistent brightness of intelligence and the living flame of measureless Love.

We are destined to see all the divine perfections concentrated and intimately united in their common source: Deity. We are destined to see how the tenderest Mercy and the most inexorable Justice proceed from the one Love which is infinitely generous and infinitely holy; how this Love, even in its freest choice, is identically one with pure Wisdom, how there is nothing in the divine Love which is not wise, nothing in the divine Wisdom which is not synonymous with Love. We are destined to contemplate the eminent simplicity of God, His absolute purity and sanctity; to see the infinite fecundity of the divine nature in the procession of the Three Persons: to contemplate the eternal generation of the Word, the ' brightness of (the Father's) glory and the figure of his substance, ' [[48]] to see the ineffable breathing of the Holy Spirit, the issue of the common Love of the Father and the Son, which unites them in the most complete outpouring of themselves. The Good tends naturally to diffuse itself, and the greater the Good the more abundant and intimate is its self-giving.

None can tell the joy and the love which this vision will produce in us, a love of God so pure and so strong that nothing will ever be able to destroy or in the slightest degree to diminish it.

In no way, therefore, can we express more clearly the preciousness of sanctifying grace, or of the true interior life, than by saying that it is a beginning of eternal life. Here on earth we know God only by faith, and, while we hope one day to possess Him, we are able, unfortunately, to lose Him by sin. But, apart from these two differences, it is fundamentally the same life, the same sanctifying grace and the same charity, which is to last through all eternity.

This is the fundamental truth of Christian spirituality. Consequently our interior life must be a life of humility, for we must remember always that the principle of that life, sanctifying grace, is a gratuitous gift, and that we need an actual grace for the slightest salutary act, for the shortest step forward in the way of salvation. It must be also a life of mortification; as St. Paul says, we must be ' always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies '; [[49]] that is to say: we must daily more and more die to sin and to the relics that sin leaves in us, so that God may reign more completely in us, even to the depth of the soul. But, above all, our interior life must be a life of faith, hope, charity, and union with God by unceasing prayer; it is above all the life of the three theological virtues and of the gifts of the Holy Ghost which accompany them: the gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, piety, counsel, fortitude and fear of the Lord. In this way we shall enter into the mysteries of faith and relish them more and more. In other words, our whole interior life tends towards the supernatural contemplation of the mysteries of the inner life of God and of the Incarnation and Redemption; it tends, above all, towards a more intimate union with God, a preliminary to that union with Him, ever actual and perpetual, which will be the consummation of eternal life.


[1]St. Thomas often quotes this Augustinian thought: cf. I-IIae, Q. xxviii, art. 4, ad 2; III, Q. xxiii, art. 1, ad 3
[2]Luther went so far as to say: · Pecca fortiter et crede firmius: sin mightily and believe more mightily still; you will be saved. ' Not that Luther intended thereby to exhort men to sin; it was merely an emphatic way of saying that good works are useless for salvation -- that faith in Christ alone suffices. He says, truly enough (Works, Weimar edition, XII, 559 (1523) ), that if you believe, good works will follow necessarily from your faith. ' But as Maritain justly observes (Notes sur Luther; appendix to the second edition of Trois Reformateurs), ' in his thought these good works follow from salutary faith as a sort of epiphenomenon. ' Moreover, the charity which will follow this faith is the love of our neighbour rather than the love of God. And thus the notion of charity is degraded, emptied gradually of its supernatural and God-ward content and made equivalent to works of mercy. In any case, it remains true that for Luther a man is justified simply by faith in Christ, even though the sin is not blotted out by the infusion of charity, or the supernatural love of God.
[3]J. Maritain explains very clearly how Naturalism arises necessarily from the principles of Protestantism: · According to the Lutheran theology, it is we ourselves, and only we ourselves, who lay hold of the mantle of Christ so that with it we may " cover all our shame. " ' It is we who exercise this ' ability to jump from our own sin on to the justice of Christ, thus becoming as sure of possessing the holiness of Christ as we are of possessing our own bodies. ' The Lutheran theory of justification by faith may be called a Pelagianism born of despair. In ultimate analysis it is man who is left to work out his own redemption by stimulating himself to a despairing confidence in Christ. Human nature has then only to cast aside, as a useless theological accessory, the mantle of a grace which means nothing to him, and to transfer its faith-confidence from Christ to itself -- and there you have that admirable emancipated brute, whose unfailing and continuous progress is an object of wonder to the universe. In Luther and his doctrine we witness -- on the spiritual and religious plane -- the advent of the Ego.

' We say that it is so in fact; it is the inevitable outcome of Luther's theology. But this does not prevent the same theology in theory from committing the contrary excess.... And so Luther tells us that salvation and faith are to such an extent the work of God and of Christ that these alone are active in the business of our redemption, without any co-operation on our part.... Luther's theology was to oscillate between these two solutions: in theory it is the first, apparently, that must prevail: Christ alone, without our co-operation, is the author of our salvation. But since it is psychologically impossible to suppress human activity, the second has inevitably prevailed in fact. ' It is a matter of history that liberal Protestantism has issued in Naturalism.
[4]Cf. St. Thomas, I-IIae, Q. cix, art. 3: ' Homo in statu naturae integrae dilectionem suiipsius referebat ad amorem Dei sicut ad finem, et similiter dilectionem aliarum rerum, et ita Deum diligebat plus quam seipsum et super omnia. Sed in statu naturae corruptae homo ab hoc deficit secundum appetitum voluntatis rationalis, quae propter corruptionem naturae sequitur bonum privatum, nisi sanetur per gratiam Dei. ' Ibid., art. 4: ' In statu naturae corruptae, non potest homo implere omnia mandata divina sine gratia sanante. '
[5]Ps. 1, 3-14.
[6]Isa. xliii, 25
[7]i, 7
[8]vi, 10.
[9]xxxvi, 25
[10]i, 16
[11]i, 5
[12]v, 5
[13]iv, 7
[14]i, 11-13
[15]John iii, 5
[16]iii, 9.
[17]i, 8
[18]2 Pet. i, 4
[19]i, 17
[20]I John iii, 2
[21]Matt. v, 48
[22]John iii, 36; v, 24, 39; vi, 40, 47, 55
[23]vi, 55.
[24]viii, 51-58
[25]John iv, 10-14
[26]John vii, 37
[27]xiv, 23
[28]I John iv, 16.
[29]Luke xvii, 20
[30]1 John iii, 14
[31]V, 13
[32]John xvii, 3.
[33]II-IIae, Q. xxiv, art. 3; I-IIae, Q. lxix, art. 2; De Ver., Q. xiv, art. 2.
[34]Meditations sur l'Evangile, II, 37th day; in Joan., xvii, 3.
[35]De civ. Dei, lib. IV, c. 9
[36]In Joan., tract. 92, c. xiv, 12
[37]Q. cxiii, art. 9.
[38]In reality there is a greater distance between any created nature, even the angelic nature, and the inner life of God, of which charity is a participation, than there is between bodies and created spirits. All creatures, even the highest, are at an infinite distance from God, and in this sense are equally below Him
[39]Pensees (ed. Havet), p. 269
[40]John xiv, 23
[41]John iv, 16
[42]cf I-IIae, Q. lxxxvii, art. 3
[43]I Cor. xiii, 8, 13
[44]I-IIae, Q. Ixvi, art. 2.
[45]We have treated it fully elsewhere: Perfection chretienne et contemplation, t. 11, pp. 430-462; see also note below, p. 105.
[46]Rom. viii, 29
[47]I Cor. ii, 9.
[48]Heb. i, 3.
[49]2 Cor. iv, 10