Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst
thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things:
but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
(St. Luke xvi. 25)
Trinitytide is all about belief that grows into love. If Eastertide might be called the season of vision and knowledge, Trinitytide is about habituation to the good or the generation of love for God’s goodness. In Eastertide we were called to see and behold God the Father’s goodness in the historical life of Jesus Christ. In Trinitytide we learn that the historical manifestation of God’s goodness as incarnated in the life of Jesus Christ intends to repeat itself in the lives of all believers. Knowledge of God’s goodness is part of virtue but not the whole of it. True virtue is the habit of acting upon what one knows to be good through love.
Of course, learning to love God’s goodness in Jesus Christ is no easy matter. The aspiration seems too ambitious for us! God’s goodness in Jesus inspires us to admire and adore a Jesus who is outside of us. But when it comes to the working out of our sin and the working in of His redemption, we falter, fall, and even fold. Jesus warns us, Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (St. Luke xvi. 13) Mammon means both riches and possessions in both the Hebrew and Greek, and that it can mean also that in which one trusts. (Wiki…)
Our predicament is illustrated neatly in today’s Gospel Parable about The Rich Man and Lazarus. We read: There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day….(St. Luke xvi. 19) St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that the worship of mammon is illustrated here in the prosperity of the wicked by way of temporal success. (St. TA: Hom. Trin. I) First we witness a man who was rich in earthly things. Evidence of it is found in the purple robe that clothes him. Purple was the costliest of colors in the ancient world; it adorned not only her kings but also the statues of her gods. Fine linen was procured only at a very high price from the looms of Egypt. So as he fared sumptuously every day, he was robed in princely purple without and by softest linen within. That he has no name is, according to the Archbishop Trench, indicative of the fact that in Heaven’s sight he is too common for comment, since he represents everyman who lives forever in this world, never taking so much as a thought for the next. (R.C.Trench, Parables, 346) Cardinal Cajetan says that in this world the names of the rich are known and are important, but the names of the poor are either not known, or if known are counted unworthy to be particularly noted. (Idem) And while there is no suggestion that the unnamed rich man was an evil-liver, Jesus teaches us that his real sin was that he was all rooted in unbelief, in a heart set on this world, refusing to give credence to that invisible world, that could be discovered through faith. (Idem) Because the rich man failed to seek out and find God, his heart was never on course to find the treasures of Heavenly Love.
We read also that there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. (Ibid, 20,21) Every time the rich man entered or exited his house he had to pass by a beggar, whose name we know. Lazarus means the one whom God has helped and can be translated also as Eleazar. Because Lazarus was full of sores (Idem), he was no longer able to walk, and so others must have laid him at the rich man’s gate. (Idem) That there was no relief from others for his hunger is revealed in his desiring to be fed from the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. That dogs came and licked his sores shows us that his fellow men withheld their compassion also. The brute beasts had compassion and mercy upon Lazarus clothed in sores while the rich man and his associates clothed in purple and fine linen fared sumptuously. One had hosts of attendants to wait upon his every caprice; only stray dogs tended to the sores of the other. (Trench, 349)
So what should we learn from this Parable about our own present spiritual state? It teaches that God loves Lazarus and that we should love him too. Outward poverty and its appearance should not confuse us into thinking that it is a sign of inward destitution. St. Thomas tells us that the poverty and suffering of Lazarus should reveal that adversity in this present life, though short-lived, characterizes the life of the saint in three ways. First, poverty of possessions –a beggar named Lazarus is a sign of spiritual treasure that can be found when earthly poverty leads a man to fear God and so to value and treasure heavenly things above all else. Do not be afraid, my son, because we have become poor. You have great wealth if you fear God and refrain from every sin and do what is pleasing in his sight. (Tobit iv, 21) Second, the contempt of this world. ‘Lazarus was laid at his gate.’ ‘We are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.’ (1 Cor. iv. 13) If we find ourselves in Lazarus, we must expect to be be neglected, abandoned, and left to perish by this world because by its measurement we have failed. Third, the saints will endure bitterness of tribulations and afflictions –‘Full of sores.’ The Lord scourges those who draw near to him, in order to admonish them. (Judith viii. 27) That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ….(1 St. Peter i. 6,7) The suffering of Lazarus should be a sign to us of that sanctification that is tried by affliction. To be saved we must suffer all manner of separation and distinction from a world of sin. In Jesus Christ the journey back to God forms new character as we beg for Divine mercy, endure the contempt of the world, and suffer for the sake of God’s kingdom.
