Its been a little while since I've posted, and I guess I've just been a bit worn out lately. I attended the wedding mass of two of my close friends (which was beautiful), and last night I met with the priest for catechism. It was really great. But a new concept for me has emerged. One that, growing up as a protestant I never learned.
We've all heard the song "Amazing Grace" right? You've probably got it singing in your head right now, as I do too. Until recently I never considered what it was actually talking about, or realized the song was speaking of this concept of Actual Grace. That is, an actual feelable grace we receive from God to do something, or make something happen. This is the kind of Grace I learned about growing up. Truly, that is how I would have defined the grace of God had you asked me until now. We receive actual grace in feeling compelled to go to Mass, give a one legged woman a quarter, hold a door for an old man, go to Confession, in being nice to someone we find annoying, and even entering the Church altogether. This is actual grace, almost measurable helps we receive from God and his agents to which we can choose to accept or not.
Actual grace also comes to us in other ways, such as receiving things we did not expect. For instance, if you are offered a new job making substantially more money, that could be an actual grace. Like any other actual grace though, it presents us with the opportunity to either ascend or descend to the truth. Do we use the extra money we'll get with the new job to further ourselves in a positive way, in a morally upright or Godly way? Or, in pride, do we take advantage of the grace and use it to our own wordly desires?
Each actual grace we receive presents us with a choice. Either ascend or descend. They are only the helpers from God which we need to keep us on the right path. We have free will to step off that path at any moment.
So I started this saying I now understand the distinctiveness of Actual Grace, so where does it lead? The point of Actual Grace is for us to receive Sanctifying Grace. Sanctifying Grace, a concept unheard of in all my bible studies, youth groups, and sunday schooling is that Grace which is permanent. Sanctifying Grace aligns gives us the right to heaven and cleanses our soul. We need Actual Grace in order to receive Sanctifying Grace - because we are human. Also because we are human, we can descend from the state of Sanctifying Grace. So, God in his mercy gives us more Actual Graces as helpers to give us the opportunity to return once again. We don't always feel Sanctifying Grace, as it is on our soul, but it is there.
God whispers to us in our pleasures,
speaks in our conscience,
but shouts in our pains;
it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
~ C S Lewis