"He who wishes to be perfectly obeyed, should give but few orders."

St Philip Neri

* * *

"God has no need of men."

St Philip Neri

* * *

"What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. "

Thomas á Kempis

* * *

PART 1 - The Sources of the Interior Life and Its End (cont)

Ch 4: The Blessed Trinity Present in Us, Uncreated Source of our Interior Life

Since we have treated of the life of grace, of the spiritual organism of the infused virtues and the gifts, we may fittingly consider the uncreated Source of our interior life, that is, the Blessed Trinity present in all just souls on earth, in purgatory, and in heaven. We shall see, first of all, what divine revelation, contained in Scripture, tells us about this consoling mystery. We shall then briefly consider the testimony of tradition, and finally we shall see the exact ideas offered by theology, particularly by St. Thomas Aquinas,(1) and the spiritual consequences of this doctrine.


Scripture teaches us that God is present in every creature by a general presence, often called the presence of immensity. We read in particular in Ps. 138:7: "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy face? If I ascend into heaven, Thou art there; if I descend into hell, Thou art present." This is what made St. Paul say, when preaching to the Athenians: "God, who made the world, . . . being Lord of heaven and earth, . . . though He be not far from everyone of us: for in Him we live and move and are." (2) God, in fact, sees all, preserves all things in existence, and inclines every creature to the action which is suitable for him. He is like the radiant source from which the life of creation springs, and also the central force that draws everything to itself: "O God, sustaining force of creation, remaining in Thyself, unmoved."

Holy Scripture does not, however, speak only of this general presence of God in all things; it also speaks of a special presence of God in the just. We read, in fact, even in the Old Testament: "Wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins." (3) Would only created grace or the created gift of wisdom dwell in the just soul? Christ's words bring us a new light and show us that it is the divine persons Themselves who come and dwell in us: "If anyone love Me," He says, "he will keep My word. And My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will make Our abode with him." (4) These words should be noted: "We will come." Who will come? Would it be only created effects: sanctifying grace, the infused virtues, the gifts? No indeed; Those who come are Those who love: the divine persons, the Father and the Son, from whom the Holy Ghost is never separated, that Spirit of Love promised, moreover, by our Lord and visibly sent on Pentecost. "We will come to him," to the just soul who loves God, and "We will come" not only in a transitory, passing manner, but "We will make our abode with him," that is to say, We will dwell in him as long as he remains just, or in the state of grace, as long as he preserves charity. Such were our Lord's own words.

These words are confirmed by those that promise the Holy Ghost: "I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, that He may abide "with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it seeth Him not, nor knoweth Him. But you shall know Him; because He shall abide with you and shall be in you. . . . He will teach you all things and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you." (5) These words were not only addressed to the apostles; they were verified in them on Pentecost, which is renewed for us by confirmation. This testimony of our Savior is clear, and it states exactly and in an admirable manner what we read in the Book of Wisdom (I: 4). It is indeed the three divine persons who come and dwell in the souls of the just. Thus the apostles understood it. St. John writes: "God is charity: and he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him." (6) He possesses God in his heart; but still more God possesses him and holds him, preserving not only his natural existence, but the life of grace and charity in him. St. Paul speaks in like manner: "The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost who is given to us." (7) We have received not only created charity, but the Holy Ghost Himself who has been given to us. St. Paul speaks of Him especially, because charity likens us more to the Holy Ghost, who is personal love, than to the Father and to the Son. They are also in us, according to the testimony of Christ, but we will be made perfectly like Them only when we receive the light of glory, which will imprint in us the resemblance to the Word, who is the splendor of the Father. On several different occasions St. Paul refers to this consoling doctrine: "Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (8) "Or know you not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own? For you are bought with a great price. Glorify and bear God in your body." (9) Scripture thus teaches explicitly that the three divine persons dwell in every just soul, in every soul in the state of grace.