Next we read that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. (Ibid, 22) The spiritual suffering and death imaged in Lazarus will lead to Heaven. Covetousness and the worship of God and Mammon lead to Hell. The rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Ibid, 22, 23) St. Thomas says that Lazarus was received with honor and glory by the angels. The rich man was buried with honor and glory by unnamed earthly men...only to end up in Hades. (Idem) Lazarus is relieved of his suffering and pain, his thirst is quenched, and we hear no more from him because Heaven has overcome his earthly misery. The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God and there shall no torment touch them. (Wis. iii. 1) But the rich man’s pathetic worship of mammon leads only to an eternity of agony and pain. Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. (Idem, 24) He is as consumed with his bodily comfort as he was before and so he asks for nothing but relief of it. He even expects Father Abraham to use the now cleaned up and revived Lazarus to serve his lordly needs! Nothing has changed.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. (Ibid, 25) The rich man trusted not in God but in mammon. He is without excuse since Lazarus was sent to his door so that he might discover his need for God’s love. In so finding Lazarus he was made to find himself. He should have realized that he was more like Lazarus than not. In Lazarus’ outward material poverty and suffering he should have found a friend sent to help him to overcome his own inward destitution. Lazarus did not have the luxury of finding God fully because his body was afflicted with starvation and sickness. The rich man had the luxury which he did not use. If he had, he would have shared his earthly treasure with Lazarus so that both together might seek God’s Kingdom.
Ye cannot serve God and Mammon. (St. Luke xvi. 13) Notice the subtlety of the rich man’s damnation in today’s Parable. I say subtlety because, again, he was not a notorious sinner. We even get the sense that he loved his family. For when he realizes that his hellish condition is beyond all hope, he says, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send Lazarus to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. (Ibid, 27, 28) Thus we learn that good people who love their own and themselves might very end up in Hell. The rich man had his choice between things temporal and things eternal, to save his life here or to save it there; and by the choice which he made, he must abide. (Trench, 355) Saving our lives here might come at the high price of forsaking our lives there in God’s Kingdom. And heaven might just be lost because we have ignored some seemingly insignificant particular. It might all hinge upon an unrelieved beggar who is laid at our door. It might hang upon a selfish addiction to fame or fortune that deprives another of our time and concern. It might dangle above us like Damocles’ sword because we have refused to forgive a relative or friend. Whatever it is, that last drop of mammon’s dross must be burnt away if we would be saved.
The love of God alive in our hearts comes only when we leave the comforts of mammon and seek to serve God alone. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him. (1 St. John iv. 16) We love Him because He first loved us. But to prove it, we must love our brother also. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar. (Ibid, 20) For, remember, there is always a Lazarus sent to us by God to draw out His love from our hearts to bring virtue alive in His world.
Whether other creatures concur in that last end?
Objection 1: It would seem that all other creatures concur in man's last end. For the end corresponds to the beginning. But man's beginning---i.e. God---is also the beginning of all else. Therefore all other things concur in man's last end.
God is the beginning of all creation. By ‘beginning’ we mean the First Cause, Origin, Source, or Mover of all that is other than Himself. God makes time and space; He fills it with all manner of created life, beginning with what is at the furthest remove from His nature by reason of its elemental simplicity and then out of it forming and molding creatures that are progressively like Him. He begins with the elements, he particularizes them, and slowly but surely He brings them together into creatures that imitate Him on levels that are better that what preceded them and less perfect than those who follow. A rock is less like God than a potato, a potato than a cat, a cat than a man. So because all things come from God, it would be logical to say that all creatures return to Him also as to their end.
Objection 2: Further, Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv) that "God turns all things to Himself as to their last end." But He is also man's last end; because He alone is to be enjoyed by man, as Augustine says (De Doctr. Christ. i, 5,22). Therefore other things, too, concur in man's last end.
