Moral Theology, Chapter 3

Christian virtues. The moral character. The life of a Christian is struggle and ascetic labor. The necessity of spiritual vigilance.

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The opposite of sin is virtue. The beginnings of virtue are found in every person, as the remnants of that natural good, which was placed into human nature by its Creator. Purity and perfection of the form of virtue can only be possible in Christianity. Christ, the Savior, said “Without Me, ye can do nothing”, without Me you can do nothing truly good.

Christianity teaches us that life on earth is a time of trial (podvig), a time of preparation for a future, eternal life. Consequently, the problem of our life on earth is to properly prepare ourselves for the coming eternity.

Earthly life is short and does not repeat itself, for man lives only once on earth. He must thus work hard in this earthly life, doing good, if he does not wish to destroy his soul. It is precisely these kind deeds which shall be demanded from him by God’s Truth on the threshold of eternity Every Christian, with God’s help, is the creator of his own earthly life in the sense of directing it towards virtue. But to become good, he must do good unto others and work with himself, struggling with his deficiencies and vices, developing good Christian values within himself.

This struggle and work with himself, this test (podvig) during his earthly life, is a necessity for every Christian; Our Lord Himself said that “The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence (that is, is reached through effort) and the violent (i.e., those who exert effort) take it by force” (Matt. 11, 12). In this kind of self-testing, every man develops his moral character

and creates his moral image. Of course, a Christian must be a Christian first of all, a person with an established, firm moral character, who should strive to improve this character. In other words, he should strive towards improving himself, he should strive towards moral perfection.

Life therefore, from a Christian point of view, is a test (podvig), a path of continuous seeking of goodness and perfection. There can be no stopping on this path according to the law of spiritual life. A person, having ceased to struggle with himself, will not remain as he was, but inevitably become worse, resembling a stone which is thrown up and having stopped ascending, does not remain hanging in the air, but certainly falls down.

We already know that our sins commonly arise from three sources: from the devil, from the world, lying in evil, and from our own sinful body. Since sin is the main enemy of and obstacle to virtue, it is clear that a Christian striving towards good must, with God’s help and grace, struggle against sin in all its forms. In part, it is necessary to remember at this point the words of our Savior to the Apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane, Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation (Mark 14, 38). With these words, Our Lord points out to all of us, not only to the Apostles, that a battle with sinful temptation is possible only for a person who is vigilant and prays, standing guard over his experiences.

Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky)
Parish Life, December 2021
St. John the Baptist Cathedral, Washington, DC


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