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.
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.
A book title in French commands attention: “L’homme qui divinise” (by Real Tremblay): “The Man Who Divinizes.” That is, a human-divine person, Christ in you, changes you so that you participate in his divine nature (2Peter 1:4) — in your very being, and in your actions. By a divine power, “the will, which hitherto willed evil, begins to will good” (Aquinas, ST I-II, Q3, A2). This “Man Who Divinizes” remains at work in the Christian as a new, permanent and heavenly “Power of my power” (cf., the song “Be Thou My Vision”), elevating the believer’s behavior as well as his nature. Certainly the Christian needs to grow accustomed to walking by faith in this grace, but he is continually aided to do so by the presence and activity of Another at work in him: “The Man Who Divinizes.”
Fr. Timothy Vaverek, writing at The Catholic Thing, says that today many Christians are affected by a mistaken notion which sees “our sharing in God’s love [as] sometimes impractical or impossible. This crisis arose because Christian life ceased to be understood as a personal, communal participation in Jesus’ life.”
He adds that “divine love unites us to God in Christ, brings us true contrition, arouses hatred for sin and evil …” Even suffering, when it is a participation in God’s love, draws us “deeper into the crucified heart of the Risen Christ.” Then Christian life is no longer “misunderstood as a submission to abstract teachings rather than a participation in the life of Jesus.” Indeed, when participation in Christ is removed from a Christian’s awareness, “the demands of love take on the distorted appearance of legalistic obligations that sometimes seem merciless or unrealistic …”
It is a great mystery that Christians individually participate in the life of Christ: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). A renewed understanding of that participation transforms lives. The life of an entire parish, and the relationships among its parishioners, would also be profoundly affected if a pastor imparted a vision of the parish’s “communal participation in Jesus’ life.”
Click on this link, if you want to read the entire article in which Fr. Vaverek applies these truths to effectively clarify many of today’s contested moral issues. The article is worth your close attention!
Vatican II called for an updating of the philosophical and theological studies of seminarians, an updating that could apply to the efforts of every Christian: Their studies should “harmoniously work toward opening more and more the minds of the students to the mystery of Christ. For it is this mystery which affects the whole history of the human race, [and] continuously influences the Church …”
Optatum Totius, Decree on Priestly Training, 14
“When God penetrates the soul with his nature, the soul experiences two effects: the first is an irresistible love, an attraction which subjugates her by means unknown to her … The second effect is, that the soul feels herself in some manner as participating in that divine nature. She sees by means of an irrefutable illumination that she comes from that God who manifests himself to her and that she returns to him. Moreover, although outside herself, in God she finds herself in her element and in her center; both God and the soul dissolving into one, she forgets her proper life and feels she is partaking of the Life of God.”
Cited in Magnificat, February 2018, page 118.