All things are caused by God and all things are informed by God. Each creature’s respective meaning returns to God as it pursues its end and actualizes its potential form. God as the Final End is the nature that all things imitate, according to the laws of their respective essences. So each particular in creation reveals or manifests the vestiges and traces of the Maker’s Hand in his being. But even more than for themselves, other creatures assist in man’s return to God through his thinking and understanding of them. Man’s knowledge of other creatures helps him to learn about himself and to assist him in his journey back to God. Because they assist man perhaps they too shall take their place in the return of the whole creation to God.
Objection 3: Further, man's last end is the object of the will. But the object of the will is the universal good, which is the end of all. Therefore other things, too, concur in man's last end.
The universal good includes more than man. All creation is seen as serving the universal good of God’s being. Since all other things combine to assist man in the universal goodness of the creation, all other things will concur in man’s last end. It would seem that without them, man would be incomplete. Or perhaps without them, the goodness of creation would remain unreconciled to God.
On the contrary, man's last end is happiness; which all men desire, as Augustine says (De Trin. xiii, 3,4). But "happiness is not possible for animals bereft of reason," as Augustine says (QQ. 83, qu. 5). Therefore other things do not concur in man's last end.
Animals, plants, rocks, and elements do not possess reason. They cannot come to know the good. To will the good one must know it, at least in its general outline. Only angels and men can know the good. So only angels can cleave to the good or reject. Only man can be born again. Therefore only angels and men inhabit the Kingdom of God potentially.
I answer that, As the Philosopher says (Phys. ii, 2), the end is twofold---the end "for which" and the end "by which"; viz. the thing itself in which is found the aspect of good, and the use or acquisition of that thing. Thus we say that the end of the movement of a weighty body is either a lower place as "thing," or to be in a lower place, as "use"; and the end of the miser is money as "thing," or possession of money as "use."If, therefore, we speak of man's last end as of the thing which is the end, thus all other things concur in man's last end, since God is the last end of man and of all other things.
God as the end of all things is that ‘for which’ they are made and to which they tend according to their respective imitations of the Divine nature. Created things imitate God to a degree by laws written into their natures. The power by which they imitate Him is present to them as that which enables them to realize or perfect their natures. Thus laws govern elements, rocks, plants, and animals. Rocks, plants, and animals follow laws without any developed self-consciousness. Even the beasts, who have a form of self-consciousness that is greater than inferior creatures, are limited to an instinctual relation to the environment around them. None of these creatures can reason beyond sense perception in a the world that is the source of either their pain or pleasure. None of these creatures can will the good in order to obtain happiness. They may aid man in his pursuit of this end but only accidentally and in so far as they better enable him to find the leisure to love God and his fellow man.
If, however, we speak of man's last end, as of the acquisition of the end, then irrational creatures do not concur with man in this end. For man and other rational creatures attain to their last end by knowing and loving God: this is not possible to other creatures, which acquire their last end, in so far as they share in the Divine likeness, inasmuch as they are, or live, or even know. Hence it is evident how the
objections are solved: since happiness means the acquisition of the last end.
Irrational creatures do not come to know or love God. They come to imitate God without reason or free will. Their imitation of God does not transcend the level of sensation and thus they cannot acquire more than a brutish instinctual relation to their environments. Human beings who have imagined that brute beasts are on a level with man have perverted their understanding of their final end and instead of pursuing the love of God in the love of their neighbors are in danger of exaggerating their own brutish instincts. This error, though common to man in the post-modern age, will avail him of nothing when on Judgment Day he is unable to reveal love for his fellow man. Creatures other than men and angels cannot be born again. If we are to be born again, we must learn to sow seeds for the Kingdom in the hearts of our fellow human beings. Our first desire must be for the salvation of our neighbours. For it is relation to them that we shall have shown if we have known and loved God or not.
He dwelleth with you and shall be in you.
(St. John xiv. 17)
Today we celebrate the feast of the Pentecost. In the Church of England it is called Whitsunday - White Sunday, because of the white garments worn by those who were traditionally baptized on this day. Pentecost derives from the Latin and means the fiftieth day. For the ancient Jews it marked the day on which God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, fifty days after Exodus from Egypt. It was also a day of thanksgiving for harvest, falling often in May when, given the temperate climate, the Israelites ingathered wheat, oats, peas, vetch, lentils and barley. The early Jewish-Christians retained the character of thanksgiving but extended it to the Holy Ghost’s harvesting of souls for God. For on the first Pentecost, the Holy Ghost descended down from the Ascended Christ and into the community of the Apostles, vesting and mantling them with the spiritual gifts that would generate new communion with God the Father to be tailored and fashioned out of their faithful hearts and souls.
