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On this page
  1. Beliefs and practices
  2. Bible Living
  3. Soteriology - The Doctrine of Salvation
  4. What is Sanctification? Bible Definition and Meaning
  5. Calvinism Vs. Arminianism - Definition and Comparison

Can the position be maintained that there are no atheists? Should present day Humanists be classed as atheists? What objections are there to the identification of God with the Absolute of philosophy? Does a finite God meet the needs of the Christian life? Is the doctrine of a finite God limited to Pragmatists? Why is a personified idea of God a poor substitute for the living God? How should we judge of this criticism?

Cooperate With the Laws of God - Andrew Wommack

II, pp. De Deo I, pp. I, pp.

The Christian Church confesses on the one hand that God is the Incomprehensible One, but also on the other hand, that He can be known and that knowledge of Him is an absolute requisite unto salvation. Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? The two ideas reflected in these passages were always held side by side in the Christian Church. The early Church Fathers spoke of the invisible God as an unbegotten, nameless, eternal, incomprehensible, unchangeable Being.

They had advanced very little beyond the old Greek idea that the Divine Being is absolute attributeless existence. At the same time they also confessed that God revealed Himself in the Logos, and can therefore be known unto salvation. In the fourth century Eunomius, an Arian, argued from the simplicity of God, that there is nothing in God that is not perfectly known and comprehended by the human intellect, but his view was rejected by all the recognized leaders of the Church.

The Scholastics distinguished between the quid and the qualis of God, and maintained that we do not know what God is in His essential Being, but can know something of His nature, of what He is to us, as He reveals Himself in His divine attributes. The same general ideas were expressed by the Reformers, though they did not agree with the Scholastics as to the possibility of acquiring real knowledge of God, by unaided human reason, from general revelation.

In some passages he even speaks of the revealed God as still a hidden God in view of the fact that we cannot fully know Him even through His special revelation. To Calvin, God in the depths of His being is past finding out. Under the influence of the pantheizing theology of immanence, inspired by Hegel and Schleiermacher, a change came about. The transcendence of God is soft-pedaled, ignored, or explicitly denied. God is brought down to the level of the world, is made continuous with it, and is therefore regarded as less incomprehensible, though still shrouded in mystery.

Special revelation in the sense of a direct communication of God to man is denied. Sufficient knowledge of God can be obtained without it, since man can discover God for himself in the depths of his own being, in the material universe, and above all in Jesus Christ, since these are all but outward manifestations of the immanent God.

It is over against this trend in theology that Barth now raises his voice and points out that God is not to be found in nature, in history, or in human experience of any kind, but only in the special revelation that has reached us in the Bible. In his strong statements respecting the hidden God he uses the language of Luther rather than of Calvin. Reformed theology holds that God can be known, but that it is impossible for man to have a knowledge of Him that is exhaustive and perfect in every way. A logical definition is impossible, because God cannot be subsumed under some higher genus.

At the same time it is maintained that man can obtain a knowledge of God that is perfectly adequate for the realization of the divine purpose in the life of man. However, true knowledge of God can be acquired only from the divine self-revelation, and only by the man who accepts this with childlike faith. Religion necessarily presupposes such a knowledge. It is the most sacred relation between man and his God, a relation in which man is conscious of the absolute greatness and majesty of God as the supreme Being, and of his own utter insignificance and subjection to the High and Holy One.

And if this is true, it follows that religion presupposes the knowledge of God in man. If man were left absolutely in the dark respecting the being of God, it would be impossible for him to assume a religious attitude. There could be no reverence, no piety, no fear of God, no worshipful service.

The possibility of knowing God has been denied on various grounds. This denial is generally based on the supposed limits of the human faculty of cognition, though it has been presented in several different forms. The fundamental position is that the human mind is incapable of knowing anything of that which lies beyond and behind natural phenomena, and is therefore necessarily ignorant of supersensible and divine things. As a rule agnostics do not like to be branded as atheists, since they do not deny absolutely that there is a God, but declare that they do not know whether He exists or not, and even if He exists, are not certain that they have any true knowledge of Him, and in many cases even deny that they can have any real knowledge of Him.

Hume has been called the father of modern agnosticism. He did not deny the existence of God, but asserted that we have no true knowledge of His attributes. All our ideas of Him are, and can only be, anthropomorphic. We cannot be sure that there is any reality corresponding to the attributes we ascribe to Him.

His agnosticism resulted from the general principle that all knowledge is based on experience. It was especially Kant, however, who stimulated agnostic thought by his searching inquiry into the limits of the human understanding and reason. He affirmed that the theoretical reason knows only phenomena and is necessarily ignorant of that which underlies these phenomena, — the thing in itself.

From this it followed, of course, that it is impossible for us to have any theoretical knowledge of God. But Lotze already pointed out that phenomena, whether physical or mental, are always connected with some substance lying back of them, and that in knowing the phenomena we also know the underlying substance, of which they are manifestations. The Scotch philosopher, Sir William Hamilton, while not in entire agreement with Kant, yet shared the intellectual agnosticism of the latter. He asserts that the human mind knows only that which is conditioned and exists in various relations, and that, since the Absolute and Infinite is entirely unrelated, that is exists in no relations, we can obtain no knowledge of it.

But while he denies that the Infinite can be known by us, he does not deny its existence. To him also it seemed utterly impossible to conceive of an infinite Being, though he also professed faith in its existence. The reasoning of these two men did not carry conviction, since it was felt that the Absolute or Infinite does not necessarily exist outside of all relations, but can enter into various relations; and that the fact that we know things only in their relations does not mean that the knowledge so acquired is merely a relative or unreal knowledge.

Comte, the father of Positivism, was also agnostic in religion. According to him man can know nothing but physical phenomena and their laws. His senses are the sources of all true thinking, and he can know nothing except the phenomena which they apprehend and the relations in which these stand to each other. Mental phenomena can be reduced to material phenomena, and in science man cannot get beyond these.

Even the phenomena of immediate consciousness are excluded, and further, everything that lies behind the phenomena. Theological speculation represents thought in its infancy. No positive affirmation can be made respecting the existence of God, and therefore both theism and atheism stand condemned. He proceeds on the assumption that there is some reality lying back of phenomena, but maintains that all reflection on it lands us in contradictions.

This ultimate reality is utterly inscrutable. While we must accept the existence of some ultimate Power, either personal or impersonal, we can form no conception of it. Inconsistently he devotes a great part of his First Principles to the development of the positive content of the Unknowable, as if it were well known indeed. Other agnostics, who were influenced by him, are such men as Huxley, Fiske, and Clifford. We meet with agnosticism also repeatedly in modern Humanism.

Besides the forms indicated in the preceding the agnostic argument has assumed several others, of which the following are some of the most important. In many cases the differences are the very things that arrest our attention. The Scholastics spoke of the via negationis by which they in thought eliminated from God the imperfections of the creature.

Moreover, we should not forget that man is made in the image of God, and that there are important analogies between the divine nature and the nature of man. Briefly stated the position is that man cannot comprehend God, who is infinite, cannot have an exhaustive knowledge of Him, and therefore cannot know Him.

But this position proceeds on the unwarranted assumption that partial knowledge cannot be real knowledge, an assumption which would really invalidate all our knowledge, since it always falls far short of completeness. Our knowledge of God, though not exhaustive, may yet be very real and perfectly adequate for our present needs.

Hamilton says that the Absolute and the Infinite can only be conceived as a negation of the thinkable; which really means that we can have no conception of them at all. But though it is true that much of what we predicate to God is negative in form, this does not mean that it may not at the same time convey some positive idea. The aseity of God includes the positive idea of his self-existence and self-sufficiency. Moreover, such ideas as love, spirituality, and holiness, are positive. It is said that we know the objects of knowledge, not as they are objectively, but only as they are related to our senses and faculties.

In the process of knowledge we distort and colour them. In a sense it is perfectly true that all our knowledge is subjectively conditioned, but the import of the assertion under consideration seems to be that, because we know things only through the mediation of our senses and faculties, we do not know them as they are. But this is not true; in so far as we have any real knowledge of things, that knowledge corresponds to the objective reality.

The laws of perception and thought are not arbitrary, but correspond to the nature of things. Without such correspondence, not only the knowledge of God, but all true knowledge would be utterly impossible. Some are inclined to look upon the position of Barth as a species of agnosticism. Even after the revelation man cannot know God , for He is always the unknown God. In manifesting Himself to us He is farther away than ever before.

While it is perfectly clear that Barth does not mean to be an agnostic, it cannot be denied that some of his statements can readily be interpreted as having an agnostic flavor. He strongly stresses the fact that God is the hidden God, who cannot be known from nature, history, or experience, but only by His self-revelation in Christ, when it meets with the response of faith. But even in this revelation God appears only as the hidden God. God reveals Himself exactly as the hidden God, and through His revelation makes us more conscious of the distance which separates Him from man than we ever were before.

This can easily be interpreted to mean that we learn by revelation merely that God cannot be known, so that after all we are face to face with an unknown God. But in view of all that Barth has written this is clearly not what he wants to say. His assertion, that in the light of revelation we see God as the hidden God, does not exclude the idea that by revelation we also acquire a great deal of useful knowledge of God as He enters into relations with His people.