Tradition, moreover, shows by the voice of the first martyrs, by that of the fathers, by the official teaching of the Church, that the words of Scripture must be understood in this way.(10)

At the beginning of the second century, St. Ignatius of Antioch declares in his letters that true Christians bear God in themselves; he calls them "theophoroi" or God-bearers. This doctrine was widespread in the primitive Church: the martyrs proclaimed it before their judges. St. Lucy of Syracuse answered Paschasius:

"Words cannot fail those who have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them."
"Is the Holy Ghost in you?"
"Yes, all those who lead a chaste and pious life are the temples of the Holy Ghost."

Among the Greek fathers, St. Athanasius says that the three divine persons are in us.(11) St. Basil declares that the Holy Ghost, by His presence, makes us more and more spiritual and like to the image of the only Son.(12) St. Cyril of Alexandria also speaks of this intimate union between the just soul and the Holy Ghost.(13) Among the Latin fathers, St. Ambrose teaches that we receive Him in baptism and even more in confirmation.(14) St. Augustine shows that, according to the testimony of the early fathers, not only grace was given us, but God Himself, the Holy Ghost and His seven gifts. (15)

This revealed doctrine is finally brought home to us by the official teaching of the Church. In the Credo of St. Epiphanius, which adults were obliged to recite before receiving baptism, we read: "The Holy Spirit who. . . spoke in the apostles and dwells in the saints." (16) The Council of Trent declares also: "The efficient cause [of our justification] is the merciful God, who washes and sanctifies gratui­tously, signing and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance" (Eph. I: 13) .(17)

The official teaching of the Church on this point has been stated even more precisely in our times by Leo XIII in his encyclical on the Holy Ghost, Divinun illud munus (May 9, 1897), in which the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in the souls of the just is thus described:

It is well to recall the explanation given by the Doctors of the Church of the words of Holy Scripture. They say that God is present and exists in all things "by His power in so far as all things are subject to His power; by His presence, inasmuch as all things are naked and open to His eyes; by His essence, inasmuch as He is present to all as the cause of their being" (St. Thomas, la, q. 8, a. 3). But God is in man, not only as in inanimate things, but because He is more fully known and loved by him, since even by nature we spontaneously love, desire, and seek after the good. Moreover, God by grace resides in the just soul as in a temple, in a most intimate and peculiar manner. From this proceeds that union of affection by which the soul adheres most closely to God, more so than the friend is united to his most loving and beloved friend, and enjoys God in all fullness and sweetness.

Now this wonderful union, which is properly called "indwelling," differing only in degree or state from that with which God beatifies the saints in heaven, although it is most certainly produced by the presence of the whole Blessed Trinity-"We will come to him and make Our abode with him" (John 14: 2 3)-nevertheless is attributed in a peculiar manner to the Holy Ghost. For, whilst traces of divine power and wisdom appear even in the wicked man, charity, which, as it were, is the special mark of the Holy Ghost, is shared in only by the just. . . . Wherefore the Apostle, when calling us the temple of God, does not expressly mention the Father, or the Son, but the Holy Ghost: "Know you not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God?" (I Cor. 6: 19')

The fullness of divine gifts is in many ways a consequence of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the souls of the just. . . . Among these gifts are those secret warnings and invitations which from time to time are excited in our minds and hearts by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Without these there is no beginning of a good life, no progress, no arriving at eternal salvation.

Such is, in substance, the testimony of tradition expressed by the teaching authority of the Church under its different forms. We shall now see what theology adds in order to give us, in addition, a cer­tain understanding of this revealed mystery. We shall follow the teaching of St. Thomas on this subject.


Different explanations of this mystery have been proposed.(18) Among these different points of view, that of St. Thomas, preserved by Leo XIII in his encyclical on the Holy Ghost, seems the truest.

