The Supernatural Organism/Order
'Your Ticket/Highway to Heaven'

[Mortal Sin destroys your Ticket-to-Heaven]

The Madonna of Carmel and the Souls of Purgatory - by TIEPOLO, Giovanni Battista - from Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

The Souls in Heaven, the Church Triumphant, intercede to God on behalf of the Souls in Purgatory, the Church Suffering. Our Blessed Mother in Heaven, the 'Throne of Mercy' and 'Queen of the Angels', takes great delight in sending her Angels to release those Souls mercifully pardoned by her Son Jesus. Although depicted with Bodies, members of the Church Triumphant and Suffering actually have no Bodies, and will not receive their Glorified Bodies until the Final Judgment at the World's End. Currently, there are only Two (2) known Bodies in Heaven, belonging to Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother. Popular speculation attributes a Third Body belonging to Saint Joseph, based on God's Commandment to 'Honor thy Father and Mother'. Jesus will never be outdone by Man in bestowing Honor on His parents.


Supernatural Organism/Order
(Resides in the Essence of the
Soul of the Natural Order)

Human Being/Person
(A Unity (1) of Body and Soul)




(Dominant Partner)

Supernatural Grace/Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Man is born a Rational Creature, with Body and Soul, into the Natural Order.
God First elevates Man to the Supernatural Order via the Sacrament of Baptism, which infuses Sanctifying Grace into the Essence of the Soul. The other Six (6) Sacraments can then elevate the Soul even Higher.
The Supernatural Order is the Ensemble of Effects exceeding the Powers of the Created Universe and Gratuitously produced directly by God for the purpose of raising the Rational Creature above its Natural Sphere to a God-like Life and Destiny.
Mortal Sin destroys/kills Man's entire Supernatural Organism. Man is no-longer a Temple of God. God is gone & resides no-longer in the Soul.
Only God can raise the Soul back-to-life from the Dead, via the Sacrament of Penance.


dovesmlc.gif (3961 bytes) The Supernatural Organism - Part II of V

by Father Jordan Aumann, O.P.

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Father Jordan Aumann, O.P. former Director of the Institute of Spirituality at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome, is an honorary professor of the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, where he has been giving special courses in Spirituality since 1977.

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Sanctifying Grace

Elements - Supernatural Organism

Subject: Soul
Formal Principle: Sanctifying Grace
Faculties/Powers: Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Operations: Acts of the Virtues and Gifts

We have said that Sanctifying Grace is the Formal Principle of our Supernatural Organism, as the Spiritual Soul is the Formal Principle of our Natural Organism. As a Participation in the very Nature of God, Grace Elevates us to the status of Children of God and Heirs of Heaven. "We are Children of God", exclaims Saint Paul. "But if we are Children, we are Heirs as well; Heirs of God, Heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:16-17). And in his famous Sermon before the Areopagus, he insists that we are the Race of God: "We are God's Offspring" (Acts 17:29).

Sanctifying Grace can be defined as a Supernatural Quality, Inhering in the Soul, which gives us a Physical and Formal Participation, although Analogous and Accidental, in the very Nature and Life of God. Grace is clearly Supernatural, as the Formal Principle that Elevates us and Constitutes us in the Supernatural Life. It far excels all Natural Things and makes us enter into the Sphere of the Divine. Saint Thomas has said that the Minimum Degree of Sanctifying Grace in an Individual is greater-than the Natural Good of the entire Universe.

That Grace inheres in the Soul, is denied by those who hold for Extrinsic Justification, but it is a Truth of Faith defined by the Council of Trent. god_is_luv_ani.gif (9754 bytes) The Theological Explanation is contained in the following Principle: "The Love of God infuses and creates Goodness in things". In us, Love is born of the Good Object, but God creates Goodness in an Object by the mere fact of Loving it. And since Love finds or makes things similar to itself, God's Love for us Elevates us to His Level and Deifies us, so to speak, by means of a Formal Participation in the Divine Nature. "It is necessary that God alone Deify by communicating His Divine Nature through a certain Participation of Likeness" says Saint Thomas. Briefly, God Loves with a Supernatural Love, and since God's Love is the cause of Goodness, it follows that He produces in the Person He Loves the Supernatural Goodness that is Grace.

Participation is the Assimilation by an Inferior Thing of some Perfection existing in a Superior Thing. Sanctifying Grace gives us a Physical, Formal, Analogous and Accidental Participation in the Divine Nature. That it makes us Participants in the Divine Nature is a Truth constantly repeated in Sacred Scripture. Saint Peter says, for example: "He has bestowed on us the great and precious things He promised, so that through these you ... might become sharers of the Divine Nature" (2Peter 1:4). The Liturgy also proclaims this fact in the Preface for the Feast of the Ascension: "He ascended to Heaven to make us Participants in His Divinity". And how persuasively Saint Leo speaks of this Truth when he says: "Recognize your dignity, O Christian, and having been made a Participant of the Divine Nature, do not desire to return to the baseness of your former condition".

But it is necessary to examine the Manner in which Sanctifying Grace confers a Participation in the Divine Nature. God is not like Creatures, for He and He alone is "Being" by His very Essence, while all Creatures are "Being" by Participation. Nevertheless, Creatures are in some way similar to God because every Agent produces something similar to itself, in some respect. But it cannot be said that Creatures are like God by reason of a "Communication of Form" according to Genus and Species, but only according to a Certain Analogy, because God is "Being" by Essence, whereas Creatures are "Being" by Participation.

Hence, there are Three (3) Classes of Creatures that are like Him in some respect:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Irrational Creatures Participate in the Divine Perfection so far as they have "Being", but this likeness is so remote that it is called a Trace or Vestige.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Rational Creatures, so far as they are Gifted with a Spiritual Soul and Faculties, represent the Perfections of God in a more explicit manner; for that reason they are called the Natural Image of God.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) The Souls of the Just are united with God by Sanctifying Grace and for that reason they are called the Supernatural Image of God and, indeed, His Adopted Children.

But does Sanctifying Grace require a Physical and Formal Participation in the very Nature of God? Undoubtedly Yes. Apart from the fact that this is a Truth that is Verified in Revelation, there are Theological Arguments to support it.

First, the Operations proper to a Superior Nature cannot become Connatural to Lower Nature unless the Latter Participates in some way in the Former, because as-a-thing-is, so it Acts, and the Effects cannot be greater than the Cause. But some Supernatural Operations do become Connatural to Man through Grace. Therefore, it is evident that Man, through Grace, Participates Physically and Formally in the very Nature of God.

Secondly, from Grace springs an Inclination to God as He is in Himself. But an Inclination to God as He is in Himself must be rooted in a Nature that is Divine, at least by Participation. Moreover, this Participation must be Physical and Formal, since the Inclination proceeds Physically and Formally from that Participation.

Thirdly, the Infused Virtues are the Faculties of Supernatural Operations in us; but, since Operation follows "Being", a Supernatural Operation that Proceeds from the Soul presupposes in the Soul the presence of a Supernatural Entity, and this can be nothing other than a Physical and Formal Participation in the Nature of God Himself. It is True that through the Power of an Actual Grace, a Sinner can Realize a Supernatural Act without the need of Sanctifying Grace, but we are speaking of an Act that proceeds from the Soul Connaturally, and not of an Impulse to Second Act without passing through the Proximate Habitual Dispositions.

It now remains for us to examine in what sense the Physical and Formal Participation in the Divine Nature is Accidental and Analogous. Analogous Participation signifies that the Divine Nature is not Communicated to us Univocally, as the Father transmits it to His Son by way of the Eternal Generation. We do not become Divinized through Grace by Generation or by a Pantheistic Union of our Substance with the Divine Substance. Rather, it is an Analogous Participation in Virtue of which that which exists in God in an Infinite Manner is Participated by the Soul in a Limited and Finite manner. The Mirror that Captures the Image of the Sun does not Acquire the Nature of the Sun, but merely Reflects its Splendor. In like manner, says Saint Leo, "the Original Dignity of our Race lies in the fact that the Divine Goodness shines in us as in a Resplendent Mirror".

The reason why Participation in the Divine Nature through Grace is an Accidental one, is explained by Saint Thomas: "Every Substance constitutes either the Nature of the thing of which it is the Substance, or it is a part of the Nature, as Matter and Form are called Substance. And because Grace is above all Nature, it cannot be a Substance or a Substantial Form, but it is an Accidental Form of the Soul. Hence, what is Substantial in God becomes Accidental in the Soul that Participates in the Divine Goodness".

Moreover, the Council of Trent expressly teaches that Habitual Grace inheres in the Soul of Man. But, that which inheres in another is not a Substance, but an Accident, as we learn in Philosophy. Nor does this in any way lessen the Dignity of Grace, for as a Supernatural Accident it Infinitely Transcends all Created or Creatable Natural Substances. Let us not forget the words of Saint Thomas, to the effect that the Good of Grace in One Individual surpasses the Good of Nature in the Entire Universe.

We have stated that through Grace we share in the Nature and Life of God. There are several reasons for saying this:

1. Grace is the Connatural Principle of the Operations that reach God under the Formal Aspect of Deity. Therefore, Grace, as the Principle of these Operations, must necessarily Participate in the Divine Nature precisely as Divine, that is, under the Formal Aspect of Deity.

The Antecedent of this Argument is undeniable; all Supernatural Love and Knowledge have God as their Object. They focus directly on God as He is in Himself, whether it be through the Veil of Faith or in the Clear Light of the Beatific Vision. The conclusion necessarily follows from the fact that Grace is the Root Principle of the Theological Virtues.

Three (3) Theological Virtues: The Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity have God as their direct Object. By Faith we know God, by Hope we trust His Goodness and Promises, and by Charity we Love Him.

2. Supernatural Participation in the Divine Nature could not otherwise be distinguished from a merely Natural Participation, which is also a Formal Participation, because Man is an Image of God. Therefore the sharing in the Divine Nature precisely as Divine, Constitutes the Distinction between the Natural and the Supernatural.

3. In order to transcend the Natural Order, the Supernatural Form that is Grace must be either God Himself or something that Touches God under the Formal Aspect of His Deity. But Grace is not God Himself, as is evident, and hence it must necessarily be something that Touches God Precisely under the Formality of His Deity. In other words, it is a Participation of the Divine Nature precisely as Divine.

Saint Thomas says that "Grace is nothing other than a certain Participated Likeness of the Divine Nature". If we take the Intimate Nature of God as an Exemplar, Sanctifying Grace is a Perfect Imitation that is effected in us by Divine Infusion. It produces in the Soul a Likeness to God that Infinitely Transcends that which is had in the purely Natural Order. By reason of this, we become God's Children by Adoption, and form a part of the Family of God. Such is the Sublime Grandeur to which we are Elevated by Grace.


Effects of Grace

The First Effect of Sanctifying Grace is that it gives us that Participation in the Divine Nature, of which we have already spoken. This is the Root and Foundation of all the Other Effects that flow from Sanctifying Grace.

Among the Other Effects, the Three (3) mentioned by Saint Paul in his Epistle to the Romans hold a place of Preeminence: "You did not receive a Spirit of Slavery leading you back into fear, but a Spirit of Adoption through which we cry out, 'Abba!' (that is, 'Father'). The Spirit Himself gives witness with our Spirit that we are Children of God. But if we are Children, we are Heirs as well; Heirs of God, Heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:15-17).


Grace makes Us Adopted Children of God

God the Father has only One (1) Son according to Nature: the Eternal Word. Only to Him is there transmitted Eternally, by an Ineffable Intellectual Generation, the Divine Nature in all its Plenitude. In virtue of this Natural Generation the Second Person of the Holy Trinity possesses the selfsame Divine Essence of the Father and is God as-fully-as the Father is God. Therefore, Christ, Whose Human Nature is Hypostatically United with the Person of the Word, is not the Adopted Son of God, but the Natural Son, in all the Rigor of the Word.

Origin of the Son of God

God the Father possesses Two (2) Internal Divine Activities or Processions

1. Knowing Act of Intellect

arrow002.gif (3348 bytes) Generates
(not made, not created)

The Son of God,
Second Person of the Holy Trinity

2. Willing Act of Will



"Generation" is the production of one living-being from another, both having the same nature.

Our Divine Filiation through Grace is of a different kind. It is not a question of a Natural Filiation, but of an Adoptive Filiation. But it is necessary to understand this Truth correctly in order not to form a Deficient Concept of this Great Dignity. Adoption is the Gratuitous Admission of a stranger to a family. The child is henceforth considered as a son or daughter and is given a right to inheritance of the family good. Our Adoption through Grace does this and Much More.

Purely Human or Legal Adoption confers on the one Adopted the Rights of a Legitimate Child, but without infusing in the Adopted the Blood of the Family, and hence without causing any Intrinsic Change in the Person Adopted. On the other hand, on Adopting us as His Children, the One (1) and Triune God infuses Sanctifying Grace in us, which gives us a Real and Formal Participation in the Divine Nature itself.

