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grace

In a state of grace, we are thriving: we are whole, happy, energized, forward looking, seeking and finding a better version of ourselves, and loving world and God. Of course, being human, we won't stay that way forever; our egos will see to that. But it is possible to return to that favored state, even though the process by which this happens is a rather mysterious one (as is the state of grace itself). Through our actions, we can create the environment for grace to happen, but it tends to have a mind of its own.

when grace happens

Grace happens in our soul, and when it does, we are changed, as in a healing. In fact Aquinas says that the healing of the soul is the first thing that grace achieves.

Grace does five things:

first, it heals the soul,
then it prompts us again to seek our true good,
it helps us to actually do the good we seek,
to persevere in our actions,
and finally to "come to glory," returning to our proper love affair with existence.

Quoting Augustine, he says "It leads by healing and follows on when what is healed lives and grows." (1a2ae, 111, 3) And when it happens, Aquinas says grace modifies our very natures “through a kind of rebirth or recreation taking place in the nature of our soul,” which makes me think he himself had more than a passing acquaintance with the experience.

I think of grace as a healing insight that restores our hope and wonder. It begins with a flash of understanding that comes into our conscious minds (Aquinas would say from God; we might say from the unconscious, a term equally unscientific). It is an an instantaneous shift of perception, a new clarity. When grace happens, we “get it,” our heads and hearts are reorganized, our egos repaired from their various wounds, and whatever problems were dominating cease to dominate. Our perceptions are refreshed and the world looks big and good again, and we commit to the right voluntary actions that will put us back on our proper path to happiness: back into the flow of seeking the good, which is right where we belong. With grace, the ego-filtered peephole of perception through which we view the world is popped open again to let back in a fullness of life, wonder, connection, communion, and awe.

The Aquinas view of grace sounds similar to the modern model of psychological healing. In both, a person is open to growth, establishes a context of hope, experiences a healing, and takes on a mission to act in a new and better way. This then results in a reconnection of the human bond and a change of perception in which world and self are seen in a better and more complete way.

On the long road of life, grace is the mysterious means by which we are healed, recharged, and repointed back on the right path to our own flourishing. By returning to a full, authentic presence in the world, we are willing again to be drawn to and love the good and through that God, because the mystery of existence, which we call God, is present in all existence. By seeing and knowing and loving world and God, we open ourselves to bliss, the human version of divine happiness.

“Only God can make gods of us.”
  (1a2ae, 112, 1)

divinity

Divinity is encoded in each of us, and Christ, by his words, deeds, and very existence, is the way by which we decode and experience that divinity. How Christ shows us how to decode and experience that divinity is the exact topic of Part Three of the Summa.

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“Wisdom orders all things sweetly.” (Wis 8:1)

“I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.”
- Amazing Grace

“The purpose of grace is to unite thinking creatures to God.”
(3a, 7, 12)


 
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