When He says that even in His revelation God still remains for us the unknown God , he really means, the incomprehensible God. The revealing God is God in action. By His revelation we learn to know Him in His operations, but acquire no real knowledge of His inner being. The following passage in The Doctrine of the Word of God ,[p.

Therefore the three-in-oneness of God is also inconceivable to us. Hence, too, the inadequacy of all our knowledge of the three-in-oneness. The conceivability with which it has appeared to us, primarily in Scripture, secondarily in the Church doctrine of the Trinity, is a creaturely conceivability. To the conceivability in which God exists for Himself it is not only relative: it is absolutely separate from it. Only upon the free grace of revelation does it depend that the former conceivability, in its absolute separation from its object, is vet not without truth.

In this sense the three-in-oneness of God, as we know it from the operation of God, is truth. Kuyper calls attention to the fact that theology as the knowledge of God differs in an important point from all other knowledge. In the study of all other sciences man places himself above the object of his investigation and actively elicits from it his knowledge by whatever method may seem most appropriate, but in theology he does not stand above but rather under the object of his knowledge.

In other words, man can know God only in so far as the latter actively makes Himself known. God is first of all the subject communicating knowledge to man, and can only become an object of study for man in so far as the latter appropriates and reflects on the knowledge conveyed to him by revelation. Without revelation man would never have been able to acquire any knowledge of God. And even after God has revealed Himself objectively, it is not human reason that discovers God, but it is God who discloses Himself to the eye of faith. Barth also stresses the fact that man can know God only when God comes to him in an act of revelation.

He asserts that there is no way from man to God, but only from God to man, and says repeatedly that God is always the subject, and never an object. Revelation is always something purely subjective, and can never turn into something objective like the written Word of Scripture, and as such become an object of study. It is given once for all in Jesus Christ, and in Christ comes to men in the existential moment of their lives.

While there are elements of truth in what Barth says, his construction of the doctrine of revelation is foreign to Reformed theology. The position must be maintained, however, that theology would be utterly impossible without a self-revelation of God. And when we speak of revelation, we use the term in the strict sense of the word.

It is not, as many moderns would have it, a deepened spiritual insight which leads to an ever-increasing discovery of God on the part of man; but a supernatural act of self-communication, a purposeful act on the part of the Living God. There is nothing surprising in the fact that God can be known only if, and in so far as, He reveals Himself. In a measure this is also true of man. Even after Psychology has made a rather exhaustive study of man, Alexis Carrell is still able to write a very convincing book on Man the Unknown.

The Holy Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God, and reveals them unto man. God has made Himself known. Alongside of the archetypal knowledge of God, found in God Himself, there is also an ectypal knowledge of Him, given to man by revelation. The latter is related to the former as a copy is to the original, and therefore does not possess the same measure of clearness and perfection.

Beliefs and practices

All our knowledge of God is derived from His self-revelation in nature and in Scripture. Consequently, our knowledge of God is on the one hand ectypal and analogical, but on the other hand also true and accurate, since it is a copy of the archetypal knowledge which God has of Himself. A distinction is usually made between innate and acquired knowledge of God. This is not a strictly logical distinction, because in the last analysis all human knowledge is acquired.

The doctrine of innate ideas is philosophical rather than theological. In modern philosophy it was taught first of all by Descartes, who regarded the idea of God as innate. He did not deem it necessary to consider this as innate in the sense that it was consciously present in the human mind from the start, but only in the sense that man has a natural tendency to form the idea when the mind reaches maturity.

Bible Living

The doctrine finally assumed the form that there are certain ideas, of which the idea of God is the most prominent, which are inborn and are therefore present in human consciousness from birth. It was in this form that Locke rightly attacked the doctrine of innate ideas, though he went to another extreme in his philosophical empiricism.

Reformed theology also rejected the doctrine in that particular form. On the one hand this cognitio Dei insita does not consist in any ideas or formed notions which are present in man at the time of his birth; but on the other hand it is more than a mere capacity which enables man to know God. It denotes a knowledge that necessarily results from the constitution of the human mind, that is inborn only in the sense that it is acquired spontaneously, under the influence of the semen religionis implanted in man by his creation in the image of God, and that is not acquired by the laborious process of reasoning and argumentation.

It is a knowledge which man, constituted as he is, acquires of necessity , and as such is distinguished from all knowledge that is conditioned by the will of man. It does not arise spontaneously in the human mind, but results from the conscious and sustained pursuit of knowledge. It can be acquired only by the wearisome process of perception and reflection, reasoning and argumentation.

Under the influence of the Hegelian Idealism and of the modern view of evolution the innate knowledge of God has been over-emphasized; Barth on the other hand denies the existence of any such knowledge. The Bible testifies to a twofold revelation of God: a revelation in nature round about us, in human consciousness, and in the providential government of the world; and a revelation embodied in the Bible as the Word of God. Of the latter it gives abundant evidence in both the Old and the New Testament. On the basis of these scriptural data it became customary to speak of natural and supernatural revelation.

The distinction thus applied to the idea of revelation is primarily a distinction based on the manner in which it is communicated to man; but in the course of history it has also been based in part on the nature of its subject-matter. The mode of revelation is natural when it is communicated through nature, that is, through the visible creation with its ordinary laws and powers.

It is supernatural when it is communicated to man in a higher, supernatural manner, as when God speaks to him, either directly, or through supernaturally endowed messengers. The substance of revelation was regarded as natural, if it could be acquired by human reason from the study of nature; and was considered to be supernatural when it could not be known from nature, nor by unaided human reason. Hence it became quite common in the Middle Ages to contrast reason and revelation. In Protestant theology natural revelation was often called a revelatio realis , and supernatural revelation a revelatio verbalis , because the former is embodied in things, and the latter in words.

In course of time, however, the distinction between natural and supernatural revelation was found to be rather ambiguous, since all revelation is supernatural in origin and, as a revelation of God, also in content. Ewald in his work on Revelation : its Nature and Record[p. A more common distinction, however, which gradually gained currency, is that of general and special revelation.

The one has in view to meet and supply the natural need of creatures for knowledge of their God; the other to rescue broken and deformed sinners from their sin and its consequences. Special revelation is rooted in the redemptive plan of God, is addressed to man as sinner, can be properly understood and appropriated only by faith, and serves the purpose of securing the end for which man was created in spite of the disturbance wrought by sin. In view of the eternal plan of redemption it should be said that this special revelation did not come in as an after-thought, but was in the mind of God from the very beginning.

There was considerable difference of opinion respecting the relation of these two to each other. According to Scholasticism natural revelation provided the necessary data for the construction of a scientific natural theology by human reason. But while it enabled man to attain to a scientific knowledge of God as the ultimate cause of all things, it did not provide for the knowledge of the mysteries, such as the Trinity, the incarnation, and redemption.

This knowledge is supplied by special revelation. It is a knowledge that is not rationally demonstrable but must be accepted by faith. Thomas Aquinas, however, considered this impossible, except in so far as special revelation contained truths which also formed a part of natural revelation. In his opinion the mysteries, which formed the real contents of supernatural revelation, did not admit of any logical demonstration. He held, however, that there could be no conflict between the truths of natural and those of supernatural revelation. The fact remains, however, that he recognized, besides the structure reared by faith on the basis of supernatural revelation, a system of scientific theology on the foundation of natural revelation.

In the former one assents to something because it is revealed, in the latter because it is perceived as true in the light of natural reason. The logical demonstration, which is out of the question in the one, is the natural method of proof in the other. They did not believe in the ability of human reason to construct a scientific system of theology on the basis of natural revelation pure and simple. Their view of the matter may be represented as follows: As a result of the entrance of sin into the world, the handwriting of God in nature is greatly obscured, and is in some of the most important matters rather dim and illegible.

Moreover, man is stricken with spiritual blindness, and is thus deprived of the ability to read aright what God had originally plainly written in the works of creation. In order to remedy the matter and to prevent the frustration of His purpose, God did two things. In His supernatural revelation He republished the truths of natural revelation, cleared them of misconception, interpreted them with a view to the present needs of man, and thus incorporated them in His supernatural revelation of redemption.

And in addition to that He provided a cure for the spiritual blindness of man in the work of regeneration and sanctification, including spiritual illumination, and thus enabled man once more to obtain true knowledge of God, the knowledge that carries with it the assurance of eternal life. When the chill winds of Rationalism swept over Europe, natural revelation was exalted at the expense of supernatural revelation.

Man became intoxicated with a sense of his own ability and goodness, refused to listen and submit to the voice of authority that spoke to him in Scripture, and reposed complete trust in the ability of human reason to lead him out of the labyrinth of ignorance and error into the clear atmosphere of true knowledge. Some who maintained that natural revelation was quite sufficient to teach men all necessary truths, still admitted that they might learn them sooner with the aid of supernatural revelation. Others denied that the authority of supernatural revelation was complete, until its contents had been demonstrated by reason.

And finally Deism in some of its forms denied, not only the necessity, but also the possibility and reality of supernatural revelation. In Schleiermacher the emphasis shifts from the objective to the subjective, from revelation to religion, and that without any distinction between natural and revealed religion.

