A Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: Abba Anthony 6

“The blacksmith, who pounds a piece of iron,” says Saint Antonios the Great, “has previously thought about what he wants to make – a sickle, a knife, an axe – and works accordingly. And so let the man of God ponder in advance which virtue he wishes to acquire, in order not to toil aimlessly.”

I have to ask myself.  Have I ever thought of virtues as something to be acquired or have I thought of them as something I was born with? Or have I attained certain virtues by way of obstacles I have overcome? 

The latter, for the most part, I think. Seems to me it is the way we choose to deal with obstacles that is key. Do we argue, blame, complain? Or do we accept what is as a given, something to work with, not rail against? Oh, to be sure I’ve railed against stuff in my life but for the most part, it’s when I have accepted reality for what it is that I have the most opportunity to live a better life.

Perhaps I should mention what the Desert Christians mean by virtues.  They don’t mean things like a sunny disposition or intellectual gifts.  You have heard I am certain of the Seven Deadly Sins.  There are also the Seven Cardinal Virtues and it is these that this Saying refers to.

The Seven Heavenly Virtues:

Chastity, Abstinence, Liberality, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, Humility

Chastity- Courage and boldness. Embracing of moral wholesomeness and achieving purity of thought through education and betterment.

Abstinence- Constant mindfulness of others and one’s surroundings; practicing self-control, abstention, and moderation.

Liberality- Generosity. Willingness to give. A nobility of thought or actions.

Diligence- A zealous and careful nature in one’s actions and work. Decisive work ethic. Budgeting one’s time; monitoring one’s own activities to guard against laziness.

Patience- Forbearance and endurance through moderation. Resolving conflicts peacefully, as opposed to resorting to violence. The ability to forgive; to show mercy to sinners.

Kindness- Charity, compassion, friendship, and sympathy without prejudice and for its own sake.

Humility- Modest behavior, selflessness, and the giving of respect. Giving credit where credit is due; not unfairly glorifying one’s own self.Modest behavior, selflessness, and the giving of respect. Giving credit where credit is due; not unfairly glorifying one’s own self.


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