In biblical language the condescension or benevolence (Greek charis) shown by God toward the human race; it is also the unmerited gift proceeding from this benevolent disposition. Grace, therefore, is a totally gratuitous gift on which man has absolutely no claim. Where on occasion the Scriptures speak of grace as pleasing charm or thanks for favors received, this is a derived and not primary use of the term.
As the Church has come to explain the meaning of grace, it refers to something more than the gifts of nature, such as creation or the blessings of bodily health. Grace is the supernatural gift that God, of his free benevolence, bestows on rational creatures for their eternal salvation. The gifts of grace are essentially supernatural. They surpass the being, powers, and claims of created nature, namely sanctifying grace, the infused virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and actual grace. They are the indispensable means necessary to reach the beatific vision. In a secondary sense, grace also includes such blessings as the miraculous gifts of prophecy or healing, or the preternatural gifts of freedom from concupiscence.
The essence of grace, properly so called, is its gratuity, since no creature has a right to the beatific vision, and its finality or purpose is to lead one to eternal life. (Etym. Latin gratia, favor; a gift freely given.)
See Also: ACTUAL GRACE, See Also: EFFICACIOUS GRACE, See Also: GRATUITOUS GRACE, See Also: HABITUAL GRACE, See Also: JUSTIFYING GRACE, See Also: SACRAMENTAL GRACE, See Also: SANATING GRACE, See Also: SANCTIFYING GRACE, See Also: SUFFICIENT GRACE