Perfection and the Precept
of the Love of God
TAKEN FROM CHRISTIAN PERFECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.
TAN BOOKS AND PUBLISHERS
With Nihil Obstat, Imprimi Potest and Imprimatur, 1937
A. IS THE FIRST PRECEPT WITHOUT LIMIT?
The twofold precept of love is strictly formulated in the Gospel of St. Luke:  "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind: and thy neighbor as thyself." After weighing the meaning of each of these terms and considering the insistence with which the word "all" is repeated, we might ask with St. Thomas whether the precept of the love of God has a limit; and, if it has, whether it follows that beyond this limit there is only a counsel of charity in which perfection would consist.
Some have thought so and have insisted that even to observe this precept perfectly, we need not possess a high degree of charity. Higher perfection, which suppresses deliberate venial sin and voluntary imperfections, is only of counsel. It is not included under the precept, but goes beyond it. Perfection would thus consist especially in the accomplishment of certain counsels of charity, superior to the first precept itself. 
This may seem true if we consider matters superficially. In stating the problem, St. Thomas carefully notes it in his objection: "All are obliged to observe the precepts in order to obtain salvation. If, therefore, the perfection of Christian life consisted in the precepts, it would follow that perfection would be necessary to salvation and that all would be obliged thereto, which is false."  This is a specious objection. As we shall see, St. Thomas solves it by showing, as St. Augustine does, the grandeur of the precept of the love of God, which is superior to all the counsels. It is surprising to find that modern theologians, and not the least among them, as a result of their failure to comprehend the doctrine of the greatest masters on this fundamental point of spirituality, have turned this objection into a thesis.
Instead of being content with appearances and the material side of things, we will consider the deep meaning and extent of the precept. As a basis for this discussion, we will follow as exactly as possible the text of a little known article of St. Thomas, "Whether perfection. consists in the observance of the Commandments or of the counsels." 
"It is written in Deuteronomy: 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart,'  and in Leviticus: 'Thou shalt, love thy neighbor as thyself.'  Our Lord adds: 'On these two Commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.'  Now the perfection of charity, according to which Christian life is perfect, consists precisely in this, that we love God with all our hearts and our neighbor as ourselves. It would seem, therefore, that perfection consists in the fulfillment of the precepts. To understand it clearly, it must be observed that perfection consists necessarily and essentially in one thing, secondarily and accidentally in another.
"Necessarily and essentially, the perfection of Christian life consists in charity; primarily in the love of God, and secondarily in the love of our neighbor. This charity is the object of the two chief precepts of the Divine law. Now it would be a mistake to imagine that the love of God and of our neighbor is the object of a law only according to a certain measure, that is to say, up to a certain degree, after which it would become the object of a simple counsel. No, the message of the Commandment is clear and shows what perfection is: 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart.' The two expressions all and entire or perfect are synonymous. Similarly, it is said: 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself'; and each one loves himself, so to speak, without limit (maxime).  This is so, because, according to the teaching of the Apostle, 'The end of the commandment is charity.'  Now, the end does not present itself to the will in a fragmentary manner, but in its totality. In this it differs from the means. Either one wishes it or one does not wish it. One does not wish it by halves, as Aristotle observes.  Does a doctor seek only half the cure of a sick person? Obviously no. What he measures is the medicine, but not health, which he wishes without measure. Manifestly, therefore, perfection consists essentially in the precepts. Moreover, St. Augustine says, in his book De perfectione justitiae: 'Why, therefore, should this perfection not be prescribed to man, although he cannot have it (fully) in this life?'" 
This is so much the more true because the end in question is not an intermediary end, such as health, but the ultimate end, God Himself, who is infinite good. St. Thomas says: "We can never love God as much as He ought to be loved, nor believe and hope in Him as much as we should."  Moreover, the theological virtues differ from the moral virtues in that they do not essentially consist in a happy mean. Their object, their formal motive, their essential measure, is God Himself, His infinite truth and goodness. If, from one point of view, these supreme virtues are a happy mean,  it is accidental and on the part of the human subject, not of the Divine object. For example, the proficient can and should love God more than the beginner, yet without being able to love Him as the perfect do, or as the blessed in Heaven. 
Finally, another reason why the precept of love has no limit is that our charity ought always to grow even until death, for we are travelers on the road to eternity. The way to eternity is not made to be used as a place of rest and sleep, but rather to be traveled. The lazy are those who rest along the road instead of pushing on to their goal. The traveler who has not yet reached the fixed term of his pilgrimage is commanded and not only counseled to advance, just as the child must grow according to the law of nature until he has reached maturity. Now, when it is a question of walking toward God, it is not by the movement of our bodies that we advance, but rather by the steps of love or charity, as St. Thomas says. Therefore we ought daily in this way to draw nearer to God, without placing a limit on the progress of our charity. We have no right to say that we will love God so much and no more. Such a restriction of charity would fail to observe the first Commandment, which is measureless: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind."
