Grace and Charity. Participation in the Divine Nature and Union with God: The Surpassing Contemporary Significance of Thomas Aquinas’s Doctrine of Divinization

One of the overarching motivations for the modern turn from theocentrism to anthropocentrism was the attempt to achieve the full realization of human subjectivity and, indeed, sovereignty. Yet the dialectic between a gnostic angelism and a materialistic animalism that necessarily ensues from isolating the human being from its transcendent origin and end destroys what the anthropocentric turn set out to achieve. In his expansive philosophy and theology of participation and deification Aquinas has a lesson of surpassing contemporary significance to offer: The genuine realization of subjectivity comes about only in what is best called a self-less self-realization in the twofold participation of the human being in the origin and end of all things (1) qua rational creature through intellect and will in the First Truth and Sovereign Good and (2) qua created dynamic image in the conformation with the divine exemplar in an everlasting union of vision and love with the Triune God. The former is the creaturely condition of the possibility for the latter and the latter is the surpassing fulfillment of the former. The quasi-ontological foundation for this self-less self-realization in the union with God is sanctifying grace and its inchoative realization are operations of the infused habitus of charity.