THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
A TREATISE ON ASCETICAL AND MYSTICAL THEOLOGY
by the Very Reverend Adolphe Tanquerey, S.S., D.D.
PURPOSE AND DIVISION OF THE FIRST PART.
#49. The aim of this first part is to call briefly to mind the principal
dogmas upon which our spiritual life rests, to show the nature and
perfection of this life, and the general means by which perfection is
reached. Here we follow the ontological order, assigning to the second part
the task of describing the psychological order normally followed by souls
in the use they make of the various means of perfection.
C. I. Origin of the supernatural life: the raising of man to the
supernatural state, his fall, and redemption.
C. II. Nature of the Christian life: God's part and the soul's part.
C. III. Perfection of this life: the love of God and of the neighbor
carried to the point of sacrifice.
C. IV. Obligation for laymen, religious and priests to strive after this
C. V. General means, interior and exterior, of attaining perfection.
#50. The reason for such a division is easily perceived.
The first chapter, by taking us back to the source itself of the
supernatural life, helps us to a better grasp of its nature and its
The second chapter reveals the nature of the Christian life in regenerated
man; the part God takes therein by giving Himself to us through His Son;
and by assisting us through the agency of the Blessed Virgin and the
Saints. It likewise explains the role man plays in giving himself to God by
a constant and generous cooperation with grace.
The third chapter shows that perfection in this life essentially consists
in the love of God and of the neighbor for God's sake. It shows further,
however, that this love here on earth cannot be exercised without generous
In the fourth, the obligation of tending to perfection is determined and
the extent to which the faithful, religious, and priests are respectively
A fifth chapter is devoted to specifying the general means that help us to
advance in perfection, means common indeed to all, yet susceptible of
degrees. These degrees will be treated in the second part when speaking of
the three ways.
CHAPTER I. Origin of the spiritual life
#51. This chapter is intended to give us a better knowledge of the
excellence of the supernatural life in as much as it is a free gift; and of
the nobility as well as the weakness of man, upon whom it has been
bestowed. To help us understand it better we shall see:
I. What the natural life of man is.
II. Man's elevation to the supernatural state.
III. His fall.
IV. His restoration by a Divine Redeemer.
ART. 1. THE NATURAL LIFE OF MAN
#52. Here we must describe man's condition as it would have been in the
purely natural state, such as it is described by Philosophers. It is
important to recall to mind, though briefly, what right reason teaches us
on this point, because our spiritual life, while preserving and perfecting
our natural life, is grafted on it.1
n1. Besides Philosophical Treatises, cf. CH. DE SMEDT, "Notre Vie
surnaturelle," 1912, Introduction p. 1-37; J. SCHRYVERS, "Les Principes de
la Vie spirituelle," 1922, P. 31.
#53. (1) Man is a mysterious compound of body and soul. In him spirit and
matter closely unite to form but one nature and one person. Man is, so to
speak, the nexus, the point of contact between spiritual and bodily
substances-- an abstract of all the marvels of creation. He is a little
world gathering in itself all other worlds, a microcosm, showing forth the
wisdom of God who united in this fashion two things so far apart.
This little world is full of life: according to St. Gregory, one finds
there three sorts of life, vegetative, animal and intellectual.1 Like
plants man takes food, grows, and reproduces himself. Like animals, he is
aware of sensible objects, towards which he is drawn by sensitive appetite,
emotions and passions, and like animals he moves spontaneously from within.
Like angels, though in a different manner and in a lesser degree, he knows
intellectually suprasensible being and truth, while his will is freely
drawn towards rational good.
n1. He says ("Homil. 29 in Evangelica"): "Homo habet 'vivere cum plantis,
sentire cum animanibus, intelligere cum' angelis"
#54. (2) These three kinds of life are not superimposed one on the other,
but they blend and arrange themselves in due relation in order to converge
towards the same end-- the perfection of the whole man. It is both a
rational and a biological law that in a composite being life cannot subsist
and develop save on condition of harmonizing and bringing its various
elements under the control of the highest of them. The former must be
mastered before they can be made to minister. In man, then, the lower
faculties, vegetative and sensitive, must needs be subject to reason and
will. This condition is essential. Whenever it fails, life languishes or
vanishes. Whenever this subordination ceases altogether, disintegration of
the elements sets in; this means decay of the system and, finally, death.1
n1. A. EYMIEU, "Le Gouvernement de soi-meme," t. III, "La Loi de la Vie,"
book III, p. 128.