What is called revelation from one point of view, may be called human discovery from another. This view has become quite characteristic of modern theology. The present tendency is to draw no sharp line of distinction between revelation and the natural reason, but to look upon the highest insights of reason as themselves divine revelations. In any case there is no fixed body of revealed truth, accepted on authority, that stands opposed to the truths of reason.

All truth to-day rests on its power of appeal to the human mind. It is this view of revelation that is denounced in the strongest terms by Barth. He is particularly interested in the subject of revelation, and wants to lead the Church back from the subjective to the objective, from religion to revelation. Barth does not recognize any revelation in nature. Revelation never exists on any horizontal line, but always comes down perpendicularly from above. Revelation is always God in action, God speaking, bringing something entirely new to man, something of which he could have no previous knowledge, and which becomes a real revelation only for him who accepts the object of revelation by a God-given faith.

Jesus Christ is the revelation of God, and only he who knows Jesus Christ knows anything about revelation at all. Barth even calls it the reconciliation. Since God is always sovereign and free in His revelation, it can never assume a factually present, objective form with definite limitations, to which man can turn at any time for instruction.

The same may be said, though in a subordinate sense, of the preaching of the gospel. But through whatever mediation the word of God may come to man in the existential moment of his life, it is always recognized by man as a word directly spoken to him, and coming perpendicularly from above. This recognition is effected by a special operation of the Holy Spirit, by what may be called an individual testimonium Spiritus Sancti. The revelation of God was given once for all in Jesus Christ: not in His historical appearance, but in the superhistorical in which the powers of the eternal world become evident, such as His incarnation and His death and resurrection.

And if His revelation is also continuous — as it is —, it is such only in the sense that God continues to speak to individual sinners, in the existential moment of their lives, through the revelation in Christ, mediated by the Bible and by preaching. Thus we are left with mere flashes of revelation coming to individuals, of which only those individuals have absolute assurance; and fallible witnesses to, or tokens of, the revelation in Jesus Christ, — a rather precarious foundation for theology.

It is no wonder that Barth is in doubt as to the possibility of constructing a doctrine of God. Mankind is not in possession of any infallible revelation of God, and of His unique revelation in Christ and its extension in the special revelations that come to certain men it has knowledge only through the testimony of fallible witnesses. How did the Scholastics and the Reformers differ on this point? What is the position of modern theology? Why is revelation essential to religion? How does agnosticism differ theoretically from atheism? Is the one more favorable to religion than the other?

How did Kant promote agnosticism? What form did agnosticism take in Positivism? What other forms did it take? Why do some speak of Barth as an agnostic? How should this charge be met? Is theology possible without revelation? If not, why not? Can the doctrine of innate ideas be defended? Is the distinction between general and special revelation an exact parallel of the preceding one?

What different views were held as to the relation between the two? How does revelation differ from human discovery? Does Barth believe in general revelation? How does he conceive of special revelation? Some dogmaticians devote a separate chapter or chapters to the Being of God, before taking up the discussion of His attributes. This is done, for instance, in the works of Mastricht, Ebrard, Kuyper, and Shedd.

Others prefer to consider the Being of God in connection with His attributes in view of the fact that it is in these that He has revealed Himself. This difference of treatment is not indicative of any serious fundamental disagreement between them. They are all agreed that the attributes are not mere names to which no reality corresponds, nor separate parts of a composite God, but essential qualities in which the Being of God is revealed and with which it can be identified.

The only difference would seem to be that some seek to distinguish between the Being and the attributes of God more than others do. It is quite evident that the Being of God does not admit of any scientific definition. In order to give a logical definition of God, we would have to begin by going in search of some higher concept, under which God could be co-ordinated with other concepts; and would then have to point out the characteristics that would be applicable to God only.

Such a genetic - synthetic definition cannot be given of God, since God is not one of several species of gods, which can be subsumed under a single genus. At most only an analytical - descriptive definition is possible. This merely names the characteristics of a person or thing, but leaves the essential being unexplained. And even such a definition cannot be complete but only partial, because it is impossible to give an exhaustive positive as opposed to negative description of God.

It would consist in an enumeration of all the known attributes of God, and these are to a great extent negative in character. The Bible never operates with an abstract concept of God, but always describes Him as the Living God, who enters into various relations with His creatures, relations which are indicative of several different attributes. And this has been interpreted to mean self-existence or self-contained permanence or absolute independence.

The two ideas derived from these passages occur repeatedly in theology as designations of the very Being of God. On the whole it may be said that Scripture does not exalt one attribute of God at the expense of the others, but represents them as existing in perfect harmony in the Divine Being. It may be true that now one, and then another attribute is stressed, but Scripture clearly intends to give due emphasis to every one of them. The Being of God is characterized by a depth, a fullness, a variety, and a glory far beyond our comprehension, and the Bible represents it as a glorious harmonious whole, without any inherent contradictions.

And this fullness of life finds expression in no other way than in the perfections of God. During the trinitarian controversy the distinction between the one essence and the three persons in the Godhead was strongly emphasized, but the essence was generally felt to be beyond human comprehension. In the Middle Ages too there was a tendency, either to deny that man has any knowledge of the essence of God, or to reduce such knowledge to a minimum. In some cases one attribute was singled out as most expressive of the essence of God.

It became quite common also to speak of God as actus purus in view of His simplicity. The Reformers and their successors also spoke of the essence of God as incomprehensible, but they did not exclude all knowledge of it, though Luther used very strong language on this point. They stressed the unity, simplicity, and spirituality of God. From the preceding it already appears that the question as to the possibility of knowing God in His essential Being engaged the best minds of the Church from the earliest centuries.

And the consensus of opinion in the early Church, during the Middle Ages, and at the time of the Reformation, was that God in His inmost Being is the Incomprehensible One. And in some cases the language used is so strong that it seemingly allows of no knowledge of the Being of God whatsoever. At the same time they who use it, at least in some cases, seem to have considerable knowledge of the Being of God. Quid sit Deus? The first question concerns the existence of God, the second, His nature or essence, and the third, His attributes.

In this paragraph it is particularly the second question that calls for attention. The question then is, What is God? What is the nature of His inner constitution? What makes Him to be what He is? In order to answer that question adequately, we would have to be able to comprehend God and to offer a satisfactory explanation of His Divine Being, and this is utterly impossible.

Soteriology - The Doctrine of Salvation

The finite cannot comprehend the Infinite. And if we consider the second question entirely apart from the third, our negative answer becomes even more inclusive. Apart from the revelation of God in His attributes, we have no knowledge of the Being of God whatsoever. But in so far as God reveals Himself in His attributes, we also have some knowledge of His Divine Being, though even so our knowledge is subject to human limitations.

Luther uses some very strong expressions respecting our inability to know something of the Being or essence of God. On the one hand he distinguishes between the Deus absconditus hidden God and the Deus revelatus revealed God ; but on the other hand he also asserts that in knowing the Deus revelatus , we only know Him in his hiddenness.

By this he means that even in His revelation God has not manifested Himself entirely as He is essentially , but as to His essence still remains shrouded in impenetrable darkness. We know God only in so far as He enters into relations with us. Calvin too speaks of the Divine essence as incomprehensible.

He holds that God in the depths of His Being is past finding out. Speaking of the knowledge of the quid and of the qualis of God, he says that it is rather useless to speculate about the former, while our practical interest lies in the latter. But this knowledge cannot be obtained by a priori methods, but only in an a posteriori manner through the attributes, which he regards as real determinations of the nature of God. They convey to us at least some knowledge of what God is, but especially of what He is in relation to us. In dealing with our knowledge of the Being of God we must certainly avoid the position of Cousin, rather rare in the history of philosophy, that God even in the depths of His Being is not at all incomprehensible but essentially intelligible; but we must also steer clear of the agnosticism of Hamilton and Mansel, according to which we can have no knowledge whatsoever of the Being of God.

We cannot comprehend God, cannot have an absolute and exhaustive knowledge of Him, but we can undoubtedly have a relative or partial knowledge of the Divine Being. It is perfectly true that this knowledge of God is possible only, because He has placed Himself in certain relations to His moral creatures and has revealed Himself to them, and that even this knowledge is humanly conditioned; but it is nevertheless real and true knowledge, and is at least a partial knowledge of the absolute nature of God.

There is a difference between an absolute knowledge, and a relative or partial knowledge of an absolute being. It will not do at all to say that man knows only the relations in which God stands to His creatures. It would not even be possible to have a proper conception of these relations without knowing something of both God and man. To say that we can know nothing of the Being of God, but can know only relations, is equivalent to saying that we cannot know Him at all and cannot make Him the object of our religion.

But we can at least know Him in so far as He reveals Himself in His relation to us. The question, therefore, is not as to the possibility of a knowledge of God in the unfathomableness of His being, but is: Can we know God as He enters into relations with the world and with ourselves? God has entered into relations with us in His revelations of Himself, and supremely in Jesus Christ; and we Christians humbly claim that through this Self-revelation we do know God to be the true God, and have real acquaintance with His character and will.

Neither is it correct to say that this knowledge which we have of God is only a relative knowledge. It is in part a knowledge of the absolute nature of God as well. From the simplicity of God it follows that God and His attributes are one. The attributes cannot be considered as so many parts that enter into the composition of God, for God is not, like men, composed of different parts. Neither can they be regarded as something added to the Being of God, though the name, derived from ad and tribuere , might seem to point in that direction, for no addition was ever made to the Being of God, who is eternally perfect.

The Scholastics stressed the fact that God is all that He has. He has life, light, wisdom, love, righteousness, and it may be said on the basis of Scripture that He is life, light, wisdom, love, and righteousness. Some of them even went so far as to say that each attribute is identical with every other attribute, and that there are no logical distinctions in God. This is a very dangerous extreme. While it may be said that there is an interpenetration of the attributes in God, and that they form a harmonious whole, we are moving in the direction of Pantheism, when we rule out all distinctions in God, and say that His self-existence is His infinity, His knowing is His willing, His love is His righteousness, and vice versa.

It was characteristic of the Nominalists that they obliterated all real distinctions in God. They were afraid that by assuming real distinctions in Him, corresponding to the attributes ascribed to God, they would endanger the unity and simplicity of God, and were therefore motivated by a laudable purpose. According to them the perfections of the Divine Being exist only in our thoughts, without any corresponding reality in the Divine Being.

The Realists, on the other hand, asserted the reality of the divine perfections. They realized that the theory of the Nominalists, consistently carried out, would lead in the direction of a pantheistic denial of a personal God, and therefore considered it of the utmost importance to maintain the objective reality of the attributes in God.

At the same time they sought to safeguard the unity and simplicity of God by maintaining that the whole essence is in each attribute: God is All in all, All in each. Thomas Aquinas had the same purpose in mind, when he asserted that the attributes do not reveal what God is in Himself, in the depths of His Being, but only what He is in relation to His creatures. Naturally, we should guard against separating the divine essence and the divine attributes or perfections, and also against a false conception of the relation in which they stand to each other. The attributes are real determinations of the Divine Being or, in other words, qualities that inhere in the Being of God.

It would be a mistake to conceive of the essence of God as existing by itself and prior to the attributes, and of the attributes as additive and accidental characteristics of the Divine Being. They are essential qualities of God, which inhere in His very Being and are co-existent with it. These qualities cannot be altered without altering the essential Being of God. And since they are essential qualities, each one of them reveals to us some aspect of the Being of God. How do the philosophical views of the essential Being of God generally differ from the theological views?

How about the tendency to find the essence of God in the absolute, in love, or in personality? Why is it impossible for man to comprehend God? Does Calvin differ from them on this point? Did Luther share the Nominalist views of Occam, by whom he was influenced in other respects? How did the Reformers, in distinction from the Scholastics, consider the problem of the existence of God? Could we have any knowledge of God, if He were pure attributeless being? What erroneous views of the attributes should be avoided? What is the proper view? View of God and the World , pp. This usage is due to the fact that in oriental thought a name was never regarded as a mere vocable, but as an expression of the nature of the thing designated.

To know the name of a person was to have power over him, and the names of the various gods were used in incantations to exercise power over them. In the most general sense of the word, then, the name of God is His self-revelation. It is a designation of Him, not as He exists in the depths of His divine Being, but as He reveals Himself especially in His relations to man.

For us the one general name of God is split up into many names, expressive of the many-sided Being of God. It is only because God has revealed Himself in His name nomen editum , that we can now designate Him by that name in various forms nomina indita. The names of God are not of human invention, but of divine origin, though they are all borrowed from human language, and derived from human and earthly relations.

They are anthropomorphic and mark a condescending approach of God to man. The names of God constitute a difficulty for human thought. God is the Incomprehensible One , infinitely exalted above all that is temporal; but in His names He descends to all that is finite and becomes like unto man. On the one hand we cannot name Him, and on the other hand He has many names. How can this be explained? On what grounds are these names applied to the infinite and incomprehensible God? They are given by God Himself with the assurance that they contain in a measure a revelation of the Divine Being.

This was made possible by the fact that the world and all its relations is and was meant to be a revelation of God. Because the Incomprehensible One revealed Himself in His creatures, it is possible for man to name Him after the fashion of a creature. In order to make Himself known to man, God had to condescend to the level of man, to accommodate Himself to the limited and finite human consciousness, and to speak in human language. If the naming of God with anthropomorphic names involves a limitation of God, as some say, then this must be true to an even greater degree of the revelation of God in creation.

Then the world does not reveal, but rather conceals, God; then man is not related to God, but simply forms an antithesis to Him; and then we are shut up to a hopeless agnosticism. From what was said about the name of God in general it follows that we can include under the names of God not only the appellatives by which He is indicated as an independent personal Being and by which He is addressed, but also the attributes of God; and then not merely the attributes of the Divine Being in general, but also those that qualify the separate Persons of the Trinity.

Bavinck bases his division of the names of God on that broad conception of them, and distinguishes between nomina propria proper names , nomina essentialia essential names, or attributes , and nomina personalia personal names, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the present chapter we limit ourselves to the discussion of the first class. The name seldom occurs in the singular, except in poetry.

The plural is to be regarded as intensive, and therefore serves to indicate a fulness of power. It is found especially in poetry. These names are not yet nomina propria in the strict sense of the word, for they are also used of idols, Ps. This name is related in meaning to the preceding ones.

In earlier times it was the usual name by which the people of Israel addressed God. Later on it was largely supplanted by the name Jehovah Yahweh. All the names so far mentioned describe God as the high and exalted One, the transcendent God. The following names point to the fact that this exalted Being condescended to enter into relations with His creatures. The name Shaddai is derived from shadad, to be powerful, and points to God as possessing all power in heaven and on earth. Others, however, derive it from shad , lord. While it stresses the greatness of God, it does not represent Him as an object of fear and terror, but as a source of blessing and comfort.

It is the name with which God appeared unto Abraham, the father of the faithful, Ex. It is especially in the name Yahweh , which gradually supplanted earlier names, that God reveals Himself as the God of grace. It has always been regarded as the most sacred and the most distinctive name of God, the incommunicable name. The Jews had a superstitious dread of using it, since they read Lev. The real derivation of the name and its original pronunciation and meaning are more or less lost in obscurity.

The Pentateuch connects the name with the Hebrew verb hayah , to be, Ex. On the strength of that passage we may assume that the name is in all probability derived from an archaic form of that verb, namely, hawah. As far as the form is concerned, it may be regarded as a third person imperfect qal or hiphil.

Most likely, however, it is the former. The meaning is explained in Ex. Yet it is not so much the unchangeableness of His essential Being that is in view, as the unchangeableness of His relation to His people. It stresses the covenant faithfulness of God, is His proper name par excellence , Ex. The exclusive character of the name appears from the fact that it never occurs in the plural or with a suffix.

Abbreviated forms of it, found especially in composite names, are Yah and Yahu. The name Yahweh is often strengthened by the addition of tsebhaoth. Origen and Jerome regard this as an apposition, because Yahweh does not admit of a construct state. But this interpretation is not sufficiently warranted and hardly yields an intelligible sense. It is rather hard to determine to what the word tsebhaoth refers. There are especially three opinions:.

The armies of Israel. But the correctness of this view may well be doubted. Most of the passages quoted to support this idea do not prove the point; only three of them contain a semblance of proof, namely, I Sam. While the plural tsebhaoth is used for the hosts of the people of Israel, the army is regularly indicated by the singular. This militates against the notion, inherent in this view, that in the name under consideration the term refers to the army of Israel.

And if the meaning of the name changed, what caused the change? The stars. But in speaking of the host of heaven Scripture always uses the singular, and never the plural. Moreover, while the stars are called the host of heaven, they are never designated the host of God. The angels. This interpretation deserves preference. The name Yahweh tsebhaoth is often found in connections in which angels are mentioned: I Sam. The angels are repeatedly represented as a host that surrounds the throne of God, Gen. It is true that in this case also the singular is generally used, but this is no serious objection, since the Bible also indicates that there were several divisions of angels, Gen.

Moreover, this interpretation is in harmony with the meaning of the name, which has no martial flavor, but is expressive of the glory of God as King, Deut. Jehovah of hosts, then, is God as the King of glory, who is surrounded by angelic hosts, who rules heaven and earth in the interest of His people, and who receives glory from all His creatures. More generally, however, Theos is found with a genitive of possession, such as mou , sou , hemon , humon , because in Christ God may be regarded as the God of all and of each one of His children.

The national idea of the Old Testament has made place for the individual in religion. This name does not have exactly the same connotation as Yahweh , but designates God as the Mighty One, the Lord, the Possessor, the Ruler who has legal power and authority. It is used not only of God, but also of Christ. But this is hardly correct. The name Father is used of the Godhead even in heathen religions. In such cases the name is expressive of the special theocratic relation in which God stands to Israel.

In the general sense of originator or creator it is used in the following New Testament passages: I Cor. In all other places it serves to express either the special relation in which the first Person of the Trinity stands to Christ, as the Son of God either in a metaphysical or a mediatorial sense, or the ethical relation in which God stands to all believers as His spiritual children.

Naturally, in so far as some of the attributes are communicable, the absolute character of the proprium is weakened, for to that extent some of the attributes are not proper to God in the absolute sense of the word. But even this term contains the suggestion of a distinction between the essence or nature of God and that which is proper to it. By so doing we a follow the usage of the Bible, which uses the term arete , rendered virtues or excellencies , in I Pet. His virtues are not added to His Being, but His Being is the pleroma of His virtues and reveals itself in them.

