The Divine Life in Man


FAITH IS THE BEGINNING of happiness in the mind. It is even more than this. Because faith proposes to man the possibility of attaining the vision of God, it gives man the beginning of happiness in his heart. A man is happy in his heart when he possesses the object of his love or when he conceives that what he desires can be obtained either through his own efforts or through the assistance of someone else. Now faith tells man that it is possible to attain the vision of God through God's assistance. Faith then lays the foundation of hope in the heart of man.

HOPE IS A THEOLOGICAL VIRTUE. It has God for its object. In hope man relies on God's goodness and power to bring man to the possession of God Himself. The Divine goodness is thus both the efficient cause and the ultimate object of hope. It is obvious that faith precedes hope. For unless a man knows that God is prepared to lead him to eternal life he can have no real hope of attaining it. It is faith which tells man that god is ready to assist man to attain true happiness. In this way it is faith which opens the door for hope in the human heart.

CHARITY, OR THE LOVE OF GOD, is more perfect than hope. For charity loves God for the sake of God. It loves God for Himself. In hope man loves God for the sake of the good which he expects to receive from God. But in a certain sense hope precedes charity. For the man who hopes to be rewarded by God is led to love God and obey His commandments.

FAITH MAKES US CLING TO GOD as the source of knowledge. Hope makes us cling to God as the source of our happiness, the goodness and power from which we hope to receive happiness. Charity makes us cling to God for His Own sake.

THE OBJECT OF HOPE is eternal life---the vision of God. Since its object is a good, hope is a virtue in the will of man. It is therefore distinct from the passion of hope in the sense appetite of man. The passion of hope moves man to the pursuit of the goods of the flesh. But the virtue of hope moves man to the pursuit of God Himself. It can be found then only in the will.
SINCE HOPE MOVES MAN to seek God, neither the Saints in Heaven nor the damned in Hell can have hope. The Saints have no hope because they already possess God. A man does not hope to attain what he already possesses. The damned in Hell have
no hope because they have already lost God and know that they can never possess Him. Hope is possible only when it is possible to attain the object of love.

BUT HOPE CAN BE FOUND in men in this present life. Moreover when hope is based on faith and inspired by charity, then a man can hope certainly to attain happiness. It is not so much hope itself which is certain, as it is that the faith on which hope is based is certain. The believer knows with certitude that God is ready to lead him to happiness and he knows that God can lead him to happiness.

OF COURSE, AS LONG AS A MAN is still in this present life, his will is changeable and he can desert God through sin. As far as man is concerned then hope can always fail. But the Divine goodness on which hope rests can never fail. God is always ready to do what He can for those who truly seek Him. This certainty of hope does not mean that man can sit back and let God do all the work for man's salvation. Men are not saved, as some heretics have said, simply because they believe in God's goodness. The hope that saves is the hope that works through love of God. It is the hope that leads a man to love God and keep His commandments.

SINCE HOPE CAN FAIL through man's sin, the Divine generosity has given man the gift of fear to make hope perfect. We are not speaking now of any purely human fear which a man might have either of God or of anything in the world. We are speaking of that fear which is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a gift through which God moves man to fear Him so that the virtue of hope may neither be lost or frustrated.

FEAR OF GOD CAN BE OF TWO KINDS. If a man turns to God because he fears to be punished by God, this is servile fear, the fear which a slave has for his master. But if a man turns to God because of a fear of offending God by sin, then it is filial fear, the fear which a son has of offending the father he loves.

SERVILE FEAR IS FOUND in the man who has faith and hope, but has lost grace and charity through sin. It is good for man, because it can lead him to repentance and the love of God. Filial fear is found in the man in the state of grace and charity. Because he has charity he fears to offend God whom he loves.

IT IS FILIAL FEAR which is the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is filial fear which really perfects hope by leading man to make certain of his salvation by avoiding sin.
FEAR OF THE LORD is the "beginning of wisdom." (Psalm CX, 10.) Actually it is faith which gives man the essence of wisdom, for it is faith which tells man the truth about God, the cause of all things, and enables him to rule his actions according to the Divine Law. But both servile fear and filial fear are the first effects of wisdom. For servile fear enables man to rule his actions according to the Divine law by holding before him the threat of Divine punishment. And filial fear is the beginning, or the first step in practice, of wisdom since it leads a man to fear God and submit himself to the Divine Law.