#55. (3) Life is, therefore, a struggle. Our lower faculties tend lustily
toward pleasure, whilst the higher ones are drawn towards moral good. Often
conflict goes on between these; what pleases us, is not always morally
good, and, to establish order, reason must fight hostile tendencies and
actually conquer. This is the fight of the spirit against the flesh, of the
will against passion. This struggle is at times hard and painful. Just as
in the springtime of the year the sap rises up within plants, so at times
violent impulses towards pleasure rise in the sensitive part of our soul.
#56. These impulses, nevertheless, are not irresistible. The will helped by
the intellect exercises over these movements of passion a fourfold control.
1) The power of foresight which consists in foreseeing and forestalling a
great many dangerous fancies, impressions and emotions, by a constant and
intelligent vigilance. 2) The power of inhibition and moderation, by means
of which we either check or at least allay the violent passions which arise
in the soul. Thus we are able to prevent our eyes from lighting upon
dangerous objects, our imagination from dwelling upon unwholesome pictures;
should a fit of anger stir, we are able to stem it. 3) The power of
stimulation, which through the will stirs and gives impetus to the
movements of the passions. 4) The power of direction, which allows us to
direct those movements towards good and thereby to divert them from evil.
#57. Besides this inward strife, there may be other conflicts between the
soul and its Maker. Although it is evident that our plain duty is that of
entire submission to Our Sovereign Master, yet for this subjection we .must
pay the price. A lust for freedom and independence ever inclines us to
swerve from Divine Authority. The cause lurks in our pride, which cannot be
trampled upon, except by the humble admission of our unworthiness and our
littleness in the face of those absolute rights the Creator has upon a
creature. Thus it is that even in this purely natural state we would still
have a fight to wage against the threefold concupiscence.
#58. (4) If far from yielding to these evil inclinations we would have done
our duty, we could have justly expect a reward. For our immortal soul, this
reward would have consisted, first, in a deeper and a greater knowledge of
God and of truth -- a knowledge, of course, analytical and discursive;
then, in a love, also purer and more enduring. If, on the contrary we would
have voluntarily violated the law in grave matter and remained unrepentant,
we should have failed of our end, meriting as punishment the privation of
God and such torments as would fit the gravity of our faults.
This would have been our condition had we been constituted in a merely
natural state. This state has not, as a matter of fact, ever existed, for
according to St. Thomas, man was raised to the supernatural state at the
very moment of creation, or immediately after, as St. Bonaventure says.
God in His infinite goodness, was not satisfied with conferring upon man
natural gifts. He willed to elevate him to a higher state by granting him
still others of a preternatural and supernatural character.
ART. II. THE ELEVATION OF MAN TO THE SUPERNATURAL STATE
I. Notion of the Supernatural
#59. Let us call to mind that Theology distinguishes between what is
absolutely and what is relatively supernatural.
(1) An absolutely supernatural gift is one which in its very essence (quoad
substantiam) transcends nature altogether, so that it cannot be due to nor
be merited by any creature whatsoever. It surpasses therefore not only all
the active powers of nature, but even all its rights, all its exigencies.
Because it is given to a creature it is something finite; but since only
what is divine can surpass the exigencies of all creation, it is also
something divine. It is the communication of a divine thing, yet, it is
shared in a finite way. We therefore keep clear of pantheism. Actually,
there are only two instances of the absolute-supernatural: the Incarnation
and Sanctifying Grace.
A) In the first instance, God, in the person of the Word, united Himself to
man in such wise that the human nature of Jesus belonged absolutely to the
Second Person of the most Blessed Trinity. Thus Jesus is, on account of His
human nature, true man, whilst as regards His person He is very God. This
is a substantial union. It does not .blend the two natures in one, but
whilst preserving their integrity, unites them in one and the same person--
that of the Eternal Word. It constitutes, then, a personal or hypostatic
union. This is the absolute supernatural at its highest.
B) The other absolute supernatural--a lesser degree--is exemplified in
Grace does not change the person of man. It does not make him God. It does
indeed modify his nature land powers, but only accidentally. He becomes
similar to God --God-like, "divinae consors naturae"--capable of possessing
God directly through the Beatific Vision, and of contemplating Him face to
face even as He beholds Himself when grace will finally be transformed into
glory. Evidently this privilege of knowing and loving God as the Father,
Son and Holy Ghost know and love one another surpasses all the exigencies
of even the most perfect creature, since it actually makes us share in
God's intellectual life and in His nature.
#60. (2) What is called the relative supernatural, is in itself something
that would not be beyond the capacity or the exigencies of all creatures,
but simply beyond the powers and actual needs of a certain particular
nature, for example, infused knowledge, which is beyond the capacity of man
but not of angels. If then it is granted to man, it is supernatural
relatively, that is with regard to man, but not in itself, in its very
substance, since it is natural to angels; hence it is called also
God gave man the supernatural in these two forms. In fact, He bestowed upon
our first parents the gift of preternatural integrity, which, whilst
completing their nature, fitted it for grace itself. The sum total of these
two endowments constitutes what is called justice.
II. Preternatural gifts conferred on Adam
#61. The gift of integrity perfect nature without raising it to the level
of the divine. This is, indeed, a gratuitous gift, preternatural, above the
wants and capacity of man, yet not absolutely supernatural. This gift
comprises three great privileges, which without altering human nature in
its essence, gave man a perfection to which he had no title. These are
infused knowledge, control of the passions or the absence of concupiscence,
and immortality of the body.
#62. A) Infused science. Our nature does not require it, since it is the
privilege of angels. Man left to his own resources can acquire knowledge
only gradually and painfully and in subjection to certain psychological
laws. In order to fit Adam for his role of first educator of the human race
God granted him infused knowledge of all the truths he needed to know, and
a facility for the acquisition of experimental knowledge. In this sense man
approached the likeness of angels.
#63. B) The control of the passions, that is, exemption from the sway of
concupiscence which renders so difficult the practice of virtue. We have
already remarked that, owing to his very constitution, there takes place in
man a terrible struggle between the sincere desire for what is good, on one
side, and a reckless lust for pleasure and sensible goods on the other, to
say nothing of a marked proneness to pride. This is really what we call the
threefold concupiscence. To counteract this natural drawback God endowed
our first parents with a certain control of the passions which, without
rendering them impeccable, made easy for them the practice of virtue. That
tyranny of concupiscence that so vigorously pushes on to evil did not exist
in Adam; there was simply a certain tendency toward pleasure but in due
subordination to reason. Because his will was subject to God, his lower
faculties were in turn subservient to reason and his body to his soul. This
was order--perfect rectitude
#64. C) The immortality of the body. By nature man is subject to sickness
and to death. In order that his soul could attend unencumbered to higher
duties, a special disposition of Providence preserved him from this double
infirmity. These three privileges were designed to fit man better for the
reception and the use of a gift still more precious, a gift absolutely
III. The supernatural privileges conferred on Adam
#65. A) By nature man is the servant of God, His property.--In His infinite
goodness God willed to incorporate us into His family. He made man His
heir-apparent when He reserved for him a place in His kingdom. For this
bounty man will never be able to thank God adequately.
In order that this adoption might not remain a mere formality, He gave him
a share in His divine life. This communication of God's life to man is,
indeed, a created quality but none the less real. It enables man here on
earth to enjoy the light of faith (a light greater by far than that of
reason), and in heaven, to possess God by the Beatific Vision and with a
love corresponding to the clearness of that vision.
#66. . B) This was habitual grace. It perfected and deified, so to speak,
the very substance of Adam's soul. To it were added the infused virtues and
the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which in turn deified his faculties. Lastly,
actual grace came to set in motion all this supernatural organism enabling
man to elicit supernatural acts,--Godlike acts, meriting eternal life.
This grace is in substance the same as is granted to us by justification.
We shall not explain it in detail now, but later when in the second chapter
we speak of regenerated man.
All these prerogatives, with the exception of infused knowledge, were given
to Adam, not as a personal gift, but as a family possession--a patrimony to
be handed down to his heirs should he abide faithful to God.
