April 24, 2007
I was going to write a post tonight about The Children of Hurin (and also finish reading it), but was forestalled. A web-friend of mine, a priest, wrote to me with a theological problem, knowing that I have made a bit of a study of St Bonaventure’s writings. He said that he’d been reading The Theology of Grace and the Oecumenical Movement (I book I have not read) by C. Moeller and G. Philips, and provided the following exerpt:
Arguing this time from the point of view of God, St. Bonaventure explains that the love of God, giving itself, is effective, producing a change in man. Consequently, the disposition, the created habitus, is the result of the presence of the God of love. In other words, gratia creata is the result of the continual influence of the divine light; the soul possesses the Spirit, or rather, is possessed by Him.
My friend wanted to know if this sounded wrong to me as it did to him. It did indeed sound wrong to me. Now I’m no expert in the theology of grace, but I had read the relevant works of St Bonaventure, and I knew where to turn. A little digging unearthed some results. I thought since I was unable to write the post I meant to tonight I might as well post these reflections, although they’re likely to have rather different audiences.
Breviloquium V.I.2: “Ipsa nihilominus est donum, per quod anima perficitur et efficitur sponsa Christi, filia Patris aeterni et templum Spiritus sancti; quod nullo modo fit nisi … per donum gratiae suae. Ipsa denique est donum, quod animam purgat, illuminat et perficit … et Deo iungit” etc.
“[Grace] is the gift through which the soul is perfected and made the spouse of Christ, the daughter of the eternal Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit; which in no way happens except … through the gift of his grace. For it is the gift which purges, illumines, and perfects the soul … and joins it to God” etc.
V.I.3: “Necesse est igitur spiritui rationali, ut dignus fiat aeternae beatitudinis, quod particeps fiat influentiae deiformis. Haec autem influentiae deiformis, quia est a Deo et secundum Deum et propter Deum, ideo reddit imaginem nostrae mentis conformem beatissimae Trinitati” etc.
“It is therefore necessary for the rational spirit, in order that it be made worthy of eternal beatitude, that it become a participant of the deiform influence. But this deiform influence, because it is from God and according to God and for the sake of God, therefore renders the image of our mind conformed to the Blessed Trinity” etc.
V.I.4: “Rursus, quoniam qui fruitur Deo Deum habet; ideo cum gratia, quae sua deiformitate disponit ad Dei fruitionem, datur donum increatum, quod est Spiritus Sanctus, quod qui habet habet et Deum.”
“Again, because he who enjoys God has God; therefore along with grace, which by its deiformity disposes [the soul] to the enjoyment of God, is given the uncreated gift, which is the Holy Spirit, which he who has also has God.”
So I think the Moeller and Philips quote here has it backwards. It’s true that “gratia creata is the result of the continual influence of the divine light”; but it’s a mistake to take this “deiform influence” as the Person of the Spirit Himself. It seems to me that Bonaventure makes it clear that, while the gift of the Spirit and the gift of (created) grace are temporally simultaneous, the gift of grace is logically prior, because the soul is only joined to God by being purged, illumined, and perfected by grace in order to become a fit subject for God’s presence. Grace then seems to be the forerunner of the divine Person sweeping house before (or rather just as) He gets there, so to speak. St B doesn’t say that along with or as a result of the uncreated gift of the Spirit is also given created grace, but that along with grace, the deiformity which disposes the soul to God, is given God Himself.
A related discussion in Sent. Liber I, Dist.XVII, Pars.I, Art.I, Q.I asks whether besides Uncreated Charity we need to posit a created habit of charity as well. St B notes that some opine that the love by which we meritoriously love and enjoy God is itself the whole Trinity, or that it is the Spirit, the union of the Father and the Son and the nexus of both, who binds us to them in a divine imitation (he cites John 17:21), while some say that we can love God by an “animi affectio”, a feeling in the soul. He continues:
“Et in his omnibus verum dixit nec erravit, sed defecit; quia praeter hoc est ponere caritatem secundum communem opinionem, quae sit habitus creatus animam informans. Et ratio huius sumitur a parte essentae eius … quia caritas est bonitas creaturae rationalis, ipsam perficiens et distinguens et ordinans et disponens ad vitam aeternam: ergo necesse est quod sit eius formalis perfectio.”
“And all of these say something true, and do no err, but they lack something; because besides these we must posit charity according to the common opinion, that it is [also] a created habit informing the soul. And the reason for this is taken from its essence … for charity is the goodness of a rational creature, perfecting and distinguishing and ordaining and disposing it to eternal life: therefore it is necessary that it be its [the soul’s] formal perfection.”
This seems to be just what he’s saying about grace in Breviloquium. God’s presence never occurs in the soul without a corresponding, simultaneous, and (logically prior) alteration of the soul, the result of “deiform influence” but distinct from the divine Person(s), itself rendering the soul able and worthy to sustain that presence. Looking at it in terms of charity, God is always there loving us. The “presence of the God of love” is in that sense always a given. The change is not in the way God loves but in us, in the way we love Him and become thereby capable of receiving the gift of His love. That change is itself also His gift, but we don’t want to conflate the two.