Choose a topic from Part 2B:

184. The State of Perfection

1. The perfection of Christian life consists chiefly incharity. Charity unites a person to God by grace and love andfriendship. Thus charity best attains the end of Christian life,which is union with God. Says St. Paul (Col. 3:14): "Above allthings, have charity, which is the bond of perfection."Charity bonds together in unity all other perfections.

2. Absolute perfection belongs to God alone, forwhat is absolutely perfect is lacking in nothing whatever, and istherefore infinite. Relative perfection is perfection inrelation to a certain thing-person, state, condition, etc. Now, inrelation to man, there is a perfection that belongs to the personwho has finished his course and has attained the goal; this is theperfection of the blessed in heaven. Another perfection is that ofman the wayfarer who is still engaged in making the journey of thisearthly life; this perfection is possible to attain here on earth.It consists, first, in the removal from life of all mortal sin.Secondly, it consists in getting rid of every attachment orappetite which hinders a person from tending wholly to God. It ispossible to have charity without this full perfection, with bothits elements, but it is impossible to have charity without freedomfrom mortal sin. In the proficient, and even inbeginners, charity exists; but the perfection of charityis in the perfect.

3. Primarily and essentially, perfection consists inobeying the commandments. Our Lord said that we are to love Godwholly, and to love our neighbor as ourselves for God and in God.He added, "On these two commandments dependeth the whole law,and the prophets" (Matt. 22:40). Now, the love of God andneighbor is prescribed in the Ten Commandments. And, since thistwofold love is the matter of charity or perfection, we rightly saythat perfection consists in obeying the commandments. The counselsof poverty, chastity, and obedience to a religious superior, areinstruments for the achieving of charity, but these are notprescribed for all; they are for those called by God to a specialway of life. The counsels call for the giving up of good and lawfulthings (marriage, occupation in worldlybusiness,self-determination as to employment, etc.) which,none the less, can be a hindrance to charity.

4. If by the term, state of perfection, we mean theposition that a person has in the Church, we see that a person canhave the state without having the inner perfection. It is alsopossible for a person whose official status is not a state ofperfection to be perfect in his spiritual life.

5. Those officially occupying the state of perfection inthe Church are bishops and religious. These have bound themselves,with religious solemnity, to the unobstructed service of God.

6. Priests and others in major orders have (in the WesternChurch at least) the vow of chastity which belongs to the state ofperfection. But for the rest, though they are bound to attainperfection in their own lives and in their own souls as all men are(and they the more so by reason of holy order), they do not holdthe official status of state of perfection. Only bishops andreligious are officially in the state of perfection.

7. The episcopal state (that of bishops) is more perfectthan the religious state. For in spiritual things it is not lawfulto look back or to descend from higher to lower status. But a manmay lawfully pass from the religious to the episcopal state; hencethe latter is the more perfect.

8. The religious state, in point of total dedication tothe pursuit of perfection, is more perfect than the state of thediocesan or parish clergy.

"The supreme perfection of man in this life is to be so united to God that all his soul with all its faculties and powers are so gathered into the Lord God that he becomes one spirit with him, and remembers nothing except God, is aware of and recognises nothing but God, but with all his desires unified by the joy of love, he rests contentedly in the enjoyment of his Maker alone."
St Albert the Great

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"The essence of perfection is to embrace the will of God in all things, prosperous or adverse. In prosperity, even sinners find it easy to unite themselves to the divine will; but it takes saints to unite themselves to God's will when things go wrong and are painful to self-love. Our conduct in such instances is the measure of our love of God."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"When the devil has failed in making a man fall, he puts forward all his energies to create distrust between the penitent and the confessor, and so by little and little he gains his end at last."
St Philip Neri

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