The Spiritual Life

Author: Adolphe Tanquerey



by the Very Reverend Adolphe Tanquerey, S.S., D.D.




#49. The aim of this first part is to call briefly to mind the principal dogmas upon which our spiritual life rests, to show the nature and perfection of this life, and the general means by which perfection is reached. Here we follow the ontological order, assigning to the second part the task of describing the psychological order normally followed by souls in the use they make of the various means of perfection.

C. I. Origin of the supernatural life: the raising of man to the supernatural state, his fall, and redemption. C. II. Nature of the Christian life: God's part and the soul's part. C. III. Perfection of this life: the love of God and of the neighbor carried to the point of sacrifice. C. IV. Obligation for laymen, religious and priests to strive after this perfection. C. V. General means, interior and exterior, of attaining perfection.

#50. The reason for such a division is easily perceived. The first chapter, by taking us back to the source itself of the supernatural life, helps us to a better grasp of its nature and its excellence.

The second chapter reveals the nature of the Christian life in regenerated man; the part God takes therein by giving Himself to us through His Son; and by assisting us through the agency of the Blessed Virgin and the Saints. It likewise explains the role man plays in giving himself to God by a constant and generous cooperation with grace.

The third chapter shows that perfection in this life essentially consists in the love of God and of the neighbor for God's sake. It shows further, however, that this love here on earth cannot be exercised without generous sacrifices.

In the fourth, the obligation of tending to perfection is determined and the extent to which the faithful, religious, and priests are respectively bound.

A fifth chapter is devoted to specifying the general means that help us to advance in perfection, means common indeed to all, yet susceptible of degrees. These degrees will be treated in the second part when speaking of the three ways.

CHAPTER I. Origin of the spiritual life

#51. This chapter is intended to give us a better knowledge of the excellence of the supernatural life in as much as it is a free gift; and of the nobility as well as the weakness of man, upon whom it has been bestowed. To help us understand it better we shall see: I. What the natural life of man is. II. Man's elevation to the supernatural state. III. His fall. IV. His restoration by a Divine Redeemer.


#52. Here we must describe man's condition as it would have been in the purely natural state, such as it is described by Philosophers. It is important to recall to mind, though briefly, what right reason teaches us on this point, because our spiritual life, while preserving and perfecting our natural life, is grafted on it.1

n1. Besides Philosophical Treatises, cf. CH. DE SMEDT, "Notre Vie surnaturelle," 1912, Introduction p. 1-37; J. SCHRYVERS, "Les Principes de la Vie spirituelle," 1922, P. 31.

#53. (1) Man is a mysterious compound of body and soul. In him spirit and matter closely unite to form but one nature and one person. Man is, so to speak, the nexus, the point of contact between spiritual and bodily substances-- an abstract of all the marvels of creation. He is a little world gathering in itself all other worlds, a microcosm, showing forth the wisdom of God who united in this fashion two things so far apart. This little world is full of life: according to St. Gregory, one finds there three sorts of life, vegetative, animal and intellectual.1 Like plants man takes food, grows, and reproduces himself. Like animals, he is aware of sensible objects, towards which he is drawn by sensitive appetite, emotions and passions, and like animals he moves spontaneously from within. Like angels, though in a different manner and in a lesser degree, he knows intellectually suprasensible being and truth, while his will is freely drawn towards rational good.

n1. He says ("Homil. 29 in Evangelica"): "Homo habet 'vivere cum plantis, sentire cum animanibus, intelligere cum' angelis"

#54. (2) These three kinds of life are not superimposed one on the other, but they blend and arrange themselves in due relation in order to converge towards the same end-- the perfection of the whole man. It is both a rational and a biological law that in a composite being life cannot subsist and develop save on condition of harmonizing and bringing its various elements under the control of the highest of them. The former must be mastered before they can be made to minister. In man, then, the lower faculties, vegetative and sensitive, must needs be subject to reason and will. This condition is essential. Whenever it fails, life languishes or vanishes. Whenever this subordination ceases altogether, disintegration of the elements sets in; this means decay of the system and, finally, death.1

n1. A. EYMIEU, "Le Gouvernement de soi-meme," t. III, "La Loi de la Vie," book III, p. 128. #55. (3) Life is, therefore, a struggle. Our lower faculties tend lustily toward pleasure, whilst the higher ones are drawn towards moral good. Often conflict goes on between these; what pleases us, is not always morally good, and, to establish order, reason must fight hostile tendencies and actually conquer. This is the fight of the spirit against the flesh, of the will against passion. This struggle is at times hard and painful. Just as in the springtime of the year the sap rises up within plants, so at times violent impulses towards pleasure rise in the sensitive part of our soul.

