Purus actus gaudium purum

Said in English the title seemed sentimental, but pure act is pure joy all the same, since to be pure act requires the awareness that one will always possess the highest possible delightful reality. But the intensification of delight is measured by its approach to an ecstasy that we fear will kill us or split us wide open; and in this sense pure act becomes much more intelligible through the processions that come forth from it. Christianity claims that these processions can be verified within pure act itself, though natural theology can only content itself with the inferior sort of procession that terminates in creation.

Creation thus  reduces to ecstatic joy, and so it is by joy that creation makes a unique return to its source; and by gloominess, apathy, dullness and depression that it experiences a peculiar alienation from it (N.B. sadness and sorrow are not in every way contrary to joy, and we only include those sorts of sadness that are).

Seen in this way, the argument from evil is recast as an argument from inappropriateness: how can God rejoice when there is so much evil in the world? What sense is there in reducing the events of life to an indefatigable rejoicing? C. S. Lewis seems to be responding to an idea like this when he denies that the world can have the final veto on the dispositions of heaven. It’s ultimately incoherent to pray – in an inversion of the third petition of the Our Father –  that our will be done in heaven as on earth.

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