Does it follow that perfection in no way consists in the evangelical counsels? In the passage we have quoted above, St. Thomas replies: "Secondarily and instrumentally, however, perfection consists in the observance of the counsels; in other words, they are only precious instruments to attain it. In fact, all the counsels, like the Commandments, are ordained to charity, with one difference however. The Commandments, other than the two great precepts of love, are intended to remove whatever is contrary to charity, whatever might destroy it; while the end of the counsels is to remove whatever hinders or prevents the perfect exercise of charity without, however, being opposed to it, as for example, marriage, the necessity of being occupied with secular affairs, and things of this sort. This is what St. Augustine teaches (Enchiridion, chap. 21): 'Precepts ... and counsels ... are well observed when one fulfills them in order to love God, and one's neighbor for God, in this world and in the next.'"
This is why Abbot Moses says: "Fasts, vigils, meditation on Holy Scripture, nudity, and the privation of external goods,
are not perfections, but instruments or means of perfection. It is not in them that perfection consists, but by them that one attains it." 
This is what our Lord had in mind when He said to the rich young man: "If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven: and come, follow Me."  As St. Thomas observes (loc. cit., ad 1um), by these words our Lord indicates, first of all, the road which leads to perfection: "Go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor"; then He adds in what this perfection consists: "and follow Me," in spirit through charity. As St. Ambrose says,  "He orders him to follow, not with the steps of the body, but with devotion of the soul" The counsels are, therefore, instruments or means to attain perfection, but they do not constitute it essentially. Perfection is found in the fulfillment of the supreme and limitless precept of the love of God and of our neighbor.
Let us return to the difficulty pointed out at the beginning of this article. The following objection is raised: "All are bound to the observance of the commandments, since this is necessary for salvation. Therefore, if the perfection of Christian life consists essentially in the commandments, it follows that perfection is necessary for salvation and that all are obliged to be perfect, which is manifestly false. Moreover, imperfect charity already observes the precepts. It seems, therefore, that perfect charity consists essentially in observing the counsels."
To these two difficulties St. Thomas (Ibid., ad 2um and 3um), following St. Augustine, offers a profound reply showing the sublimity of the precept of love, which only the saints observe in its fulness: "As St. Augustine says in De perfectione justitiae,  the perfection of charity is prescribed to man in this life because 'one runs not in the right direction unless one knows whither to run. And how shall we know this, if no Commandment declares it to us?' But the matter of the precept (of love) can be fulfilled in different ways. Moreover, he who does not fulfill it in the most perfect manner does not for that reason transgress the precept. To avoid this transgression, it is enough to fulfill the law of charity to a certain extent as beginners do.
"The perfection of Divine love falls entirely within the object of the precept; even the perfection of Heaven is not excluded from it, since it is the end toward which one must tend, as St. Augustine says.  But one avoids the transgression of the precept by putting into practice a little love of God. "Now, the lowest degree of the love of God consists in loving nothing more than God, or contrary to God, or equally with God, and he who has not this degree of perfection nowise fulfills the commandment. There is another degree of charity, which cannot be realized in this life, and which consists in loving God with all our strength, in such a way that our love always tends actually toward Him. This perfection is possible only in Heaven, and therefore the fact that one does not yet possess it, does not entail a transgression of the commandment. And in like manner the fact that one has not attained the intermediate degrees of perfection, does not entail a transgression, provided only that one reaches the lowest degree."
But evidently he who remains in this lowest degree does not fulfill the supreme commandment in all its perfection. He does not accomplish fully what the law of love demands: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind."
It would, therefore, be a great illusion to think that only imperfect charity is prescribed, and that the higher degrees of this virtue are only of counsel. They fall under the precept, if not as something to be realized immediately, at least as that toward which we must tend, as the Thomists say. Even the charity of heaven is prescribed as the end toward which the soul in this life must always strive and even run, as St. Paul says,  without losing the time granted to it. Purgatory is for those who have not well enough employed their time of trial on earth.  This great doctrine seems subtle at first glance merely because of the objection that might embarrass the mind. In reality, it is quite conformable to what common sense in the natural order tells us. "Thus, in fact," observes St. Thomas,  "man, even from birth, has a certain essential perfection by which he belongs to the human species, and is quite superior to the animal; but he has not, as yet, the perfection of maturity, the full development of the body and of the faculties of the soul. In like manner, there is a certain perfection of charity which is none other than its very essence: to love God above all things, and to love nothing contrary to Him. But there is also, even in this life, another perfection of charity which one attains only by spiritual progress, analogous to natural growth. To reach this Perfection, the Christian abstains even from lawful things, so as to fulfill more freely his duties toward God."
