A talk to his community by Fr. Stephen of New Melleray Abbey on becoming Divine, participation in God’s Life by Grace:  In my Chapter talk two weeks ago focused on the three effects of Baptism: first, we are washed clean of all sin; second, we are anointed as adopted children of God sharing God’s divine nature; third, we enter into a covenant with God by making vows to renounce Satan and all his works.  Last Sunday’s chapter talk was about how we are born in Original Sin, not as a personal sin that we committed, but as a deprivation of the original holiness and justice that Adam and Eve lost by their sin of disbelief. They could not give what they no longer had, sharing in the holiness of God’s own divine nature.  In Baptism that deprivation, that emptiness, is filled with God’s holiness, we become sharers in the uncreated grace of God’s own life and existence, we become divine.  Today’s chapter is about being divine and still human.

Three differences:  We are truly lifted up to share in God’s level of existence, in God’s powers. But there are three big differences:  First, we do not become divine persons, we retain our individuality as human persons who are now able to do divine things.   Second, we do not become infinite, because we are always creatures dependent on God who holds us in existence.  Third, our participation in God’s divine nature is accidental (per accidens) in us but essential in God (per se).  If God were to lose his divine nature, (impossible of course), God would cease to exist.  But if we lose participation in the divine nature, as Adam and Eve lost it, we continue to exist in our human nature. Divine nature is not part of our essence.  Even though our participation is accidental to our existence, like the color of our hair or the size of our feet, it is still a true possession of divine power.   Compare it to the wire in a light bulb.  When the light switch is off there’s no power in the wire.  The filament is cold and dark.  It isn’t in the nature, the essence, of the wire, of itself, to give light and heat.  But when the light switch is turned on and electricity is communicated to the filament, the light bulb suddenly becomes bright and hot.  The wire receives a new nature that is accidental to the wire’s existence but now gives it the power to do things it could never do by its own copper nature.  A charged wire can make motor shafts rotate, create enough heat to cut metal, give shocks that may kill or jolt a heart back to beating, turn wire coils red hot to heat a room, and weld metal pieces together.  Likewise, even though our share in the divine nature is accidental to our being, it is as real as electricity in a copper wire.  But like Adam and Eve, we can turn off the switch, we can lose divinity. Consider what we would lose.

Catholic Encyclopedia:  The 1966 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia has an article on “Participation in the Divine Nature.”   I quote: “All Catholic theologians agree on the basic elements of this doctrine:  through grace man becomes a partaker in the divine nature; the participation is neither pantheistic nor merely moral, but real and ontological.  To have a participation in the divine nature is to possess a manner of being and activity that is proper to God alone, and therefore to be a supernatural [likeness] of God.”

Fathers of the Church:  Has the Church always taught this?  Yes.  In the readings of the Liturgy of the Hours throughout the liturgical year there are many passages taken from the Fathers of the Church about our great destiny.  Some of them are so startling that they take my breath away.   For example:

St.  Augustine“God became man so that man might become God.” (Sat. before Epiphany)

St.  Basil the Great“Through the Spirit we acquire a likeness to God; indeed, we attain what is beyond our most sublime aspirations, we become God.” (Tue, 7th Week of Easter)

St. Thomas Aquinas: God’s only Son, intending to make us participators in his divinity, assumed our nature and became man to make us divine, (by becoming man he might make men gods.)” (Corpus Christi)

St.  John of the Cross“One should not wonder that the soul is capable of so sublime an activity.  For if God so favors her that she is made God-like by union with the most Holy Trinity, I ask you then, why it should seem so incredible that the soul, at one with the Trinity and in the greatest possible likeness to it, should share the understanding, knowledge and love which God achieves in himself. …souls possess the same goods by participation that the Son possesses by nature.  As a result, they are truly divine by participation, equals and companions of God.”  (Fri., 18th Week of the year.)

Blessed Isaac of Stella (a Cistercian Father): “Those who by faith are spiritual members of Christ can truly say that they are what he is: The Son of God and God himself.  But what Christ is by his nature we are as his partners; what he is of himself in all fullness, we are as participants.  Finally, what the Son of God is by generation, his members are by adoption.  You have received the Spirit of adoption, enabling you to cry, ‘Abba, Father’.  Through his Spirit, he gave men the power to become sons of God.” (Fri.  Fifth Week of Easter)

Boethius (480-524) a contemporary of St. Benedict:  “Since men become happy by acquiring happiness, and happiness is identical with divinity, it is plain that they become happy by acquiring divinity. But just as men become just by acquiring the quality of justice, and wise by wisdom, so by the same reasoning, by acquiring divinity they become divine. Every happy man then is divine.  And nothing prevents as many men as possible from being divine, for while God is so by his nature, men become so by participation.”

St. Therese of Lisieux, Letters, v. 2: “We are greater than the whole universe, and one day we ourselves shall have a divine existence.” (p. 542)

Fr. Edward Yarnold, (Jesuit Theologian died in 2002) “The Second Gift”: “… grace… is the elevation of corrupted humanity to a loving relationship with God; it is the communication of new life; it is adoption by the Father, membership in the Son’s Body, the gift of God’s own Spirit, a share in God’s own nature. … When grace is considered as God himself dwelling within us, it is called uncreated grace; but when it is considered as the transformation produced in us by God’s loving presence, it is called created grace. (p. 52) …….. The Christian, though sharing in the divine life, is not God the Son, nor the Father, nor the Holy Spirit. … The Christian does not become a Person of the Trinity, but receives the capacity to relate to the Persons of the Trinity … (p. 67).”

Fr. Michael Casey, (a contemporary Cistercian author) Fully Human, Fully Divine: “We need the divine boldness to affirm that Christianity is not a matter of being good but of becoming God.  p. 10.”  

Awestruck:  Now if we are not completely awestruck by this revelation of our destiny, perhaps we have not understood what it means, or we understand but do not yet believe.   Here are a few more quotations from Vatican II to strengthen our belief….