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Virtue & Grace

Updated: 3 days ago

Virtues are good habits of faculties that perfect man (ST I-II Q. 62 A. 1 co.). Although man may possess natural virtues, when he has sanctifying grace, he is infused with virtues that raise him to a supernatural level (Hardon X). These gifts raise the activity of man similar to how sanctifying grace raises his nature. These virtues which are infused by God are categorized as either theological or moral. The object of theological virtues is God Himself while moral virtues are aimed at human actions that help him toward his final end (ST I-II Q. 62 A. 2 co.).



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Infused virtues are those that are produced directly by God and differ from acquired virtue because they are not obtained by the repetition of human actions. These are permanent endowments that are given to the friends of God, or in other words, those in a state of grace (Hardon X). Moral virtues are the mean between two extremes so that we have neither excess nor defect. However, we can never love God enough and so there cannot be an excess in the theological virtues (ST. I-II Q. 64 A. 4 co.). The theological virtues are faith, hope, and charity. Each of these directs man toward supernatural happiness which is God (ST I-II Q. 62 A. 3 co).

Each of the theological virtues are conferred specially on the soul (Hardon X). Faith, hope, and charity proceed from grace and grow the divine life in those who are in God’s friendship. Each of these virtues are connected as charity is the root and form of all virtue (ST. I-II Q. 62 Art 4. co). However, they are also distinct from one another.

Faith is a virtue of the mind. Faith enables the believer to assent to the truth, most especially the truth about God (Hardon X). This enables us to know truths that are revealed, but also to have confidence that God has revealed them. One critically important aspect is that faith “produces a personal relationship with Christ” (Hardon X). Faith is the substance of our hope.

Hope is the desire to possess that which is known by faith (Hardon X). Hope is also the confidence that God will help us to be united with Himself. No one can possess external life without the gracious gift of God, but we hope to attain that gift that we know by faith. Faith and hope work together because God is their direct and immediate object. Charity enables us to enter into friendship with God. Whereas hope is a kind of self-interested love whereby we gain from being in union with God, in charity the motive is absolute goodness in itself (Hardon X). Naturally, our will cannot love God sufficiently, but infused by the grace of charity we can enjoy the greatness of God for His own sake. This inspires both grief for sin as well as working for the glory of God (Hardon X).

However, each of these virtues is also integral to the others. Charity perfects faith and hope (ST. I-II Q. 65 A. 4 co). Both faith and hope enable goodness, but they require charity to perform them well. Charity brings about friendship with God. Yet, we cannot love what we do not know nor should we seek friendship without desiring it. Faith, hope, and charity together direct us toward God (ST. I-II Q. 65 A. 5 co).

The theological virtues adjust the mind and will toward the knowledge and love of God (Hardon X). Faith actuates man’s capacity to know God and hope makes him long to be with God. Charity is the root of all virtues and enables man to love God and brings him into friendship with God (ST I-II Q. 65 A. 5 co.). These virtues inspire the intellect and will to know and love.

The infused moral virtues are supernatural equivalents of the natural moral virtues (Hardon X). The indwelling of the Holy Spirit enables actions beyond native powers. God gives supernatural aid to virtues such as temperance, prudence, justice, and fortitude so that man may perform supernatural acts (Hardon X). The moral virtues are infused tighter with charity (ST I-II Q. 65 A 3 co). For example, the infused virtue of justice enables a man to render what is due to both God and his neighbor.

All infused virtues are a gift from God that is received by grace. The theological virtues have God as their end both in intellect and will. The infused moral virtues produce supernatural goods works which aid us as we progress in charity.



 

Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologiae, Kevin Knight, 2017, www.newadvent.org/summa/


Hardon, John. History and Theology of Grace. Eternal Life, 2020


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