Grace – The Divine Milieu

October 10, 2015 | Monastic Musings

Reflections from some of the nuns

Words are such wonderful, amazing, confusing, illuminating and mysterious things… and they can be very tricky too. We can lose their rich meanings and varied nuances especially with words we know very well. Because of this the dictionary is my first port of call when exploring the meaning of words, especially ‘spiritual’ words. It is the rare occasion when I am not taken by surprise at the rich texture of meaning that opens out. ‘Grace’ has been one of these words.

The origin of grace in English is related to being thankful and is sister to the word grateful. I recall that moments of grace in my life are always accompanied by feelings of thankfulness and the experience of having received a gift.

The Oxford dictionary goes on to define grace as the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. At first I always find theological definitions difficult and the temptation is to leave them in the ‘too hard basket’. They seem to have little to do with the everyday reality of my life. Experience however, has taught me to persevere because spending even a little bit of time with these more theological definitions allows their deeper meaning to become clear and often reveals their very great relevance to my daily life.

The first thing that is apparent and affirming of my experience is that grace is free. It is a gift that is given. It is not earned. I cannot earn grace or merit it by somehow being ‘good’. In fact, grace, and its bestowal, is about God. Grace is an outflow of the nature of God; it is a means by which God is moving toward me continually as abundant gift and blessing. God radiates grace because grace is an expression of the nature of God!

Red Tree

It is said that ‘attraction is the power of the truth shining through’. Grace filled moments, graceful movement, graceful action or speech are experiences that shine with a very attractive light. Grace seems to manifest an energy that is benevolent and flowing and kind and spontaneous. It is a power that is free of untruth or manipulation. We are attracted to grace. Grace is the power of truth shining through – this is the milieu of God, an outflow of the essence of God. Grace is God shining through, coming toward us, meeting us and rising up within us, flowing through us, between us and among us. It is important that we do not get in the way and block it. Our part is simply to be open to receive it, to recognise it and to know ourselves blessed in that moment.

One of my favourite passages and also one of my deepest comforts is found in the 2nd letter to the Corinthians. St Paul is complaining of a thorn in the flesh, which stabs him continually. He pleads with the Lord to remove it and hears so clearly in reply: My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.

Like St Paul I need to relax and stop anguishing about being an imperfect human! The Lord is exhorting me to know my imperfection and powerlessness. This place of truth is the only one from which I can truly open to the delightful grace of God, doing for me what I cannot do for myself. It is the place of paradox, where power is perfected in weakness. The God of grace enables my living, and I come to experience myself as loved and favoured in God’s sight, just as I am.

Grace can do more for me than I can ever do for myself. There is a deep connection here with the will of God. God’s will is a beatific will; its ultimate purpose is to fulfil the dream. A beatific will imparts holy bliss. The dream God has had in the creation of each of us, full of grace and truth.

Acknowledgement: With thanks to Fr. Michael Casey ocso for the expression attraction is the power of the truth shining through and for the idea of the beatific will of God as dream, imparting holy bliss.

Sources: Oxford Dictionary, Vines Complete Expository Dictionary. 


Sr Magdalen Mather osb