The natural desire to see God is something intermediate between the innate natural inclination for our connatural end (contemplation of God through creation), and the supernatural acts and habitual inclinations of hope and charity. A confusion of these tendencies, or a denial of any one of them, leads to grave theological errors. We can thus distinguish four states of the desire for God:
- An innate desire for our connatural end - to know and love God through the mirror of creation - follows from the very nature of our spiritual faculties. This is not an act, but simply the relation of the spiritual faculties to their proportionate end.
- In all his texts on the natural desire to see God, St Thomas demonstrates the existence of a naturally elicited desire for the vision of God's essence. It can be inferred that this desire is conditional without the aid of Revelation and actual grace.
- And elicited and unconditional desire for the vision of God is made possible by knowledge of God’s promise in Revelation, together with the aid of actual grace. Such a desire is an act of theological hope, which presupposes faith.
- There is the supernatural habitual inclination to the vision of God resulting from sanctifying grace, and consisting in the theological virtues of hope and charity. This inclination is present whenever a soul is in a state of grace; it is independent of knowledge and thus unconditional, and is based on the proportionality between grace and glory (for grace is the seed of glory).
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