The interior virtues serve God, and the exterior virtues serve the interior virtues

January 15, 2022 • 4 min

From The Sinner’s Guide, page 455
By Venerable Louis of Granada

There is no doubt that the virtues of the first class are more meritorious and pleasing to God than those of the second.

“Woman, believe me,” said our Saviour to the woman at the well, “that the hour cometh, and now is, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeketh such to adore Him. God is a Spirit, and they that adore Him must adore Him in spirit and in truth.” [St. John iv. 21, 23, 24.]

For this reason David, describing the beauty of the Church and that of a soul in the state of grace, says that all her glory is within in golden borders, clothed round about with variety. [Ps. xilv. 14.]

And the great Apostle, writing to Timothy, says: “Exercise thyself unto godliness, for bodily exercise is profitable to little; but godliness is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” [1 Tim. iv. 7, 8.] According to St. Thomas, godliness here signifies the worship of God and charity to our neighbor, while bodily exercise means fasting and other austerities.

This is a truth of which even the pagan philosophers were not ignorant.

Aristotle has written very little of God, yet in one of his works he expresses himself thus: “If the gods take any interest in human things, as we have reason to believe they do, there is no doubt that they take most pleasure in what bears most resemblance to themselves—that is, in man’s spirit or mind; hence they who adorn their minds with a knowledge of truth, and their souls with the beauty and harmony of virtue, must be most pleasing to them.”

The celebrated physician Galen expresses the same thought. Writing upon the structure of the human frame, and the different relations and functions of its various parts, in which the wisdom and power of the Sovereign Artisan are particularly manifest, he is overcome with admiration, and, abandoning the language of science for that of religion, he exclaims: “Let others honor the gods with offerings of hecatombs. As for me, I shall honor them by proclaiming the greatness of their power, which so readily executes all that their wisdom ordains; and their infinite goodness, which refuses nothing to their creatures, but abundantly provides for all their needs.”

Such are the words of a pagan philosopher. Let us refer them to the true God; and what more can a Christian say?

The great Galen unconsciously repeats the words of God’s prophet: “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than holocausts.” [Osee vi. 6.] The hecatomb of the pagan may be considered as the imitation of the holocaust of the Jew.

From the praise bestowed upon the interior virtues we must not conclude that the others are of little value. Though not so noble as the former, they are nevertheless most efficacious in acquiring and preserving them.

For example, retreat and solitude guard us from innumerable sights and sounds which endanger the peace of our conscience, and imperil our chastity.

We are all sensible of the importance of silence in preserving devotion, and avoiding those faults into which we are led by excessive conversation. “In the multitude of words,” says Solomon, “there shall not want sin.” [Prov. x. 19.]

Fasting, when performed in a state of grace, besides being a meritorious act of the virtue of temperance, as it is at all times, expiates our sins, subdues the inclinations of the flesh, repels our enemy, disposes us for prayer, pious reading, and meditation, and preserves us from the excesses, quarrels, and passions awakened by inordinate indulgence.

As for pious reading, the recitation of the Psalms, assisting at the divine office, and hearing sermons, it is evident that these acts of the virtue of religion are most efficacious in enlightening the understanding and inflaming the will with a desire for spiritual things.

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