ACCEPTANCE WITH FAITH
Many elements go to the making of the tissue of our lives. There is a complex of our personal humanity with its spiritual and material gifts, gifts of nature and of grace, from which proceed our temperament and tendencies, our riches and our deficiencies, our capacities and incapacities, our preferences and antipathies—all cooperating in the formation of our individual personality. Then there are the surroundings in which we live—our family, our country, our education, our culture, faith, occupation, contacts, circumstances of all kind ranging from the sentimental to the economic, and even those of time and place—all molding our life to certain definite requirements.
Against this background of personality and surroundings the dynamic power of daily life moves and operates, a life in which our liberty undoubtedly reigns, but over a kingdom whose boundaries and shape limit its activities, be they on the material, the spiritual or the supernatural plane.
And what place has this complex web of human existence in the spiritual life? It is the design of providence and therefore everything in it is a grace.
We must accept it, this mysterious web of graces, of whose wisdom here below we cannot judge though we must perforce believe in its fertility in the life beyond. And this is not all. The web of grace is the work of the providence which watches over every one of us, therefore in God’s plan for His glory and our sanctity it must be the best. In this plan, all is arranged with so much hidden wisdom that not even the passing rebellion of our will through sin can destroy the design.
For this reason, the acceptance of our individual life in the spirit of faith signifies the banishing of that impatient envy which arises from a useless comparison of our lives with the lives of others, where we appear to find greater riches of gifts, capacities and help, more favorable circumstances, and even more graces and privileges. We must not be too quick to speak of holy envy, even when it concerns virtue and love of God, for in reality the only thing we can envy the saints themselves is their faith and the faithfulnesswith which they welcomed the gifts and loving designs of God. Nevertheless, this is also envy, and a useless one if it does not lead to our imitating them—in which happy case we shall become saints ourselves!
What has been said about comparison and envy may also apply to certain velleities which lessen our surrender, and consequently our acceptance of Providence. There are those who would wish a more beautiful vocation, a greater mercy, a more luminous grace or even a stronger will, a happier temperament, or a virtue less tried. Vain wishes, which though not actually a lack of faith are at least a falling back to our human desires, and a lack of sensitiveness towards the fatherly and providential tenderness of God.
And what are we to say of the so-called resignation of those who regard certain circumstances of their life as not being what they would like but probably better than they might be? They forget that all is grace, and that no one can say to God without presumption: “Give me more graces or give me different ones.” Rather should each one say to himself: “May I be more faithful to the graces which God gives me.”
Moreover, we must deprecate a further spiritual error with regard to the acceptance of the life God gives us, the error of looking upon various difficulties, spiritual, material and moral, as so many obstacles to sanctity. People sometimes say: “I will become a saint in spite of all these difficulties.” But if all is grace, why not rather say: “I will become a saint by means of all these difficulties”?
Apart from the fact that this second attitude demonstrates more immediately our belief that difficulties also brings with them an offer of graces, there is also the advantage of not exposing the will and feelings to the danger of rebellion; for at times, with the pretext that a given circumstance represents a difficulty for virtue, one is apt to rebel against the circumstance itself, seeing in it an enemy instead of at least the permissive will of God.
Finally faith along can remind us always that every moment of our life is governed by an act of divine and paternal providence, and only our selfishness can hide from us the merciful offer of grace which accompanies it.
ACCEPTANCE WITH HOPE
In spite of the light diffused by faith on the web of our life, there are facts in the intimatestory of a soul which seem to depart from the luminous. “All is Grace” of the Saint of Lisieux.
Who has not felt the weight of sin which kills and weakens the soul, the torment of acts of unfaithfulness which seem inevitable, anxiety before a fragility which is capable of any abyss? How can one not understand certain private moments of depression, a discouragement which unnerves us, anxieties which paralyze?
But still - “All is grace.”
When God has permitted a sin, even that of Judas, from this permission springs at once an offer of grace, which may be so great as to make us exclaim: “O felix culpa!” and through this grace humility takes the place of desperation and leads us back to life.
When God permits continual stumbling into unfaithfulness, against which the feeble will knows not how to defend itself, His permission is also the act of grace with which He raises us and with which He invites us to seek the support of His arms which have the strength of power and tenderness of mercy.
When fears of weakness and the shadow of the future fill the heart with foreboding, does not our Lord offer us the gracious consolation of resting near His Sacred Heart?
There is, therefore, no cause for despair; for even sin and evil may at the decisive moment become an opportunity of grace for those who know how to accept them and await faithfully God’s action in the trustful surrender of hope.
Viewed in this perspective, which is also that of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, the practice of surrender is not only a general trust in the future goodness and mercy of God; above all, it is the expression of complete confidence in the continual and actual offer of graces, flowing in upon us on all occasions. And it is this certainty which gives to surrender its note of serenity and joy, far from the tumult of desire.
