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Participating In The Divine Nature

In a previous article, it was stated that because of its immateriality and supernaturality, the Church’s theologians utilize various analogies to explain Sanctifying Grace, the foundation of the spiritual life.  The article then went on to explain one of these analogies, namely that of Sanctifying Grace being the supernatural soul of the soul.  But this is not the only analogy worth investigating.  

Sanctifying Grace makes one a partaker of the Divine Nature (See 2 Peter 2:4).  In order to understand this, theologians use the example of a piece of iron and fire.  If the iron is on a table in a room, it will be the same temperature as the room, hard, dull or shiny depending, and so on.  Fire, for its part, naturally always gives off light and heat.  If the iron is sufficiently placed into the fire, it will begin to give off light and heat as well.  While remaining iron, it will begin to do by participation what the fire always does by nature.  And, as the influence of the fire over the iron bar increases, the brighter and hotter the iron will be.  This is all possible because the iron’s nature is receptive of these properties of fire.  

In this analogy, the iron represents the human soul and the fire the Divine Nature.  When the soul is in a state of Sanctifying Grace, it is, so to speak, placed into the fire of the Divine Nature.  Then, while remaining a human soul, just as the iron remains iron, the soul takes on divine properties, similar to how the iron takes on properties of fire.  In the case of the human soul, these divine properties allow the possessor of Sanctifying Grace to do things which are more properly divine, such as performing divinized actions by means of the Infused Virtues and the Gifts of the Holy Ghost.  By way of a specific example, by the Infused Virtue of Faith, one’s intellect is elevated and able to accept as true things which only God can know immediately, and which God reveals to men.  And just as the iron can become brighter and hotter by an increased influence of the fire, so can the human soul increase its participation in the Divine Nature by growing in Sanctifying Grace.  All of this is possible because the human soul is, by divine arrangement, receptive to this participation.  

Of course, the iron can only participate in the fire so long as it remains under the fire’s influence.  While it is true the effects may perdure for a time after the iron is removed from the fire, they will eventually dissipate.  The same is similarly true with regards to the soul and its participation in the Divine Nature.  If a soul is removed from its participation in the Divine Nature, it will lose the above explained divine properties.  That is, the Infused Virtues and the Gifts of the Holy Ghost are immediately lost when Sanctifying Grace is lost (with the possible exceptions of the Infused Virtues of Faith and Hope, which remain unless they are directly sinned against).  This removal from a participation in the Divine Nature is affected by mortal sin as just one mortal sin terminates the soul’s participation in the Divine Nature.  

This reflection should result in an increased horror for mortal sin as it can be seen how catastrophic just one mortal sin is to the spiritual life.  But it should also result in a more profound appreciation for the great gift of Sanctifying Grace and for its Giver, Who wills that we should became by participation what He is by nature.

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