The Virtues in Christ

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Triumph of Virtue - by Correggio - from Musée du Louvre, Paris

The Young Woman at the center wears the Armour of Christ. The Angel behind her Crowns her with a Victory Wreath of Laurel. In the same Angel's left hand is a Palm Branch, Symbolic of Virginity. At the Virgin's feet are the Demons she has defeated, and in her right hand is a broken lance, indicating she has fought hard and well. She has been 'weighed and measured' by the other two Virgins dressed in white, and not 'found wanting'. There is joy in Heaven over her Victory.

The single Tree behind the Virgin which grows straight and tall toward Heaven is Symbolic of the Cross of Jesus Christ. In a companion-painting by Correggio entitled 'Allegory of Vices' , also displayed at Musée du Louvre, we see the background-tree to be Gnarled, Twisted and Broken. Click to display 'Allegory of Vices'.

 

Seven (7)
Gifts of the Spirit

Seven (7)
Divine/Infused Virtues

 Four (4) Main
Acquired/Human Virtues

Synderesis/
Natural Law

Supernatural/ Divine Nature

Human Nature

Received at
Confirmation

Received at Baptism
along with Sanctifying Grace

Received at Conception and
developed throughout our Life

Received at
Conception (static)

Understanding

Faith

No Counterpart
to the Three (3)
Theological Virtues

God writes His Name on the Soul of every Man at Conception. Synderesis is the Law of our Mind, because it is a Habit containing the Precepts of the Natural Law, which are the First Principles of Human Actions
Knowledge

Hope

Wisdom

Charity

Counsel

Prudence

Weakened/Damaged Prudence

Fortitude

Justice

Weakened/Damaged Justice

Piety

Temperance

Weakened/Damaged Temperance

Fear of the Lord

Fortitude

Weakened/Damaged Fortitude

The Four (4) Main Acquired/Human Virtues are still severely weakened due to Original Sin, and require Divine Aid

 

The Virtues in Christ

by Andrew Nimmo, Centre for Thomistic Studies

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Jesus Christ was known in His time-on-earth as a Just Man. No-one could convict Him of Sin. Yet as we know He was not just a Man, He was also God. While there is no doubt that Christ had the Fullness of Virtues, were there any Virtues that were Incompatible-with His being God?

This might seem like a strange question at first, until one realizes that some Virtues presuppose Imperfections which could not be-present in the Incarnate Word.

 

Theological Virtues

The First Virtue which could not be in Christ was Faith. Why is this? Because from the Moment of the Incarnation, Jesus Christ enjoyed the Beatific Vision in His Human Intellect. This means that not only did Our Lord know His Father according to His Eternal Divine Knowledge, but He also saw Him Face-to-Face through the created Beatific Vision in His Human Intellect. Our Lord knows the Trinity by Divine and Human Knowledge. From the Creation of His Human Nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Christ both saw His Father Face-to-Face, and was conscious of His Own Divinity. There was never a time when He did not know that He was God, not only because of the Beatific Vision in His Human Soul, but more importantly, because He was and never ceased to be a Divine Person. Whether He was Knowing through His Divine Knowledge or through His Human Knowledge, He was the One (1) Divine Person doing the Act of Knowing. This is of course the Mystery of the Hypostatic Union: One (1) Divine Person owning Two (2) Natures, Divine and Human.

The Divine Person/Personality of Christ bridges the infinite gap between His Human and Divine Natures

Divine
Person/
Personality

Divine Nature of Christ

Brick Wall between Natures

Human Nature of Christ

This Vision of the Trinity in Christ's Human Intellect meant that Faith in the Trinity was neither Possible nor Needed. One does not believe what one already sees. This is what is meant by saying that Christ was a "Comprehensor". Yet, He is said to be also a "Wayfarer" in that He did not yet enjoy as Man all the Secondary Joys which awaited His Triumph over Sin and Death, a glimpse of which was Manifested at the Transfiguration. That Christ was both Comprehensor and Wayfarer is Mysterious, but what it meant was that Christ enjoyed the Vision in the Superior-part of His Soul, but blocked-it from Producing its Effects in the Inferior-part of His Soul and in His Body. He did this in order to be able to Suffer both Mental and Physical Agonies, even unto Death, for us and our Salvation.

