Christian Life

OUR PROXIMATE END

It is quite evident that we shall never be able
to get to God until we are in the proper dis
position for uniting with Him. And as God is
infinite Holiness and Perfection, it is certain
that we cannot attain to Him until the soul has
attained its perfection. “What fellowship hath
light with darkness *** And what agreement
has perfection with imperfection ? And how
would heaven be the all-lovely place it is if
imperfect and unpurified souls held their sway
amid those realms of shining light and love 2
What would an imperfect soul do in the midst
of the all-pure and perfect society of angels
and saints Would it not hide its face, and
seek to flee from the unutterable purity of the
Divine light It is only in perfect purity that
the light of Divine glory shines. Hence, “Be
ye holy, because I the Lord your God am
holy.”” “Be ye perfect, as your heavenly
Father is perfect.” * Thus we see the neces
sity of getting to perfection before we can get
to God.

I. Union with God being my ultimate end,
the attainment of perfection is my proximate
end, and is therefore my immediate business
here below. Let me consider how far I have
hitherto given myself to the study of perfection.
As it is the main business of life I ought to
know it, and be clear about it, and consider
the pros and cons in connection with it. What
hinders me in the work, and what helps me.
In such a work—the work of getting to my union
with God by perfect love, which may be at
tained very largely even in this life, to our great
benefit, merit, and happiness—I ought to be
full of interest, of ardour, and of real enthusiasm.
Yet, is it so with me 2 The children of the
world are full of life and heart in the works they
undertake. Look at the musicians, the artists,
the sportsmen, the mountaineers, the play
goers, and society folk; here is interest, here
energy, here vigorous attention, devotion, and
enthusiasm, and all for nature’s perishable
gratifications. Where am I in Divine things in
comparison with all this ? Time is short, life
is speeding away, day by day my end is nearing.
Is my work progressing ? Have I made my
design Have I yet got my ideal P Do I
know what aim I have to take 2 Is my work
clear to me? Have I anything like a map of
my way? Why should I be less wise in a work
of such momentous issues than the children of
the world are in the commonest things of life?

II. The work of my perfection shall be the
one great project of my life. In order to
arrange this the plan will be simple in intention,
but gradual and arduous in execution. It is
not to be expected that the attainment by the
creature of union with the Creator is to be
accomplished by any of our ordinary human
methods. It is God’s own work in the human
soul. If, in nature, God is ever the principal
worker,” and man is a secondary cause, clearly
in the Divine order, and in the kingdom of
God within us, it is God Himself who “worketh
in us both to will and to accomplish.”.” “Every
best and perfect gift is from above, coming down
from the Father of lights.” * God, however,
wills us to work with Him; as in nature, so in
grace. And our first disposition in this work
will be to desire it with our whole heart. Even
in nature, if we do not want to do a thing, we
don’t do it. If the work is arduous we shall
clearly have to set ourselves to it in right
earnest, if we mean to do it. In other words,
we must come from desire to determination.
The weakness of our nature, the strength of our
spiritual enemies, the constant play of our
thoughts and senses, the habitual tendency to
be drawn aside by objects surrounding us, all
tell us that a mere dallying in the work will
never do. If our hearts are not given to higher
things they will necessarily fall on lower. All
this tells us the need of real desire, decision,
and determination in undertaking the work of
our perfection. Such qualities indeed are neces
sary for success in the common business of life.
Those who are not decided are soon found waver
ing, soon drawn away to other things, and found to
be incompetent. We ought to be as wise in our
work as the children of the world are in theirs.
The perfecting of the soul being God’s own
gradual work within us, and we working there
with Him, the first step is to make an oblation
of ourselves to Him for this end. God does
not give Himself entirely to us till we give
ourselves entirely to Him, as S. Teresa was so
fond of saying. And the “Imitation” is ever
telling us the same: “My son, thou must give
all for all.” “Offer thyself to Me; and give
thy whole self for God, and thy offering will
be accepted.”* Having made this oblation, we
fix a steady gaze on the ultimate end, and then
propose to order the whole course of our lives
thereto by living according to faith, hope, and
charity; realising God’s presence around and
within us by faith, tending to Him constantly
by hope, and loving and serving Him by charity,
and moving from this Divine principle of love in
all the ordinary works of daily life,” instead of
by the merely natural self-moving principle.
Thus all the works of life, prompted and ani
mated by love, become so many steps to the
end; and the Holy Ghost soon takes the
governance of a loving soul,” and God and the
soul live the life of mutual love together. This
is clearly the work of perfection progressing,
and may be said to be the beginning of the
end. Much decision and resolution will be
needed to keep the soul in this path of love,
to make it “steadfast and immovable, always
abounding in the work of the Lord.”.” But when
a soul makes its advancement to God its one
great project, it must be consistent, and loves
to have its life “all of a piece.”

