During these present times, one at first may think that God is withdrawing His Grace from the world. But God’s loving grace is eternal and ever-present. It is present in two ways: exterior to our hearts through nature, societal and cultural channels; and interiorly, in our hearts in those who accept His grace and have made Him a guest in the house of their hearts and souls.
So, the only way we might be brought outside God’s grace is by our rejection of Him: by rejecting His laws written in nature and in our hearts, and/or by rejecting His guidance through the world’s many grace-influenced cultural channels, which He has gently guided through history.
So, if we feel that grace is withdrawn, it is us, either as individuals, or our society, which has closed off those channels of grace. And we have been doing that off and on for centuries now.
Exterior grace is God working actively, outside our will, not inside the very depths of our hearts with us cooperating as a willing friend and agent of God: that is interior grace. Example of exterior channels of grace, perhaps, is a society which has established just laws, or which has a culture which expressed piety to God, through its worship of a god or many gods, or a society which has developed a sense of humanity among its people. None of these channels are perfect because mankind – each one of us – is at base, disobedient and rebellious and will twist those channels to suit oneself. But nevertheless, God works His ways through those channels to give us glimpses of His Beauty, Truth and Goodness.
To solve the problem of our rebelliousness, God Himself, came to dwell among us to establish permanent, unbreakable physical channels of grace: Interior grace where He works directly inside our souls.
Jesus Himself is The Channel. While physically on earth, He is Grace amongst us physically. After He ascended into heaven, the Church He established is His Body on earth and its sacraments are channels promised to supply grace perfectly and to be spread over the whole earth until all have had a chance to receive His grace not just exteriorly but interiorly and affect the growth of society and culture in exterior means of grace. The interior grace is channeled through the Church making God Himself reside within ourselves making us “deified”: literally God’s special creations of Himself.
The world now has mostly rejected the Body of Christ as it did 2000 years ago: it, we, crucified God. And the world now has mostly rejected the societal and cultural channels of grace guided by God through His Church. The exterior channels of grace are rejected by society’s rejection of natural law and in increasingly stopping the flow of grace through cultural practices which might carry His love into men’s hearts. For instance, the cult of chivalry for the protection of the weak by the strong, of “gentlemen and ladies” rather than the bare “men”, “women”, of works of beauty in music and art, of good manners, of respect for the elderly, the health worker, the police, etc., these societal channels of grace are falling apart.
It took a thousand years, for God, through the Church, to establish a society based on channels of grace: Christendom – the Kingdom of Christ on earth. The empire of ancient Rome had to go even if it was Christian by 400AD. The cultural practices, habits and attitude of mind of Rome had become too hardened for grace to grow effectively.
A new society of a mix of German barbarian culture guided by the Church, especially by the Benedictine monks, who were informed with the best of Roman culture and law created a new vigorous and thoroughly Christian society and culture: Western Europe. For a thousand years, from about 800 to 1800, the world had been in-formed of the wonderful “gentleness” of grace woven into the very texture and fabric of European life, despite the constant battle going on in men’s rebellious hearts!
Real proof of the change in the hearts of men by interior grace working within their souls is seen in the new words, or old words with new meanings, introduced into Western Europe by 1200 AD: words like pity, gentle, mercy, beauty, bounty, charity, comfort, compassion, courtesy, delicate, devotion, grace, honour, humble, passion, patience, peace, purity, tender. Just think about this! Before Christendom, the above words would have been meaningless to pagans in everyday life. Sure some of these words were used, but the demand for the expression of these virtues and deeply felt emotions spread right across society at all levels. What a change to humanity! Most of these words were at first liturgical, part of the Mass, and became secularised to express a new reality of person’s attitude to others, a culture of “tenderness”. The world today still gives a nodding agreement with the emotions which lie beneath these words, but the generator of those emotions is the constant presence of the doctrinal reality of the Catholic Mass. Take away the presence of the Mass in people’s lives and the ground of those emotions become sheer sentimentality – “virtue-signalling” with no actual meaning other than conformity to whatever is the contemporary virtue of the day!
It is Interior Grace which really transforms our hearts, our wills, our habits, and by extension, our combined activity in society to transform the channels of Exterior Grace. Since we are physical beings, both interior and exterior grace must enter us through physical means, through physical channels.
The absolute means of God entering any one of us is by the physical sacraments of the Catholic Church. Note here: “physical”. Since we are physical creatures God’s main means of giving Himself to us is by physical means: firstly, by being physically among us, and then through the physical sacraments, the extension of Himself in human Time and Space. Let’s avoid the word “spiritual”: it is too vague and easily twisted by our dumb minds to understand even what “spirit” really means, but we all know what “physical” is.
And the main and ultimate physical conduit of God in the world is the Catholic Mass: the real physical sacrifice of God on the altar by a physical priest, and the separation of God’s physical Body and Blood on that physical altar made of stone – that is what things are killed on. That is what a priest is: a sacrificer of something physically living and then dying by that sacrifice. Any belief which reduces the physicality of this sacrifice reduces the main and essential conduit of God’s grace to the world.
Sacrifice is the main means mankind has of pleading to God, or the gods of the past, or for that mattter, pleading to someone else, for justice, for forgiveness, for good weather, for health. Justice demands that something living – a replacement of ourselves – is given up to God as a gift in order to receive something back from God. No different from the natural interchange in human justice. Sacrifice is part of Justice. So, that is why God became a Man so that a perfect sacrifice could be made for all mankind – past, present and future. Payment for each and every one of us in our indwelling disobedience and constant rebelliousness against God Himself. Just look at how many times we blame anyone other than ourselves. We even blame God. We are each and everyone of us quite debilitated in our thoughts, our hearts and our habits. It takes an almighty act of God to straighten us out: that is the Catholic Mass! It is the beautiful act of Love: God Himself, the Loving Creator of the Story of the Universe, allows Himself to enter the Story, and submit Himself to its evils, its hate, with Love. He died through Love to teach us how and why to love. He died to heal our hearts and to form a channel of interior grace into our hearts.
And over a thousand years, a huge number of physical actions, rituals, paintings, statues, churches, etc., all works of man, were made to underscore the main means of God’s grace in this world by the sacraments. Daily life of a Catholic was filled by continually making the physical sign of the cross before any activity, the Angelus bells, the holy cards, the daily office of psalms, the physical Rosary beads and the physical vocalising prayers through the day. All physical reinforcement of the conduits of God’s grace to the world through each Catholic. And these men and women spread those means of God’s presence in the world to the rest of mankind. The very presence of a Catholic in grace, physically spreads grace through his very body, he is carrying the Body and Blood of Christ inside him and that grace – grace is a form of God Himself – is physically touching everything that a Catholic touches – a normal Catholic in his practice of the Faith is physically altering the world!
It has almost all gone now. We, mankind, have taken away the conduits of God to physically be present on earth!!
We have made a new Tower of Babel, by giving free rein to our greed, licence for our feelings and thoughts, prideful insistence on our “rights” without “duties”, our prideful “individualism”, our deliberate ignorance of the past and the wisdom of our ancestors, and undermining even the force of logic in our promise of a “nice” life of earth, covering up the fact of death and the punishments in the after life. We have become conveniently agnostic, atheistic, and nihilistic, and have built enormously huge systems to support the Tower in worlds of politics, education, the media, our popular cultish art and music. And having the childish pleasures in sport, technological and scientific achievements to entertain and justify our “progress” and “superiority” over mankind. We are mesmerised by so-called facts of science and the miracle of the latest gadget, and turn a blind eye to some of the worst and most disgusting human behaviour in the history of mankind.
God will not be mocked. We have been steadily and increasingly mocking Him, closing off the channels of grace over the past 200-300 years and especially over the past 100 years, and we are going to be punished severely for it. This punishment is the natural consequence of our withdrawing from grace. It is not as if some angry god is punishing us. It is a loving God allowing nature to take its place hopefully to open our hearts and seek again the channels of grace.