ART. III. THE FALL AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
I. The fall
In spite of these privileges man remained free, and in order to merit
heaven he was put to a test. This test consisted in the fulfillment of the
divine law. It consisted in particular in the carrying out of a positive
command added to the natural law. Genesis expresses it in the form of a
prohibition which forbade eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good
and evil. Holy Writ narrates how the devil in the guise of a serpent came
to tempt our first parents by raising a doubt in their minds as to the
legitimacy of this ban. He tried to persuade them that if they ate the
forbidden fruit, far from dying, they would become like gods, since they
would know for themselves what was good and what evil, without need of
recourse to the law of God: "You shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil."1
This was a temptation to pride, to revolt against God. Man fell and
committed a formal act of disobedience, as St. Paul remarks,2 but an act
inspired by pride and soon followed by further delinquencies. It was a
refusal to submit to God's authority, therefore, a grievous fault. The
prohibition being an instrument to test the fidelity of the first man, this
refusal amounted to a negation of God's wisdom and of His sovereign
dominion. The violation was all the more grave since our first parents had
full knowledge of God's liberality towards them, of His inalienable rights,
of the importance of a precept carrying such a sanction, and since they
were in no wise swept away by passion, having had ample time to weigh the
frightful consequences of their act.
n1. "Gen," III, 5.
n2. "Rom," V.
#68. The question even suggests itself: how could they sin at all, since
they were not under the sway of concupiscence. This we understand if we
recall that no creature having a will of its own is impeccable. Free-will
gives it the power of turning away from real good towards what is but
apparent good. It implies the power of holding to the latter, preferring it
to the former. This very choice is what constitutes sin. As St. Thomas
says, impeccability can only be found where free will identifies itself
with the moral law. This is God's privilege.
II. The consequences of the fall
#69. Punishment followed quickly for our first parents and for their
A) The personal sanction visited upon them is described in Genesis. Here
again God's goodness is to the fore. He could have on the spot punished
them with death. His mercy halted Him. He merely left them shorn of those
special privileges with which He had vested them, that is, stripped of the
gifts of integrity and of habitual grace. He did not touch their nature or
the prerogatives flowing therefrom. Doubtless, man's will is weakened
compared with the strength it possessed when integrity was his. However,
there is no conclusive evidence that it is actually feebler than it would
have been in a purely natural state, at any rate it remains free in
choosing good or evil. God even condescended to leave our first parents in
possession of faith and hope and gave their forlorn souls the hopeful
assurance of a redeemer,--their own offspring, who would one day vanquish
the devil and reinstate fallen humanity. By His actual grace, at the same
time, He invited them to repentance, and as soon as they repented, He
granted them pardon of their sin.
#70. B) But what will be the condition of their descendants? The answer is
that mankind will be likewise deprived of original justice, that is to say,
of sanctifying grace and the gift of integrity. Those endowments, free
gifts in every sense, a patrimony, so to speak, were to be handed to his
heirs should Adam prove faithful. This condition unfulfilled, man comes
into the world deprived of original justice. When through penance our first
parents regained grace, it was no longer as a heritage for their posterity,
but solely as a personal possession, a grant to a private individual. To
the new Adam, Christ Jesus, who would in time become the head of mankind,
was reserved the expiation of our faults and the institution of a sacrament
of regeneration to transmit to each of the baptized the grace forfeited in
#71. Thus it is that the children of Adam are horn into this world without
original justice, that is, without sanctifying grace and the gift of
integrity. The lack of this grace is called original sin, sin only in the
broad sense of the term, for it implies no guilty act on our part, but
simply a fallen condition. It constitutes, considering the supernatural
destiny to which we are called, a privation of a quality that should be
ours,--a blemish, a moral taint that places us out of the pale of God's
#72. Moreover, on account of the forfeited gift of integrity, concupiscence
rages in us and unless courageously withstood, it drags us into actual sin.
With regard, then, to our primeval state we are as it were withered and
wounded, subject to ignorance, prone to evil, weak against temptation.
Experience indeed shows that the force of concupiscence is not equally
strong in all men. Each differs in temperament and character and therefore
passions also vary in ardor and violence. Once the controlling check of
original justice was lifted, explains St. Thomas, the passions regained
full sway and prove more unruly in some, more subdued in others.
#73. Must we go further and admit, with the Augustinian school, a positive,
intrinsic, impairment of our natural energies and faculties? It is quite
unnecessary. There is nothing to prove it. Should we admit, though, with
some of the Thomists an extrinsic impairment of our powers? It consists,
they say, in the fact that we have more obstacles to surmount, specially,
the tyranny the devil wields over the vanquished, and the withdrawal of
certain natural helps God would have granted us in a purely natural state.