#56. These impulses, nevertheless, are not irresistible. The will helped by the intellect exercises over these movements of passion a fourfold control. 1) The power of foresight which consists in foreseeing and forestalling a great many dangerous fancies, impressions and emotions, by a constant and intelligent vigilance. 2) The power of inhibition and moderation, by means of which we either check or at least allay the violent passions which arise in the soul. Thus we are able to prevent our eyes from lighting upon dangerous objects, our imagination from dwelling upon unwholesome pictures; should a fit of anger stir, we are able to stem it. 3) The power of stimulation, which through the will stirs and gives impetus to the movements of the passions. 4) The power of direction, which allows us to direct those movements towards good and thereby to divert them from evil.

#57. Besides this inward strife, there may be other conflicts between the soul and its Maker. Although it is evident that our plain duty is that of entire submission to Our Sovereign Master, yet for this subjection we .must pay the price. A lust for freedom and independence ever inclines us to swerve from Divine Authority. The cause lurks in our pride, which cannot be trampled upon, except by the humble admission of our unworthiness and our littleness in the face of those absolute rights the Creator has upon a creature. Thus it is that even in this purely natural state we would still have a fight to wage against the threefold concupiscence.

#58. (4) If far from yielding to these evil inclinations we would have done our duty, we could have justly expect a reward. For our immortal soul, this reward would have consisted, first, in a deeper and a greater knowledge of God and of truth -- a knowledge, of course, analytical and discursive; then, in a love, also purer and more enduring. If, on the contrary we would have voluntarily violated the law in grave matter and remained unrepentant, we should have failed of our end, meriting as punishment the privation of God and such torments as would fit the gravity of our faults. This would have been our condition had we been constituted in a merely natural state. This state has not, as a matter of fact, ever existed, for according to St. Thomas, man was raised to the supernatural state at the very moment of creation, or immediately after, as St. Bonaventure says. God in His infinite goodness, was not satisfied with conferring upon man natural gifts. He willed to elevate him to a higher state by granting him still others of a preternatural and supernatural character.


I. Notion of the Supernatural

#59. Let us call to mind that Theology distinguishes between what is absolutely and what is relatively supernatural.

(1) An absolutely supernatural gift is one which in its very essence (quoad substantiam) transcends nature altogether, so that it cannot be due to nor be merited by any creature whatsoever. It surpasses therefore not only all the active powers of nature, but even all its rights, all its exigencies. Because it is given to a creature it is something finite; but since only what is divine can surpass the exigencies of all creation, it is also something divine. It is the communication of a divine thing, yet, it is shared in a finite way. We therefore keep clear of pantheism. Actually, there are only two instances of the absolute-supernatural: the Incarnation and Sanctifying Grace.

A) In the first instance, God, in the person of the Word, united Himself to man in such wise that the human nature of Jesus belonged absolutely to the Second Person of the most Blessed Trinity. Thus Jesus is, on account of His human nature, true man, whilst as regards His person He is very God. This is a substantial union. It does not .blend the two natures in one, but whilst preserving their integrity, unites them in one and the same person-- that of the Eternal Word. It constitutes, then, a personal or hypostatic union. This is the absolute supernatural at its highest.

B) The other absolute supernatural--a lesser degree--is exemplified in sanctifying grace. Grace does not change the person of man. It does not make him God. It does indeed modify his nature land powers, but only accidentally. He becomes similar to God --God-like, "divinae consors naturae"--capable of possessing God directly through the Beatific Vision, and of contemplating Him face to face even as He beholds Himself when grace will finally be transformed into glory. Evidently this privilege of knowing and loving God as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost know and love one another surpasses all the exigencies of even the most perfect creature, since it actually makes us share in God's intellectual life and in His nature.

