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Sunday, 20 January 2013

On the Will and Perfection

St. Bernard notes that creative grace created the will and in that will we are 
different than the other animals.

In saving, or sanctifying grace, the will is given the ability to overcome evil 
and be victorious in good. 

Likewise, the will can cause failure to love God. He notes that mortal sin 
destroys both freedom and the ability of the will to choose good.

It hath, I think, been sufficiently shown that this freedom 
of will is yet in certain fashion held captive, so long as the 
other two kinds of freedom scarcely at all, or only in a 
small measure, accompany it ; and that from no other cause 
than the lack of these two kinds of freedom ariseth that defect 
of ours of which the Apostle speaketh, saying : " So that 
ye cannot do the things that ye would."  To will indeed 
belongeth to us in virtue of free choice, but not also the^ 
power to do what we will. I do not speak of willing what 
is good, nor of willing what is evil, but merely of willing. 
For to will what is good is a moral success, to will what is 
evil is a moral failure. But the simple act of willing, that 
it is which either succeedeth or faileth. Further, it is 
creative grace which gave existence to the will ; it is saving 
grace which giveth it moral success ; it is the will itself 
which bringeth about its own moral failure. Accordingly, 
free choice maketh us possessed of will ; grace maketh us 
possessed of good will. It is in virtue of free choice that we 
will, it is in virtue of grace that we will what is good. For 
even as it is one thing simply to fear, and another thing to 
fear God -- one thing simply  to love and another thing to 
love God (indeed, the terms fear and love, considered 
merely in the abstract, signify affections


For the rest, whether we belong to God or to 
the devil, we do not cease to belong to ourselves also. 
Indeed free will remaineth to us in. either case, whereby 
there remaineth also the ground of merit ; so that deservedly 
we are either punished as evil persons, who have of their 
own will freely become such, or glorified as good, which 
equally we cannot be save only as free agents. In truth it 
is our own will, and not the power of God, which delivereth 
us over to the devil : it is God's grace, and not our own will, 
Adam's turning away from perfection caused an avalanche of sin and regret, and 
loss of freedom.

No seeking of perfection means no finding of freedom.  As long as the will is trapped in sin 
and imperfections, one cannot do good, or work in and for the glory of God. 

The highest degree of freedom, states Bernard, is to be able to not sin. The lowest degree is 
not to be able not to sin.