dimanche, juin 20, 2010

The nature of sacramental grace (2)

By Father Garrigou-Lagrange, o.p.
The Council of Florence uses a similar argument, although expressing it in a different form: “By Baptism we are spiritually reborn; by Confirmation we receive an increase of grace and are strengthened in faith; already reborn and strengthened, we are then nourished with the divine food of the Eucharist. If the soul should fall sick through sin, we are spiritually healed through penance, etc.” The Council of Trent declares: “If anyone should say that the Sacraments of the New Law are not essential for salvation but superfluous, let him be anathema.” Therefore the sacramental grace does add something to habitual or Sanctifying Grace.

But what does it add? This can also be deduced from its purpose, but in order to be methodical, we must first decide what it does not add and what is the general teaching of theologians on this point. In this way it will prove possible to discover what is admitted as certain by everyone and what is the more probable opinion where certainty cannot be attained.

It is the common teaching of theologians that sacramental grace is not a new infused habit distinct from Sanctifying Grace. On the one hand, the soul is already sufficiently sanctified in its essence by habitual grace, which makes us sharers in the divine nature, just as Adam before his falls and the Angels were sanctified without receiving the Sacraments; on the other hand, the faculties of our soul are sufficiently empowered to perform supernatural acts by the infused virtues and the seven gifts, which flow from Sanctifying Grace. Therefore, sacramental grace is not a new infused habit.

All theologians are also agreed that the sacramental grace adds to Sanctifying Grace a definite right to receive at the appropriate moment those actual graces which correspond to the end of each of the Sacraments. Without this addition, the sacramental grace would be possessed by anyone in the state of Sanctifying Grace, and thus no special grace would be produced by any of the Sacraments. So the very least we can say of each of the Sacraments is that they give this title to special actual graces.

But this title, being a relative and morale reality, needs a real foundation which cannot be other than the sacramental grace enduring in the soul as an intrinsic reality. We know already that our right to an eternal inheritance is founded on habitual grace – the seed of glory – and our meritorious acts which obtain an intensification of that grace. So in a similar way, the right to the actual graces corresponding to the particular end of each Sacrament is founded on the sacramental grace itself, which cannot be regarded as a mere moral or relative entity, but must be the foundation of that right; it is a permanent, intrinsic and supernatural reality inhering the soul. Of this we are certain from what has been revealed about the purpose of sacramental grace. St. Paul speaks about this permanent reality in Timothy: “Neglect not the grace that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with imposition of the hands of the priesthood.”
(To be continued...)

Aucun commentaire: