Volume IV - Spirituality

The Virtues

Courage

The virtue of courage and strength must accompany patience. Only the one who has courage can truly be patient in all things. To be courageous means simply not to be afraid. Many times in the Gospels, Christ speaks of this virtue and commands it to His disciples, In so doing, He follows the Old Testament example.

The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?

Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27.1,14; Psalm 31:24)

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear; fear Him who, after He has killed, has the power to cast into bell, yes, I tell you, fear Him! (Luke 12:32,4-5)

In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

The apostles were utterly courageous, and counseled all men to follow their example.

Be vigilant, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. (I Corinthians 16:13)

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you will be able to stand… (Ephesians 6:10)

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus…Take your share of sufferings as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1-3; Cf Hebrews 11:32-38)

The virtue of courage is expressed not only in times of persecution and suffering, but also in the face of ridicule and disdain. It is expressed as well simply, in the, smallest, most common things of everyday life. In Christ’s parable of the talents, the man with little lost even the little that he had and was cast into out darkness because he failed to use his small gift through lack of courage: “and I was afraid and hid your talent in the ground.” (Matthew 25:25-30) The person wit courage faces all things with strength and lives ever day, in every little thing, with the power of Christ. To be “faithful in little” is a sign of great courage. The saints were eminently courageous in their lives an considered this virtue to be central in the spiritual life.

Courage, according to Saint Gregory of Sinai, is the first of the “four original virtues,” one of the “four parent virtues which contain and constitute all others. (Saint Gregory of Sinai, 14th c., Instructions to Hesychasts)

If you wish to make a right beginning in your spiritual activity, first prepare yourself for the temptations that will befall you. For the devil has the habit of visiting with terrible temptations those whom he sees starting a righteous life with ardent faith. (...) Therefore prepare yourself to meet courageously the temptations which will surely assail you, and only then begin to practice them. (Saint Isaac of Syria, 6th c., Directions on Spiritual Training)

If you pursue virtue… you are most likely to be attacked much by fear… such a person should make every effort to overcome cowardice, that daughter of unbelief and that offspring of vain-glory.

Cowardice is a childish disposition in a… vain-glorious soul . . . a failing away from faith that comes through expecting the unexpected… a rehearsing of danger beforehand in fear, a loss of conviction.

A proud soul is a slave of cowardice; it vainly trusts in itself and fears any shadow and sound of creatures.

... all cowardly people are vainglorious… and often have mental breakdowns…

He who has become the Lord’s servant fears the Master alone, but he who does not yet fear Him is often afraid of his own shadow.

He who has conquered cowardice has clearly dedicated his life and soul to God. (Saint John Climacus, 7th c., The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 21)