It is an Intrinsic Adoption that places in our Souls, Physically and Formally, a Divine Reality in virtue of which we share in the very Life of God. It is a True Generation, a Spiritual Birth, and it reflects, Analogically, the Eternal Generation of the Word of God. As Saint John says explicitly, Sanctifying Grace not only gives us the Right to be called Sons of God, but it also makes-us-such in Reality: "See what Love the Father has bestowed on us in letting us be called Children of God! Yet that is what we are" (1John 3:1).


Grace Makes Us True Heirs of God

This is an Inevitable Consequence of our Divine Adoptive Filiation. Saint Paul says expressly: "If we are Children, we are Heirs as well" (Romans 8:17). And it is God Himself, One (1) in Essence and Three (3) in Persons, Who is our Inheritance as Adopted Children. "I am your Shield; I will make your reward very great", God said to Abraham (Genesis 15:1); and He says the same to every Soul in Grace.

The Beatific Vision and the enjoyment of God that accompanies it are the Principal Part of the Heritage that belongs, through Grace, to the Adopted Children of God. This will cause the Soul Ineffable Happiness, which will Completely Satisfy all its Aspirations and Longings. And the Soul will receive all these Benefits and Gifts under the Title of Justice. Grace is entirely Gratuitous; but once possessed, it gives us the Capacity to Merit Heaven under the Title of Justice. Since Grace is a Divine Form that inheres in the Soul, any Supernatural Action of which Grace is the Root and Principle bespeaks an Intrinsic Relation to Glory and carries with it a Title to the same. Grace and Glory are situated on the same plane, and they are substantially the same Life. There is between them only a difference of Grade or Degree. It is the same Life in its initial or terminal stage. Thus, Saint Thomas states that "Grace is nothing other than the beginning of Glory in us".


Grace Makes Us Coheirs With Christ

This Relation derives immediately from the Two (2) already mentioned. The reason, as Saint Augustine points out, is that he who says "Our Father" to the Father of Christ, what shall he say to Christ but "Brother"? By the very fact that Sanctifying Grace communicates to us a Participation in the Divine Life that Christ possesses in all its Plenitude, it necessarily follows that we become His Brothers and Sisters. He desired to be our Brother according to His Humanity, in order to make us His Brothers and Sisters according to His Divinity. Saint Paul states that God has Predestined us "to share the Image of His Son, that the Son might be the First-Born of many brothers" (Romans 8:29). By Nature, Christ is the only Son; but in the Order of Grace and Adoption He is our Elder Brother, as well as our Head, and the Cause of our Salvation.

For this reason, the Father deigns to look upon us as if we were One Thing with the Son. He Loves us as He Loves His Son; He looks on Christ as our Brother and confers on us the Title to the same Heritage. We are Co-heirs with Christ. "Indeed, it was fitting that when bringing many Sons to Glory, God, for Whom and through Whom all things exist, should make their Leader in the Work of Salvation perfect through Suffering. He Who Consecrates and those who are Consecrated have one and the same Father. Therefore He is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, 'I will announce your name to my brothers, I will sing your praises in the midst of the Assembly'" (Hebrews 2:10-12). God has modeled us on Christ; with Christ, we are Children of the same Father Who is in Heaven. All this will be effected by realizing the Supreme Desire of Christ: that we be One with Him as He Himself is One with the Father. The foregoing are the Three (3) Principal Effects of Grace, but they are not the only effects. The others are as follows:


Grace Gives Us Supernatural Life

The Physical and Formal Participation in the very Nature of God, which constitutes the Essence of Sanctifying Grace, Infinitely Transcends the Being and Exigencies of every Created Nature, Human or Angelic. By it, we are Elevated not only above the Human Plane, but even above the Angelic Nature. We enter into the Sphere of the Divine, are made members of the Family of God, and begin to live in a Divine Manner. Grace, consequently, has communicated to us a new type of life, Infinitely Superior to that of Nature; it is a Supernatural Life.


Grace Makes Us Just and Pleasing to God

As a Physical Participation in the Divine Nature, Grace necessarily gives us a Sharing in the Divine Justice and Sanctity, since all the Attributes of God are really identified with His Essence. Therefore, Sanctifying Grace is absolutely Incompatible with Mortal Sin.

