Wednesday, April 14

Put into practice - part one

For someone like myself with a protestant background, a discussion of the seven heavenly virtues is something new and interesting. As a nascent medievalist, their importance can't reasonably be understated in regards to the influence on the ideas of chivalry and what was considered 'noble and christian'. In brief, the virtues are normally split into two groups, the three theological and the four cardinal virtues. Let us consider the Trivium first.

The three theological virtues are set forth in 1 Corinthians 13:13. Νυνὶ δὲ μένει πίστις, ἐλπίς, ἀγάπη, τὰ τρία ταῦτα· μείζων δὲ τούτων ἡ ἀγάπη. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I prefer to consider these virtues not 'theological', but rather 'internal' virtues. By these ideas our inner self is guided and they are self-contained. Let us consider them each in turn.

ἀγάπη - Agape (latin Caritas) is Love. The selfless, unqualified and unending love and kindness which is the Divine. Agape is the wellspring from which the other virtues flow and are sustained. Without it, Faith and Hope (as well as the Cardinal virtues) will either wither or be subverted. It is the Divine manifested and reflected within us.

πίστις - Pistis (latin fides) is Faith. One translation of pistis is belief, but another is trust. This is very important, as it makes Faith something much more than what we commonly consider it. Pistis is not "merely belief without evidence; a process of active non-thinking", as Richard Dawkins contends, but it shows trust in the Divine in its myriad forms. Trust in ourselves, in others, in the universe and in the Divine. If agape is the wellspring, then pistis is the aqueduct that carries the Living Water of the Divine.

ἐλπίς - Elpis (latin spes) is Hope. When Pandora released all of the evils upon the world and all the gods retreated to Olympus, it was Elpis that remained. It is hope that sustains us when we see no reasonable way forward, hope which can carry us in spite of the evidence. Elpis has another translation, too - expectation. An expectation that, no matter what our present situation, things will be better. An expectation that our trust and our love are well placed. With agape being the wellspring and pistis the aqueduct, it is elpis that is the fountain that brings the Living Water of the Divine to our thirsty souls.

Abide in Love, Trust that it will be carried to you, and Expect that it shall flow forth and you will be infused with the water that gives life.


  1. For almost 40 years I've read 'definitions' of agape similar to the one you used, but during the last 10 years those began to not make much sense. So I started a blog to explore what 'agape' could really mean. I'm new to blogging, so in between posting my ideas, I started googling what others were saying. That's when I discovered your blog. It's a little frustrating because Google reported 3,810,000 hits for 'agape.'You can check out my blog at

  2. Rev Bob,

    In the first, I wish to thank you for your thoughts and the link to your blog. There are some semantic elements and minor quibbles I have with what you have written, but the crux of your ruminations align with what I have studied and come to accept.

    To say that 'agape' is love is as simplistic and misleading as saying that 'logos' is the Word. The paradox of English (a language most akin to the magpie) is that we use only a single word for love, whereas the Greek has four separate words for its differing facets and the Latin at least four commonly used words that do not fully function as cognates.

    If naught else, your comment here and your blog has caused me to ponder further about this and realise I should more fully clarify my statements. I would again thank you and encourage you to comment as you see fit.