The Structure of God's Life in Us


The Ladder of Divine Ascent - Icon of the Eastern Church

The 'Ladder of Divine Ascent' is Symbolic of our attempt to reach Heaven, step-by-step, via the Human/Natural and Divine/Supernatural Virtues. The Divine Virtues are attached-to and exist in the Essence of our Souls, only if we are in the State of Grace (Sanctifying Grace). Mortal Sin destroys that Grace, and we fall to the bottom as depicted in the Icon. Then, only the Sacrament of Penance can restore Sanctifying Grace to the Soul. God, in His Goodness, has given us the Seven (7) Sacraments to strengthen us on the Journey. There is an Infinite (∞) distance between our Fallen Human Nature and the Divine Nature of God. We can only make that long Journey with the Supernatural Help of God. It is impossible to make that Journey via Natural means alone.

As a side issue, the 'Lembas Bread' pictured to the left, from the great Catholic Epic 'Lord of the Rings', is Symbolic of the Holy Eucharist as "Food for the Great Journey".

<<Legolas: Lembas! Elvish Way-Bread. One small bite is enough to fill the stomach of a grown man.>>

 

Seven (7)
Gifts of the Spirit

Seven (7)
Divine/Infused Virtues

 Four (4) Main
Acquired/Human Virtues

Synderesis/
Natural Law

Supernatural/ Divine Nature

Human Nature

Received at
Confirmation

Received at Baptism
along with Sanctifying Grace

Received at Conception and
developed throughout our Life

Received at
Conception (static)

Understanding

Faith

No Counterpart
to the Three (3)
Theological Virtues

God writes His Name on the Soul of every Man at Conception. Synderesis is the Law of our Mind, because it is a Habit containing the Precepts of the Natural Law, which are the First Principles of Human Actions
Knowledge

Hope

Wisdom

Charity

Counsel

Prudence

Weakened/Damaged Prudence

Fortitude

Justice

Weakened/Damaged Justice

Piety

Temperance

Weakened/Damaged Temperance

Fear of the Lord

Fortitude

Weakened/Damaged Fortitude

The Four (4) Main Acquired/Human Virtues are still severely weakened due to Original Sin, and require Divine Aid

 

The Structure of God's Life in Us

by Father Richard M. Hogan & Father John M. LeVoir
from the Catechetical Teachings of Pope John Paul II

Notre Bene - Pope John Paul II has developed a new Theological Synthesis for presenting the Catholic Faith. This Synthesis is called Phenomenology. Using this Synthesis, beginning about 1985, Pope John Paul II began a series of Weekly Catechetical Addresses to cover the Central Tenets of Catholicism, following the Articles of the Nicene Creed. Fathers Hogan and LeVoir have compiled the Pope's Teachings into Book format, and the Treatise below is from their presentation on Grace.

 

angelbar.gif (3645 bytes)

God's Life = Supernatural Life = Divine Life = Grace

As mentioned above, we are created to Love as God Loves, and it is almost impossible for us to Love as God Loves unless we share something of God's Ability to Love. In other words, if we are to Act as God Acts, we need to share in His Life, the Source of His Acts. Grace is God's Life in us.

In discussing God's Grace in us, there are Two (2) extremes that we need to avoid. On the one-hand, we can not treat the Gift of God's Grace as an Extraneous, Exterior Alteration of the Human Person. Grace is not like the clothes we wear. When we change clothes, we do not change our very Being or Existence. However, Grace does change our very Being. On the other-hand, we can not treat Grace as part-of Human Nature. While God created us with Grace, it remains something added-to Human Nature. Grace is an Extraordinary Gift of God that is His Own Life. Grace, a share in the Divine Nature, is the Divine Life in us. God created Human Nature with an "opening on to the Supernatural". In other words, He created Human Nature with the possibility of sharing Human and Divine Life simultaneously. However, He did not give us His Grace as part-of our very Being. Had He done that, the Divine Life would be part-of our very Existence. If Grace were part-of our Nature, then, if we Lost the Divine Life through Sin, we would cease-to-be.

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

Natural Order

Natural Body

Natural Soul

Body/Inferior Will/
Passions/Emotions/
Sensory Appetite/
Memory/Imagination
(Subordinate-Partner)

Soul/Intellect/
Will/Reason/
Infused Knowledge/
Heart/Conscience
(Dominant Partner)

The Heart resides in the Soul of a Person
Anger and the other Passions reside in the Body.
Strength is manifested in our control of the Will of the Soul.
Love and Charity are Acts of the Will.