The Council of Trent states that the Justification of the Sinner through Sanctifying Grace "is not merely the Remission of Sins, but also the Sanctification and Interior Renovation of Man by the Voluntary Reception of Grace and the Gifts, by which Man is changed from Unjust to Just, and from an Enemy into a Friend". A little further on, the Council adds that the Unique Formal Cause of the Justification is "the Justice of God, not that which makes Him Just, but that which makes us Just; or rather, that which, given by Him, Renews us Interiorly and makes us not only to be reputed as Just but that we should be called such and should be such in very Truth".


Grace Gives Us the Capacity for Supernatural Merit

Without Sanctifying Grace, the most Heroic Natural Works would have absolutely, no value for Eternal Life. A Person who lacks Grace is a Corpse in the Supernatural Order, and the Dead can Merit nothing. Supernatural Merit presupposes radically the possession of the Supernatural Life. This Principle is of the greatest importance in practice. While People are in Mortal Sin, they are Incapacitated for Meriting anything at all in the Supernatural Order.


Grace Unites Us Intimately With God

god_is_luv_ani.gif (9754 bytes) United as we are with God in the Natural Order through His Divine Conserving Power, which makes Him Truly Present to all Creatures by His Essence, Presence, and Power, Sanctifying Grace increases this Union to an Ineffable Degree and Transforms and Raises it to an Infinitely Higher type of Union. By reason of this new Union, God is present in the Just Soul as a Friend, and not merely as Creator and Conserver, establishing a Mutual Exchange of Love and Friendship between the Soul and Himself. "God is Love, and he who abides in Love abides in God, and God in him" (1John 4:16).

The Ultimate Perfection of Grace in this Life and even the Indissoluble Union of the Beatific Vision in Glory are not Substantially different from the Union effected between God and the Soul that enjoys even the Minimal Degree of Sanctifying Grace. There is, of course, a difference in the Intensity and Intimacy of Union, but all the Grades are of the same Substantial Order.


Grace Makes Us Living Temples of the Trinity

This is a consequence of what we have just stated, and Christ Himself Revealed this Truth when He said: "Anyone who loves Me will be True, to My Word, and My Father will Love him; We will come to him and make Our dwelling place with him" (John 14:23). The Dogma of the Indwelling Trinity is a Cornerstone of the entire Systematic Structure of Spiritual Theology, for it constitutes that "Kingdom of God within us" where the Mystical Experience and Union are brought to their full Perfection here on Earth. We shall therefore consider in greater detail this effect of Grace that under some aspects would seem to be identified with Grace or at least to touch the very Formality of Sanctifying Grace.


Indwelling of the Trinity

The Indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in the Souls of the Just is clearly Revealed in the New Testament, as shown in the following:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) If a Man Loves Me, he will keep My Word, and My Father will Love him, and We will come to him and make Our Home with him (John 14:23).

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) God is Love, and he who abides in Love abides in God, and God abides in him (1John 4:16).

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Do you not know that you are God's Temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God's Temple, God will destroy him. For God's Temple is Holy, and that Temple you are (1Corinthians 3:16-17).

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Do you not know that your Body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own (1Corinthians 6:19).

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Guard the Truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit Who dwells within us (2Timothy 1:14).

Scripture uses various formulas to express the Truth that God dwells in the Soul in Grace. The Indwelling is Attributed to the Holy Spirit, not because there is any Special Presence of the Holy Spirit that is not common to the Father and the Son, but because this is a Work of the Love of God, and the Holy Spirit is Essential Love in the Bosom of the Trinity.

Theologians have written much and disputed much about the Nature of the Indwelling of the Trinity in the Souls of the Just. Perhaps none of the Theories provides an adequate explanation; certainly no one of them has been commonly accepted. But what is important for our purposes is not so much the Formality and Mode of the Indwelling, as the Fact, its Purpose, and its Consequences. And here we find common agreement among Theologians and Spiritual Writers.

To acclimate ourselves to this Mystery, it is well to recall that through Sanctifying Grace we are "Begotten of God" (1John 3:9). We live a New Life, the Participated Divine Life through which we become Children of God. The Doctrine of our Divine Filiation is constantly repeated in the Pages of Scripture, as is that of the Divine Indwelling, to which it is closely related.

What does God do when He Dwells in a Soul? Nothing other than to Communicate Himself to that Soul, to Engender it as His Child, which is to give it a Participation in His Nature and His Life. And that Generation is not verified, as is Human Generation, by a Transient Action through which the child begins to-be and to-live independently of the father who provided the seed. Rather, it presupposes a Continued Act of God so long as the Soul remains in His Friendship and Grace.

