The Exponential Growth of Charity

June 02, 2023
Source: Priory Livonia
The Trinity, Roman de la Rose manuscript. Wikimedia Commons.

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, the esteemed enthusiast of St. Thomas Aquinas, explains that that the life of grace and charity should grow in our souls until death. As St. Paul remarks: "But doing the truth in charity, we may in all things grow up in Him." (Eph. 4:15) "I pray that your charity may more and more abound” (Philipp. 1:9).

Why should charity thus grow in us? It should grow because the Christian on earth is a traveler, viator, who is advancing spiritually toward God. His spiritual advancement is made by more and more perfect acts of love, "steps of love," as St. Gregory says. We must conclude from this that charity on earth can and should always in-crease, otherwise the Christian would cease in a sense to be a viator; he would stop before reaching the end of his journey.? The way is intended for travelers, not for those who stop en route and sleep. Moreover, we are told in St. Luke (6:25): "Woe to you that are filled: for you shall hunger," but on the other hand, we read in St. Matthew (5:6): "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall have their fill." […]

St. Thomas affirms this when he comments on the words of St. Paul to the Hebrews (10:25): "Comforting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching." St. Thomas writes in his commentary on this verse of the epistle: "Someone might ask why we should thus progress in faith and love. The answer is that the natural (or connatural) movement becomes so much the more rapid as it approaches its term..." As a matter of fact, we say today that the fall of bodies is uniformly accelerated… "Now," continues St. Thomas, "grace perfects and inclines to good according to the manner of nature. It follows that those who are in the state of grace ought so much the more to grow in charity as they draw near their last end (and are more attracted by it). This is why St. Paul says here: Not forsaking our assembly . . .; but comforting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching, that is, the end of the journey. The night is past, and the day is at hand' (Rom. 13:12). But the path of the just, as a shining light, goeth forward and increaseth even to perfect day' " (Prov. 4: 18) 4

Such is the law of universal attraction in the spiritual order. As bodies are attracted in direct ratio to their mass and in inverse ratio to the square of their distance, that is, they are so much the more attracted as they draw near each other; in like manner souls are drawn by God so much the more as they approach Him. Alluding to the end of His course, Christ said with this meaning: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth (on the cross), will draw all things to Myself." (Jn 12:32) "No man can come to Me, except the Father, who hath sent Me, draw him." (Jn 6:44) The higher one rises, the more the efficient cause, which leads to action, and the final cause, which attracts to it, tend to become identified. God moves us and draws us to Himself. He is the beginning and the end of all, sovereign Good, who attracts love so much the more strongly as one draws nearer to Him. Thus, in the lives of the saints the progress of love during their last years is much more rapid than in their earlier life. They advance, not with an equal but with a quickened step, in spite of the heaviness of old age and a certain enfeebling of the sensible faculties, such as the sensible memory. Yet they hear and live the words of the psalm: "Thy youth shall be renewed like the eagle's." " Grace and, in particular, charity continually grow in them.

This increasingly rapid progress existed especially in the life of the Blessed Virgin for it found no obstacle in her, and it was so much the more intense as the initial speed, or the first grace, was greater. There was in her a marvelous acceleration of the love of God, an acceleration of which that of the fall of bodies is but a remote image.

We see thus why charity ought not only to grow in us until death, but to increase more and more like a falling body, the speed of which increases until it reaches its last end. (Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Ages, Vol. 1, Ch. VII)

How does this charity grow? This is explained by the author in his book, The Three Ages of the Spiritual Life.