Mark 13: 1-8; 2 Pet. 1: 1-10
St Peter writes, “… You must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love”.
There must be goodness in faith. St James the Apostle writes, “…Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17). Indeed, faith can be seen only “by works” (James 2:18).
But even in good deeds there must be discernment. Not everything is equally good for everyone. Sometimes you have to keep silent, other times you need to speak up; sometimes you give, other times you take. Sometimes you “…Do not even eat with such a one” (1 Cor. 5:11), and other times it is necessary to break the fast for the sake of a joint meal. Some should be allowed into your house, while about others it is said, “Do not receive into the house or welcome…” (2 John 10). So, before doing what you think is good and useful, you need to know whether it really is.
And then in knowledge we must show self-control. It is important however to differentiate between prudence, based on the Word of God combined with church experience and crafty wisdom, based on hidden passions. For example, fasting can be broken for the sake of love, or out of gluttony, which is always busy looking for a specious excuse.
Self-control must contain endurance. Patience generally makes any virtue tangible and vital. Patience gives everything, as it were, flesh and blood; and a solid pivot point in time. It is said that the one who “endures to the end” will be saved (Matthew 10:22).
There must be godliness in patience, for it is not salvatory by itself, but only for the sake of God and eternal life. Endurance can also be for the sake of pride or vanity, in order to display one’s strength or to become famous for one’s deeds.
Piety for its part, is impossible without brotherly love. It is terrible when godliness is reduced only to strictly following some rituals or regulations. Such “piety” immediately explodes with hatred when someone willingly or unwillingly violates our daily routine. Further, our brotherly love should “not insist on its own way” or be “irritable or resentful” (1 Cor. 13: 5). Because love may also be rooted in addiction, profit or the mere fact that someone loves us.
As we can see, each virtue should also contain other virtues, because, if taken separately, it often turns out to be ‘flat’, caricatured and sometimes even terrifying (for example, the exemplary obedience shown by the daughter of Herodias (Matthew 14).
Moreover, any virtue taken in isolation from others may be one of the devil’s masks. Speaking about the end times, the Lord warns, “Beware that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!'” These “many” will come wearing a mask of a particular virtue. Some may be faithful believers, but only in soul, and not in deeds. Some may be righteous, but without any prudence, while others will show elusive prudence, capable of turning everything upside down to match every taste. Some will show abstinence beyond measure. Some will be seducing everyone with their love, making everyone fulfil their will, while the love of others will be indifferent to good and evil and insensitive to truth and faith. Such love will not resist evil or defend the weak.
A servant of God must take care that all these virtues are present in him, so that one may be present in another etc., until everything is present in everything else. Do not set any limits for yourself in this, because “if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds