The gift of Piety and the path of penance

How does one advance? how does one rise? 

 Piety and penance. 

Augustine and Francis de Sales often cite Romans 5:5, that the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. It is grace, a gift of God. Thomas Aquinas speaks specifically about piety as gift of the Holy Spirit. St Thomas explains that “the Holy Ghost moves us to this effect among others, of having a filial affection towards God, according to Romans 8:15, ‘You have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father).’ And since it belongs properly to piety to pay duty and worship to one’s father, it follows that piety, whereby, at the Holy Ghost’s instigation, we pay worship and duty to God as our Father, is a gift of the Holy Ghost.” 

John Paul II spoke about the “mysterium pietatis.” What is the mystery of piety? Piety is the latin term for the gratitude due to parents and country, which is part of natural justice; and it is extended to mean gratitude and right relationship towards God, which also is part of natural justice — it is part of what we call “religion” or the binding of the self to God. The highest manifestation of piety is the gift of the Holy Spirit, which orients the soul to love God as a Father, as Aquinas notes above. (He says: “To pay worship to God as Creator, as religion does, is more excellent than to pay worship to one’s father in the flesh, as the piety that is a virtue does. But to pay worship to God as Father is yet more excellent than to pay worship to God as Creator and Lord. Wherefore religion is greater than the virtue of piety: while the gift of piety is greater than religion”)

Blessed John Paul II speaks about the “mystery of piety.” The idea of mystery invites response and participation. We are not mere passive recipients of this grace; we seek what we love. The mystery of piety ultimately refers to the object of religion, Jesus Christ. The Christian becomes what he loves, Christ, the son of the Father. John Paul II says “the Christian accepts the mystery of Christ, contemplates it and draws from it the spiritual strength
necessary for living according to the Gospel.”

As we look to the mysterium pietatis – Christ – we learn the path of penance. For Christ who “though he was innocent chose the path of poverty, patience, austerity and one can say the penitential life.” (On Reconciliation and Penance, #26). And the Church finds the power for good in this mystery and therefore must “seek to express itself in precise
ministerial functions directed toward a concrete practice of penance and
reconciliation.”

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