Virtues: An Extensive List

Lest after reading the Extensive List of Passions  of St Peter of Damaskos one wonders, ‘did he have nothing better to do than list sins?’, he also provided a list of everything he considered to be a virtue, though he acknowledges the list is not exhaustive.   Peter says he derived his list of passions from the Scriptures and the list of virtues from the fathers  – those earlier generations of monks and teachers of the church, many considered to be saints.  While he came up with 298 passions, he only listed 228 virtues but admits the list is not complete.   If you are wondering what virtue you should work on next in your spiritual life, here are some virtues you can consider.

It is from the fathers that I myself have learned about the virtues, and I will give a list of them, so far as I can, even though it is not complete because of my lack of knowledge. The virtues are:

moral judgment, self-restraint, courage, justice, faith, hope, love, fear, religious devotion, spiritual knowledge, resolution, strength, understanding, wisdom, contrition, grief, gentleness, searching the Scriptures, acts of charity, purity of heart, peace, patient endurance, self-control, perseverance, probity of intention, purposiveness, sensitivity, heedfulness, godlike stability, warmth, alertness, the fervor of the Spirit, meditation, diligence, watchfulness, mindfulness, reflection, reverence, shame, respect, penitence, refraining from evil, repentance, return to God, allegiance to Christ, rejection of the devil,

keeping of the commandments, guarding of the soul, purity of conscience, remembrance of death, tribulation of soul, the doing of good actions, effort, toil, an austere life, fasting, vigils, hunger, thirst, frugality, self-sufficiency, orderliness, gracefulness, modesty, reserve, disdain of money, unacquisitiveness, renunciation of worldly things, submissiveness, obedience, compliance, poverty, possessionlessness, withdrawal from the world, eradication of self-will, denial of self, counsel, magnanimity, devotion to God, stillness, discipline, sleeping on a hard bed, abstinence from washing oneself, service, struggle, attentiveness, the eating of uncooked food, nakedness, the wasting of one’s body, solitude, quietude, calmness, cheerfulness, fortitude, boldness, godlike zeal, fervency, progress, folly for Christ, watchfulness over the intellect, moral integrity, holiness, virginity, sanctification, purity of body, chasteness of soul, reading for Christ’s sake, concern for God, comprehension, friendliness, truthfulness, uninquisitiveness, uncensoriousness, forgiveness of debts, good management, skilfulness, acuity, fairness, the right use of things,

cognitive insight, good-naturedness, experience, psalmody, prayer, thanksgiving, acknowledgment, entreaty, kneeling, supplication, intercession, petition, appeal, hymnody, doxology, confession, solicitude, mourning, affliction, pain, distress, lamentation, sighs of sorrow, weeping, heart-rending tears, compunction, silence, the search for God, cries of anguish, lack of anxiety about all things, forbearance, lack of self-esteem, disinterest in glory, simplicity of soul, sympathy, self-retirement, goodness of disposition, activities that accord with nature, activities exceeding one’s natural capacity, brotherly love, concord, communion in God, sweetness, a spiritual disposition, mildness, rectitude, innocence, kindliness, guilelessness, simplicity, good repute, speaking well of others, good works, preference of one’s neighbor, godlike tenderness, a virtuous character, consistency, nobility, gratitude, humility, detachment, dignity, forbearance, long-suffering, kindness, goodness,

discrimination, accessibility, courtesy, tranquility, contemplation, guidance, reliability, clearsightedness, dispassion, spiritual joy, sureness, tears of understanding, tears of soul, a loving desire for God, pity, mercy, compassion, purity of soul, purity of intellect, prescience, pure prayer, passion-free thoughts, steadfastness, fitness of soul and body, illumination, the recovery of one’s soul, hatred of life, proper teaching, a healthy longing for death, childlikeness in Christ, rootedness, admonition and encouragement, both moderate and forcible, a praiseworthy ability to change, ecstasy towards God, perfection in Christ, true enlightenment, an intense longing for God, rapture of intellect, the indwelling of God, love of God, love of inner wisdom, theology, a true confession of faith, disdain of death, saintliness, successful accomplishment, perfect health of soul, virtue, praise from God, grace, kingship, adoption to sonship

– altogether 228 virtues. To acquire all of them is possible only through the grace of Him who grants us victory over the passions.”