 

Grace is neither an insignificant Exterior Alteration, nor part-of our Nature. Rather, Grace is God's Own Life that is grafted-onto our Human Life. The Soul is the Foundation of Human Life. The Soul is the Spiritual or Invisible part of us. The Human Soul is the Source, i.e., the Principle of Human Life. The Soul gives Life to the Human Body. Without our Souls, we would not exist. Our Intellect and our Will are Capacities of our Souls. They are Powers that we possess because we have Human Life, i.e., because we have Human Souls. These Powers give us the Capacities to Think and to Choose. Thus there are Three (3) Levels:

Tier 0 - The 'Level of Being', i.e., Soul

Tier 1 - The 'Level of Powers or Capacities', i.e., Intellect and Will, as well as other Powers of the Soul.

Tier 2 - And the 'Level of Acting', e.g., specific Acts of Thinking and Choosing, i.e., Love and Charity.

 

God's Own Life, Grace, has the same Structure in us as our own Human Life. As the Human Soul is the Principle or Source of Human Life in us, so Grace is the Principle or Source of the Divine Life in us. If we share the Divine Life, we have certain Divine Powers or Capacities, as the Soul has Human Powers or Capacities. As the Powers of the Soul enable us to Act as Human Beings, so the Powers of Grace enable us to Act as God Acts.

Structure of Grace in us

***

Human Life

Divine Life

Tier 0 - Principle, Source Soul Grace
Tier 1 - Powers, Capacities Human Powers Divine Powers
Tier 2 - Acts Act like Humans Act like God

 

Grace is at the deepest level of our Existence; it is like the Soul. In a sense, it makes us be God as the Soul makes us Human. However, we are not God as we are Human. Further, we are not God as God is God. If we were God as we are Human, or as God is God, we would cease-to-exist if we lost the Divine Life. If we were to say that we are God as we are Human, or as God is God, we would fall into the Extreme of making Grace part-and-parcel of Human Nature.

Only Mortal Sin can break the Bond of Grace

Grace is grafted-onto the Soul in an almost Unbreakable-Bond. Nothing but our own Wills embracing Sin and rejecting Grace can break the Bond of Grace with the Soul. Even in Sinning, the Will must completely reject God's Grace before the Bond is broken. The Bond of Grace to the Soul is much closer than the Union of the parts of the Body with one another. We can Lose an Arm or a Leg against our Will, e.g., in an Accident, but we cannot Lose Grace except through our own Choices. In a way, the Bonding of Grace to the Soul is much closer than the Union of the Soul and the Body. Without any Choice on our parts, we are all Subject to Death, i.e., our Bodies separate-from our Souls. However, Grace is never separated from our Souls except through our own Choices. Still, Grace is not Human Life. Rather, it exists in us through a Union with our Souls, the Foundation of Human Life. Thus, the Existence of a Human Soul is necessary for the Existence of Grace in us.

 

Divine Virtues = Infused Virtues = Supernatural Virtues

Supernatural Order
(Grace is grafted-onto the Soul and
resides in the Essence of the Soul)

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

Natural
Order

Supernatural
Order

Natural Body/
Lower Powers
(Subordinate-Partner)

Natural Soul/
Natural Virtues
(Dominant Partner)

Sanctifying Grace/Divine Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit

 

As Human Life has certain Powers, so does God's Life in us. The Powers or Capacities of the Divine Life in us are the Very Powers of God. We have these Powers or Capacities when Grace is United (infused) to our Souls. Traditionally, these Powers are called the Divine Virtues. The Divine Virtues are Many and Varied. As Grace is United (infused) to the Soul, so the Divine Virtues are United (infused) to the Capacities of the Soul. The Divine Virtues give additional Capacities to the Powers of the Soul. The key Divine Virtues are the Three (3) Theological Virtues - Faith, Hope, and Charity - and the Four (4) Cardinal (Moral) Virtues - Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance.

 

Faith

The Powers of Faith, Hope, and Charity are Theological because they confer on us Capacities that are necessary if we are to have a Relationship with God. Faith is the Power by which we come to Know and Believe the Truths revealed by God that lie-beyond the Powers of Human Reason, e.g., the existence of the Trinity. Since, Faith gives us the Power to Know and to Believe these revealed Truths, it gives an additional Power to the Intellect. Without Faith, we could not Know and Believe the Truths about God that cannot be Known by Human Reason alone. Reason is Natural, Faith is Supernatural.

