[Addr-15] A religious Faith that is uninspired, a Hope, or Love that proceeds not from the immediate Working of the Divine Nature within us, can no more do any Divine Good to our Souls, or unite them with the Goodness of God, than an Hunger after earthly Food can feed us with the immortal Bread of Heaven.— All that the natural or uninspired Man does, or can do in the Church, has no more of the Truth or Power of Divine Worship in it, than that which he does in the Field, or Shop, through a Desire of Riches.— And the Reason is, because all the Acts of the Natural Man, whether relating to Matters of Religion or the World, must be equally Selfish, and there is no Possibility of their being otherwise. For Self-love, Self-esteem, Self-seeking, and Living wholly to Self, are as strictly the Whole of all that is or possibly can be in the Natural Man, as in the Natural Beast; the one can no more be better, or act above this Nature, than the other. Neither can any Creature be in a better, or higher State than this, till something Supernatural is found in it; and this Supernatural something, called in scripture the WORD, or SPIRIT, or INSPIRATION of God, is that alone from which man can have the first Good Thought about God, or the least Power of having more heavenly Desires in his Spirit, than he has in his Flesh.
Left to our own devices and relying upon Natural Instinct and Human Reason, we shall surely never discover desire, affection, or love for God. And this should not surprise us since when we are self-reliant, self-possessed, self-driven, and self-motivated, we begin and end with the perfection of ourselves by ourselves. Of course, as St. Augustine shows in the Twentieth Book of his City of God, such a possession of the Supreme Good is neither supreme nor lasting. It is merely ‘the best happiness that a man can make out of his unhappy state.’ How could it be otherwise? Its imperfect perfection is the best that man can produce through the most advanced efforts of reason. But reason does not save a man. Only faith in God’s Grace can save a man, since what a man has faith in is the undeserved and unmerited Work of God that alone can redeem and reenlist reason into the service of the Good. So what a man needs to find is that the Divine and Supreme Good can be obtained perfectly and permanently only when God’s Word and Spirit begin to work in his soul. Now this means that a man must pray that God will speak His Word and breathe His Spirit into his life. Without the Divine Communication and the Divine Energy, man will not receive the Grace that is needed to sanctify and save him. Now to be sure, this Grace is neither easy to obtain nor quick to embrace as a habit of life. First, the humble, faithful, and earnest pious pilgrim must come to see that he is in dire need of such great Grace. Second, he must come to see that this Grace is only available to him because it has been made flesh in the life of God’s own Son, as what alone has reconciled his fallen human nature to God. Finally, if he longs to be ruled and governed by the Word of God through the effectual operation of the Holy Spirit, he will, at last, be blessed with the Word that is being made flesh in him by the same Spirit.
[Addr-16] A Religion that is not wholly built upon this Supernatural Ground, but solely stands upon the Powers, Reasonings, and Conclusions of the Natural uninspired Man, has not so much as the Shadow of true Religion in it, but is a mere Nothing, in the same Sense, as an Idol is said to be Nothing, because the Idol has nothing of That in it which is pretended by it. For the Work of Religion has no Divine Good in it, but as it brings forth, and keeps up essential Union of the Spirit of Man with the Spirit of God; which essential Union cannot be made, but through Love on both sides, nor by Love, but where the Love that works on both sides is of the same Nature.
For religion to be built truly on Supernatural Ground, a man must surrender to God’s will. It will do no good to spend one’s life examining God from a distance through reason. Such is better than never having examined Him at all or better than nothing. The man who strives to find God through reason stands atop a mountain from which he can see God. Yet there is a vast infinite distance between the God he sees or knows and himself. The problem is that with all his knowing he knows not the most important thing –i.e. how to get to God. He might deceive himself into thinking that his reason can carry him to God, but, at the end of his transcendental visionary moment, alas, he is sorely disappointed by the call of the mundane. Only God can take man back to Himself. And this by way of the Common Life of the Savior, where the mundane and the Heavenly meet in the common drudgery of human life as suffering and death acclimate man progressively to the motions of God. Now for man to live religiously towards God, he must be in possession of the one Love that defines both the heavenly and earthly natures. A man cannot come into possession of this Love without being made a very member incorporate in the Mystical Body of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. Christ alone, in his two natures, is moved by one Love. His Divinity serves and ministers to His humanity; His humanity surrenders to and obeys His Divinity. The one Love of God and His Goodness moves Jesus Christ, and then is offered to the pious pilgrim as the only means to true religion that leads him home to Heaven.
[Addr-17] No Man therefore can reach God with his Love, or have Union with him by it, but he who is inspired with that one same Spirit of Love, with which God loved himself from all Eternity, and before there was any Creature. Infinite Hosts of new created Heavenly Beings can begin no new Kind of Love of God, nor have the least Power of beginning to Love him at all, but so far as his own Holy Spirit of Love, wherewith he hath from all Eternity loved himself, is brought to Life in them. This Love, that was then in God alone, can be the only Love in Creatures that can draw them to God; they can have no Power of cleaving to him, of willing that which He wills, or adoring the Divine Nature, but by partaking of that eternal Spirit of Love; and therefore the continual immediate Inspiration or Operation of the Holy Spirit, is the one only possible Ground of our continually loving God. And of this inspired Love, and no other, it is that St. John says, "He that dwelleth in Love, dwelleth in God." Suppose it to be any other Love, brought forth by any other Thing but the Spirit of God breathing his own Love in us, and then it cannot be true, that he who dwells in such Love, dwells in God.
The Love with which God loves Himself for all eternity is the Love that Jesus Christ brings into the world. The Father loves His Wisdom. His Wisdom is the Love of the Father. The Spirit of Love is the fiery knot that forever proceeds between them, and into which the Son longs to bring all men. So Christ invites all men into this Love. It is no new love, but Eternal Love which has been from the beginning that now becomes the basis of man’s cleaving to God. As members of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, men can find affection and inspiration to love God once again because the Holy Spirit of Divine Love is deepening, broadening, expanding, and perfecting His presence in them. Thus we should, dearest brethren, pray that the Holy Spirit of Love, which eternally passes between the Father and the Son, might sweep us up into His unbreakable embrace. Safe and secure from all alarms, then we shall love Love, and through it bring others into His irresistible Desire.
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons