Christian perfection; religious perfection

A term in Christian practise for a closer conformity to Gospel ideals than salvation demands. When the young man asked Our Lord what he should do to be saved, the answer was explicit:
"Keep the commandments. If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast and give to the poor. And come follow me." (Matthew 19)

"Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5)
Hence there are two ways of life: that of the commandments, obligatory; that of the counsels, of choice. This doctrine, taught universally until the Protestant Reformation, supposes as its foundation the equally universal doctrine of baptismal regeneration. One born in sin must be sanctified by grace before he can begin to follow Christ in the supernatural way, whether of commandments or of counsels. The many responding to the call is a most striking proof of the visible sanctity of the Church. Protestantism, founded in the rejection of the counsels of perfection, asserted its doctrine of universal depravity, the consequent impossibility of good works, and the negation of visible sanctity, from which so many errors flow. The way of perfection constitutes the matter of ascetic theology, a distinct branch of sacred science.

New Catholic Dictionary

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