So on this day we are bidden to contemplate this new movement of the Holy Ghost at the time of the Church’s first Pentecost. Yet we should not think that the Holy Ghost had been dormant and inactive prior to the coming of Christ. The Old Testament is full of references to the Holy Ghost’s role in creation and Jewish man’s hope for salvation. In the Creed we say, I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son…. And so we believe that the Spirit’s lordly rule and governance are essential for animating and quickening all that lives. The Spirit is that Third Person of the Blessed Trinity without whom creation would not be. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Gen. i. 2) The man who fails to grasp this is like the one who knew not his Maker, and him that inspired into him an active soul, and breathed in a living spirit. (Wisdom xv. 11) The same Spirit, in due time, came upon warriors, priests, kings, and prophets to strengthen and fortify them against their enemies. King David tell us that The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue. (2 Sam. Xxiii. 2) He spake by the prophets. Beyond creating and sustaining, we know that the Holy Spirit carried warnings, admonitions, prophesies, and counsels to men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, and others. Fr. Knox tells us that by the Holy Spirit they were moved to say various things, much of which it is difficult to understand, and some of which they probably didn’t understand themselves. They were carried away by the impetus of the Holy Spirit, and the great point is that many of the things which they said, or rather which He said through them, were prophesies about the coming of Jesus Christ. (The Creed in Slow Motion: p. 143) The Holy Spirit, in other words, was hard at work on the Jewish people to prepare them for a fuller revelation of God’s promised salvation and redemption. He prepared them for the day when the Word would be made flesh in Jesus Christ and then even for a time when the same Word would come alive in the hearts and souls of all who would believe. And lest we think that He works by a kind-of Divine possession that violates human nature, we must remember that He labors with men always in dialectical conversation inspiring men to freely will and choose to become part of God’s good work.
For it is the work that He invites men into that is of uttermost importance to the Holy Ghost. It comes about only through relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ has ascended to the Father, and from there He desires to continue His work of salvation from the hearts and souls of His friends the Apostles –indeed out of the raw materials of any human being who will forsake all and follow Him. For Christians, Pentecost is the moment where earthly life begins to become one with heavenly desire, and so communion with God begins anew in a radical way. It is the fulfillment of the promise offered by Jesus to his friends: If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (St. John xiv. 15-17) The offer is not forced. God in Jesus respects man’s power of free will. If…then..., he says. The invitation is conditional. The Holy Ghost comes only to those who desire Him. The ongoing work of God hinges upon desire and love.
Our first encounter of it is found in today’s Epistle reading taken from Acts. And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts ii. 1-4) To so many who read this text, the event seems alien, foreign, and even bizarre. Many a Christian is embarrassed to admit that he is really more like the unbelieving bystanders who at the first Pentecost were in doubt, or, mocking said, these men are full of new wine. (Ibid, 12, 13) We tend then to think that whatever happened to the Apostles long ago is wholly paranormal and thus beyond the scope and ken of anything that might flavor our present spiritual predicament. And yet we do well to remember that the first receivers of this heavenly impulse were men who were neither extraordinarily creative or intellectually brave. They were pious and industrious middle class men who were genuinely interested in everything that Jesus of Nazareth said and did. Their last days with Him began in sadness, fear, and shame. Later they were filled with wonder and astonishment. Finally, they would obey, follow, and trust in His promised Presence. They were what used to be called normal human beings. The transformation of their relation to Jesus all happened, mostly, in one place - the upper room or cenacle. This is where we first find them today. In it they had learned of an impending betrayal that He foretold. To its safety they had fled in fear and cowardice when He was dying on the Cross. Into it the Risen Christ entered miraculously, whose loving forgiveness was as much a reason for their newfound belief as His Resurrected Humanity. Into the same cenacle now, we find that He has sent the Holy Ghost. And while these men and women are not any different from you or me, one thing is significant: as before, in the same place, they were watching and waiting for what would come next. They were gathered together in unity of purpose. (Ibid, AV, Knox, ii. 1) Jesus had said, Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. (St. Luke xxiv. 49) And so because they had faith in Him and waited for one more thing, the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they began the work of spreading the Good News to all nations.
