The Virtue of Faith

Depiction of faith, hope, and charity (love), ...

The Virtue of Faith is found in the intellect (which aspires to truth) and the will, not in the emotions. This can often be confusing due to the fact that the gift of faith has as its goal Love (Charity), which in essence is God Himself. Likewise, our expressions of Faith are also motivated by the virtue of Love – the love of God and of neighbor as oneself, for the love of God. This Theological Virtue of Love is not, however, to be confused with emotional love though it quite often (but not necessarily) accompanies this virtue by the same name.

Love is the ‘form’ of the virtues as well as the ‘source and goal’ of their practice. (see CCC 1827)  And it is by the Virtue of Faith that we dare Hope for the Divine Promises. Our love of Christ (Truth) is a sure foundation for the Virtue of Faith while Theological Hope in these promises depends upon our acceptance and belief in Him Who is True. One can easily see why we have need for all 3 of the Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, Charity) as described by the Church: for none can operate in isolation from the others. Only when we meet God face-to-face will we no longer have need of Faith and Hope though Love will always remain – our will becoming one with His Divine Will. It is God’s free gift of love that operates in us now and will someday sustain us in heaven; He has loved us first and this love moves our hearts to seek Him with our freewill through Faith, Hope and Love.

The similarity to marital love is quite striking. We can easily mistake the ‘magic’ of love for the selfless love necessary in a successful marriage. This ‘magic’ or emotionalism that accompanies a loving relationship can and often does fade in time. But a successful marriage is a movement of the will to sacrifice and surrender oneself to the other even in the absence of these emotions. Often the love-swoon of a new romance is sufficient to motivate many good and noble actions: not necessarily for the sake of True sacrificial love for the other, but in order to maintain this emotional nirvana. It is an old saying that some people are merely in love with Love. But even this love, which is wonderful in its own right, points to a higher Love – a Love still more complete. This Love is sacrificial in nature and devoid of self-satisfaction as its object. It is other-oriented and not egocentric. It is this kind of Love that God has for us and that we should have for Him. No wonder we speak of spiritual marriage between our souls and Christ.

Therefore, our spiritual quest should be consistent with this proper orientation. It should be Christ-centered rather than me-centered. A loss of emotional fulfillment is not necessarily a sign that one has lost his faith; although an abandonment of one’s duties to this faith may certainly indicate such. Faith does not leave us unchanged. It demands works of charity and obedience of faith, bearing witness to God. (CCC 2087) True faith and a healthy spiritual life are often found in those who have been denied the ‘feelings’ (instant gratifications) of faith but trudge ever forward into the seeming darkness. They are guided only by their unchangeable fiat, “not my will but Thine be done.” Their will is guided by Faith, Hope, and Love, though they operate in a way sometimes unseen or unfelt by the spiritual pilgrim.

If we seek only emotional consolation from our faith then we have not truly been tested in our faith. It is wonderful to be given such lights from our Lord and we should always thank Him for them. But we should never confuse these consolations for the True Gift of Faith. When we are tested in our faith by a loss of these comforts we should thank God all the more for the faith bestowed on us, which can only be practiced by our will which is accompanied by hope and love of God. Thus stripped of self-satisfaction, we stand naked before God, unashamed like the new Adam (Christ Jesus) when He willed to die an ignominious death on the cross for Love of us.

I believe it was the Curé of Ars who was once asked how a person might become a saint.  His answer was: “You will it.”

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