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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Predestination and Spiritual Revival

At the heart of every revival is the eternal plan of the Father that has predestined us in Christ for every spiritual blessing. There is such wisdom and goodness in this plan that it can move the coldest of hearts into prayer. It is this grace that stands behind the revival of our own times—the Eucharistic revival is a grace that the Father has predestined us to receive. Will we open the eyes of our hearts and welcome the gift?

Some use sacred doctrine to distract themselves from the power with which God moves. One doctrine that ought especially evoke tears of compunction and gratitude is predestination. Instead, it is often proposed in a way that stirs up bewilderment and confusion. Yet, if approached correctly, predestination can draw us into contemplation and lead to spiritual renewal.

Predestination is sometimes used to mask anxiety and smugness before the mysteries of grace and freewill, God's plan and human freedom, who will get into heaven and who will not. The mystery is approached as if it only concerns the particular future of this soul or that one. Yet the Fathers of the Church and mystics like Saint Elisabeth of the Trinity considered this mystery from another standpoint. For these great contemplatives, predestination was a doctrine about the wonderful possibility to live by the love that the Father has blessed us with in Christ Jesus.

St. Augustine and St. Thomas took great pains to help us wonder over the freedom of the children of God in the shadow of the grace of Christ. They did not intend to limit the scope of human freedom in the narrowness of despair or presumption. They had no desire to discourage a generous response to the Lord. They had personally been touched by the unexpected liberty of Divine love liberating their own human love, creating in it new capacities, moving their own hearts across new and yet to be explored frontiers. This hope they wanted to hand on through their teachings.

To understand them, we must respect their purpose and holiness. Instead of a discouraging mental puzzle riddled with presumption or despair, they saw true hope rooted in the victory of good over evil already realized on the Cross. For them, this free decision of God in his loving plan means that nobody's life is an accident or the result of chance, that by God's grace a soul is granted the true freedom to stand with God who has taken his stand with us. In humility, they knew that such freedom was not their own doing but the grace of Christ in them. So did they find their place under the Cross of Christ and stand with Him. Correct interpretation of their development of the doctrine of predestination can only be done from this vantage point.

The saints saw themselves not as innovating but as protecting the Biblical vision, the vision of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church who preceded them. This is the vision of St. Elisabeth of the Trinity. This is the vision of St. Paul. In fact, she believed that through the biblical passages that she committed to heart, St. Paul taught her this message in a very personal way, as one soul to another. Relational wisdom can only be transmitted relationally—so the Father sent the Son, and so the Son sends us to one another, and so we enter into one another hearts with the wisdom that is from above.

In this vision, every human person is foreknown by God in a gaze of pure goodness, meaning and beauty. From the vantage point of pure gratuitous love, wonder grips the heart over just how much God has chosen to bless us in Christ. Such a vision of predestination ought to evoke determined bold confidence, a firm resolve to receive the gift that God has so freely offered. It ought also evoke humble gratitude and reverence for such an undeserved gift. Here, from the ground of fear of the Lord and love of the Father, we can discover a new willingness to avail ourselves to everything that God has in store for our lives.

We are invited with the saints to open our eyes. When we do we discover another gazing on us with an ever incomprehensible and inexhaustible love. To look into the eyes of Christ who longs for us in love, to rest in that gaze, in the love that one finds there one discovers that answers to all the most difficult questions of life. For just such an encounter, the Father sent His Son into the world—and the Word waited until the moment under that kindly movement of the Holy Spirit our eyes were finally awake.

Predestination challenges us to open our eyes. Its resounding echo resonates deep into our hearts with primordial and eschatological reverberations. Only the eyes of faith can behold the fire of sacred love igniting the whole cosmos until the heart itself burns with the same fire. To contemplate, to behold, to ponder, to yearn, to be amazed, to be astonished, to let the Word of the Father into our innermost heart—this is what it means to open our eyes. If we but open our eyes, all the blessings given us in Him transform us into pure praise. Then we become a perfect offering in which the glory of God is revealed in the world.

Predestination is catholic—universal for every time and place in the life of the Church because such is the love of the Father. Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity offers her vision of predestination to her sister Marguerite, a young mother with two daughters. She proposed predestination in Christ to help her sister open her eyes. She believes that even those with busy family lives and overwhelming responsibilities can become the praise of God's glory. So we who have been predestined in Christ must open our eyes today and behold the goodness of the Father who gives every good gift in Him—for a great gift is given us today, an immense outpouring of the blessing of the Father, and this gift of revival reveals His goodness and love for us.

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