Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Abiding Presence Of The Holy Ghost in the Soul, by Bede Jarrett, O.P. part 5. The Mode of This Presence: Object of Knowledge.

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1. The fact, then, of this presence has been established and its nature explained. It is a real presence, a real union between the soul and God the Holy Ghost. We have, however, a further point to elucidate, the mode whereby this presence is effected. Now this is twofold in so far as this presence of the Spirit affects the mind and heart of man. First, then, we take the knowledge of God that by this presence is generated in the soul. By natural knowledge we can argue not only to the existence of God, but in some way also to His nature. Not only do we know from the world which He has made that He certainly must Himself have a true existence, but we can even, gradually and carefully, though certainly with some vagueness, argue to God’s own divine attributes. His intelligence is evident, His power, His wisdom, His beauty, His providence, His care for created nature. The pagans merely from the world about them painfully, and after many years and with much admixture of error, could yet in the end have their beautiful thoughts about God, and by some amazing instinct have stumbled upon truths which Christianity came fully to establish. The writings of Plato and Aristotle, of some Eastern teachers, of some of the Kings and priests of Egypt, are evidences of the possibility of the natural knowledge about God.

2. Faith, then, came as something over and above the possibilities of nature, not merely as regards the contents, but also as regards the kind of knowledge. Reason argues to God, and, therefore, attains God indirectly. It is like getting an application by letter from an unknown person and guessing his character from the handwriting, the paper, the ink, the spelling, the style. Possibly by this means a very fair estimate may be formed of his capacities and his fitness for the position which we desire him to fill. But faith implies a direct contact with the person who has written the letter. Before us is spread what Longfellow has called “the manuscript of God,” and from it we argue to God’s character. Then faith comes and puts us straight into connection with God Himself. Theological virtues are the names given to faith, hope, and charity, because they all have God for their direct and proper object. Faith then attains to the very substance of God. It is indeed inadequate in so far as all human forms of thought can only falteringly represent God as compared with the fullness that shall be revealed hereafter, still for all that it gives us, not indirect but direct knowledge of Him. I do not argue by faith to what God is like from seeing His handiwork; but I know what He is like from His descriptions of Himself.

3. Now the indwelling of the Spirit of God gives us a knowledge of God even more wonderful than faith gives, for even faith has to be content with God’s descriptions of Himself. In faith I am indeed listening to a Person Who is telling me all about Himself. He is the very truth and all He says is commended to me by the most solemn and certain of motives; but I am still very far from coming absolutely into direct and absolute experience of God. That, indeed, fully and absolutely, can be achieved only in Heaven. It is only there in the beatific vision that the veils will be wholly torn aside and there will be a face to face sight of God, no longer by means of created, and therefore limited, ideas, but an absolute possession of God Himself. Yet though absolutely I must wait for Heaven before I can achieve this, it is none the less true that I can begin it on earth by means of this indwelling of the Spirit of God. This real presence of God in my soul can secure for me what is called an experimental knowledge of God, such as undoubtedly I do have. It is not only that I believe, but I know. Not only have I been told about God, but, at least, in passing glimpses, I have seen Him. We may almost say to the Church what the men of Sichar said to the woman of Samaria, “We now believe, not for thy saying, for we ourselves have heard and know” (John 4.42). “For the Spirit Himself giveth testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God” (Romans 8.16).