01 March 2011

What is grace? Five Explanations

1.  from the Catechism (nos. 1997 & 1999)

Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an "adopted son" he can henceforth call God "Father," in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.

The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification. . .

2. from The Catholic Encyclopedia ("sanctifying grace")

Grace, in general, is a supernatural gift of God to intellectual creatures (men, angels) for their eternal salvation, whether the latter be furthered and attained through salutary acts or a state of holiness. Eternal salvation itself consists in heavenly bliss resulting from the intuitive knowledge of the Triune God, who to the one not endowed with grace "inhabiteth light inaccessible" (1 Timothy 6:16). . .sanctifying grace imparts to the soul a participation in the Divine spirituality, which no rational creature can by its own unaided powers penetrate or comprehend. It is, therefore, the office of grace to impart to the soul, in a supernatural way, that degree of spirituality which is absolutely necessary to give us an idea of God and His spirit, either here below in the shadows of earthly existence, or there above in the unveiled splendour of Heaven. If we were asked to condense all that we have thus far been considering into a definition, we would formulate the following: Sanctifying grace is "a quality strictly supernatural, inherent in the soul as a habitus, by which we are made to participate in the divine nature."

3. from The Catholic Encyclopedia ("Teaching of St Augustine of Hippo")

. . .Augustine distinguishes very explicitly two orders of grace: the grace of natural virtues (the simple gift of Providence, which prepares efficacious motives for the will); and grace for salutary and supernatural acts, given with the first preludes of faith. The latter is the grace of the sons; the former is the grace of all men, a grace which even strangers and infidels can receive (De PatientiĆ¢, xxvii, n. 28).

4.  from St Augustine ("On Rebuke and Grace")

For the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord must be apprehended—as that by which alone men are delivered from evil, and without which they do absolutely no good thing, whether in thought, or will and affection, or in action; not only in order that they may know, by the manifestation of that grace, what should be done, but moreover in order that, by its enabling, they may do with love what they know.

5.   from Pope Benedict XVI (Spe salvi, nos. 44 & 47)

God is justice and creates justice. This is our consolation and our hope. And in his justice there is also grace. This we know by turning our gaze to the crucified and risen Christ. Both these things—justice and grace—must be seen in their correct inner relationship. Grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value. . .the judgement of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace. If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—the crucial question that we ask of history and of God. If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all. The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgement and grace—that justice is firmly established: we all work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our “advocate”, or parakletos (cf. 1 Jn 2:1).

Nos. 1-4 were taken from New Advent.  No. 5 was taken from The Vatican.

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1 comment:

  1. I love the understanding that Grace penetrates us, that we can only receive and return what we have been given.