Sharing in God’s Divine Nature

What scripture says about the profound mystery of the Christian’s participation in God’s own divine nature is echoed in the liturgy and in the writings of saints and theologians:

“He has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature …” (2 Peter 1:4).

“For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily, and you share in this fullness in him” (Colossians 2:9-10).

“By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity” (Liturgical prayer during the preparation of the gifts).

“When the Christian dares to pronounce such a name [as Abba, or Father], he is not calling upon the loving providence of God the Creator, but more specifically upon the fatherhood by which God has communicated his own nature to him” (Ceslaus Spicq, OP, The Trinity and Our Moral Life, according to St. Paul p. 70).

“The moral life is a prolongation, an extension, an unfolding of the life of Christ in his disciples.” (Ceslaus Spicq, OP, ibid, p. 50)

“God became man that man might become god.” (St. Athanasius)

“One day in the heavenly Zion they will see Christ as the God of gods, as the one who being God, will deify his own” (St. Bruno, cited in Liturgy of the Hours, volume IV, p. 241).

“God has predestined us to be not only creatures, but His children … Thus to share in His divine nature” (Blessed Columba Marmion, Christ, the Life of the Soul, p. 13).

Coming to fully understand what the Church teaches, in all these ways and more, we may conclude with certainty that there is no other redemption than sharing in God’s divine nature. It would be beneficial to follow the advice of Blessed Marmion: “We cannot sufficiently appreciate the greatness of these dogmas (about participation in divine nature) and their profit to our souls unless we contemplate them at some length” (ibid., p. 8).



“We Are Absolutely Incapable”

Bethesda Healing Wolffert
“Christ at the Pool of Bethesda” by Artus Wolffort

In his book The Fourth Gospel (p. 100), Louis Bouyer comments on the healing of the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:2-16): “The way in which Jesus works the cure reveals well how St. John understands faith. Jesus said: ‘Rise, take up thy pallet and walk,’ and the man does so. The other evangelists have similar details, but St. John dwells specially on [the aspect of faith]. For him faith, far from obviating activity on the part of man, includes it as an essential element. Faith is by no means pure passivity; on the contrary it requires action from us, but also a realization that by ourselves we are absolutely incapable of it, and therefore [we need] a total reliance on God. Just when the paralytic has given vent to his despair of ever being cured Jesus commands him to act as if he were [already made whole]: he attempts it, having only the speaker’s word.”

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The Ultimate Foundation

It is necessary to understand that the person of Jesus Christ is not an exterior model, but the ultimate foundation of the existence of man and of the human act.

Luigi Lorenzetti, SCJ

What Gift Is Given in Actual Grace?

The return of the prodigal son, by Jan Steen
“Return of the Prodigal Son,” by Jan Steen: Forgiveness of the Undeserving

The mystery of divine grace is so extensive and so profound that the great German theologian Matthias Scheeben was able to find enough material for 60 chapters in his book The Glories of Divine Grace. His other writings contain, among so many topics, even more on grace than the sum total of these 60 chapters.

One of the golden threads woven through all that Scheeben presents is the concept of gift. That is, every grace is a gift, a gift freely given by God, a gift that the recipient has not earned.

With that in mind, and turning to the topic of actual grace, we may ask: In actual grace, what is the gift given? In the innumerable gifts of actual grace is there some way of naming the type of gift present in all of them? Is there perhaps a golden thread here as well – a golden thread within a golden thread? First golden thread: every grace is a gift from God. Second golden thread: every actual grace is a gift from God of a certain kind. But what kind?

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The Gift of the Holy Spirit

The gift par excellence of Christ to the mankind he has redeemed is the very Person of the Holy Spirit, the immediate source of grace, the immanent principle of inspiration of every child of God in each of his thoughts and actions.

Ceslaus Spicq, OP

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”

Luyken's Storm at Sea

If the story of Jesus calming the sea (Mk. 4:35-41) has become so familiar that it no longer conveys the very real terror felt by the apostles, perhaps the drawing above by Jan Luykens helps.

Ps. 107:23-32 could also help. It reads like a prophecy of the event itself:

“Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded, and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men, and were at their wits’ end. 

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to the sons of men!”

St. Paul seems to have experienced something similar, whether at sea or in some other place:

“We do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead; he delivered us from so deadly a peril, and he will deliver us; on him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Cor. 1:8-10).

