Monday, August 11, 2014

Black Grace and White Grace

Blessed Fulton J. Sheen
While recently enjoying some family vacation with my wife, children and wonderful in-laws, I was also blessed to have another wise friend nearby:  Blessed Fulton J. Sheen.  Although the book I was reading was  written in 1950, Sheen was able to share some piercing insights about how we (post-)modern men and women experience God's grace.  (No wonder he is considered a forerunner of the new evangelization!)

The following selection describes the movement toward Christ-centered living, which alone can fulfill the deepest and most authentic desires of our self, and it introduces a very helpful distinction between "Black" and "White" Grace:

“There are two great moments in the life of every soul as it advances to the Christ-centered level.  The first is negative and passive; the second is active and Divine.  The first crisis is an overwhelming sense of emptiness, which is actually ‘Black Grace’; the second is a sense of the Divine presence, or ‘White Grace.’  The first experience involves a discontent, a consciousness that God is making an impact on the soul.  The first condition is a result of Godless living; it might be called the negative Presence of God in the soul, as God’s actual Grace is His positive Presence.

“The first feeling of tension is the product of man’s desire for an Infinite, and all the ennui and boredom results from the realizations, sometimes very sharp, that he has not realized this desire.  We may not know what it is that we are seeking, but in all of us there is a longing for something unattained—and a restlessness with everything else for lack of it.  We feel deprived of something that ought to be ours. We see ourselves moving through the world not so much as peasants, who never had anything, but as royalty in exile, ever conscious of our original dignity.  We are searching and looking—not so much because we hope to hit on a new treasure, but to recover one we have already had and lost….

“But there is a second crisis of the soul.  In this moment it becomes conscious of its relationship to Divinity, to what we call White Grace.  This most important step takes place when the little cross on which we suffer catches sight, on the hill of Calvary, of the Great Cross of Christ.  At the moment when a man realizes that these two crosses are related, a double truth dawns on his soul:  First, he feels a sense of his guilt, such as one could never know until he felt himself in relationship to a Divine Person—for no one ever feels guilty toward the impersonal.  He now understands what sin is: it is the killing of Goodness….

“But there is a second lesson which comes from the Cross and it is more important than the recognition of guilt.  That is a recognition of the healing powers of Him Who is upon the Cross.  The human heart which grasps this reality will not concentrate upon his own disease, but on the curative powers of Him Who can cure it.  He pardoned us with His ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do’; yet even that would not suffice to help us if he were only a man and not God; the human soul would feel eternal remorse for having taken a life that could not be restored again.  But He Who is on that Cross is God as well as man, and by rising from the dead, He bestowed on us the very Life we would have taken away.” (Lift Up Your Heart, pp. 168-72)

May we always recognize the gift of "Black Grace" in those moments when we most need it, and may the ever-flowing "White Grace" lift us closer to the One who makes us whole!

Our Lady of the Assumption, pray for us and for the whole world--