From The Three Ages of the Interior Life
By Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.
Let us now examine more closely the full development of our eternal life in heaven, in order that we may better appreciate the value of that sanctifying grace which is its beginning. In particular let us compare it with what would have been our beatitude and our reward if we had been created in a purely natural state.
If we had been created in a state of pure nature, with a spiritual and immortal soul, but without the life of grace, even then our intellect would have been made for the knowledge of the True and our will for the love of the Good. Our end would have been to know God, the Sovereign Good, the author of our nature, and to love Him above all things. But we should have known Him only in the reflection of His goodness in creatures, in the same way as the greatest among the pagan philosophers knew Him, though our knowledge would have been more certain than theirs, and free from any admixture of error. God would have been for us the First Cause and the Supreme Intelligence that orders all the things of creation.
We should have loved Him as the author of our nature, with that love which a subject has for his superior. It would not have been a love of friendship, but rather a sentiment compounded of admiration, respect, and gratitude, yet lacking that happy and simple familiarity which rejoices the hearts of the children of God. We should have been God’s servants, but not His children.
This natural end is already a sublime destiny. It could never bring satiety, just as the eye never tires of contemplating the blue vault of heaven. Moreover, it is a spiritual end, and therefore, unlike material goods, can be possessed at once by all and by each, without possession on the part of one being prejudicial to possession on the part of another, and thus without causing jealousy or discord.
But this abstract and mediate knowledge of God would have left many obscurities in the human mind, especially as regards the mutual compatibility of the divine perfections. 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 (Rom. viii. 29).
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him (I Cor. ii. 9).
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 (Heb. i. 3). 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.
Selection arranged by Jacob Bauer.
The Three Ages of the Interior Life (2 vols.)
Original French edition © The Dominican Province, France.
English translation © Baronius Press Ltd
Reprinted with permission.