They may be defined as the perfections which are predicated of the Divine Being in Scripture , or are visibly exercised by Him in His works of creation , providence , and redemption. The Scholastics in their attempt to construct a system of natural theology posited three ways in which to determine the attributes of God, which they designated as the via causalitatis , via negationis , and via eminentiae.

By the way of causality we rise from the effects which we see in the world round about us to the idea of a first Cause, from the contemplation of creation, to the idea of an almighty Creator, and from the observation of the moral government of the world, to the idea of a powerful and wise Ruler.

By way of negation we remove from our idea of God all the imperfections seen in His creatures, as inconsistent with the idea of a Perfect Being, and ascribe to Him the opposite perfection. In reliance on that principle we speak of God as independent, infinite, incorporeal, immense, immortal, and incomprehensible. We should forever have remained at the stage of counting singly and enumerating these absolute perfections; we should forever have wondered how it was possible to reconcile the almighty goodness of God with His permission that evil should exist; an evil, too, which is sometimes so great as to disconcert the human mind.

We should have asked ourselves, moreover, how His infinite mercy could be truly consistent with His infinite justice. Even though we enjoyed this natural beatitude, we should still be urged to say: ' If only I could see this God, who is the source of all truth and goodness; if I could see Him as He sees Himself! What the most brilliant of human minds, what even the intelligence of the angels could never have discovered, divine Revelation has disclosed to us.

Revelation tells us that our last end is essentially supernatural and that it consists in seeing God immediately, face to face, as He is: sicuti est ' God has predestinated us to be made conformable to the image of his Son; that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. We are destined to see God, not merely in the mirror of creatures, however perfect these may be, but to see Him immediately, without the intermediary of any creature, and even without the medium of any created idea; for no created idea, however perfect, could ever represent as He really is One who is Thought itself, infinite Truth, the eternally subsistent brightness of intelligence and the living flame of measureless Love.

We are destined to see all the divine perfections concentrated and intimately united in their common source: Deity. We are destined to see how the tenderest Mercy and the most inexorable Justice proceed from the one Love which is infinitely generous and infinitely holy; how this Love, even in its freest choice, is identically one with pure Wisdom, how there is nothing in the divine Love which is not wise, nothing in the divine Wisdom which is not synonymous with Love.

We are destined to contemplate the eminent simplicity of God, His absolute purity and sanctity; to see the infinite fecundity of the divine nature in the procession of the Three Persons: to contemplate the eternal generation of the Word, the ' brightness of the Father's glory and the figure of his substance, ' [48] to see the ineffable breathing of the Holy Spirit, the issue of the common Love of the Father and the Son, which unites them in the most complete outpouring of themselves.

The Good tends naturally to diffuse itself, and the greater the Good the more abundant and intimate is its self-giving. None can tell the joy and the love which this vision will produce in us, a love of God so pure and so strong that nothing will ever be able to destroy or in the slightest degree to diminish it. In no way, therefore, can we express more clearly the preciousness of sanctifying grace, or of the true interior life, than by saying that it is a beginning of eternal life.

Here on earth we know God only by faith, and, while we hope one day to possess Him, we are able, unfortunately, to lose Him by sin. But, apart from these two differences, it is fundamentally the same life, the same sanctifying grace and the same charity, which is to last through all eternity. This is the fundamental truth of Christian spirituality. Consequently our interior life must be a life of humility, for we must remember always that the principle of that life, sanctifying grace, is a gratuitous gift, and that we need an actual grace for the slightest salutary act, for the shortest step forward in the way of salvation.

It must be also a life of mortification; as St. Paul says, we must be ' always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies '; [49] that is to say: we must daily more and more die to sin and to the relics that sin leaves in us, so that God may reign more completely in us, even to the depth of the soul. But, above all, our interior life must be a life of faith, hope, charity, and union with God by unceasing prayer; it is above all the life of the three theological virtues and of the gifts of the Holy Ghost which accompany them: the gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, piety, counsel, fortitude and fear of the Lord.

In this way we shall enter into the mysteries of faith and relish them more and more. In other words, our whole interior life tends towards the supernatural contemplation of the mysteries of the inner life of God and of the Incarnation and Redemption; it tends, above all, towards a more intimate union with God, a preliminary to that union with Him, ever actual and perpetual, which will be the consummation of eternal life. If such is the life of grace, if such is the spiritual organism of the infused virtues and the gifts, it is not surprising to find that the development of the interior life has often been compared to the three periods or stages of physical life: childhood, youth, and manhood.

Thomas himself has indicated this analogy: and it is an analogy which is worth pursuing, particular attention being paid to the transition from one period to the other. It is generally admitted that childhood lasts until the age of puberty, about fourteen; though early childhood, or infancy, ceases at the dawn of reason, about the age of seven. Youth, or adolescence, lasts from the age of fourteen to twenty.

Then follows manhood, in which we may distinguish the period which precedes full maturity, about the age of thirty-five, and that which follows it, before the decline of old age sets in. A man's mentality changes with the development of the organism: the activity of the child, it has been said, is not that of a man in miniature, or of a fatigued adult; the dominant element in childhood is different. The child has as yet no discernment, it is unable to organize in a rational manner; it follows the lead of the imagination and the impulses of sense. And even when its reason begins to awaken it still remains to a great extent dependent upon the senses.

So, for example, a child asked me one day: ' What are you lecturing on this year? The child's intelligence was as yet unable to grasp the abstract and universal idea of man as such. Most important to be noticed, for the purposes of our present subject, is the transition from childhood to adolescence and from youth to manhood. The period of puberty, which is the end of childhood, about the age of fourteen, is characterized by a transformation which is not only organic but also psychological, intellectual and moral.

The youth is no longer content to follow his imagination, as the child was; he begins 10 reflect on the things of human life, on the need to prepare himself for some career or occupation in the future. He has no longer the child's attitude towards family, social and religious matters; his moral personality begins to take shape, and he acquires the sense of honor and of good repute. Or else, on the contrary, if he passes unsuccessfully through this difficult period, he deteriorates and follows evil courses. The law of nature so ordains that the transition from childhood to youth must follow a normal development; otherwise the subject will assume a positive bias to evil, or else he will remain a half-wit, perhaps even a complete idiot, for the rest of his life.

It is at this point that the analogy becomes illuminating for the spiritual life. We shall see that the beginner who fails to become a proficient, either turns to sin or else presents an example of arrested spiritual development. Here, too, it is true that ' he who makes no progress loses ground, ' as the Fathers of the Church have so often pointed out. Let us pursue the analogy further.

If the physical and moral crisis of puberty is a difficult transition, the same is to be said of another crisis, which we may call the crisis of the first freedom, and which occurs at the stage where the youth enters manhood, about the age of twenty. The young man, having now reached his complete physical development, has to begin to take his place in social life.

It will soon be time for him to marry and to become an educator in his turn, unless he has received from God a higher vocation still. Many fail to surmount this crisis of the first freedom, and, like the prodigal son, depart from their father's house and confuse liberty with license. Here again the law ordains that the transition must be made normally; otherwise the young man either takes the wrong road, or else his development is arrested and he becomes one of those of whom it is said: ' He will be a child for the whole of his life.

The true adult is not merely a young man grown a little older. He has a new mentality; he is preoccupied with wider questions, questions to which the youth does not yet advert. He understands the younger generation, but the younger generation does not understand him; conversation between them on certain subjects, except of a very superficial kind, is impossible. There is a somewhat similar relation, in the spiritual life, between the proficient and the perfect. He who is perfect understands the earlier stages through which he has himself already passed; but he cannot expect to be understood by those who are still passing through them.

The important thing to be noticed is that, just as there is the crisis of puberty, more or less manifest and more or less successfully surpassed, between childhood and adolescence, so in the spiritual life there is an analogous crisis for the transition from the purgative life of beginners to the illuminative life of proficients. This crisis has been described by several great spiritual writers, in particular by Tauler [50] and especially by St. John of the Cross, under the name of the passive purgation of the senses, [51] and by Pere Lallemant, S. Moreover, just as the youth has to pass through a second crisis, that of the first freedom, in order to reach manhood, so in the transition from the illuminative way of the proficients to the true life of union, there is a second spiritual crisis, mentioned by Tauler, [53] and described by St.

John of the Cross under the name of the passive purgation of the spirit. None has better described these crises which mark the transition from one spiritual period to another than St. John of the Cross. It will be noticed that they correspond to the two parts of the human soul, the sensitive and the spiritual. John of the Cross, it is true, describes spiritual progress as it appears especially in contemplatives, and in the most generous among contemplatives, who are striving to reach union with God by the most direct way possible. He therefore shows us what are the higher laws of the spiritual life at their maximum of sublimity.

But these laws apply in a lesser degree also to many other souls who do not reach so high a state of perfection, but are nevertheless making devoted progress, and not looking back. In the chapters which follow it will be our object to show that, according to the traditional teaching, beginners in the spiritual life must, after a certain period, undergo a second conversion, similar to the second conversion of the Apostles at the end of our Lord's Passion, and that, still later, before entering upon the life of perfect union, there must be a third conversion or transformation of the soul, similar to that which took place in the souls of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost.

