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  • Sunday ,18 July 2010

Life of Virtue & Righteousness (2)

Pope Shenouda III

Pope Shenouda Article


Sunday ,18 July 2010

Life of Virtue & Righteousness (2)

 What is it? What are its types and levels? In continuation of the definition of virtue, we add:
 Communion of the Holy Spirit:
The Spirit of God dwells in us (1 Cor 3: 16); He works within us and through us, therefore, we should take part in work instead of taking a passive stand.
Virtue is therefore communion with the Holy Spirit.

 It is the fruit of God's wo What is it? What are its types and levels? In continuation of the definition of virtue, we add:

 Communion of the Holy Spirit:
The Spirit of God dwells in us (1 Cor 3: 16); He works within us and through us, therefore, we should take part in work instead of taking a passive stand.

Virtue is therefore communion with the Holy Spirit.rk and man's response, because if man is not willing, virtue will have not effect. That is why the Lord once rebuked the people of Jerusalem, saying, "How often I wanted to gather your children … but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate." (Mt 23: 37, 38)
   Love to do good:
   Virtue is not merely doing good, but rather the love to do good! Some people may do good for fear of punishment, to avoid criticism, to gain good fame or praise, to receive the reward, or to imitate others. But virtue    is the love to do good, even if one cannot do it involuntarily. In the "Litany for the Offerings", in which we ask blessing for those who give, we mention "those who want to give but have nothing to give". Therefore, if you are able to give you should do. The intention of the heart, the will, and the action come together, because good intention alone is of not benefit to others, whereas action is an expression of the good intentions of the heart.
   Virtue has no limits, but aspires to perfection.
   Who walks in virtue always wants to grow unto perfection, I mean the possible or relative perfection, for the Lord says in the Sermon on the Mount, "You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Mt 5: 48)
   Aspiring to perfection may require gradual progress.
   Spiritual fathers often train their children to progress gradually, because attaining the goal quickly may cause vainglory and boasting, and may even have opposite results. Spiritual fathers want their children to be steadfast in every step until it becomes a nature in them, then to move to the next step to avoid the danger of falling back.
   However, the grace of God may lift man up all at once, which is actually an extraordinary divine gift.
   Virtue needs practicing, as the Scripture says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." (Rom 8: 1) "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked." (1 Jn 2: 6)
   Virtue then is walking in the spirit.
   It may start with love, or with fear turning into love. In all cases, it is love for God, for good, and for the others, and it appears in man's conduct and in practical life. 
   Life of virtue is a life of struggling:
   God's grace likes to lift you up, but the evil powers do not want to let you alone and try to bring you down.
   Virtue is wrestling against sin, therefore St. Paul the Apostle says, "Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith." (1 Pet 5: 8, 9) "Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil; for we do not wrestle against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Eph 6: 10- 12)
   Virtue is of two kinds, positive and passive:
   The passive aspect of virtue is resisting and refusing sin, whereas the positive aspect is the good conduct and action. Virtue then is not mere avoiding sin, but also leading a life of righteousness. It in not enough to bear no hatred towards someone, but you ought to love everybody. It is not enough to keep your tongue from uttering an evil word, but you ought to utter edifying words of benefit. Virtue is not merely to do no harm to others, but rather to serve and assist them, and to labor for them. 
   Some people define virtue as a middle way between two vices.
   Courage for instance is a middle way between fear and rashness; bringing up children in a proper way is a middle way between cruelty and pampering; prudent management of one's money is a middle way between avarice and squandering; etc.
   Virtue appears in one's life on various levels: sensation, thought, heart, or action. There is also the carnal level of virtue, the psychological level, and the spiritual level.
   A person has to keep himself in every level to avoid falling back to a lower level. Senses are the gates of thought, therefore what one sees, touches, or hears may bring wrong thoughts. To keep your thoughts holy then you have to keep your senses, or at least drive away any thoughts that might rise stealthily because of the senses. Again, if the wrong feelings turn into a thought, let it not turn into emotions in the heart, and if it had turned, let it not turn into action. 
   Beware, all levels respond to each other, and each level may be a cause and a result to the other.
   The fault of the heart may cause a wrong thought and a wrong thought may cause wrong emotions in the heart, and both may lead to wrong action. Wrong action may cause the senses to err, and the senses may cause one to act in a wrong way. It is a circle where every point leads to the other points. All levels cooperate whether in good or in evil. 
   Other types of virtue include inner and outer virtue:
   Inner virtue is that of the heart, the spirit and the mind; and outer virtue is that of the body and practice.
   Love, for instance, is an inner virtue of the heart. It should turn into action outside, as St. John the Apostle says, "Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth." (1 Jn 3: 18) Here appears love expressed in giving and sacrifice. Virtue in the mind is not apparent to any one, unless it has an expression in action. Love for one's child is an emotion in the heart which should be expressed in giving, in care, and in kindness towards the child. This reminds us of the words of the Song, "Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm." (Song 8: 6)
   The seal on the heart comes through the inner emotions and faith, and the seal on the arm comes through action and work.
   Peter the Apostle set the Lord a seal upon his heart when he said, "Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison and to death." (Lk 22: 33) Yet he did not set Him on his arm when he denied Him three times, and when he cursed and swore saying, "I do not know the Man!" (Mt 26: 70-75) That is why the Lord after the Resurrection asked him thrice, "Do you love Me more than these?" And if you do love Me with the heart this is not enough but let it be with action, "Tend My sheep," "Feed My lambs" (Jn 21: 15- 17)
   God Himself expressed the emotions of the heart in action.
   "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (Jn 3: 16) With His emotions, He loved the world; and in action, He gave His Son. He expressed His love for us through His care and protection, and crowned it with the Redemption He offered for us. Therefore, we ought not to be satisfied with God's love in our hearts, but should express it by sacrificing and suffering for His sake. We ought not to be satisfied with faith but should express it through works, for, "Faith without works is dead." (Jas 2: 17- 20)
   The awe in the heart within should appear in the awe of the body.
   That is why in prayer we stand, kneel down, prostrate, lift our hands and our eyes above, and keep our looks without distraction, the body without movement, and the mind without straying. We should not be satisfied with the heart attached to God! For some people say their prayer before meals while sitting!
   We have to put the words of the Psalmist before our eyes: "But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy; in fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple." (Ps 5: 7) See also the beautiful words of the Apostle, "Glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Cor 6: 20) In this way the body takes part with the spirit in glorifying God, and virtue appears within and outside, and the emotions bears fruit outside, for "By their fruits you will know them." (Mt 7: 20) The life of the tree within is expressed outwardly by the green leave, the flowers, and the fruit, therefore, "Every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire," (Mt 3: 10)
   We want virtue to be fruitful, through good work, good words, good conduct, and good example, and practical love; to be the light that gives light to the others.
   Integrity of virtues:
   Virtues complete each other without conflict, so, if you practice one virtue, it will lead you to many other virtues. On the contrary, if you lose one virtue, you will easily lose many other virtues. It is a linked chain, if one link break the other links will break. Therefore, beware to keep each virtue that you may preserve with it all other virtues.
   The subject is very long and will continue on next weeks, God willing.