#60. (2) What is called the relative supernatural, is in itself something that would not be beyond the capacity or the exigencies of all creatures, but simply beyond the powers and actual needs of a certain particular nature, for example, infused knowledge, which is beyond the capacity of man but not of angels. If then it is granted to man, it is supernatural relatively, that is with regard to man, but not in itself, in its very substance, since it is natural to angels; hence it is called also preternatural.

God gave man the supernatural in these two forms. In fact, He bestowed upon our first parents the gift of preternatural integrity, which, whilst completing their nature, fitted it for grace itself. The sum total of these two endowments constitutes what is called justice.

II. Preternatural gifts conferred on Adam

#61. The gift of integrity perfect nature without raising it to the level of the divine. This is, indeed, a gratuitous gift, preternatural, above the wants and capacity of man, yet not absolutely supernatural. This gift comprises three great privileges, which without altering human nature in its essence, gave man a perfection to which he had no title. These are infused knowledge, control of the passions or the absence of concupiscence, and immortality of the body.

#62. A) Infused science. Our nature does not require it, since it is the privilege of angels. Man left to his own resources can acquire knowledge only gradually and painfully and in subjection to certain psychological laws. In order to fit Adam for his role of first educator of the human race God granted him infused knowledge of all the truths he needed to know, and a facility for the acquisition of experimental knowledge. In this sense man approached the likeness of angels.

#63. B) The control of the passions, that is, exemption from the sway of concupiscence which renders so difficult the practice of virtue. We have already remarked that, owing to his very constitution, there takes place in man a terrible struggle between the sincere desire for what is good, on one side, and a reckless lust for pleasure and sensible goods on the other, to say nothing of a marked proneness to pride. This is really what we call the threefold concupiscence. To counteract this natural drawback God endowed our first parents with a certain control of the passions which, without rendering them impeccable, made easy for them the practice of virtue. That tyranny of concupiscence that so vigorously pushes on to evil did not exist in Adam; there was simply a certain tendency toward pleasure but in due subordination to reason. Because his will was subject to God, his lower faculties were in turn subservient to reason and his body to his soul. This was order--perfect rectitude

#64. C) The immortality of the body. By nature man is subject to sickness and to death. In order that his soul could attend unencumbered to higher duties, a special disposition of Providence preserved him from this double infirmity. These three privileges were designed to fit man better for the reception and the use of a gift still more precious, a gift absolutely supernatural--sanctifying race.

III. The supernatural privileges conferred on Adam

#65. A) By nature man is the servant of God, His property.--In His infinite goodness God willed to incorporate us into His family. He made man His heir-apparent when He reserved for him a place in His kingdom. For this bounty man will never be able to thank God adequately. In order that this adoption might not remain a mere formality, He gave him a share in His divine life. This communication of God's life to man is, indeed, a created quality but none the less real. It enables man here on earth to enjoy the light of faith (a light greater by far than that of reason), and in heaven, to possess God by the Beatific Vision and with a love corresponding to the clearness of that vision.

#66. . B) This was habitual grace. It perfected and deified, so to speak, the very substance of Adam's soul. To it were added the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which in turn deified his faculties. Lastly, actual grace came to set in motion all this supernatural organism enabling man to elicit supernatural acts,--Godlike acts, meriting eternal life.

This grace is in substance the same as is granted to us by justification. We shall not explain it in detail now, but later when in the second chapter we speak of regenerated man.

All these prerogatives, with the exception of infused knowledge, were given to Adam, not as a personal gift, but as a family possession--a patrimony to be handed down to his heirs should he abide faithful to God.


I. The fall

In spite of these privileges man remained free, and in order to merit heaven he was put to a test. This test consisted in the fulfillment of the divine law. It consisted in particular in the carrying out of a positive command added to the natural law. Genesis expresses it in the form of a prohibition which forbade eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Holy Writ narrates how the devil in the guise of a serpent came to tempt our first parents by raising a doubt in their minds as to the legitimacy of this ban. He tried to persuade them that if they ate the forbidden fruit, far from dying, they would become like gods, since they would know for themselves what was good and what evil, without need of recourse to the law of God: "You shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil."1 This was a temptation to pride, to revolt against God. Man fell and committed a formal act of disobedience, as St. Paul remarks,2 but an act inspired by pride and soon followed by further delinquencies. It was a refusal to submit to God's authority, therefore, a grievous fault. The prohibition being an instrument to test the fidelity of the first man, this refusal amounted to a negation of God's wisdom and of His sovereign dominion. The violation was all the more grave since our first parents had full knowledge of God's liberality towards them, of His inalienable rights, of the importance of a precept carrying such a sanction, and since they were in no wise swept away by passion, having had ample time to weigh the frightful consequences of their act.

n1. "Gen," III, 5. n2. "Rom," V.

#68. The question even suggests itself: how could they sin at all, since they were not under the sway of concupiscence. This we understand if we recall that no creature having a will of its own is impeccable. Free-will gives it the power of turning away from real good towards what is but apparent good. It implies the power of holding to the latter, preferring it to the former. This very choice is what constitutes sin. As St. Thomas says, impeccability can only be found where free will identifies itself with the moral law. This is God's privilege.

II. The consequences of the fall

#69. Punishment followed quickly for our first parents and for their posterity.

A) The personal sanction visited upon them is described in Genesis. Here again God's goodness is to the fore. He could have on the spot punished them with death. His mercy halted Him. He merely left them shorn of those special privileges with which He had vested them, that is, stripped of the gifts of integrity and of habitual grace. He did not touch their nature or the prerogatives flowing therefrom. Doubtless, man's will is weakened compared with the strength it possessed when integrity was his. However, there is no conclusive evidence that it is actually feebler than it would have been in a purely natural state, at any rate it remains free in choosing good or evil. God even condescended to leave our first parents in possession of faith and hope and gave their forlorn souls the hopeful assurance of a redeemer,--their own offspring, who would one day vanquish the devil and reinstate fallen humanity. By His actual grace, at the same time, He invited them to repentance, and as soon as they repented, He granted them pardon of their sin.

#70. B) But what will be the condition of their descendants? The answer is that mankind will be likewise deprived of original justice, that is to say, of sanctifying grace and the gift of integrity. Those endowments, free gifts in every sense, a patrimony, so to speak, were to be handed to his heirs should Adam prove faithful. This condition unfulfilled, man comes into the world deprived of original justice. When through penance our first parents regained grace, it was no longer as a heritage for their posterity, but solely as a personal possession, a grant to a private individual. To the new Adam, Christ Jesus, who would in time become the head of mankind, was reserved the expiation of our faults and the institution of a sacrament of regeneration to transmit to each of the baptized the grace forfeited in Paradise.

#71. Thus it is that the children of Adam are horn into this world without original justice, that is, without sanctifying grace and the gift of integrity. The lack of this grace is called original sin, sin only in the broad sense of the term, for it implies no guilty act on our part, but simply a fallen condition. It constitutes, considering the supernatural destiny to which we are called, a privation of a quality that should be ours,--a blemish, a moral taint that places us out of the pale of God's kingdom.

#72. Moreover, on account of the forfeited gift of integrity, concupiscence rages in us and unless courageously withstood, it drags us into actual sin. With regard, then, to our primeval state we are as it were withered and wounded, subject to ignorance, prone to evil, weak against temptation. Experience indeed shows that the force of concupiscence is not equally strong in all men. Each differs in temperament and character and therefore passions also vary in ardor and violence. Once the controlling check of original justice was lifted, explains St. Thomas, the passions regained full sway and prove more unruly in some, more subdued in others.

#73. Must we go further and admit, with the Augustinian school, a positive, intrinsic, impairment of our natural energies and faculties? It is quite unnecessary. There is nothing to prove it. Should we admit, though, with some of the Thomists an extrinsic impairment of our powers? It consists, they say, in the fact that we have more obstacles to surmount, specially, the tyranny the devil wields over the vanquished, and the withdrawal of certain natural helps God would have granted us in a purely natural state. This is possible, nay, rather probable. But, in justice, we must add, that such hindrances find compensation in actual grace given us by God in virtue of the merits of His Son, and also in the protection accorded to us by His angels, particularly, our guardian angels.

#74. Conclusion. This much we can safely say: owing to the Fall, man has lost the right balance he had as he came from the hands of God; in comparison with his primeval state, he is now injured, unbalanced, as the actual plight of his faculties plainly shows. A) This unbalanced condition becomes evident first of all with regard to our sensitive faculties. a) Our exterior senses, our eyes, for instance, eagerly light on what our curiosity craves, our ears are ever ready to catch every novelty, our flesh is alive to every sensation of pleasure, heedless the while of the moral law. b) The same is true of our interior senses. With each flight of fancy our imagination represents to us all sorts of images more or less sensual. Our passions run headlong, oft times madly so, toward sensible or sensuous good, and utterly ignoring all moral good, endeavor to wrest compliance from the will. True indeed, such tendencies are not irresistible, for our lower faculties remain, in a measure, under the control of the will yet, their submission, once they revolt, demands much strategy and effort.

#75. B) The intellectual faculties, intellect and will, also have been injured by original sin. There is no doubt that our intellect remains capable of knowing truth, and that with patient labor, even without the aid of revelation, it can obtain knowledge of certain fundamental truths in the natural order. The failures, however, in this regard, are most humiliating. The preoccupations of the present blind the mind to the realities of eternity. a) Instead of seeking God and the things that are God's, instead of rising spontaneously from the creature to the Creator, as it would have done in the primeval state, man's intellect gravitates earthward. The study of creatures frequently absorbs it and prevents its ascent to their Maker. 1) Its power of attention, drawn by curiosity, centers round its own whims to the neglect of the realities that lead man to his end. 2) It falls most readily into error. Innumerable prejudices to which we are victims and the passions that agitate our spirit drop a thick veil between our souls and the truth. Alas! only too often we lose our bearings upon the most vital questions, on which the course and direction of our moral life depend. b) Our will, instead of paying homage to God, has, on the contrary, the most daring and pretentious aspirations to independence. It finds it bitter and painful to submit to God or to yield to His representatives on earth. When the issue is to conquer those difficulties that oppose themselves to the realization of good, its efforts are weak and inconstant. How frequently does it not allow sentiment and passion to carry it away ! Saint Paul describes such weakness in striking terms: "For the good which I will, I do not: but the evil which I will not, that I do. For I am delighted with the law of God, according to the inward man: but I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind and captivating me in the law of sin that is in my members. Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God, by Jesus Christ Our Lord."1 On the testimony of the Apostle the remedy for this wretched condition is the grace of redemption.

n1. "Rom.," VII 19-25.


#76. Redemption is a wondrous work--God's masterpiece. By it, man disfigured by sin is remade. He is, in a sense, placed above his primordial state before the fall, so much so, that the Church in her liturgy does not hesitate to bless the fault that secured for us such a Redeemer as the God- man: " O happy fault, that merited such and so great a Redeemer!"

I. The nature of Redemption

#77. God who from all eternity had foreseen man's fall, willed likewise from all eternity to provide a Redeemer for men, in the person of His Son. He determined to become man so that becoming the head of mankind He could in full measure expiate our sin and give us back, together with grace, all our rights to heaven. Thus He drew good out of evil and harmonized the rights of justice with those of His goodness. He was not indeed bound to demand full justice. He could have pardoned man and contented Himself with the meager and imperfect reparation that the latter could have proffered. But He regarded it more worthy of His glory and more salutary for man to enable him to offer full reparation for his fault.

#78. A) Full justice required an adequate reparation, in proportion to the offense, and offered by a lawful representative of mankind. God brought this about by the Incarnation and the Redemption.

a) The Son of God takes flesh and thus becomes the chief of humanity, the head of a mystical body whose members we are. By this very fact, the Son can of right act and make atonement in our name.

b) This atonement is a satisfaction not only equal to the offense, but above it by far. If the moral value of any action proceeds first and foremost from the worth, the dignity of the person performing it, this reparation made by the God-Man has a moral worth that is infinite. A single act of the Son of God would have sufficed to make adequate reparation for all the sins of the human race. Now, as a matter of fact, Jesus, moved by the purest love, did make such acts of reparation without number. He filled the measure and crowned it with the greatest, the most sublime and heroic of actions,--the total immolation of self on Calvary. He has, indeed, made abundant and superabundant satisfactions: "Where sin abounded, grace did more abound."1

c) The atonement is the same in kind as the offense. Adam's sin was disobedience and pride. Jesus makes reparation by humble obedience, inspired by love,--an obedience unto death, even the death of the cross. " becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross."2 Again, just as a woman was instrumental in Adam's fall, so a woman intervenes in man's redemption with her power of intercession and her merits. Although in a secondary role Mary, the Immaculate Virgin Mother of the Savior, cooperates with Him in the work of reparation."3

Thus God's justice is fully satisfied, and His goodness even more.

n. "Rom.," V, 5. n2. "Philip," II, I n3. Here is a question of the merit called "de congruo," which we shall explain later on.

#79. B) Holy Scripture, in fact, attributes the work of our redemption to the infinite mercy of God and His exceeding great love for us. In the words of St. Paul: " God, who is rich in mercy for his exceeding charity wherewith He loved us, hath quickened us together in Christ."1 The three divine persons vie one with the other in this work, each moved by a love which, in truth, would seem to be excessive.

a) The Father has an only-begotten Son, equal to Him, whom He loves like another self, and by whom He is loved with the same infinite love. It is this very Son whom He gives and sacrifices for us that we may rise again to life from the death of sin: "For God so loved the world, as to give His Only-Begotten Son: that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting."2 Could His generous love give more? In giving us His Son, has He not given us all other things? "He that spared not even His own Son, but delivered Him for us all, how hath He not also, with Him given us all things."3

n1. "Ephes.," II, 4. n2. "John," III, 16. n3. "Rom.," VIII, 32.

#80. b) The Son joyously and generously accepted the mission entrusted to Him. From the first instant of His Incarnation, He offered Himself to the Father as the victim that replaced all the sacrifices of the Old Law. His entire life was a long sacrifice completed by His immolation on Calvary--a sacrifice born of the love He bore us: "Christ also hath loved us and hath delivered Himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odor of sweetness."1

n.1 "Ephes.," V,2.

#81. c) In order to finish His work He sent us the Holy Ghost. This Divine Spirit, who is none other than the substantial love of the Father and the Son, was not satisfied with instilling grace into our souls together with the infused virtues, especially divine charity, but gave Himself to us in order that we might not only enjoy His presence and possess His gifts, but even His very person: " The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost who is given to us."1

Redemption is therefore, the masterpiece of divine love: this fact enables us to forecast its effects.

n1. "Rom.," V, 5.

II. The Effects of Redemption

#82. Jesus did not stop short once He had offered reparation to God for our offense and reconciled us to Him. He merited for us all the graces lost to us by sin, and many more.

First of all, He gave us back all the supernatural goods we had lost by sin: a) Habitual grace with all the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost; then, to adapt Himself better to our human nature He instituted the Sacraments, sensible signs that confer grace upon us in every important circumstance of our life and thus furnish us with greater security and greater confidence. b) He secured for us actual graces in a full measure, and according to the word of St. Paul, we are justified in judging them even more abundant than those we should have received in the state of innocence: "Where sin abounded, grace did more abound."1

n1. "Rom.," V, 20.

#83. C) It is true that the gift of integrity was not given back to us immediately, but it is given us gradually. The grace of regeneration leaves us still exposed to the attacks of the threefold concupiscence and subject to the burden of life's sufferings, but it gives us the needed strength to surmount them, rendering us more humble, more vigilant, more active in warding off and conquering temptation. Thus it grounds us in virtue and gives us the opportunity of increasing our merit. The example of Jesus, who so courageously carried His cross and ours, gives us new energy and sustains our efforts in the fight. The actual graces, which He has merited for us, and which He bestows with a lavishness truly divine make effort and victory easier. In proportion as we struggle under the leadership and protection of the Master, concupiscence weakens, our power of resistance grows, and a time comes when privileged souls are so grounded in virtue, that ever free as they remain to do evil, they never commit any fully deliberate venial sin. The final victory will come only with our entrance into heaven, but it will be all the more glorious having been bought at a greater price. Can we not also repeat: O happy fault!

