We read in the second reading today from St Paul, “Put on as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on Love, that is the bond of perfection.” (Col 3:12-14)
Daniel A Keating in his book, ‘Deification and Grace’ offers some valuable insight into these verses from St Paul on virtue. He writes, ” The fathers of the Church often speak of Christian maturity and ‘transformation into the image of Christ’ in terms of the acquisition of virtue. This puzzles modern readers, because we do not use the term ‘virtue; in quite the same way that the early Christian tradition did. To use the term ‘virtue’ conveys a vague sense of moral character and often has little connection with Christian belief or to faith, hope and love…On the basis of what God has done for us in Christ through the Spirit, we are called to renounce the patterns of our former life and live according to the new way of like in Christ. And so what the Father speak of growing in virtue, it is a shorthand way if describing the call to ‘put off’ the former manner of life and ‘put on’ what pertains to life in Christ.”
This reality is captured in this quote from Saint Cyril of Alexandria, “For just as the root of the vine ministers and distributes to the branches the enjoyment if its own and inherent natural qualities, so the only-begotten Word of God, by putting His Spirit within them, imparts to the saint, as it were, a kinship to his own nature and the nature of God the Father, inasmuch as they have been united with him through faith and complete holiness of life; and he nourishes them to godliness, and works in them the knowledge of all virtue and well doing.”
Daniel Keating writes, “It is because we have been born anew as sons and daughters of God and are partakers of the divine nature that we can make progress in godly virtue…Love in particular is the crown of all the virtues, as St Paul clarifies when listing the things we are to ‘put on’ in (Colossians 3:1-14) ‘And over all these put on love, that is the bond of perfection. This text neatly exhibits love as the crown of ‘perfection’ that is of Christian maturity.”
So on this feast of the Holy Family. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to inflame our hearts and souls with the virtues, of heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another; if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is the bond of perfection. If we ask the Holy Spirit anew into our hearts, and we strive to live these virtues we will make our own little family more like the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
St Stephen and St Paul pray for us.