The heavenly light and wisdom with which God
enlightens the just form the third reward of virtue.
And this blessing, as well as all the others, is the
effect of that grace which not only rules our
appetites and strengthens our will, but removes the
darkness of sin from our understanding and enables us
to know and fulfill our duty.
St. Gregory tells us that ignorance of our duty, as
well as inability to do our duty, are alike
punishments of sin. (Moral. L. 25, c. 9.). Hence,
David so frequently repeats, "The Lord is my light"
against ignorance, "the Lord is my salvation" against
weakness. (Ps. 26:1). On the one side He teaches us
what we should desire, and on the other He
strengthens us to execute our desires. And both of
these favors are bestowed on us through grace. For in
addition to a habit of faith and infused wisdom which
teach us what we are to believe and practice, grace
imparts to us the gifts of the Holy Ghost.
these gifts relate particularly to the understanding:
wisdom, which instructs us in spiritual and sublime
things; knowledge, which informs us of the things of
earth and time; understanding, which helps us
appreciate the beauty and harmony of the divine
mysteries; and counsel, which guides and directs us
amidst the difficulties which we encounter in the
path of virtue.
These gifts are so many rays of
light which proceed from the divine center of grace,
and in Scripture are called an unction or anointing.
"But you have the unction from the Holy One, and know
all things." (1Jn. 2:20). Oil has the double virtue
of giving light and healing, and fitly represents the
divine unction which enlightens the darkness of our
understanding and heals the wounds of our will. This
is the oil which exceeds in value the purest balsam,
and for which David rejoiced when he said: Thou, O
Lord, hast anointed my head with oil. (Cf. Ps. 22:5).
It is evident that the royal prophet did not speak
here of a material oil, and that by the head, he
designated, according to the interpretation of
Didymus, the noblest pan of the soul, or the
understanding, which is illumined and supported by
the unction of the Holy Spirit.
Since it is the
property and function of grace to make us virtuous,
we must love virtue and abhor sin, which we cannot do
if the understanding be not divinely enlightened to
discern the malice of sin and the beauty of virtue.
For the will, according to philosophers and
theologians, is a blind faculty, incapable of acting
without the guidance of the intellect, which points
out the good it should choose and love, and the evil
it should reject and hate. The same is true of fear,
of hope, and of hatred for sin. We can never acquire
these sentiments without a just knowledge of the
goodness of God and the malice of sin.
you have already learned, causes God to dwell in our
souls; and as God, in the words of St. John, is "the
true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh
into this world" (Jn. 1:9), the purer a soul is, the
brighter will this Light shine in her – just as
glass, according as it is clearer, reflects more
strongly the rays of the sun. Hence, St. Augustine
calls God the "wisdom of a purified soul" (De Lib.
Arbit., L. 2), because He fills her with His light,
which enables her to apprehend all that is necessary
Nor should this surprise us when we
consider with what care God provides even the brute
creation with all that is necessary for the
maintenance of life. For whence is that natural
instinct which teaches the sheep to distinguish among
plants those which are poisonous and those which are
wholesome? Who has taught them to run from the wolf
and to follow the dog? Was it not God, the Author of
nature? Since, then, God endows the brute creation
with the discernment necessary for the preservation
of animal life, have we not much more reason to feel
that He will communicate to the just the knowledge
necessary for the maintenance of their spiritual
This example teaches us not only that such a
knowledge really exists, but also marks the character
of this knowledge. It is not a mere theory or
speculation; it is eminently practical. Hence the
difference between knowledge divinely communicated
and that which is acquired in the schools. The latter
only illumines the intellect, but the former, the
inspirations of the Holy Ghost, communicates itself
to the will, strengthens it for good, governs and
stimulates it. By its efficacious virtue this divine
knowledge penetrates into the depths of the soul, of
t transforms our passions, and remodels us upon the
likeness of Christ. Hence, the Apostle tells us, "The
word of God is living and effectual, and more
piercing than any two edged sword, and reaching unto
the division of the soul and spirit" (Heb. 4:12) –
that is, separating the spiritual man from the animal
This, then, is one of the principal effects
of grace, and one of the most beautiful rewards of
virtue in this life. But to prove this truth more
clearly to carnal men, who reluctantly accept it, we
will confirm it by undeniable passages from both the
Old and the New Testament. In the New Testament, Our
Saviour tells us, "The Holy Ghost, whom the Father
will send in my name, he will teach you all things,
and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall
have said to you." (Jn. 14:26). And again, "It is
written in the prophets: And they shall all be taught
of God. Every one that hath heard of the Father, and
hath learned, cometh to me." (Jn. 6:45).
are the passages in the Old Testament which promise
this wisdom to the just. "I am the Lord thy God, that
teach thee profitable things, that govern thee in the
way that thou walkest." (Is. 48:17). "The mouth of
the just," says David, "shall meditate wisdom, and
his tongue shall speak judgment." (Ps. 36:30).