This is possible, nay, rather probable. But, in justice, we must add, that
such hindrances find compensation in actual grace given us by God in virtue
of the merits of His Son, and also in the protection accorded to us by His
angels, particularly, our guardian angels.
#74. Conclusion. This much we can safely say: owing to the Fall, man has
lost the right balance he had as he came from the hands of God; in
comparison with his primeval state, he is now injured, unbalanced, as the
actual plight of his faculties plainly shows.
A) This unbalanced condition becomes evident first of all with regard to
our sensitive faculties. a) Our exterior senses, our eyes, for instance,
eagerly light on what our curiosity craves, our ears are ever ready to
catch every novelty, our flesh is alive to every sensation of pleasure,
heedless the while of the moral law. b) The same is true of our interior
senses. With each flight of fancy our imagination represents to us all
sorts of images more or less sensual. Our passions run headlong, oft times
madly so, toward sensible or sensuous good, and utterly ignoring all moral
good, endeavor to wrest compliance from the will. True indeed, such
tendencies are not irresistible, for our lower faculties remain, in a
measure, under the control of the will yet, their submission, once they
revolt, demands much strategy and effort.
#75. B) The intellectual faculties, intellect and will, also have been
injured by original sin.
There is no doubt that our intellect remains capable of knowing truth, and
that with patient labor, even without the aid of revelation, it can obtain
knowledge of certain fundamental truths in the natural order. The failures,
however, in this regard, are most humiliating. The preoccupations of the
present blind the mind to the realities of eternity. a) Instead of seeking
God and the things that are God's, instead of rising spontaneously from the
creature to the Creator, as it would have done in the primeval state, man's
intellect gravitates earthward. The study of creatures frequently absorbs
it and prevents its ascent to their Maker. 1) Its power of attention, drawn
by curiosity, centers round its own whims to the neglect of the realities
that lead man to his end. 2) It falls most readily into error. Innumerable
prejudices to which we are victims and the passions that agitate our spirit
drop a thick veil between our souls and the truth. Alas! only too often we
lose our bearings upon the most vital questions, on which the course and
direction of our moral life depend.
b) Our will, instead of paying homage to God, has, on the contrary, the
most daring and pretentious aspirations to independence. It finds it bitter
and painful to submit to God or to yield to His representatives on earth.
When the issue is to conquer those difficulties that oppose themselves to
the realization of good, its efforts are weak and inconstant. How
frequently does it not allow sentiment and passion to carry it away ! Saint
Paul describes such weakness in striking terms: "For the good which I will,
I do not: but the evil which I will not, that I do. For I am delighted with
the law of God, according to the inward man: but I see another law in my
members, fighting against the law of my mind and captivating me in the law
of sin that is in my members. Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me
from the body of this death? The grace of God, by Jesus Christ Our Lord."1
On the testimony of the Apostle the remedy for this wretched condition is
the grace of redemption.
n1. "Rom.," VII 19-25.
ART. IV. REDEMPTION AND ITS EFFECTS
#76. Redemption is a wondrous work--God's masterpiece. By it, man
disfigured by sin is remade. He is, in a sense, placed above his primordial
state before the fall, so much so, that the Church in her liturgy does not
hesitate to bless the fault that secured for us such a Redeemer as the God-
man: " O happy fault, that merited such and so great a Redeemer!"
I. The nature of Redemption
#77. God who from all eternity had foreseen man's fall, willed likewise
from all eternity to provide a Redeemer for men, in the person of His Son.
He determined to become man so that becoming the head of mankind He could
in full measure expiate our sin and give us back, together with grace, all
our rights to heaven. Thus He drew good out of evil and harmonized the
rights of justice with those of His goodness.
