21 September 2011


Some good things, according to St. Gregory the Theologian, taken from Oration 14, "On the Love of the Poor". (N.b., Fr. Daley, whose translation I'm quoting from, uses "good" everywhere, but the greek is kalon, which has the connotation of "fair" or "beautiful".  Also, Gregory's text contains two or three times as many virtues as I have listed here.  The whole is worth reading.)
  1. Patience is a good thing; again Christ is our example, who did not only decline the help of legions of angels against those who had risen up against him to opress him, nor only rebuke Peter when he drew his sword, but who restored the ear of him who had been struck.
  2. Gentleness is a good thing; its examples are Moses and David, who embodied this virtue before all others, as well as their teacher, who "did not quarrel or cry out, or make his voice heard in the streets," nor struggle against those who led him away.
  3. Solitude and Silence are a good thing; my teachers in this are Elijah's Carmel, or John's desert, or Jesus' mountaintop, to which he often seems to have withdrawn, to be by himself in silence and peace.
  4. Mortification of the body is a good thing; let Paul persuade you, who continued to keep himself in training, and who was fearful for Israel, because they relied on themselves and indulged the body; Jesus himself fasted, and in time of temptation conquered the tempter.
  5. Prayer and Watching are a good thing; let God himself persuade you, who stayed awake to pray the night before his passion.
  6. Self-control is a good thing; let David persuade you, when he gained control of the well at Bethlehem and did not drink, but only poured out the water on the ground, not being willing to slake his own thirst at the cost of others' blood.
  7. Humility is a good thing, and there are many examples of this on all sides; before all the rest is the Savior and Lord of all, who did not only humble himself as far as "taking the form of a slave," or simply expose his face to the shame of being spat upon, and let himself be "counted among sinners"—he who purged the world of sin!—but who washed the feet of his disciples dressed as a slave.
  8. To put it more concisely concerning all these virtues, contemplation is a good thing, and action is a good thing: the first, when it raises up and leads us to the Holy of Holies, guiding our mind upwards towards what is akin to it; the second, when it receives Christ as its guest and looks after him, revealing the spell of love by its works.