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12. How We Can Know God

1. A thing is knowable in so far as it is actual. Since God is supremely actual, God is supremely knowable. God indeed is not well known by every mind, although a normal mind cannot come to maturity without at least some vague knowledge of God as a universal power or world-control. Those who say that man cannot truly know God are mistaken. Their teaching conflicts with the natural drive of the mind to grasp truth and to know the causes of things, including the First Cause. Besides, we know by faith that the blessed in heaven actually behold God's essence.

2. To see God in heaven, the created intellect requires a special added power which elevates and strengthens it.

3. The bodily eye cannot behold the non-bodily essence of God. Nor can the inner sense of imagination form an image of God; the infinite is not shown in a finite sense-image. Only the mind, the intellect, can behold God.

4. And the intellect needs more than its own natural power if it is to behold the divine essence itself. God must some how elevate and join the intellect to himself that it may behold him: "In thy light we shall see light" (Ps. 35:10).

5. This union of God and intellect is effected in heaven by a supernatural gift or grace called the lumen gloriae, that is, the light of glory.

6. The more perfect a soul is in charity, that is, in the grace, love, and friendship of God, the more perfectly it beholds God in heaven. The degree of charity in the blessed soul determines the measure of the light of glory imparted to it.

7. By aid of the light of glory the soul in heaven sees God himself clearly and truly. This, to be sure, is no exhaustive viewing; the soul cannot understand all that is understandable in God; God is infinitely understandable, and the soul is finite.

8. Therefore the soul in heaven, seeing God by the light of glory, does not behold all that God does and can do; this would mean the actual encompassing of the infinite by a finite mind, a manifest contradiction and an impossibility.

9. By the light of glory the soul in heaven beholds God himself and not merely a likeness or image of God. The soul beholds the divine essence directly, intuitively.

10. The knowledge of God enjoyed by the blessed soul in heaven is not piecemeal but complete and simultaneous. It is not a succession of viewings. The soul beholds God clearly and truly, and all that it beholds is seen at once.

11. The essence of God as seen in the light of glory constitutes the beatific vision. This is the essential reward of the blessed in heaven. Man cannot have the beatific vision here on earth. Here, although we can truly know God, we cannot have a direct and intuitive view of his very essence.

12. In the present life we use our natural power of reasoning, that is, the power of the thinking mind, to acquire true knowledge of the existence, nature, and attributes of God. This is essential knowledge of God, but it is not the direct beholding of the divine essence itself.

13. The knowledge of God which we can acquire by natural reasoning is richly enhanced by the faith and by divine revelation. Thus in the present earthly life we can know God by reason, by faith, by revelation.

"Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life eases the mind and a clean conscience inspires great trust in God."
Thomas á Kempis

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"God has no need of men."
St Philip Neri

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"As the flesh is nourished by food, so is man supported by prayers"
St Augustine

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