August 30, 2009

Why Virtue?

Do we need virtue in Heaven?

Someone recently asked:

“Why should I increase self discipline if I won’t need it in Heaven?”

We could just as well ask the same of patience, prudence, temperance, fortitude or any of the other virtues. The question is perfectly valid, and says a lot about how we view the practice of virtue. We tend toward utilitarian ethics, the practice of behaviors or habits that will benefit us is not real virtue, but unlike the stoics, we know that the practice of virtue for its own sake is hollow and can lead to pride. Why, then, should we grow in virtue? And growth is the answer.

We are made in God’s image and intended for perfection. Through our own fault, we fail to become what God gave us the power to be, but we are offered the chance to do our best through the Grace of God, and promised that the rest will be made up at the end of this life. In the presence of God, the Beatific Vision, we are transformed and glorified, but we provide the starting material for this change. There is no temptation in Heaven to test our self control, but whatever virtues we develop here will provide a kind of raw material for glory. Just as God needs no one else to be, we will need no evil or adversity to shine in glory, and our virtues will reflect the goodness and beauty of God, giving Him glory.

Through our actions and efforts here, struggling against laziness or animal urges, we build the foundation for glory, not glory in some limited worldly way, but a lasting glory in which we will rejoice in God. Just as the sculptor chisels away at a block of marble by repeated blows, we struggle daily to exercise virtue so we may create a being of great beauty in the sight of God. We can do nothing without Grace, but this is already given in infinite quantity, for God’s love is not given in small doses. God is the profligate lover, lavishing His gifts on the ungrateful and foolish, urging them to wake and become the glorious beings they were meant to be.

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