July 2, 2017
Session II: The Ten Commandments and The Virtues
July 2, 2017
Session II: The Ten Commandments and The Virtues
by Dick Wells, Jr. Warden
Another Word re: the Virtues
First, here’s just a follow-up on Father Bottom’s previous clarifications and thoughts about the Cardinal Virtues. As we know, these are not the only virtues, but together they are the foundation for all others. The word cardinal comes from the Latin cardo (pertaining to a hinge; applied to that on which something turns or stands or a cardinal point). The Cardinal Virtues remind me of the two commandments on which hang all the Law and the Prophets.
Thus, the four Cardinal Virtues provide a base, or hinge, or hanger, we follow in order to live by the other virtues.
The first use of the word “cardinal” to describe these virtues is in St. Ambrose of Milan’s commentaries on the Gospel of Luke. It also appears in writings of St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and St. Thomas Aquinas. As Christians, we need to understand that these virtues are more than just the gift of God. There is among some “modern” Christian groups a misunderstanding that righteousness (and thus living the Cardinal Virtues and more) just automatically comes with accepting Christ. We know otherwise because we must walk in the way of Jesus; that is, hard human work is required to practice and carry out the virtues. What is required of us is that we have a responsibility to participate in the life of the virtues by the power of God’s Spirit.
As Dr. Peter Kreeft writes: “God’s word says that ‘faith without works is dead.’ The works of virtue are the fruit of faith, that is, of a live faith. … (God) makes his power and grace available to us once we are joined to Christ. But if we simply sit back and let that spiritual capital accumulate in our heavenly bank account without making withdrawals and using it, we are exactly like the wicked and slothful servant who hid his master’s money rather than investing it, in Jesus parable of the talents (Mark 25, 14-30).”
Leading us to The Cardinal Virtue of Justice.
Justice gets high praise in the Scriptures. All 10 of those oft repeated Commandments are concerned with justice. And Jesus, the Most Just of all, died for the unjust, bearing our sins so that we could be reconciled to God (Romans 5:10-11; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Yes, Paul, too, is telling us to get off our collective duffs and do the work of God through Christ.
Then Justice is the virtue that lets us take on our Christian responsibilities and to give to others what is due them. Justice means that we respect others and all of God’s creation and fulfill our obligations to people and to all of God’s creation.
Even ancient philosophers recognized the importance of justice as a sort of perfect balance in which ALL parts, all things, are fairly balanced in relation to the whole. Much later, Thomas Aquinas said justice (and the other three Cardinal Virtues) form the moral development in all people, and among Christians those Virtues can only be understood and fully achieved through the Grace of God.
The Individual and Justice
I have freely used the word “we” to be inclusive for us Christians in talking of our rights and responsibilities in living the Cardinal Virtue of Justice. But for Christians, Justice is individual before it is group. Each of us must understand that we are just or unjust to ourselves before we are just or unjust toward others. However, don’t be misled in thinking about this individual responsibility as a sort of “moral relativism.” Moral relativists (or ethical relativists) might maintain that justice is established by the individual, and that morality is created by human beings and subject to them alone. This means objective moral truths do not exist. Moral relativism would says that what is right today may be wrong tomorrow and that all things are subject ot change – even truth and justice. But traditional Christian worship shows us that morality (and justice) is objective and fixed in our guidance from God.
Kreeft says: “The human body has a structure that is inherent, not socially changeable, and the laws of its health are equally inherent and unchangeable, objective. The same is true of the soul. Virtue is simply health of soul. Justice, the overall virtue, is the harmony of the soul, as health is the harmony of the body. Justice is not just paying your debts, not just an external relationship between two or more people, but also and first of all the internal relationship within each individual among the parts of the soul.”
When we let the Word of God guide us and we act upon the Word we will have justice for ourselves and for others. We are assured that what is just today will not change and be unjust tomorrow. By being guided by God’s Word and obeying him, we will build our individual lives and work to ensure a just foundation within our society.
