|This article forms part of the series|
|Baptism - Chrismation |
Confession - Eucharist
Marriage - Ordination
|Nepsis - Metanoia |
Hesychia - Phronema
Mysticism - Nous
|Chastity - Obedience |
Stability - Fasting
Poverty - Monasticism
|Humility - Generosity |
Chastity - Meekness
Temperance - Contentment
|Worship - Veneration |
Prayer Rule - Jesus Prayer
Relics - Sign of the Cross
|Apostolic Fathers |
The Ladder of Divine Ascent
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Virtue (Greek αρετή; Latin virtus) is the habitual, well-established, readiness or disposition of man's powers directing them to some goodness of act.1 Virtue is moral excellence of a man or a woman. The word αρετή is derived from the Greek arete (αρετή). As applied to humans, a virtue is a good character trait. The Latin word virtus literally means "manliness," from vir, "man" in the masculine sense; and referred originally to masculine, warlike virtues such as courage. In one of the many ironies of etymology, in English the word "virtue" is often used to refer to a woman's chastity.
In the Greek it is more properly called ηθική αρετή, or "habitual excellence." It is something practiced at all times. The virtue of perseverance is needed for all and any virtue since it is a habit of character and must be used continuously in order for any person to maintain oneself in virtue. The Orthodox Church teaches that the body, as well as the soul, must be trained and disciplined because man is a unity of soul and body. Fasting and self-control are the primary source of all good and the foundation of acquiring virtue.
Likeness of God
Genesis states that man was created in the according to the image and likeness of God. John of Damascus wrote, ‘The expression according to the image indicates rationality and freedom, while the expression according to the likeness indicates assimilation to God through virtue.’ All of the human virtues are attributes of God. They are the divine properties which should be in all human persons by the gift of God in creation and salvation through Christ. To acquire the virtues is to reacquire the divine likeness of God.
Unlike the image of God, which can never be lost even by the most sinful, the likeness depends upon moral choice, upon ‘virtue,’ and so it is destroyed by sin. The virtues are not an endowment which man possesses from the start, but a goal at which he must aim, something which he can only acquire by degrees through the grace of God.
The virtues, often called the fruits of the Spirit, include:
- Faith - The weakness and absence of faith in God is rooted in sin, impurity and pride.
- Hope - Hope is the assurance of the good outcome of our lives lived by faith in God.
- Knowledge - Knowledge of God is the aim and goal of man's life, the purpose of his creation by God.
- Wisdom - The wise man is the one who sees clearly and deeply into the mysteries of God.
- Honesty - To be truthful at all times and lacking in hypocrisy.
- Humility – (Meekness) To see reality as it actually is in God. It means to know oneself and others as known by God.
- Obedience - To do the will of God is glory and life.
- Patience (Diligence) - To put up with one's self and others, growing gradually in the grace of God through the daily effort to keep His commandments and to accomplish His will.
- Courage - To not be afraid, even unto martyrdom.
- Faithfulness - The spiritual person is faithful to his calling, fulfilling every good resolution, and bearing fruit patiently with the gifts and talents given by God.
- Temperance (Self-Control, Chastity) - To be moderate in all things. Like patience, it comes from the grace of God; one must seek it from the Lord.
- Generosity (Kindness) – It is shown by care and concern for the well-being of others.
- Gratitude (Contentment) - The spiritual person is the one who is grateful for everything.
- Love - The greatest virtue of all is love. If we do not love one another, we cannot love God, for God is love.
1 New Catholic Encyclopedia, Catholic University of America, 1967. p. 704.
- "The Virtues" from The Orthodox Faith: Spirituality by Fr. Thomas Hopko