PART 5 - The Unitive Way of the Perfect
To conclude, we shall return to our starting point. The problem of the axis of the spiritual life is a catechetical question worth examining theologically, if it is true that the most elementary truths are those which become the most vital and profound when meditated on for a long time, and end by being the object of our contemplation.
Among these elementary truths, is the following: the axis of the spiritual life is found in faith, hope, and charity. Failure to recognize this truth would be an unpardonable error, which would prove that one had lost the meaning of Christian doctrine. But, with respect to this elementary and fundamental question, there are more subtle problems which we must consider at the end of this work.
Someone wrote recently that the division between "ascetical" and "mystical" theology is "a regrettable division, whose error consisted precisely in telescoping sanctifying grace and its peculiar organism of the divine virtues between moralism and mysticism. (The history of modern spirituality is witness to this.)" "St. Thomas did not conceive or build his moral theology on this division, but rather on the following plan: the moral virtues, the theological virtues (subsequently modifiable by the gifts in the interior of their object). Otherwise a considerable section of the Second Part (all the admirable analysis of the regime of the virtues) loses its import and seems impregnated with semi-naturalism, as if the supernaturalness of the gifts was the only integral supernaturalness, that of the virtues being only semi-supernatural" (1)
What is true in these observations? The answer depends on the way the terms "ascetical" and "mystical" are understood. They should have a good meaning since they are commonly accepted in the Church; but they have not always been understood in the same way. It is, consequently, important to return to this point.
We are happy to see with what insistence the writer of these pages speaks of sanctifying grace and the infused virtues, but he surprised us by reproaching certain Thomists, who in recent years have treated more particularly of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, with having "exaggerated the role of the gifts to the detriment of the theological virtues."
It may be that someone gathered this impression by reading articles written for the purpose of treating especially of infused contemplation, properly so called, and of the passive states, articles in which it was indeed necessary to place the emphasis on the gifts of understanding and of wisdom and their superhuman mode. But we must remind our readers that for the last thirty years or so we have hardly ceased to defend the essentially supernatural character of infused faith (independently of the gifts), by reason of its essential object and its formal motive.(2)
In the domains of dogmatic theology, moral theology, and spirituality, we have always said that all the infused virtues, both theological and moral, are intrinsically and essentially supernatural by reason of the formal object that specifies them. We have not ceased to defend the principle: Potentiae, habitus et actus specificantur ab objecto formali.
In our opinion it would be a gross error to think that the description given by St. Thomas of the moral virtues is impregnated with semi-naturalism. Semi-naturalism would consist in being more attentive to the (intrinsically natural) acquired moral virtues than to the infused moral virtues. It would consist in aiming rather at being a perfect upright man, master of self, than at being a child of God increasingly conscious of his dependence on his heavenly Father and more and more docile to divine inspirations. One might thus reach the state of attributing in part to oneself the respect due to God, which would be a serious error.
It is also fully evident (to ignore the fact would be unpardonable) that, as Father Lemonnyer so rightly insisted, the axis of the supernatural life passes through the theological virtues. We have not ceased to say so under different forms,(3) and Father Lemonnyer himself graciously recognized, in what he wrote on theological prayer, how well founded is what we have been saying for a long time about common prayer,(4) in which, in our opinion, faith, hope, and charity are exercised especially.
This statement contains an elementary truth that certainly deserves to be penetrated deeply. No theologian would think of denying it; but its importance in spirituality may be more or less great according to the idea one has of the distinction between ascetical theology and mystical theology.
The distinction between ascetical and mystical theology is not a division of the virtues, like that between the theological and the moral virtues; it is a distinction between two forms of the spiritual life. Ascetical and mystical theology is the application of the teaching of dogmatic and moral theology to the direction of souls toward ever closer union with God. It presupposes what sacred doctrine teaches about the nature and the properties of the Christian virtues and of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and it studies the laws and the conditions of their progress from the point of view of Christian perfection. It causes the lights of dogmatic and moral theology to converge toward this end.
The distinction between ascetical and mystical theology is inspired by the current meaning and the etymology of these terms. The term "asceticism," as its Greek origin indicates, means the exercise of the virtues. Among the first Christians those were called ascetics who devoted themselves to the practice of mortification, exercises of piety, and other Christian virtues. Consequently the term "ascetical" was applied to that part of spiritual theology which directs souls in the struggle against sin and in the progress of virtue.
Mystical theology, as its name indicates, treats of more hidden and mysterious things: of the intimate union of the soul with God; of the transitory phenomena that accompany certain degrees of union, as ecstasy; lastly, of essentially extraordinary graces, such as visions and private revelations.
Until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, writers generally treated under the single title of mystical theology not only the mystical union, infused contemplation, its degrees, and essentially extraordinary graces, but also Christian perfection in general, and the first phases of the spiritual life, the normal progress of which thus seemed directed toward the mystical union as its culminating point. This is the conception found in the mystical theologies of the Carmelites, Philip of the Blessed Trinity, Anthony of the Holy Ghost, Joseph of the Holy Ghost, and of the Dominican Vallgornera, who so often literally reproduced the teaching of Philip of the Blessed Trinity.
Since the seventeenth and eighteen centuries, several authors have deemed it necessary to distinguish absolutely between ascetical theology and mystical theology, which since then have often become subjects of special treatises, such as the Ascetical Directory and the Mystical Directory of Scaramelli. We wrote in 1920 in one of the first numbers of La Vie spirituelle: "Excessively eager to systematize things and to establish a doctrine to remedy abuses, and consequently led to classify things materially and objectively, without a sufficiently lofty and profound knowledge of them, they declared that ascetical theology should treat of the 'ordinary' Christian life according to the three ways, the purgative, the illuminative, and the unitive. As for mystical theology, it should treat only of extraordinary graces, among which they included not only visions and private revelations, but also supernatural, confused contemplation, the passive purifications, and the mystical union." (5)
Thereby the unity of the spiritual life was compromised; the perfection which ascetical theology speaks of, became an end and not a disposition to a more intimate and more elevated union. Mystical theology was no longer of any importance except to some rare privileged souls.
For about the last thirty years many theologians have rejected the division thus conceived between ascetical and mystical theology. They have returned to a more traditional doctrine, according to which the ascetical life is a form of the spiritual life in which appears chiefly the human mode of the Christian virtues, while the mystical life is a form of life in which predominates quite manifestly and frequently the superhuman mode of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are in all the just. From this point of view, the unity of the spiritual life is better comprehended in spite of the differences between the three successive ages distinguished by tradition: that is, the age of beginners, that of proficients, and that of the perfect, or in other words, the purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways. Thus there is a return to a traditional division more commonly received among the ancients than that between ascetical theology and mystical theology, that is, the division between the active life and the contemplative life, which was dear to St. Augustine and to St. Gregory, and was well explained by St. Thomas.
In the opinion of these great masters, the active life, to which is attached the exercise of the moral virtues of, prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance,(6) and the outward works of charity prepare for the contemplative life, so far as it regulates the passions that disturb contemplation and so far as it makes us grow in the love of God and of our neighbor. (7) Then comes the contemplation of God, which is proper to the perfect; it is found either in the purely contemplative life, or in the mixed life which fructifies in the apostolate. Contemplation then directs action from above and renders it much more supernatural and fruitful.(8) The contemplative life is chiefly that of the theological virtues and of the gifts which accompany them, as the active life is especially that of the moral virtues.
This traditional division is more profound, more grounded on the very nature of man and also on the nature of grace, the virtues, and the gifts, than the division between ascetical life and mystical life, which may be seriously misunderstood and which it is quite difficult to define clearly.
Some souls seem to have gone beyond the essentially ascetical life (or the active life in the meaning given to it by the ancients), which consists chiefly in methodical exercises of piety, united to the practice of mortification or of the Christian virtues that discipline the passions and regulate relations with one's neighbor. These souls live especially by the theological virtues and, in a more or less latent manner, by the gifts which accompany them. However, they do not yet give evidence of the properly so-called mystical life of passive prayer, described by St. Teresa from the fourth mansion on, and by St. John of the Cross beginning with the clearly characterized passive purification of the senses. The opinion is usually held that the souls we are speaking of here are in a still imperfect illuminative way, intermediary between the purgative or ascetical way of beginners and the essentially mystical or passive way, which, according to St. John of the Cross, is that of proficients, or the advanced, and that of the perfect.(9)
The prayer of the souls we are discussing already rises above methodical exercises; it is a simple lifting up of the soul to God by a prolonged act of faith, followed by acts of hope and love of God. It is often called simplified affective prayer; we have described it under the title of the common prayer of the ancients,(10) and Father Lemonnyer, under the title of theological prayer.(11)
Souls such as these seem to be in a stage between the ascetical life, properly so called, and the mystical life in the essential meaning of the term, a period which for the most generous is one of transition and which for others is prolonged for their whole lifetime.(12)
Father Gabriel of St. Magdalen, CD., makes similar observations when he treats of active (or acquired or mixed) contemplation according to Carmelite writers, in whose opinion it is ordinarily a preparation for infused contemplation.(13) We must also remember that in the prologue to The Ascent of Mount Carmel St. John of the Cross says: "Its contents. . . are a solid and substantial doctrine suited to all, if they seek to advance to that detachment of spirit which is here described. My principal object, however, is not to address myself to all, but only to certain persons of our holy Order of Mount Carmel, of the primitive observance." St. John of the Cross wrote chiefly for the most generous souls among contemplatives, for those who wish to take the road which ascends most directly toward very close union with God.
Manifestly, therefore, there is an intermediate stage between the methodical discursive meditation, described in works on ascetical theology, and infused contemplation properly so called, spoken of by mystical authors.
Even the authors who hold that the infused contemplation of the mysteries of faith is in the normal way of sanctity and that without it there is not the full perfection of Christian life, recognize the difference between the active and the contemplative life. They also say that Marys reach infused contemplation more rapidly than Marthas. Moreover, the former find in contemplation great purifying trials, which at the same time make them work for the salvation of souls.
These authors likewise often distinguish between the acquired prayer of recollection, or simplified affective prayer,(14) and, above it, a latent infused contemplation, similar to the diffuse light which pervades the air when the sun is not directly visible, and which illumines everything though it does not itself appear as a distinct ray. We have often spoken of it.(15) In our opinion, it seems certain that St. Vincent de Paul often had, not only during prayer and the celebration of Mass but in his ministry, this latent infused contemplation, which is an act of living faith accompanied by a certain influence of the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Through it he continually saw suffering members of Christ in abandoned children and prisoners condemned to the galleys. Therein lay a frequent although diffuse influence of the gift of wisdom under its practical form. St. Thomas (16) points out that this gift, like faith and the gift of understanding, is speculative and practical, in the sense that it bears both on the mysteries to be believed and on the precepts and counsels, or on the conduct of life. In certain servants of God this gift appears more under its practical form, united to the gifts of counsel, fear, piety, and fortitude; in others it appears under its speculative or rather contemplative form, united to the gifts of understanding and knowledge.
Consequently we see why a theologian who is also a man of prayer may often have latent infused contemplation which heightens the activity of his mind and, so to speak, directs his work from on high: for example, that he may ward off useless discussions which would degenerate into personalities; that he may preserve the requisite benevolence toward all; that he may seek especially the profound and fruitful understanding of the mysteries of faith. When we read the works of St. Augustine, we are led to believe that this contemplation often directed his search, illumined from on high the reasons he developed, and made them all converge in a superior synthesis which he finally seized at a single glance. Father Cayre, A.A., has rightly insisted on this point in his beautiful book, La Contemplation augustinienne (1927).
To the theologian who, like St. Thomas, often recalls the same principles to illumine questions such as those of grace, free will, merit, and sin, from time to time one of these oft-quoted principles appears in all its elevation and radiance, throwing light on entire tracts, previously studied with patience. Take, for example, the principle of predilection: "No one thing would be better than another if God did not will greater good for one than for another." (17) This principle expresses in equivalent terms the thought of St. Paul: "What hast thou that thou hast not received?" (18) and contains virtually the doctrine of predestination and that of grace.
In this case the theologian has a contemplation which is in a sense acquired, so far as it is the fruit of his work, and which, in a superior sense, is infused, so far as the special inspiration of the Holy Ghost elevates it in a more or less manifest manner, giving it a penetration and spiritual sweetness surpassing simple faith and theological speculation. Faith adheres to revealed mysteries, the gift of understanding makes us penetrate them, the gift of wisdom makes us taste them.(10)
Clearly manifest infused contemplation, such as St. John of the Cross describes in The Dark Night, especially in Book II, during and after the purification of the spirit, is superior to acquired or mixed contemplation which we have just spoken of. St. Thomas received this contemplation in an eminent degree toward the end of his life, when he could no longer dictate. When we speak of this contemplation, it does not follow that we do not esteem the less elevated forms of knowledge which dispose to it.
We have often insisted on the different aspects of this great problem. In concluding, we revert to this subject in order to show that the axis of the spiritual life is not displaced by ascetical theology or by the mystical theology of the best masters whose teaching the Church approves.
It suffices to read any good ascetical work, such as the Introduction to a Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales, and the first books of his Treatise on the Love of God, where he does not yet deal with contemplation but only with meditation, to realize that the axis of the spiritual life, which rests especially on the theological virtues, far from being displaced in the ascetical life, is already greatly strengthened. The holy doctor says that interior and exterior mortification is a powerful means to draw down upon us the favors of heaven, if we practice it in charity and through charity. He also states very practically that the greatest mortifications are not the best, declaring that ordinary ones, which fall to our lot daily and unexpectedly, are more fruitful and assure the conformity of our will with God's will, signified by the precepts and the counsels. In these pages the saint reminds us that mortification without prayer is a body without a soul, and that prayer without mortification is a soul without a body. In these works he treats not only theoretically but practically of the progress of the virtues illumined by faith and vivified by charity, especially of the progress of the theological virtues. St. Francis de Sales here applies in a practical manner the teaching of St. Thomas in the second part of the Summa, by causing to converge toward daily acts what the Angelic Doctor tells us of virtue in general, of the virtues in particular, their motive, their connection, and their progress. Abstraction separated these questions; ascetical theology reunites them in order to point out to us the road that leads to perfection. It aims at the end to be attained practically rather than at the nature of virtues to be well defined.
Ascetical theology rightly understood, far from being a moral system which fails to recognize the elevation of the theological virtues, is inspired by the breath of these virtues and directed toward a higher life to which it makes the soul aspire. To show how the moral virtues should be at the service of faith, hope, and love of God and of souls in God, to point out how the spiritual life should increasingly dominate every disorder of the sensible part of the soul, triumph over egoism, self-love, and pride under all its forms, certainly is not to change the axis of the spiritual life. It is at times necessary to recall these absolutely elementary truths which the erroneous linking of words would cause us to forget, so much the more so as we are too greatly inclined to dispense ourselves from ascetical effort and as we too readily renounce higher aspirations.
Likewise the axis of the spiritual life is certainly not changed, the role of the gifts of the Holy Ghost is not exaggerated to the detriment of the theological virtues, when, in company with the greatest spiritual writers, we point out what should be the progress of faith, hope, and charity in the illuminative way; (20) when, with St. John of the Cross, we recall how these three virtues are purified during the passive night of the spirit, how their formal motive stands out with increasing relief, like three stars of the first magnitude in this superior obscurity.(21) Similarly the role of the gifts is not exaggerated to the detriment of the theological virtues by showing their heroic degree in the unitive life of the perfect, described by the great mystics.(22)
St. John of the Cross does not exaggerate the role of the gifts to the detriment of the theological virtues; on the contrary he practically never mentions the gifts themselves, but writes continually about faith, hope, and charity, using capital letters to designate these virtues. It would be as unjust to reproach him with having failed to recognize the importance of the gifts as to claim that he falls into a false supernaturalism which neglects the human subject, because he emphasizes the abnegation presupposed by the loftiest perfection. The faith he speaks of not only adheres to revealed mysteries, but is rendered penetrating and often sweet by the influx of the rarely named gifts of understanding and wisdom.
Is faith depreciated by showing what it is in all its sublimity, when it bears all its fruits? The regime of the virtues is not sacrificed to that of the gifts by pointing out what faith is when illumined by the gifts, as several great Thomists have done. Likewise the value of reasoning is not lessened by preparing oneself for the "simple intuition of the truth" which St. Thomas speaks of in connection with circular contemplation.(23) Because discourse ceases in this contemplation, it certainly does not follow that discourse must be renounced outside of contemplation. In like manner the importance of the study of sacred doctrine is not disparaged by saying it should be made with love of divine truth that prepares the soul for union with God, which is obviously superior to study itself.(24)
Let us not stop at the external chaff of words, but penetrate to the kernel of things with a healthy realism. The supernatural virtues are not depreciated when, to explain the highest forms of the life of faith, we speak of the superhuman mode of the gifts of understanding and wisdom, which make us penetrate and taste revealed mysteries.(25) The same holds true in dealing with the radiant influence of the apostolic life of the greatest saints or of the life of reparation. What might happen, on the contrary, is that, under pretext of defending the superiority of the theological virtues over the gifts, one might diminish these very virtues by failing to recognize the value of the inspirations of the Holy Ghost which cause the spirit of faith, hope, and love of God to grow more and more. By so doing, one would incline toward a moralism that would exaggerate the value of human prudence to the detriment of union with God.
If a Thomist is to give a course in mystical theology, he must certainly speak ex professo of infused contemplation, at first latent, then manifest; of its signs, its nature, and its fruits. On this point he may not omit the testimony of St. Teresa or of St. John of the Cross; he should seek to explain it theologically by the principles formulated by St. Thomas. The result would not be a clumsy concordance, nor would the use of this method be reprehensible in writing a work of this kind. Because St. Thomas himself did not write a mystical theology, but gave its principles, he certainly did not forbid the writing of such a text. Similarly, because he did not write the Praxis confessarii of St. Alphonsus, he did not exclude the possibility of similar works. It would be narrowness of spirit to renounce, under the pretext of Thomism, the theological treatment of the essential questions of mystical theology, or in treating them to fear a depreciation of the theological virtues which, on the contrary, appear therein in all their loftiness.
We fully agree with what Father Lemonnyer says, in the work we quoted above, about the value of theology: "Grace and the virtues are not realities whose nature, object, mechanism wait to become intelligible to us and to make the spiritual life intelligible to us until we have completed the inventory of ascetical and mystical experiences. . . . These experiences do not judge the theology of the Church; the theology of the Church judges them, illumines them, and praises them according to their merits." (26)
The theologian should, moreover, avoid any conceit, which would be more intolerable in him than in many others; it would take away all vitality from his interior life, depriving it of great graces, and would prevent him from understanding as he should prayerful souls, incapable of opening their hearts to him. He should remember that his theological wisdom, acquired secundum perfectum usum rationis, is inferior to the infused gift of wisdom, which judges according to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost and its connaturality with divine things.(27) St. Thomas possessed these two wisdoms, in an eminent degree; the elevation of the second prevented him from taking satisfaction in the first, to such a degree that at the end of his life, when he could no longer dictate, he was as if lost in God through contemplation.
Dominic Banez, one of St. Teresa's directors, used to say that theologians, after spending years in the study of theology, profit by association with spiritual persons. In fact, if the theologian's personal interior life remains quite mediocre, if he has not persevered in ascetical effort, or led a profound life of prayer, he cannot sufficiently grasp the admirable spiritual riches contained in the treatises which he explains. Then he delays excessively over the rind and does not penetrate sufficiently into the substance. If he is teaching positive theology, he even runs the risk of becoming above all a historian; if he is teaching speculative theology, of being scarcely more than a logician or a metaphysician who speaks about the great supernatural mysteries from a relatively inferior point of view. The same is true of the exegete who interprets the Epistles of St. Paul according to his own mediocre psychology, which scarcely suggests "hunger and thirst for the justice of God." Then everything is depreciated and no longer is a matter of interest.
The spirit of theological science becomes so much the less alive when one dallies too much over what is inferior in it, and when one no longer disposes oneself in this way for "the very fruitful understanding of the mysteries" spoken of by the Vatican Counci1.(28) If, on the contrary, the theologian loves to read the great spiritual writers and if he sees the lives of prayerful souls truly dead to themselves in the midst of the passive purifications which they have had to undergo, and already possessing a very close union with God, then he has the impression of being in a higher atmosphere, very different from that in which one is too preoccupied with one's scientific reputation and with discussions in which self-love and many but slightly interesting petty passions often mingle. From the higher point of view dominated by the gifts of understanding and wisdom, which render faith penetrating and sweet, the theological treatises appear more elevated and profound. We personally taught St. Thomas' treatise on the theological virtues for the first time before we saw souls of prayer that had passed through the passive purification of the spirit. When, after acquaintance with several of these souls, we returned on different occasions to the explanation of St. Thomas' articles relative to faith, hope, and charity, we saw much more in them than we did before. We passed from, the confused to the distinct concept of the theological virtues and, in varying degrees, to their experiential concept. Such an experience shows ever more clearly how the theological teaching of St. Thomas sprang from the plenitude of contemplation, to use the expression dear to the saint.(29) Then, without clumsy concordance, the teachings of a St. John of the Cross help one to a better understanding of what the Angelic Doctor meant. Often our interior life, which remains too superficial and mediocre, does not enable us to discover this plenitude of meaning; we should, therefore, be grateful to those who help us to do so. This helps us understand why St. Thomas himself said that he had learned more at the foot of the crucifix and before the tabernacle than in books. He spent hours at night in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and in this profound prayer he grew in the knowledge of the spirit of those things of which theological books give us the letter.
What we have said shows that the axis of the spiritual life is found in the theological virtues (30) which are superior to the gifts, but which receive from them an added perfection. Faith is essentially supernatural and infallible by reason of its formal motive, but it is more perfect when, under the inspiration of the gifts of understanding and wisdom, it becomes penetrating and sweet; when it gives us the fruitful understanding of the mysteries of the inner life of God, of the redemptive Incarnation, of the infinite value of the Sacrifice of the Mass, of the inestimable treasure of the presence of the Blessed Trinity in us, of the intimate union with God which finds its perfection in the transforming union, the prelude of eternal life. From this point of view, nothing is diminished, but one grasps increasingly better the value of infused faith and notably, below it, that of theology.
1. Bulletin Thomiste (July-December, 1936), p. 78, apropos of the
by Father Lemonnyer, O.P., Notre Vie divine, ed. du Cerf, 1936.
2. Cf. De revelatione (1st ed., 1918), I, 430-515. "La Surnaturalite de la foi," Revue Thomiste, January, 1914. Le Sens du mystere (1934), 234-87.
3. Christian Perfection and Contemplation, pp. 54-80; 115-46 ("The Life of grace or the beginning of eternal life"). L'Amour de Dieu et la croix de Jesus: II, 575-635: "La purification passive de la foi, de l'esperance, et de la charite."
4. Christian Perfection and Contemplation, pp. 208-17.
5. This article is to be found also in Christian Perfection and Contemplation, pp. 27 f.
6. Cf. St. Thomas, IIa IIae, q.181, a. I: "The active and the contemplative life differ according to the different occupations of men intent on different ends: one of these occupations is the consideration of the truth; and this is the end of the contemplative life, while the other is external work to which the active life is directed. . . . Hence it is clear that the moral virtues belong essentially to the active life." Ad Ium: "The chief of the moral virtue is justice." Ad 3um: "It may also be replied that the active life is a disposition to the contemplative life."
Ibid., a.2: "The knowledge of prudence, which is of itself directed to the works of the moral virtues, belongs directly to the active life."
7. Ibid., q. 181, a. 3: "Hence the work of the active life conduces to the contemplative, by quelling the interior passions which give rise to the fantasms whereby contemplation is hindered."
8. Ibid., a.4: "The contemplative life, with regard to its nature, precedes the active, inasmuch as it applies itself to things which precede and are better than others; wherefore it moves and directs the active life."
Cf. ibid., ad 2um, 3um; q.188, a.6: "From the fullness of contemplation proceed teaching and preaching."
9. The Dark Night, Bk. I, chap. 14: "The soul began to set out on the way of the spirit, the way of proficients, which is also called the illuminative way or the way of infused contemplation, wherein God Himself teaches and refreshes the soul without meditation or any active efforts that itself may deliberately make."
10. Christian Perfection and Contemplation, pp. 208-17.
11. Cf. Notre Vie divine, pp. 125-52. In the opinion of Father Lemonnyer, meditation is moral prayer, the exercise of the practical reason, in which the infused virtue of prudence leads the soul by "elections" to a resolution. Here the influence of the theological virtues is felt only from above and through the intermediary of the moral virtues, the virtue of religion included. Theological prayer, often called affective prayer, is the proper exercise of the virtues of faith, hope, and charity, which have for their object God Himself, with whom the soul enters into intimate conversation for a closer union with Him, and not for practical results that are, so to speak, exterior. Lastly, mystical prayer, the fruit of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, depends on His initiatives and procures for us a sweet experience of divine things.