ACCEPTANCE WITH LOVE
The web of grace which permeate life through every act of providence is woven by a God who watches over each heart-beat of souls who are His sons by the vocation of grace. His providence, therefore, is fatherly, and the laws which govern it are the wisdom and love which in sinuTrinitatis characterize His divine fatherhood. How fruitful is the thought that every bestowal of grace carries within it an echo of the life of the Trinity, not only because it tends to confirm the wisdom and love with which the Trinity lives in all souls!
All actual graces are ordered or coordinated around sanctifying grace, and the ends for which God bestows them tend specially to work in constant progress towards that union with the divine which is the beginning of eternal life. Every grace is a call to eternity.
The totality of all graces constitutes, in effect, our definite vocation to glory.
The weight of divine love gathered in the smallest grace is worth more than the whole world. And therefore a mercy even when it calls for the sacrifice and renunciation of the whole world.
Therefore if all is grace, all is love. And what more comforting transfiguration could be offered to life?
The material circumstances of existence, even those which turn life into a Calvary, are ordered by the loving wisdom of God, and through them the love which guides us to eternity is offered to us that our life here may become fruitful. The riches and miseries of the mind and heart alternate in the intimacy of our personal life, while the foreseeing love of God succors every heart-beat; and the mysterious circumstances of our supernatural life are made up in a design which expresses all the love which the heavenly Father possesses for each one of us.
In short, nothing that happens to us, not even the misfortune of sin, but can become an opportunity of loving grace.
Seen from this point of view, we should make our act of acceptance with a smile of gratitude, realizing that we are accepting not the weight of the Cross but rather the weight of Love.
But above all, love is repaid with love. Even the most insignificant act of providence has the value of the divine charity which vitalizes it, and therefore merits unconditionally all our love which adores and glorifies it, even as every heart-beat of our lives should be an expression of response to that love of friendship to which God invites us with the perennial flow of grace!
SPIRITUAL LIFE AND FIDELITY TO GRACE
Graces are offered to us through manifold acts of divine providence, external and internal, which express the love of God for the soul: faith, hope and love indeed suffuse these divine offers with a light, a richness and attraction; but this is not enough to make the grace fruitful if the free acceptance by the soul is lacking. From this one may gather the importance of fidelity to grace in the spiritual life. In effect, if this spiritual life in its essence is grace, then the whole duty of the soul will be to receive it with absolute fidelity and submission to the will of God.
We will not pause here to repeat all that the masters of spiritual life teach about thisfidelity, but will only stress one fundamental necessity, which is in fact everything. If all is grace on the part of God, all should be fidelity on our part. And if any should be inclined to think that to sum up the spiritual life in fidelity means to rob it of initiative to lead it into idleness, or even to contaminate it with quietism. . . they need only make trial of it with constancy, docility, generosity and love.
With constancy. Totality demands continuity; as the heart never stops, so fidelity has not the right to rest. Moment after moment, the soul should never deprive God’s providential working of the least heart-beat, the least desire, the least action, the least part of our body, the least Secret of our Soul. Nothing either for itself or for others. All things and always for God and with God. So, while the heart beats; he who tires is already faithless, and he who admits of any exception is already a traitor.
With docility. Totality demands readiness. Every moment of resistance is a germ of faithlessness; every delay a laziness in response; every indecision is a doubt of grace and love. If you delay while in your inmost heart the invitation of God urges, you are resisting the Holy Ghost; if you pause before the act of external providence you doubt the paternal love of God. If you pay heed to the calls of self, or bend before the tumult of nature, you are despising the light yoke of the Lord, which is grace and charity. If you turn to the counsel of human wisdom before responding to the invitation of God, you show the foolishness of your faithless spirit.
With generosity. Totality demands the dedication of every power. A fidelity which is poor in impetus, clouded with torpor, without the enthusiasm of dedication, which allows regrets to the heart, which in other words is no more than a calculated opportunism, is a very poor and incomplete fidelity. Fidelities which are offered with the secret hope that God will not take advantage of them to ask more, or perhaps will repay them with the sweetness of consolation, are ungenerous, far from being total, and render the grace sterile.
With love. Totality demands the gift of life, and spiritual life is love. Every offer of grace, therefore, should be accepted with all the love of which we are capable. Obedience falls short, just as resignation does. Grace is not a stern duty, a punishment, a cross; it is a privilege, a gift, a glory. How can it be received with less than the whole force of love? Yet in order to accept lovingly some graces which spring from the Cross, heroism is necessary in order that the divine love may prevail over the poor and tenacious love of self.
This saying of St. Thérèse has carried us far in the development of our thought and has shown itself capable of illuminating the whole of our spiritual life. It contains a vigorous affirmation of the divine pre-eminence in the life of the Christian, a completely supernatural vision of life and a solemn proclamation of the mercies and rights of God, together with our responsibilities, both human and Christian.
Neither is there lacking that vigor of theological intuition which often reveals the hidden wisdom of God to little ones—for to them truly here on earth all is grace, and in heaven—glory.
Padre Anastasio del SS. Rosario, Rome
(Taken from SicutParvuli, Vol. XIII, April 1951, No.2, Pgs 68-79)