III. The essence of spiritual perfection is ever
to be placed in the theological virtue of charity,
as being the mutual love between the Soul and
God. The creature can have no perfection
apart from the Creator. Its end therefore being
union with God, its perfection must stand in that
union; * and the union of friendship is necessarily
by love.” Charity, therefore, signifying the mutual
love between God and man, is admitted by all
to be man’s essential perfection; and how in
accordance with all our best instincts and
aspirations it is to feel that the development of
our perfection is the development of our love,
seeing that “nothing is sweeter than love.””
As God said to His people of old, “This com
mandment is not above thee, nor far off from
thee : nor is it in heaven, that thou should’st
Say, Which of us can go up to heaven to bring
it to us. Nor is it beyond the sea, that thou
may’st excuse thyself and say, Which of us can
cross the sea and bring it to us. But the word
is very nigh to thee, in thy mouth and heart,
that thou may’st do it, that thou may’st love
the Lord thy God, and walk in His ways, and
keep His commandments.”.” Moreover, it must
ever be borne in mind that love is not only a
bond of union, but a spring of action. In the
work of perfection, therefore, charity is to be
our motive-power, vivifying throughout all we
do and suffer,” and moving us constantly to
fresh exploits for the love of God and our neigh
bour, all under the guidance of counsel and
discretion.” For love is “a fire, burning and
shining. When it burns in the will, it shines
in the understanding.”.” It “spurs us on to
great things, and makes all that is bitter sweet
and savoury. And as S. Teresa says, “It is
the property of love to be always working in a
thousand different ways.”” Indeed, as we all
know, the habit of virtue is for the act of virtue,
as every power is for its own proper operation.”
The eye is for seeing, the ear for hearing, the
hand for working, the foot for walking. So the
power of love is for the act of love ; and the
habit of charity for the act of charity. It is
by means of reducing charity to its act, by
working from its principle, that the power of
God’s love strengthens and develops within us;
and this growth and use of the Divine life within
us it is that carries the soul forward in the way
of God, the way of love, and the way of per
fection, leading it straight on to its ultimate
end.
|As all this working by charity to the ultimate
end is a matter of the formation of a habit,
we shall have to content ourselves with very
gradual progress. Our work in the order of
grace is on a par with work in nature. No one
becomes a finished musician or linguist all at
once. He sets his ideal before him, and works
up to it gradually. He must desire to advance.
He must be interested in his work, and be in
dustrious at it. He proceeds with difficulty at
first, but practice carries him on, and things that
were difficult at starting are easy afterwards.
Repetitions of act form the habit, and the habit
once formed, we act with readiness and pleasure.
So it is in nature, so it is in grace. The love of
God is the habit of habits. If we train our
selves in lower things, why should we not choose
the higher, and the highest of all ? We are
able to know God, to love Him, to serve Him,
to please Him, to prefer Him before all else.
Why not use our powers, and develop our
abilities It is our immediate work, our proxi
mate end, in preparation for the ultimate end
of life. Work while it is day, for the night
Cometh when no man Can work.

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