He was not indeed bound to demand full justice. He could have pardoned man
and contented Himself with the meager and imperfect reparation that the
latter could have proffered. But He regarded it more worthy of His glory
and more salutary for man to enable him to offer full reparation for his
#78. A) Full justice required an adequate reparation, in proportion to the
offense, and offered by a lawful representative of mankind. God brought
this about by the Incarnation and the Redemption.
a) The Son of God takes flesh and thus becomes the chief of humanity, the
head of a mystical body whose members we are. By this very fact, the Son
can of right act and make atonement in our name.
b) This atonement is a satisfaction not only equal to the offense, but
above it by far. If the moral value of any action proceeds first and
foremost from the worth, the dignity of the person performing it, this
reparation made by the God-Man has a moral worth that is infinite. A single
act of the Son of God would have sufficed to make adequate reparation for
all the sins of the human race. Now, as a matter of fact, Jesus, moved by
the purest love, did make such acts of reparation without number. He filled
the measure and crowned it with the greatest, the most sublime and heroic
of actions,--the total immolation of self on Calvary. He has, indeed, made
abundant and superabundant satisfactions: "Where sin abounded, grace did
c) The atonement is the same in kind as the offense. Adam's sin was
disobedience and pride. Jesus makes reparation by humble obedience,
inspired by love,--an obedience unto death, even the death of the cross. "
becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross."2 Again, just
as a woman was instrumental in Adam's fall, so a woman intervenes in man's
redemption with her power of intercession and her merits. Although in a
secondary role Mary, the Immaculate Virgin Mother of the Savior, cooperates
with Him in the work of reparation."3
Thus God's justice is fully satisfied, and His goodness even more.
n. "Rom.," V, 5.
n2. "Philip," II, I
n3. Here is a question of the merit called "de congruo," which we shall
explain later on.
#79. B) Holy Scripture, in fact, attributes the work of our redemption to
the infinite mercy of God and His exceeding great love for us. In the words
of St. Paul: " God, who is rich in mercy for his exceeding charity
wherewith He loved us, hath quickened us together in Christ."1 The three
divine persons vie one with the other in this work, each moved by a love
which, in truth, would seem to be excessive.
a) The Father has an only-begotten Son, equal to Him, whom He loves like
another self, and by whom He is loved with the same infinite love. It is
this very Son whom He gives and sacrifices for us that we may rise again to
life from the death of sin: "For God so loved the world, as to give His
Only-Begotten Son: that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may
have life everlasting."2 Could His generous love give more? In giving us
His Son, has He not given us all other things? "He that spared not even His
own Son, but delivered Him for us all, how hath He not also, with Him given
us all things."3
n1. "Ephes.," II, 4.
n2. "John," III, 16.
n3. "Rom.," VIII, 32.
#80. b) The Son joyously and generously accepted the mission entrusted to
Him. From the first instant of His Incarnation, He offered Himself to the
Father as the victim that replaced all the sacrifices of the Old Law. His
entire life was a long sacrifice completed by His immolation on Calvary--a
sacrifice born of the love He bore us: "Christ also hath loved us and hath
delivered Himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odor of
n.1 "Ephes.," V,2.
#81. c) In order to finish His work He sent us the Holy Ghost. This Divine
Spirit, who is none other than the substantial love of the Father and the
Son, was not satisfied with instilling grace into our souls together with
the infused virtues, especially divine charity, but gave Himself to us in
order that we might not only enjoy His presence and possess His gifts, but
even His very person: " The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts,
by the Holy Ghost who is given to us."1
Redemption is therefore, the masterpiece of divine love: this fact enables
us to forecast its effects.
n1. "Rom.," V, 5.
II. The Effects of Redemption
#82. Jesus did not stop short once He had offered reparation to God for our
offense and reconciled us to Him. He merited for us all the graces lost to
us by sin, and many more.
First of all, He gave us back all the supernatural goods we had lost by
a) Habitual grace with all the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy
Ghost; then, to adapt Himself better to our human nature He instituted the
Sacraments, sensible signs that confer grace upon us in every important
circumstance of our life and thus furnish us with greater security and
greater confidence. b) He secured for us actual graces in a full measure,
and according to the word of St. Paul, we are justified in judging them
even more abundant than those we should have received in the state of
innocence: "Where sin abounded, grace did more abound."1
n1. "Rom.," V, 20.
#83. C) It is true that the gift of integrity was not given back to us
immediately, but it is given us gradually. The grace of regeneration leaves
us still exposed to the attacks of the threefold concupiscence and subject
to the burden of life's sufferings, but it gives us the needed strength to
surmount them, rendering us more humble, more vigilant, more active in
warding off and conquering temptation. Thus it grounds us in virtue and
gives us the opportunity of increasing our merit. The example of Jesus, who
so courageously carried His cross and ours, gives us new energy and
sustains our efforts in the fight. The actual graces, which He has merited
for us, and which He bestows with a lavishness truly divine make effort and
victory easier. In proportion as we struggle under the leadership and
protection of the Master, concupiscence weakens, our power of resistance
grows, and a time comes when privileged souls are so grounded in virtue,
that ever free as they remain to do evil, they never commit any fully
deliberate venial sin. The final victory will come only with our entrance
into heaven, but it will be all the more glorious having been bought at a
greater price. Can we not also repeat: O happy fault!