Throughout the one hundred and eighteenth Psalm, how
frequent is his prayer for this divine wisdom!
"Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy
justifications. Open thou my eyes, and I will
consider the wondrous things of thy law. Give me
understanding, and I will search thy law; and I will
keep it with my whole heart."
Shall we not,
therefore, appreciate the happiness and honor of
possessing such a Master, from whom we may learn
sublime lessons of immortal wisdom? "If Apollonius,"
says St. Jerome, "traversed the greater part of the
world to behold Hipparchus seated upon a golden
throne in the midst of his disciples, and explaining
to them the movements of the heavenly bodies, what
should not men do to hear God, from the throne of
their hearts, instructing them, not upon the motions
of the heavenly bodies, but how they may advance to
the heavenly kingdom?"
If you would appreciate the
value of this doctrine, hear how it is extolled by
the prophet in the psalm from which we have already
quoted: "I have understood more than all my
teachers," he exclaims, "because thy testimonies are
my meditation. I have had understanding above
ancients, because I have sought thy commandments."
(Ps. 118:99-100). More expressive still are the words
in which Isaias enumerates the blessings promised to
God's servants: "The Lord will give thee rest
continually, and will fill thy soul with brightness,
and deliver thy bones, and thou shalt be like a
watered garden, and like a fountain of water whose
waters shall not fail." (Is. 58:11).
What is this
brightness – with which God fills the soul of the
just – but that clear knowledge of all that is
necessary for salvation? He shows them the beauty of
virtue and the deformity of vice. He reveals to them
the vanity of this world, the treasures of grace, the
greatness of eternal glory, and the sweetness of the
consolations of the Holy Spirit. He teaches them to
apprehend the goodness of God, the malice of the evil
one, the shortness of life, and the fatal error of
those whose hopes are centered in this world alone.
Hence the equanimity of the just. They are neither
puffed up by prosperity nor cast down by adversity.
"A holy man," says Solomon, "continueth in wisdom as
the sun, but a fool is changed as the moon." (Ecclus.
27:12). Unmoved by the winds of false doctrine, the
just man continues steadfast in Christ, immovable in
charity, unswerving in faith.
Be not astonished at
the effect of this wisdom, for it is not earthly, but
divine. Is there anything of earth to be compared
with it? "The finest gold shall not purchase it,
neither shall silver be weighed in exchange for it.
It cannot be compared with the … most precious stone
sardonyx, or the sapphire. The fear of the Lord is
wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding."
And this wisdom increases in
the just, for Solomon tells us, "The path of the
just, as a shining light, goeth forwards and
increaseth even to perfect day" (Prov. 4:18), the
beginning of a blessed eternity, when God's wisdom
and beauty will be revealed to us in all their
brightness and power.
This great gift is the
portion of the just only, for the wicked are plunged
in an ignorance so intense that it was well
symbolized by the darkness which covered the land of
Egypt. The wicked themselves confess their blindness,
"We looked for light, and behold darkness;
brightness, and we have walked in the dark. We have
groped for the wall, like the blind, and we have
groped as if we had no eyes; we have stumbled at
noonday as in darkness; we are in dark places as dead
men." (Is. 59:9-10).
What can equal the blindness
of him who sells eternal happiness for the fleeting
and bitter pleasures of this world? How
incomprehensible is the ignorance of him who neither
fears Hell nor strives for Heaven; who feels no
horror for sin; who disregards the menaces as well as
the promises of God; who makes no preparation for
death, which hourly seizes its victims; who does not
see that momentary joys here are laying up for him
eternal torments hereafter! "They have not known or
understood; they walk on in the darkness" (Ps. 81:5)
of sin through this life, and will pass from it to
the eternal darkness of the life to come.
concluding this chapter we would make the following
suggestion: Notwithstanding the power and efficacy of
this wisdom with which God fills the souls of the
just, no man, however great the light he has
received, should refuse to submit his judgment to his
lawful superiors, especially the authorized teachers
and doctors of the Church. Who ever received greater
light than St. Paul, who was raised to the third
heaven; or than Moses, who spoke face to face with
God? Yet St. Paul went to Jerusalem to confer with
the Apostles upon the Gospel which he had received
from Christ Himself; and Moses did not disdain to
accept the advice of his father-in-law, Jethro, who
was a Gentile.
For the interior aids of grace do
not exclude the exterior succors of the Church.
Divine Providence has willed to make them both an aid
to our salvation. As the natural heat of our body is
stimulated by that of the sun, and the healing powers
of nature are aided by exterior remedies, so the
light of grace is strengthened by the teaching and
direction of the Church. Whoever refuses, therefore,
to humble himself and submit to her authority will
render himself unworthy of any favor from God.