Inequality in Friendship

In a previous article, it was stated that just as there is an analogy between the natural life of man and the supernatural life of grace, there is an analogy between the development of human friendship and the friendship between the soul and God.  However, in his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle, the Philosopher, notes that “if the persons are far removed from one another, like men from God, the friendship ceases” (St. Thomas’ Commentary on the Ethics, Book VIII, Lecture 7). 

According to Aristotle, for friendship between two to exist there must be a certain degree of equality between them.  As there is an infinite distance between God and man, it seems there cannot be friendship between them.  Similarly, friendship cannot exist between a man and a brute animal because of the distance between them.  Does this not undermine what has been discussed thus far?  If friendship between God and man is impossible because of the infinite distance between them, then what are we to make of all that has been previously stated in this study?

Left to his own, man is unable to bridge the infinite distance between himself and God and so, from the position of man, entering into friendship with God is impossible.  But, as it is God Himself Who desires friendship with each man, out of the abundance of His love and by His Divine Power, He offers man a gift.  This gift is called Sanctifying Grace and by it the possessor becomes a partaker of the Divine Nature (see 2 Peter 1:4).  By possessing Sanctifying Grace, one undergoes a real, yet supernatural, change.  Indeed, the possessor is elevated above the natural.  This supernatural elevation of the man, granted by the possession of Sanctifying Grace, provides the necessary equality between the sanctified man and God for the existence of friendship between them.  Not an absolute equality, of course, as there can never be a total equality between the Uncreated and the creature, but enough for the establishment of friendship.  Conversely, without Sanctifying Grace, one cannot be in a state of friendship with God.

Sanctifying Grace is first obtained by Baptism and is retained unless one commits a mortal sin.  If, God forbid, one does commit a mortal sin, the normal means of restoring Sanctifying Grace is the Sacrament of Confession.  With the necessary foundation of Sanctifying Grace, one can deepen his friendship with God by employing the means already presented.

Fr. William Rock, FSSP is a priest and writer of the Fraternity of St. Peter. He is also a veteran of the US Air Force. Currently he is serving at Regina Caeli parish in Houston, Texas.