#84. d) To such interior helps our Lord has joined external ones, particularly that of the Visible Church, founded and designed by Him to enlighten our minds by her teaching, to stay our wills by the warrant of her laws and judgments, to sanctify our souls by sacraments, sacramentals and indulgences. In her we have an immense treasure-house of help for which we must thank God: O felix culpa! O happy fault!

#85. e) Lastly, it is not certain that the Word of God would have taken flesh had the fall of our first parents not occurred. Now the Incarnation is such a priceless boon that it alone would suffice to explain and justify the cry of the Church: O happy fault!

Instead of having for the head of the race a man richly endowed, indeed, but liable to error and to sin, we have one who is none other than the Eternal Son of God. The head of mankind is the Word, clothed in our nature, true man as well as true God. He is the ideal mediator, a mediator for worship as well as for redemption, who adores His Father not merely in His own name but in the name of the entire human race, nay more, in the name of the angels, for it is through Him that the heavenly hosts praise and glorify their Creator: "through Whom the angels praise."1 He is the perfect priest who, while having free access to God on account of His divine nature, stoops down to His fellowmen, His brethren, to deal them kindness and indulgence the while He knows their weakness: " Who can have compassion on them that are ignorant and that err: because He Himself also is encompassed with infirmity."2

With Him and through Him we can render to God the infinite homage to which He is entitled. With Him and through Him we can obtain all the graces we need both for ourselves and for others. When we adore, it is He that adores in us and through us; when we ask for help, it is He that supports our requests; and for this reason, whatsoever we shall ask of the Father in His name shall be graciously given us.

We must, therefore, rejoice in the possession of such a Redeemer, such a Mediator, and have a trust in Him that knows no limits.

n1. Preface of the Mass. n2. "Hebr.," V, 2.


#86. This brief historical survey brings out most strikingly the supreme worth of the supernatural life and the grandeur and weakness of man on whom it is bestowed.

(1) This life is, indeed, excellent since: a) It is born of a loving thought of God, who has loved us from all eternity and has willed to unite us to Himself in the sweetest and closest intimacy: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, and therefore I have drawn thee to myself."1

b) It is a real participation, even if finite, in the nature and in the life of God, enabling us to know and to love God even as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost know and love one another: "partakers of the divine nature." (See #. 106)

c) It has such worth in God's eyes that, to give it to us, the Father sacrifices His Only-Begotten Son, the Son makes a complete immolation of self, and the Holy Ghost comes to impart this life to our souls. Indeed, it is the pearl of great price: " By whom he hath given us most great and precious promises,"2 which we must hold dearer than all else and keep and cherish with jealous care: its worth is that of God Himself !

n1. "Jer.," XXXI, 3. n2. "II Petr.," I,4.

#87. (2) Still, we carry this treasure in earthen vessels. If our first parents, endowed with the gift of integrity and enriched with all sorts of privileges, had the misfortune of forfeiting it both for themselves and their posterity, should we entertain no fear? We, who in spite of our spiritual regeneration, carry within us the threefold concupiscence?

No doubt, there are within us generous and noble impulses born of what is good in our nature. There are, besides, the supernatural forces which come to us through Christ's merits and through our incorporation into Him. However, we remain weak and inconstant, unless we lean upon Him who is our strength as well as our head. The secret of our power does not rest with us, but with God and Christ Jesus our Lord. The history of our First Parents and their lamentable fall shows us that the great evil in the world, the only evil, is sin. It shows us that we must be ever on our guard to repel at once and with all our might every attack that the enemy may make against us, be it from without or from within. We are nevertheless well protected and fully armed against his onslaughts, as our second chapter, dealing with the nature of the Christian life, will prove.