St. Gregory on the Seven Virtues
St. Gregory on the Seven Virtues

What they are and how they work together for our benefit

St Gregory uses the feast of Job and his sons as a platform to give one day of the feast to each virture.

Briefly to unfold  then these same gifts of sevenfold grace, wisdom has one day, understanding another day, counsel  another, fortitude another, knowledge another, piety  another, fear [of God] another, for it is not the same thing to be wise that it is to understand; for many indeed are wise in the things of eternity, but cannot in any sort understand them. Wisdom therefore gives a feast in its day in that it refreshes the mind with the hope and assurance of eternal things. Understanding spreads a feast in its day, forasmuch as in that it penetrates the truths heard, refreshing the heart, it lights up its darkness. Counsel gives a feast in its day, in that while it stays us from acting precipitately, it makes the mind to be full of reason. Fortitude gives a feast in its day, in that whereas it  has no fear of adversity, it sets the viands of confidence before the alarmed soul. Knowledge prepares a feast in her day, in that in the mind’s belly she overcomes the emptiness of ignorance. Piety sets  forth a feast in its day, in that it satisfies the bowels of the heart with deeds of mercy. Fear makes a feast  in its day, in that whereas it keeps down the mind,   that it may not pride itself in the present things, it strengthens it with the meat of hope for the future   But I see that this point requires searching into in this feasting of the sons, namely, that by turns they feed one another.

For each particular virtue is to the last degree destitute, unless one virtue lends its support to another. For wisdom is less worth if wholly useless if it be not based upon wisdom, in that whilst it penetrates the higher mysteries without the counterpoise of wisdom, its own lightness is only lifting it up to meet with the heavier fall. Counsel is worthless when the strength of fortitude is lacking thereto, since what it finds out by turning the thing over, from want of strength it never carries on so far as to the perfecting in deed, and fortitude is very much broken down, if it be not supported by counsel, since the greater the power which it perceives itself  to have, so much the more miserably does this virtue rush headlong into ruin, without the governance of reason. Knowledge is nought if it hath not its use for piety, for whereas it neglects to put in practice the good that it knows, it binds itself the more closely to the judgment; and piety is very useless if it lacks the discernment of knowledge, in that while there is no knowledge to enlighten it, it knows not the way to shew mercy. And assuredly unless it has these virtues with it, fear itself rises up to the doing of no good action, forasmuch as while it is agitated about everything, its own alarms render  it inactive and void of all good works. Since then by reciprocal ministrations virtue is refreshed by virtue, it is truly said that the sons feast with one another by turns ; and as one aids to relieve another, it is as if the numerous offspring to be fed were to prepare a banquet each his day.

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