In speaking about the different virtues, we cannot say that one is better than the rest, or that we should pursue them in order of merit.

For in fact they are of equal importance with one another, and linked together they lead those who practice them to the height of perfection.

Sincerity leads to obedience, obedience in turn to faith, and faith to hope, hope to righteousness, righteousness to service, and service to humility.

From humility we learn gentleness which leads to joy, as joy leads to love, and love to prayer.

Thus bound to one another and binding their zealous follower, the virtues lead him to the very height of his desires, just as the various forms of wickedness lead those attached to them down the oppo­site way to the utmost depths of evil.

But we must above all devote ourselves to prayer; for prayer is like a choir-leader in the choir of virtues, by means of which we ask God for the virtues we still lack.

Devotion to prayer unites the Christian to God in the communion of a mystic sanctity, in a spiritual possession and a disposition of the soul that no words can describe.

With the Spirit then to guide and help him, his love for the Lord like a bright flame, he prays unceasingly in ardent desire, always burning with love for the divine good and refreshing his soul with renewed zeal.

As Scripture says: Those who eat me will hunger for more, and those who drink me will thirst for more; and elsewhere: You have filled my heart with gladness.

So too the Lord says: The kingdom of heaven is within you.

By the kingdom within us he certainly means that joy which the Spirit instils into our souls from above, as an image and a pledge, reflecting the eternal joy which the souls of the faithful possess in the life to come.

So the Lord comforts us in all our afflictions through the working of the Spirit, to keep us safe and to grant us a share of spiritual gifts and of his own special grace.

He comforts us in all our troubles, says the Apostle, so that we may be able to comfort others in their distress.

And the psalmist says: My whole being cries out with joy to the living God; and: My soul is richly feasted, indicating in all such symbolic sayings the joy and comfort that come from the Spirit.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): The Christian Way of Life, II (Jaeger VIII, 77-79); from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Wednesday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2

Advertisements