Some Anglican Guidance about Justice
Excerpts from the Prayer Book Catechism at the back of the BCP:
Q: What response did God require from the chosen people?
A: God required the chosen people to be faithful; to love justice, to do mercy, and to walk humbly with their God. …
Q: What is our duty to our neighbors?
A: Our duty to our neighbors is to love them as ourselves and to do to other people as we with them to do to us; …To be honest and fair in our dealing; to seek justice, freedom, and the necessities of life for all people; and to use our talents and possessions as ones who must answer for them to God. …
Q: How does the church pursue its mission?
A: The church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love. …
And lastly, one passage that resonates especially with me, primarily because of my work in many nations around the world, is part of The Baptismal Covenant (see page 305):
Celebrant: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
Me: I will, with God’s help.
by Fr Bottom, Curate
Most of us are aware of the seven deadly sins, I think largely due to the motion picture Seven with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. They are as follows: pride, covetousness, lust, wrath, gluttony, envy, and sloth.
But there are seven virtues far more beautiful and far more interesting than the well-known sins; there are three Theological Virtues – Faith, Hope, and Love; and four Cardinal Virtues – Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude, and Justice.
by Jesse Davis, Sr Warden
Wasn’t Temperance that lady from The Crucible? You know, “I saw Goody Temperance cavorting with a black cat!” Isn’t it the same thing as abstention and Prohibition?
Temperance is a six dollar word for moderation or restraint.
But this view is deceptively simplistic. For Christians, Temperance goes beyond Philosophy 101 and desk calendar wisdom. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul lists Temperance among the “fruits of the Spirit.” And in 1 Corinthians 9:27 he says, “I pummel my body and subdue it.” Paul is reminding us that in a world full of temptation, the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to live according to God’s will. While the Buddha and the Greeks taught that human will can resist sin on its own, we know that Christ is our only salvation — from sins we have already committed and sins we struggle not to commit. In Christianity, the integral role of forgiveness is what elevates Temperance from a good idea to one of the Cardinal Virtues. Intentionally living with Temperance, that is, the discipline or habit of moderation and restraint, fosters a contrite heart necessary for repentance, and a contrite heart then naturally seeks to live with Temperance.
Unfortunately, today we live in a culture that scoffs at Temperance and lauds her enemies — gluttony, lust, and excess. Hollywood produces reel after reel of teen party movies in which the goals are to drink as much alcohol and have as much sex as possible, without consequences. Because, hey, Party! Binge drinking is an ever-present aspect of college life. All-you-can-eat buffets are a staple of the restaurant scene. Taco Bell has invented a “Fourth Meal” to satisfy late-night cravings (I think you can add a cheesy-gordita-crunchwrap-supreme to any combo meal for like a nickel). In one popular cable show, the host travels the world eating the biggest and most outlandish foods he can find. And pornography is freely available and readily accessible by anyone (of any age) with a smartphone.
Confronted with this panoply of degradations, living with Temperance is hard. Certainly our culture does nothing meaningful to hold us accountable. So like any other vital struggle, our only recourse is in Christ and each other. Each Sunday we recite the BCP confession, asking for both forgiveness and the means to walk in God’s ways. Essentially, we ask for growth in the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The habitual life of the Spirit is a life of intentional discipline, which makes room for the Spirit to grow in us virtue, and slowly, the virtues begin to lead us away from habitual sins. Here’s a pro tip, from an old school sinner. We can make the same confession with whatever words come to our lips (it doesn’t necessarily have to come from the BCP. Although the language is readily available). We can beseech the same strengthening power at whatever hour we need it. It works. Seriously. Try it sometime soon — before you pour another glass of wine, or order Arby’s Meat Mountain sandwich. You won’t just feel better, you’ll draw closer to God and his plan for you.
The more you resist over-indulgence, the easier it is to live in the habit of Temperance.
That’s the wonderful thing about Temperance. Even though it seems like we’re giving something up, in truth we come out ahead. As we decrease, He increases. As our desires and temptations wane, His perfect will takes their place. The longer we walk His path, the less we desire to leave it. Then, the life of tension and struggle becomes the life of peace. God’s peace. And that is a treasure beyond price.
Tickets are $10 a person, $5 for kids and veterans (Memorial Day!), and $25 for a whole family for all-you-can-eat. Feel free to BYOB and other provisions as needed.
Bring family and friends and take some time to relax with the parish community! We’ll kick off at 11AM with music starting around noon, and things will wrap up around 3PM. We’ll look for you there!
By Gina Bottom
My husband and I recently watched Oklahoma City on Netflix, a documentary about the Oklahoma City bombing that occurred on April 19, 1995. Being from Oklahoma, I have a clear memory of being pulled out of my high school classroom and assembled with all the other students in our small private school auditorium that morning. We were told what happened, we prayed together for the victims, their families and for the rescue efforts. When I got home that afternoon, I spent the rest of the evening glued to my television set absorbing the news. Naturally, I was interested in watching the documentary which focuses on how Timothy McVeigh came to a place in his life where he was able and willing to do such an unthinkable act of hatred toward his fellow Americans.
Spoiler alert: Timothy McVeigh was heavily influenced by the Waco siege on the Branch Davidians on April 19, 1993. Remember the Branch Davidians? I barely remember anything about them, as I was in the throes of junior high angst at that time, but basically a bunch of people were holed up in this compound under the rule of David Koresh in a wacked-out religious sect that ended up with close to one hundred people dying as his followers. As I watched, I naturally thought about Koresh’s disciples, “How can these people not realize this is not normal?!” Sadly it isn’t anything new, as I thought the very same thing when I watched the Jonestown movie and also when I watched Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. As I type this, it has become evident to me that I watch a lot of cult documentaries. Hmm. In any case, if you haven’t seen Going Clear, that is some CRAZY business. That would be a fun one to get me discussing over margaritas. But I digress.
How do people become so misled that they stray far away from what would seem to be common sense? If it happens to them, what makes you and me so different that we’re above being influenced in the same manner? In short, where did these well-meaning and sincere individuals who were probably seeking the same purpose, comfort, and hope as I do, derail?
Today we’re discussing Prudence, the first and most important among a short list of cardinal virtues. Prudence is one of those words that we kind of know what it means but perhaps not exactly, or even more so what prudence looks like in our everyday lives.
The word prudence is very closely tied with wisdom and caution, so if you were thinking along those lines give yourself a pat on the back. Specifically, prudence is a safeguard or “shrewdness” against being misled. Prudence can be as simple as judging right from wrong in any given situation or the more complicated task of recognizing good from evil. The acknowledgement and acceptance of one’s theology and moral code is much more nuanced than one would readily recognize, therefore prudence is extremely significant. The success of any and all the virtues hinges on our ability to exercise this shrewdness in our lives.
Proverbs has a good deal to say about prudence, some of which are listed here:
Prov. 10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
Prov. 12:23 A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly.
Prov. 14:15 The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.
In general, the wisdom literature presents a pretty clear theme of what prudence looks like practically.
The fool, however, is one who believes everything and proclaims everything.
Imprudence is especially rampant in our current culture, with articles and headlines being regurgitated constantly with little regard to truthfulness or necessity. This really is both a magical and infuriating time to be alive. The technologies that are readily available to us are simply incredible, especially these little supercomputers we hold at our fingertips that enable us to communicate on numerous platforms simultaneously. Technology has completely changed the fabric of society. Whereas one used to have to earn the ability and the right to speak to a wide audience, we now have many means to be heard and to hear.
Phone calls. Texts. Emails. Websites. Social media and blogs; anyone can have a voice and any voice can have an audience. And I’m not knocking blogs- I have a list of blogs I check regularly and I even have my own, not to mention the very blog on which this will be posted. But we must steer our own voices with prudence- lest we become fools and proclaim our own ignorance and lack of self-control.