For God is in all things by His essence, power, and presence, according to His one common mode, as the cause existing in the effects which participate In His goodness. Above and beyond this common mode, however, there is one special mode belonging to the rational nature wherein God is said to be present as the object known is in the knower, and the beloved in the lover. And since the rational creature by its own operation of (supernatural) knowledge and love attains to God Himself, according to this special mode, God is said not only to exist in the rational creature, but also to dwell therein as in His own temple. So no other effect can be put down as the reason why the divine Person is in the rational creature in a new mode, except sanctifying grace. . . . Again, we are said to possess only what we can freely use or enjoy: but to have the power of enjoying the divine Person can only be according to sanctifying grace.(20)

Without sanctifying grace and charity, God does not, in fact, dwell in us. It is not sufficient to know Him by a natural philosophical knowledge, or even by the supernatural knowledge of imperfect faith united to hope, as the believer in the state of mortal sin knows Him. (God is, so to speak, distant from a believer who is turned away from Him.) We must be able to know Him by living faith and the gifts of the Holy Ghost connected with charity. This last knowledge, being quasi-experimental, attains God not as a distant and simply represented reality, but as a present, possessed reality which we can enjoy even now. This is evidently what St. Thomas means in the text quoted.(21) It is a question, he says, of a knowledge which attains God Himself, and permits us to possess Him and to enjoy Him. That the divine persons may dwell in us, we must be able to know Them in a quasi-experimental and loving manner, based on infused charity, which gives us a connaturality or sympathy with the intimate life of God.(22) That the Blessed Trinity may dwell in us, this quasi-experimental knowledge need not, however, be actual; it suffices that we be able to have it by the grace of the virtues and gifts. Thus the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity endures in the just man even during sleep and as long as he remains in the state of grace.(23) From time to time, however, God may make Himself felt by us as the soul of our soul, the life of our life. This is what St. Paul declares in his epistle to the Romans (8: 15 f.): "You have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father). For the Spirit Himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God." In his commentary on this epistle, St. Thomas says: "The Holy Spirit gives this testimony to our spirit by the effect of filial love which He produces in us." (24) For this
reason the disciples of Emmaus exclaimed after Jesus disappeared: "Was not our heart burning within us, whilst He spoke in the way and opened to us the Scriptures?" (25)

In giving the explanation we have just quoted, St. Thomas simply shows us the profound meaning of the words of Christ that we cited previously: "If anyone love Me, he will keep My word. And My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will make Our abode with him." (26) "The Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you." (27) According to this teaching, the Blessed Trinity dwells, in a sense, more perfectly in the just soul than the body of the Savior does in a consecrated host. Christ is, indeed, really and substantially present under the Eucharistic species, but these species of bread do not know and do not love. The Blessed Trinity dwells in the just soul as in a living temple which knows and loves in varying degrees. It dwells in the souls of the blessed who contemplate It unveiled, especially in the most holy soul of the Savior, to which the Word is personally united. And even here on earth, in the penumbra of faith, the Blessed Trinity, without our seeing It, dwells in us in order to vivify us more and more, up to the moment of our entrance into glory where It will appear to us.

This intimate presence of the Blessed Trinity in us does not
dispense us, certainly, from approaching the Eucharistic table or from praying in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, for the Blessed Trinity dwells far more intimately in the holy soul of the Savior, personally united to the Word, than in us. If we draw profit from approaching a saint who is entirely possessed by God, like a holy Cure of Ars, how much more will we profit from approaching our Savior? We can say to Him: "Come, even with Thy cross, and take more complete possession of us. Grant that the prayer, 'Thou in us and we in Thee' may be more fully realized." Let us also think of the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in the soul of the Blessed Virgin both here on earth and in heaven.





1. This subject has been well treated by Father Froget, O.P., in De l'habitation du Saint-Esprit dans les ames justes (3rd ed. Paris: Lethielleux, 1900). More recently, the subject was treated by Father Gardeil, O.P., La structure de l'ame et l'experience mystique (Paris: Gabalda, 1927), II, 6-60. We have also dealt at length with this subject in L'amour de Dieu et la croix de Jesus, I, 163-206; II, 657-86.

2. Acts 17:24,27 f.

3. Wisd. 1:4.

4. John 14:13.

5. John 14: 16 f., 16.

6. See I John 4: 16.

7. Rom. 5:5.

8. See I Cor. 3:16.

9. Ibid., 6: 19 f.

10. In the present case, we see clearly the importance of essentially divine tradition, which transmits to us through the legitimate shepherds of the Church, an orally revealed doctrine, whether it was later established in Scripture or not. All the organs of divine tradition may be invoked in the present case: the solemn teaching authority of the Church, and also its ordinary teachmg authority expressed by the morally unanimous preaching of the bishops, by the consent of the fathers and of theologians, and by the Christian
sense of the faithful.

