What is the difference between sanctifying and actual grace? Do we receive special graces on holy days?

By November 4, 2014 One Comment

Full Question

My friend says that Catholics believe that on special days such as Christmas we receive graces that are different from other days of the year. He states that there is only one type of grace and it doesn’t matter what day of the year it is. I know that there is sanctifying and actual graces. What are the differences between these two, and what graces do we receive on holy days?


The Church teaches that there is a difference between actual grace and sanctifying grace. An easy way to understand actual grace is to remember that it enables us to act. It is the strength that God gives us to act according to his will. Sanctifying grace is a state in which God allows us to share in his life and love. When we speak of being in the state of grace, we mean the state of sanctifying grace. There is no mortal sin in us. This grace comes to us first in baptism and then in the other sacraments.
The graces we receive at Christmas are actual graces that enable us to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a way that is pleasing to God.

One Comment

  • Mario Simonelli says:

    Most of those who confess Christ today also confess to be under grace, without understanding fully what grace and truth is actually about. We should know that grace and truth came about through Jesus, for we read in John 1:17: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realised through Jesus Christ.”
    It is likely that we have heard grace being described as “the undeserved love of God,” which is a beautiful description of His merciful forgiveness, but it is only one part of the story, for that description should be taken further to expose its second hidden aspect of the gift of His grace. The first part deals with receiving the undeserved love of God, which marks the beginning of our Christian life, and the second part is for us to grow in the truth of His grace (or the holiness of His character) and give His undeserving love to others. For we read in 1John 3:16: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
    We certainly know that Jesus did lay down His life for us and paid the price for our sins, which is the expression of His undeserving love for us, and we ought to know that He went further than that. In fact, He also created a graceful human character by living as a man the way He did, and because He died sinless the holy human character of Jesus is now beyond corruption, having become one with the Holy Spirit. As we read in Acts 2:33: “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.”
    The above statement is confirmed in John 16:13-15, for we read: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of mine, and shall disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine, and will disclose it to you.”
    From the above verses we can say with confidence that a holy and graceful human character, in this case the character of Jesus, has become the character of our God. They have become one and the same, as God has intended from all eternity. I know that most Christians are aware of this, but not many of them know that the gift of His grace is not limited to receiving His undeserved love in the form of forgiveness, which is priceless in itself, but also includes the indescribable gift of His Holy Character, so that we may also became “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”
    Yet to fully understand and appreciate the gift of His Holy Character we have to see it as a seed deposited in our heart that needs to be acknowledged, nourished and protected, and be allowed to grow to the full stature of Christ, by suppressing our selfish coveting fleshly character in favour of Jesus’ graceful loving character. If His heavenly character is growing and replacing our fleshly character, we are in fact laying down our life for the brethren.
    You may ask, “which brethren?” In the beginning of our regeneration we are required to lay down our life for Christ, our brother; and if you endure this transition you will come to a point that you will always do the things that please Him, for you will be living through His character as naturally as breathing air. Therefore, your new character which has become one with Christ can no longer be corrupted, for you have died by willingly crucifying your flesh with its evil desires, and for that reason, you are now protected by the power of the Holy Spirit.
    The above sublime statement is confirmed in 1John 3:2-3 and also in verses 6,7 and 9, for we read: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall resemble Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself just as He is pure. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
    How can a serious believer overlook those inspiring and revealing scriptures, for they demand our undivided attention in examining ourselves, or are there some of us who prefer not to know the task at hand, happily deluding themselves? Sadly, some of the brethren do not have this hope and will take offence if another boldly confesses to them to have that confidence in Christ; they fail to believe and/or have misunderstood that Christ in them is the hope of righteousness. They mistakenly believe that human perfection in the eyes of God can only come after our physical death. This is an error well received and promoted by those who have not crucified their flesh, for they continue to love the ways of this world.
    2Timothy 3:5 describes them in an uncomplimentary way by saying they are: “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.” Yes, that is true, for while they maintain that the flesh has the power to make and keep us sinners, inadvertently they deny that Jesus has also the power to make and keep us holy. They present this argument with a false humility with the convincing argument to themselves and to others of being humble before God. Instead of defending the useless and deceitful work of appearing to be humble, they should examine themselves and embrace the arduous task of repentance in order to take hold and possess the victory over the temptations of their flesh.
    Unfortunately many wellintentioned “Christians” do not fully understand and/or have never been informed of the difference that Jesus made to religion by realising and introducing the gift of His Grace and Truth. Since they do not understand what has been deposited (or sown) in their hearts, they fail to grasp the principal purpose of repentance, which is indispensable (as water is to a seed), for only repentance will create a favourable environment in our heart for the seed of His graceful and holy character to grow.
    Many of those “failing Christians” believe in the existence of God religiously and in obeying the Ten Commandments, and/or living their lives the best way they can, which is very well if one’s aim is to be a model citizen of this world. True believers, however, should aim to be God’s children, partakers of God’s Word and living through His Son’s Holy Character. Then, and only then, we, the obedient children of God, who have buried our fleshly nature in favour of Christ’s heavenly nature, are in the world but we are no longer of the world. John 17:15-16 and 26, verifies that by saying: “I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. And I have made Thy word known to them, and will make known; that the love wherewith thou didst love Me may be also in them, and I in them.”
    Consequently, Jesus in us and through us, can minister His undeserving grace and truth to a lost world. We will fully understand that sublime truth if we are able to absorb the wisdom of the word written in Galatians 1:15-16, for it says: “But when He who had set Me apart, even from my mother’s womb, and called Me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him.” These two verses in Galatians are clearly loaded with God’s working method and purpose. In them God is unambiguously answering us with truth that we can literally feel in ourselves: hence only with the evidence of His Son in us we are able to confirm or deny if we have indeed been called into service of His grace.
    Glory to God

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