mercredi, juin 23, 2010

The Nature of Sacramental Grace (III)

By Father Garrigou-Lagrange, o.p.
Is it possible to be more precise in determining the nature of this permanent supernatural reality if it is not a new habit distinct from Sanctifying Grace, the infused virtues or the gifts? So far we have moved in the realms of certainty but now we must descend to probability.

It seems to be the more probable opinion, held by John of Saint Thomas, the theologians of Salamanca, Contenson, Hugon, Merkelbach and many other Thomists, that the sacramental grace is a special modification and strengthening of Sanctifying Grace, which exerts an influence on the acts of the various virtues. We know already that the grace of original justice had a particular vital force of its own in addition to habitual grace which has now been restored to us, and it is this special vigor which is given back to us in some measure by the proper effect of each of the Sacraments. This modal reality added to habitual grace forms the basis of the moral right to the future reception of actual graces corresponding to the Sacrament received. We find something similar – although on a higher plane – in the lives of Our Lady and St. Joseph. Our Lady was given the grace of motherhood, the love and tenderness of a mother, St. Joseph the love and prudence of a foster father, both of them thus receiving a special modification and strengthening of Sanctifying Grace.

Although all the statements in this section have been deduced from the purpose of the Sacraments, this final conclusion cannot be put forward as anything other than the more probable opinion. But our view can be confirmed by considering each of the Sacraments in turn. The grace of Baptism is given not merely to make us capable of living a supernatural life – such as was enjoyed by Adam before his fall and by the Angels – but in order to help us to live as Christians by following the example of Christ in His work of Redemption. And so this grace, by enabling us to live as Christians, disposes us to love the Cross, a disposition not present either in the good Angels or in Adam before the fall.

The grace of Confirmation is intended to make us constant and prudent in witnessing to the truth of the Christian Faith. The grace of Holy Communion is given to unite us more closely to Christ through an increase of charity. The sacramental grace of Penance is meant as a help for avoiding the occasions of sins. The sacramental grace of Marriage strengthens the parties to live as followers of Christ in their married state and to educate their children according to Christian principles. The grace of Holy Orders is conferred that the priest may fulfill his sacred duties – the act of Consecration, sacramental absolution, preaching, spiritual direction – with ever-increasing holiness: and so we speak of priestly love and priestly prudence. It is clear, therefore, that the modality of habitual grace, about which we have spoken above, exercices an influence on the infused virtues, which flow from Sanctifying Grace.

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...)

mercredi, juin 09, 2010

The nature of Sacramental Grace

The Nature of Sacramental Grace (I)
With Special Reference to the Priesthood
By Father Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.
(From The Priest in Union with Christ)

It is difficult to determine accurately the nature of sacramental grace, and the question is rarely given a sufficiently systematic treatment. Yet it does help to bring out in a greater relief the dignity of our priesthood. We will begin by noting what is more well known and certain about this question from Revelation.
At once we discover that more is known with certainty about the purpose of this grace than about its nature. In fact, the same holds true of habitual grace (sanctifying Grace); what is primarily known with certainty about this gift is that it is the seed of glory of eternal life. But we know that this eternal life is a sharing in God’s own intimate life through the Beatific Vision and an unceasing act of love – acts which necessarily presuppose a share in the divine nature. Therefore, habitual grace must be some kind of participation in the divine nature or Godhead, in order to be the seed of glory.

And so it is the purpose of sacramental grace which is first made known to us by Revelation through Sacred Scripture and Tradition. It is conferred on man to help him exercise worthily and in close union with God those actions which he can perform validly by reason of the character he has received. Hence, the sacramental grace of the priesthood is intended for the worthy and increasingly holy fulfillment of our priestly duties – consecration and sacramental absolution. This much is admitted as certain by all theologians.

But what of the nature of this grace? This can be deduced from its purpose, which is the primary cause of any being; an agent only acts with a definite end in view and produces a perfection which corresponds to that end. St. Thomas asks whether the sacramental grace adds anything further to habitual grace, which he calls “the grace of the virtues and gifts,” since the infused virtues and the seven gifts (of the Holy Ghost) have their origin in that grace – that was true even of Adam before his fall, and of the Angels, although they had not received the Sacraments. He replies that it must add something, otherwise there would be no point in conferring the Sacraments on those who already possess the grace of virtues and gifts. (Cf IIIa, Q.62, art 2)

Confirmation and the Eucharist are received by persons already baptized, but such Sacraments are meaningless unless they produce some special effect. To suggest that they merely produce an increase of grace is not sufficient, for the frequent repetition of one and the same Sacrament would have a similar effect. Certainly there would never be any need for more than three Sacraments: Baptism for the reception of the first grace, Penance for those who had lost their baptismal grace, and a third Sacrament for the increase of the grace in a just. So any solution of the problem along those lines could never explain why there are seven Sacraments specifically distinct from each other, which must, therefore confer a special grace if they are not to be pointless. The whole question depends on this notion of “purpose.”

lundi, juin 07, 2010

Sermon for Corpus Christi

Not surprisingly at the end of the Year for the Priests, the Holy Father invited the faithful to meditate on the relation that exists between the Eucharist and the Priest. There is certainly more than a relation of causality between the priest and the Eucharist. Yes, it is true that it is the priest who confects the Eucharist and as such is really the agent that produces this admirable Sacrament. In fact he is not the first and primary agent. The changing of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus is produced first by God as the principal agent, by the humanity of Christ as the instrument conjoined to the divinity, and by the celebrant as a separate instrument, conscious and free, Father Garrigou-Lagrange explains.

