By combining the two, spiritual direction will always preserve a certain sacramental consecration while the sacramental remission of sins will be preserved from becoming externalized. In this sense, the advantages for spiritual direction may well be the extrinsic reason for the demand of frequent confession of devotion, but they are not by this fact alone the intrinsic reason for this demand. For one thing, a sufficient direction of consciences given exclusively in confession [p.
But then it is difficult to see why it does not take place altogether outside confession. If confession of devotion is regarded too much from the side of spiritual direction alone, there will always be the danger of misunderstanding Penance in its sacramental character; there will always be a danger then of overrating its medicinal, psychological usefulness for the spiritual life, the danger that the priestly minister of a sacrament will be turned too much into a highly sensitive psychologist. Finally, and this is decisive, the usefulness or necessity for the spiritual life of advising consciences simply gives rise to spiritual direction as a useful or necessary function of the spiritual life but not to a sacramental happening.
With regard to the remission of sins as such, 4 the following reason makes it unfeasible to regard the remission of sins as the real reason which gives frequent confession of devotion its meaning: the venial sins of someone living in the state of grace are already remitted by imperfect contrition.
Mere black – soleDevotion
Thus confession of devotion is always and in every case the sacramental remission of the guilt of venial sin already forgiven before by contrition; for without any contrition at all, forgiveness is impossible in the sacrament. Since, moreover, there is no duty to make such a confession, it is difficult to see how it can be based solely on an effect which is always and in every case already present even without it. Even if, following some theologians, one wanted to suppose without any very clear reasons that only imperfect contrition with a certain degree of intensity or arising from higher motives remits venial sins by itself and without the sacrament, this does not help us very much in our question.
Frequent confession of devotion after all presupposes an earnest striving [p. Thus, even presupposing this view, it never comes to a first remission of venial sins in practice and so our question remains unsolved. Furthermore, it is not only explicit contrition which remits venial sin but every practical supernatural activity of the justified does so, to the extent in which and in so far as it is of its nature opposed to the venial sin concerned and thus implicitly contains contrition for this sin. Thus it is the reception of the Holy Eucharist which, according to the teaching of the Church, seems to be the sacramental practice which causes the remission of venial sins in our life of grace.
Hence the remission of venial sins as such does not suffice by itself to make confession of devotion comprehensible as a special function in the total life of grace. Something similar is true of the increase of grace. It is true, of course, that every sacrament - and [p. But since it has this effect in common with other activations of the spiritual life, this is not sufficient to assign confession of devotion its proper place, the place which justifies its position in relation to these other spiritual practices.
If the properties of the confession of devotion we have discussed so far have thus been proved to be insufficient for solving the question we have posed, this is in no way meant to imply that these properties do not in fact exist or that they may not serve as purposes or motivations of the one who confesses. All these effects are given together with confession of devotion; they are all significant and more decisive for our actions than that characteristic which we are now trying to prove to be what is specific to the confession of devotion. For, two different activations of the life of grace can agree in an objectively very significant generic effect thus, e.
In our question, it is ultimately not a matter of the specific difference of confession as such but of the essential characteristic of frequent confession of devotion as a special function among other activations not merely of a sacramental kind of the life of grace. It is quite true that this characteristic will necessarily have to follow from the nature of confession as a sacramental act of forgiving sins, directly ordained to the remission of sins, for this is precisely the characteristic by which the confession of devotion distinguishes itself from those other acts which can be presumed to be just as capable of taking over the function of remission of sins in the spiritual life as the confession of devotion.
This specific property of confession, as distinct from other sinremitting acts of the spiritual man, must therefore be the basis of the meaning which justifies the confession of devotion and its frequent use in the spiritual life.
Intersection of Life and Faith
But in what precisely does this special significance of the sacrament and of sacramental penance consist? All sacraments presuppose in their growth a subjective, personal cooperation with grace. This personal activity of man - since it is supported by grace - already takes man away from himself into divine spheres; it [p. The supernatural life of redeemed humanity becomes visible in historical uniqueness, in the here and now of the Church on this earth, just as it also entered historically into humanity by revelation.