(THE PHILOKALIA, Kindle Loc. 29993-30050)

The Passions: An Extensive List

For those who are afraid that perhaps they have some hidden sin or passion to which they are blind, St Peter of Damaskos has conveniently provided an extensive list of all the passions he could find in the Scriptures.  Or perhaps you think of yourself as being a good person and mostly sin free, St. Peter will help disabuse you of that blindness.

His list might also give comfort to those who are afraid that someone, somehow might get into heaven who didn’t deserve it.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  Or, maybe you are wondering what to say in your next confession – St Peter helps those who love lists.

On the other hand,  rather than looking for every sin someone might commit, it might be better if we just held on to a proper understanding of repentance and trust in the mercy of God.   These are all the things we need God to blot out of our lives and the book He keeps about us.

In any case here is his list:

“The passions are:

harshness, trickery, malice, perversity, mindlessness, licentiousness, enticement, dullness, lack of understanding, idleness, sluggishness, stupidity, flattery, silliness, idiocy, madness, derangement, coarseness, rashness, cowardice, lethargy, dearth of good actions, moral errors, greed, over-frugality, ignorance, folly, spurious knowledge, forgetfulness, lack of discrimination, obduracy, injustice, evil intention, a conscienceless soul, slothfulness, idle chatter, breaking of faith, wrongdoing, sinfulness, lawlessness, criminality, passion, seduction, assent to evil, mindless coupling, demonic provocation, dallying, bodily comfort beyond what is required, vice, stumbling, sickness of soul, enervation, weakness of intellect, negligence, laziness, a reprehensible despondency, disdain of God, aberration, transgression, unbelief, lack of faith, wrong belief, poverty of faith, heresy, fellowship in heresy, polytheism, idolatry, ignorance of God, impiety, magic, astrology, divination, sorcery, denial of God, the love of idols, dissipation,

profligacy, loquacity, indolence, self-love, inattentiveness, lack of progress, deceit, delusion, audacity, witchcraft, defilement, the eating of unclean food, soft living, dissoluteness, voracity, unchastity, avarice, anger, dejection, listless-ness, self-esteem, pride, presumption, self-elation, boastfulness, infatuation, foulness, satiety, doltishness, torpor, sensuality, overeating, gluttony, insatiability, secret eating, hoggishness, solitary eating, indifference, fickleness, self-will, thoughtlessness, self-satisfaction, love of popularity, ignorance of beauty, uncouthness, gaucherie, lightmindedness, boorishness, rudeness, contentiousness, quarrelsomeness, abusiveness, shouting, brawling, fighting, rage, mindless desire, gall, exasperation, giving offence, enmity, meddlesomeness, chicanery, asperity, slander, censure, calumny, condemnation, accusation, hatred, railing, insolence, dishonor, ferocity, frenzy, severity, aggressiveness, forswearing oneself, oathtaking, lack of compassion, hatred of one’s brothers, partiality, patricide, matricide, breaking fasts, laxity, acceptance of bribes, theft, rapine, jealousy, strife, envy, indecency, jesting, vilification, mockery, derision, exploitation, oppression, disdain of one’s neighbor, flogging, making sport of others, hanging, throttling, heartlessness, implacability, covenant-breaking, bewitchment, harshness, shamelessness, impudence, obfuscation of thoughts, obtuseness, mental blindness, attraction to what is fleeting, impassionedness, frivolity, disobedience, dullwittedness, drowsiness of soul, excessive sleep, fantasy, heavy drinking, drunkenness, uselessness, slackness, mindless enjoyment, self-indulgence, venery, using foul language, effeminacy, unbridled desire, burning lust, masturbation, pimping, adultery, sodomy, bestiality, defilement, wantonness, a stained soul, incest,

uncleanliness, pollution, sordidness, feigned affection, laughter, jokes, immodest dancing, clapping, improper songs, revelry, fluteplaying, license of tongue, excessive love of order, insubordination, disorderliness, reprehensible collusion, conspiracy, warfare, killing, brigandry, sacrilege, illicit gains, usury, wiliness, grave-robbing, hardness of heart, obloquy, complaining, blasphemy, fault-finding, ingratitude, malevolence, contemptuousness, pettiness, confusion, lying, verbosity, empty words, mindless joy, day- dreaming, mindless friendship, bad habits, nonsensicality, silly talk, garrulity, niggardliness, depravity, intolerance, irritability, affluence, rancor, misuse, ill-temper, clinging to life, ostentation, affectation, love of power, dissimulation, irony, treachery, frivolous talk, pusillanimity, satanic love, curiosity, contumely, lack of the fear of God, unteachability, senselessness, haughtiness, self- vaunting, self- inflation, scorn for one’s neighbor, mercilessness, insensitivity, hopelessness, spiritual paralysis, hatred of God, despair, suicide, a falling away from God in all things, utter destruction – altogether 298 passions. These, then, are the passions which I have found named in the Holy Scriptures.”   (THE PHILOKALIA, Kindle Loc. 30052-110)

Enslaved to the Tyranny of Sin

Sometimes we reduce sin to a notion of breaking a few commandments.  And as serious as believers might consider that, St Paul takes sin to an entirely different level.  For he portrays sin as horrific, brutal and inhumane – enslaving us, and thus forcefully dehumanizing us.  He writes:

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 6:17-23)

St Gregory of Nyssa comments:

For each of our impulses, when it takes control, becomes the master and we the slave. Like a tyrant it seizes the citadel of the soul, and by means of its underlings plays havoc with its subjects, using our own thoughts as the servants of its good pleasure. There they are: anger, fear, cowardice, arrogance, pleasure, grief, hatred, spite, heartless cruelty, jealousy, flattery, bearing grudges and resentment, and all the other hostile drives within us – there is your array of the masters and tyrants that try to enslave the soul, their prisoner of war, and bring it under their control. (From Glory to Glory, p. 89)

Fasting to Weaken the Passions

[To a sick monk]: Concerning fasting, do not grieve, as I have said to you before: God does not demand of anyone labors beyond his strength. And indeed, what is fasting if not a punishment of the body in order to humble a healthy body and make it infirm for passions, according to the word of the Apostle: “When I am weak, then am I strong” (II Cor. 12:10). And disease, more than this, is a punishment and takes the place of fasting and even more – for one who bears it with patience, thanks God, and through patience receives the fruit of his salvation; for instead of weakening his body by fasting, he is already sick without that. Give thanks to God that you have been delivered from the labor of fasting.

Even if you will eat ten times in a day, do not grieve; you will not be judged for this, for you are doing this not at the demon’s instigation, and not from the weakening of your thought; but rather, this occurs to us for our testing and for profit to the soul. (Sts Barsanuphius and John, Guidance Toward Spiritual Life, p. 62).

Renouncing the Passions

The patristic tradition, as well as contemporary psychology, has identified the restraints to perfect love. From an Orthodox perspective, if love is union with God, and the pursuit of love is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit then those things that separate us from God – sin, the passions, death, and the devil all represent restraints to perfect love.

Our own self centered, egocentric orientation, our fallen nature represent the biggest restraints to love. “When we speak of all the passions together, we call them ‘the world.’ So when Christians speak of renouncing the world, they mean renouncing the passions.”

(Philip Mamalakis, “The Spiritual Life and How to be Married in it,” Raising Lazarus, p. 223)

Ambition

The desire of the righteous ends only in good; the expectation of the wicked in wrath.  (Proverbs 11:23)

From the fruit of his mouth a good man eats good, but the desire of the treacherous is for violence.  (Proverbs 13:2)

Desire is sometimes presented in spiritual writings as a root cause of humanity’s problems.  Certainly, in Buddhism, desire is the cause of suffering, and in fact in some forms of Buddhism, desire is what brought the world that we know into existence.  Christian Scriptures on the other hand present a far more nuanced view of desire.  There is evil desire and the desire for evil, but there is also good desire as well as the desire for the good.  Desire can motivate us to seek God, to seek that Beauty, Truth and Goodness which is beyond the limits of the self.  Desire, on the other hand, can be nothing more than sinful passion – a selfishness moving one away from God or even against one’s fellow human beings.   Thus desire can lead to love for God and for the good of others, or it can bring us to total self love with a disregard for all others.

