The spiritual or supernatural life is the true life of man. His soul or spirit is the principal and ruling part of his being, as it is the more noble part. By the spirit man knows God; by it he is capable of being united to God and, as it were, transformed into Him; whilst, on the other hand, the animal and sensitive part is only the instrument which the soul uses in order to know and rule the material world which is so much inferior to itself. The ascetical life shows that man is not of this world, but of heaven; that he is not for this world, but for Him Who is the Author of man and of the world. The supernatural man as an eagle leaves the earth and soars towards heaven; he desires nothing of this world, he seeks nothing of it, because he feels that he is better than it, and is destined for better things. Before a man reaches the perfection of the spiritual or supernatural life, it behoves him to labour much, to fight hard, because the sensitive part is entirely inclined to creatures, and it does not freely and easily follow the spirit ascending to God, but does so only by force and pressure. For as every material body naturally tends towards the earth, and is raised up from it only by a superior force, so man's senses attracted to creatures, are only by force of God's grace withdrawn from them and elevated unto God. All men are called to perfection according to the moral law, and no one can be saved who is not-at least, at the moment of death in a state of grace. This is the first grade of perfection to which all men are bound, but this does not imply that all men are bound to perfection according to asceticism. The first perfection is of precept, the second of counsel. ASCETICAL theology may be defined A science which from truths divinely revealed explains the doctrine by which souls are directed in the acquisition and perfection of the supernatural life, according to the ordinary providence of God. It is a branch of moral theology, and must of necessity have the ordinary science of theology as its foundation. Although with mystical theology it forms a subdivision of moral theology, it is distinct from both of these sciences. While moral theology prescribes the rules of action, ascetical theology teaches the means by which sanctity of life may be acquired, increased, and perfected. On the other hand, mystical theology seems to indicate a higher and sublimer degree of asceticism. This science does not teach the ordinary and wellbeaten paths of perfection, but shows a more excellent way and deals with a more hidden intercourse between man and God, always aspiring as it does to the higher and the better things, according to the words Whether the impulse of the spirit was to go, thither they went, and they turned not when they went. The distinction of ascetical from moral and mystical is clearly defined and explained by John Bapt. Scaramelli, S.J., in his work entitled 'Directorium Mysticum,' from which in substance the following explanatory remarks are taken. According to this author, after the soul, assisted by Divine grace, has overcome the sensitive part of our being, and withdrawn it from unlawful indulgence in the use and fruition of creatures, and after it has been established in justice according to the rules of moral theology, then, strengthened and attracted by God, it begins to ascend higher in the scale of perfection, and causes the inferior part of our nature to ascend with it, and thus to become more spiritual. This, he says, is Christian asceticism.
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