And this shows the great dignity of the priest, who, though simply an instrumental cause, has still a power on God Himself who obeys him. In virtue of his priesthood, the priest has a power on the Body of Christ that he can confect here or there whenever he wants, as a conscious and free agent. But again, there is more than a relation of causality. Consider what the Eucharist is and consider how it is confected, or what does the priest say when he confects it.
The Eucharist is the Sacrament that contains the body, the blood, the soul and the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine. It means that a consecrated host is Jesus Himself. In his sermon for the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Holy Father recalled who Jesus is. He is the High Priest. And His Priesthood results from His very own Humanity. He was not a priest according to the Jewish tradition, the Holy Father says. He did not belong to the lineage of Aaron. He is rather a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek! Nobody knows really who he was. The Scriptures give just few information about him: he was King of Salem, priest of the Most High who brought bread and wine and that’s all what we know. And Jesus is priest according to the order of this mysterious man and not in reason of his belonging to the tribe of Aaron. It shows the superiority of the priesthood of Christ and its mysterious origin that has to be found in the hypostatic union.

The degree of excellence belonging to any priesthood depends on the intimacy of union, first between the priest and God, Father Garrigou-Lagrange says. Since there is no higher degree of union with God than the hypostatic union, there is no higher priesthood than the one Of Christ. Secondly the degree of excellence of any priesthood depends also on the intimacy of union between the priest and the victim possessing the greater purity and value and which is more completely destroyed. In our case, Christ is both Priest and Victim; no other victim would have been worthy of His priesthood.

And being consummated, he became, to all that obey him, the cause of eternal salvation.(Hb 5,9). Being consummated can also be translated by ‘made perfect.’ Then the Pope explains: The term "teleiotheis," translated correctly as "made perfect," belongs to a verbal root that, in the Greek version of the Pentateuch, namely the first five books of the Bible, is always used to indicate the consecration of the ancient priests. This discovery is quite precious, because it tells us that the Passion was for Jesus as a priestly consecration. He was not a priest according to the Law, but he became so essentially in his Passion, Death and Resurrection: He offered himself in expiation and the Father, exalting him above every creature, constituted him universal Mediator of salvation.

The offering of the bread and wine, prefigured by Melchizedek and that is now the offering of the body and of the blood of Christ is the perfect Sacrifice. When a priest confects the Eucharist, he also renews the Sacrifice of Jesus, and both are intimely connected. The Eucharist is both a Sacrament and a Sacrifice, and if we can distinguish between them we cannot separate them. The permanence of the physical presence of Christ is a fruit of His Sacrifice.

We return, in our meditation, to the Eucharist, Pope Benedict continues, which in a while will be the center of our liturgical assembly and of the subsequent solemn procession. In it Jesus anticipated his sacrifice, not a ritual sacrifice but a personal one. In the Last Supper he acted moved by that "Eternal Spirit" with which he will offer himself later on the Cross (cf. Hebrews 9:14). Giving thanks and with a blessing, Jesus transformed the bread and wine. It is divine love that transforms: the love with which Jesus accepts in advance to give himself completely for us. This love is none other than the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, which consecrates the bread and wine and changes their substance into the Body and the Blood of the Lord, rendering present in the Sacrament the same sacrifice that is made later in a bloody manner on the cross.

The priests who consecrate every day the bread and the wine make the Sacrifice of Christ present. As such, it is the greatest sign of the love of God for us. Priests renew the only one Sacrifice of Jesus and make possible the permanence of the physical presence of our Redeemer by saying the words that Jesus said: This is my body – this is the chalice of my blood. And this time, they act in persona Christi. Like Christ was made perfect by his Sacrifice, priests are made perfect when they celebrate the holy sacrifice of the Mass. By confecting the Eucharist, they perfect themselves, and in a certain way “they confect themselves” if we can say this, because they act in persona Christi, Priest and Victim. This is why there is more than a relation of causality between the priest and the Eucharist. This is a great mystery! This is why the Church, through the mouth of the Bishop admonishes the priests on the day of their ordination: Imitamini quod tractatis: Imitate that which you celebrate – or what you do!

The feast of Corpus Christi is a call for all the priests to live a holy life, the life of Christ. May Our Blessed Mother pray for them and protect them.