If desire becomes strong enough it can motivate us to forgo immediate gratification and instead strive for long term goals.  That we sometimes term ambition and at least at one time was connected to being willing to work hard to achieve a goal.

Ambition: a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.  (online Dictionary)

Today, however, ambition is often viewed more negatively and nefariously as self-serving:

Ambition: an ardent desire for rank, fame, or power (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

We are warned in the New Testament about such ambition:

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.   (James 3:16)

Perhaps because of the negative connotation of ambition, I was really struck by the Revised English Bible’s (REB) translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12:

Let it be your ambition to live quietly and attend to your own business; and to work with your hands, as we told you, so that you may command the respect of those outside your own number, and at the same time never be in want.  

By contrast the Revised Standard Version (RSV) translates the text this way: “aspire to live quietly…”

I can desire or aspire to live quietly and attend to my own business.  It is easy for me personally as a person who is both an introvert and shy.  But to make it my ambition?  This is a challenge for me and maybe for all of us.  We might hope that somehow things will fall into place and be peaceful, but St. Paul says we are to make it our ambition to live quietly.  There is a seeming contradiction in terms, which is what makes the text stand out so in my mind.  We are to strive to live quietly and peacefully.  My ambition should be to live quietly!   The jarring nature of the phrase is exactly because for us ambition is viewed mostly as a self-serving pursuit of self-glorification.  It is the difference, as I heard someone say, between the explorers who were seeking knowledge about the world as versus the adventurers who are seeking fame and glory for their own name.

But ambition itself is not the sin or the problem.  The issue is what are we ambitious to do?

Our ambition as Christians is to live the values of the peaceable Kingdom.  Our ambition is to be peaceful, meek, patient, poor, humble, gentle, always putting the good of the other ahead of our own wants.

Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need.     (Acts 4:32-35)

Natural Goodness

The Elder always said that evil does not exist in this world. Everything was created by God and he saw that everything is “very good” (Gen. 1:31).

Evil exists when we make wrong use of the things God granted to us for our benefit.

It is not bad for someone to have money, but it is bad to be avaricious. Drugs are not an evil thing, when used to relieve the pain of people who suffer. They are bad when used for a different purpose. A knife is a useful utensil, when we used it to cut bread. However, when it is used to hit someone, it becomes a deadly weapon. In this case, it is not the knife which is evil, but the inner disposition of the murderer.

Therefore, we must use everything in the right way, the natural way, not abuse them and go against nature.

Since we are weak by nature, when we are inclined to give in to a passion, we should try to avoid anything that makes us feel vulnerable. We should also be aware that the reason we avoid the causes of our passions is not because they are evil themselves; but rather, because our ill inner disposition does not permit us to use them correctly.

Since we cannot benefit from them, it is better to avoid them, so they do not harm us. At the same time, we should glorify God for His gifts, and blame ourselves for abusing them and this provoking the evil.

(Priestmonk Christodoulos, Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, pp. 112-113)

Passions, Peace and Anger

“If therefore we are to follow the divine laws, we must struggle with all our strength against the demon of anger and against the sickness which lies hidden within us. When we are angry with others we should not seek solitude on the grounds that there, at least, no one will provoke us to anger, and that in the solitude the virtue of long-suffering can easily be acquired.

Our desire to leave our brethren is because of our pride, and because we do not wish to blame ourselves and ascribe to our own laxity the cause of our unruliness. So long as we assign the causes for our weaknesses to others, we cannot attain perfection in long-suffering. Self-reform and peace are not achieved through the patience which others show us, but through our own long-suffering towards our neighbor.

When we try to escape the struggle for long-suffering by retreating into solitude, those unhealed passions we take there with us are merely hidden, not erased; for unless our passions are first purged, solitude and withdrawal from the world not only foster them but also keep them concealed, no longer allowing us to perceive what passion it is that enslaves us. On the contrary, they impose on us an illusion of virtue and persuade us to believe that we have achieved long-suffering and humility, because there is no one present to provoke and test us.

