The Holy Spirit in Us

Alice Lady Lovat continues her exposition of Father Juan Eusebio Nieremberg’s seventeenth century treatise “Del Aprecio y Estima de la Divina Gracia.” In previous posts, we covered those sections of the Aprecio that show how sanctifying grace makes us partakers of the Divine Nature. Now we shall consider the intimate union between the soul and God, a union effected by Divine grace.

Lovat writes: “The Holy Spirit it is who, in the words of the Apostle (2 Cor 3:18), transforms us by His power into the image of God. . . . He is the seal by which God impresses upon our soul the image of His holiness and Divine Nature. In giving us His grace the Holy Spirit gives us Himself, as St. Paul says: ‘The charity of God is poured forth into our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us’ (Rom 5:5).”

“‘By sanctifying grace,’ we learn from St. Thomas [Aquinas], ‘the rational creature is thus perfected, that it may not only use with liberty the created good, but that it may also enjoy the uncreated good.’ . . . By grace, therefore, we are not only qualified to know, love, and enjoy God from afar mediately, by the beauty and goodness of His creatures, but to possess Him immediately in His substance.”

“Although the Holy Ghost dwells in the whole created nature as in a vast temple, as the Scriptures say of Him, ‘The Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world,’ yet He dwells in a special manner in the soul adorned by grace. Suarez says: ‘If God should cease to be present in other creatures, He would not cease to be in the souls that are in a state of grace, any more than He would thereby separate Himself from the humanity of Christ which is united with Him in one person.'”

“The Holy Spirit does not come to us as a passing guest. Our Saviour prayed for us to the Father that He might send us the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, to abide with us for ever. Never will He leave us unless we ourselves expel Him from our hearts.”

“If Zaccheus called himself blessed because he received for a short time the Son of God under his roof, how much more should we rejoice at the intimate presence of the Holy Spirit of God, who comes to take possession of our souls to abide there for ever!”

Quotations from Alice Lady Lovat, The Marvels of Divine Grace: Meditations Based on the “Glories of Divine Grace” (Original Treatise by Fr. Nieremberg, S.J., Entitled “Del Aprecio y Estima de la Divina Gracia”) (London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1917).

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What Erodes Piety – Part 2 of 2

Father Guibert writes: “God is the controller of the effusion of His grace; when He pleases to let souls taste His goodness by means of consolations, it would be an unwelcome proceeding on man’s part to refuse His gifts. But, according to the subtle remark of St. Francis of Sales, though it is important ‘to seek the God of consolations, it is not a duty to seek the consolations of God.’ It would, then, be an error, and a fault as well, to cultivate piety for the sake of the sensible satisfaction expected from it, and to use it to stir up impressions which are more likely to soothe the nerves than to fortify the will. In those who are greedy for such emotions, it is the sensuous side of the disposition that is developed, and not the religious life. This is why piety disappears as soon as the senses have grown dull with habit and enjoyment has vanished, just as a plant with shallow roots dries up under the first heat of the sun.”

“Pride is the greatest danger of piety. . . . It is to the vain, who make an ostentatious display of piety, that Jesus speaks the words: ‘And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee.’ (Matt 6:5-6) For piety does not look for the notice of man, indeed, but for the notice and possession of God. . . . He is in the heart of the Christian. . . . What does it matter to him if the world ignores his piety? This ignorance is even a protection to him. His good is in being alive, not in other people seeing him live.”

“How many there are who take refuge in their so-called piety to dispense themselves from the duty of living a good life.” But, such a one “does not see that his piety is entirely superficial, and that his life is no better for it. . . . To isolate religion from life is to lower it and to smite it with impotence.”

Quotations from Jean Guibert, On Piety (London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1911).

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What Erodes Piety – Part 1 of 2

Father Guibert writes: “Amongst all the fruits of the interior activity of the soul, there is none that is better than piety, none that brings more gladness, none that provides a more substantial food; but, at the same time, there is none so prone to deteriorate and change its sweetness afterwards into poison. It is, then, proper to know the kind of deterioration to which it is subject, and to guard it from the dangers that threaten it.”

“The first danger incurred by persons in religion is the reduction of their piety to forms or exterior practices. However worthy of respect the practices may be, they do not constitute piety itself; for piety is a life that reveals itself within. The exterior acts are the necessary stimulus and the visible expression of it, and when they have set it in motion, they have fulfilled the part they have to play.”

