Sunday, November 13, 2016

Transformation in Christ : Self-Knowledge


Von Hildebrand (VH) 3rd chapter from Transformation into Christ. This chapter reviews that knowledge of our shortcomings and faith is needed to grow in our relationship with God.

Self-knowledge is the prerequisite to our inner reformation

"So long as a man is ignorant of his defects and of their real nature, all his endeavor(be it ever so laudable) to overcome those defects will end in failure. The final accomplishment of our transformation-total uprooting of our vices, the leveling of hills and filling up of valleys-requires a thorough knowledge of our defects. The radical extirpation of a defect of character requires an interior knowledge of that defect."

So from what I understand from VH is if we want to fully transform ourselves spirituality we need to better understand weaknesses.

Natural self-knowledge does not help moral progress

"While true self-knowledge is an important instrument of sanctification, there is also such a thing as a spurious and sterile kind of self-knowledge which is apt to ensnare us into an attitude of egotism far worse than the natural one. Thus analyze our character in the manner of mere spectators we pursue a false and sterile self-knowledge. We experience ourselves as we would a character in a novel, without in any way feeling responsible for his defects. Amoral frame of reference we are necessity precluded consideration of true consideration of a true significance of our person. First, we are denied the capacity to understand, completely a person as such. Free being capable of rational behavior for which it's relationship with God and the world of his values are basic and constitutive. Secondly, we are even less able to take an adequate view of our own person in regard to the fact that it is our own since our method of Analysis debars is from experiencing responsibility for that persons conduct. The type of self-knowledge  is not rooted in any willingness to change. Such a neutrality of outlook being completely out of tune with the subject treated, precludes the exploration of the depths of personality and makes adequate self-knowledge impossible. The obsession with neutral approach brings in its train  a general disfiguration of what we pretend to describe faithfully. That neutral way of looking on things prevents us to a shadow counterpart of the real situation, devoid of the latter' inherent gravity."

  I believe what VH is pointing out , is that we can not look at ourselves in a filtered manner, where we try to water down our faults by comparing or judging ourselves with supposedly far weaker spiritual people , plus it's hard to truly look into ourselves and truly know where we are in our attitude and behavior.

Fruitful self-knowledge calls us to a confirmation with God

"The only fruitful self-knowledge, and the only true one, is that which grows out of man's self-confrontation with God.  Only in recognition of our metaphysical situation, only in awareness of our destiny and our vocation that we become truly cognizant of ourselves. Only the light of God and His challenge to us can open our eyes to all our shortcomings and deficiencies, impressing upon us the discrepancy between what we ought to be and what we are. We take an interest in what we are because we are because we are determined to become new men in Christ.  Here is no place for idle curiosity, nor for the egoistic fixation on oneself as a paramount theme.  It is for the sake of God that we would become better men; and because we would become so we inquire about our present state and condition."

 It is only through grace of God that we can see where we need to improve and how we can be attentive on our spirituality and progress of being like God.

Readiness to change renders self-knowledge fruitful

"For, referring all truth to God Who is the prime source and the epitome of Truth as such,we shall derive happiness from the knowledge of any important truth, however painful its content may be, since by the very fact of its possession we progress one step nearer towards God. We shall then experience self-knowledge as a first step towards the goal of our transformation, in that it indicates the foe we must fight most urgently.  We must appreciate it as a great gift of grace from God when He opens our eyes to the actual danger, and shows us where the battle has to be fought.  Obedience appears to us as a great and glorious thing; hence, we may believe ourselves in procession of the real willingness to obey.  We feel our heart aflame, with the splendid and touching beauty of humility and so we indulge in the fictitious belief that we are actually humble. "

In order for us to move closer to being like Christ , we need to have the knowledge to be obedient to God and His commandments, and of course the teachings of the church.  This requires grace from God to be humble in doing this , it's the only way that can help us avoid the dangers of falling and moving away from Christ.

Faith protects us from the despair that self-knowledge can sometimes bring

"Still, can we avoid becoming a prey to despondency, when we peer into the dark abysses of our failures? Will not our zeal abate, our vigor be paralyzed, when we see how remote we still are from our goal.  The true Christian, however, who lives by the Faith, will not be driven to such utter despair by self-knowledge, nor collapse under the weight of his own sins when sending their import and magnitude. In defiance of all his sins and all the darkness in him, he will say with St. Thomas Aquinas: "O Loving Pelican,Lord Jesus, wash me clean in Thy blood." He knows that he can accomplish nothing through his own power but everything in Christ. True self-knowledge is an ineluctable necessity for him who desires to be transformed in Christ.  Obedience to his spiritual director or his religious superior, above all, destined to guide him towards the acquisition of genuine self-knowledge and the freedom implied therein. In order to obtain a faithful portrait of himself he needs help of others. That is why he cannot dispense with the more objective vision of a spiritual director , of a religious superior, of any friend of great wisdom and piety."

We can not get too frustrated by our failures of moving closer to Christ, in fact St. John of the cross notes our spirituality progresses is like a ladder in where we can move up and down, the key is we keep moving, we can never or should give up moving or transform into Christ , no matter how many times we full into sin.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Transformation In Christ: Contrition

This is to continue from Von Hildebrand (VH) from "Transform into Christ" book on chapter two called "Contrition"

This chapter goes over in details what being contrite is with God and how we can be truly sorry for our sins.

"Confrontation of our own selves with God renders us conscious of our unworthiness and sinfulness.  Without this basic revocation of our offenses against God there can be no genuine surrender to Him. "  What VH is pointing out is we need to know that we are sinful.

