Gerald Vann OP
(1906 – 1963)
There is a sort of infinity in us, because of our power not only to become in a manner all things, but even, by the gift of God, to become one with the Maker of all things. To have our lives thus infinitely enlarged is to be happy; so that it is of this that the Beatitudes tell us….
We are made to be filled to infinity. But for that we must walk as children with God, we must be able to receive His life, we must know and love and serve Him; and all this is made difficult, and without God's restoring power impossible, because of the fact of sin.
Sin destroys the child. Instead of the docility which makes love and therefore oneness possible, there is the pride of attempted autonomy, the will to be one’s own master, which is the state of isolation from God. Isolation from God's family follows. For the proud man who sets out to be master of the world can never love the world; you have the kingdom not of the God of love but of Mammon; you have, not the oneness of knowing and loving and serving, but the chaos which follows from attempting to treat all things as your own creatures, as utilities merely, and to use all things, and animals and people and even God Himself, simply as means to your own profit or pleasure. So you have the man who possesses all things but has nothing; and he has nothing because he is alone, isolated from God, isolated even from God's creatures. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet remain thus estranged, imprisoned, frozen in the husk of his own selfhood? To live the life of Mammon is to be in hell – for hell, like heaven, in the most important sense is not so much where you go as what you become, even in this life it is to be bereft of God.
The first step on the road to happiness is the escape from Mammon. Happy are the poor in spirit. I lose God, I love the world, I lose myself, if I want only to clutch at things and use them for my own pleasure or profit. So I must, through God's mercy, repent, turn back again, be re-born. I must be “stripped of all things.” I must learn the lesson of detachment.
The Divine Pity: A study in the social implications of the Beatitudes (London, 1945)