T H E T H E O L O G I C A L V I R T U E S
The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they enliven it and give it special character. They inform and put the virtues into context with modern life and they are implanted by God in the souls of the faithful Christians, in order that they may ultimately make them capable of becoming his children and meriting eternal life in heaven. They are a pledge of the presence of the trinity of the father, son and holy spirit, within the soul of the human being. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity.
Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in the promises of God and Christ, and not relying on our own strength and wisdom, but that placed in us by the power of the holy spirit. It does not mean have your body on earth and your mind in heaven; it means keep your mind and body on earth but keep aiming for the glory and the virtues of heaven. There are many great examples of people and peoples who practised this: the Apostles, who worked towards the conversion of the Roman empire; the great movements that built up the middle ages, and the English Evangelicals who abolished the slave trade. All of these people have left their names and presence on earth by heading for heaven. Many of the modern Christians have never even thought of the life after death and the glory of heaven, and, therefore, have failed to follow this virtue. Many people find it difficult to actually look forward to death and are seriously frightened by the whole concept. This is wrong. It completely defies the virtue of looking forward to heaven, and death should not be seen as a punishment but a reward for living a full and holy life. The thing about desiring heaven that most people don't realise is that whatever we desire on earth, we can not be assured of. People can, and often do, long for holidays, and have an awful time; and, fall in love, and end up divorced. A naive person would probably blame the woman or the hotel and would go around thinking that if he tried a different hotel, or married a different woman he would have eternal happiness. But, however many women he may run through and however many hotels he many visit, he will still end up as the same old, miserable man. And what will he have achieved got of life? Nothing. A sensible man may have started off like the fool, but he would have seen through it after the first time and would settle down and learn to expect too much. This man would die a happier man than the first and would be less of a nuisance to society. But what if there was more to life than this, if there really was an infinite happiness. A Christian would probably say that creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists: a baby feels hunger, there is food; a duckling wants to swim, there is water; and a man feels sexual desire, there is sex. If someone finds a desire in them that no experience on earth can satisfy, then that desire can only be fulfilled in another world, possibly heaven.
Charity, literally, means giving to the poor. If you think of it in the virtuous sense, Charity means 'love, in the Christian sense', but love in the Christian sense does not mean an emotion. It is not a state of feeling, but of will. The same state of will that we have naturally within us and we have to respect in other people. If we love ourselves, this does not mean that we like ourselves. It simply means that we wish ourselves to do well. We also like certain people more than other people and we are more likely to be charitable to those people we are fond of; it is also easier to be charitable to someone that we are fond of. We need to learn to find something in everyone that we can like, to because this is part of the virtue of charity, but it assists in it. At the same time as being charitable to one person we need to do it in moderation, and make sure that we are not being unfair or uncharitable to that person, by spoiling them or making them expect too much from the next person, or other people, by being to generous to one single person. You don't have to love your neighbour to be charitable to them, you should just give to them, even if you don't actually love them. And the more that you act as if you love them, the more you will come to love them. The same rule applies if you dislike someone, the more you learn to dislike them, the greater your overall hatred will be. A great example of this is when the Germans hated the Jews, so they tortured them and put them through the hell of the holocaust, the Germans actually ended up hating the Jews more than they had before. If you do someone a good turn, not for God - but for yourself, you should not learn to expect praise or gratitude or when you are not praised for your good then you will feel hard done by and disappointed. Your praise should be received through his happiness and joy as a direct result of your good turn. Christian love, either towards God or man, is an affair of the will. If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God." He will give us feelings of love if He pleases. We can't create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right. But, although our feelings may come and go, His love for us will not.
Faith simply means belief and accepting or regarding as true the doctrines of Christianity. The odd thing is that Christianity regard this sort of faith as a virtue, that is, believing or not believing a set of doctrines. It is up to the independent person to judge whether a certain doctrine is good or bad and whether he will accept it or not. Once someone believe something is true he will keep on believing that until it is proved that it is not true or that sufficient evidence comes up to trigger his mind to reconsider his decision to accept it as true or not. Within our minds there is a continuous battle between faith and reason on one side, and imagination and emotion on the other. Faith in Christianity operates in a similar way: if a man has more reason to not accept Christianity than to accept it, then so be it - he shouldn't believe in Christianity unless he has the power of his own conviction behind it. If a man decides that he does believe in Christianity, the moment something goes badly wrong, he is going to use this as evidence against his reason to believe. And also when he wishes to carry out an act against the ideals of Christianity, he might decide that it is convenient to not believe at that moment in time. It is times like this when the two side of reason and emotion come into conflict. A true Christian needs to learn to keep safe his reason of his faith when he is in moments of uncertainty of moods.
by Ronan O'Kelly
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