A Selection from the Fathers on Virtue

September 23, 2017

The essence in every virtue is the one Logos of God - and this can hardly be doubted since the essence of all the virtues is our Lord, Jesus Christ, as it is written "God made Him our wisdom, our righteousness, our holiness, and our redemption." These things are of course said about Him in an absolute sense, for He is Wisdom and Righteousness and Sanctification itself, and not in some limited sense, as is the case with human beings, as for example in the expression a "wise man" or a "just man." Which is to say that anyone who through fixed habit participates in virtue, unquestionably participates in God, who is the substance of the virtues…. Having completed his course such a person becomes God, receiving from God to be God, for to the beautiful nature inherent in the fact that he is God's image, he freely chooses to add the likeness to God by means of the virtues, in a natural movement of ascent through which he grows in conformity to his own beginning.

-St Maximos the Confessor

 

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The subjugation of the passions is not sufficient to ensure spiritual happiness for the soul unless the soul also acquires the virtues by keeping the commandments. Scripture says, ‘Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you,’ that is, the operations of the passions, but ‘because your names are written in heaven’ (Luke 10;20), having been transferred to the place of dispassion by the grace of sonship gained through the virtues.

-St Maximos the Confessor

 

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To those who are just beginning to long for holiness the path of virtue seems very rough and forbidding. It appears like this not because it really is difficult, but because our human nature from the womb is accustomed to the wide roads of sensual pleasure. But those who have traveled more than half its length find the path of virtue smooth and easy. For when a bad habit has been subjected to a good one through the energy of grace it is destroyed along with the remembrance of mindless pleasures; and thereafter the soul gladly journeys on all the ways of virtue. Thus, when the Lord first leads us into the path of salvation, He says: 'How narrow and strait is the way leading to the kingdom and few there are who follow it’ (cf. Matt. 7:14); but to those who have firmly resolved to keep His holy commandments He says: 'For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light' (Matt. 11:30). At the beginning of the struggle, therefore, the holy commandments of God must be fulfilled with a certain forcefulness of will (cf. Matt. 11:12); then the Lord, seeing our intention and labor, will grant us readiness of will and gladness in obeying His purposes. For 'it is the Lord who makes ready the will' (Prov. 8:35. LXX), so that we always do what is right joyfully. Then shall we truly feel that 'it is God who energizes in you both the willing and the doing of His purpose' (Phil. 2:13).

-St Diadochos of Photiki

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