“Unless a man keeps the commandments of God, he cannot progress, even in a single virtue” (Abba Agathon).
Abba Agathon hits the nail on the head. When he refers to “commandments” he means the Ten Commandments and the words of Jesus. Jesus tells us that the all the Law and all the Prophets are summed up in two commandments, “Move the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, soul, and might” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Where do the Ten Commandments apply? I think they teach us what love looks like. I never think of them as a list of dos and don’ts. I think of them as love in action. We are told what it looks like to love God with every fiber of our being and we are told what it looks like when we love our neighbors as ourselves.
Once we are motivated by love, surely the virtues can’t help but follow.