Inward and Outward Virtue

“The virtues that are outwardly visible do not demonstrate that their performer is truly one who fears God, because many are the reasons by which good things are done by people. There is another way for the protection of the commandments, Whoever keeps his commandments by the fear of God is a true servant and a godly worker who fears the one who establishes and performs His law. Divine law is not kept perfectly if it is not kept in the body and in the soul. There are many who outwardly bear the burden of ascetical labours, but inwardly they are serving all the vices. There are some who bind their members with bonds of austerities but allow their thoughts to wander in contemptible things. There are some who are clothed in modesty on the outside but are arrayed in licentiousness within. There are some who are fasters outwardly but inwardly are gluttons and greedy. There are some who appear righteous on the outside but secretly cultivate all kinds of vices. There is one who while he says he is a faster is an eater. There is one who appears to renounce wealth but is a lover of money. There is one who outwardly is patient but is a wrathful person. There is one who outwardly is patient but is a wrathful person, whose patience appears on the outside, yet anger dwells secretly in him… There is one who is kept from sins in order not to be reviled by anyone, and there is one who is held back from sins on account of the love of righteousness.” St. Philoxenos of Mabbug, On The Fear of God, 27 as in: The Discourses of Philoxenos of Mabbug: A New Translation and Introduction. Vol. 235. Liturgical Press, 2014.

Let us retreat into the desert that we too may look inwardly. Do we abstain from passions, eating, and all these desires so that we might cultivate communion with God in love? Or do we do these things that we might have a certain appearance before people? Let us pursue virtue with a purity of heart that we might be transformed by our nearness to God and work of The Holy Spirit in our lives and not simply by the mere outward acts of virtue.

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