Explain the nature and necessity of sanctifying grace.

As St. Thomas states, “For the knowledge of any truth whatsoever man needs Divine help, that the intellect may be moved by God to its act.  But he does not need a new light added to his natural light, in order to know the truth in all things, but only in some that surpass his natural knowledge.”[1] Any truth is a participation in God’s light, however it doesn’t require a special movement of God since natural truths are accessible by reason alone.  For those things beyond natural reason (e.g. the Trinity), man must be illumined by grace.

Now grace is needed, as has been said, to attain eternal life.  Should man not have sinned, this would still be the case for while man in the state of Original Justice could “do goods [virtue] which are proportional to his nature without sanctifying grace”[2] he would still need sanctifying grace to be raised to the supernatural end of heaven.  Further, he would need “the divine aid of actual grace”[3] to will and carry out “all goods of both sorts [natural and supernatural].”[4] It was because Adam did not rely on God’s actual grace that he fell into sin.

Fallen man, “needs sanctifying grace to do both sorts of good: those proportioned to heaven and those of which he is naturally capable.”[5] However, man can do some good even without sanctifying grace as St. Thomas explains, “Because human nature is not altogether corrupted by sin, so as to be shorn of every natural good, even in the state of corrupted nature it can, by virtue of its natural endowments, work some particular goods.”[6]  These goods do not, as modern society promotes, perfect man into some humanistic secularist since man falls short not only of supernatural goods, but even many natural goods.  Nor can man persist perfectly on his own after baptism as Pelagius taught, nor is man completely devoid of good as taught by Protestants (especially Luther).

Before we examine the division of grace and its general causes, it is paramount to note that man cannot merit or attain grace of his own.  Man is given actual grace by God to “aid man in his preparation to receive sanctifying grace.”[7] Man must freely respond to this gift for God does not act against man’s nature and it is man’s nature to freely choose to love God.  However, even though man can choose to respond to the gift of grace, he does nothing but receive that which God gives.  God is the one who turns the man.  As St. Thomas states, “we must presuppose a gratuitous gift of God, Who moves the soul inwardly or inspires the good wish…that they are turned to God can only spring from God’s having turned them.”[8]

This is true not only for conversion, but even when one falls from grace through mortal sin. “Only God can give grace back to the soul…sin deserves eternal punishment and so no act of man can resolve for this punishment…when the act of sin ceases, the debt (reatus) remains.  Only God can resolve this.”[9] Man especially receives this grace in the sacrament of Penance.

This leads us to the division of the kinds of grace.  Grace is well defined by the Catechism as “a participation in the life of God”[10] and is an interior change in the soul — “God creates a new quality in the soul.”[11] This quality does not make man a different substance, but “he receives an accidental form [not substantial], a quality by which he is elevated to partake of divine nature.”[12]

Actual grace, of which we have already spoken, is the “interior aid of God…it is not a quality in the soul, but merely divine aid; it does not in itself sanctify, but aids one to convert or live conversion.”[13] Sanctifying grace is a habitual grace, “a divine habit of being infused by God”[14] and is as described above as a quality in the soul.

There is also a distinction between charismatic grace and sanctifying grace.  While sanctifying grace is for the sanctification of he who receives it, charismatic grace is for the sanctification of others.  An ordinary charismatic grace is the power of the priest to consecrate at Mass — even if he should fall into mortal sin and lose sanctifying grace for himself, this does not remove the charismatic grace of consecration which is the for the sanctification of others (that they may eat the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and so have eternal life.)

As far as the causes of grace, St. Thomas explains that the cause of grace is God alone for “the gift of grace surpasses every capability of created nature since it is nothing short of a partaking of the Divine Nature which exceeds every other nature.”[15]  The cause of grace can be clearly summarized thusly:

Final Cause: The Vision of God and love for this vision on earth.

Efficient Cause: God Himself acting in a prepared soul.

Formal Cause: An accidental quality by which the soul can know as God knows and                   love as God loves.

Material Cause: The Essence of the Soul.”[16]

Finally, it is important to briefly explain the grace that flows from the sacraments.  This grace is not of their own, but are as instruments of Christ’s Body; the grace of the sacraments flows from Him.

[1] St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa I-II Q109 A1.

[2] Fr. Mullady. Lesson 8: The Necessity of Grace. Holy Apostles College and Seminary. 2017.

[3] Fr. Mullady. Lesson 8. HACS. 2017.

[4] Fr. Mullady. Lesson 8. HACS. 2017.

[5] Fr. Mullady. Lesson 8. HACS. 2017.

[6] St. Thomas. Summa I-II Q109 A2.

[7] Fr. Mullady. Lesson 8. HACS. 2017.

[8] St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa I-II, Q109, A6.

[9] Fr. Mullady. Lesson 8. HACS. 2017.

[10] Catechism of the Catholic Church. num 1997.

[11] Fr. Mullady. Lesson 9: The Definition and Kinds of Grace. HACS. 2017.

[12] Fr. Mullady. Lesson 9. HACS. 2017.

[13] Fr. Mullady. Lesson 9. HACS. 2017.

[14] Fr. Mullady. Lesson 9. HACS. 2017.

[15] St. Thomas. Summa I-II Q112 A1.

[16] Fr. Mullady. Lesson 9. HACS. 2017.

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