Four Hundred Texts on Love (Second Century) 8

26. When the intellect practices the virtues correctly, it advances in moral understanding. When it practices contemplation, it advances in spiritual knowledge. The first leads the spiritual contestant to discriminate between virtue and vice; the second leads the participant to the inner qualities of incorporeal and corporeal things. Finally, the intellect is granted the grace of theology when, carried on wings of love beyond these two former stages, it is taken up into God and with the help of the Holy Spirit discerns – as far as this is possible for the human intellect – the qualities of God.

The Christian life, as described here, is two-pronged. We practice the virtues and contemplation. Practicing the virtues leads us to be able to discriminate or distinguish between virtue and vice. Without that practice, we cannot tell the difference. I think this is something that many today miss. I don’t think I’m particularly good at this discrimination, but my experience and formation has been such that I live at something of a tangent with those who were shaped more within the American Christian context. As such, even though I still feel largely blind in my ability to distinguish virtue and vice in my own life, I see some of the ways that many call virtue vice and vice virtue in that particular context.

I had not considered theology a grace, but that phrasing rings true to me. It’s a grace I seek. Perhaps one day I will move far enough forward to experience it.

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