While I was explaining the doctrine of grace in a tertiary conference last week, a simile came to mind. It is nothing I have ever read or heard before, so I hope that I am not inventing my very own heresy. (If it turns out that I have done so, I willingly submit to the authority of Holy Mother Church.)
People seem to think — incorrectly — that grace is something added “on top” of our nature, rather like frosting on a cake. But, as I tried to explain in my recent Ad Rem on the subject, and in the handout on man’s natural and supernatural edifice, grace perfects man’s soul in general (sanctifying grace), and the powers of his soul in particular (the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost). Even our passions (emotions) are perfected by supernatural grace, and its effect becomes bodily by the performance of certain acts of supernatural virtue, the fruits of the Holy Ghost, and the Beatitudes.
While considering that the soul and the powers of the soul are thus perfected and ordered rightly toward their final end (God) and the means to that end (creatures), the shocking new simile hit me. God’s grace is not like icing that merely sits on top of the cake. God’s grace is like a fine liqueur that is infused into the whole cake of our nature, to breathe its sweet odor all throughout our beings. The better our natural edifice is by the practice of the acquired virtues, the more it resembles a cake whose texture is such that it can absorb greater quantities the precious fluid. Grace does not destroy, does not contradict, but perfects nature.
Well, there it is. Readers can take their pick of the particular liqueur they would like to use in their own conceptualization.