The analogy is evident. To belong to the human race, it is enough to be a child, but that is not sufficient to be a fully developed man. Further, by virtue of a necessary law, a child must grow under pain not of remaining a child but of becoming a deformed dwarf. Likewise it suffices to have a very i low degree of charity in order to avoid the transgression of the precept of love, but that does not suffice for the perfect fulfillment of this first precept, which is superior to all the others and to all the counsels.
Moreover, if the beginner does not grow in charity, he will not remain a beginner, but will become an abnormal creature and, as it were, a dwarf from the spiritual point of view. For example, he has faith and piety which are, so to speak, embryonic, coupled with a highly developed literary, scientific, or professional culture. The disproportion is evident; balance is altogether lacking. Objections arise, disconcert the soul, and put it to rout. For lack of development, the Divine seed which is in the soul runs the risk of dying, as we learn in the parable of the sower.  In the spiritual life these abnormal souls are certainly not the true mystics and saints, but the retarded and the lukewarm.
This point of doctrine is evidently of primary importance in the spiritual life, but, strange to say, it is often misunderstood or at least forgotten. The perfection of charity is not only counseled, it is prescribed as the end toward which every Christian should tend, if not by the practice of the counsels, at least by their spirit while continually growing in charity. Pope Pius XI recalled this doctrine in his encyclical on the spiritual doctrine of St. Francis de Sales. The rejection of this doctrine is the suppression of the final cause in the question we are considering. 
When a soul, after living for a long time in the state of mortal sin, returns to God, it should do more than simply take care not to fall again and avoid the occasions of evil; it should ascend higher. The precept of love has no limit; it does not stop at a certain degree, beyond which there is only a counsel, but it commands us to grow continually in charity without ever stopping. God, who is infinitely good, deserves to be loved without measure, continually more and more "with all our heart, and with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind." Only the Saints perfectly observe this great law, which is the soul of Christian life. 
B. THREE CONSEQUENCES OF THE PRECEPT OF THE LOVE OF GOD
Three important consequences result from this lofty doctrine of the precept of the love of God which teaches that the first precept, superior to all the others and to all the counsels, has no limit; that by it the perfection of the Christian life is not only counseled, but commanded, to all; and that it is commanded not as something to be realized immediately, but rather as the end toward which everyone should tend according to his condition.
Since the charity of a Christian should increase until death, any halt in its development is in opposition to the law of the love of God. This is the explanation of the expression used by several fathers of the Church: "In the way of salvation, he who does not advance, goes back." If life does not ascend, it descends. The soul cannot live without love. If it fails to make progress in the love of God, it falls back into self-love. This is the danger of imperfect acts (actus remissi, as the theologians say) which proceed from charity, but are inferior in intensity to our degree of that virtue.
Three points are to be noted in regard to these acts: (1) These acts are still meritorious but, according to St. Thomas and the best theologians, they do not immediately obtain an increase of charity. They will obtain it only when we make a more fervent act, equal or superior to the degree of our virtue; just as in the natural order a virtuous friendship grows only through more generous acts.  (2) Acts of charity relatively too feeble for our degree of virtue show even a deficit, in this sense that the soul ought always to progress instead of remaining stationary; just as a child ought always to grow in order not to be stunted. (3) Lastly, these acts dispose us to positive retrogression, for by reason of their weakness they permit the rebirth of disordered inclinations, which lead to venial sin, and may end by overcoming us or leading us to spiritual death. Does the virtue of charity thus directly diminish? Not directly in itself; but its radiation, its influence, become weakened as a result of the obstacles that gradually accumulate about it, as the light of a lantern which, while keeping its intensity, sheds less and less light in proportion as its chimney becomes dimmed and soiled with the splashing mud of the road. 
In the same way, a retarded soul falls back like an intelligent man who ceases to apply his mind to study. If, possessing five talents, he acts as though he had only two or even four, he does not sufficiently increase the treasure entrusted to him. He is thereby guilty of negligence and spiritual laziness, that hinder him from perfectly observing the precept of love, the fundamental law of Christian life. From all this, we see that a meritorious act which is too weak is an imperfection disposing to venial sin, as the latter disposes to mortal sin.