12. St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night, Bk. I, chap. 9.
13. Father Gabriel of St. Magdalen, CD.,
S. Giovanni della Croce,
dell'amore divino (1937), pp. 165 f.: "There is no question here of
a completely active contemplation, nor of a perfectly passive
contemplation: a delicate divine infusion meets a most simple
activity of the soul. But this divine infusion does not fall under
the experience of the soul, whereas the latter may perceive its own
15. Christian Perfection and Contemplation, pp. 324 ff.; Les trois conversions et les trois voies, pp. 124-38; 151-60. Cf. supra, chaps. 28, 31, 32.
16. Cf. IIa IIae, q.45, a.3.
17. Cf. Ia, q.20, a. 3, 4.
18. Cf. I Cor. 4: 7.
19. In this case there are three infused habits specifically distinct by reason of their formal object, although these gifts bear on the mysteries of faith. Faith itself adheres to these mysteries owing to the authority of God revealing. The gift of understanding makes us penetrate them under a special illumination, which is the immediate rule or the formal motive of this act of penetration as such (IIa IIae, q. 8, a. I, 2, 3,6). The gift of wisdom makes us taste them under another special inspiration which utilizes the connaturalness with divine things based on charity (ibid., q.45, a. 2), and which makes us attain them, "non proprie ut revelata, sed ut fruibilia." Cf. Ia, q. 43, a. 3.
20. We developed this idea in a series of articles on the theological. virtues, and in another on these same virtues according to St. Catherine of Siena. Cf. La Vie spirituelle, May, June, December, 1935; January, April, October, 1936. Cf. supra, chaps. 7-21.
21. On this subject, cf. L'Amour de Dieu et La croix de Jesus, II, 575-632. Cf. supra, chaps. 39-41.
22. Cf. Philip of the Blessed Trinity, Summa theologiae mysticae (ed. Brussels, 1874), III, 132-274: "De exercitio virtutum theologicarum et moralium (in statu heroico)." Cf. supra, chaps. 42-47.
23. Summa, IIa IIae, q. 180, a.6.
24. Ibid., q.166: "Of studiousness"; q. 167: "Of curiosity."
25. Cf. Christian Perfection and Contemplation (pp. 330 f.): "Infused contemplation is an act which proceeds, in so far as its substance is concerned, from living faith, and with respect to its superhuman mode, from the gift of wisdom or of understanding" (Cajetan and Joseph of the Holy Ghost). We do not conceive of an act of these gifts which would not proceed radically from faith: here there is subordination of the habitus and of their formal objects. The fact remains that the theological virtues are superior to the gifts, although they receive from the latter an additional perfection, for example, of penetration. Thus the tree is more perfect than its fruits, but with them it is more perfect than without them. Cf. supra, chap. 31.
26. Cf. Notre Vie divine, p. 346.
27. Cf. IIa IIae, q.45, a.2; a.4 ad 2um: "This argument considers, not the wisdom of which we speak but that which is acquired by the study and research of reason, and is compatible with mortal sin." Ibid., c.: "The wisdom of which we are speaking cannot be together with mortal sin."
28. Sess. III, chap. 4 (Denzinger, 1796).
29. Summa, IIa IIae, q. 188, a.6.
30. What might, without our willing it, lessen the supernaturalness of the infused virtues, including that of the theological virtues, would be to define our supernatural life, as has been done, not as the participation in the intimate life of God, but the incarnation of the divine life in us. First of all, in this case "incarnation" is a metaphorical expression to which must be preferred preciseness of terms when possible. Moreover, "incarnation" designates the union of two natures, and more precisely the relation of dependence and appurtenance of the less elevated in regard to the person who possesses the higher of these two natures. To define the supernatural life by the incarnation in us of the divine life tends to make our own nature enter into the definition of the supernatural life, as the human nature of Christ is part of Him. Without wishing to do so, one would thus revert, because of lack of precision of terms, to the conception which denies the essential supernaturalness of the infused virtues. Their supernaturalness would be reduced to a mode superadded to our natural activity; now this mode is already superadded to the acquired moral virtues, governed by charity, and the acts of which are meritorious.
What we have just said in this chapter may be confirmed by reading
in the Catechisme composed by John of St. Thomas and translated
into Latin under the title Compendium totius doctrinae christianae
(Venice, 1693, pp. 205 ff.), the chapter on "Meditation and
Contemplation," and the necessity of a profound interior life for