MEN OFTEN SAY that love casts out fear. When we apply this saying to the love and fear of God it is partly true and partly false. It is true that the love of God takes away the servility or cravenness of servile fear. For the more a man loves God, the less he fears punishment. For the more he loves God the less he thinks of himself, even from the point of view of punishment. And the more he loves God, the more confident he is that he will escape punishment and attain happiness.

BUT FILIAL FEAR, the gift of the Holy Spirit, increases as a man's love of God increases. For the more a man loves someone, the more he fears to offend him or be separated from him. So too, the more a man loves God, the more he will fear to
offend Him or be separated from Him.

THE PERFECTION OF HOPE AND FEAR is found in the first Beatitude: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." (Matt. V, 3.) When a man submits to God in filial fear, he ceases to seek greatness either in himself or in anything else but God. As a consequence he no longer sins through vanity or pride in himself or through attachment to the treasures of this world. He is then "poor in spirit." He seeks his happiness only in God. And his reward is the reward of hope, "the kingdom of Heaven."

THE ENEMIES OF HOPE are the vices of despair and presumption. To despair is to lose trust in God's goodness and mercy. Presumption is the sin of assuming that God will give happiness to a man when he is not entitled to it. The sinner commits this sin when he hopes to attain the vision of God without repenting for his sins.
OF THE THREE GREAT SINS against the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, unbelief and hatred of God are more grievous than despair. For unbelief means that a man does not believe God's Own truth. And hatred of God means that a man opposes his own will to God's Own goodness. But despair means that a man ceases to hope for a share in God's goodness.

BUT DESPAIR IS MORE DANGEROUS for men than unbelief or hatred for God. For despair means that a man gives up hope. A man without hope has nothing to live for, nothing to seek, nothing to gain. He can neither respect himself, nor others, nor love God. When a man is in this condition he will rush headlong into sin. Every sin will cause him to despair all the more. Since he no longer trusts in the Divine goodness, he has no means of raising himself from sin. The man in despair is rushing madly into Hell. Only the great grace and mercy of God can recall him from his dangerous journey to unhappiness.

DESPAIR IS CAUSED CHIEFLY by either lust or sloth. Lust binds a man strongly to the pleasures of the flesh. Hence he has no taste or desire for spiritual good. Or he considers it too difficult to attain. Nothing is left him but despair. Sloth or spiritual laziness casts a pall over man's mind. It makes the pursuit of good seem too difficult and so it leads man to despair.

PRESUMPTION IS NOT IN ITSELF so serious a sin as despair. For presumption does not deny God's goodness. It relies too much on God's goodness to the exclusion of God's justice. For a man is guilty of the sin of presumption when he hopes to obtain happiness even though he has no intention of giving up his sinful way of life.

 PRESUMPTION IS CAUSED BY PRIDE. The presumptuous man hopes to obtain glory without merits, pardon without repentance. He does this because he thinks so much of himself that he imagines God will not punish him for his sins or exclude him from the happiness of Heaven. The presumptuous man is like the proud husband who mistreats and injures his wife continually, but still expects her to love him because of his fancied perfections.

LIKE DESPAIR presumption drives real hope out of the heart of man. The presumptuous man lives in false hope. The great danger of presumption is that it leads a man to despise the graces of the Holy Spirit which might lead him to repentance. Blinded by his false estimate of his own excellence he spurns God's efforts to lead him away from sin to happiness.

THE GREAT SIN OF THE WORLD of today is the sin of despair. Militant atheism in the world has robbed men of faith and destroyed their hope. When men have no hope then violence rules the world. Where there is no hope there are only war and hate. That is why the world is still plunged in the maelstrom of war. That is why the lists of war casualties mount every day, why the number of the starving, the diseased, the homeless and dispossessed has reached appalling proportions. Where there is no real hope in God, there is no love of God. Where there is no love of God, there is no real love of men. A world without hope is a frustrated world. Without hope man has no chance to open the eyes of his soul through the horizons of faith to the infinity of the vision of God. Without hope man is a slave to his passions, to what is lowest in him. Without hope man can never achieve his true destiny.

THE ONLY REMEDY FOR THE WORLD is a return to the love of God through faith and hope. Faith will open man's eyes to the true splendor of God and man. It will give him a vision to live for, a significant journey to make. Hope will give man courage, courage built upon the assurance of the possibility of attaining true happiness. As despair brings the frustration of unhappiness to man, so hope brings happiness to the heart of man. To a man in despair life must seem like a sigh of sadness between two silences. But to the man who hopes life is a sigh of love coming out from a God Who is Love and returning happily and surely to that same God Who is Love.