The proficient who is satisfied to act like a beginner ceases to make progress and becomes a retarded soul. People do not give sufficient thought to the fact that the number of these souls is considerable. Many indeed think of developing their intellect, of expanding their knowledge, their exterior activity or that of the group to which they belong (in which there may be not a little selfishness), and yet scarcely think of growing in supernatural charity, which ought to have first place in us, and ought to inspire and vivify our entire life, and associate us intimately with the great life of the Church and that of Christ. And many retarded souls end by becoming lukewarm, cowardly, and careless, especially when their natural bent is toward skepticism and raillery. In the end they may become hardened and, as a result, it is often more difficult to bring them back to a fervent life than to bring about the conversion of a great sinner. 
Certain modern writers do not devote enough thought to the considerable number. of retarded souls that are in the so-called category of proficients, They then describe the illuminative way by being too easily satisfied with showing what it is rather generally in fact, that is, notably inferior to infused contemplation, which thus appears as an extraordinary grace. St. John of the Cross, who follows the teaching of the greatest masters, has, on the contrary, shown what it ought to be if it is to correspond fully to its great name. Considering the matter from this higher point of view, we are not surprised that he makes the illuminative way (that of proficients) begin with the passive night of the senses or the beginning of infused contemplation, which then appears in the normal development of the interior life. 
This first consequence of the precept of the love of God---he who does not advance, falls back---shows that the progress of charity ought to be continual. It thus opens up great perspectives.
A second result of the precept of the love of God is that every Christian, each according to his condition, must strive for the perfection of charity, For each and every one it is a general obligation, and is not reserved to religious and clerics.
Because of his vows,  a religious must tend to perfection by practicing the counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and by keeping the rule of his order. This special obligation places him in the state of perfection without at once making him perfect. It is identical with that of the observance of the vows, so the transgression of which in a grave matter is a mortal sin. In the way of progress, as marked out for him by his rule, the religious can never set a limit. He must always aspire to greater perfection.
Although a secular priest is not in the state of perfection, nevertheless he must tend to perfection on account of the holy orders he has received. Even if he has not the care of souls, he is obliged to a greater inward holiness than that required of a religious who is not a priest. "By holy orders," says St. Thomas, "a man is appointed to the most august ministry of serving Christ Himself in the sacrament of the altar. This requires a greater inward holiness than that which is required for the religious state." 
The ordinary Christian must strive for the perfection of charity according to the general obligation of the first Commandment. How shall he do this? By avoiding mortal and venial sin, by having the spirit of the counsels, without binding himself to practice those which do not correspond to his condition, and by thus growing in charity until death.  If a Christian follows this way generously, he will be called not only in a remote manner, but in a proximate and even efficacious manner, to a very high perfection, to which he can attain though married. All ought, therefore, to grow in charity, each according to his state in life, whether it be that of a simple layman, a secular priest, or a religious; in other words, each according to his condition, whether it be that of beginner, proficient, or perfect.  It was with this meaning that our Lord said to all: "Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect."  This call is not merely to the perfection of the Angels, but to that of God Himself, since we have received a participation not only in the angelic nature but in the divine nature, and since this participation, sanctifying grace, is the beginning of eternal life, that will develop into glory in which we shall see God as He sees Himself, and love Him as He loves Himself.
In the same sense, St. Peter wrote for all the faithful: "As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile, that thereby you may grow unto salvation; if so be you have tasted that the Lord is sweet. Unto whom coming, as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen and made honorable by God: be you also as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."  "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."  St. Paul also teaches us: "But doing the truth in charity, we may in all things grow up in Him who is the head, even Christ." 
"Therefore, we also ... cease not to pray for you. and to beg that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will, in all wisdom, and spiritual understanding: that you may walk worthy of God, in all things pleasing; being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God: strengthened with all might, according to the power of His glory, in all patience and long-suffering with joy."  "Wherefore, leaving the word of the beginning of Christ, let us go on to things more perfect" (Heb. 6:1).
Commenting on this last text of St. Paul, St. Thomas observes: "In regard to his judgment of himself, a man ought not to consider himself perfect, but he ought always to be like a pilgrim who continues on his way and ever tends higher, as the Apostle states: 'Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect' (Phil. 3:12). In regard to the progress to be made, man ought always to strive to attain perfection: 'Forgetting the things that are behind, and stretching forth myself to those that are before' (Ibid., 3:13). As St. Bernard says, not to advance in the way of salvation is to fall back. ... To be sure, this does not mean that all are obliged to that perfection, in a certain sense exterior, which consists, for example, in voluntary poverty and virginity. ... But all ought to strive for the inward perfection of charity ... for if a man did not wish to love God more, he would fail in that which charity requires."  "He who would not always wish to become better, would not be able to avoid contempt for that which is worthy of all respect." 