Through Grace, the Soul is constantly receiving from God its Supernatural Life, as the Embryo in the Womb is constantly receiving Vital Sustenance from the mother. For this reason did Christ come into the World, that we might live by Him, as Saint John says (1John 4:9), and Christ Himself says, that He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Now we can see why Saint Paul says: "And the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me" (Galatians 2:20).

Our Divine Adoptive Generation has some similarity with the Eternal Generation of the Word in the Bosom of the Father, and our Union with God through Grace is somewhat similar to that which exists between the Word and the Father through the Holy Spirit. No Theologian would ever have dared to say this, were it not for the Sublime Words of Christ, spoken at the Last Supper:

I do not pray for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that all may be One as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; I pray that they may be (One) in Us, that the World may believe that You sent Me. I have given them the Glory You gave Me that they may be One, as We are One -- I living in them, You living in Me -- that their Unity may be complete. So shall the World know that You sent Me, and that You Loved them as You Loved Me (John 17:20-23).

The Son is One with the Father by the Unity of Nature; we are One with God by the Formal and Physical Participation of His Divine Nature, which Participation is nothing other than Sanctifying Grace. The Son lives by the Father, and we live by Participation in God. He is in the Father, and the Father is in Him; we are also in God and God is in us.

Thus, through Grace we are introduced into the Life of the Trinity, which is the Life of God, and God Dwells in us and Communicates His Divine Life to us. And it is the Three (3) Persons Who Dwell in us, since it is not the property of any One Person in particular to Engender us as Children of God, but it is an Action common to the Three (3). They are in the Just Soul, all Three (3) Persons, Engendering that Soul Supernaturally, Vivifying it with Their Life, Introducing it through Knowledge and Love to the most Profound Relationships. Here the Father Engenders the Son, and from the Father and the Son Proceeds the Holy Spirit, thus Realizing in the Soul the Sublime Mystery of the Triune Unity and the One (1) Trinity, which is the Inner Life of God Himself.

It is a fact testified by the Mystics, that in the most Profound Center of their Souls they Experienced the August Presence of the Blessed Trinity working intensely in them. And the experience of the Mystics is a Verification of the Lofty Teachings of Theology. Saint Thomas, writing as a Theologian, makes the following startling statement: "By the Gift of Sanctifying Grace, the Rational Creature is Perfected so that it can Freely use not only that Created Gift, but enjoy the Divine Person Himself". And in the same place he writes: "We are said to possess only what we can Freely use or enjoy; and to have the Power of enjoying the Divine Person can only be through Sanctifying Grace".

Here in all its Sublime Grandeur is the Purpose of the Indwelling of the Trinity in our Souls. God Himself, One (1) in Essence and Three (3) in Persons, becomes the Object of an Intimate Experience, and when this Experimental Joy reaches the Culmination of the Transforming Union, the Souls that have reached this Summit are unable to express themselves in Human Language. They prefer to Taste in Silence that which in no way could be explained to others. As Saint John of the Cross points out:

There are no words to expound such Sublime Things of God as come to pass in these Souls; the proper way to speak is for one that knows them to understand them inwardly and to feel them inwardly and enjoy them and be silent concerning them .... This alone can be said of it with Truth, that it Savors of Eternal Life. For although in this life we may not have Perfect Fruition of it, as in Glory, nevertheless, this Touch, being of God, Savors of Eternal Life.

In these Sublime Heights, where the Soul experiences the Divine Indwelling that it Believed and Knew through Faith, it now experiences as if by Sight and Touch, as Saint Teresa explains:

So that what we hold by Faith, the Soul may be said here to grasp by Sight, although nothing is seen by the Eyes, either of the Body or of the Soul; for it is no Imaginary Vision. Here all three Persons Communicate Themselves to the Soul and speak to the Soul and explain to it those Words which the Gospel attributes to the Lord, namely, that He and the Father and the Holy Spirit will come to dwell with the Soul, which Loves Him and keeps His Commandments.


Actual Grace

Grace is a Gift from God
Sanctifying Graces
(Transient, comes and goes)
(Permanent, lives in Soul, lost by Mortal Sin)

Supernatural Graces and Gifts of the Holy Spirit reside within the Essence of Man's Natural Soul.

