To keep confusion and complexity to a moderate amount, I will not speak of divine foreknowledge, and predestination and reprobation.  So let us return to the beauty of divine grace with reflections from German theologian Father Matthias Scheeben (1835-1888) who wrote a magnificent work, The Mysteries of Christianity, translated into English in 1951.

Fr Scheeben writes:

Whoever regards participation in the divine nature in man, along with its concomitant perfections, as obviously intelligible or as the object of natural experience, shows by that very fact that he does not understand it at all, that he has not the slightest notion of it.  He confuses the higher with the lower, the supernatural with the natural, and so draws the former down from its celestial heights to the lowliness of the latter;  or else he thrusts nature up to such an exalted level that the supernatural and the divine seem natural to it, and so confuses nature with God.  If we have a correct appreciation of the lowliness of created nature and of the infinite majesty of the divine nature, this sort of confusion is impossible; then we shall regard the communication of the divine nature to creatures as an infinitely sublime marvel of divine omnipotence and love, and shall know how to treasure it as such.{{38}}

[Referring to Genesis, creation of Adam]:  Since the entire Old Testament was a figure of the New, natural things could he made to serve as types of supernatural things.  So the spiritual sense of the words in which Moses relates the production of natural man suggests that the same words refer also to man’s supernatural creation.  As God makes man to His natural likeness by infusing a spiritual soul into the body as an image of His own spiritual nature, so He elevates man to His supernatural likeness by stamping upon his soul an image like to Himself, the image of His Son;  and as God breathes a rational soul into man’s body in order to give him natural life, so He breathes His own Spirit into the soul in order to impart to it His own divine life.

The words do not in themselves reveal this.  Otherwise there would be no spiritual sense, no sensus spiritualis, such as is proper to Sacred Scripture.  The types did not become manifest until the anti-types had appeared in the New Testament.  Although in the present case the typified supernatural object actually existed in Adam, it could not he discerned in the words of Moses until the idea of this object had again become vivid in the New Testament.  Pervaded and exalted by this idea, the Christian Fathers had no difficulty in unearthing the mystery hidden in those words.  Especially in the forceful emphasis of the phrase “image and likeness” they discern a higher similarity of man with God than man could have or claim by virtue of his nature, and in the breath by which God animated Adam they descry the Holy Spirit Himself, who pours forth His own life upon man.  (Mysteries, p. 215)

The Fathers as a rule state that grace, sanctity, the Holy Spirit, participation in the divine nature, and charity were given to man at the outset, along with his nature.  St. Basil employs an expression that is very much to the point when he says that of old (at the creation of Adam) God breathed the Holy Spirit into man together with his soul, whereas now He breathes the Holy Spirit into the soul.  (Mysteries, p. 227)

[[38]]M.J. Scheeben, The Mysteries of Christianity (trans. Cyril Vollert S.J., Herder, London, 1951) p. 208.[[38]]

Rev Dr Peter Joseph has a doctorate in Theology from the Gregorian University, Rome and lectured in dogma at Vianney College, Wagga Wagga. He has taught theology at the Catholic Institute of Sydney & the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family in Melbourne.