This distinction between the three periods or stages of the spiritual life is clearly of great importance, as those who are charged with the direction of souls well know. An old and experienced director who has himself reached the age of the perfect may have read but little of the writings of the mystics, and yet he will be able to answer well and readily the most delicate questions on the most sublime subjects, and he will answer in the words of the Scriptures, perhaps by quoting a passage from the Gospel of the day, without even suspecting for a moment how truly profound his answers are.

On the other hand a young and inexperienced priest, himself only at the age of a beginner, will have little more than a book-knowledge and a verbal acquaintance with the spiritual life. The question with which we are concerned is thus in the highest sense a vital question; and it is important that we should consider it from the traditional point of view. If we do so consider it, we shall see how true is the saying of the ancients, that ' in the way of God he who makes no progress loses ground '; and it will appear also that our interior life must, already here on earth, become the normal prelude to the beatific vision.

In this deep sense our interior life is, as we have said, eternal life already begun: ' inchoatio vitae aeternae. WE have seen that, comparable with the two crises which mark the transition from childhood to youth and from youth to manhood, there are also in the spiritual life two crises, one by which proficients pass into the illuminative way, and another by which the perfect reach the state of union. The first of these crises has been called a second conversion, and it is of this that we have now to speak.

The liturgy, especially at periods such as Advent and Lent, speaks often of the need of conversion, even for those who are leading a Christian life. Spiritual writers also refer often to this second conversion, necessary for the Christian who, though he has thought seriously of his salvation and made an effort to walk in the way of God, has nevertheless begun once more to follow the bent of his nature and to fall into a state of tepidity -- like an engrafted plant reverting to its wild state.

Some of these writers, such as the Blessed Henry Suso or Tauler, have insisted especially upon the necessity of this second conversion, a necessity which they have learned from their own experience. John of the Cross has profoundly pointed out that the entrance into the illuminative way is marked by a passive purgation of the senses, which is a second conversion, and that the entrance into the unitive way is preceded by a passive purgation of the spirit, a further and a deeper conversion affecting the soul in its most intimate depths.

Among the writers of the Society of Jesus we may quote Pere Lallemant, who writes: ' Saints and religious who reach perfection pass ordinarily through two conversions: one by which they devote themselves to the service of God, and another by which they surrender themselves entirely to perfection. We find this in the case of the Apostles, first when our Lord called them, and then when He sent the Holy Ghost upon them; we find it in the case of St. Teresa, of her confessor, P. Alvarez, and of many others. This second conversion is not granted to all religious, and it is due to their negligence.

This question is of the greatest interest for every spiritual soul. Among those who dealt with it before St. John of the Cross we must count St. Catherine of Siena, who touches upon the subject repeatedly in her Dialogue and in her Letters. Her treatment, which is very realistic and practical, throws a great light upon the teaching which is commonly received in the Church. Following St. Catherine, we shall speak first of this second conversion as it took place in the Apostles, and then as it should take place in us; we shall say what defects render this conversion necessary, what great motives ought to inspire it, and finally what fruits it should produce in us.

Catherine of Siena speaks explicitly of the second conversion of the Apostles in the 63rd chapter of her Dialogue. Their first conversion had taken place when Jesus called them, with the words: ' I will make you fishers of men. Three of them saw Him transfigured on Tabor. All were present at the institution of the Eucharist, were ordained priests and received Holy Communion. But when the hour of the Passion arrived, an hour which Jesus had so often foretold, the Apostles abandoned their Master Even Peter, though he loved his Master devotedly; went so far as to deny Him thrice.

But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and thou being once converted confirm thy brethren. When did his second conversion begin? Immediately after his triple denial, as we are told in the Gospel of St. Luke [60] ' Immediately, as he was yet speaking, the cock crew. And the Lord turning, looked on Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, as he had said: Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

And Peter going out, wept bitterly. In connection with this second conversion of St. Peter it is well to recall the words of St. Thomas; [61] ' Even after a grave sin, if the soul has a sorrow which is truly fervent and proportionate to the degree of grace which it has lost, it will recover this same degree of grace; grace may even revive in the soul in a higher degree, if the contrition is still more fervent.

Thus the soul has not to begin again completely from the beginning, but it continues from the point which it had reached at the moment of the fall. Everything leads us to suppose that Peter's repentance was so fervent that he not only recovered the degree of grace which he possessed before, but was raised to a higher degree of supernatural life. Our Lord had allowed him to fall in this way in order to cure him of his presumption, so that he might be more humble and place his confidence in God and not in himself.

Catherine writes in her Dialogue :[63] ' Peter Yet his lamentations were imperfect, and remained so until after the forty days, that is until after the Ascension. They remained imperfect in spite of the appearances of our Lord. But when my Truth returned to me, in His humanity, Peter and the others concealed themselves in the house, awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit which my Truth had promised them. They remained barred in through fear, because the soul always fears until it arrives at true love.

Yet even before the end of the Passion of Christ there was clearly a second conversion in Peter and the other Apostles, a conversion which was consolidated during the days that followed. After His resurrection our Lord appeared to them several times, enlightening them, as He did when He taught the disciples of Emmaus the understanding of the Scriptures; and in particular, after the miraculous draught of fishes, He made Peter compensate for his threefold denial by a threefold act of love.

He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me. He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep. But when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands and another shall gird thee and lead thee whither thou wouldst not.

The threefold act of love made reparation for the threefold denial. It was a consolidation of the second conversion, a measure of confirmation in grace before the transformation of Pentecost. For St. John, too, there had been something special just before the death of Christ. John, like the other Apostles, had abandoned his Master when Judas arrived with his band of armed men; but by an invisible and powerful grace Jesus drew the beloved disciple to the foot of the cross, and the second conversion of St.

John took place when he heard the seven last words of the dying Savior. In the 60th and 63rd chapters of her Dialogue, St. Catherine shows that what happened in the case of the Apostles, our models formed immediately by the Savior Himself, must happen, after a certain manner, in the case of each one of us. Indeed we may say that if even the Apostles stood in need of a second conversion, then still more do we. The Saint emphasizes especially the faults which make this second conversion necessary, in particular self-love. In varying degrees this egoism survives in all imperfect souls in spite of the state of grace, and it is the source of a multitude of venial sins, of habitual faults which become characteristic features of the soul, rendering necessary a veritable purging even in those who have, as it were, been present on Mount Tabor, or who have often partaken of the Eucharistic banquet, as the Apostles did at the Last Supper.

In her Dialogue [65] St. Catherine of Siena speaks of this self-love, describing it as ' the mercenary love of the imperfect, ' of those who, without being conscious of it, serve God from self-interest, because they are attached to temporal or spiritual consolations, and who shed tears of self-pity when they are deprived of them. It is a strange but not uncommon mixture of sincere love of God with an inordinate love of self. It has not yet reached the stage of loving itself in God and for His sake.

Such a state of soul is neither white nor black; it is a light gray, in which there is more white than black. The soul is on the upward path, but it still has a tendency to slip downwards. We read in this 60th chapter of the Dialogue it is God who speaks. But this love is still imperfect, because what they seek in My service at any rate to a great extent is their own profit, their own satisfaction, or the pleasure that they find in Me. The same imperfection is found in the love which they bear towards their neighbor. And do you know what shows the imperfection of their love?

It is that, as soon as they are deprived of the consolations which they find in Me, their love fails and can no longer survive. It becomes weak and gradually cools towards Me when, in order to exercise them in virtue and to detach them from their imperfection, I withdraw spiritual consolations from them and send them difficulties and afflictions. I act in this way in order to bring them to perfection, to teach them to know themselves, to realize that they are nothing and that of themselves they have no grace. It would seem, unhappily, that the great majority of souls do not belong to any of these three categories, of beginners, proficients or perfect, but rather to that of stunted souls!

At what stage are we ourselves? This is often a very difficult question to answer, and it would perhaps be vain curiosity to inquire at what point we have arrived in our upward path; but at least we must take care not to mistake the road, not to take a path that leads downwards. It is important, therefore, to reach beyond the merely mercenary love, which often we unconsciously retain.

We read in this same 60th chapter: ' It was with this imperfect love that Peter loved the good and gentle Jesus, my only-begotten Son, when he experienced the delights of sweet intimacy with Him on Mount Tabor. But as soon as the time of tribulation came all his courage forsook him. Not only did he not have the strength to suffer for Him, but at the first threat of danger his loyalty was overcome by the most servile fear, and he denied Him three times, swearing that he did not know Him. Catherine of Siena, in the 63rd chapter of the same Dialogue, shows that the imperfect soul, which loves God with a love which is still mercenary, must do what Peter did after his denial.

Not infrequently Providence allows us, too, at this stage to commit some very palpable fault, in order to humiliate us and cause us to take true measure of ourselves. But it is, I say, still imperfect, and in order to draw it on to perfection I withdraw from it, not in grace but in feeling. This I do in order to humiliate that soul, and cause it to seek Me in truth John of the Cross, following Tauler, gives us three signs which mark this second conversion: ' The soul finds no pleasure or consolation in the things of God, but it also fails to find it in any thing created The second sign The third sign For God now begins to communicate Himself to it, no longer through sense, as He did aforetime, by means of reflections which joined and sundered its knowledge, but by an act of simple contemplation, to which neither the exterior nor the interior senses of the lower part of the soul can attain.

