Brookline Carmel Bulletin
November 27, 1960
No man can lift himself up by his bootstraps. Neither can anyone raise himself up from the natural to the supernatural plane without outside help. He cannot advance in holiness unless someone else assists him. Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D., whom we have been following in this series on Spiritual Theology, speaks, therefore, of various ‘causes’ of sanctification. He distinguishes invisible and visible causes. God, Christ, the Blessed Virgin, the Saints, the Angels are the invisible; the Church –with her Sacraments, forms of worship, institutions, practices- is the visible cause.
Of all these, God alone is the primary and adequate cause of Holiness. It is by His Will and His Power that men are able to participate in His Divine Life. The rest are causes in that they are able to influence both the Will of God and the will of men: of God, to bestow it, of men, to accept it. Some of these latter causes merely influence; others have received from the Divine Will both the power to impart Sanctifying Grace and its increase, and the free exercise thereof (presupposing, of course, the necessary dispositions in the recipient).
Jesus Christ is the cause of Sanctity ‘par excellence’, and that in several ways. First of all, He has abolished the greatest obstacle, Original Sin. By His redemptive life, suffering and death the enmity that existed between God and Man has been removed. Likewise, His merits can be applied ever anew to take away personal sins – the barriers erected by our own perverse wills. So we are always free to enter into intimate, loving relations with God.
In another way Jesus is the source of Holiness because He has instituted the ‘economy’ of salvation (and sanctification). He holds the monopoly on Grace. The merits of His Redemptive work constitute a supernatural ‘Trust Fund’, which He has entrusted to His Church. The Mass, Sacraments, and other practices have been established by Our Lord as the means of distributing that treasure to each succeeding generation of mankind. Jesus has invested these means with a certain ‘innate’ power whereby they actually do cause Sanctifying Grace or its increase.
Our Divine Saviour is also a cause of Holiness in so far as His merits can be used by individual Christians to ‘clothe’ their own works. Good works done in union with Christ, human merits united with His merits produce an increase of Sanctifying Grace proportionate to the degree of union achieved. Again, the merits of Jesus may be used to acquire an increase of divine grace and favor by a kind of holy extortion. God will grant any spiritual favor to whoever shows Him the wounds, the Blood, the obedience of Jesus Christ. Thus far, Jesus as a source of Sanctity in virtue of His power over the Will of God.
The God-Man is also a source of Holiness because of His influence over the minds of men. He is the ‘exemplary cause’ of Sanctity. The sublime beauty and cogency of His life and doctrine have induced thousands of men and women to follow Him. Anyone who reproduces His life is by that token a Saint. It may be done in several ways. The author of the classic The Imitation of Christ urges the fulfillment of the teachings embodied in His life. Another school advocates imitation of both the external comportment and the interior states of soul of Christ. St. John of the Cross is numbered among the Doctors of this school. Yet another group of spiritual writers say it suffices to reproduce the psychic states of Christ. But whichever of these one embraces, he can be sure it will sanctify him.
Besides the influence of good example, Jesus can also exert direct influence upon the minds and hearts of men. He is the light who ‘enlightens every man who comes into the world.’ He is, further, the Bridegroom of the soul. He alone can make it fruitful in good works. In a real though hidden way he woos the souls of men and women, exhibiting proofs of His affection, secretly manifesting to their inner eye His ineffable beauty and goodness, vouchsafing to the heart a mysterious inkling of the ravishing but chaste delights deriving from union with Him. In this He is free, the Master of His love; certain souls He pursues with a love of Predilection. Having singled them out and made them the object of special graces and favors, He expects of them greater fruitfulness, a more tender response, a higher degree of Sanctity.
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