“Jesus put His disciples on their guard against this fault when He said: ‘When you are praying, speak not much, . . . for your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask Him’ (Matt 6:7-8). These admirable words well reveal to us what prayer is. We do, indeed, require a form for our lips . . . to arouse our own feeling, and to put our hearts in a state of active supplication.”

“They leave the true path of piety who multiply to excess vocal prayers and pick up every known form of devotion and make a duty of reciting it daily, without taking care to keep alive the spirit of prayer in the soul: they risk wearing out the mind, if they do not incur a distaste for religion. They also leave it who consider themselves pious because they make innumerable pilgrimages and belong to innumerable confraternities, or because they wear a number of religious emblems. There is certainly no harm in these visible signs in themselves, which may be valuable as a stimulus, but in the persuasion that piety consists entirely in doing such things. . . . What God requires, in addition to the bodily presence and the motion of the lips, is presence of spirit and activity of soul.”

Quotations from Jean Guibert, On Piety (London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1911).

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Progressing in Piety

Father Guibert notes: “It has been rightly said that, ‘in the way of God, not to go forward is to go back.’ . . . In the same way as iron gets rusty if it is not often rubbed, and as a house falls into dilapidation and ruin if it is not periodically renewed, so all living creatures visibly fall away and incline towards death as soon as their activity ceases growing in strength. . . . On the path that leads to God there is no stage where it can stay and sit down. On this steep slope there is no resting-place; either one ascends, while the will is active, or else one goes down, as soon as the will relaxes.”

In what does progress in piety consist? “It does not consist in the multiplication of hours explicitly devoted to prayer, for the mind is incapable of a progressively increasing strain; it cannot concentrate itself upon God to any good effect unless it avoids overwork and fatigue. Furthermore, it is not the object of piety to hinder the duties of one’s state of life; on the contrary, it aims at fulfilling them still more completely, by drawing moral strength from God Himself. It is, indeed, quite possible that the duties of one’s state, with their increasing demands, may temporarily encroach upon the hours of piety. . . . The progress of piety is to be measured, not by the time spent upon it, but by the intensity of the interior life that it develops, and by the real influence that it bears upon conduct.”

“The pious soul carries away from its exercises into the midst of its work the splendours of faith and the ardour of divine love. The thought of God is its companion and guide. . . . And the cultivation of the thought of God must be the aim of piety; this is the most unequivocal sign of its progress.”

“If it is a good thing to have one’s attention fixed upon God, it is still better to offer Him one’s service. St. Vincent de Paul, indeed, reached this apogee of piety when he asked himself before doing anything: ‘What does God wish me to do? What advice does He wish me to give? What step does He wish me to take?'” Then we see realized the Apostle’s word as the highest expression of piety: ‘I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me’ (Gal 2:20).”

Quotations from Jean Guibert, On Piety (London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1911).

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What Promotes Piety

In the previous post, Father Guibert enumerated some things that hinder piety. Now he recommends a course of action to promote piety.

To the person with good desires, he says: “Begin by entering within yourself. Gather together your scattered powers, your mind, your heart, your imagination and your senses. . . . Your eyes will be veiled with a modesty and caution that will not allow them to be the open doors by which your soul was wont to run far away from you. Your ears, too, will be discreet, chaste, and closed to news from without; you will no longer make a foolish display of yourself in your clothes and speech, and you will be more anxious to be than to appear.”

“When you have been set free from things external, you will still have to escape slavery within. . . . The heart itself is a harder tyrant to them than all the external masters whose yoke they bear. . . . Have you not felt that your flesh is a capricious slave? Sometimes it is heavy and idle, sometimes, on the contrary, weak and incapable of effort. When well fed, it rebels; when too starved, it becomes refractory. When its ill-regulated appetites are awakened, what humiliations, what dangers, what anguish of conscience, what obsessions of the imagination!”

“The Saints have felt no less than you the interior conflicts between the manifold passions of humanity. St. Paul complains of them even with bitterness. ‘Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ (Rom 7:24) he asks. ‘My grace is sufficient for thee’ (2 Cor 12:9), was the answer, as if the Spirit of God had said to him: ‘Thou shalt not destroy it, but by My grace thou shalt bring it under thy rule.'”

