What is Christian perfection?


#1

I have heard this phrase used quite a lot, and it reminds me of Jesus’s command, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) This makes me wonder, what exactly is Christian perfection? And what does Jesus mean by this command?

I have to admit that this idea has caused me some distress. It makes me feel like I have to correct every offense I have committed, and right every wrong, and to go about it perfectly. But I think this interpretation of mine is immature, and perhaps even counter to Christian values.

Instead, I would like to see it as saying, that we should strive for perfect love of God and other people. That’s Christian perfection. Not being able to fix our mistakes perfectly, but loving God and others perfectly.

What do you think?


#2

Christian perfection is perfect love. Love born of repentance, forgiveness and perseverance in virtue, all dependent on the grace freely given by God.


#3

The classic answer in theology is short and simple: the imitatio Christi – the imitation of Christ is the summit of Christian perfection. The more you are like Him, the more perfect you are…and the more perfectly you are His follower.

Indeed with regard to your last paragraph, in mystical and ascetical theology, we equate holiness of life with the phrase “the perfection of charity”

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
2013 “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity.” All are called to holiness: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Although written more than a century ago, this article is still worth reading:

newadvent.org/cathen/11665b.htm

However, because of what the Council taught us about the Universal Call to Holiness in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, Chapter 5 of that document should be read to compliment:

vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html


#4

Here is a good read… perhaps a bit daunting, but goooooood.

christianperfection.info/


#5

For humans I think it would be loving God more than you love anything else… now to do that you can’t prove you love God, whom we cannot see, through any actions except by loving our neighbor whom we can see. I’m just learning this for myself…


#6

God does not require *instant *perfection, but he does require perfection of sorts. As others have noted, it has a lot to do with charity.

I’m not sure what you mean by fixing our mistakes perfectly. If by mistakes you mean sins, our manner of repairing the damage will no doubt often be clumsy and involve multiple attempts–to think otherwise would be to expect *instant *perfection–but we are still obliged to *fully *repair the damage, that is the disorder in the universal moral order, and the injustice to God and to our neighbor. If we don’t in this life, we will in purgatory or worse.


#7

“Christian perfection is perfect love. Love born of repentance, forgiveness and perseverance in virtue, all dependent on the grace freely given by God.” from Davidv

I would like to supplement by adding, after this ‘birth’ - “The road to this peace is through nothing else than a most ardent love of the Crucified, the love which so transformed Paul into Christ when he was rapt to the third heaven that he declared: With Christ I am nailed to the Cross. It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me.” (St. Bonaventure, Itinerarium mentis in Deum, Prologue, 3)

The desire to be perfect is the desire to remove self-love with the constant cross of Christ. By that perseverance in virtue, particularly an ever growing thoroughness in Chasity and Watchfulness, albeit starting very early in the morning - “I love them that love me: and they that in the morning early watch for me, shall find me.” (Prov 8:17, vulg.) “And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.” (Lk 12:38) “I rose at midnight to give praise to thee; for the judgments of thy justification.” (Ps 119 [118]:62)

Chasity and watchfulness are particularly mentioned by the Angelic Doctor for this result.
Moreover, the prayer of Christ is the call of “Be perfect.” In other words, lose everything possessive of yourself, and conform to the mind of the Church - the Apostles sent from Son, Jesus sent from the Father and Mary in fruitful assistance. Conform that your soul prays the prayer of the Church, and this has its highest expression in the Liturgy, public and private. For at Mass, we unite our cross with the true Cross present to assist us through Mary.


#8

My understanding of this, is that one has to be, as perfect as Jesus Christ.

In order to become this perfect, one has to become one with Jesus Christ (the perfect man)


#9

Yes! It’s easy to throw around terms such as “perfection”, “holiness”, “justice”, “righteousness”, etc, but what do they really consist of? What do they “look like”? Sometimes we might be prone to put on our most pious stained-glass saint look, or do this or that, thinking at the time that we’re coming off pretty saintly ourselves. But in the end the humble little virtue called* love* defines those other terms.

And it almost seems to be pushed off in the corner sometimes. Protestants so often seem to be proclaiming the virtue of faith as the highest. And we might look for wisdom and knowledge and our own glory in one way or another, but at the very heart of everything Jesus said and did was His love for humankind, because He’s God, and “God is love” to quote St John, and we’re to be transformed into that very image (2 Cor 3:18).

One problem is that we tend to desire self-glory, and love will have none of that, being patient, kind, self-sacrificing, etc, as 1 Cor 13 describes it. St Paul goes on in that same chapter to tell us that, “…if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” And a little later, “Now these three remain, faith, hope, and love, but the most important of these is love.”

And this is why the greatest commandments are what they are. And the crucifix, BTW, is nothing if not a blaring statement of God’s very nature and self-sacrificial love for man-it’s all about what He’s willing to do for us. In the end Christianity is all about love. That’s how the New Covenant prophecies are fulfilled; that’s how ‘the law is written on our minds and placed in our hearts.’ Jer 31. Because love, as we know, fulfills the law. Rom 13:8


closed #10

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