St. Francis de Sales, quoting these words of Scripture, teaches the same doctrine:  " 'And he that is just, let him be justified still: and he that is holy, let him be sanctified still.'  'But the path of the just, as a shining light, goeth forward and increaseth even to perfect day.'  'So run that you may obtain.'  If you follow Christ, you will always run, for He never stopped, but continued the course of His love and obedience 'unto death, even to the death of the Cross.'" 
According to this same law, the progress of charity in the Blessed Virgin, who was preserved from every stain of sin, was continual in this life. It was not even interrupted by sleep, for the infused knowledge which she had received kept the superior part of her soul always on the alert and her meritorious acts did not cease, any more than did the beating of her heart.  The initial plenitude of grace, which she had received from the instant of her Immaculate Conception, was thus multiplied by every act of charity, each one more intense than the preceding, and incessantly multiplied according to a marvelous progression which we could never calculate. 
What a prodigious acceleration in the progress of Divine love takes place when there is nothing in the soul to arrest its growth! Reason is overawed in the presence of this masterpiece of God. Is it credible? Indeed, so much so that if we look about us, we find even in the material world a semblance of this wonderful law of the spiritual life; namely, every material body falling freely in space takes on a uniformly accelerated movement, the speed of which grows in proportion to the time of the fall. 
This is a particular case of the law of universal gravity, which is analogously applied in the spiritual order. If bodies attract each other in the direct ratio of their mass, and in the inverse ratio of the square of their distance, similarly souls are so much the more drawn by God as they are nearer to Him by the intensity of their supernatural charity. Were a soul always to remain faithful, the progress of the love of God encountering no obstacle would thus be uniformly accelerated, and would be just so much more intense as the initial speed or the first grace was greater. This gives us a glimpse of what this progress must have been in the soul of the Blessed Virgin, in whom the initial grace was superior to that of all the Saints and Angels together, as the diamond is worth more than all other precious stones. Mary was also able to avoid not only every venial sin, but all taken collectively, and she never produced acts inferior to her degree of charity; consequently the progress of the love of God never encountered in her the slightest obstacle or the least retardation.
St. Thomas, who knew that bodies fall more rapidly as they approach the earth,  also noted this acceleration of the progress of charity in the souls of the Saints in the measure in which they drew nearer to God: "Those," he says, "who are in the state of grace ought to grow the more in it as they draw closer to the end."  This is the way he understood the expression in the Epistle to the Hebrews:  "Comforting one an other, and so much the more as you see the day approaching," so much the more as we approach the end of the journey.
There is a third consequence of the precept of the love of God, namely, since the perfection of charity falls under the precept as the end toward which one must tend, assuredly actual graces are progressively offered to us proportionate to the end to be attained. Knowing this, how is it possible that we should not hope to attain this end and how can we make it a matter of humility not to pretend to ascend so high? Our Lord Jesus Christ continually repeats: "Sursum corda)" and He adds: "Without Me you can do nothing." If you ascend, do not take the glory to yourself. It is I Who carry you, who lift you up, who constantly give you life, and I wish to give it to you in ever greater abundance so that you may correspond ever more perfectly with the commandment of My Father. Perfect charity, as it exists in the transforming union, appears thus more and more as the summit of the normal development of the grace of baptism. It seems quite difficult now to admit possible discussion on this point.  And to think that contemplative souls have suffered so greatly because they willed to doubt God's munificence on behalf of the Baptized soul! Rightly their hearts protested against the doubts raised by their souls. In what gentle harmony everything is bound up and united in God's truth! How calm must the soul of a St. Augustine or a St. Thomas have been, living habitually in the peace-giving contemplation of the being and unity of God! What love burst forth also from the sweet knowledge of the supreme precept and of the grace offered to fulfill it ever more fully I However sublime the degree to which divine mercy raises a soul in this life, it ought always to say that it would be its own fault if it did not ascend higher in the time remaining to it on earth. The same profound mystery exists in regard to the degree of sanctity and the degree of glory as in regard to salvation. It is the goodness of God that awakens our goodness, that saves us and makes us advance. It is a creature's own ill will that condemns him, or at least delays him on the way of eternity: "Destruction is thy own, O Israel; thy help is only in Me."  The depths of humility open up for the contemplative soul at the same time as the abyss of the Divine mercy into which it is more and more deeply plunged. To wretchedness which humbly petitions, infinite mercy from its height stoops to give us the strength always to fulfill more perfectly the first precept, which is the generating law of all our life. This is the burden of Psalm 41: "My soul is troubled within myself; therefore will I remember Thee. ... Deep calleth on deep, at the noise of thy flood-gates. ... With me is prayer to the God of my life. ... Hope thou in God, for I will still give praise to Him: the salvation of my countenance, and my God!"  The great poetry of the Psalms has been revealed to us in order to be understood. To understand it well, however, and to make it vibrate in the depths of the soul, should we not have received infused contemplation, which raises the mind and the heart even to the fountain of living water and to the light of life? This contemplation and its degrees are the subject of the following page.