The process of Sanctification is primarily the Work of God, since it pertains to the Order of Grace, but it also requires Human Cooperation with the Help of Grace. Habitual or Sanctifying Grace, as we have seen, is the basic Bond-of-Union between God and the Soul and, as such, it is meant to be Permanent. Actual Grace, on the other hand, is a Transient Stimulation or Movement by which the Soul is Prompted to Do or Receive something relating to Justification, Sanctification, or Salvation. Sanctifying Grace is central to the Christian Life, since it is the very Principle of that Life, and therefore we have treated it at length. Actual Grace is more closely related to Man's Cooperation with God, and since it Touches the Freedom and Choice of Man's Will, and the Causality and Intervention of God in Human Acts, it has given rise to many disputed questions concerning Man's need of Actual Grace to attain Justification or to perform Salutary Acts when Justified. It is not necessary for us to enter the Field of Controversy, but simply to demonstrate the necessity of Actual Grace in the Christian Life and to note the Principal Types.

Basic Division of Grace

Sanctifies Recipient
Gratia Gratum Faciens

Sanctifies Others
Gratia Gratis Data


Actual -



If we accept the Basic Division of Grace into the Grace that Sanctifies the Recipient (Gratia Gratum Faciens) and the Grace that Sanctifies Others (Gratia Gratis Data), and then divide the former into Habitual Grace and Actual Grace, we would have to say that Actual Grace comprises all the Powers, Movements, Dispositions, and Inspirations by which we are Empowered to Do or Receive something on the Supernatural Level. On God's Part, Grace is One (1); the Divisions are made on the Basis-of-Man, and therefore Theologians have further divided Actual Grace into External or Objective Graces, which comprise any means at all by which God's Loving Presence can be Encountered (e.g., the Liturgy, Sacramentals, Sermons, Good Example), and Internally Operative Graces that Touch the Human Will effectively. It should be evident, however, that Actual Grace must be Interiorized, that is, it must Internally Influence our Will and Arouse our Cooperation; otherwise it remains Ineffective.

The necessity for Actual Grace in the Christian Life lies in the fact that even the Just Person needs Special Help from God to avoid all Sin and to Persevere in Grace. Following the Teaching of Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas maintains that a Person in the State of Sanctifying Grace still needs the Further Assistance of Grace, First, "because no Created Thing can proceed to any Action whatsoever except in virtue of the Divine Motion", and Secondly, because of the Actual State of Human Nature, subject to Ignorance and Weakness of the Flesh, and further hampered by the Wounds of Original Sin. Moreover, even when endowed with Sanctifying Grace and the Infused Virtues, the Just Person needs the Stimulus of Actual Grace to Actuate those Supernatural Powers. Every Act of an Infused Virtue requires a previous Movement of Grace to set that Virtue or Gift in motion. This follows from the Metaphysical Principle that a thing in Potency cannot be reduced to Act except by something already in Act, and since we are dealing with the Supernatural Order and Actions, an Actuating Grace is needed to Initiate a Supernatural Act.

Actual Graces have Three (3) Functions:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) to Dispose the Soul for the reception of the Infused Habits of Sanctifying Grace and the Virtues,
littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) to Actuate these Infused Habits, and
littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) to prevent their Loss.

Actual Grace disposes the Soul for the Reception of the Infused Habits either when the Soul has never possessed them or when the Soul has Lost them through Mortal Sin. In the latter case Actual Grace will Stimulate Repentance for one's Sins, the Fear of Punishment, and Confidence in the Divine Mercy.

Actual Grace also serves to Activate the Infused Virtues, and if the Individual is in the State of Sanctifying Grace (for Faith and Hope can exist without Grace), the Actuation Perfects the Infused Virtues and is Meritorious of Increase and Growth in the Supernatural Life.

The Third Function of Actual Grace is to prevent the Loss of Sanctifying Grace and the Infused Virtues through Mortal Sin. It implies a Strengthening in the face of Temptations, an awareness of special Dangers, Mortification of the Passions, and Inspiration through Good Thoughts and Holy Desires.

It is evident, therefore, that Actual Grace is a Priceless Treasure. It gives Efficacy to Sanctifying Grace and the Infused Virtues. It is the Impulse of God that places our Supernatural Organism in Operation and prevents us from forgetting that our Soul, in the State of Grace, is the Temple of the Blessed Trinity.


- End of Part II -


Index - Supernatural Organism

Subject: Soul
Formal Principle: Sanctifying Grace
Faculties/Powers: Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Operations: Acts of the Virtues and Gifts