How often do Christians quickly recite the Lord’s Prayer never stopping to contemplate or meditate on the fullness of each phrase? Hidden within are the three theological and four moral virtues that both become a guiding map to our life and bring us closer to God.
The Virtues of The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
(click the virtue above for more)
What is Faith?
Faith is nothing more than believing something on the word of a witness. Everyone has faith. You may have faith in a close friend, your doctor, or even a scientist. You trust them.
You believe something that you cannot prove. If you can prove it then you know it. For example, you know that 2 + 2 = 4. You can believe that God loves you. You can know that God exists because there are many signs of credibility.
Christian faith is imminently reasonable. Faith in God is trust and believing God who is truth himself. God gives us “signs of credibility” to believe in God’s truth. Man can discover some truth by reason because God revealed it to him.
St. Paul says faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen. In the light of faith, “seeing is not believing”, as the adage goes, but “believing is seeing”.
What is Hope?
Life for man is very much life on the way like a wayfarer. But without a firm grasp of the end, such a life can prove impossible. To persevere to our end, we need a virtue that anchors us in God. God gives us himself and outfits us with the virtue of hope to conduct us to our heavenly homeland.
We speak of hope for a variety of different things. For a snow day, for a raise, for a successful sports team. In these examples, it’s a natural hope that we harbor. But hope understood as a theological virtue specifically, this concerns our ultimate end, eternal life with God.
We do not, in our own power, conceive of this good, much less pursue it well. So, God instills the theological virtue of hope, raising our minds and hearts to him so that we can respond generously to his offer. The virtue of hope is a confidence that God will give eternal life to me and to those whom I love because he is omnipotent and merciful.
It is a thoroughly Christian virtue. Hope looks to Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith who has gone before us into the sanctuary on high and presents our humanity before God as a pleasing sacrifice on our behalf. We believe and trust that eternal life is made available to us because Christ has undone the primordial sin and unbarred the gates of heaven to us. We might say that hope is a virtue of the already but not yet.
The principal sins against hope are “presumption” and “despair”. The presumption is a cavalier assurance that God will save me regardless of whether I consent and cooperate with his grace. The presumptuous person refuses to make use of the means that God appoints for salvation, whether they be persevering prayer or sacramental confession.
At the other extreme, there is despair. Despair arises from a sense of sadness with the divine good, which one judges inaccessible or impossible. Despair is a denial that God’s promises apply to me or a fear that he will deny pardon even to the repentant. Despair sets aside the uncertainty of the way in favor of the certainty of the damned. Going his way between presumption and despair, each Christian is called to live in the uncertain assurance of God’s gift. He is to always pray and not lose heart.
What is Charity (Love)?
If faith leans to God as the first truth spoken and if hope rises to God as the final good promised, then that aspect of God himself to which charity inclines is God as beloved or God is our first and best friend.
Now it is important to note that we do not establish this friendship with God. We cannot make God our friend. For us to become friends with God, God must take the first step and He has. As St. John reminds us, this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us. God is love. By graciously extending to us a share in his happiness, God forms a certain society with us within which friendship can develop. Because by God’s gracious initiative, we share the same happiness with God we humans can love that happiness for the sake of God and thereby love God.
We can love God as a friend. For St. Aquinas, charity is nothing other than our loving response to the friendship offered to us by God and because in every friendship we love our friend as well as what he loves, in charity we love God as well as what He loves, which is everything that He has made, especially other persons.