09 June, 2009

What is the difference between sanctifying grace and habitual grace?

CCC2024 Sanctifying grace makes us "pleasing to God." Charisms, special graces of the Holy Spirit, are oriented to sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. God also acts through many actual graces, to be distinguished from habitual grace which is permanent in us.”

The difficulty in understanding the Catechism comes from the Catholic understanding of grace. Even Catholics are not fully in agreement on grace as to its many meanings and applications. Most of the current teaching on grace includes the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine. More modern discussion is theorized by Rahner, von Balthasar and Joseph Ratzinger as to the definition of grace and its application to the faithful. Some even have difficulty separating virtue from grace. It is not possible to get into the varied theories, because of the depth of this subject. Here are some of the things that Catholics do agree on:

1. Grace is a supernatural gift from God that is infused and not imputed as some Protestants teach.

2. Justification is a process not completed until judgment.

3. Sharing in the divine nature involves the indwelling of the Holy Spirit by one having received initial salvation.

4. At the moment of justification we are judged sanctified and entitled to eternal life.

5. Habitual grace is given that one may cooperate with God’s will as guided by the Holy Spirit and is a permanent relationship with the believer continuing until judgment. (If one fails and falls into mortal sin it is habitual grace that draws them back to restoration through repentance.)

6. Even though gifted with habitual grace one may choose not to cooperate with God’s grace and completely fall away from belief becoming estranged from God’s sanctifying grace.

7. The relationship entered into between the believer and God is a covenant relationship where God’s grace continues to effect one’s justification by drawing him to sanctity but that relationship can be irrevocably destroyed by mortal sin on the part of the believer which unless repented of and forgiven will eternally separate him from eternal life and make him worthy instead of eternal damnation.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

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