1. Luke 10:27.
2. This opinion is expressed by Suarez, De statu perfectionis, chap. II, nos. 15, 16. He admits that St. Thomas and before him St. Augustine seem to teach clearly that the perfection of Christian life is not only counseled, but commanded, by the first precept, as an end toward which one must tend. But he himself replies in the negative: "Respondeo nihil ominus, si proprie et in rigore loquamur, perfectionem supererogationis non solum non praecipi, ut materiam in quam obligatio praecepti cadat. verum etiam neque per modum finis in praeceptis contineri." Thus he admits above the precept of the love of God, which in his opinion is limited, counsels of charity superior to those of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Perfection, according to him, consists essentially in these counsels of charity, instrumentally in the other three. Cf. Ibid., no. 16.
This doctrine of Suarez is criticized at length by the great canonist Passerini, O.P., who was a profound theologian and most faithful to St. Thomas. Cf. his De hominum statibus et officiis, on IIa IIae. q. 184. a. 3. p. 50, no. 70, and p. 57, no. 106, where he shows that this doctrine of Suarez is opposed to that of St. Augustine and of St. Thomas, which was accepted by St. Antoninus, Cajetan, and Valentia. This will be easily understood by reading the article quoted from the Summa theologica, which we are going to translate. We will then, in a footnote, briefly answer the objections of Suarez.
St. Thomas has also occasionally (e. g., In Ep. ad Phil., chap. 3, lect. 2) used the expression "perfection of supererogation," but in a different sense from that in which Suarez uses it. Cf. G. Barthier, O.P., Perfection chretienne et perfection religieuse, I. 229. When St. Thomas uses this phrase, he simply means that the three counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience are not obligatory.
3. Summa, IIa IIae, q. 184. a. 3 ad 2um: "Whether perfection consists in the observance of the precepts or of the counsels."
4. Summa, IIa IIae, q. 184. a. 3.
5. Deut. 6:5.
6. Lev. 19:18.
7. Matt: 22:40
8. In this sense, that everyone ought by charity to wish for himself salvation, eternal life, and not only an inferior degree of glory, but eternal life without fixing any limit; for we do not know to what degree of glory God wishes to raise
9. See 1 Tim. 1:5.
10. See I Polit., chap. 3.
11. See IIa IIae, q. 184, a. 3. St. Augustine means that even the perfection of Heaven falls under the precept of the love of God, not as something to be realized immediately, but as the end toward which one must tend. It is thus that Cajetan explains it (commentary on IIa IIae, q. 184, a. 3).
12. Summa, Ia IIae, q. 64, a. 4: Whether the theological virtues observe the
13. For example. faith between infidelity and credulity; and hope between presumption and despair.
14. Likewise, from this secondary and accidental point of view, on the part of man, and not of God, hope is found between despair and presumption. The presumptuous man does not hope too much in God---that is impossible: but he hopes for a good which exceeds his condition---for example, pardon without true repentance. In the same way, credulity does not consist in believing too much in God, but in believing as if revealed by Him, what is only invention or human imagination (Ia IIae. q. 64, a. 4). On the other hand, the moral virtue which rules a passion ought essentially to constitute a happy mean between the excess and the absence of this passion. Thus the virtue of fortitude is essentially a rational, happy mean, between cowardice and temerity; a happy mean, moreover, which, by reason of its rationality, stands out as a culminating point above these irrational forms of human action. To forget, as Epicurus does, that the rational, happy mean must thus be a summit, and to wish to make the essentially theological virtues consist in a mean as the moral virtues do, is the peculiarity of mediocrity or of tepidity. erected into a system under pretext of moderation.
15. Conferences of the Fathers, Bk. I, chap. 7.
16. Matt. 19:21.
17. In Luc., 5:27.
18. Chap. 8.
19. Ibid., and De Spiritu et littera, chap. 36.
20. See 1 Cor. 9:24: "Know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run that you may obtain."
21. Cajetan (commentary on IIa IIae, q. 84, a. 3) says on this subject: "The perfection of charity is prescribed as an end. We must will to attain the complete end; but precisely because it is an end, if we are to avoid failing in the matter of the precepts, it suffices that we be in the state to attain this perfection some day, even though only in eternity. Whoever possesses even the weakest degree of charity, and thus makes progress heavenward, is in the way of perfect charity, and thereby avoids the transgression of the Commandment which is necessary for salvation." But whoever dies in the state of grace without having sufficiently utilized the time of life, will have to pass through Purgatory in order to be profoundly purified therein. There he will experience the ardent desire for the vision of God.