But as soon as something happens which does arouse and challenge us, our hidden and previously unnoticed passions immediately break out like uncontrolled horses that have long been kept and idle, dragging their driver all the more violently and wildly to destruction. Our passions grow fiercer when left idle through lack of contact with other people. Even that shadow of patience and long-suffering which we thought we possessed while we mixed with our brethren is lost in our isolation through not being exercised.

Poisonous creatures that live quietly in their lairs in the desert display their fury only when they detect someone approaching; and likewise passion-filled men, who live quietly not because of their virtuous disposition but because of their solitude, spit forth their venom whenever someone approaches and provokes them. This is why those seeking perfect gentleness must make every effort to avoid not only anger towards men, but also towards animals and even inanimate objects.” (St. John Cassian in The Philokalia: Vol 1, p 85)

Fasting and Hangry

Many families are familiar with being “hangry” during Great Lent.

Hangry is a word that combines being hungry with being angry according to Psychologist Brad Bushman of the Ohio State University.

Church fathers and monks speak about the ways fasting brings out our demons.  We start the fast with love and joy and soon find ourselves angry with the people around us.

Recent research (“Low Glucose relates to greater aggression in married couples“) has shown there is a biological basis to this experience.  Our bodies react to low blood sugar by making us more irritable and angry.  So while fasting may cause us to confront the demons of anger and irascibility, it also is setting off a physical experience in us that is related to these passions.

Ironically, according to NPR, the study relied on the use of voodoo dolls to help measure the rise of hostility and anger in the couples.  Maybe it was the voodoo dolls themselves which increased the anger!  They’ll have to study that one.  Who ever said that science does not rely on voodoo to attain its results?

For us, the study validates what many Orthodox families experience during fasting periods.

 Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:19-23)

St. Paul got it right: anger, enmity, strife, and dissension, as has now been scientifically proven really are works of the flesh.  We are a unified being in body, soul, mind and spirit.  What affects our body affects our soul and mind.  Passions are related to the body and to the soul.

Informed or Just Formed?

The other day a friend told me he had an insight while at the gym in the early morning before going to work.  He was watching Fox News and the news commentator said something to the effect that while normally they had only one story to tell to get the listeners fired up, that morning he had five stories to tell.  My friend told me he realized that the news, at least on Fox that morning, was not so much about news but about getting people fired up over issues.  The stories the commentator offered, relative to all else going on in the world, were not even that significant but all were aimed at the passions and getting ‘the base’ fired up.

Perhaps Lenten effort to reduce the passions pays off and some actually get insights into just how the media plays on our passions.  Some of it is because news channels are on the air 24/7 and really don’t have that much significant to say.  So they blather on about all kinds of issues which they hope will impassion the listener – just so the listener will stay tuned and come back for more.   They aim at getting their audience to react to what they say – not to think about it and whether it is even worth bothering about – but just to react.   It is manipulation of the passions.

I was in the car with my son on the same day that my friend spoke to me.  Playing on his car radio was a sports talk show.  What total insignificant drivel the host blathered on about.  Same problem – really not that much to talk about but his job is to fill his time on the airwaves.   You need people who can make whatever they are prattling about to sound very exciting – and hopefully to engage the listeners passionately so they will keep listening.

I tuned out of commercial TV and radio long ago.  Today when I happen to hear talk shows or news shows I find them boring and mindless and hard to listen to because they often have nothing significant to say, but they have to say it 24/7.   As I heard many years ago the real purpose of the shows is to keep you tuned in between commercials which are the real product commercial broadcasting is offering.  The ‘show’ just fills the time between commercials.  Talk show hosts are thus often nothing more than  tricksters aiming to see how long they can keep you listening to their nonsensical jabber.  Using emotional tricks – like hitting on something people might get passionate about even if it is insignficant – just to keep you attuned are tools of the trade.

