Struggling on the Concept of Grace

From my understanding Actual Grace is the conscientiousness giving a push towards the innate good and Sanctifying Grace is the transformation of the self’s interest towards God. However, under this explanation I’ve effectively removed the notion that this comes from God. What am I doing wrong?

If you have the time and you like to read, please review the Catechism sections on grace and justification (CCC 1987-2029). Here are a few excerpts:

1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.

2000 Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love. Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God’s call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God’s interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification.

First of all, grace is a gift from God. It is his doing, not ours.

In the above passage, the word “habitual” is not used in the usual sense of good or bad behavioral habits that we develop in our lives. Rather, its meaning is closer to “inhabiting,” or dwelling permanently in us. Therefore sanctifying grace is the holiness that God gave us when he created us, and which he sustains in us at all times. Our desire for what is good, the moral law inscribed in our hearts, and our conscience are manifestations of that sanctifying grace,

The word “actual,” as it relates to grace, shares the same root as “act” and “active,” suggesting that actual graces are actions of God at specific moments in our lives. Therefore, actual grace is not our will to do good, or our choice to act virtuously. It is not our doing, but God’s doing. Actual grace is manifested in those moments when the Holy Spirit nudges us, strengthens us, or inspires us to choose the right way. Perhaps actual grace also includes external interventions, as when things happen, by God’s power, which deliver us from evil or enable us to live well.

As I’ve done at least 56,439 times in the past, I would recommend Dr. Lawrence Feingold’s lectures. You’ll find some pertinent ones here, especially the fifth in this series: The Mystery of Grace.

That’s a specific number :slight_smile:

Have you ever here of the Eastern Christian term theosis? This is the Eastern equivalent of sanctifying Grace.

Here’s St. John of the Cross on sanctifying Grace:

In order that both these things may be the better understood, let us make a comparison. A ray of sunlight is striking a window. If the window is in any way stained or misty, the sun’s ray will be unable to illumine it and transform it into its own light, totally, as it would if it were clean of all these things, and pure; but it will illumine it to a lesser degree, in proportion as it is less free from those mists and stains; and will do so to a greater degree, in proportion as it is cleaner from them, and this will not be because of the sun’s ray, but because of itself; so much so that, if it be wholly pure and clean, the ray of sunlight will transform it and illumine it in such wise that it will itself seem to be a ray and will give the same light as the ray. Although in reality the window has a nature distinct from that of the ray itself, however much it may resemble it, yet we may say that that window is a ray of the sun or is light by participation. And the soul is like this window, whereupon is ever beating (or, to express it better, wherein is ever dwelling) this Divine light of the Being of God according to nature, which we have described.

In thus allowing God to work in it, the soul (having rid itself of every mist and stain of the creatures, which consists in having its will perfectly united with that of God, for to love is to labour to detach and strip itself for God’s sake of all that is not God) is at once illumined and transformed in God, and God communicates to it His supernatural Being, in such wise that it appears to be God Himself, and has all that God Himself has. And this union comes to pass when God grants the soul this supernatural favour, that all the things of God and the soul are one in participant transformation; and the soul seems to be God rather than a soul, and is indeed God by participation; although it is true that its natural being, though thus transformed, is as distinct from the Being of God as it was before, even as the window has likewise a nature distinct from that of the ray, though the ray gives it brightness.

Source: The Ascent of Mount Carmel:

The Protestants disagree with participation in Deity, and instead propose that Christ’s Holiness simply “covers up” our sinful nature, instead of Christ sharing His Holiness with us, purifying us and making us Holy ourselves. Many people in America, including poorly catechized Catholics, seem to misunderstand this teaching, so you are not alone. I was shocked myself when I discovered it :slight_smile:

I think the best way of understanding it is that although, through Grace, our nature remains the same, our “operations” become Divine. Faith is then the operation of the human mind participlating in the Divine Wisdom, and Charity, the supernatural virtue, is then the operation of the human heart/will participating in the Divine Love. Thus humans, through Grace, know with the Divine Knowledge, and love with the same Love that God has.

Aristotle once wrote that intimate friendship is one soul in two bodies. In a similar way, intimate friendship with God is sharing in Himself, with our mind and heart becoming one with God’s: “a man after My own heart,” is how David is described by God.

Christi pax,


St. Thomas, pray for us!

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