One of the gifts that we have inherited from patristic and medieval times is a very sustained study of what we might call the "hierarchy of virtues." Humans have always recognised that there is good and evil (it's right there in the Garden of Eden), but we also recognise that it isn't simply actions that make something good or evil, it is the spirit behind the action. In our Lord's words:
"A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things." (Matthew 12.35)
The ancients recognised that some virtue, or goodness, was purely human in origin. They called these the "Cardinal Virtues." These are prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice. But they also recognised that there were other virtues which had their origin not in the human person, or in the world, but in God himself. They called these the "Theological Virtues." S Paul was the first to articulate them clearly:
"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." (1 Corinthians 13.13)
Faith, Hope and Charity are the three virtues which are gifts of God. But they are more than just good qualities, they are the means through which our salvation is experienced, or "worked out" in S Paul's words. If one pays attention to so many of the prayers of the Church, one of the regular themes is that we pray for an increase of these three gifts. Today's poem is built around these three gifts, and reflects on how they operate within us toward the "renewal of mind" that was our theme a few days ago.
The poem brings in a medieval Italian word that Dante invented in the Paradiso: transumanar. It strictly means "transhumanised," and suggests "to pass beyond the human." To learn faith, hope and charity is to "pass beyond the human" into the life of God himself.
Renewed in Mind
By Robert Crouse
There can be no return to Eden.
The natural good can be restored and sustained,
the beast can be tamed, but…
only by the gifts of grace
in the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and charity.
Paradise is possible only if the soul is “transhumanised”
(“transumanar” is Dante’s word);
only if the intellect is enabled by faith
to fix its vision upon the eternal Good;
only if the will is strengthened by hope
to pursue that Good;
only if the powers of the soul are united in that eternal Charity,
that divine amor which moves the sun and the other stars.