The concept of Divine filiation is at the heart of the Christian mystery. Dave “The Power” VanVickle and I, explain the powerful reality that in Christ, we are sons and daughters of the Father. We provide you with a thorough understanding of this theological concept that harmonizes all the doctrines of the Catholic faith and reminds us of the goal of all our practices.
The moment we are baptized in Christ, we are brought back home to the Father as his sons and daughters. This is the beginning of Heaven.
Understanding Divine Filiation
- It’s easy to go through the motions of the Catholic faith without understanding the goal behind all the doctrines.
- We don’t know what we’ve lost and that’s why we don’t see the gravity of our sin anymore. We must ask God to gives us the grace to not only see sin through the background of Adam and Eve, but to also see it through the background of our own life. Only then, can we fully appreciate what Christ has done for us.
- Divine filiation is the concept that in Christ, we are all sons and daughters of God the Father. This concept is all over Scripture. It’s the organizing principle that unifies all the doctrines of the Catholic faith. It allows us to arrange and assemble all the truths of the Catholic faith. It harmonizes the dogmas of the Catholic church. Similarly, Covenant theology is often used as the center text that harmonizes and assembles the hierarchy of Scripture in salvation history.
- Christianity can ultimately be summarized as “the union of man with God in Christ Jesus.”- Frank Sheed
- In order to understand Divine filiation we must learn the following things:
- Who is God?
- Who is man?
- Who is Jesus? and
- What is the nature of the union between man and God?
- Jesus Christ establishes our family bond with God the Father as his sons and daughters because Christ is the eternal Son of God. His life, death, and resurrection brought us into Divine filiation with the Father. We are not only saved from sin, but we are also saved for sonship (Dr. Scott Hahn)
- Adam and Eve were created in the image and likeness of God, which means that they not only had free will and reason, but they were also sons and daughters of God. They lived in a covenantal relationship with the Father as his beloved children. As sons and daughters of God, Adam and Eve existed in perfect and infinite union with God. They were the pinnacles of creation and had dominion over all the earth.
“This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.”- Genesis 5:1-3
- After the fall, Adam and Eve break their covenant with God and lose their sonship/daughterhood. In their rebellion against God, they disinherit everything that belonged to them in the Garden of Eden.
- Divine filiation is at the heart of the Christian mystery.In Christ, we have been adopted by God. This adoption comes to fruition through prayer and the sacraments throughout our lives as we learn to live as sons and daughters of God.
- Baptism breaks us free from our sinful covenant in Adam and resurrects us in a new covenant in Christ, restoring our identity as sons and daughters of God.
- Understanding the Incarnation is key in order to understand the Divine exchange that God wants to bring us into. Since Jesus shares our humanity, his sacrifice makes us able to present ourselves as sons and daughters again before God the Father.
- Divine filiation is at the heart of morality. We can’t understand the morality of Jesus if we don’t understand that he is the eternal Son of God and that he is teaching us how to live this Divine Sonship. In our imitation of Jesus, we learn what it means to be a child of God.
- God call us to holiness because he is trying to conform us into the image of Christ.
- Heaven does not begin when we die, it begins the moment we are baptized and born again in Christ and brought back home to the Father as his adopted children.
- We shouldn’t just stop with the knowledge that we are a sons and daughters of God, that is just the beginning. The rest of our lives should be dedicated to learning how live or sonship/ daughterhood.
- Mortal sin destroys our relationship with the Father and it throws us into self-exile. The mercy of Christ heals and restores us so that we can return home to the Father. What is Christ’s by nature shall be ours by grace.
- Theosis is the concept that in his union with God, man becomes divinized.
Divine Filiation in the Catechism
God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.
“It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will. His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature.”
God, who “dwells in unapproachable light”, wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons in his only-begotten Son. By revealing himself God wishes to make them capable of responding to him, and of knowing him and of loving him far beyond their own natural capacity.
The divine plan of Revelation is realized simultaneously “by deeds and words which are intrinsically bound up with each other” and shed light on each another. It involves a specific divine pedagogy: God communicates himself to man gradually. He prepares him to welcome by stages the supernatural Revelation that is to culminate in the person and mission of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.
For a Christian, believing in God cannot be separated from believing in the One he sent, his “beloved Son”, in whom the Father is “well pleased”; God tells us to listen to him. The Lord himself said to his disciples: “Believe in God, believe also in me.” We can believe in Jesus Christ because he is himself God, the Word made flesh: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” Because he “has seen the Father”, Jesus Christ is the only one who knows him and can reveal him.
The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life. This new life is above all justification that reinstates us in God’s grace, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Justification consists in both victory over the death caused by sin and a new participation in grace. It brings about filial adoption so that men become Christ’s brethren, as Jesus himself called his disciples after his Resurrection: “Go and tell my brethren.” We are brethren not by nature, but by the gift of grace, because that adoptive filiation gains us a real share in the life of the only Son, which was fully revealed in his Resurrection.
Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.
Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.
Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an “adopted son” he can henceforth call God “Father,” in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.
Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church. There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments. There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning “favor,” “gratuitous gift,” “benefit.” Whatever their character – sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues – charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church.
Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us “co-heirs” with Christ and worthy of obtaining “the promised inheritance of eternal life.” The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness. “Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due… Our merits are God’s gifts.”
Before we make our own this first exclamation of the Lord’s Prayer, we must humbly cleanse our hearts of certain false images drawn “from this world.” Humility makes us recognize that “no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him,” that is, “to little children.” The purification of our hearts has to do with paternal or maternal images, stemming from our personal and cultural history, and influencing our relationship with God. God our Father transcends the categories of the created world. To impose our own ideas in this area “upon him” would be to fabricate idols to adore or pull down. To pray to the Father is to enter into his mystery as he is and as the Son has revealed him to us.
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Meet Your Hosts
Michael “Gomer” Gormley
Michael has been leading evangelization and ministry efforts for the past ten years, both as a full-time parish staff member and as a speaker and consultant for parishes, dioceses, and Catholic campus ministries.
Michael is also the founder and creative director of LayEvangelist.com, and the producer and cohost of a Catholic young adult podcast Catching Foxes, which discusses the collision of Faith and Culture.
He is married to his college sweetheart, Shannon, and they have about 1,000 children and get about 3 hours of sleep a night, which is alright by him.
Dave VanVickle fell in love with the Lord at the age of fourteen and has since dedicated his life to bringing others into a radical relationship with Christ.
Dave is a speaker and retreat leader who focuses on proclaiming the universal call to holiness, authentic Catholic spirituality, spiritual warfare and deliverance. Additionally, Dave has over ten years of experience assisting Priests with their ministries of exorcism and deliverance.
Dave resides in Pittsburgh with his wife Amber and their five children: Sam, Max, Judah, Josie and Louisa.
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