Sunday, April 25, 2010

More thoughts on penance.

"They that are Christ's have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." - Galatians 5:24
Mortification is clearly imposed on us by reason of the effects of our personal sins. Renewed actual sin engenders a habitual bad disposition which, when grave, is called a vice or at least a defect. These defects are habitual modes of seeing, judging, willing, and acting, which combine to form an imperfect mentality, a spirit which is not that of God. And sometimes they translate themselves to our exterior, so much so that someone has rightly said that at thirty or forty years of age every man is responsible for his own countenance, according as it expresses pride, self-sufficiency, presumption, contempt, or disillusionment. These defects become traits of character, and little by little God's image is effaced in us.
When sins are confessed with contrition or sufficient attrition, absolution obliterates sin, but it leaves certain dispositions, called the remnants of sin, reliquiae peccati, 24 which are, as it were, im­printed in us, like a furrow in our faculties, in our character and temperament. Thus the seat of covetousness remains after baptism. It is certain, for example, that although a man who has fallen into the vice of drunkenness and who accuses himself of it with sufficient at­trition receives together with pardon sanctifying grace and the infused virtue of temperance, he preserves an inclination to this vice, and, unless he flees from the occasions, he will fall again. This trying inclination must not only be moderated, it must be mortified, made to die in order to unfetter both nature and grace.
Finally in a spirit of penance, we must mortify ourselves to expiate past sin that has already been forgiven and to help us avoid sin in the future. The virtue of penance leads us, in fact, not only to hatred of sin as an offense against God, but still more to reparation. For this last, to stop sinning is not sufficient; a satisfaction must be offered to divine justice, for every sin merits a punishment, as every act inspired by charity merits a reward.(26) Consequently, when sacramental absolution, which remits sin, is given to us, a penance or satisfaction is imposed upon us that we may thus obtain the remission of the temporal punishment, which ordinarily remains to be undergone. This satisfaction is a part of the sacrament of penance which applies the Savior's merits to us; and as such, it contributes to our restoration to grace and to its increase in us.(27) - Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume II, Chapter 20
Art:  Vision of Saint Francis of Assisi - Vicente Carducho, 1691;  Museum of Fine Arts, Budapesst, Hungry


  1. Maria1:21 PM

    w"...We must mortify ourselves to expiate past sin that has already been forgiven and to help us avoid sin in the future. The virtue of penance leads us, in fact, not only to hatred of sin as an offense against God, but still more to reparation".
    Mortification as a means of expiating past sin already forgiven...Penance as leading to reparation...I did not previously undertand the link between penance and the desire for reparation in just this way, until now. Thank you!

    Hardon SJ provides such a short and concise definition of penance and reparation in his commentary (posted the link in your previous and recent post on the subject of penance):

    "If we ask, why penance and reparation, the first answer is: Because God wants it.

    But if we press the question: Why does God want it? Then we must say, because in His mysterious wisdom, His justice requires it. We may legitimately say, without really understanding it, that He has no choice. Having given us a free will, if we abuse liberty, we must use our freedom to repay to God the love we have stolen from Him (which is penance) and repair the damage we have done (which is reparation). [He seems capable of rendering the most complicated subjects easy as pie, doesn't he?]

    Notice, all along I have been using the first person plural, "we", because penance and reparation are owed to God not only because I have individually sinned, but because we human beings have sinned and are sinning, in our day, on a scale never before conceived in the annals of history".

    But it is a long,steep hill getting to the summit where one can see the panoramic view of my sin, and further still to understanding the concepts so beautifully articulated in your post, Terry. Thanks...

  2. Maria2:22 PM

    "Even after the eternal punishment is taken away by sacramental absolution, temporal punishment normally remains to be expiated".
    Hardon SJ
    So clear.

  3. As I have fallen off of the "eating disordered wagon" today. I find this sentence most helpful.

    "unless he flees from the occasions, he will fall again"

    I will memorize this and begin again.

    My word verification is Lagness.
    -Today I lag behind.


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