It is critically important to realize that Faith is the means of Knowing and Believing these revealed Truths. Faith is not the Cause of the existence of the Truths. For example, Faith does not Cause the Trinity to exist. Rather, Faith is the Power of God that gives us the Capacity to Know and Believe that the Trinity exists. There are those who would claim that it is by the Faith of the Believer that the Eucharistic Bread and Wine are the Body and Blood of Christ. However, the Faith of the Believer is not the Cause of the change of Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Rather, Faith is the means by which the Believer Knows and Believes that the Eucharistic Bread and Wine are the Body and Blood of Christ.

 

Hope

Hope is the desire for an attainable goal. We do not hope for the impossible, but the possible. For example, most of us do not hope to journey to the moon, but we might hope to see Europe some day. The Divine Power of Hope gives our Wills the Power to desire God, i.e., Heaven, as an attainable goal. Lacking the Power of Hope, we would never hope for Heaven because it would be viewed as an unattainable goal.

 

Charity

Charity is Love. It gives our Wills the Capacity to Choose God above all things. Through Charity, we are Empowered to follow Christ's example in Loving God with all our Hearts, with all our Souls, with all our Minds, and with all our Strength. Without the Divine Power of Charity, we would not Love God as He Loves us because we would not share the Divine Ability to Love. Further, the Divine Virtue of Charity enables us to Love those God Loves, i.e., Images of God. In other words, through Charity we are Empowered to Love ourselves, other Human Beings, and the Angels. Thus, without the Divine Power of Charity, we would not truly be able to Love ourselves and others as Images of God should.

 

Human Virtues = Acquired Virtues = Natural Virtues = Moral (Cardinal) Virtues

Definition

CCC-1804 Human Virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of Intellect and Will that govern our Actions, order our Passions, and guide our Conduct according to Reason and Faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good. The Moral Virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the Human Being for Communion with Divine Love.

CCC1805 Four Virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called "Cardinal"; all the others are grouped around them. They are: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. "If anyone loves Righteousness, [Wisdom's] labors are Virtues; for she teaches Temperance and Prudence, Justice, and Courage" - Wisdom 8:9. These Virtues are praised under other names in many Passages of Scripture.

Before Original Sin, Adam and Eve were Blessed with the Grace of God. Thus, they enjoyed the Divine Powers of Faith, Hope, and Charity. They also possessed the Divine Powers of Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude that gave them the Capacity to Relate even the slightest Human Affair towards God. For example, the Divine Power of Prudence gave Adam and Eve the Capacity to Judge worldly things as relatively unimportant when compared with God. Since, before Sin, Adam and Eve also possessed the Human Virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance, the Divine Moral Virtues cooperated with Human Moral Virtues. Still, the Divine Moral Virtues did not supply a 'lack' in Human Nature as they do in us. Human Prudence gave Adam and Eve the Power to make sound Judgments. The Human Moral Virtue of Justice gave Adam and Eve the Power to return what was Legitimately owed to another. The Human Moral Virtues of Fortitude and Temperance allowed Adam and Eve to 'Orchestrate' their Bodily Appetites in accord with what they knew in their Minds and Chose in their Wills. Through Sin, Adam and Eve Lost Grace, i.e., they Lost the Divine Theological and Moral Virtues. Further, in Sinning, they Weakened and almost Destroyed the Human Moral Virtues in themselves and in their descendents.

 

Three States of Mankind

Before Original Sin

After Original Sin

After Christ's Redemption

Divine Virtues

Human Virtues

Divine Virtues

Human Virtues

Divine Virtues

Human Virtues

Faith, Hope,
Charity

No
Counterpart

Lost with
fall from Grace

No
Counterpart

*Faith, Hope, Charity

No
Counterpart

Divine Prudence
empowered >>>

Human
Prudence

Lost with
fall from Grace

Damaged
Prudence

*Prudence

Damaged
Prudence

Divine Justice
empowered >>>

Human
Justice

Lost with
fall from Grace

Damaged
Justice

*Justice

Damaged
Justice

Divine Temperance
empowered >>>

Human
Temperance

Lost with
fall from Grace

Damaged
Temperance

*Temperance

Damaged
Temperance

Divine Fortitude
empowered >>>

Human
Fortitude

Lost with
fall from Grace

Damaged
Fortitude

*Fortitude

Damaged
Fortitude

The Theological Powers (Faith, Hope, Charity) were never intended to be joined to any Human Virtues.
* God's Grace and the Seven (7) Divine Virtues are restored to Man via the Sacrament of Baptism.

The Four (4) Human Moral Virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance, Fortitude were permanently weakened by Original Sin, never to be restored until Heaven is reached.