Talk shows and politically driven “news” produce a heavy stream of hooey, hogwash, bunk, rot and rubbish, all to capture your attention in order to shape your mind.  Sadly, you are a witting and willing participant every time you tune in.  They can’t force themselves into your life, you choose to open the door of your mind to whatever nonsense they broadcast.  Even if you react negatively to what is said, they win as long as they keep you listening and reacting.

Much of what passes for news on commercial TV and radio these days is a mixture of sensational leads and headlines to draw you in, presented in an entertaining way to hold your attention, marketing to hijack your emotions,  and very intentionally selected stories which aim at not informing you, the listener, but forming you.  They are out after your heart and mind.  They want you to be passionate about the things they are passionate about.  It is formational more than informational.   They want to shape how you think in order to get you fired up about what they deem is important.  And there are a cadre of organizations which do nothing but test and measure the social climate to tell the media whether they are hitting a nerve with the listeners or not.

Fifteen hundred years before there was commercial media, St. Gregory of Nyssa (d. ca 390AD) said:

“It is in our power to remain unaffected by passion as long as we stay far away from the thing that enflames.”

It is perhaps Lenten advice – stay away from pornography and from commercial media and you will find you can control your passions.  The abstinence and fasting of Lent can work to improve our spiritual lives and help us regain control of our thinking by regaining control of our hearts and minds.  Don’t let your mind and heart be the slurry pit of commercial or social media!

Some more wisdom from St. Gregory of Nyssa:

“Those who look towards the true God receive within themselves the characteristics of the divine nature; so too, those who turn their minds to the vanity of idols are transformed into the objects which they look at.”

Commercial media is trying to form our hearts and minds.  And when we pay attention to them, we let them.  We enable them to transform our thinking, to enflame our passions, to color our worldview.   And what they are offering is not the Gospel, even if they try to convince you it is.   We allow our minds to be transformed by the things we turn to.   The power of Great Lent or just normal, daily Christian self-denial is to resist the efforts of others to take over our thinking.  Turn to God and you will become godly.  Keep attuned to the media and you will be “transformed into the objects which you look at.”  Not a pretty picture.

I saw an article in the April 2014 edition of THE SMITHSONIAN called, “Fast and Furious.”  In the short piece Matthew Shaer comments on studies which have been done measuring how fast various information travels on social media.  (And for the sake of full disclosure, just as I don’t watch or listen to commercial media, I’m not on Facebook or Twitter – it is a world I don’t appreciate).  The findings of the research:

“Joy moves faster than sadness or disgust, but nothing is speedier than rage.  The researchers found that users reacted most angrily – and quickly—to reports concerning ‘social problems and diplomatic issues’…   In many cases, these flare ups triggered a chain reaction of anger … in a widening circle of hostility.”

Professor Jonah Berger at the Wharton School says, “Anger is a high-arousal emotion, which drives people to take action.  It makes you feel fired up, which makes you more likely to pass things on.”

Another study showed that a reaction of sadness to news tended to deactivate people and they would “power down and withdraw.”   So the news media which has a political agenda for example does not want people to feel compassion as a result of their stories. That deactivates people.  So they tell stories to inflame anger as they know anger might compel people to act, even if in mindless rage.   Informing you about what is going on is less important than forming you – shaping how you see the world, what you value, what you despise, what you react to.

While anger is appropriate at times, in our culture it is becoming the sole emotion that politicians and news media want to stir up and then tap into.  That is because they too know how anger motivates.   Christianity however is more attuned to compassion for those who are suffering.  Think about the Good Samaritan story and how it might be retold today by a news outlet to get you angry so that you act as they want you to act.  Is the Good Samaritan really nothing more than a parable about  imposing health care on everyone?  The victim of the beating should have behaved more responsibly in the first place.  We are all victims and need government to intervene for us.

Professor Berger was involved in a study of the social media that found one more intriguing fact.

“The one emotion that outpaced anger in Berger’s story was awe, the feelings of wonder and excitement that come from encountering great beauty or knowledge…   ‘Awe…increases our desire for emotional connection and drives us to share.”

Perhaps standing in an Orthodox Church, we will be moved by awe to mercy and compassion for others.  That would be a great result of Lent, of turning away from being formed by the media, to being transformed by awe as we see the face of God in icons painted and living.