There is much to be absorbed in our culture today and much of it what we love to hear, but contrary to biblical truth. Moral relativism, a comfortable life of faith, a sneaky yet diabolical belief that God is as equally committed to our own happiness as we are… that is clear evidence of imprudence. And make no mistake, imprudence comes with big consequences.
It is easy to fall into error, hence the definition of “safeguard against being misled”. One cannot consistently and successfully be prudent without the counsel of others. As much as scripture has to say about wisdom and how to take hold of her, scripture also tell us that “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety” Prov. 11:14. Prudence does not exist in isolation. Prudence exists in the company of others of whom wisdom is given, of whom wisdom and knowledge is gained and treasured through the Word of God. If you need wisdom, ask the Lord for it and ask with confidence- He loves to answer this prayer (James 1:5)! But don’t simply receive wisdom, heed it and practice prudence. Practice thoughtfulness over the information you absorb on any given day. What are the articles that you read teaching you about God, about yourself and the world? What do the Instagram accounts that you follow say about your heart? What do the people you surround yourself with believe? Exercise prudence- keep your thoughts to yourself on social media, think and dwell on information before churning it back out in word or speech.
Let’s resolve to ask the Lord for wisdom, to practice being prudent until it becomes second nature. Let’s resist being easily led astray and let the Word of God set our hearts and minds on the straight path toward true joy and hope as a follower of Christ Jesus.
by Jamie Miller, Director of Christian Ed.
For Love is of God……………….
We sing a few sacred hymns with our son, Finn, every night before his bedtime as an evening ritual. At the end of a long day, it is a time that I truly treasure. It’s a time to be still. A time for reflection on our day. A time to love. One of the hymns that we sing comes from 1 John 4:7-8. It goes like this:
“Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God and everything that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God. For God is love. Beloved, let us love one another.”
What truths are within this one song? We always hear that we love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) His love is the truth that transcends all. His love conquered all. As we are still in these great 50 days of Easter, this is ever present in the sacrifice that He made for us on the cross.
This truth brings comfort and demands action from us in the form of loving one another. How easy is it to “Love thy Neighbor, as our self”? Hard. Really, really hard. We try and we try, but we all fail at times. We snap at each for the littlest of things. We are impatient as we drive in the constant road construction that surrounds us. We fall short over and over again. We forget that simple truth of love and grace. We neglect to show others the grace that God shows us every single day. Why? Why are we so selfish and yet so desire to be loved by one another?
If we are born of God, and know God, shouldn’t that love come without hardship? This is where the truth rings out loud and clear. Jesus answered “…For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37) Are we listening to His voice? Are we following that voice in the darkness?
That transcendental truth is that we can’t possibly imagine being loved so immensely that one would die for us or even number the hairs on our head. (Luke 12:7) His love exists above and independently from our love. There is no one else or thing that can match His love. God is love. His love lasts eternally. No one else can match that. This alone should cause us to bow down to Him and bask in this truth.
So, if we are of God and know God, we should love one another. God lives in us, and his love is perfect in us (1 John 4:12). Allow this truth to sink in; Jesus is that perfect truth. Seek Him; and loving thy neighbor will come naturally. May we be transcended by His love, grace and truth.
Beloved, let us love one another.
By Callie Stiewig
God is good all the time, all the time God is good. You know the chorus. I have always believed this for as long as I have had conscious memories to serve me. Some people are believers, others aren’t. Some see the sun rise over the horizon and think “beauty”, others think “God”. I’ve always been in the both/and camp. I’m a believer. I can’t help it. God has always been an assumption to me.
I grew up in a conservative Roman Catholic parish. I am fully connected with “smells and bells” in my heart and mind. I know the Liturgy to be transcendent and a vital component of my spiritual “restedness.” I have been blessed to know God without (significant) confrontation and oppression, unlike some of our less fortunate brothers and sisters across the world. I believe that my desire to know God points to something vitally different from other things in nature. My desire to know truth, beauty, and goodness has become my “proof.” My desire to know what is good proves to me that I am made in God’s image. I will explain further.
