1. This very strong expression is used by St. Augustine and many of the Fathers to describe one of the effects of grace. By grace we are deified, i. e., made into gods. Right at the beginning of all the woes of humanity when, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve first were tempted, the lying spirit promised that the reward of disobedience would be that they should become “as gods.” The result of sin could hardly be that, so man, made only a little lower than the angels, can at times find himself rebuked by the very beasts. Yet the promise became in the end fulfilled, since the Incarnation really affected that transformation, and God, by becoming human, made man himself divine. St. Peter, in his second epistle (4.1), insinuates the same truth when he describes the great promises of Christ making us “partakers of the Divine Nature.” The work, then, of grace is something superhuman and divine. Creation pours into us the divine gift of existence and therefore makes us partakers in the divine being, for existence implies a participation in the being of God. The indwelling of the Blessed Trinity, then, does even more, for by it we participate not only in the divine being, but in the divine nature, and fulfil the prophecy of Our Lord: “Ye are gods.” Justification, therefore, is a higher gift than creation, since it does more for us.
2. This divine participation is what is implied in many texts which allude to the sacrament of Baptism, for the purpose of Baptism is just that, to make us children of God. The phrases concerning “new birth” and “being born again” all are intended to convey the same idea, that the soul by means of this sacrament is lifted above its normal existence and lives a new life. This life is lived “with Christ in God,” i. e., it is a sort of entrance within the charmed circle of the Trinity, or, more accurately, it is that the Blessed Trinity inhabits our soul and enters into our own small life, which at once therefore takes on a new and higher importance. In it henceforth there can be nothing small or mean. For the same reason Our Lord speaks of it to the Samaritan woman as “the gift of God,” beside which all His other benefactions fade into nothingness. Again, it is a “fountain of living water,” it is a “refreshment,” it is “life” itself. Not the stagnant water that remains in a pool in some dark wood, but a stream gushing out from its source, fertilizing the ground on every side, soaking through to all the thirsting roots about it, giving freshness and vitality to the whole district through which it wanders. Life indeed it bears as its great gift; and so does sanctifying grace carry within it the fertilizing power needed by the soul.
3. The participation in the Divine Nature is therefore no mere metaphor, but is a real fact. The indwelling of God makes the soul like to God. I find myself influenced by the people with whom I live, picking up their expressions, copying their tricks and habits, following out their thoughts, absorbing their principles, growing daily like them. With God at the centre of my life the same effect is produced, and slowly, patiently, almost unconsciously, I find myself infected by His spirit. What He loves becomes my ideal; what He hates, my detestation. But it is even closer than this, no mere concord of wills nor harmony of ideas, a real and true elevation to the life of God. Grace is formally in God, at the back, so to say, of His divine nature, the inner essence of Himself. By receiving it, therefore, I receive something of God, and begin to be able to perform divine actions. I can begin to know God even as I am known, to taste His sweetness, and by His favour to have personal, experimental knowledge of Himself. To act divinely is only possible to those who are made divine. This, then, becomes the formal union with God, its terms, its end, its purpose. Deified, therefore, we become in our essence by grace, in our intelligence by its light, in our will by charity.