Thursday, January 04, 2007

"The three ages of the Spiritual Life According to the Fathers and the Great Spiritual Writers" - fragments from "Three Ages of Spiritual Life" by Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange.

Chapter 9
Grandeur of Christian Perfection

Christian perfection, according to the testimony of the Gospels and Epistles, consists chiefly in charity which unites us to God. This virtue corresponds to the supreme precept of the love of God. We read also: "He that abideth in charity abideth in God and God in him." 1 John 4:16 "But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection." Col. 3:14 .....The Sermon on the Mount is the abridgement of Christian doctrine, the solemn promulgation of the New Law, given to perfect the Mosaic Law and to correct erroneous interpretations of it; and the eight beatitudes given at its beginning, are the abridgement of this sermon. They thus wonderfully condense all that constitutes the ideal of the Christian life and show all its loftiness. Christ's first preaching promised happiness and showed the means to obtain it.....Because all men naturally wish to be happy. They pursue this end unceasingly, whatever they may wish; but they often seek happiness where it is not, where they will find only wretchedness. Let us listen to our Lord, who tells us where true and lasting happiness is, where the end of life is, and who gives us the means to obtain it. The end is indicated in each of the eight beatitudes. Under different names, it is eternal happiness, whose prelude the just may enjoy even here on earth; iot is the kingdom of heaven, the promised land, perfect consolation, the full satisfaction of all our holy and legitimate desires, supreme mercy, the sight of God our Father. The means are quite the contrary of those suggested by the maxims of wordly wisdom, which promises an entirely different end.
St. Augustine and St Thomas admirably explain the order of these eight beatitudes. An ascending order, it is the inverse of that of Our Father, which descends from the consideration of the glory of God to that of our personal needs and of our daily bread. The first three beatitudes tell the happiness that is found in the flight from sin and deliverance from it, in poverty accepted fro love of God, in meekness, and in the tears of contrition. The two following beatitudes are those of a Christian's active life: the correspond to the thirst for justice and to mercy exercised toward one's neighbour. Then come those of contemplation of the mysteries of God: the purity of heart which prepares the soul to see God, and the peace which springs from true wisdom. Finally, the last and most perfect of the beatitudes unites all the preceding ones in the very midst of persecution endured for justice' sake. Tjese are the final trials, the condition of sanctity. We shall follow this ascending order to get a precise idea of Christian perfection, taking care no to lessen it. We shall see that Christian perfection goes beyond the limits of ascetism, or of the exercise of the virtues according to our own activity, and that it implies the eminent exercise of the gifts of the Holy Ghost. The superhuman mode of the gifts, when it becomes frequent and manifest, characterizes the mystical life, or the life of docility to the Holy Ghost.