Communicating Perfection

So many ideas occur to me, and I can’t develop them. Either more immediate needs take precedence, or I wile away the hours on something trifling. When I recall the many thoughts both subtle and sublime that have passed through my mind, and I survey the meager record I have left of them, I get melancholic. And with melancholy come memories of Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” or I quote Nero’s dying words, “What an artist dies in me.”

But enough of that. As I’ve learned, sometimes it’s good to publish your half-formed ideas. Who knows who might develop these thoughts, and do better with them than I could? So today I focus on a key element of the Catholic Faith and of Catholic practice: the communicability of perfection:

1.) The Father communicates to the Son everything that the Father has, save Fatherhood. This includes the Father’s identity as source of the Holy Ghost. The “Filioque” is essential.

2.) The Father communicates to the Son, and the Father and Son communicate to the Holy Ghost, perfect Godhead, shared by all three Persons co-equally.

3.) God the Son, while remaining perfect God, assumed a human nature and in this human nature is perfect Man. All grace that can be given by God to a human soul has been given in the act of the Incarnation and the ongoing grace of the Hypostatic Union.

4.) By grace of the Immaculate Conception, God communicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary perfect grace. All grace that can possibly be given by God to a mere human creature has been given.

5.) The Church qua Church is perfect, sinless, spotless. As Bl. Pope Paul VI declared in his Credo of the People of God, art. 19: “She is therefore holy, though she has sinners in her bosom, because she herself has no other life but that of grace: it is by living by her life that her members are sanctified; it is by removing themselves from her life that they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for these offenses, of which she has the power to heal her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The current Holy Father, who is not fond of distinctions, has himself in a public address distinguished the sinless Church from her sinful members.

6.) The Church’s Magisterium infallibly preserves the deposit of Faith whole and entire. The Pope and bishops in communion with him (as at an ecumenical council) are infallible when they invoke their solemn magisterial authority.

Similarly, the Church of Christ is identifiable with the visible, hierarchical Church we see, consisting of laity, deacons, priests, and bishops in communion with each other and with the Pope. The Church is not some ethereal reality, but a very earthy (though not earthly) one.

7.) Sacraments work ex opere operato Christi — they are effective regardless of the sinfulness of the minister. A sinful priest, even an heretical one, can confect the Eucharist or absolve from sins, provided the bare minimum that he intends to do what the Church intends. Our Lord performs the sacraments perfectly, though sinners vicariously administer the sacraments in Christ’s name.

8.) When we are baptized, we are freed from all guilt of sin, whether original or personal. Though we still suffer some of the effects of original sin, at that moment we belong wholly to Christ, wholly to the Church, and are immaculate in God’s sight.

9.) When we are forgiven our sins in the Sacrament of Penance, we are similarly restored to perfection as regards the moral guilt of our past sins. I owe this observation to a local priest, who adds that this state of perfection likely lasts only a moment or so, but it is still there.

Which is why, many times over, it is better to be a sinful Catholic who confesses on his deathbed than a more upright Protestant (more upright compared to the aforementioned Catholic) who does not confess.

10.) The Eucharist is perfectly Christ. Christ is just as really present as He was on earth prior to His Ascension.

11.) The souls of the faithful departed, after being cleansed in Purgatory, enter Heaven perfectly free of all sin and of temporal punishment for sin. Nothing imperfect enters Heaven.

12.) The souls of the faithful departed in Heaven see God in His essence, face to face, in the Beatific Vision.

For Catholics, perfection is communicable and, more importantly, *is communicated.* Or, to put it in a more Biblical way, “Do penance: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

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