But how can we be shaken and stirred to, defined, and moved by the same work that the Holy Spirit began in the lives of the Apostles? The Holy Ghost intends that we should be involved in this work and yet it seems in our own time that men’s hearts have grown cold to the Gospel. Jesus says to us today, If ye love me, keep my commandments. If…then. And so we must ask ourselves this: Do we love Jesus enough to keep His commandments? If not, then clearly we are torn between a slew of lesser loves and the love of Christ. In which case it should become clear enough that we love Christ only occasionally, inconstantly, and incompletely. For, If we hesitate [to obey Jesus], it is because we love something else in competition with Him, i.e. ourselves. (My Utmost…, p. 307) However, if we do love Jesus, then we shall be quick to obey Him and keep His commandments, since doing so is the condition whereby He works His love in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. His love cannot sanctify and save us without our willingness to accept the terms of His rule in our lives. His presence was overwhelmingly effectual at the First Pentecost because the Apostles’ watching and waiting was characterized by a love that trusted that Christ would continue His work in them in a far more substantial way. If our watching and waiting is tempered by the same obedient love, the Holy Ghost, even the Spirit of Truth, will abide with us forever. (St. John xiv. 16)
So today, we must pray that the infinite and eternal Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who workest all in all…will pardon all our resistance to His motions…and will fan the flames which He ever enkindles in our breasts. We pray that He may…enlighten our minds and purify our hearts that we may be fit to receive and entertain Him, as the Guide and Comforter of our souls, working mightily upon our hearts, fitting and suiting our souls to that glory which is unspeakable and everlasting. (B. Jenks, 354) At the first Pentecost the irresistible force [of the Holy Spirit]…was compressed into a single narrow compass; and the result was a kind of flood, a kind of explosion. (Sermons, Knox, Ign. Press, p. 477) That flood or that explosion is the rushing mighty wind of Christ’s Spirit who still longs to catch us up in the wind of His love as He carries us into that work that will bear both us and others to His Kingdom. With the poet let us pray that the work of His love will ravish us.
With all thy Heart, with all thy Soul and Mind,
Thou must him love, and his Beheasts embrace:
All other Loves, with which the World doth blind
Weak Fancies, and stir up Affections base,
Thou must renownce, and utterly displace;
And give thyself unto him full and free,
That full and freely gave himself for thee.
Then shalt thou feel thy Spirit so possest,
And ravisht with devouring great Desire
Of his dear self, that shall thy feeble Breast
Inflame with Love and set thee all on fire
With burning Zeal, through every part entire;
That in no earthly things thou shalt delight,
But in his sweet and amiable Sight.
(E Spenser: A Hymn of Heavenly Love)
Article 2. Whether human virtue is an operative habit?
Objection 1. It would seem that it is not essential to human virtue to be an operative habit or a principle of activity. For Tully says (Tuscul. iv) that as health and beauty belong to the body, so virtue belongs to the soul. But health and beauty are not operative habits. Therefore neither is virtue.
An operative habit is a principle of activity. A principle of activity brings about an effect. But, as Cicero writes, as health and beauty belong to the body by nature, so does virtue belong to the soul by nature. By reason of its nature or essence the soul is virtuous because of an innate and natural disposition.
Objection 2. Further, in natural things we find virtue not only in reference to act, but also in reference to being: as is clear from the Philosopher (De Coelo i), since some have a virtue to be always, while some have a virtue to be not always, but at some definite time. Now as natural virtue is in natural things, so is human virtue in rational beings. Therefore also human virtue is referred not only to act, but also to being.
It would seem that virtue is natural to man or that virtue is characteristic of man’s being. So man is good by nature or has the propensity to be good by nature. So human virtue does not refer to activity but to the being of man. Thus it would seem that virtue is what naturally moves and defines a man. For example, all men desire to know and to be happy. So virtue seems to describe man’s nature or character than to be related to any action or movement.
Objection 3. Further, the Philosopher says (Phys. vii, text. 17) that virtue is the disposition of a perfect thing to that which is best. Now the best thing to which man needs to be disposed by virtue is God Himself, as Augustine proves (De Moribus Eccl. 3,6, 14) to Whom the soul is disposed by being made like to Him. Therefore it seems that virtue is a quality of soul in reference to God, likening it, as it were, to Him; and not in reference to operation. It is not, therefore, an operative habit.