 

All of us are the Heirs of Adam and Eve. We inherit a Humanity almost Lacking the Human Moral Virtues. We almost do not have the Capacity for developing these Virtues. Clearly, almost Lacking these Virtues, it is nearly impossible for us to Act Prudently, Justly, Courageously, and Temperately. However, in Redeeming us, Christ won us God's Grace which not only enables us to return the Divine Love, but which also gives us the Capacity to develop, at least partially, the Damaged Human Moral Virtues.

Divine
Moral
Virtues
Human
Moral
Virtues
empower

These Human Moral Virtues, together with the Divine Moral Virtues, help us to Act, as Images of God should. Divine Prudence partially overcomes the Darkening of our Intellects. Divine Justice substitutes in-part for the Clouding of our Wills. Divine Fortitude and Temperance partially empower the Mind and Will to 'Orchestrate' the Bodily Passions. As in Adam and Eve, the Divine Moral Virtues enable us to Relate Human Affairs to God.

The Operation of the Three (3) Theological Virtues differs radically from that of the Four (4) Divine Moral Virtues. The Theological Powers were never intended to be joined to any Human Virtues. However, the Four (4) Divine Moral Powers were intended to cooperate-with (empower) the Four (4) Developed (Acquired) Human Moral Virtues. After Sin, they assist us in Developing the Human Moral Virtues and in Acting as Images of God. However, even with the aid of the Divine Moral Virtues, the Human Moral Virtues will never exist in us as they did in Adam and Eve. The Divine and Human Moral Virtues will never be the source of our Prudent, Just, Courageous, and Temperate Actions in the same way that they were the Source of the similar Actions of Adam and Eve before Sin. In other words, it is now impossible for the Divine Moral Virtues and the Human Moral Virtues to cooperate in the same way as they did in Adam and Eve. The Divine Moral Virtues are Powers of Grace that cannot completely restore Powers of Human Nature. It is this distinction that leads the Pope to say that God's Grace restores us to the possibility of Acting as Images of God, but not to the State of Original Innocence.

The Wounding of Human Nature through Original Sin is directly attributable to the Devil's Lies that Adam and Eve accepted. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve believed the Devil when Satan told them that God lied. With that Lie accepted, it was very Difficult for them to perceive Truth, even the Truth they could formerly have known through the Natural Powers of their Intellects. In other words, Man's Intellect was Darkened. The Devil tried the same Temptation on Christ when Satan asked Christ to throw Himself off the Parapet and to Trust in God's Angels to save Him. Christ rejected that Lie by insisting that one should never Tempt God. Through the Divine Virtue of Prudence, our Intellects are given a new Capacity. Together with the Theological and the other Divine Moral Virtues, Divine Prudence empowers us to make the same response as Christ made.

In accepting the Devil's Second Lie that they could be like God, our First Parents Wounded their Wills. Wishing to be gods, they Selfishly strove to make themselves into something they were not. They loved themselves "to the point of contempt of God". Thus, their Wills were Weakened so that they could no longer give God and others what was owed to them, i.e., Love. Satan Tempted Christ in exactly the same way when he suggested that the Lord could have all the Kingdoms of the World if only Christ would worship the Devil. Christ responded that all Adoration and Worship belongs to God. In other words, He rendered to God what was God's. He Loved God properly, and He did not love Himself "to the point of contempt of God". Through the Divine Virtue of Justice, our Wills are empowered to return to others what is legitimately owed. Together with the Theological and other Divine Moral Virtues, Divine Justice empowers us to make the same response Christ made.

In believing the Devil's Third Lie that they could define Good and Evil, Adam and Eve Wounded their Bodies. In defining Good and Evil for themselves, they ate the Forbidden Fruit. They Wounded their Bodies because it was with their Bodies that they ate. The Bodies of Adam and Eve were no longer Integrated, i.e., their Bodies no longer always responded to their Minds and Wills. The Devil tried the same Ploy on Christ when he told the Lord to change some Stones into Bread. Christ answered that one should live on every Word that comes from God. In other words, God alone defines Good and Evil. Through the Divine Virtues of Fortitude and Temperance, the Human Person can again be Integrated. Through the Divine Moral Virtues of Temperance and Fortitude, together with the Theological and other Divine Moral Virtues, we are empowered to make the same response Christ made.

