Towards a virtuous life: use worthy means.

2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
—Peter’s second letter (1:2-11)

How do we move towards this life, of adding virtue to our faith?

Walter Hilton writes, continuing from last time:

“Truly, until our attitude towards a virtuous life be transformed to a feeling of real affection, we may have a secondary sort of contemplation, but the highest part of it will remain beyond our grasp. Yet since the practice of certain virtues helps to dispose us to true contemplation, then it behooves us to use certain worthy means to develop these virtues.

There are three means that people generally employ in offering themselves to contemplation. These are: 1) the ready of Holy Scripture and the teaching of godly authors; 2) spiritual meditation; and 3) effectual fervent prayer. Now, I realize that the reading of Holy Scripture is not readily available to you just now so therefore it is more appropriate that you should occupy yourself in prayer and meditation [this was 14th century, and the Bible had not been printed widely, without the invention of the printing press and modern publishing]. By meditation you will be able to see just how much you yet lack in spiritual virtues, and by prayer you shall be enabled to [ask for and] receive them.”

—”True Spirituality: The Goal of the Contemplative Life,” from Toward a Perfect Love: the Spiritual Counsel of Walter Hilton, translated by David Lyle Jeffrey, 43-44 [Amazon | Google Books]

In meditation we set before our mind the holy and whole life of Jesus, who lived the life we should live but haven’t. When we see the great gap between his character and ours, we cry out like the Apostle Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).

This is the beginning of moving towards a life of integrity and wholeness, for when we see that Jesus has fulfilled God’s law for us we no longer live in the despair of our own inability. Yet, we cannot grow and change unless we acknowledge our inability to change ourselves. God will show us how His Son fulfilled God’s law for us, and is fulfilling it in us:

1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
—Romans 8:1-4

People contemplating like this daily move along the pathway of humility (knowing who He is and who we are), and gratitude (thinking, feeling and speaking thankfulness to God and others). These are the elements of the soil where God’s grace grows in our lives.


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