The “Christmas” season (for most people, not Catholics, who call it Advent) is usually a time of heavy excess-in spending money, in eating too much, drinking too much, and romancing too much. For Catholics, this is supposed to be a time of preparation for the coming of our Lord.
And so I thought I’d talk a bit about temperance and virtue in general.
While it’s true that we will never reach a point where sin ceases to be an issue, we CAN make great progress in our spiritual journey by striving to grow in virtue. Then, when tested, we’re disposed to act in accordance with our values.
A virtue is a good habit that inclines us to perform morally good actions, as opposed to a vice, which is a bad habit that inclines us to sin.
Virtues enable us to do the right thing with ease, with readiness, with joy, with effectiveness.
Virtues are character muscles. Look what an elite athlete must do to become an elite athlete-hours and hours of working out, grinding, sweating, practicing. We must do the same thing-growing in virtue.
When we begin an exercise regimen, we want to quickly whip ourselves into shape, but we can’t. We must start slowly, focusing on one muscle group at a time.
All virtues relate to the seven fundamentals-the theological ones of faith, hope and charity (love), and the moral virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.
In this season of Advent, we should focus on the virtue of temperance.
Temperance is not pleasure avoidance any more than peace is absence of war.
Temperance is about living the good life. Temperance moderates the attraction of the pleasures of the senses and provides balance in the use of created goods.
Passions are a given, not good or evil, but needing to be harnessed by the intellect and will or they will rule us. Temperance involves staying strong during a storm of passion, whether that of food, drink, sexual pleasure or greed.
In Titus 2:1-8 St. Paul tells us
As for yourself, you must say what is consistent with sound doctrine, namely, that older men should be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, love, and endurance. Similarly, older women should be reverent in their behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to drink, teaching what is good, so that they may train younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good homemakers, under the control of their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.
Urge the younger men, similarly, to control themselves, showing yourself as a model of good deeds in every respect, with integrity in your teaching, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be criticized, so that the opponent will be put to shame without anything bad to say about us.