22. Summa, IIa IIae, q. 184, a. 4 ad 3um.
23. Matt. 13:4-6: "And whilst he soweth some fell by the wayside, and the birds of the air came and ate them up. And other some fell upon stony ground, where they had not much earth; and they sprung up immediately. because they had no deepness of earth. And when the sun was up, they were scorched: and because they had not root, they withered away."
24. This truth has been clearly stated by Cardinal Mercier in his La vie interieure, appel aux âmes sacerdotales (1919). p. 98. He draws this conclusion: "We are all called to ascend the summits of perfection, to ascend from that spiritual condition in which the fear of losing charity is the ordinary and predominating motive of conduct, to that state in which the soul more willingly allows itself to be guided by the purpose of progress in virtue; to ascend even higher, even to complete detachment from created things and to the spirit of union with God alone for Himself alone. In regard to this ascent. there are in the world, and at times among the clergy, sad and profound prejudices, which we ought all to apply ourselves to extirpate. I repeat, everyone is called to the fullness of evangelical perfection. ... To all it is said: 'Be ye therefore perfect as also your heavenly Father is perfect' (Matt. 5:48). 'To all the faithful,' says the Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part II, De matrimonii sacramento, 'pastors must recommend the perfect life
... the source of the most complete happiness that man can taste in this life.' The liturgy asks for all souls the grace 'not to allow themselves to be tossed about by the fluctuations of the world, but to keep their hearts fixed on Him Who alone can render us truly happy' (prayer for the fourth Sunday after Easter).
25. Perhaps some will object that the precept does not impose an act of charity every minute, and therefore such an act of charity, not being obligatory, is only a matter of counsel. Passerini answers correctly (op. cit., p. 50, no. 72) that this act is not obligatory, as something to be fulfilled immediately, but it is obligatory as an intermediary end toward which we must tend.
Some insist that we are not bound by precept to make each act of charity more intense than the preceding one, for what falls under the precept is the substance of the act and not its more or less perfect mode. This is of precept, at least in so far as it is an end which we should try to attain, for man should aspire to love God ever more and more. St. Thomas explains the matter (Ia IIae, q. l00, a. l0, ad 2um): "If he who honors his parents is obliged to honor them by a motive of supernatural charity, this act does not spring from the particular commandment, 'Honor thy father and thy mother,' but from the supreme commandment, 'Thou shalt love the Lord with thy whole heart.'" Thus what falls under the inferior precept is the substance of the act, but the mode of the act is commanded by the supreme precept. Cf. IIa IIae, q. 44, a. 1 ad 1um. In addition under the precept of charity falls the mode, which is expressed by the words "with all thy heart" (IIa IIae, q. 44, a. 4 ad 1um), and also the order of charity (Ibid., a. 8).
26. Cf. St. Thomas. IIa IIae, q. 24. a. 6 ad 1um; Ibid., ad 2um; also Ia IIae. q. 14. a. 8 ad 3um. On this point, consult also the commentators of St. Thomas, Tract on charity.
27. Theologians commonly teach, with St. Thomas (IIa IIae, q. 24, a. 10), that the virtue of charity, although it may be lost by mortal sin, does not directly diminish in itself by venial sin, or by the cessation of acts. Venial sin is, in fact, a disorder that has to do with the means, without affecting the final end, which is the object of charity. And as this virtue is infused, and not acquired by the repetition of acts, it is not directly increased by them, nor diminished by their cessation.
But this inactivity and venial sins indirectly diminish charity because they hinder its application or influence and permit the formation of bad habits. which are obstacles to the radiation of charity. These obstacles deserve a lessening of God's actual, special graces, and they dispose finally to mortal sin.
28. For a discussion of retarded and lukewarm souls, Cf. Saudreau, Degre's de
la vie spirituelle, 5th ed., I. 46, 49.
29. "Souls begin to enter this dark night (passive) when God Himself frees them little by little from the state of beginners, that division of the spiritual life in which one meditates, and introduces them into the state of proficients, which is that of contemplatives. They must pass through this way in order to become perfect, in other words, to attain the Divine union of the soul with God" (The Dark Night of the Soul, Bk. I. chap. I). "The soul has therefore gone forth; it has begun to penetrate into the way of the spirit, followed by the proficients and the advanced. This way is also called the illuminative way, or the way of infused contemplation" (Ibid., chap, 14).
