“Grace, finally, qualifies man for all good, smooths the way to Heaven, makes the yoke of Christ sweet and light, cures man of his infirmities and lightens his burdens, so that he is enabled to run in the path of virtue.”
-Ven. Louis of Granada
God’s fatherly providence, of which we have just been treating, is the source of all the favors and privileges which He bestows upon those who serve Him. For it belongs to this providence to furnish man with all the means necessary for his perfection and happiness.
The most important of these means is the grace of the Holy Ghost, which in its turn is the source of all other heavenly gifts. This is the garment with which the good father in the parable ordered the prodigal to be clothed.
But, that we may have a clearer idea of it, let us see how theologians define it. Divine grace, they tell us, is a participation of the divine nature, that is, of God’s sanctity, purity, and greatness, by virtue of which man is despoiled of the baseness and corruption of his nature and is clothed with the beauty and nobility of Jesus Christ.
Holy writers illustrate this by a familiar example. A piece of iron, when taken out of the fire, though it still continues to be iron, resembles the fire on account of its heat and brightness.
Grace acts in like manner. As a divine quality it is infused into the soul, and so transforms man into God that, without ceasing to be man, he assumes the virtues and purity of God.
This was the change wrought in St. Paul when he said, “I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me.” (Gal. 2:20). Grace may also be called a supernatural and divine form, by means of which man lives as becomes his origin, which is also supernatural and divine.
Grace is, moreover, a spiritual dress, a chaste ornament of the soul, which renders her so beautiful in the eyes of God that He adopts her as His child, or rather accepts her as His spouse.
It was this adornment which made the prophet rejoice when he said, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God. For he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation; and with the robe of justice he hath covered me, as a bridegroom decked with a crown, and as a bride adorned with her jewels.” (Is. 61:10). Such are the gifts with which the Holy Spirit enriches and adorns the soul.
This is the garment of various colors in which the king’s daughter was gloriously arrayed. (Ps. 44:14). For from grace proceeds that glorious variety of virtues which forms the power and beauty of the soul.
From what has been said we can judge of the effects of grace in a soul. It renders her so beautiful, as we have said, that God, who is captivated with her loveliness, chooses her for His spouse, His temple, and His dwelling.
Another effect of grace is the strength which it imparts to the soul. This beauty and this strength are extolled in the Canticle of Canticles, in which the angels exclaim, “Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?” (Cant. 6:9).
Grace, then, is like an invulnerable armor. So strong does it render man that, according to St. Thomas, the least degree of grace suffices to triumph over all sin. (S.T. III, Q. 62, a. 6).
A third effect of grace is to render man so pleasing to God that every good action performed by him contributes to merit for him eternal life. By good we here mean not only acts of virtue, but all those which arise from the necessities of nature, such as eating, drinking, and sleeping, which, by an upright intention, become pleasing to God and meritorious in His sight. In addition to all this, grace makes man the adopted child of God and heir to His kingdom.
Our Savoir showed the greatness of this privilege when, seeing His Apostles rejoicing that evil spirits obeyed them in His name, He said, “Rejoice not in this, that spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice in this, that your names are written in heaven.” (Lk. 10:20).
Grace, finally, qualifies man for all good, smooths the way to Heaven, makes the yoke of Christ sweet and light, cures man of his infirmities and lightens his burdens, so that he is enabled to run in the path of virtue.
Moreover, it strengthens all the faculties of the soul, enlightens the understanding, inflames the heart, moderates the appetites of the flesh, and constantly stimulates us, so that we may not relax in the pursuit of virtue.
And as all the passions which reside in the inferior part of the soul are so many breaches in the fortification of virtue, through which the enemy effects an entrance, grace guards these avenues of sin with sentinels.
These are the infused virtues, each of which is the opposite of the passion or vice which imperils the peace of the soul. Thus, temperance resists gluttony, chastity combats impurity, humility overcomes pride.
But the crowning effect of grace is that it brings God into our souls, in order to govern us, protect us, and lead us to Heaven. There God is pleased to abide, like a king in his kingdom, a father in the bosom of his family, a master with beloved disciples, a shepherd in the midst of his flock.
Since, then, this inestimable pearl, the pledge of so many other blessings, is the unfailing lot of the virtuous, who will hesitate to imitate the wisdom of that merchant who sold all he had to purchase this pearl? (Cf. Matt. 13:45-46).