The Supernatural Organism - Part II of V
by Father Jordan Aumann, O.P.
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.
Elements - Supernatural Organism
||Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit
||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"
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.
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
Hence, there are Three (3) Classes of Creatures that are like
Him in some respect:
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Father possesses Two (2)
Internal Divine Activities or
||Act of Intellect
(not made, not created)
The Son of God,
Second Person of the Holy Trinity
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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).
God is Love, and he who abides in Love abides in God, and God abides in him (1John 4:16).
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).
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).
Guard the Truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit Who dwells within us
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
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"
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
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
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.
Grace is a Gift from God
(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
Gratia Gratum Faciens
Gratia Gratis Data
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:
to Dispose the Soul for the reception of the Infused
Habits of Sanctifying Grace and the
to Actuate these Infused Habits, and
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
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
- End of Part II -