I find the presence of our human consciousness and inquisitive nature to not only differentiate us from animals, but to also make the case for God. Through our human consciousness we desire transcendental experiences, none of which are necessary for survival. I desire perfection on Earth in everything I seek. In knowledge, love, goodness, beauty, and being. I know that perfect transcendental experiences do not and cannot exist on Earth. Satan has made sure of this. Earth is not Heaven, nor should I desire it to be. But, since perfect knowledge, perfect love, perfect goodness, perfect beauty, and perfect being don’t exist here on Earth, why do I seek them? It makes no sense for me to seek that which is unattainable.
What we seek is something transcendental, something beyond our world and beyond our earthly experience. What we seek is God. To quote St. Augustine – “Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.”
But back to my own journey. As I grew older, my religion evolved. I was partly Catholic and partly an assortment of other things; mostly to do with the effects of nature and relationships, and being a woman in a weird world. The church’s positions on various topics were not for me, but for a long time, I felt I was able to ignore them. Still among this partiality, I found goodness to be constant. No matter where I was, or what I was, I always knew Him to be good. I strived too for perfection; to be like Christ. To be good no matter what I labeled myself.
The transcendentals, according to Christian doctrine, can be described as the ultimate desires of man. Man ultimately strives for perfection, which takes form in the desire for perfect attainment of the transcendentals. The Catholic Church teaches that God Himself is Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, as indicated in the Catechism. The transcendentals are intertwined. Where there is truth, there is also beauty and goodness.
Jesus promised in Matthew 28:20 that “He is with us always.” Romans 8:28 says that God works all things to good for those who love Him. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that He has a good plan for us to give us a hope and a future. Through His goodness, God reveals Himself to be on our side. His power is greater than all of the darkness that tries to battle us. If we are to consider the Gospels through a lens of transcendentalism, we then must desire their perfect attainment, or rather the perfection of which they speak. We must desire to be like Christ.
In the Christian faith, God’s creation is good. We Christians believe ourselves to be surrounded by truth, goodness, and beauty. “The good is the true presented to us in the form of an invitation. The good is the summons to a decision.” Through the Gospels, Christians recognize this invitation as a transcendental, given to us by God Himself through His only son. The invitation is true, beautiful, and good. The invitation is transcendent.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus declares, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This is our invitation.
What is the Liturgy? In a few words, the real presence of God among His people. Who is God? The True; the Good; the Beautiful.
“A thing is good only in so far as it refers in some way to existence; possible things, as such, are not good.”
The Liturgies are the most Holy good we have as Episcopalians, that is if for something to be good it must be referential. The liturgy exists on Earth. It is not possible, it is. We are reminded of our standing invitation every time we approach the altar to take the real presence of God. If there were ever a time for a Christian to experience the “transcendental interferer” (as C.S. Lewis puts it), it would be during the Liturgy.
“A great man knows he is not God and the greater he is, the better he knows it. The gospels declare that this mysterious maker of the world has visited his world in person. The most that any religious prophet has said was that he was the true servant of such a being. But if the creator was present in the daily life of the Roman Empire, that is something unlike anything else in nature. It is the one great startling statement that man has made since he spoke his first articulate word. It makes dust and nonsense of comparative religion. “
C.S Lewis wrote his autobiography and when he came to the chapter that recounted the story of his conversion, he put an inscription at the head of the chapter. It simply read: “The one principle of Hell is — ‘I am my own.'” The truth of the Gospels, the truth of our liturgies is this; Christ came so that everyone may know He is God and no man is God, and so every man must desire the good, that is being with God and not himself. That is, being with Christ and not his own.
