Category Archives: virtues

Courtesy was in them all.

COURTESY

Of Courtesy, it is much less
Than Courage of Heart or Holiness,
Yet in my Walks it seems to me
That the Grace of God is in Courtesy.

On Monks I did in Storrington fall,
They took me straight into their Hall;
I saw Three Pictures on a wall,
And Courtesy was in them all.

The first the Annunciation;
The second the Visitation;
The third the Consolation,
Of God that was Our Lady’s Son.

The first was of St. Gabriel;
On Wings a-flame from Heaven he fell;
And as he went upon one knee
He shone with Heavenly Courtesy.

Our Lady out of Nazareth rode —
It was Her month of heavy load;
Yet was her face both great and kind,
For Courtesy was in Her Mind.

The third it was our Little Lord,
Whom all the Kings in arms adored;
He was so small you could not see
His large intent of Courtesy.

Our Lord, that was Our Lady’s Son,
Go bless you, People, one by one;
My Rhyme is written, my work is done.

-Hillaire Belloc

We bring fruit.

In his second epistle the Apostle Peter makes mention of the transfiguration of our Lord that occurred on Mt. Tabor; we heard this reading today in Divine Liturgy:

II PETER 1:10-19 

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;

for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth.

Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you,

knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.

Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts…

We were celebrating this wonderful Feast of the Transfiguration, when “as much as they could see it,” the Uncreated Light was revealed to three of Christ’s disciples. From where I was standing, I could see up high the fresco showing the event, and the disciples fallen to the ground. Matthew tells us that “He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.”

It’s traditional to bring fruit to be blessed at this feast:

And in our parish, which has a vineyard on the property, it’s also traditional to process
through the rows as the grapes are blessed while still on the vine.


I’d never noticed the wild blackberry bushes nearby, but on the way back
to the church they provided snacks for whoever would partake.

In his article, “Fruit of the Transfiguration,” Fr.  Vladimir explains the connection between this feast and the bringing of fruit as a sacrifice. In this season of the year when we harvest our earthly tomatoes and peaches and zucchini,  we also come near to the end of the liturgical year, and get a glimpse in Christ’s transfiguration of the ultimate fruit and goal of our spiritual life.

Later in the day my godmother sent me a short video lesson from Bishop Alexei of Alaska, in his series on the Nicene Creed. He was talking about how our faith in God as the Creator of everything seen and unseen helps us to have the right perspective on nature. He referred to the “golden pool of God’s love,” or “the golden pool of virtue,” which we can experience when we learn to focus our hearts not on that which is seen, but on the One who brought it all into being. This goldenness seems to be another way to express the radiance and light that comes to us in the person of the Savior.

He made me realize that the virtues are the spiritual fruits that this feast brings to mind. Again, God is the Creator and Source of all invisible things like faith and love and kindness and patience. Just as we are incapable of creating the contents of our fruit baskets that we brought this morning, so we are not creators of the virtues. But we can work the soil with our prayers, and irrigate with the sacraments, and receive with thanksgiving the graceful sunshine in our hearts. “All that we have comes from God and we give it out of His hand.” (I Chronicles 29:14)

On the Mountain You were Transfigured, O Christ God,
and Your disciples beheld Your glory as far as they could see it;
so that when they would behold You crucified,
they would understand that Your suffering was voluntary,
and would proclaim to the world,
that You are truly the Radiance of the Father!

Metaphorical pear, real flowers.

Whatever you do,
do it gently and unhurriedly,
because virtue is not a pear
to be eaten in one bite.

-Saint Seraphim of Sarov

These words from St. Seraphim came into my mind this morning. They comprise one of my favorite quotes of of all time. It’s a strong admonition, but its simplicity and poetry display that gentleness that St. Seraphim was known for. The advice is what I need! I am always hurrying, trying to pack in too many activities, and it is hard to be gentle when one is making multiple messes (visible and invisible) with no time to clean up.

I did a lot of cooking today, and I cleaned up! But before that, I went into the garden to pick a fistful of greens for breakfast. Last night was the coldest yet this winter. But more flowers — and ice crystals — have bloomed since I last looked.


Many of my readers will not see the end of winter for a couple more months,
but I hope you will discover at least a metaphorical flower or two blooming nearby.

Hope is not a program for reform.

What is the difference between optimism and hope? One difference is that the word “optimism” is not in the Bible, and the word “hope” is. They are two distinct words and at least one of them is worth contemplating. I like to quote Fr. Alexander Schmemann on this topic:

“If there are two heretical words in the Christian vocabulary, they would be ‘optimism’ and ‘pessimism.’ These two things are utterly anti-biblical and anti-Christian…. Our faith is not based on anything except on these two fundamental revelations: God so loved the world, and: The fallen world has been secretly, mysteriously redeemed.”

Hope is one of the three foundational virtues of the Christian life, as this article, “Hope,” explains. Its description of the absence of hope tells us:

“The opposite of hope is despondency and despair. According to the spiritual tradition of the Church, the state of despondency and despair is the most grievous and horrible condition that a person can be in. It is the worst and most harmful of the sinful states possible for the soul.”

That’s why the title of an article in the current issue of The New Atlantis got my attention: “How Tech Despair Can Set You Free” by Samuel Matlack.

The author of this article discusses the philosophy of Jacques Ellul, and quotes him as saying, in Hope in Time of Abandonment, “You cannot talk about hope. The question is how to live it.”

Jacques Ellul, 1912-1994

Matlack comments, “The reason you cannot talk about hope — or rather, cannot describe the action it takes — is this: Hope is not a program for reform, a solution to implement, or a prescription to follow. To borrow from the farmer and writer Wendell Berry, hope means ‘work for the present,’ whereas optimism means ‘making up a version of the future.'”

“What we do know is that Ellul’s own life bears ample testimony to hope. Here is one episode of many. Having lost his university position during the Nazi occupation of France, Ellul and his wife Yvette settled on a farm in a small village near the demarcation line, opening their door to Resistance fighters and Russians escaping German prison camps. With the help of neighbors — since Ellul knew nothing about farming — he grew potatoes and corn, with his wife raising chickens. As he once told the story, “I spent most of my time helping people get across into the free French zone. I was in cahoots with an organization that dealt in forged papers. So I was able to provide a whole series of people with forged identity cards.’”

About their own aims the editors of the journal from which I quote write: “Dystopian dread is the shadow of utopian dreams. The hope of The New Atlantis is to help steer away from both — and instead toward a culture in which science and technology work for, not on, human beings.”

In another article on this general subject, of how to live in a technological age, Alan Jacobs wrote in last winter’s issue; he also mentions Jacques Ellul as one of the early critics of the technological society in “From Tech Critique to Ways of Living.” It is accessible to read right now. And Samuel Matlack has written previously about Ellul, in 2014: “Confronting the Technological Society.”

There he writes, after Ellul: “What is needed is a true revolution, which Christianity by its essence is uniquely equipped to effect — being in the world but not of it, living the hope of a kingdom already here but not yet.”

True revolution is not a change in the political order, but has to be something far beyond that realm, and deeper; may the Lord show us the basis for our true Hope, and teach us how to live it.

Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and shield.
Yea, our hearts are glad in Him, because we trust in His holy name.
Let Thy steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in Thee.

-Psalm 33