When you are able to imagine something of the paralyzing fear felt by the apostles, then contemplate Jesus’s question: “Why were you afraid? Have you no faith?” (Mk. 4:40)

There is one central affirmation involved in all faith in Jesus: that he is absolutely truthful and reliable. There can be no shadow of a doubt concerning the largest or the smallest exceptions — or else you do not believe in him as God. Thus, when he allows us to be “utterly, unbearably crushed,” yet ultimately “delivers us from so deadly a peril,” there is a purpose: “to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” That is, he allows it in order to increase our faith.

Righteousness by the Priestly Mediation of Christ

In his commentary titled L’epitre aux Hebreux, (Tome II, page 144f), Ceslaus Spicq, O.P. says the author of the letter calls the Hebrews to more profoundly comprehend that righteousness, the power to bear the fruits of holiness, does not come in any way from the law, but only from the priestly mediation of Christ. That is, the righteousness of Christ’s followers, in their very being and in their daily actions, is an outcome of his passion, death and resurrection, which are the supreme expression of his priesthood. Christ is the priest, and Christ is the victim offered to God. Because of this priestly mediation, the Hebrews through their union with Christ by faith and baptism have been able to “taste the powers of the age to come” (Heb. 6:5). “To taste” in this sense means to experience directly for oneself. They have known the power of the righteousness of God in their own lives. The author of the letter urges them to continue in his righteousness, and “go on to maturity” (Heb. 6:1).

A Morality of Infinite Significance

Morality of Infinite Significance

In a remarkable book about Christian morality, titled “Mais Moi, Je Vous Dis …” (“But I Say to You …”), Real Tremblay, C.Ss.R. begins with these words, stating the book’s purpose:

“The intention of these pages is to present a morality of exalted content and infinite significance. This project could astonish because of the rather negative reputation usually attached to the moral life. Yet the project is not extravagant; nor is it a flight of fancy as long as one is careful to root morality in the Trinitarian Mystery, in order that it may sprout there, grow up there, and there produce the kind of fruits that manifest its splendor.” [Translation by GFR]

The type of actions Tremblay has in mind, that manifest the splendor of Christian morality, are abundantly expressed in the New Testament: Turn the other cheek; go the extra mile; forgive 70 times seven times; associate with the lowly, and the rest. Statements like these do indeed set before our minds and hearts a “morality of infinite significance.” Tremblay presents this exalted teaching as realistic still today, just as it was in the times of the New Testament, because the Christian life is forever rooted in the Mystery of the Trinity, and “with God nothing will be impossible” (Lk. 1:37).

If Tremblay is correct that such a life astonishes, it is only because he reminds us of the way John taught; of the way Paul taught; of the way Peter taught — of the way all the New Testament authors taught. Of course, such teaching traces back to the Lord Jesus himself, and scripture informs us that those who heard him “were astonished at his teaching” (Lk. 4:32). Take note, furthermore, that in the New Testament this “exalted content” was given to every Christian, the neophyte and the mature, because it was never intended to be rooted in their human possibilities alone, but always in the Mystery of the Trinity.


To Serve as Jesus Served

Jesus washing feet 022118

Real Tremblay, C.Ss.R., in his book Mais moi, je vous dit [“But I Say to You,” pages 98f] emphasizes the unique divine quality of the actions commanded of his followers by Jesus. Tremblay explains that in order to live as a child of God and to serve as Jesus served, one must, by the gift of God, follow a morality of the-other-before-me — a morality fully manifest in the Cross, but also taught to the apostles in the washing of the feet. Thus, living according to the new Christian morality means loving others in the kind of service given by a slave to his master. However, such a divine level of service can only be sustained on the basis of a real union with Christ, the very union initiated only in baptism, and completed and renewed continually in the Eucharist. This divine intimacy with Christ, which is a mutual interpenetration of life, has no full analogy in the simply human sphere. Jesus expresses it in his prayer “that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us ” (Jn. 17:21).  Any attempt to live a Christian moral life without such a foundation in God would be futile. When, on the other hand, this foundation is firmly established by a sacramental completion in the Eucharist, the Christian enjoys real access to the divine life; and by faith, his or her acts of service spring directly from Christ’s own servant nature. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (Jn. 6:56); and “He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit” (Jn.15:5). The sacraments are, therefore, so profoundly linked to morality that the two cannot be separated; there is never a justification for thinking of them in isolation.  One additional, perhaps surprising, conclusion: Attending the Eucharistic celebration when not combined with a way of life fitting for participation in Christ’s paschal mystery, can eventually lead to a denial of the sacrament’s divine vitality, or even worse, to indifference towards it.