#84. d) To such interior helps our Lord has joined external ones,
particularly that of the Visible Church, founded and designed by Him to
enlighten our minds by her teaching, to stay our wills by the warrant of
her laws and judgments, to sanctify our souls by sacraments, sacramentals
and indulgences. In her we have an immense treasure-house of help for which
we must thank God: O felix culpa! O happy fault!
#85. e) Lastly, it is not certain that the Word of God would have taken
flesh had the fall of our first parents not occurred. Now the Incarnation
is such a priceless boon that it alone would suffice to explain and justify
the cry of the Church: O happy fault!
Instead of having for the head of the race a man richly endowed, indeed,
but liable to error and to sin, we have one who is none other than the
Eternal Son of God. The head of mankind is the Word, clothed in our nature,
true man as well as true God. He is the ideal mediator, a mediator for
worship as well as for redemption, who adores His Father not merely in His
own name but in the name of the entire human race, nay more, in the name of
the angels, for it is through Him that the heavenly hosts praise and
glorify their Creator: "through Whom the angels praise."1 He is the perfect
priest who, while having free access to God on account of His divine
nature, stoops down to His fellowmen, His brethren, to deal them kindness
and indulgence the while He knows their weakness: " Who can have compassion
on them that are ignorant and that err: because He Himself also is
encompassed with infirmity."2
With Him and through Him we can render to God the infinite homage to which
He is entitled. With Him and through Him we can obtain all the graces we
need both for ourselves and for others. When we adore, it is He that adores
in us and through us; when we ask for help, it is He that supports our
requests; and for this reason, whatsoever we shall ask of the Father in His
name shall be graciously given us.
We must, therefore, rejoice in the possession of such a Redeemer, such a
Mediator, and have a trust in Him that knows no limits.
n1. Preface of the Mass.
n2. "Hebr.," V, 2.
#86. This brief historical survey brings out most strikingly the supreme
worth of the supernatural life and the grandeur and weakness of man on whom
it is bestowed.
(1) This life is, indeed, excellent since:
a) It is born of a loving thought of God, who has loved us from all
eternity and has willed to unite us to Himself in the sweetest and closest
intimacy: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, and therefore I have
drawn thee to myself."1
b) It is a real participation, even if finite, in the nature and in the
life of God, enabling us to know and to love God even as the Father, Son
and Holy Ghost know and love one another: "partakers of the divine nature."
(See #. 106)
c) It has such worth in God's eyes that, to give it to us, the Father
sacrifices His Only-Begotten Son, the Son makes a complete immolation of
self, and the Holy Ghost comes to impart this life to our souls.
Indeed, it is the pearl of great price: " By whom he hath given us most
great and precious promises,"2 which we must hold dearer than all else and
keep and cherish with jealous care: its worth is that of God Himself !
n1. "Jer.," XXXI, 3.
n2. "II Petr.," I,4.
#87. (2) Still, we carry this treasure in earthen vessels. If our first
parents, endowed with the gift of integrity and enriched with all sorts of
privileges, had the misfortune of forfeiting it both for themselves and
their posterity, should we entertain no fear? We, who in spite of our
spiritual regeneration, carry within us the threefold concupiscence?
No doubt, there are within us generous and noble impulses born of what is
good in our nature. There are, besides, the supernatural forces which come
to us through Christ's merits and through our incorporation into Him.
However, we remain weak and inconstant, unless we lean upon Him who is our
strength as well as our head. The secret of our power does not rest with
us, but with God and Christ Jesus our Lord. The history of our First
Parents and their lamentable fall shows us that the great evil in the
world, the only evil, is sin. It shows us that we must be ever on our guard
to repel at once and with all our might every attack that the enemy may
make against us, be it from without or from within. We are nevertheless
well protected and fully armed against his onslaughts, as our second
chapter, dealing with the nature of the Christian life, will prove.