"The good of the grace of one soul is greater than the good of the nature of the whole universe"
- St Thomas Aquinas Ia IIa, q.24, a. 3, ad 2

REALITY—A Synthesis Of Thomistic Thought

by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P.


We cannot here treat of the missions of the divine persons. [578] But we must look briefly at Thomistic doctrine concerning the mode of the Trinity's indwelling in the souls of the just.

This doctrine derives from the words of our Savior: [579] "If anyone love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him." What will come? Not merely created effects, sanctifying grace, infused virtues, the seven gifts, but the divine persons themselves, the Father and the Son, from whom the Holy Spirit is never separated. Besides, the Holy Spirit was explicitly promised by our Lord and was sent visibly on Pentecost. [580] This special presence of the Trinity in the just differs notably from the presence of God as preserving cause of all creatures.

We must note three different explanations of this indwelling: that of Vasquez, that of Suarez, and that of St. Thomas.

Vasquez reduces all real indwelling of God in us to the general presence of immensity, by which God is present in all things which He preserves in existence. As known and loved, God is in no way really present in the just man. He is there only as represented, like a loved friend who is absent. This view allows very little to the special presence of God in the just.

Suarez, on the contrary, maintains that God, even if He were not present by immensity, would still, by the charity which unites men to Him, be really and substantially present in the just. This opinion has to face a very grave objection, which runs thus: When we love the humanity of our Lord and Savior, or the Blessed Virgin, it does not follow that they are really present in our souls. Charity certainly is an affective union and creates a desire for real union, but cannot itself constitute that union.

Here again the thought of St. Thomas [581] dominates two opposed views, one of Vasquez, the other of Suarez.

According to the Angelic Doctor, [582] the special presence of the Trinity in the just presupposes the general presence of immensity. This is against Suarez. But again (and this is what Vasquez did not see): God, by sanctifying grace, by infused virtues, by the seven gifts, becomes really present in a new and higher manner, as object experimentally knowable, which the just soul can enjoy, which it at times knows actually. God is not like a loved friend who is absent, but He is really present.

The saint [583] assigns the reason. The soul in the state of grace, he says, has God as its supernatural object of knowledge and of love and with that object the power of enjoying God.

To say truly that the divine persons dwell in us, we must be able to know them, not in abstract fashion, like distant friends, but in a manner quasi-experimental, with the vibrancy of infused charity, which gives a connatural intimacy with the inner life of God. [584] It is the very characteristic of experimental knowledge that it terminates in an object really present.

But this experimental knowledge need not always be actual. Thus the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity lasts even during sleep. But as long as, by grace, virtue, and gifts, this indwelling continues, this experimental knowledge will, from time to time, become actual, when God makes Himself known to us as the soul of our soul, the life of our life. "You have received," says St. Paul, "the spirit of adoption wherein we cry Abba, Father. It is the Spirit Himself who testifies that we are children of God." [585].

Commenting on this passage in Romans, St. Thomas speaks thus: The Holy Spirit gives this testimony, by the filial love He produces in us. And elsewhere [586] he traces this experimental knowledge to the gift of wisdom which clarifies living faith. And in another passage [587] he is still more explicit. Not merely any kind of knowledge, he says, is in question when we speak of the mission and indwelling of a divine person. It must be a mode of knowledge coming from a gift appropriated to that person, a gift by which we are conjoined to God. That gift, when the Holy Spirit is given, is love, and therefore the knowledge is quasi-experimental.

Here lies the meaning of our Savior's words: [588] "The Spirit of truth, whom the Father will send in My name, will be in you, and will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind whatsoever I have said to you."

If the Blessed Trinity lives in the just soul as in a temple, [589] a living temple of knowledge and love even while the just man lives on earth, how wondrously intimate must be this indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in the blessed who form the temple of heaven! [590].

This doctrine of the indwelling leads from the treatise on the Trinity to the treatise on grace. Grace is the created gift, brought forth and preserved in us by the Holy Spirit, who, by appropriation, is the Uncreated Gift, or by the Blessed Trinity, wholly present in us. Adoptive filiation, says St. Thomas, [591] comes to us, by appropriation, from the Father, who is the principle of natural filiation; but it comes also by the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is the love of the Father and the Son. The act of adoption by grace, he says elsewhere, [592] though it is common to the entire Trinity, is appropriated nevertheless to each person singly, to the Father as author, to the Son as exemplar, to the Holy Spirit as imprinting on us the likeness of that exemplar.

Grace, we may recall in conclusion, depends by its very nature on the divine nature common to all three persons; but, as merited for all redeemed souls, it depends on Christ the Redeemer.

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