Thursday, 14 March 2013

Goodness gracious

The sixteenth conversation is about a subject that I confess to being entirely lost on my – the Catholic concept of grace, which, according to the catechism, you've either got or you haven't got. After seven years of education in a Catholic secondary school, after decades of listening to sermons and gospel readings during countless masses, the notion of grace is somewhat alien to me.

'Hail Mary, full of grace', goes the prayer. Grace, gracious, graceful – like a polite swan gliding along a river – the associations with the word are positive, but not numinous. Amazing Grace – maybe a little more so.

So what in the world is grace? A state of mind (or indeed soul?) Fr. Tischner compares it trust, trust between two people; he compares it to participation, a ball, dance music is playing, a man looking at a woman, we are talking, jesting, and yet we move in time with the music... Well – sort of. More significantly, he puts the concept of grace in opposition to the ancient Greek concept of deterministic fate, fatum. I've read this section and I'm none the wiser. [A little look at this article on Wikipedia is helpful.]

Jacek Żakowski asks whether, bearing in mind the idea of human life being the Great Trial We All Face, is it fair that we must all merit salvation, but that only some people – those gifted with God's grace – have a chance of salvation?

Fr. Tischner explains that the concept of Grace was devised by the Church in the second or third Century, which may explain its absence from the Gospels. He describes the theological arguments concerning grace between St Augustine – who deemed that only those basking in God's grace would be redeemed (the rest being massa damnata), and Pelagius – who was more open-minded when it came to dividing mankind into sheep and goats. [I think to this day, there's a biological mindset differentiating conservatives and liberals – the former being more pessimistic about mankind's capacity for good.]

The question of who is deemed to be blessed with grace and who isn't is crucial. It harks back to earlier chapters in which Fr. Tischner says that the new catechism looks more favourably on those souls seeking faith through understanding, rather than unthinkingly following dogma.

Żakowski asks: “Where's the border in our lives between blind chance, merit and God's will?”

Fr. Tischner replies: “This is a great mystery, the zone of human lack of knowledge, that even the catechism cannot solve. In it, it says that those, 'who through no fault of their own, not knowing the Gospel of Christ nor the Church of Christ, yet sincerely seek God and His will by following their conscience, are striving under the influence of grace, can attain eternal salvation.' So there can be goodness and salvation outside of the Church.”

Well, that's good to know. 

This time last year:

This time two years ago:
Cycling and recycling

This time three years ago:
Winter clings on to the forest

This time four years ago:
Toyota launches the iQ
[Can't say I've seen many on Poland's roads since!]

This time five years ago:
Old school Łódź

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