Recent Posts

Monday, 24 June 2013

Thomas Aquinas Series--

Questions have come to me on the perfection series regarding the flowering of the virtues.

Thomas Aquinas clarifies this issue, and of course, Garrigou-Lagrange is a great Thomist.

Here is one section to chew on today. Unpacking follows in blue. More to come later....

As Augustine says (De Moribus Eccl. vi), "the soul needs to follow something in order to give birth to virtue: this something is God: if we follow Him we shall live aright." Consequently the exemplar of human virtue must needs pre-exist in God, just as in Him pre-exist the types of all things. Accordingly virtue may be considered as existing originally in God, and thus we speak of "exemplar" virtues: so that in God the Divine Mind itself may be called prudence; while temperance is the turning of
God's gaze on Himself, even as in us it is that which conforms the appetite to reasonGod's fortitude is His unchangeableness; His justice is the observance of the Eternal Law in His works, as Plotinus states (Cf. Macrobius, Super Somn. Scip. 1).

How extraordinarily beautiful this above section is. God's Divine Mind is Prudence and Temperance is His Looking on Himself. God's Fortitude is His Absolute Unchangeableness (in contradistinction from Islam, where Allah does change), and His Justice is His Eternal Law, and may I add, His Order for the Universe.

Again, since man by his nature is a social [See above note on Chrysostom] animal, these virtues, in so far as they are in him according to the condition of his nature, are called "social" virtues; since it is by reason of them that man behaves himself well in the conduct of human affairs. It is in this sense that we have been speaking of these virtues until now.

Without social virtues, we sink either into tyranny or into anarchy, which both we see coming in greater strength as the Catholic Church weakens from within owing to a lack of holiness.

But since it behooves a man to do his utmost to strive onward even to Divine things, as even the Philosopher declares in Ethic. x, 7, and as Scripture often admonishes us--for instance: "Be ye . . . perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48), we must needs place some virtues between the social or human virtues, and the exemplar virtues which are Divine. Now these virtues differ by reason of a difference of movement and term: so that some are virtues of men who are on their way and tending towards the Divine similitude; and these are called "perfecting" virtues

I cannot emphasize enough that these are given in baptism for our individual perfection, which in turn, if acquired, strengthens the Church. I think Fortitude is what is lacking in many Catholics or fallen-away Catholics who state Catholicism is "just too hard". Sadly, some priests give into lowering the bar on holiness and accepting the status quo for so-called "pastoral reasons."

Thus prudence, by contemplating the things of God, counts as nothing all things of the world, and directs all the thoughts of the soul to God alone: temperance, so far as nature allows, neglects the needs of the body; fortitude prevents the soul from being afraid of neglecting the body and rising to heavenly things; and justice consists in the soul giving a whole-hearted consent to follow the way thus proposed. Besides these there are the virtues of those who have already attained to the Divine similitude: these are called the "perfect virtues." Thus prudence sees nought else but the things of Godtemperance knows no earthly desires; fortitude has no knowledge of passion; and justice, by imitating the Divine Mind, is united thereto by an everlasting covenant. Such as the virtues attributed to the Blessed, or, in this life, to some who are at the summit of perfection. I:2;61

The beauty of the words challenge us today to pursue perfection, cooperating with the myriad graces God gives us daily. To me, the imitation of the Divine Mind, the process and the goal, is paramount. What is not known cannot be loved.

To be continued...