When insults have no effect on us, when persecutions and penalties have no terror for us, when prosperity or adversity has no influence on us, when friend and foe are viewed in the same light…do we not come close to sharing the serenity of God?
All such dispositions spring from charity and charity alone,in which is true peace and contentment.
For it is the Lord’s yoke, and if we follow his call to bear it our souls will find rest, because his yoke is easy and his burden light.
[...] The other virtues are to us as a carriage bearing the weary traveller, as provisions fortifying the wayfarer, as a lamp for those in darkness, or as arms for combatants.
[...] For what is faith but the carriage that bears us to our native land?
What is hope but the food we take for our journey through life’s hardships?
And those other virtues of temperance, prudence, fortitude and justice – what are they but the weapons given us for the struggle?
But when death has been swallowed up by that perfection of charity which is achieved in the vision of God there will be no more faith, because faith was the preparation for that vision, and there will be no need to believe what we see and love.
And when we embrace God with the arms of our charity, there will be no more hope, for there will be nothing left to hope for.
And as for the other virtues, temperance is our weapon against lust, prudence against error, fortitude against adversity, justice against injustice.
But in charity there is also perfect chastity, and so no lust for temperance to combat;
in charity there is the fullness of knowledge, and so no error for prudence to guard against;
in charity there is true blessedness, and so no adversity for fortitude to overcome;
in charity all is peace, and so there is no injustice for justice to withstand.
Faith is not even a virtue unless it is expressed by love; nor is hope unless it loves what it hopes for.
And if we look more closely, do we not see that temperance is only love that no pleasure can seduce;
that prudence is only love that no error can mislead;
that fortitude is only love courageously enduring adversity;
and that justice is only impartial love mitigating the injustices of this life?
Charity therefore begins with faith, is exercised through the other virtues, but achieves perfection in itself.
Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): Speculum Caritatis 1.31, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Friday in Seventh Week of Ordinary Time, Year 1.