The Virtues of Parish Community

Last Sunday I offered in my sermon several lists taken from the Letters of St. Paul regarding sins, vices or behaviors which Christians should disapprove.    For the sake of balance and fairness, I offer now several lists from St. Paul’s epistles which  offer us virtues which St. Paul advocated all Christians to practice.   The texts are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV):

Colossians 3:12-13   compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other

Philippians 4:8   true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellence worthy of praise

Galatians 5:22-23   love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,  self-control

2 Corinthians 6:6    purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, genuine love; truthful speech

Keep in mind that while St. Paul’s lists of sins give us behaviors which Christian ought not commit (or in other words, sins of commission), virtues offer us behaviors we ought to do (or conversely it would be a sin of omission not to do these behaviors).   There are a couple of virtues which get mentioned more than once:

Kindness (3)                         Patience (3)             Truthful (2)

Purity (2)                              Love (2)

But it is also interesting that St. Paul does not simply repeat the same few virtues over and over.  It is possible that he wrote pastorally to each community about the virtues he felt they specifically needed to remember – there was no one size fits all mentality with St. Paul; each community needed to put into play very specific virtues.  It would also seem to indicate he didn’t believe there was any one all inclusive list of virtues, but rather that there were many different virtues which the Christian church in each location needed to manifest.

In as much as St. Paul was writing to communities rather than individuals, it is worth every parish considering as community how they can or do encourage, embody, incarnate, uphold these communal virtues which St. Paul thought worth highlighting to the parishes of his day.  

How, where, and when can parishes practice kindness, patience, truthfulness, purity and love?   How is this done as community?   Who would be the recipients and beneficiaries of such virtues within the community?  What would be the benefits to any Christian community which endeavored to live by these virtues?    Are there ways which parishes could intentionally practice these virtues or put them into practice in the parish?

Is Immanuel?

nativity31“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us)”  (Matthew 1:23).

Emmanuel is interpreted ‘God is with us.’   And so, test yourselves, whether in truth God be with us.  If we have removed ourselves from evils and become strangers to their inventor, the devil, then in truth God is with us.  And if the sweetness of evil deeds has become bitter to us, and we take sweet enjoyment of the desire for good deeds and of having forever a dwelling in the heavens, then in barsunuphiustruth God is with us.  If we look on all men alike, and if all days (sorrowful and successful) are equal for us, then in truth God is with us.  If we love those who hate us, who insult, reproach, despise, oppress us and cause us detriment just like those who love us, praise us, furnish us gain, and give us repose – then in truth God is with us.  The sign of one who has attained to this measure is this:  that such a man always has God with him, for he is always with God.”  (Saints Barsanuphius and John, GUIDANCE TOWARD SPIRITUAL LIFE)