Saint Thomas puts this well:

"Now before His Passion He had Beatitude as far as it regards what is Proper to the Soul; but Beatitude was wanting with regard to all else, since His Soul was Passible, and His Body Passible and Mortal. He was at once Comprehensor, inasmuch as He had Beatitude Proper to the Soul, and at the same time Wayfarer, inasmuch as He was tending to Beatitude, as regards what was wanting to His Beatitude" (III Q.15 Art 10)

Did Christ have the Virtue of Hope? After discussing the question of Faith (III Q.7 Art 3), Saint Thomas in the Next Article goes on to make a Distinction in Hope. Christ did not have Hope as it is a Theological Virtue whose Object is God, but He did have Hope about other things (Art 4). Hope is about a Good unpossessed, yet Christ possessed God in the Fullness of the Beatific Vision. Following the Beatific Vision, in the Intellect are Beatific Love and Joy in the Will. Christ had the Joy of seeing God Face-to-Face in His Human Intellect. He did not need to Hope for it. But as regards lesser-things, which were the Reward of His Triumph, such as the Glorification of His Body, He awaited these in Hope until His Resurrection.

There is no question that Our Lord had the Virtue of Charity and in the Highest Degree. Unlike Faith and Hope, Charity is not of itself Imperfect and is not incompatible-with the Beatific Vision. Indeed as Saint Paul says (1Corinthians 13:13) Charity is greater than Faith and Hope which will pass away in the Attainment of the Vision, but Charity remains.

 

Moral Virtues

Temperance

Species

Annexed

Abstinence
Sobriety
Chastity
 

* Continence
Humility
Meekness
Modesty

 

What about the Moral Virtues? The same Principle applies. Christ had all Moral Virtues which did not of themselves Imply the Possibility of Moral Imperfection. As the God-Man, all Christ's Actions were Virtuous and He thus Exercised the Virtues. But there were Two (2) Moral Virtues that were not in Christ, because they Imply the Possibility of Sin. They are Continence and Penance.

Continence is a Virtue in the Will whose Object is Inordinate Movements of the Sensitive Appetites. There was always Perfect Harmony between the Divine and Human Natures of Christ, and Perfect Subordination of the Human to the Divine. There was no possibility of a Rebellion in the Human Nature, because it belonged to a Divine Person. Our Lord enjoyed Perfect and Supreme Moral Unity and Complete Dominion over His Sensitive Appetites. The Impossibility of Sin in Christ meant that the Gift of Integrity, which gave Adam Perfect Control over his Passions, was not necessary in Christ. Christ had no need of the Virtue of Continence because He could not have Unruly Passions (Art.2). This did not preclude Christ from having the Virtue of Temperance, present in the Concupiscible Appetite, because its work is to Govern Passions simply speaking, abstracting from whether they are Ordered or Disordered.

 

Definition of the Virtue of Penance
Penance (Poenitentia) designates (1) a Virtue; (2) a Sacrament of the New Law; (3) a Canonical Punishment inflicted according to the earlier discipline of the Church; (4) a Work of Satisfaction enjoined upon the Recipient of the Sacrament. These have as their Common Centre the Truth that he who Sins must Repent and as far as possible make Reparation to Divine justice. Repentance, i.e., heartfelt sorrow with the firm purpose of sinning no more, is thus the prime condition on which depends the value of whatever the Sinner may do or suffer by way of expiation.

Penance here is a Supernatural Moral Virtue whereby the Sinner is disposed to hatred of his Sin as an Offence against God and to a firm purpose of Amendment and Satisfaction. The Principal Act in the exercise of this Virtue is the Detestation of Sin, not of sin in general nor of that which others commit, but of one's own sin. (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Christ did not have the Virtue of Penance because He could not ever have Sins to make Reparation for. Was this Virtue in Our Lady, who was Sinless? Whereas Our Lord was Impeccable, that is incapable of Sin, Our Lady was not, although she was preserved-from Original Sin and never committed a Personal Sin. Therefore, because Our Lady was-capable of Sin, but never did Sin, the Virtue of Penance was in her in Habit, but never in Act. This is not to say that Christ and His mother did not perform many Acts which were Reparative in Nature, but they were for Sins committed by others.

 

Conclusion

Thus, in Christ, the Virtues of Faith, Hope, Continence and Penance were absent. He possessed all other Virtues in the Greatest Fullness.

 

Links to other Pages on Virtues and Vices

Three (3) Theological Virtues

Four (4) Main Moral Virtues

Faith

Hope

Charity

Prudence

Justice

Temperance

Fortitude

Species of
Faith

Species of
Hope

Species of
Charity

Species of
Prudence

Species of
Justice

Species of
Temperance

Species of
Fortitude

No Species exist for the
Three (3) Theological Virtues

Wisdom Religion
Piety
Gratitude
Liberality
Affability
Abstinence
Sobriety
Chastity
Continence
Humility
Meekness
Modesty

Patience
Munificence
Magnanimity
Perseverance

Vices

Pride Avarice Envy Wrath Lust Gluttony Sloth Inordinate
Self-Love