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Catholic Dictionary




The basic term in the New Testament for "grace," especially in the letters of St. Paul. Building on the profane sense of attractiveness or charm, the biblical meaning designates the goodness of God, which is at once generous and gratuitous, undeserved by humans and sanctifying by God. Charis is closely identified with the whole Gospel. Ultimately it determines why the Good News is good, because God's favor raises humans to a share in God's own divine nature (Ephesians 1:6), redeems humans from sin (Romans 5:15), and enables them to practice virtue after the example of Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 1:4). In the language of St. Paul charis differs from charisma as a divine favor that sanctifies the person, differs from a spiritual gift that enables its receiver to perform some office or function in the Church for others. (Etym. Greek kharisma, favor, divine gift, from kharizesthai, to favor, from kharis, grace, favor.)