By nature man is made in the image and likeness of God. By reason of his created nature man is not only virtuous in relation to nature or other men but also in relation to God. Virtue is a quality of soul that reveals man’s similarity and nearness to the nature of God. So virtue is not an operative habit or principle of activity but a created good that reveals man’s created integrity. Man’s being reveals his proximity to God.
On the contrary, The Philosopher says that virtue of a thing is that which makes its work good. (Ethics ii. 6)
Virtue is an activity which generates goodness. Virtue is thus an operative habit that actualizes truth and brings it into being.
I answer that, virtue, from the very nature of the word, implies some perfection of power, as we have said above (Article i). Wherefore, since power [The one Latin word potentia is rendered potentiality in the first case, and power in the second] is of two kinds, namely, power in reference to being, and power in reference to act, the perfection of each of these is called virtue. But power in reference to being is on the part of matter, which is potential being, whereas power in reference to act, is on the part of the form, which is the principle of action, since everything acts in so far as it is in act.
So virtue relates to power in two ways. First, virtue refers to an innate or natural potency that comes with created being. So a man is man with the capacity to be virtuous. In his nature is the potentiality to embrace virtue and then to be moved and defined by it. Second, virtue relates to actuality or to act. So virtue is also the activity of being good. The perfection of both potency and act is called virtue. So there is potential virtue in being, there is actual virtue in becoming, and there is the virtue that brings the two together in one man.
Now man is so constituted that the body holds the place of matter, the soul that of form. The body, indeed, man has in common with other animals; and the same is to be said of the forces which are common to the soul and body: and only those forces which are proper to the soul, namely, the rational forces, belong to man alone. And therefore, human virtue, of which we are speaking now, cannot belong to the body, but belongs only to that which is proper to the soul. Wherefore human virtue does not imply reference to being, but rather to act. Consequently it is essential to human virtue to be an operative habit.
However, human virtue belongs not to matter or the body but to the soul. But when we say ‘soul’, we mean the ‘rational soul’, or the soul that thinks and wills the good. So human virtue belongs not to being but to becoming. Human virtue does not refer to matter or the body, for man shares matter and the body with other animals. Human virtue refers to the operative habit whereby a man thinks and wills the good into his life. So human virtue refers to an activity that is both contemplated and then willed. Once it is actualized by the mind and the will in the first instance, it must be repeated so as to become a habit that characterizes man’s life as virtue. So there is the virtue of thought, will, and then habituation.
Reply to Objection 1. Mode of action follows on the disposition of the agent: for such as a thing is, such is its act. And therefore, since virtue is the principle of some kind of operation, there must needs pre-exist in the operator in respect of virtue some corresponding disposition. Now virtue causes an ordered operation. Therefore virtue itself is an ordered disposition of the soul, in so far as, to wit, the powers of the soul are in some way ordered to one another, and to that which is outside. Hence virtue inasmuch as it is a suitable disposition of the soul, is like health and beauty, which are suitable dispositions of the body. But this does not hinder virtue from being a principle of operation.
Virtue is a disposition of the soul that has a potency to order and arrange the powers of the soul. In this way virtue relates to the nature of being or the character of the body. There is a system in place that can be actualized into the service of the pursuit of virtue. The pursuit of virtue is the principle of operation that makes use of the soul’s disposition and perfects it by pursuing and obtaining goodness.
Reply to Objection 2. Virtue which is referred to being is not proper to man; but only that virtue which is referred to works of reason, which are proper to man.
Virtue that is referred to being is related to potencies that can be actualized by appetite and instinct. This kind of virtue is not unique and peculiar to man. Virtue related to works of reason is proper to man alone. This kind of virtue is contemplative and then active. A man contemplates the form of goodness and then through an act of will brings it into being.
Reply to Objection 3. As God’s substance is His act, the highest likeness of man to God is in respect of some operation. Wherefore, happiness or bliss by which man is made most perfectly conformed to God, and which is the end of human life, consists in an operation.