30. Cf. Salamanticences, Theol. moralis, Vol. IV, "De statu religioso."
31. St. Thomas, IIa IIae, q. 184, a. 8. "A man must possess inward perfection in order to exercise worthily the acts of the priesthood" (Ibid., a. 6). In a. 8: "If one compares the religious priest who has care of souls with the secular priest who also has care of souls, they are equal in order and office or function, but the first is superior to the second in his state of life, since he is in a state of perfection. If the religious priest has not care of souls, he is more excellent than the secular priest in state, less excellent in office, and equal in order" (Ibid., a. 8). The holy doctor adds that the goodness or perfection of the religious state, in which one pledges one's whole life, is more excellent than that of the office of parish priest, which does not bind for life. As to the difficulty of persevering in good, it is greater for the priest who lives in the world because of the obstacles to be found there. In the religious life there is another difficulty, that which comes from the dignity of the work to be accomplished, the practice of obedience, of poverty, and the austerity of observances. Now, this second difficulty increases merit. which is not always true of the difficulty springing from exterior obstacles, for it may be that one does not love virtue sufficiently to put away these obstacles and leave secular life. Cf. Ibid., ad 6um.
32. We read in the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, chap. 47: "Inasmuch as the counsels are bound up in the commandments, no one can observe the latter who does not observe the former, as least in thought, that is to say, that they possess the riches of the world humbly and without pride."
33. Cf. St. Thomas, In Ep. ad Hebr., 10:25.
34. Matt. 5:48.
35. See 1 Pet. 2:2.
36. See 2 Pet. 3:18.
37. Eph. 4:15.
38. Col. I: 9-11.
39. St. Thomas, In Ep. ad Hebr., 6:1.
40. "As far as exterior acts are concerned, because he is not obliged to the doubtful good, man is not obliged to the best; but as far as his desire is concerned, he is obliged to the best, whence he who does not always wish to be better, cannot without contempt refrain from wishing it" (St. Thomas, In Matth., 19: 12). The same idea is expressed in IIa IIae, q. 186, a. 2 ad 2um: "All, both religious and secular, are bound, in a certain measure, to do whatever good they can; for to all without exception it is said: 'Whatsoever thy hand is able to do, do it earnestly' (Eccles. 9:10). Yet there is a way of fulfilling this precept, so as to avoid sin, namely, if we do what we can as required by the conditions of our state of life; provided there be no contempt of doing better things, which contempt sets the mind against spiritual progress:'
41. Treatise on the Love of God, Bk. III, chap. 1.
42. Apoc. 22:11.
43. Prov. 4:18.
44. See 1 Cor. 9:24.
45. Phil. 2:8. On the general obligation of every Christian to strive according to his condition for more perfect charity, see Passerini, De statibus hominum, p. 758, no. 13; G. Barthier, O.P., De la perfection chretienne et de la perfection religieuse (1907), I, 315-73; P. A. Weiss, O.P., Apologie des Christenthums, Vol. V, Index: "Vollkommenheit."
46. Cant, 5:2: "I sleep but my heart watcheth."
47. Cf. E, Hugon, O.P., Marie mere de la divine grace, pp. 112-24.
48. Thus, in five seconds the initial speed multiplied by the time increases according to the following progression: 20, 20 x 2, 20 x 3, 20 x 4, 20 x 5, or 20, 40, 60, 80, 100.
49. In I de Coelo, lect. 17. St. Thomas explains this fact by the Aristotelian theory of the natural place. See also Ia IIae, q. 35, a. 6, where he says that, contrary to violent movement, every natural motion is more intense at the end than at the beginning, for it approaches the end which agrees with the nature of the motion and which attracts it as an end.
50. St. Thomas, In Ep. ad Hebraeos, 10:25.
52. In virtue of the principle set forth in this article, it can be explained why Thomistic theologians (such as Philip of the Blessed Trinity, Vallgornera, and Anthony of the Holy Ghost) maintain not only that all may laudably desire infused contemplation and the union of fruition, but that all should desire it. At first glance this statement seems exaggerated, and it would be so if they were speaking of a special obligation (which may exist for a contemplative religious). They speak only of a general obligation based on the first precept, which makes it everyone's duty to tend toward the perfection of heaven and consequently toward what is normally found even in a very lofty degree on the way to Heaven, toward that which is the normal prelude of the Beatific Vision, This explains the theses that these tbeologians also formulate in their mystical theology in the chapters on infused contemplation and the union of fruition: "All should aspire to supernatural contemplation. All, and most especially souls consecrated to God, should aspire and tend to actual fruitive union with God." These two theses have already been pointed out and will be referred to again.
53. Osee 13:9.
54. Ps. 41:7, 9, 12.
53. Osee 13:9.
54. Ps. 41:7, 9, 12.
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