The Society of Saint Gregory the Great is a membership association of Catholic laity formed in 2008 to promote divine worship in accordance with the Supreme Magisterium of the Church. The Society has its own schola cantorum, and regularly sponsors presentations and workshops on the Sacred Liturgy, Gregorian chant, and sacred polyphony.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Faith, Hope, and Charity
Faith, Hope and Charity:
The Theological Virtues
by Stephanie Swee
knows the names of the three most important virtues that he needs for eternal
happiness: Faith, Hope and Charity. In man’s journey toward his ultimate
destiny it is important to begin with the fundamentals. These God gives us as
infused virtues at our Baptism and they are nourished by the Sacraments, as
well as each individual’s own efforts to advance through the object of this
study, the spiritual life.
Although they go
together, the theological virtues are distinct, as, for example, when man
finally attains the glory of heaven. Then only the love of God will exist and
the need for faith and hope will cease.
Likewise, “Faith can subsist without hope and charity (as in one who commits a
mortal sin of despair without losing his faith.)”
The first of the
theological virtues, faith, is essential to the Christian life, as it allows
the intellect to focus on the object of the soul’s fulfillment, God Himself.
Belief is the beginning of seeking and faith allows man to understand that the
Beatific Vision in heaven is that for which he was created. We also know that faith must not only be a
passive belief, but an active seeking. “By faith ‘man freely commits his entire
self to God.’ For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will.
Faith requires a
continuous effort to search for and submit to what God asks of us as His
creatures. Revelation, both the Scriptures and Tradition, are the sources for
us to know God better and to follow his commandments more closely. Over and
over the Church prays in the Divine Office concerning the learning and the love
of the Lord’s precepts. “Happy the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights
in His commands.” (Psalm 111)
Even in the
natural order, says St. Thomas Aquinas, faith has a triple justification.
“Three things lead us to believe in Christ … first, natural reason … secondly,
the testimony of the Law and prophets … thirdly, the preaching of the Apostles.
However, without the aid of grace, the Seraphic Doctor continues, we could not
attain the fullness of the virtues. “when thus led, we have reached belief;
then we can say that we believe, not for any of the preceding motives, but
solely because of the very truth of God …to which we adhere firmly under the
influence of an infused light _”
virtue is so basic to our final end, the deliberate rejection of it is called
“a sin against the Holy Spirit,” and cuts man off from God in a definitive way.
Even if we fall into serious sin, as long as we do not choose to reject belief
in God totally, we still have the virtues of faith and hope, although receiving
the sacrament of Penance is required to restore supernatural charity to our
naturally to hope, for what we see and believe is our ultimate destiny –
rejoicing in God’s presence for all eternity – the will then longs for. Hope
engenders a kind of joy, which is the name C. S. Lewis gives to the yearning we
have for something outside our mortal experience. “What Lewis helped me to
discover was that at rock-bottom all desires are for heaven. ‘There have been times,’
says Lewis, ‘when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often, I find
myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything
Revelation gives us more reinforcement than just our natural longings, important
as they are. The Psalmist constantly refers to hope in the midst of
tribulations. “My soul pines for your salvation; I hope in your word,” (Psalm
118) And God’s infused grace is the fountain of hope. “This doctrine of
grace leads us also to an entirely supernatural hope composed of confidence in
the divine mercy and abandonment to it.”.
engages the will, it helps us to overcome all kinds of temptations against
keeping the commandments and also against discouragement. “Let us … put on the
breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”
. Many times in the Old Testament, characters such as Abraham are seen to hope
against great odds. When his wife, Sara, was of advanced age and Abraham had no
heirs and no prospect of any, it took heroic acts of faith and hope to continue
to believe and hope in God’s promise that He would make him the “Father of many
of hope was that of Moses, one of many of the chosen people whom Christ recapitulated
in His life. “Moses, in striking contrast to all the turmoil and agitation
around him, moved with quiet firmness and reliance solely upon the Lord.” 
His kind of trust is the operation of hope, which in its highest form cannot be
shaken by the vicissitudes of life or by the temptations of the Evil One.
Man can find in
himself the basis for faith and hope in a higher Being, because he is often
aware of his own powerlessness in the face of the challenges of his earthly
life, which engenders a belief that a supreme intelligence is governing things.
And man is also aware from an early age that he has a desire for something that
no earthly pleasure or pursuit can satisfy, which leads to hope in higher
But charity, the
greatest of the Theological Virtues, is pure gift. The love of God and neighbor
is not as natural to man as are the other two virtues and crowns them in a way
made possible only by God’s grace. “The practice of all virtues is animated and
inspired by charity, which ‘binds everything together in perfect harmony’ (Col.
3:14) It is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them … it is the source and the goal of their
Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love and
raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love.”
It is also the highest virtue because it deals with the attainment of all man’s
longing – to be united with the object of his love in the perfection of the
always from and through and in Christ, the Messiah who brought mankind the New
Dispensation. “Jesus makes charity the newcommandment. By loving
his own to the end, He makes manifest the Father’s love, which He receives.”
For the first time, the Jews heard that the greatest of all commandments was to
love God and to love their neighbor as they loved themselves.
While humans are
on earth, however, it is necessary to keep growing in the depth of the
theological virtues and this requires the infused moral virtues. “The
theological virtues are demanded by the very nature of grace … the moral
virtues are demanded by the theological virtues because to be ordained to the
end (faith, hope and love in and of God) requires a proper disposition to the
means.”  We do this by exercising the moral virtues –
prudence, which corresponds to faith; temperance and fortitude, which bolster
hope, and justice, which is the proper exercise of charity. We also receive
strengthening in the three key virtues by the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the
counsels of the Beatitudes.
sanctifying grace gives us all three of these virtues and actual grace and
infused moral virtues give us the ability to persevere in keeping them
operative, we need finally to focus our minds on the words of St. Paul with
regard to their importance.
“So faith, hope
and love, these three, abide, but the greatest of these is love.” (I Cor.
13:13) The three theological virtues are the fountainhead from which the
Christian draws as he seeks to grow in the love of God as perfectly as he can
in this life and in complete fulfillment in heaven, where only Love remains.
Jordan, O.P., Spiritual Theology,(London: Sheed and Ward, 1980), p. 85.