To be made in the image and likeness of God is not a state that simply is or exists by reason of being. For man to perfect the image and likeness of God in his life He must imitate God’s being, which is to actively will His truth, beauty, and goodness. God’s being is pure act or activity. Man is perfectly conformed to God by embracing God’s happiness and bliss. To do so, man must contemplate it and then will it into his life. This thinking and willing are both operative habits or principles of activity that are virtues.
Ascension-tide is the briefest liturgical season in the Church Year. It lasts only ten days. We believe that on the fortieth day after Easter Christ ascended to the Father. Ten days later the Holy Spirit was sent into the womb of the nascent Church on the feast of the Pentecost or Whitsunday. So we have but a few days to examine the significance and meaning of the Ascension for us.
The Ascension is Jesus Christ’s return to the eternal state that He shares, as Son, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. In the Ascension, Christ restores human nature back to the origin of its being and meaning, so that out of His perfect reunion with the Father the Holy Spirit might come down from heaven and begin to incorporate all men who believe into new life. In the simplest of terms, Christ the Son of God, in a Resurrected and Glorified state, returns human life to communion with God the Father. Each word, thought, and deed that facilitate man’s return to God in Christ will now be shared from Heaven with all men through the ever-descending and transforming Holy Spirit.
Faithful man had been yearning to ascend back to God since the time of Israel’s primordial Fall. But he found himself in the midst of a godless and idolatrous people. There is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. (Is. lxiv. 7) Sin had enslaved the ancient Jews; God seemed concealed and unconcerned. But the prophet confesses his sin in order to be lifted up above it. But now, O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand. Be not wroth very sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity forever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people. (Ibid, 8,9) Acknowledging his sin, and the collective wickedness of his people, the prophet faithfully cries out to God for deliverance and salvation. Israel may have unmade herself, but God can and will fashion her anew if only she lifts up her eyes unto the hills from whence cometh her help.
With Psalmist, he insists that he is powerless to fight against spiritual powers that have the advantage over him. O help us against the enemy, for vain is the help is man. (Ps. lxiv. 12) And so spiritual desire is stirred passionately within, as he reaches out to sing the song of faith. O GOD, my heart is ready, my heart is ready; I will sing, and give praise with the best member that I have. Awake, thou lute and harp; I myself will awake right early. I will give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises unto thee among the nations. (Ps. cviii. 1-3) From the ground of his soul the fire of faith envelops, informs, and consumes his heart. The music of the spiritual lute and harp call him into the song of praise and thanksgiving. He thanks God anticipatorily for what he believes and trusts shall shortly come to pass. For thy mercy is greater than the heavens, and thy truth reacheth unto the clouds. Set up thyself, O God, above the heavens, and thy glory above all the earth; That thy beloved may be delivered: let thy right hand save them, and hear thou me. (Ibid, 4-6) Deliverance comes only from above. The glory that saves must come down from above from the one who is God’s right hand.
Christians believe that what Isaiah reached out and hoped for was the Incarnation of God’s right hand Man, even His own Son. What was desired from above has come down to the earth in the Mission and Ministry of Jesus Christ, God with us and for us. The Word of God’s promise that was held in faith and embraced in hope then was made flesh and dwelt among us. (St. John i. 14) And yet the chief purpose of His Incarnation was that man’s human nature might once again become a living sacrifice, wholly acceptable unto God. (Romans xii. 1) Man was made to live above Himself, conformed to God’s will, and always longing to become clay in the hand of the potter.
Yet, in Christ we are not only called to be remolded but also placed into the kiln of the potter. This cannot be done until Christ does with our humanity what we cannot do. He must take it into a first suffering and death. His suffering and death constitute the first motions of His Sacrifice of our human nature back to the Father. His suffering and death are the kiln in which the Potter is firing up the clay for new life through a Sacrifice that will begin on earth and ascend up into Heaven. As Paul Claudel writes, Jesus Christ, the Man-God, the highest expression of creation, rises from the depths of matter where the Word was born by uniting with woman’s obedience, toward that throne which was predestined for Him at the right hand of the Father. From this place He continues to exercise his magnetic power on all creatures; all feel deep within them that summons, that injunction, to ascend. (I Believe…159) God’s Son was always called by the Father into Ascending Sacrifice. Throughout the whole of His life, He suffered and died to Himself and in so doing became an ever Ascending Sacrifice to the Father. Since the time of His Ascension, He has called all men to do the same through the Sacrifice that He shares with us. When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me. (St. John xv. 26) From His Ascension seat in Heaven, the Son of God sends His Spirit into our hearts so that we may bear witness to or testify of His Sacrificial Offering to the Father as we suffer and die to ourselves and come alive to God the Father through Him.
