Understandable Weakness and Virtues without Necessity

It is Lent. That means prayer, fasting, and almsgiving come to mind somewhat more often than they normally do — although they should normally come to mind fairly often, anyway.

I always like to point out during Lent that, while such exterior activities as fasting and penance are (or can be) meritorious and good and might even help save another soul through the gracious bonds of the Mystical Body of Christ — they are really nothing if they’re not done with the interior virtue that they aim at. This is a frequent theme of the saints. We need to recognize the limits to exterior acts, too. And that is beneficial and loving.

Our weakness in long prayer, fasting, and such activities or penance is real. And that’s OK. Jesus knows our weaknesses. He actually rather likes them. God delights in showing his strength through our weakness, so if we have a weakness, let us accept that and concentrate on the interior virtues instead. I was reading a passage from Saint Maximus, where he says this:

Now if from some necessity or bodily condition such as ill health or the like it happens that we are unable to accomplish the preceding bodily virtues [such as fasting, vigils, sleeping on the ground, and manual labour], we are excused by the Lord, who understands the reasons. But if we do not accomplish the virtues of the soul [such as love, patience, meekness, self-mastery, and prayer] we shall have no defence, for they are not subject to any necessity.

It is the interior that trumps, if the issue comes to a point. And that’s perfectly fine. The interior both accomplishes more for ourselves and for others and is not subject to any necessity or limits.

I often like to remind myself of this during Lent.

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