Thus, the supernatural life - which, at least in itself, seems to lie quite apart from the human, historical reality - appears supported by what is visible and human, brought down into the earthly point of time, dependent on worldly things. And this spiritual life could not come otherwise; or at least only in this manner of appearing is its proper being accentuated.
On the contrary, by calling man to such a life, God has asked him to move out of the earthly spheres of his being and directs him beyond the paths prescribed for man by his own being. Such a vocation is therefore never simply given by the fact of man himself taken together with his inherent laws. If this is so, however, then such a revelation - if it takes place at all - can come only suddenly, here or there, at this or that point of history, so that there is not the same distance to the free God of supernature from every point of the being and history of man, both of the individual and of humanity as a whole.
For He is a God who is merciful where and when He wills. To mention just one example of this [p. In the same way, and for the same reason for which revelation has come historically, redeemed humanity, the kingdom of God, and the Church too are visible and historical. And just as the Church herself is visible, so also are the manifestations of her life, her vital powers, by which she herself - the Body of Christ - lays hold of the individual in the power of Christ and draws him more and more deeply into the circle of her life.
What is true in this sense of the sacraments in general is true also of the sacrament of Penance in particular. But also like every Wonder Rabbi, he embodied them, becoming a veritable font of tales about becoming the very stuff of stories as he lived, painstakingly fashioning himself into another link in that chain of consequence, as if by yet further magic.
For it was never just the magic: the magic came wrapped in superb and superbly cadenced banter. It was the quality of the voice, and that voice carried over into his writing as well. Or rather, maybe the other way around, for he labored constantly at perfecting the train of words and pauses with which he accompanied his various sleights, distilling past effects — carnival barking, burlesque, elaborate cons, arcane scholarship — into a vividly distinctive personal style.
And all three words seem apt in summoning forth the quality of that voice, which was equal parts ever-brimming curiosity, generous celebration, and soul-steeped character.
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And that last perhaps most of all. For those of us privileged to have been counted among his friends, if ever so glancingly, it was the burnish of his character that still most haunts and enswaths us, and probably always will. But, in fact, all true and living devotion presupposes the love of God;--and indeed it is neither more nor less than a very real love of God, though not always of the same kind; for that Love one while shining on the soul we call grace, which makes us acceptable to His Divine Majesty;--when it strengthens us to do well, it is called Charity;--but when it attains its fullest perfection, in which it not only leads us to do well, but to act carefully, diligently, and promptly, then it is called Devotion.
The ostrich never flies,--the hen rises with difficulty, and achieves but a brief and rare flight, but the eagle, the dove, and the swallow, are continually on the wing, and soar high;--even so sinners do not rise towards God, for all their movements are earthly and earthbound.
Well-meaning people, who have not as yet attained a true devotion, attempt a manner of flight by means of their good actions, but rarely, slowly and heavily; while really devout men rise up to God frequently, and with a swift and soaring wing. In short, devotion is simply a spiritual activity and liveliness by means of which Divine Love works in us, and causes us to work briskly and lovingly; and just as charity leads us to a general practice of all God's Commandments, so devotion leads us to practise them readily and diligently.
And therefore we cannot call him who neglects to observe all God's Commandments either good or devout, because in order to be good, a man must be filled with love, and to be devout, he must further be very ready and apt to perform the deeds of love. And forasmuch as devotion consists in a high degree of real love, it not only makes us ready, active, and diligent in following all God's Commands, but it also excites us to be ready and loving in performing as many good works as possible, even such as are not enjoined upon us, but are only matters of counsel or inspiration.
Even as a man just recovering from illness, walks only so far as he is obliged to go, with a slow and weary step, so the converted sinner journeys along as far as God commands him but slowly and wearily, until he attains a true spirit of devotion, and then, like a sound man, he not only gets along, but he runs and leaps in the way of God's Commands, and hastens gladly along the paths of heavenly counsels and inspirations.