Progressives or proficients thus enter, according to St. John of the Cross, ' upon the road and way of the spirit, which While St. Catherine of Siena does not give so exact an analysis, she insists particularly upon one of the signs of this state: an experimental knowledge of our poverty and profound imperfection; a knowledge which is not precisely acquired, but granted by God, as it was granted to Peter when Jesus looked upon him immediately after his denial. At that moment Peter received a grace of enlightenment; he remembered, and going out he wept bitterly.

At the end of this same 63rd chapter of her Dialogue we find a passage of which St. John of the Cross later gives a full development- ' I withdraw from the soul, ' says the Lord, ' so that it may see and know its defects, so that, feeling itself deprived of consolation and afflicted by pain, it may recognize its own weakness, and learn how incapable it is of stability or perseverance, thus cutting down to the very root of spiritual self-love; for this should be the end and purpose of all its self-knowledge, to rise above itself, mounting the throne of conscience, and not permitting the sentiment of imperfect love to turn again in its death-struggle, but, with correction and reproof, digging up the root of self-love, with the knife of self-hatred and the love of virtue.

In this same connection the Saint speaks of the many dangers that lie in wait for a soul that is moved only by a mercenary love, saying that souls which are imperfect desire to follow the Father alone, without passing by the way of Christ crucified, because they have no desire to suffer.

The first motive is expressed in the greatest commandment, which knows no limits: ' Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with all thy strength and with all thy mind. Catherine of Siena emphasizes this in the 11th and 47th chapters of her Dialogue, reminding us that we can only perfectly fulfill the commandment of love towards God and our neighbor if we have the spirit of the counsels, that is to say, the spirit of detachment from earthly goods, which, in the words of St. Paul, we must use as though we used them not.

The great motive of the second conversion is thus described in the 60th chapter: ' Such souls should leave their mercenary love and become sons, and serve Me irrespective of their own personal advantage. I am the rewarder of every labor, and I render to every man according to his condition and according to his works. Wherefore, if these souls do not abandon the exercise of holy prayer and their other good works, but continue with perseverance to increase their virtues, they will arrive at the state of filial love, because I respond to them with the same love with which they love Me; so that if they love Me as a servant loves his master, I pay them their wages according to their deserts, but I do not reveal myself to them, because secrets are revealed to a friend who has become one thing with his friend, and not to a servant And I will manifest Myself to them, as My Truth said in these words- " He who loves me shall be one thing with me and I with him, and I will manifest myself to him and we will dwell together.

This is contemplation, which proceeds from faith enlightened by the gifts, from faith united with love; it is a knowledge which savors mysteries and penetrates into their depths. A second motive which should inspire the second conversion is the price of the blood of the Savior, which St. Peter failed to realize before the Passion, in spite of the words: ' This is my blood which is shed for you, ' which Christ pronounced at the Last Supper.

It was only after the Resurrection that he began to comprehend this. By this Blood they are enabled to know My truth, how in order to give them life I created them in My image and likeness and re-created them to grace with the Blood of My. Son, making them sons of adoption. Peter understood after his sin and after the Passion of Christ; it was only then that he appreciated the value of the Precious Blood which had been shed for our salvation, the Blood of Redemption.

Here we have a glimpse of the greatness of Peter in his humiliation; he is much greater here than he was on Tabor, for here he has some understanding of his own poverty and of the infinite goodness of the most High. When Jesus for the first time foretold that he must go to Jerusalem to be crucified, Peter took his Master aside and said to Him: ' Lord, be it far from thee, this shall not be unto thee!

And that is why Jesus answered him. And so we can understand why St. Catherine constantly speaks in her Dialogue and in her Letters of the Blood which gives efficacy to Baptism and to the other sacraments. At every Mass, when the priest raises the Precious Blood high above the altar, our faith in its redemptive power and virtue ought to become greater and more intense. A third motive which ought to inspire the second conversion is the love of souls which need to be saved, a love which is inseparable from the love of God, because it is at once the sign and the effect of that love.

This love of souls ought in every Christian worthy of the name to become a zeal that inspires all the virtues. In St. Catherine it led her to offer herself as a victim for the salvation of sinners. In the last chapter but one of the Dialogue we read' Thou didst ask Me to do mercy to the world Thou didst pray for the mystical body of Holy Church, that I would remove darkness and persecution from it, at thine own desire punishing in thy person the iniquities of certain of its ministers I have also told thee that I wish to do mercy to the world, proving to thee that mercy is My special attribute, for through the mercy and the inestimable love which I had for man I sent into the world the Word, My only-begotten Son Wherefore I invite thee to endure, Myself lamenting with thee over the iniquities of some of My ministers And I have spoken to thee also of the virtue of them that live like angels And now I urge thee and My other servants to grief, for by your grief and humble and continual prayer I will do mercy to the world.

The fruit of this second conversion, as in the case of Peter, is a beginning of contemplation by a progressive understanding of the great mystery of the Cross and the Redemption, a living appreciation of the infinite value of the Blood which Christ shed for us. This incipient contemplation is accompanied by a union with God less dependent upon the fluctuations of sensibility, a purer, a stronger, a more continuous union. Subsequently, if not joy, at all events peace, takes up its dwelling in the soul even in the midst of adversity.

The soul becomes filled, no longer with a merely abstract, theoretical and vague persuasion, but with a concrete and living conviction, that in God's government all things are ordained towards the manifestation of His goodness. In all things that I permit, in all things that I give you, in tribulations and in consolations, temporal or spiritual, I do nothing save for your good, so that you may be sanctified in Me and that My Truth be fulfilled in you.

Paul expresses in his epistle to the Romans: ' To them that love God all things work together unto good. This is the conviction that was born in the soul of Peter and the Apostles after their second conversion, and also in the souls of the disciples of Emmaus when the risen Christ gave them a fuller understanding of the mystery of the Cross: ' O foolish, ' He said to them, ' and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken.

Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and so to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets he expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things that were concerning him. What happened to these disciples on the way to Emmaus should happen to us too, if we are faithful, on the way to eternity. If for them and for the Apostles there had to be a second conversion, still more is such a conversion necessary for us.

And under the influence of this new grace of God we too shall say: ' Was not our heart burning within us whilst he spoke in the way and opened to us the Scriptures? But the more theology progresses, the more, in a sense, it has to conceal itself; it has to disappear very much as St. John the Baptist disappears after announcing the coming of our Lord. It helps us to discover the deep significance of divine revelation contained in Scripture and Tradition, and when it has rendered this service it should stand aside.

In order to restore our cathedrals, to set well-hewn stones into their proper place it is necessary to erect a scaffolding; but when once the stones have been replaced the scaffolding is removed and the cathedral once more appears in all its beauty. In a similar way theology helps us to demonstrate the solidity of the foundations of the doctrinal edifice, the firmness of its construction, the proportion of its parts; but when it has shown us this, it effaces itself to make place for that supernatural contemplation which proceeds from a faith enlightened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, from a faith that penetrates and savors the truths of God, a faith that is united with love.

And so it is with the question with which we are dealing, the truly vital question of our interior life in God. WE have spoken of the second conversion, which is necessary for the soul if it is to leave the way of beginners and enter upon the way of proficients, or the illuminative way. As we have seen, many authors hold that this second conversion took place for the Apostles at the end of the Passion of Christ, and for Peter in particular after his triple denial.

Thomas remarks in his commentary on St. Matthew [81] that this repentance of St. Peter came about immediately, as soon as his Master had looked upon him, and that it was efficacious and definitive.

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Nevertheless, Peter and the Apostles were slow to believe in the resurrection of Christ, in spite of the account which the holy women gave them of this miracle so often foretold by Jesus Himself. The story they told seemed to them to be madness. Moreover, slow to believe the resurrection of the Savior, they were correspondingly anxious, says St. Augustine, [83] to see the complete restoration of the kingdom of Israel such as they imagined would come to pass.

This may be seen from the question which they put to our Lord on the very day of the Ascension: ' Lord wilt thou at this time again restore the kingdom of Israel? And so spiritual writers have often spoken of a third conversion or transformation of the Apostles, which took place on the day of Pentecost. Let us see first what this transformation was in them, and then what it ought to be, proportionately, in us.

The Apostles were prepared for their third transformation by the fact that from the time of the Ascension they were deprived of the perceptible presence of Jesus Himself. When our Lord deprived His Apostles forever of the sight of His sacred Humanity, they must have suffered a distress to which we do not perhaps sufficiently advert. When we consider that our Lord had become their very life -- as St.

Paul says: ' Mihi vivere Christus est '-and that they had become daily more and more intimate with Him, they must have had a feeling of the greatest loneliness, like a feeling of desolation, even of death. And their desolation must have been the more intense since our Lord Himself had foretold all the sufferings that were in store. We experience something of the same dismay when, after having lived on a higher plane during the time of retreat, under the guidance of a priestly soul full of the spirit of God, we are plunged once again into our everyday life which seems to deprive us suddenly of this fullness.