I often find myself delving into self-serving ideologies. I commit the sin of repeatedly “being my own person.” I tell God he should “mind His own business.” The truth is He is minding His own business. By God’s grace I am His business. And so are you. The Father sent the son to interfere with the certainty of death and He overcame it. We meet the son every Sunday during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We witness His transcendental good in our traditions and practices. He interferes, in a good way, every moment we recognize Him.
Thanks to the Transcendental Interferer, I no longer have to fear my sinful nature. I have been forgiven of all sins and all sins I will commit. I have been given the highest good. I belong to Christ. Body and Soul.
Content influenced by:
By Britt Herrington
There is a famous line in Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot: “Beauty will save the world.” What does this mean? Does it hold any weight, or should we simply discard it as a sentimental platitude? It is my hope that in the musings that follow, we can push into these questions and perhaps arrive at some meaningful understanding.
During this first week of the Paschal Season, I have been meditating on resurrection. This is something I do especially at this time of year because the story of Easter is so familiar to me that I do not want to risk it slipping into unfamiliarity. In particular I have been thinking about the path to resurrection. We Christians like resurrection because it speaks of rebirth, restoration, and renewal. This is all well and good and right, but if we dwell too much on Easter, we may forget that the path to resurrection is the way of the cross.
There is a well-known passage in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus teaches his disciples about what it means be his followers. Jesus tells them: “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it” (NET Bible, Mark 8:34-35). Now that is a radical, all-in commitment!
Pause here for a moment. Try to step into their sandals. How must those words have sounded to Jesus’ most devoted followers? You want me to do what? Could you say that part about losing my life again? Maybe I misunderstood. It is tempting for us to read the promise of resurrection back into the story, but it is simply not there. And, to do so redefines Jesus’ call on our lives.
But what does all this have to do with Beauty? Over the past few months, I have come to believe that ‘beauty’ is a word commonly used but rarely considered; its familiarity has bred unfamiliarity, so perhaps a brief meditation is needed to reframe our understanding.
In our day and time, beauty is something we define as pleasing to the eye. It is how we describe a piece of music or a sunset. Lamentably, a Google image search yields hundreds of photos, exclusively of women, and often promoting this or that cosmetic. However, it has not always been this way; in fact, this conception of beauty is something that has emerged only in the years since the Enlightenment. For the ancients, beauty did not refer to an aesthetic quality, but to a virtue. Beauty (together with truth and goodness) is known as a transcendental virtue, meaning it is indicative of the divine. Thus, for the early Church Fathers, Beauty was not a way of describing God, but rather a way of naming Him (Beauty Itself).
Now we are ready to weave together these various strands into a single cord. Due to our inherited understanding, we tend to associate beauty with hopeful and exalted things — like resurrection. Likewise, things that are lowly and broken we characterize as ugly — like the cross. But recognizing God as Beauty Itself ought to immediately challenge this duality and realign our thinking, for if Beauty Itself became lowly and broken, how can we place lowliness and brokenness in the category of ugly? In short, the Incarnation negates the perceived polarity of beauty and ugliness.
Through the Incarnation, Beauty Itself appeared having “no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention, no special appearance that we should want to follow him” (NET, Isa 53:2b). God (Beauty Itself) stepped into the creation as one impoverished, later to be battered and broken on the cross, yet Beauty was not diminished. In this we can recognize that God gestures towards brokenness and impoverishment. Beauty Itself did not remain aloof from suffering with an outstretched hand offering assistance, but entered into suffering with outstretched arms offering atonement. If we are to follow him, we must consider how we might do likewise.
The call to follow Jesus in the way of the cross is a call to enter into Beauty. In the same way, Jesus is resurrected as a promise, the firstfruits, of our own resurrection; therefore, to live in resurrection life is to live into Beauty. Resurrection is the hinge, or the fulcrum, on which our faith turns. This is the mystery we proclaim when we say:
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
Easter looks backward in celebration, and forward in anticipation, at the work of Beauty Itself in the world. Beauty invites participation, transforms us in the process, and prepares us for the life of the world to come. Thus, Dostoevsky was exactly correct: “Beauty will save the world.”