Bad conscience is not the same as continue

"There exists a kind of bad conscience without being really penitent.  He is aware of acting badly and awareness disturbs his peace and deprives him of inner harmony." This is to point out we could have weak conscience  and want no conflict, like an ostrich putting his head in the sand.

Contrition requires a repudiation of our past sins

"True penitence means a definite revulsion from ones sins.  It means a disavowed of the past, a relinquishment of one's former position with its implications of sinning. Contrition implies that we not only deplore the sin we have committed but condemn it expressly, denouncing as it were. " VH points out we need to be truly ashamed of what we did was wrong when we sin.

Contrition involves our surrender to God's mercy

"Christian penitence, there is always present a positive relation to God , grafted on the negation of sin. Confiding in God's mercy which will open to us the path of reconciliation.
True penitence makes appeal to God's mercy, and solitcits from Him forgiveness of sin. Penitence by itself is unable to abolish the guilt." It states here even though we recognize we offended God this doesn't conclude we are automatically forgiven by default.

Christians contrition yearns for reconciliation with God

"While the hope of reconciliation with God and His for forgiveness of our guilt is not, properly speaking, an element of contrition. True penitence also implies a longing, for reconciliation with God, and a desire to  walk once more in the paths. Nor is man able to obtain reconciliation by his own force it can be achieved by God alone." We all seek for forgiveness of our sins , but we need to search how to be forgiven and once again we are not forgiven by default.

Contrition also renounces future sins

"Never less, penitence implies more than condemnation sins committed and the gesture of their renunciation.
The renunciation of sin even for regard to the future. Being blind to the necessity excepting for responsibility of their past misdeeds and claiming as it were a prescription  in regard to moral wrongs  they have not contained to a conscious with a relationship with of moral values not grasped of inexorable demand with emanates from the world."  We need to be accountable for our sins, period.

Contrition contributed to a change of heart

"Yet, while penitence in such as incapable of actually securing absolution from sin, it does posses (as it does) an objective efficacy on inward change, which is specific to it which has to substitute. Subjectively, however concerning the penitents own, state of conscious, that is to say he must be dominated by the feeling that without the abolition of his guilt even his change of heart as such would lack reality, and that all his desire for becoming another man would remain ineffectual unless his guilt be taken away first by the blood of Christ."  This states that because we are sorry for our sin and look for forgiveness, that in some way looking to change but need to follow through with it and recognize that it's through Jesus dying on the cross gives us the ability to reconciled.

Contrition involves the yearning for sanctification

"True penitence involves, furthermore, a burning desire not only for forgiveness of the guilt of sin but for purification and sanctification,as well as the belief in their accomplishment by the grace of God.  The prayer for pardon and for purification, and the resolve never again to separate ourselves from God in the future proceed therefrom. There also exists a passive forms of penitence which includes hope for God's mercy and pardon, but not for purification and sanctification. In his false humility, this kind of penitent considers himself so hopelessly sinful that he dismisses the belief in his emendation as presumptuous. It would seem to him that he can do no better than commend himself, in all his sinfulness, to the mercy of God,and endure all the misery of sin with patience.  For Luther knows no purification and sanctification but merely an on-imputation of our sins for the sake of Christ. This generates no resolution to begin a new life in Christ.
He who is filled with true penitence will not only say to God: "Turn away Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities, " but continue thus:" Create a clean heart in me, O God: and Renee a right spirit within my bowels....Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit." The true Christian, though mindful of the fact that left to himself he would fall again and again, also knows that in Baptism he has received from Christ a supernatural principle of holy life, and that through God's grace he shall and can become a new man. Contrition does not paralyze the Christian, nor does it deprive him of fortitude. In his act of penitence he will contemplate, not so much his own weakness as the merciful arms of God that are extended to receive him into His holiness. Contrition alone may thus melt our hearts so as to enable us to receive and preserve the imprint of a basic new orientation towards God. From contrition thus experienced there will arise in him the genuine and heroic determination to become a new man. He forms the resolution, cleansed of all illusions and conceived in holy sobriety, never again separate himself from God."  This is a big reflection on how we can not only look for forgiveness but praying for mercy is good, however we can't excuse ourselves for looking for formal forgiveness just because we feel we sin all the time it may seem impossible to be formally forgiven and that it's sufficient to trust God's mercy and assume you will be forgiven, this is not real penitence

Contrition is a form of radical self-surrender

"True penitence is that of radical self-surrender.  He surrenders himself in humble charity. "

Contrition awakens our soul in its depths

"Contrition causes us to withdraw from our peripheral interests and concentrate on the depths. It is in contrition that we respond to the infinite holiness of our absolute Lord, the eternal Judge. It imparts to the soul of man a unique character of beauty. For it is in contrition that the new fundamental attitude of a humble and reverent charity becomes dominant and manifest, that man abandons the fortress of pride and self-sovereignty." Recognizing our sin creates us to be more charitable.

"Persons who, while leading a correct life and avoiding all transgressions in the strict sense of the term, never come to achieve that full surrender to God which (in a humanity tainted with original sin) is possible in contrition alone. Such persons are anxious to keep God's commandments but they never discover the immense, unbridgeable abyss that separates the holiness of God from our sinfulness. Full self-surrender and the renunciation of all self-assertion(however hidden); the spiritual position of standing naked before God and throwing oneself altogether upon His mercy."  It is noted here that even if we are good following or observe the Ten Commandments, just like the rich man (Mark 10:17) we need to take the next step and full surrender ourselves and this can only be done by accepting our weaknesses and then knowing God is truly merciful.