The Apostles stood there with their eyes raised up to heaven. This was no longer merely the crushing of their sensibility, as it was during the time of the Passion; it was a complete blank, which must have seemed to take from them all power of thinking. During the Passion our Lord was still there; now He had been taken away from them, and they seemed to be completely deprived of Him. It was in the night of the spirit that they were prepared for the outpouring of the graces of Pentecost. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming; and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

And there appeared to them parted tongues, as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost; and they began to speak with divers tongues according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak. The sound from heaven, like that of a mighty wind, was an external sign of the mysterious and powerful action of the Holy Spirit; and at the same time the tongues of fire which rested upon each of the Apostles symbolized what was to be accomplished in their souls.

It happens not infrequently that a great grace is preceded by some striking perceptible sign which arouses us from our inertia; it is like a divine awakening. Here the symbolism is as clear as it can be. As fire purifies, enlightens and gives warmth, so the Holy Ghost in this moment most deeply purified, enlightened and inflamed the souls of the Apostles. This was truly the profound purging of the spirit. Peter explained that this was the fulfillment of what the prophet Joel had foretold: ' It shall come to pass in the last days saith the Lord I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

The tongues of fire are a sign that the Holy Spirit enkindled in their souls that living flame of Love of which St. John of the Cross speaks. Then were the words of Christ fulfilled: ' The Holy Ghost whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and will bring to your mind whatsoever I shall have said to you.

Jews, Cretes and Arabians We have heard them speak in our own tongues. The Acts show us what were these effects: the Apostles were enlightened and fortified, and their sanctifying influence transformed the first Christians; there was a transport of intense fervor in the infant Church. First of all, the Apostles received a much greater enlightenment from the Holy Spirit regarding the price of the Blood of the Savior, regarding the mystery of Redemption, foretold in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New.

They received the fullness of the contemplation of this mystery which they were now to preach to humanity for the salvation of men. Thomas says that ' the preaching of the word of God must proceed from the fullness of contemplation. Peter related in the Acts and from that of St. Stephen before his martyrdom.

These words of St. Peter and St. Stephen recall the saying of the Psalmist: ' Thy word is exceedingly refined and thy servant hath loved it. The Apostles and the disciples, men without education, were still asking on the day of the Ascension: ' Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?

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But you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem and in all Judaea and Samaria, and even to the uttermost parts of the earth. And now behold Peter. He who before the Passion had trembled at the word of a woman, who had been so slow to believe the resurrection of the Master, now stands before the Jews, saying to them with an authority that can come only from God: ' Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God by miracles and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you Him God hath raised up [as David foretold] This Jesus God hath raised again, whereof all we are witnesses Therefore let all the house of Israel know most certainly that God hath made both Lord and Christ this same Jesus whom you have crucified.

Peter now sees that Jesus was a willing victim, and he contemplates the infinite value of His merits and of the Blood which He shed. The Acts add that those who heard this discourse ' had compunction in their heart and said to Peter: What shall we do? Peter answered. Do penance and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins.

And you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Some days later, Peter said to the Jews in the temple, after the cure of a man who had been lame from birth: ' The author of life you killed, whom God hath raised from the dead; of which we are witnesses Our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved. This is the mystery of which Peter could not bear the prediction, when Jesus said that He was to be crucified: ' Lord, be it far from thee; this shall not be unto thee.

And it is not only he who is thus enlightened. All the Apostles bear witness in like manner, and the disciples also, and the deacon, St. Stephen, who, before being stoned to death, reminded the Jews of all that God had done for the chosen people in the time of the Patriarchs, in the time of Moses and, since then, until the coming of the Savior. But the Apostles were not only enlightened on the day of Pentecost, they were also strengthened and confirmed.

Jesus had promised them: ' You shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you. Peter and John, arrested and haled before the Sanhedrin, declare that ' there is no salvation in any other' than in Jesus Christ. Arrested again, and beaten with rods, ' they went forth from the presence of the council rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus.

And every day they ceased not, in the temple and from house to house, to teach and preach Christ Jesus. Who had given them the strength to do this? The Holy Spirit, by enkindling the living fire of charity in their hearts. Such was their third conversion; it was a complete transformation of their souls. Their first conversion had made them disciples of the Master, attracted by the sublime beauty of His teaching; the second, at the end of the Passion, had enabled them to divine the fecundity of the mystery of the Cross, enlightened as it was by the Resurrection which followed it; the third conversion fills them with the profound conviction of this mystery, a mystery which they will constantly live until their martyrdom.

The transformation which the Apostles had undergone is shown also in their sanctifying influence, in the transport of intense fervor which they communicated to the first Christians. As the Acts show, [] the life of the infant Church was a life of marvelous sanctity; ' the multitude of the believers had but one heart and one soul'; they had all things in common, they sold their goods and brought the price of them to the Apostles that they might distribute to each according to his needs.

They met together every day to pray, to hear the preaching of the Apostles, and to celebrate the Eucharist. They were often seen assembled together in prayer, and men wondered to see the charity that reigned among them. He gives them a heart of flesh He strengthens and He softens, but in a manner all His own.

For these are the same hearts of the disciples, which seem as diamonds in their invincible firmness, and which yet become human hearts and hearts of flesh by brotherly love. This is the effect of the heavenly fire that rests upon them this day. It has softened the hearts of the faithful, it has, so to speak, melted them into one It seems to them that through Peter they all speak, that with him they all preside, and if his shadow heals the sick the whole Church has its part in this gift and praises our Lord for it. But was the Holy Spirit sent to produce these marvelous fruits only in the infant Church?

Evidently not. He continues the same work throughout the course of ages. His action in the Church is apparent in the invincible strength that He gives her; a strength which may be seen in the three centuries of persecution which she underwent, and in the victory that she won over so many heresies.

Every Christian community, then, must conform to the example of the infant Church. What must we learn from her? To be of but one heart and one soul, and to banish all divisions amongst us. To work for the extension of the kingdom of God in the world, despite the difficulties with which we are confronted. To believe firmly and practically in the indefectibility of the Church, which is always holy, and never ceases to give birth to saints.

Like the early Christians we must bear with patience and love the sufferings which God sends us. Let us with all our hearts believe in the Holy Spirit who never ceases to give life to the Church, and in the Communion of Saints. If we saw the Church as she is in the most generous souls who live most truly the life of the Church, she would appear most beautiful in our sight, despite the human imperfections which are mingled with the activity of her children.

We rightly lament certain blots, but let us not forget that if there is sometimes mud in the valley at the foot of the mountains, on the summits there is always snow of dazzling whiteness, air of great purity, and a wonderful view that ever leads the eye to God. We have seen that the transformation of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost was like a third conversion for them.

There must be something similar in the life of every Christian, if he is to pass from the way of proficients to that of the perfect. Here, says St. John of the Cross, there must be a radical purgation of the spirit, just as there had to be a purgation of the senses in order to pass from the way of beginners to that of proficients, commonly called the illuminative way. And just as the first conversion, by which we turn away from the world to begin to walk in the way of God, presupposes acts of faith, hope, charity and contrition, so it is also with the other two conversions.

But here the acts of the theological virtues are much more profound: God, who makes us perform these acts, drives the furrow in our souls in the same direction, but much more deeply. Let us see now I why this conversion is necessary for proficients, 2 how God purifies the soul at this stage and 3 what are the fruits of this third conversion. Many imperfections remain even in those who have advanced in the way of God.

If their sensibility has been to a great extent purged of the faults of spiritual sensuality, inertia, jealousy, impatience, yet there still remain in the spirit certain ' stains of the old man ' which are like rust on the soul, a rust which will only disappear under the action of an intense fire, similar to that which came down upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. This comparison is made by St. This rust remains deep down in the spiritual faculties of the soul, in the intelligence and the will; and it consists in an attachment to self which prevents the soul from being completely united to God.

Hence it is that we are often distracted in prayer, that we are subject to sluggishness, to a failure to understand the things of God, to the dissipation of the spirit, and to natural affections which are hardly, if at all, inspired by the motive of charity. Movements of roughness and impatience are not rare at this stage. Moreover, many souls, even among those that are advanced in the way of God, remain too much attached to their own point of view in the spiritual life; they imagine that they have received special inspirations from God, whereas they are in reality the victims of their own imagination or of the enemy of all good.

They thus become puffed up with presumption, spiritual pride and vanity; they depart from the true path and lead other souls astray. As St. John of the Cross says, this catalogue of faults is inexhaustible; and he confines his attention almost exclusively to those defects which relate to the purely interior life.

How much longer would the catalogue be if we considered also the faults which offend against fraternal charity, against justice in our relations with our superiors, our equals or our inferiors, and those which relate to the duties of our state and to the influence which we may exert upon others. Together with spiritual pride there remains often in the soul intellectual pride, jealousy, or some hidden ambition. The seven capital sins are thus transposed into the life of the spirit, to its great detriment. All this, says St. John of the Cross, shows the need of the ' strong lye, ' that passive purgation of the spirit, that further conversion which marks the entrance into the perfect way.

Even after passing through the night of the senses, St. John says, ' these proficients are still at a very low stage of progress, and follow their own nature closely in the intercourse and dealings which they have with God; because the gold of their spirit is not yet purified and refined; they still think of God as little children, and feel and experience God as little children, even as St.

Paul says, because they have not reached perfection, which is the union of the soul with God.