But before the Holy Spirit’s descending fiery love begins to enable us to be made one with the offering of our humanity back to the Father in Jesus Christ, we must first focus on Christ’s ascent back to the Father. Our eyes must pursue and follow persistently and diligently the flame of fiery love that lifts and carries Christ back to the meaning and reason for His Sacrifice. Bishop Westcott reminds us that we are meant to penetrate to the passion of the ascending Jesus. We are encouraged to work beneath the surface of things to that which makes all things, all of us, capable of consecration. Then it is, that the last element in our confession as to Christ’s work speaks to our hearts. He is not only present with us as Ascended: He is active for us. (Sermons…) Beneath the surface and into the heart of this spiritual matter we follow the fire of love that draws Christ’s Sacrifice up from the earth and back to the Father. True Sacrifice ascends back to God. Austin Farrer describes the movement nicely:
WE are told in an Old Testament tale, how an angel of God having appeared to man disappeared again by going up in the flame from the altar. And in the same way Elijah, when he could no more be found, was believed to have gone up on the crests of flaming horses. The flame which carried Christ to heaven was the flame of his own sacrifice. Flame tends always upwards. All his life long Christ's love burnt towards the heart of heaven in a bright fire, until he was wholly consumed in it, and went up in that fire to God. The fire is kindled on our altars, here Christ ascends in fire; the fire is kindled in the Christian heart, and we ascend. He says to us, Lift up your hearts; and we reply, We lift them up unto the Lord.
Like the flame, our desire must tend upwards and burn towards the heart of heaven in a bright fire. We pray that the flame of our own sacrifice might be blended to that of Christ’s so that we too might begin to become supernaturally lighter as the fire of God’s love lifts us into the Heaven of His life. We pray that in faith we shall lift our hearts up unto the Lord because in the blazing fire of Heaven’s light we are beginning to see that the truest offering of man to God is found in Christ’s Ascending Sacrifice. Thus, old earth-bound notions, customs, and ideals must die. Christ who now sits at God’s right hand, interceding and pleading for us, longs for us to unite with the unending Sacrifice of His Ascended Life to the Father that our love might burn towards the heart of heaven in a bright fire, and be wholly consumed in it.
St. Peter tells us this morning that the end of all things is at hand because Christ has ascended to offer His Sacrifice for us to the Father. We must be therefore sober, and watchful unto prayer. (1 St. Peter iv. 7) Our spiritual faculties must be wise to resist the dangers of each day in the ever-ascending sacrifice of prayer. Trusting that Christ now reigns in the greatness of His power and majesty, we must have our conversation with Him in Heaven, to love His appearing, and to be dissolved into His love. (Jenks, 352) We must pray that the Holy Spirit will descend into our hearts and bring us to a forthright confession of our sins, admission of our weaknesses, and desire for His help. We must pray for the steadfast courage to persist in the battle against Satan through the power of Christ’s Sacrifice. We must pray that we may feel the powerful attraction of Christ’s Grace and Holy Spirit, to draw up our minds and desires from the poor perishing enjoyments here below, to those most glorious and everlasting attainments above where Christ sits at the right hand of God. (Idem, Jenks) Christ’s power to attract, absorb, and asphyxiate our hearts as we suffer and die to ourselves in order to come alive to Christ’s perpetual Sacrifice to the Father is nicely summarized in the words of the poet:
Lord, when the sense of thy sweet grace
Sends up my soul to seek thy face.
Thy blessed eyes breed such desire,
I die in love's delicious Fire.
O love, I am thy Sacrifice.
Be still triumphant, blessed eyes.
Still shine on me, fair suns! that I
Still may behold, though still I die.
Though still I die, I live again;
Still longing so to be still slain,
So gainfull is such losse of breath.
I die even in desire of death.
Still live in me this loving strife
Of living Death and dying Life.
For while thou sweetly slayest me
Dead to my selfe, I live in Thee.
(A Song: Richard Crashaw)
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons: