So there we have it!!
So on one hand, the passions are amoral
They are neutral
They are neither good nor bad in and of themselves
Paragraph 1772 says, “The principal passions are love and hatred, desire and fear, joy, sadness, and anger.”
To feel those on their own is simply amoral
There is a lot of stuff in our lives that is just amoral
In and of themselves, they are neither good nor bad
At the same time, there is a moral component
ARTICLE 5: THE MORALITY OF THE PASSIONS
Paragraph 1763 says, “The term ‘passions’ belongs to the Christian patrimony. Feelings or passions are emotions or movements of the sensitive appetite that incline us to act or not to act in regard to something felt or imagined to be good or evil.”
On their own, feelings are neither good nor evil
We call that AMORAL
That is different than IMMORAL
Immoral is WRONG
Amoral is neither good nor bad
Amoral is neither moral or immoral
Feelings are part of the raw material that we have to work with
You might be someone who is inclined to anger
You might be someone who is more inclined to being optimistic
That is neither good nor bad
If you are the kind of person who experiences a negative emotion versus someone who experiences a positive emotion, that is neither good nor bad
That is neither virtuous nor vicious
WHAT WE DO WITH THOSE FEELINGS is where everything hangs
We either grow in VIRTUE
We grow in VICE
Just having a negative emotion on its own is not the best
It is not a vice yet
If we ACT ON THAT
If we FEED THAT
Then we become more vicious
Same thing when someone has a lot of positive emotion
If we feed that and channel that positivity united to virtue, then we become a happy pleasant person
We might become even more joyful
We might even become a generous person
We might actually use that natural disposition we have towards positivity to help other people
In that case, this is growing in virtue
We can also take the negative emotion and channel it
We can become really angry when we see something wrong
The anger on its own is neither good nor bad
If we channel that anger into acting positively, acting in virtue, if this anger moves us to good action, that becomes virtuous
Similarly, if you are someone who is really more agreeable than disagreeable and that leads you to inaction, you see injustice but you don’t care
You see something that is wrong and you don’t care
That agreeableness can sometimes lead us to a place of vice
Where we did not act when we should have acted
Paragraph 1765 says, “There are many passions. The most fundamental passion is love, aroused by the attraction of the good. Love causes a desire for the absent good and the hope of obtaining it; this movement finds completion in the pleasure and joy of the good possessed. The apprehension of evil causes hatred, aversion, and fear of the impending evil; this movement ends in sadness at some present evil, or in the anger that resists it.”
Why would the Church say the most fundamental passion is love?
The passions are the drivers that either moves us to act or not to act
Love is the most powerful of all these drivers
Other powerful drivers can be good
They can be helpful
They are not the same as love
For example, fear and anger can be powerful drivers
They are not powerful drivers in the same way as love
Love is to will the good of the other
Love is to CHOOSE the good of the other
Paragraph 1766 says, “All other affections have their source in this first movement of the human heart toward the good. Only the good can be loved. Passions ‘are evil if love is evil and good if it is good.’”
Because only the good can truly be loved
St. Augustine said, “Only the good can be loved.”
How is that possible?
The very definition of LOVE is to WILL the good of the other
So any time it is NOT the good, it is NOT love
It is something other than love
It might be a strong feeling
It could be a strong passion
Unless it is the GOOD then it isn’t LOVE
Paragraph 1768 says, “Strong feelings are not decisive for the morality or the holiness of persons; they are simply the inexhaustible reservoir of images and affections in which the moral life is expressed.”
Someone could feel very strongly or passionately about something
That’s maybe wonderful
They are not decisive for the morality or the holiness of persons
Just because someone has a strong or deep conviction about something, that doesn’t make that thing good
It doesn’t make that person virtuous
We feel a lot of passions
Our PASSIONS do not give us PERMISSION
IT IS SO IMPORTANT FOR US TO UNDERSTAND THIS!!
We live in a culture right now where our passions give us sanction
Let’s listen to Fr. Mike’s story about Sheldon Vanauken who wrote the essay called “The Parenthetically False Sanction of Eros”...
Eros is the love of desire
Just because I feel strongly about something does not give me automatic permission to do that or act on that thing
Paragraph 1768 says, “Strong feelings are not decisive for the morality or the holiness of persons; they are simply the inexhaustible reservoir of images and affections in which the moral life is expressed. Passions are morally good when they contribute to a good action, evil in the opposite case.”
THIS IS SO SO IMPORTANT FOR US!!
On their own, strong feelings are neither good nor evil
On their own, strong feelings cannot give us permission to give in to our passions
Paragraph 1768 continues, “Emotions and feelings can be taken up into the virtues or perverted by the vices.”
Paragraph 1769 says, “In the Christian life, the Holy Spirit himself accomplishes his work by mobilizing the whole being, with all its sorrows, fears, and sadness, as is visible in the Lord’s agony and passion. In Christ human feelings are able to reach their consummation in charity and divine beatitude.”
So what does that mean?
All of our sorrows, fears, and sadnesses, the Holy Spirit brings them together united with our intellect and with our will to create a person who is HOLY
ALL OF THOSE THINGS CAN BE BROUGHT TO THE LORD!!
If you are feeling a negative passion, don’t just put it off to the side
Bring that to the Lord
The Lord brought that to the Father in the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane
Jesus brought His sorrows
Jesus brought His fears
Jesus brought His sadness to His Father
Whatever passion you are experiencing, all of that can be brought before the Lord because if that is what is in the engine, because we have an intellect and a will and passions
The Church even says the will is wonderful and the intellect wants to apprehend the true
The will wants to choose the good
The Church is not teaching us to destroy or defeat the passions
IT IS THE OPPOSITE!!
C.S. Lewis said, “It is not that we desire too much in life or out of life. We desire too little.”
Jesus doesn’t say, “You guys love too much. You need to love less.”
Jesus never says this
Jesus doesn’t say, “You guys feel too much. You need to feel less.”
Jesus never says this
Paragraph 1770 says, “Moral perfection consists in man’s being moved to the good not by his will alone, but also by his sensitive appetite, as in the words of the psalm: ‘My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.’”
Our intellect wants to APPREHEND what is true
THAT IS TRUE!!
Our will wants to CHOOSE that as good
Our perfection is that our inner world has been so transformed that we also DESIRE the good
This is a caution against “white-knuckle Christianity”
We have these passions that are out of control and they want the bad all the time but we are going to choose the right thing
That’s still virtuous
That’s still good
True Christian perfection, like freedom, is found when not only my intellect apprehends the true and my will is choosing the good, but also my desires are oriented towards the good
So we not only tell ourselves, “This is the right thing.”
WE ACTUALLY WANT TO DO THE RIGHT THING!!
When people talk about having eliminated processed sugar from their diets, at first the say how badly they want a donut
Then after a while they realize they don’t want it at all
They begin to crave clean foods (like baklava!!! 😉)
Our passions, our desires, what moves us, can change
For Christian perfection, IT HAS TO CHANGE
My intellect wants to APPREHEND the true
My will wants to CHOOSE the true
The Church also says the goal is not just choosing what we know is good or true
WE HAVE TO WANT TO CHOOSE THE GOOD!!
Our desires have not been eliminated or eradicated
Our desires have been reoriented
They have been transformed
THAT IS PART OF THE GOAL!!
Fr. Mike is praying FOR YOU!!
Please pray for Fr. Mike and for each other!!
I cannot WAIT to see you tomorrow!!