Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Beatitudes of Contemplation and Union withh God. - part 5.

"Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for My sake. Be glad and rejoice, your reward is very great in heaven"
words of Christ kindled in the souls of the apostles the desire for martydrom, a desire which inspired the sublime utterances of St Andrew and St Ignatius of Antioch. These words live again in St. Francis of Assisi, St Dominic, and St Benedict Joseph Labre. Inspired by these words, these saints were "the salt of the earth", "the light of the world", and they built their houses not on sand byt on rock, houses that have been able to weather all storms and have not been overthrown.
These beatitudes, which, as St Thomas says, are the superior act of the gifts or the virtues perfected by the gifts, go beyond simple ascetism and belong to the mystical order. In other words, the full perfection of Christian life belongs normally to the mystical order, it is the prelude of the life of heaven, where the Christian will be "perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect" seeing him as He sees Himself and loving Him as He loves Himself.
St Teresa writes: "They read that we must not be troubled when men speak ill of us, that we are to be then more pleased than when they speak well of us; that we must desoise our own good name, be detached from our kindred...with many other things of the same kind. The disposition to practice this must be, in my opinion, the gift of God; for it seems to me a supernatural good." (Life, ch. 31, 12). In other words, this disposition goes beyond simple ascetism or the exercise of the virtues according to our own activity or industry; it is the fruit of a great docility to the inspirations of the Holy Ghost. Moreover, the saint says: "if a soul loves honours and temporal goods, it is vain that it will have practiced prayer or rather meditation for many years; it will never advance very much. Perfect prayer, on the contrary, frees the soul from these defects" (Way of Perfection ch.12). This is equivalent to saying that without perfect prayer a soul will never reach the full perfection of Christian life.
The author of The Imitation also expresses the same idea when speaking of true peace: "If thou arrive at an entire contempt of thyself, know that then thou shalt enjoy an abundance of peace, as much as is possible in this thy earthly sojourn" (The Imitation of Christ Bk III ch.25). This is why, in the same book of The Imitation, the disciples asks for the superior grace of contemplation: "I stand much in need of a grace yet greater, if I must arrive so far that it may not be in the power of any man nor anything created to hinder me.....He was desirous to fly freely to Thee who said, 'Who will give me wings like a dove, and i will fly and be at rest?' (Ps. 44:7.)....Unless a man be disengaged from all things created, he cannot freely attend to things divine. And this is the reason why there are found so few contemplatives entirely from perishable creatures. For this a great price is required, such as may elevate the soul, and lift it above itself. And unless a man be elevated in spirit, and free from attachment to all creatures, and wholly united to God, whatever he knows and whatever he has is of no great importance." (ibid, ch.31). This chapter of The Imitation belongs, properly speaking, to the mystical order; it shows that only therein is the true perfection of the love of God found.
St Catherine of Siena speaks in the same way in her Dialogue (ch 44-49). As we have seen, this is the very teaching given us by Christ in the beatitudes, especially as St Augustine and St Thomas understood them, that is the elevated acts of the gifts of the Holy Ghost or of the virtue perfected by the gifts. This is truly the full normal development of the spiritual organism or of "the grace of the virtue and the gifts." The beatitudes show it to us, nnot in an absence and theoretical form, bbut in concrete, practical, and vital manner.