Written by Allison Grossberg, WLLC 2015-2016
There is a bible verse, Romans 5:20, that reads, “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” It seems to me that the word grace, although largely theological in origin and commonly held meanings, represents a sort of opportunity for good, for beauty, for faith and for so many other things that parallel sin. For example, in an excerpt from a book entitled “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” author Philip D. Yancey writes that, “Newspapers speak of communism’s “fall from grace,” a phrase similarly applied to Jimmy Swaggart, Richard Nixon, and O. J. Simpson. We insult a person by pointing out the dearth of grace: “You ingrate!” we say, or worse, “You’re a disgrace!” A truly despicable person has no “saving grace” about him. My favorite use of the root word grace occurs in the mellifluous phrase persona non grata: a person who offends the U.S. government by some act of treachery is officially proclaimed a “person without grace.”” Here an obvious lack of grace is being described, a sort of lost opportunity to be good, or kind, or noble. Disgrace, however negative in may seem, provides the very opportunity the bible verse in the book of Romans describes, an opportunity for failure, forgiveness, and growth.
While the descriptions of the absence of grace just quoted play an important role in the conception and application of the word, I think the most essential function of grace is explained by Yancey as he goes on to write, “A composer of music may add grace notes to the score. Though not essential to the melody — they are gratuitous — these notes add a flourish whose presence would be missed. When I first attempt a piano sonata by Beethoven or Schubert I play it through a few times without the grace notes. The sonata carries along, but oh what a difference it makes when I am able to add in the grace notes, which season the piece like savory spices.” Again this description explains that grace involves an opportunity to add beauty and spice to a piece of music that would feel lackluster without it. So too in life, grace allows for the recognition of opportunities, the courage to take them, and the extension compassion and development when those opportunities are missed.
As a chapter entitled “Concerning Grace” from another book points out, “Living in a state of grace can mean nothing more nor less than living in a disciplined awareness of the divine flow.” Grace then is simply a give and take of opportunity and loss, and awareness and ignorance.