11. Ep.1 ad Serap., 31; PO, XXVI, 601.

12. De Spiritu Sancto, chap. 9, nos. 21 fl.; chap. 18, no. 47.

13. Dialog., VII, PG, LXXV, 1085.

14. De Spiritu Sancto, I, chaps. 5-6.

15. De fide et symbolo, chap. 9, and De Trinitate, XV, chap. 27.

16. Denzinger, Enchiridion, no. 13.

17. Council of Trent, Sess. VI, chap. 7; Denzinger, no. 799.

18. We set forth these explanations elsewhere (L'amour de Dieu et la croix de Jesus, 1, 167-205), and we compared that of the Angelic Doctor, as understood by John of St. Thomas, and in more recent years by Father Gardeil, O.P., with those of Vasquez and Suarez. It will be sufficient here to review these opinions briefly.

Vasquez reduces every real presence of God in us to the general presence of immensity, according to which God is present in all things which He preserves in existence. As an object known and loved, God is not really present in the just soul; He is, as it were, only represented there in the manner of an absent but very much loved person.

Suarez, on the contrary, maintains that, even if God were not already present in the just by the general presence of immensity, He would become really and substantially present in them by reason of the charity which unites them to Him. This opinion runs counter to the following strong objection: Although we love the humanity of the Savior and the Blessed Virgin by charity, it does not follow that they are really present in us, that they dwell in our souls. Of itself, charity constitutes an affective union and makes us desire real union; but how could it constitute this union?

John of St. Thomas (In lam, q.43, a.3, disp. XVII, nos. 8-10) and Father Gardeil (op. cit., II, 7-60) have shown that the thought of St. Thomas towers above the mutually contradictory conceptions of Vasquez and of Suarez. According to the Angelic Doctor, contrary to what Suarez says, the special presence of the Blessed Trinity in the just man presupposes the general pres­ence of immensity; but (and this is what Vasquez did not see) by sanctifying grace God is rendered really present in a new manner as an experimentally knowable object which the just soul can enjoy. He is not there only as a very much loved person who is absent, but He is really there, and at times He makes Himself felt by us. If, by an impossibility, God were not already in the just as the preserving cause of his natural being, He would, as a result, become specially present in him as the producing and preserving cause of grace and charity, and as a quasi-experimentally knowable object, and, from time to time, as an object known and loved.

19. The systems, which do not attain to a superior synthesis, are generally true in what they affirm, and false in what they deny. What is true in each one of them is found again in the superior synthesis when the mind has discovered the eminent principle which permits the harmonization of the different aspects of the problem. In the present case, Vasquez seems to be wrong in denying that the special presence is that of an experimentally knowable object really present; and Suarez seems, indeed, to err in denying that this special presence presupposes the general presence of immensity by which God preserves all things in existence.

20. See Ia, q.43, a.3.

21. Ibid., a. I, c. and ad I um, 2 um.

22. St. Thomas had already stated this in his Commentary on the Sentences, I dist., 14, q.2, a.2 ad 3um. "Non qualiscumque cognitio sufficit ad rationem mlsslonis, sed solum ilia quae accipitur ex aliquo dono appropriato personae, per quod efficitur in nobis conjunctio ad Deum, secundum modum proprium illius personae, scilicet per amorem, quando Spiritus Sanctus datur, unde cognitio ista est quasi-experimentalis" (ibid., ad 1um). This quasi-experimental knowledge of God, based on charity, which gives us a connaturality with divine things, proceeds especially from the gift of wisdom, as St. Thomas
says (IIa IIae, q.45, a.2).

23. Thus our soul is always present to itself, as an experimentally knowable object, without always being actually known: for example, in deep sleep.

24. See Ia IIae, q. 112, a.5: "Whoever receives it (grace) knows, by experiencing a certain sweetness, which is not experienced by one who does not receive it." It is a sign permitting us to conjecture and to have a moral certitude that we are in the state of grace.

25. Luke 24:32

26. John 14:23.

27. Ibid., 26.