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Brookline Carmel Bulletin                        

September 11, 1960

Cogitatio Sancta

(Holy Meditation)

 

Spiritual Perfection

 

 

The purpose of Spiritual Theology is to teach us how to attain Spiritual Perfection, the aim of the Spiritual Life.

 

Spiritual Perfection consists in nothing else than the full development of Charity.  As the most sublime kind of love that exists, Charity ‘deifies’ the soul.  All love brings about a transformation of the lover into the beloved, identifying them, making them one.  When a man loves, for its own sake, a creature below himself in the hierarchy of being, he becomes one with it, thus lowering and debasing himself.  When he loves God for His own sake – i.e., not merely because He is useful to us – he rises to the level of Divinity, thereby becoming invested with the dignity and majesty of God.

 

Everything we know about the nature of love, its characteristics, its effects apply also to Charity, which is love that has God as He is in Himself as its object.  Love is fully developed when it so ‘informs’ the appetites of the soul that the beloved is esteemed above all other persons and things, including self, and becomes the object toward which the thoughts and affections naturally and consistently tend.  In addition, the activity of the love is so thoroughly influenced by his love that his ‘moral law’ becomes the beloved itself, its needs, its interests, and its benefit.  All those and only those activities of body and mind that profit the beloved are considered morally good, and all those and only those that injure the beloved in any way are morally wrong.

 

Love for God is total when all the faculties are fully orientated toward God as described above.  Scripture tells us:  Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength.  According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, the heart signifies the will, the soul the appetites, the mind the intellect, and the strength signifies the activity of the body.  Such an orientation may exist even in sleep (I sleep, but my heart watches), and when the soul is completely absorbed in some necessary activity.  Love for God is actual when the mind, the heart, the appetites and the bodily activities are consciously directed to the beloved.  Charity is fully developed when it is both total and as actual as our condition here on earth as wayfarers permits.  When the soul must turn to some absorbing necessary occupation, however, the soul continues to love God ‘virtually’ by undertaking the work in so far as it is the will of God that it do so, and is done out of motives of Charity.  (Whatever you do, let it be done for the love of God.)

 

When Charity is perfect, the soul needs no written law.  As Saint Augustine has it:  Love God and do as you will.  The ‘interests’ of God are inscribed upon the heart.  God does not have any needs, nor can we give Him anything that enhances His perfections.  He has only rights and deserts.  Whatever violates the rights of God as our Creator, our Lord, the Supreme Moderator of the universe is wrong, as is all that injures His rights as our Father.  Since He is likewise infinitely knowable and lovable, God deserves to be known and loved.  Perfect Charity, though it resides in the soul essentially, and is therefore invisible, does issue in external behavior.  The perfect man shows forth the perfections and the goodness of God, making Him known and winning love for Him.  (Even so, let your light shine before men, in order that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in Heaven.)

 

A necessary effect of perfect Charity is the union of the human will with the Will of God.  There is both a negative and positive aspect to it.  Negatively, there is nothing in the will of one that is contrary to the will of the other.  Positively, the human will is conformed to the Will of God in every respect.  Because it is easy for a person to deceive himself into thinking that He loves God with his entire being, conformity to the Divine Will is the objective criterion, which enables us to protect ourselves from self-deception.  Since it is God’s characteristic Will to bestow His benefits upon His rational creatures, our will is perfectly conformed to God’s when we love our neighbor as God has loved us.  If we closet ourselves in our room in order to contemplate divine things, and read spiritual books, and say special prayers when we are the only ones around to alleviate the urgent needs of our neighbor, then, as Saint James says, our religion is vain.  But there are many, many persons dedicated to loving God in the active works of Charity, and so it is right and fitting that some few devote themselves entirely to the contemplative life.  Even so, these same persons must practice charity toward their community itself, first as a whole and then toward the individual members.  In the words of Pope Benedict XV:  Sanctity (Spiritual Perfection) consists precisely and only in conformity to the Divine Will which expresses itself in the continuous and exact fulfillment of the duties of our state in life.

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