instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, July 01, 2005

A loving vision

In the first chapter of The Sources of Christian Ethics, Servais Pinckaers, OP, defines moral theology as
"the branch of theology
that studies human acts
so as to direct them to a loving vision of God
seen as our true complete happiness
and our final end.
This vision is attained by means of grace, the virtues, and the gifts,
in the light of revelation and reason."
Each of the above phrases has implications for what he sees as the work of moral theologians and teachers of moral theology. Right now, though, I just want to write a few words on the term "loving vision."

By "loving vision," Fr. Pinckaers intends to unite two historically distinct concepts of beatitude, that of vision or knowledge and that of love. The distinction arose only in the Thirteenth Century, when the Dominicans started emphasizing knowledge and the Franciscans love. The vision of God that Scripture states is the destiny of Christ's disciples -- "we shall see Him as He is" -- is not mere intellectual knowledge, but a profound interpenetration that necessarily entails love.

Well, that's good. An obscure theological debate will be resolved to all parties' satisfaction in the world to come.

But the loving vision of God isn't something to leave till Christ's return. We who are baptized are already participants in the life of the Trinity. We see through a glass darkly, but we do see. We love God imperfectly, with whatever we have left over from loving ourselves and our possessions, but we do love Him.

And, by Fr. Pinckaers's definition of moral theology, this loving vision of God is precisely the end to which our acts are to be directed. If we don't see this as our final end, then what are we using to guide our acts?