Infused Gifts/Virtues
of the Holy Spirit
Baptism
(7 Virtues)
Confirmation
(7 Gifts)
Faith
Hope
Charity
Prudence
Fortitude
Justice
Temperance
Understanding
Knowledge
Wisdom
Counsel
Fortitude
Piety
Fear of the Lord

Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit reside within the Essence of Man's Natural Soul, giving its Facilities/Powers of Intellect and Will the Capacity for Supernatural Acts.

In addition to the Theological (3) and Cardinal Virtues (4), there are other Moral Divine Powers that flow-from Grace, e.g., the Virtue of Religion. These other Moral Virtues, too numerous to mention, are included in the Four (4) Divine Cardinal Virtues. For example, the Virtue of Religion is included in the Cardinal Virtue of Justice because Religion enables us to render-to God what is legitimately owed Him, i.e., Worship.

 

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

In addition to the Theological (3) and Moral Virtues (4), Grace also confers on us the Seven (7) Gifts of the Holy Spirit. These Seven (7) Gifts are Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Piety, Fortitude, and Fear of the Lord. Like the Virtues, the Gifts help us to believe in God, to Love Him and others, and to express in and through our Bodies the Truths we know and the loving Choices we make. Still, the Gifts differ in at least One (1) important respect from the Virtues. When we Act solely on the basis of the Virtues, we usually are thinking about what we are doing. Such Acts take some effort. Through the Gifts, we are enabled to respond to God effortlessly. The Gifts Operate almost as Reflex Actions to God's Initiatives (Actual Grace).

 

The Holy Spirit Infuses the Soul with Graces during Baptism and Confirmation

Warrior_of_God.gif (45705 bytes) The 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit received in Confirmation, perfect the 7 Supernatural Virtues received in Baptism, by enabling us to practice them with greater docility to Divine Inspiration. As we grow in the Knowledge and Love of God under the direction of the Holy Ghost, our service becomes more Sincere and Generous, the practice of Virtue more Perfect. Such Acts of Virtue leave the Heart filled with Joy and Consolation and are known as Fruits of the Holy Spirit. These Fruits in turn render the practice of Virtue more attractive and become a powerful incentive for still greater efforts in the Service of God. The end result is a Well-Armored member of the Church Militant, a Soldier of Christ . . . . . .  by Father Nicholas Cirillo

 

The difference between the Virtues and the Gifts might be illustrated through an example from our own experience. When we learn to drive a car, we develop a Capacity, a Power. When we Actually drive a car, we are Exercising our Capability, our Power of driving. However, on occasions when we must make Split-Second Judgments to avoid an accident, we react almost Intuitively and Automatically. In such a situation, our Skill is not by Bypassed or Ignored, but the use of the Skill is effortless, almost without thought. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit enable us to respond almost effortlessly to God's Love, as though through Instinct.

 

The Holy Spirit leads us in Two Supernatural/Divine Ways

Via the Infused (Divine) Virtues

Via Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Seven (7) Theological and Moral Virtues infused at Baptism. Seven (7) Gifts of the Holy Spirit infused at Confirmation
The Motor Cause of the Infused Virtues is Human Reason. The Motor Cause of the Gifts is the Holy Spirit
We are left to Act completely on our own with Great Difficulty. Enables us to accomplish the Infused Virtues with Greater Ease.
In the Activity of the Infused Virtues, the Natural Powers of the Soul (Intellect and Will) are in control. In each Virtue the Human Mind deliberates and the Will chooses the way one will go. In the Activity of the Gifts, on the other hand, the Soul Acts in a Divine Way, for it no longer moves itself, but is moved by a Divine Instinct. The Soul's Activity is that of Acceptance.
We set these Acts in Motion under the Impulse/Inspiration of Actual Grace. The Intellect and Will are in control. Renders the Faculties of the Soul Docile and Disposed to react more Promptly and Easily to Actual Grace. God is in control.
We are aided only by the Infused Virtue itself. The Holy Spirit leads by means of the Gifts.
We do not have perfect possession of the Virtues because of the Inherent Weakness in our Fallen Nature. The Infused Virtues - Indispensable as they are - will not be enough in every situation. When the Holy Spirit leads by means of the Gifts, our Human Weaknesses are overcome, the task is accomplished with Greater Ease, and the Infused Virtues are exercised more Perfectly.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are compared to the Sails of a Boat that catch the Divine Inspirations, and carry us along as the Holy Spirit leads us where and when He Wills; we consenting to His Action. As Grace grows, these Gifts become more-active, and the Holy Spirit takes a Greater-Role in the direction of our lives.
The Gifts render the Intellect and Will docile-and-receptive to the Inspirations of the Holy Spirit.
The Soul acting under the Gifts is Free, and Merits in each Act.