“You will treat your flesh as a slave who is not to be flattered or maltreated; you will keep it in a proper equilibrium. . . . You will carefully avoid reading, sights, reveries and conversation, which might arouse it with terrible awakenings. . . . Jealousy will get no hold upon you, if you are large-hearted enough to thank God for the welfare of your brothers; sensitiveness will not lead you to fire up in anger, if kind-heartedness enables you to take the doings of others in good part; and, lastly, selfishness will be trampled underfoot, if you can forget yourself and not expect anything from anybody, and if you cultivate in yourself the desire to be of service.” Thus, you will advance in “the love and possession of God.”

Quotations from Jean Guibert, On Piety (London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1911).

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What Hinders Piety

Father Guibert remarks: “As the stone falls towards the centre of gravity, and as the compass points towards the magnetic pole, so the soul of man, as soon as it is free, takes its bearings towards God, and goes straight to Him by means of piety. It is, indeed, of importance to increase the power of the inward attraction that draws us towards God, but it is still more necessary to set our souls free from the ties that hinder our impulses and check our steps. . . . Do we really altogether mean to be pious? Then we must work for our deliverance.”

“What piety can you expect to find in a soul that is dissipated and engrossed in things external? . . . How often, perchance, has it happened to you to go out of yourself through curiosity! Your eyes, being open to all the sights around you, wanted to see everything, to feast to the full on every novelty, and to stop in front of every picture; your ears, eager to hear everything, listened to every tale, incited people to backbiting, if not to calumny, and became the receptacle of every rumour in the world around you; your steps were bent in the direction of ribald and frivolous company, and wherever it was impossible to reflect upon oneself. And, at the same time, in your vanity you tried to attract the attention of others, and, for this end, you displayed in your outward appearance and in your words all that could give you some personal merit; and hence, you were not at all anxious about having some real worth within, provided that you were able by some tawdry outward glitter to catch the eye. Lastly, your sensuous feeling was easily captured in the snare of vulgar pleasure and worldly attachments; you took to the world in order to get more enjoyments, and your heart became entangled in a net, the meshes of which it could not break through. And do you think that a soul, so far an absentee from itself, so fast a prisoner in a foreign land, can go to meet its God and run towards Him? No; for certainly, in such a state piety is impossible.”

Quotations from Jean Guibert, On Piety (London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1911).

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Pious Exercises in Perspective

Father Guibert observes: “In return for the sacrifices that you undertake in order to make room for your spiritual exercises amidst your occupations, and to pray in spite of your dryness, God recompenses you with an increase of grace. During the hours that you spend, even in aridity, beneath the eyes of the Father, His gifts fall upon you like a blessed rain that waters and makes you bear fruit. By the holy inspirations that He gives you, by the pious readings in which you spend your time, and by the spiritual instructions that you go to hear, He sheds upon you His light, and He stirs within you the glow of His love. All these are benefits of which you would have been deprived, if you had omitted your exercises by neglect. Say not that all this is a loss of time, for during the hours you devote to Him, even if they yield no consolation, God sows in your soul seeds which contain in germ the harvests of the future.”

“It is not a good thing for such exercises to take up the whole of the day, nor even the greater part of your time. For you have the duties of your state to fulfil, and you must remember that the duties of your state ought not to come between you and God. Even if you were sufficiently at leisure to give all your time to piety, you ought not to be advised to do it. It would, indeed, be a bad thing for your mind to be always on the strain; if it had not long intervals of rest, it would end by breaking down or becoming dulled. Moreover, the thought of God will follow you amidst your work, and even if it were to become unconscious and entirely virtual, its impulse will, nevertheless, be the force that will guide you. You will, then, take a reasonable time for your exercises of piety. What is it to be? You will fix it according to the leisure left you by the duties of your state.”

“Regularity in pious exercises demands as much flexibility as delicacy. If it requires exactitude, still, there must be no rigidity. Just as negligence would be harmful, so inflexibility would be out of place. A duty of one’s state of life must always take precedence of an exercise of piety, and often a deed of charity will have to come first. For, if we consider rightly, we only cultivate piety in order to be virtuous and good; and it would be to do an injury to piety if we were to put it before the end it has in view.”

Quotations from Jean Guibert, On Piety (London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1911).

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